Azerbaijan must not “sportswash” its appalling human rights record: Amnesty International

The organization believes fans and footballers alike should know the real situation happening at the ex-Soviet republic.

Azerbaijan is set to host the UEFA Europa League Final between Arsenal and Chelsea later this month.

And next year, the former Soviet republic is also going to host four games of the EURO 2020.

Which is why Amnesty International, a London-based non-governmental organization focused on human rights, warns about “sportswash.”

“Fans will be glued to their TVs during this game but we must ensure that Azerbaijan isn’t allowed to ‘sportswash’ its appalling human rights record as a result of the football fanfare,” director Kate Allen was quoted by Four Four Two.

“Azerbaijan is in the grip of a sinister human rights crackdown, with journalists, bloggers, and human rights defenders being ruthlessly targeted.”

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She added: “Unfair trials and smear campaigns remain commonplace.”

“LGBTI people have been arrested, and even people fleeing the country have been harassed and pressured to return.”

“Fans, players and backroom staff can help prevent Azerbaijan’s likely attempt to sportswash its image by informing themselves about the human rights situation behind the glitzy facade of Wednesday’s match,” she said.

“All too often, governments are using high-profile sporting competitions to distract attention from repressive policies and human rights violations, to instead project an image of openness.”

“This couldn’t be further from the truth with the current administration, and the Arsenal-Chelsea clash is just the latest reminder of this,” Allen concluded.