Twenty twelve never was going to mark Eurovision’s return to its roots of reconciling previously warring countries, and Armenia’s withdrawal in March from the event due to be held in Azerbaijan was unsurprising.
Within Azerbaijan, the authorities are keen to use the upcoming contest to dispel notions of political intimidation of opponents – not just singers – as Government spokesman, Ali Hasanov insists the civil rights norms do not lag far behind that of European countries. Presumably he is using Belarus as contrast.
One point on which the two previously warring countries could agree, however, is on an official policy towards gays which is, at best, frosty; at worst, openly hostile. Although, as Gene discussed, Azerbaijan currently has to compromise somewhat with Eurovision in town, no restrictions are placed on Armenia.
Last week, the DIY Rock gay bar in Yerevan was firebombed by self-identified Dashnaq sympathizers who were caught on CCTV camera. First Artsvik Minasyan, a Dashnaq MP provided bail for the culprits; followed by congratulations from fellow Dashnaq member and deputy speaker, Eduard Sharmazanov who called their actions a justified response.