Azerbaijan: Rock musician flees to Germany over concerns for his safety



Rock musician flees to Germany over concerns for his safety

Rapper and guitarist Jamal Ali who was recently interviewed for a video by Humans Rights Watch fled his home country on Wednesday 16 May 2012, he told the British newspaper The Guardian via Skype from Berlin.

Jamal Ali claims that police tortured him for two days, placing a bag on his head and beating him with a truncheon, after he and his bassist were detained after a performance at an anti-government rally in March.

Right: Jamal Ali performing in Baku

Click to read more about Azerbaijan on


On 26 May 2012 Azerbaijan gets to play host to one of the most watched non-sporting events in the world, the Eurovision Song Contest.

Detained and beaten by police
This video was produced by Human Rights Watch to show why the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) should speak out against Azerbaijan’s appalling record on freedom of expression in the lead-up to the Eurovision Song Contest. It contains an interview with the exiled 24-year-old rapper and musician Jamal Ali.

The Guardian’s Miriam Elder wrote from Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan:
“As thousands of foreign musicians and fans head to the former Soviet country for the Eurovision song contest next Saturday, the country has been keen to deflect attention from its disastrous human rights record. Yet dozens of democracy activists, journalists and bloggers remain in jail despite pressure from international human rights groups and local activists.”

The Guardian – 18 May 2012:
‘Tortured’ singer flees Azerbaijan days before Eurovision


The popular competition pits artists from 56 European countries, expected to be seen by 100 million television viewers. 

‘We are slaves’

“[The virtual world] is the only place we can be free. But if things get more serious the government will probably ban the internet too. They want to be kings and queens and we are slaves. That’s why they get surprised when a slave sings a song.”
Jamal Ali

Daily Mail – 12 May 2012:
‘Greetings from Azerbaijan: The voices of protest you won’t hear at this month’s Eurovision Song Contest’

Latest news on this topic

Google News – continuously updated:

Search: “Azerbaijan” + “Jamal Ali”

New song and music video by Jamal Ali

After just one week this video had been seen by more than 30,000 viewers.
1:38 in the video, the lyrics of this song go:

“I was beaten for what I said
Shoved into the police car
They showed on AZTV [1st governmental channel] and called us bandits
What? Am I not right?
My house is demolished
I’m homeless, no roof over my head
Is Eurovision what I need now?”


Index on Censorship – May 2012:

‘Raise your voice for free speech in Azerbaijan’

A group of Azerbaijani human rights organisations run a ten month public advocacy campaign during the run up to the Eurovision 2012:


Human Rights Watch / IFEX – 23 March 2012:

‘Investigate musicians’ alleged ill-treatment by police, says Human Rights Watch’

Belfast Telegraph – 22 March 2012:

‘Azerbaijan warms up for Eurovision by torturing musicians’

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty – 22 March 2012:

[Video] Rok

 Place a link to this page on your Facebook profile

Go to top
Related reading on

Back to top