On January 15, at 16.15 pm there will be court hearing on refusal of registration of Human Rights Club

(HRC) Public Union by Ministry of Justice in Baku Administrative-Economical Court #1 (Judge Sharafat Mammadova).

HRC which is not registering more than 2 years[1] is inviting journalists, civil society, local and international court observers and all interested people to attend the hearing.

Human Rights Club was founded in December 2010 – on the World Human Rights Day – by several human rights defenders in Azerbaijan. The main goal of the HRC is to protect human rights and freedoms in Azerbaijan, enhance respect for human rights and freedoms and arrange effective rights defense. The Human Rights Club has carried out the following main projects with its local partners so far:

  1. “Expression Online Initiative[2]”, an objective is to use the Internet Governance Forum to be hosted by Baku on November 6-8 2012, as a platform to monitor, protect and impact the exercise of freedom in cyberspace.
  2. “Sing for Democracy[3]“, was using Eurovision Song Contest 2012 as a platform to advocate for the protection of human rights and democratic values in Azerbaijan, followed by targeted lobbying for the implementation of specific democratic reforms.

HRC has launched Art for democracy campaign in December 2012, and continues preparations for the activities in the frame of this campaign as well as daily human rights protection and advocacy work.


[2] Cheap Greenhouse



On September 1, 12:00pm, the members of the Sing for Democracy campaign will hold a protest action in front of the Russian Embassy in Baku, to demand the release of the arrested members of Russia’s punk band “Pussy Riot”, who were sentenced to 2 years in jail on August 17, 2012. A relevant notification was submitted to the Baku Executive Power on August 24.

A relevant “Facebook event” was created by the Sing for Democracy campaign members, where you can get more information about the event:

Announcement PDF Print E-mail

On May 22nd the Sing for Democracy campaign will hold a press

conference in the Dan Ulduzu Hall at the Park Inn Hotel, for

international journalists. The conference will run from 11:00am until

1:00pm. The founders of the Sing for Democracy campaign will make

statements on the state of human rights in Azerbaijan, including

current problems and the need for democratic reforms. They will also

take questions.


Vidadi Iskenderov, a prisoner of conscience declared that he is going together with other prisoners of conscience start hunger strike

until death on the eve of "Eurovision - 2012" Song Contest to be held on May. During the process of Supreme Court, Iskenderov stressed that the prisoners of conscience will try to attract attention of singers and journalists who will come to the music contest, as well as they will draw international civil society attention to their unlawful arrests and to the fact that they have still being put under arrest unlawfully. "We are going to start hunger strike until death because of arrest of innocent men"- Iskenderov said in the court.

Vidadi Iskenderov, former candidate in the parliamentary elections held on November 2010 was arrested in early may 2011, that is to say 6 month after elections because of electoral crime during the campaigns. It should be noted that on 17th of April, 2011 Iskenderov was arrested during the protest action organized by opposition parties and was sentenced 15 days jail. After 15 days in jail finished, pre-trial detention measure was chosen against him. Iskenderov was sentenced for 3 years of imprisonment by the decision of Elkhan Suleymanov the Chairman of the Court of Goychay District. The Sheki Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the first instance court, which had sentenced the human rights activist Vidadi Iskenderov to 3 years of imprisonment. On April 10 2012, the Supreme Court (SC) of Azerbaijan also dismissed an appeal filed by human rights defender Vidadi Iskenderov and upheld the verdicts of guilty pronounced by lower court instances.

It should be noted that there are fourteen (14) prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijan now – beside Vidadi Iskenderov, Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, Tural Abbasli, Elnur Mejidli, Ahad Mammadli, Arif Hajili, Babek Hasanov, Mahammad Mejidli, Sahib Karimov, Ulvi Guliyev, Shahin Hasanli, Arif Alishli, Zulfugar Eyvazov and Rufat Hajibeyli. All of these people were put under arrest unlawfully because they organized protest actions inspired by "Arab Spring" in March and April 2011 and participated directly in those actions.        


The amount of money that is allocated from the state budget for "Eurovision-2012" song contest to be held on 22nd of May in Baku has now reached the fantastic level. According to Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation, 539 500 000, 00 AZN, that is to say 686 212 000, 00 US dollars amount have been allocated to the song contest.

It is the record amount in the history of Eurovision contest and the amount spent on music contest is expected to increase. According to European Broadcasting Union (EBU), 42 000 000, 00 US dollars were spent on the song contest held in Moscow and that amount was regarded the highest record during that time.

