Azerbaijan on Monday, May 21 accused neighbour Iran of slander for claiming that a gay pride march would be held in Baku while the city hosts the popular Eurovision song contest this week, AFP reported.
“They are making statements about something that does not exist. We are holding Eurovision, not a gay parade,” senior presidential administration official Ali Hasanov told a news conference.
“Actually there is no word in the Azerbaijani language for a gay parade, unlike in their language,” he added.
He accused Iran of being “jealous” of Azerbaijan’s economic success and worried about its secular system.
Unfounded rumours circulated on Iranian websites this month suggesting that a gay pride march would take place in Baku during Eurovision.
In a wide-ranging attack on alleged enemies, Hasanov also slammed some European media and campaign groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, accusing them of seeking to tarnish his country’s image ahead of Eurovision.
“Groundless statements by two organisations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, cause particular regret,” he said.
“I want to say that if these organisations continue (acting) in the same way, they will risk losing the Azerbaijani people’s trust, because the Azerbaijani people see that the statements of these two organisations have nothing in common with the actual situation in the country,” he added.
Western media have given widespread coverage in recent days to claims by campaigners that the Azerbaijani government led by strongman President Ilham Aliyev systematically violates human rights, jailing opponents, persecuting journalists and suppressing free speech.
Ex-Soviet Azerbaijan is mainly Muslim but has a secular government which has increasingly tense relations with Iran after a series of arrests of alleged attack plotters with links to the Islamic Republic in recent months.