Following the 12 June opening ceremony of the European Games in Baku, U2 frontman Bono made an impassioned appeal on behalf of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, after receiving a request from the Sport for Rights campaign.
Speaking on stage from his concerts in Montreal both 12 and 13 June, Bono mentioned "six friends of ours who tonight are locked behind bars for the crime of expressing their opinion”, naming Emin Huseynov, Khadija Ismayilova, Anar Mammadli, Leyla Yunus, Rasul Jafarov, and Intigam Aliyev, whose photos were displayed in the arena.
Bono’s strong appeal was a sharp contrast from Lady Gaga’s surprise performance at the opening ceremony of the European Games the previous night.
Sport for Rights Coordinator Rebecca Vincent commented “We are thrilled that Bono spoke out on behalf of our jailed colleagues in Azerbaijan, including Sport for Rights founder Rasul Jafarov. Bono’s intervention shows that the Azerbaijani regime’s efforts to whitewash its image by hosting the European Games has failed. The world knows what is really taking place in the country, and will not keep silent”.
Vincent added: “Conversely, Lady Gaga’s decision to perform in Baku in the midst of Azerbaijan’s worst human rights crackdown to date is deeply disappointing. By turning a blind eye to human rights violations and performing for the officials responsible, Lady Gaga has not only compromised her own stated values, but betrayed the Azerbaijani activists languishing in jail for exercising the very rights she purports to defend”.
European Games opened on June 12, in the capital of Baku and will continue until June 28. Over 6000 athletes are competing in 20 sports.