Concerns over Eurovision 2012 host Azerbaijan’s gay rights record

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After winning Saturday’s Eurovision Song Contest, Azerbaijan has won the right to host next year’s competition.

However, broadcasters, fans and human rights groups are concerned that the country’s record on gay rights makes it deeply unsuitable to hold the contest.

Although homosexuality was decriminalised in 2001, LGBT people in the Muslim country are said to still suffer oppression and harassment.

They cannot marry and have no legal protection against discrimination.

One unnamed broadcaster told the Times: “So many Eurovision devotees are from the gay community — it’s known as the gay world cup.

“Azerbaijan could be far from welcoming and many fans may decide not to go. People at a high level are worried about this.”

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said LGBT Azerbaijan citizens suffer police harassment and brutality, blackmail, intimidation, bribery and invasions of privacy and have no legal protection against discrimination.

He said: “The Eurovision organisers must seek guarantees from the Azerbaijani government that it will respect human rights, that visitors to next year’s competition will not be victimised and that domestic and foreign media covering the event will be able to report freely, without harassment.”

Maxim Anmeghichean, of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, said Eurovision organisers should encourage the country to be more open to gay rights.

“Eurovision as a competition is popular among gay people . . . This is a good opportunity for Azerbaijan to move more towards openness,” he said.

Azerbaijan won Saturday’s contest in Dusseldorf with the song Running Scared, performed by the duo Ell/Nikki. It is the first time the country has won the contest.