Loreen takes out Eurovision
Sweden’s Loreen has been named winner of this year’s Eurovision song contest held over the weekend in Baku, Azerbaijan only days after being caught up in controversy for criticising the oil-rich country’s authoritarian government for its poor record on gay rights.
With her club-inspired song ‘Euphoria’, the 28-year-old singer’s barefoot performance beat out Russia’s entry – a group of folk singing grandmothers dressed in traditional clothes – and Serbia to storm to victory in the event which is now in its 57th year.
The pop star had earlier in the week courted political anger when accepting an invitation from local human rights activists to discuss their concerns over equality, control of the media and government harassment of minority groups.
“Human rights are violated in Azerbaijan every day,” Azeri opposition newspaper Azadliq quoted Loreen as saying after her meeting. “One should not be silent about such things.”
Authorities from the Azeri Government were quick to react with a warning that Eurovision performers should not be commenting on politics.
“Unfortunately there are some attempts of politicisation,” senior Azeri presidential aide Ali Hasanov said. “The musical event cannot be politicised.”
Following her win on Saturday night, Loreen however steered clear from any further comment on the issue.
“This is about all of us! Thank you so very much!” she told a news conference. “Time has stopped.”
Last week, UK-based human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell called the holding of Eurovision in Azerbaijain’s capital a PR coup and a tool for the Azeri government to distract from its poor human rights record and its mistreatment of gay citizens.
“Homophobic prejudice, threats and violence mean that very few Azerbaijanis are openly gay,” Tatchell said.
Since succeeding his father in 2003, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has been accused by local opposition activists as well as international rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch of using strong arm tactics to stifle dissent in the former Soviet Union state.