On June 12, Lady Gaga sang the rendition of Lennon’s “Imagine” at the opening ceremony of the first European Games in Baku. She was not wearing her usual eccentric gowns but a simple white dress. But it was not just the costume that Lady Gaga left out of her performance that evening. In her version of “Imagine” Gaga, omitted the sentence about “hunger and greed”. Reportedly she received $2million for her performance that evening.
Unlike many dazzled fans that felt silent as Lady Gaga began to sing, some rights groups are asking Gaga to take action against the government of Azerbaijan in calling for the release of many of the political activists currently held behind bars in Azerbaijan.
Sport for Rights in its letter addressed to Lady Gaga, said the campaign was “deeply disappointed” by her “decision to perform at the opening ceremony of the games amidst the worst human rights crackdown to date in Azerbaijan”.
The letter urges Lady Gaga to follow the lead of artists like Bono, U2 front man instead, who during one of his recent concerts in Montreal appealed on behalf of prisoners in Azerbaijan. “We ask you to speak out publicly, condemning the human rights crackdown in Azerbaijan, and calling for the release of the country’s jailed journalists and human rights defenders.”
The letter contains a list of individuals currently held behind bars.
In addition, the rights campaign urges the artist to donate the amount she received for her performance to the families of Azerbaijan’s political prisoners.
“Please, have some compassion for our colleagues, imprisoned for doing nothing more than speaking the truth and trying to change the situation in Azerbaijan for the better. Show the world that you do care, and that your silence cannot be bought.”
The Azerbaijan Ministry of Youth and Sports, said due to confidentiality, the amount Lady Gaga received for her performance cannot be disclosed. “Lady Gaga signed a contract. According to this contract, the honorarium is a commercial secret and shall stay this way. None of the signatories of the contract can disclosed the amount”, said the Minister. He did note however that the amount was certainly not $2million. Eurosport reported the singer received “a whopping $2million”.
The Sport for Rights campaign was set up to draw attention to Azerbaijan’s human rights record ahead of and during the games.