What is the cost of a song? What is the cost of an opinion? I don’t mean the fiscal cost of a Napster or iTunes download. Rather, the social and ideological ramifications of a single pop song like that of Inga and Anush’s “Jan Jan” and the unforeseen authoritarian consequences for those Azerbaijanis who voiced their preference for it in the Eurovision 2009 contest—at the expense of being questioned and possibly interrogated by government security personnel on grounds of being “unpatriotic.”
Unlike recent events in Iran, when Iranian youth were arrested and harassed for being interviewed by Western journalists and for their dissenting social network posts and blogs, few if any of the young Azerbaijani voters questioned were consciously trying to make an anti-government or unpatriotic statement about their leaders.
Saying you prefer to dance to one jingle over another while watching YouTube is hardly a Molotov cocktail in the face of authority.
The whole affair is saddening and speaks volumes to the state of repression of true democracy that exists in Azerbaijan today. A country that is a litany of poverty and ignorance, whose servants (not citizens) are punished even for what they may watch on their personal computers. A poor man’s dystopia ruled by a poor man’s Stalin in the megalomaniacal Aliyev dynasty.
Protests to the UN, the Azerbaijani Embassy, the heavens, and the blogosphere must and should be made in the name of decency, democracy, and those truly upright Azerbaijani innocents that are not frothing nationalists, for they always exist in nooks somewhere.
Never ever fear that statements of protest won’t be made in the aftermath by politicians in the name of humanitarian decorum; but never confuse decorum with decency, either.
The fact remains that as the world saw in Iran, “It rains on the just and unjust alike.” And there are good Azerbaijanis that need to be supported in their efforts if Azerbaijan is ever to make headway in its desperately needed civil society reforms.
So if you know a good Azerbaijani activist or student, send them a gift of support and solidarity, as they dwell like Daniel in a geopolitical lion’s den. And if you don’t, find one and forge a new friendship, if for no other reason than to counter the Azerbaijani rhetoric and deflate the sounding war drums.
For, if there’s not a single Azerbaijani we can call “jan, jan,” then we may win Eurovision 2009, but that’s as good as it gets.