The already allocated 539 500 000, 00 AZN amount is expected to spent as following:

1. Laying a new road around the Flag Square - 109 000 000, 00 AZN

2. Construction of Baku Sport-Concert Complex (Crystal Palace) in front of Flag square- 218 500 000, 00 AZN

3. Reconstruction of Stadium named after Tofig Bahramov (B plan for the contest) - 70 000 000, 00 AZN

4. Landscaping of Flag Square place and installation of energy utilities - 55 000 000, 00 AZN

5. Organization of 2012 Eurovision Song Contest - 50 000 000, 00 AZN

6. Purchasing of transport vehicles for organizing international events - 27 500 000, 00 AZN

7. Organizing international events by Public Television - 9 500 000, 00 AZN


On April 7th, “Sing for democracy” Campaign sent request to Mr. Hajybala Abutalybov, Head of the Executive Power of Baku City to hold musical festival on May 18, 2012 in Baku.

According to the request, the Campaign is going to hold an open-air musical festival on May 18, 2012 in one of the central places of Baku. It has been requested for approval of one of the following places:

1. Behind the Azerbaijan State Puppet Theater named after Abdullah Shaig (to the direction of Baku Boulevard)

2. In front of Azerbaijan State Academic Dram Theatre

3. In front of Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet theatre

4. In front of Jafar Jabbarli statue

5. Fountain Square, in front of one the squares

6. In front of Mirza Sabir statue

7. Sahil Garden

8. The Philharmonia park

It should be noted that “Sing for democracy” Campaign plans to hold musical festival where songs of democracy, human rights, freedom and etc. will be performed. Both local and foreign signers are expected to perform during the festival.

“Sing for democracy” Campaign hopes that state officials will keep their promises to provide freedom of assembly and free expression on the eve of Eurovision Song Contest to be held on May 22 (the festival is planned 4 days before).


Dear members of the European Broadcasting Union!

I am Avaz Zeynalli, editor in chief of the daily newspaper, once published in Azerbaijan and I am writing you from the prison – Baku Detention Center # 1 in Kurdakhani.

I am in prison because I authored and published in the newspaper articles criticizing president Ilham Aliyev and other high-level officials. Prior to arrest I was sued by the chief of the presidential administration Ramiz Mehdiyev and court decided I should pay 10000 AZN (around 10 000 Euros) fine. Then there were fines on complaints filed by Vugar Safarli, the head of “The State Support for Media Development Fund under the President of Azerbaijan”, and Agabek Askerov, the director of the “Azerbaijan” Publishing House. All equipment of “Khural” newspaper has been illegally seized by the Azerbaijani government on October 19, 2011.

Publishing houses are unofficially prohibited from printing "Khural" paper. The ban still stands today and Azerbaijani publishing houses are afraid to print the paper. I was arrested on October 28, 2011. Gular Ahmadova, Deputy of Azerbaijani Parliament and a member of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan party's political council falsely accused me of blackmailing her and demanding a bribe. In her written statement she claimed to have an audio proof of the blackmail. The investigation inspected the recording and did not find any indication of a blackmail. It's been six months since I was detained. The accusation against me has not been proved. The plaintiff Ahmadova does not give any explanation to the investigators and refuses to confront me in the investigation. Later two more charges were brought against me: refusal to carry out court's order and tax evasion. However, these charges have not been proved as well.

Dear members of the Broadcasting Union! On January 23, 2012 I was fined by Narimanov District Court with 50,000 AZN (approximately 50,000 EUR) on "Baltica Baki" Ltd.'s claim. Neither me, nor my lawyer or "Khural" newspaper's editors were informed about the court hearing. During the secret hearing my rights were violated once again. My lawyer was informed about the court hearing 20 days after it took place. It is important to underline that my newspaper "Khural" published a number of articles revealing the production violations that have been taking place in "Baltica Baki" Ltd. The facts used in the articles were proved in other court hearings. In my opinion, "Baltica Baki" Ltd.'s claims were supported and pushed forward by the company's high-ranked contacts in the government. Narimanov District Court held the unlawful hearing and made this unjust decision on a political order.

Dear members of the Broadcasting Union! I want to note that "Baltika Baki" Ltd. produces "Khirdalan" beer. The company is one of the official sponsors of Eurovision song contest to be held in Baku this year. In my opinion, the company that became yet another tool against freedom of expression in the hands of an authoritarian regime, should not be sponsoring an international event, meant to promote Europe's high culture.

Dear members of the European Broadcasting Union! I am asking you to prohibit "Baltika Baki" Ltd. - the tool in the hands of this authoritarian regime, from sponsoring Eurovision song contest in the name of freedom of speech, freedom of press and human rights. At the same time, I am asking you to call for Azerbaijani government to release prisoners of conscience, political prisoners and journalists from prisons.


Avaz Zeynalli


"Khural" newspaper

Kurdakhani prison, Baku, Azerbaijan


From March 7th to 15th,  Sing for Democracy campaign coordinator Rasul Jafarov met with journalists, human rights defenders, politicians and experts in Germany and Austria to discuss the human rights situation in Azerbaijan.

