Editorial | Republic Underground
March 23, 2021
News, Analysis, Commentary
Image credit: “File:Agdam-nagorno-karabakh-3.jpg” by Joaoleitao is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Image above. War zones such as this one in Aghdam have created a sense of national pride and coming together in many Azerbaijanis who were affected by the First and Second Karabakh conflict. When an Azerbaijani national is also in the public eye, as is the case with the singer Efendi, statements of national pride have gotten caught up in political rhetoric controversy.
A petition on Change.org demanded the Eurovision BroadcstIng Union to cancel Efendi, an Azerbaijani performer, banning her from being a contestant on the hit European music contest program Eurovision. The petition was reportedly created by Armenians with political interest for banning Efendi from the music festival, sources from Caucasus Journalist Network stated. The petition cited Efendi’s comments in support of her native Azerbaijan during the Karabakh conflict, which came to a ceasefire stalemate in November 2020.
The politicization of cultural events, and the comments and social posts made by guests of the programs is not unique to the post-conflict conditions of the Karabakh war.
However, it is particularly heated as both nations still express great tensions from the painful circumstances of the conflict.
A Change.org campaign targeted Efendi’s participation citing the ESC as a “non-political” music festival by stating that Efendi had engaged in “hate speech” and “discrimination” and had “encouraged the killing of Armenians”. Armenia is another EBU member country that likewise sends candidates for the musical program.
Likewise, the petition stated that Efendi has “openly attacked Armenians” by sharing taglines that called Armenians “terrorists” and by “making a mockery of thousands of Armenians were displaced as a result of Azeri aggression.” While also stating that Efendi “openly praises” the Azerbaijani leadership, in a nation it stated has a low press ranking of 168 out of 180 points in the merit system.
The Change.org campaign has not listed a direct citation for the comments that Efendi allegedly made.
On February 20, via Instagram, Efendi stated that it was a “career dream” to participate in the Eurovision contest:
“It was my career dream to represent Azerbaijan at the Eurovision Song Contest! And I am grateful that I got this chance twice. Dreams come true, believe it,” she wrote.
Efendi posted a picture of herself with Azerbaijani President Aliyev in a war poster that stated #KarabakhisAzerbaijan and highlighted the “V for Victory” campaign during the war. In this post, commentators argued that Efendi had not specifically targeted Armenians, but rather had supported her own country during the war. This likewise sparked a comment section debate over Iveta Mukuchyan, who made comments regarding Azerbaijan during the conflict tensions of 2016.
Efendi has made comments regarding her patriotism Azerbaijan as well.
“What happened? Karabakh is Azerbaijan! The world has already accepted this! It no longer needs proof or another word,” wrote Efendi, posing in a “fashionable” army uniform costume.
She was also quite active in petitioning the Azerbaijani states in the conflict, posting a short film to her Instagram with a pro-Azerbaijani caption.
“I have a request from you in the fall. @ulviyyeyyubova My sister, whose heart is full of love for the Motherland. May the pen always be a writer. I love you,”
Efendi’s stance in support of her native country Azerbaijan during the conflict has triggered the response of a petition to remove her from Eurovision. While Armenian commentators accused Efendi of hate crimes, she likewise posted that “none of us (in Azerbaijan) made a call or want war, citing the image of “the Peaceful Bird,” which stood in contrast of the accusations made against her.
Efendi has been selected as the candidate to represent Azerbaijan in the Eurovision competition for two years in a row. She was set to perform her song “Cleopatra” for the 2020 version of the program, which was later canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, Efendi is intended to compete in the competition with the song “Mata Hari.”
During and post the Second Karabakh war, media campaigns, and rhetoric, including politicizing petitions, have circulated headlines drawing the western press into an echo chamber of bitter rhetoric. Azerbaijan and Armenia have been engaged in frozen conflict for 30 years, with heated episodes literring recent history, and coming to a boil in the 2020 Second Karabakh War.
As the post-conflict process starts its rocky process, such tense narratives as that between the Azerbaijani singer and the Change petition organizers will likely be observed in a “tit-for-tat” of media image rhetoric. This will likely come alongside arguments about the propriety of public figures expressing opinions or support on either side of the conflict and the process of de-escalation.