Rihanna and Shakira should think twice before performing in Azerbaijan: Amnesty
AFP and Ahram Online, Tuesday 9 Oct 2012
Campaigners warn pop stars of a litany of human rights abuses they claim have been inflicted on the ex-Soviet state's people in recent years

Campaigners have warned pop stars Rihanna and Shakira that their October concerts in Azerbaijan would be held against a backdrop of alleged human rights violations and crackdowns on free speech.

"Top selling artists Rihanna and Shakira should bear in mind the human rights abuses being inflicted on the people of Azerbaijan before they perform in the country’s capital," Amnesty International and Sing for Democracy warned in a letter ahead of the concerts.

The letter comes as the singers are due to perform in Baku during the current FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2012, football tournament which is currently being held in the oil-rich ex-Soviet state.

It warns of a littany of alleged abuses in Azerbaijan, including "the unsolved killing of reporter Elmar Huseynov - murdered in 2005 – and the multiple arrests and persecution of journalists, bloggers and political activists."

"Amnesty International believes that the Azerbaijani government should afford all artists, journalists, activists and ordinary citizens the right to express themselves freely without fear of reprisal," the letter adds.

Pop Jennifer Lopez has already performed at the football tournament's opening ceremony, with strongman President Ilham Aliyev's singer son-in-law Emin Agalarov as her support act.

Over the recent years, Azerbaijan has been seeking to boost its international image by hosting high-profile events like May's Eurovision song contest.