Friday, 13 May 2016

Eurovision: the right to wave a flag and being political

I am not against flags or being political at Eurovision. While first and foremost a music contest, the Eurovision was, is and always will be political. And I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing IF it means raising or drawing attention to important issues people feel passionate about.

We frequently wish or expect our fave singers, actors, sports personalities to voice their opinion and contribute to good social causes, human rights causes, and we criticise them when - whether unwittingly or not - they appear next to dictators or keep silence. Entertainment industry, besides its entertainment value, has a huge potential to contribute to social changes.

From LGBT rights to the plight of Crimean Tatars and more. It's in this aspect Karabakh issue (or more specifically, waving Karabakh flag) should be viewed too. What is a different matter, however, is how or why this or that issue is being raised, and whether a platform or target audience is suitable for the cause.

Every single year, there is an annual Eurovision battle between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Karabakh. I am pretty sure, for most outside viewers it looks more like a childish game between the countries who cannot look beyond their local boundaries; while inside Armenia and Azerbaijan (and their Diaspora), it's a big thing, likely to be planned ahead on the highest governmental level. And add to this a real life tragedy of war which Armenia, Azerbaijan and Karabakh witness on a daily basis, emotions understandably run high.

However, I do not believe the Eurovision is necessarily a suitable platform, in terms of its target audience, for raising Karabakh issue, other than for a concept of peace.

But as someone passionate about human rights, I cannot be against anyone waving any flag or raising any issue, other than terrorists' flags or hate speech. And this is regardless of whether I would agree or disagree with that action. The point here is that formally the Armenian delegation broke the rules and could be put up for penalty. But I find the EBU statement way too harsh and disproportionate, especially considering that their 'flag rules' had been poorly executed, are pretty stupid and unacceptable when listing together, on a same level (!), the flags of unrecognised states or states/regions within a country along with that of... ISIS.

And I am glad that Azeri singer Samra responded to their local journalist's Karabakh related propaganda speech with 'Eurovision is about music', and Armenia's Iveta reiterated that her action (waving Karabakh flag) was about peace, even if I am sceptical about such statements. In fact, this action hardly contributed to 'peace' even within the Eurovision. Yes, perhaps more people now heard of Karabakh than before, but did it lead to more people caring more about it? Did it raise among Eurovision audience the impression of Armenia promoting peace? I highly doubt it. My advice to both Armenia and Azerbaijan delegations: know your audience, and at least make some efforts to "come together", as the Eurovision slogan proclaims.

Back to the Eurovison as a song contest, I am happy that my faves from the 1st semi - Armenia and Malta - are through to the finals. Yes, Iveta Mukuchyan nailed it. There was also a powerful performance by Ukraine entry Jamala and a cool one by Georgia’s Nika Kocharov and Young Georgian Lolitaz during the 2nd semi. And all of them, that is 3 very different and pretty damn good singers of Armenian origin, became a highlight of this year’s Eurovision. All through to the final. Big congrats !!

If only our countries are as successful and as determined at peace and human rights (for real!), as they are on Eurovision stage.