Over the last few months, a number of rights based watchdogs have called on the European leaders to boycott the upcoming European Games in Azerbaijan. These organizations are asking the governments to refrain from sending high level delegations to the opening ceremony of the games. The reasons are manyfold, "the crackdown" in the backdrop of the games is one of them writes The Guardian's Jules Boykoff.
"Baku 2015 comes with opulence and shimmer, but behind the glitzy scrim, it is not pretty. Targeted political repression is rampant. As games preparations rev up, aroung 80 political prisoners languish in Azerbaijani prisons. Many more rights activists and journalists have suffered harassment, travel bans and threats."
Having these Games take place in Azerbaijan "a state that openly crushes dissent and censors journalism" writes Boykoff "European sport chiefs have magnified the Olympic movement’s worst elements: high-priced gigantism, censorship and political repression. In doing so, they give Azerbaijan’s autocratic president Ilham Aliyev precisely what he craves: favourable publicity on the world stage."
Boykoff describes the power of autocracy in Azerbaijan and calls on the European leaders to end the "backslappery". "European leaders have been far too willing to tolerate Aliyev's intolerance. But it's not too late to take a principled stand. European governments should send a message by boycotting the European Games. This would deprive Aliyev of grin-and-grip photo-ops, the golden grist of tyranny. Enough of the obsequious backslappery. The repression in Baku slices mightily against the spirit of the Olympic charter. Now is not the time for selective morality."
European Games kick of June 12 and will last until June 28.