In the Country of a Dictator, Olympic Ideals Don’t Have a Chance at Being Victorious

Published: Jun 12, 2015 Reading time: 4 minutes
In the Country of a Dictator, Olympic Ideals Don’t Have a Chance at Being Victorious

Prague, June 12, 2015 – For ten athletes, the police were violating the principles of a fair play in sports, while chanting fans were demanding the rules be followed. Such was the appearance of a happening organized by People in Need and NESEHNUTÍ, which took place today at Republic Square in Prague.
With this message they were drawing attention to the launch of the first European Games, which opened today in the capital of Azerbaijan, Baku. Through this event, the organizers wanted to point out the gross human rights violations in this country in the Caucasus, just as other organizations have been doing in many different European cities today.

Today Republic Square was turned into an impromptu sporting arena where a boxing bout and a football match were held. However, it wasn’t two sports teams entering into the ring and onto the pitch, but human rights activists versus repressive forces. What initially started out as a standard sporting event, gradually was transformed in an unfair power play. "The most illustrative moment for me was when the referee – wearing a President Aliyev mask - arbitrarily changed the rules of the game to the detriment of human rights activists by disregarding the fouls, or rather by tacitly approving of them," said Diana Gregorová of NESEHNUTÍ. The originally fair boxing bout and football match, turned into a lynching by the police officers’ side over the course of the event. This event was supported by the Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights in the Chamber of Deputies, Margaret Adamová, who participated in and spoke at the event.

The event took place in collaboration with the coalition Sport for Rights, which has been calling for an end to the attacks against civil society in Azerbaijan and the release of imprisoned journalists and human rights defenders, of which there are currently more than eighty. Similar events were also held today in many other European cities - Barcelona, Berlin, Geneva, London, Oslo, San Foca (Italy), Tbilisi, Warsaw, and Zagreb, while in Belarus it was organized as an online protest. The human rights lawyer and a representative of the coalition Gulnara Akhundova, who was forced to flee into exile, said: "Sports are not above human rights. On the eve of the European Games the government of Azerbaijan has not stopped arresting the leaders of civil society and the leaders of European sport have remained silent. How did sports become synonymous with corruption these days?"

The NGO People in Need and NESEHNUTÍ, together with other Czech organizations, have also sent a letter to the Czech Olympic Committee, which sheds light on the stories of several leading human rights defenders, who were only a few weeks ago convicted through show trials on trumped up charges. They pointed out that the European Games is not only a sporting event, but is more of an attempt to legitimize the political leadership of Azerbaijan’s repressive regime. "We urge the Czech Olympic Committee not to support the image of Azerbaijan as a country without serious societal problems and to openly demand the release of political prisoners," explained Ivana Skálová from People in Need’s Center for Human Rights and Democracy. Similar steps have been taken in recent days, for example, by the German Olympic Sports Federation, which has supported the call for a United Nations Special Rapporteur on account of the situation of human rights defenders and has refused to ignore the violations of civil rights and freedoms in Azerbaijan and have also drawn attention to those that have locked up as criminals.

Three days ago members of the European Parliament took a stand on behalf of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. They wore T-shirts calling for the release of Leyla Yunus, Emin Huseynov, Rasul Jafarov and others, while also calling on the Parliament to adopt a new resolution. They unanimously expressed that the situation in Azerbaijan can no longer be ignored. Dozens of innocent people are sitting behind bars, while the dictatorship, which has spent billions on the pomp and circumstance of the European games, pretends to be a free country and the world passively turns a blind eye.

For additional information please see:
Description of other happenings taking place today, June 12, 2015 in other European cities.
The Letter to the Czech Olympic Committee, sent on June 9, 2015
Photographs from the protest in the European Parliament

More information is also available under the hashtags # Baku2015, #RealBaku # RealBaku2015, LeylaYunus # # EminHuseynov, RasulJafarov # # IntigamAliyev

Ivana Skálová, Head of East European Programs at People in Need tel .: 777 787 952,
Diana Gregorová, NESEHNUTÍ,