The main purpose of his visit was to discuss mechanisms for the promotion of human rights before, during, and after the 2012 Eurovision song contest.

On March 9th, the German branch of Reporters without Borders organized a joint press conference for Jafarov and German ombudsman Markus Löning. Journalists from news sources supported by the Azerbaijani state such as Azertaj,, also attended the conference. Meetings in Germany were organized by the Institute for Democracy Media and Cultural Exchange (Dusseldorf-based German NGO). The Austrian media also reported on Sing for Democracy (SFD) and its various activities.

On March 12th, Jafarov, together with Austrian politicians Ulrike Lunacek and Marko Schröder, met with Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Austria, Galib Israfilov.

On March 14th a representative of the campaign met with Human Rights House Network (a Norwegian-based NGO) and officials from the European Broadcating Union (EBU). The meetings discussed the human rights issues (especially freedoms of expression and media) in Azerbaijan, and emphasized the importance of EBU’s action regarding the human rights situation in the host country for Eurovision 2012.

Links to reporting by German media on Sing for democracy campaign can be found below:!89427/[action]=detail&news[id]=5177

Links to reporting by Austrian media on Sing for democracy campaign can be found below:

Switzerland radio:


Another roundtable was held today

as part of the Sing for Democracy campaign at the press center of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety.

Leyla Yunus, the director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, spoke about the smear campaign launched by the pro-govertnmental media around the Sing for Democracy campaign. She called on the government to free the 60 prisoners of conscience  and guarantee the property rights of the population. Yunus said that as part of the campaign. They have appealed to singers and human rights defenders from the participating countries. The appeal asks them to address a letter to President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, calling on him to take necessary measures for the release of prisoners of conscience and the development of democracy.

Journalist Shahvalad Chobanoglu reportded that the political prisoners are experiencing physical and psychological harrassment. He believes that Elnur Israfilov’s letter saying that he will join the ruling party and serve the President Ilham Aliyev was written under psychological pressure.

Turan Information Agency director Mehman Aliyev supported the Sing for Democracy campaign, describing it as a brave step and called on the government to fulfill the proposals voiced by the campaign.

Human Rights Club chairman Rasul Jafarov says if the government does not seem to be willing to address proposals voiced in the framework of the campaign, articles critical of Azerbaijan will continue to appear on international media, particularly the European media.

IRFS chairman Emin Huseynov believes that there has been considerable regression in the fields of freedom of speech and press in Azerbaijan since the launch of the Sing for Democracy Campaign. One journalist was murdered, and four have been jailed within this period. “Rafig Tagi was murdered, the editor-in-chief of website Ramin Bayramov was arrested for drug possession and later arms possession. Xural newspaper regional correspondent Aydin Janiyev, who was supportive of our campaign, was arrested under hooliganism charges, Xural’s editor Avaz Zeynalli was arrested under an obscure charge and an Iranian TV channel’s reporter was arrested under a drug possession charge,” noted Huseynov and added that these persons must be freed and the European Broadcasting Union must show support.

Then Election Monitoring and Democracy Training Center Director Anar Mammadli, Doctrine Journalists’ Military Studies Center head Jasur Sumarinly, Committee to Defend the Oilmen’s Rights Mirvari Gahramanli, Democratic Journalism School head Rovshan Hajiyev, Media Rights Center head Matanat Muslumgizi, Human Rights and Democratic Institutions Public Union chairman Elchin Abdullayev and others also spoke.


The Sing for Democracy Campaign condemns the recent pressures on the NGOs involved in the campaign, and considers it an attempt to silence civil society.

The Campaign itself and its initiators, including the Institute for Peace and Democracy, the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), the Alliance to Protect Political Freedoms, and Human Rights Club have been victims of a targeted smear campaign. Starting on January 24th, state-sponsored media outlets including the ruling party newspaper “Yeni Azerbaycan” and Parliament’s “Azerbaycan” newspaper have published libellous articles[1]. In addition, a warning letter with no legal basis was sent to IRFS by the Ministry of Justice[2].

The Campaign states that these kind of measures are an indicator of intolerance and violate both local and international documents guaranteeing freedom of association. We once again state that the main goal of the Campaign is to use the international attention that is being brought by the Eurovision Song Contest to improve the human rights situation in Azerbaijan, including protection of fundamental freedoms, solving the criminal cases of murdered journalists, the release of prisoners of conscience, and freedom of assembly.

The campaign will continue operating in this direction and requests the Azerbaijani authorities to end these pressures. The Campaign also calls on the international community to not remain indifferent to this issue and to lend its support to the prevention of these pressures.



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