STEPANAKERT—The Human Rights Defender of Nagorno-Karabakh, Ruben Melikyan, has addressed an open letter to organizers of Eurovision Song Contest 2016:
Dear ladies and gentlemen of the EBU and the Reference Group,
My name is Ruben Melikyan. I am the elected Human Rights Defender of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, a democracy located between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan. I should proudly and humbly protect the freedom and human rights of the Nagorno-Karabakh people, approximately 150,000 peaceful civilians — men, women, children and elderly — all living between two European countries. I am a European, whose country is denied access to the European community and whose flag has found itself amidst anger, fear, embarrassment, shame, and most importantly, apathy. This resulted in your official statement of May 11 of 2016.
First of all, on behalf of the people of Karabakh, I would like to express my strong disagreement with your statement’s language that described the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a mere territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We, the people of the Nagorno-Karabakh, have been exercising our fundamental and undeniable right to self-determination since 1991 by declaring and defending our independence from Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan. It was done in full conformity with International Law and then-applicable Soviet Constitutional Law. Thus, your description of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is inaccurate and offensive to my people, and adds injury to an insult.
Secondly, I would like to kindly draw your attention to the events of April 2-5, 2016, which probably determined the song contestant’s very understandable personal motivation to exhibit the NKR National flag.
I’d also like to kindly draw your attention to the facts, well-documented in the Interim Public Report of the Karabakh Human Rights Defender, recording all the atrocities and violations committed by Azerbaijani military forces from April 2 to April 5 of 2016.
We documented beheadings that happened in Europe, murders and dismemberments of elderlies that happened in Europe, intensive shelling of schools and dwellings that happened in Europe just 40 days ago. And as a responsible European, who cares about European values and seeks democracy and peace, the song contestant merely called for peace and unity amidst these barbaric atrocities by exhibiting the flag of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, for the people who have lost their lives, just 40 days ago, on a land that is our home. Nevertheless, you threatened to sanction the participant, silencing an adequate and humble expression of her freedom of speech.
Europe is united over the values of fundamental human rights, and at the core of these values is freedom of speech. As the subject of the speech is of extraordinary importance, there should not be any restriction whatsoever for freedom of expression. ISIS-style beheadings and other terrible war crimes of Azerbaijani armed forces were committed just 40 days ago, and Azerbaijan is threatening openly to repeat them if my people do not obey the rule of Azerbaijani Republic, a country with state-fueled policy of Armenophobia.
Ladies and gentlemen,
These circumstances can be named no other way but extraordinary. Accordingly your statement on enforcement of your Rule 1.2.2h can be named no other way but an overreaction to a mere reminder of the situation by a mere exhibition of a National Flag.
I kindly call for your conscious as Europeans to remember the fundamental values of Europe, incorporated in the teachings of John Locke, Voltaire, Kant, and not of the likes of Hitler and Mussolini. I kindly call upon you to take the side of peace and unity. And finally I kindly ask you to remain in the framework of the Song Contest format and to not enter the field of international politics.