The Azeri government is sinking millions of dollars into Baku’s Crystal Hall, the 25,000-seat arena that will host Eurovision 2012. For local residents, however, the personal costs may be even greater.

According to the BBC, up to 300 people who live in and around the construction site face eviction in the coming weeks. They include a number of pensioners like Natalya Alibekova.

Alibekova's apartment block

She alleges that a group of men recently came to her apartment building—one of the few still standing in the area—and told her that she had to clear out by New Year’s. “They said you can’t stand up against the government, you have no rights and no house,” she told reporters. “It’s horrible. We are all sick with worry and none of us can sleep. The building work means the house is shaking. It’s like an earthquake. And the cranes and trucks are operating right through the night so it’s impossible to sleep at all.” It’s freezing in Baku, but she claims that authorities have already cut off her gas and electricity. Alibekova says the utility companies told her that her apartment no longer exists in official records.

Residents will reportedly receive around $1,900 per square yard for their homes—a figure that campaigners claim is half the market value.

“At the moment here in Azerbaijan the violation of human rights is a daily occurrence and this is only just one case,” Zohrab Ismayil, the chairman of a transparency rights group, told the BBC. “Baku’s city authority has no legal right to forcibly move people and destroy their houses.”

As far as we can tell, Azerbaijani officials have not yet commented on the matter. If the allegations made by the BBC and local residents are true, then it would be a serious setback for the Azeri government, who hope to use Eurovision as a way to bolster trade and tourism. Violating human rights is seriously unsexy, and it undermines Eurovision’s overriding mission to promote peace and unity.

We’re all looking forward to this year’s show in Baku. Let’s hope Azeri officials make it possible for locals to enjoy the festivities, too.

1 Comment
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments