Artists playing in questionable locales and for dubious individuals is nothing new, but a recent spat between System of a Down vocalist Serj Tankian and the band Imagine Dragons is highlighting the kind of sticky geopolitical problems that can crop up from such performances.
In his most recent Instagram post, Tankian made public a request he made to the pop-rock band and their representation, asking them to cancel their upcoming concert in Azerbaijan on September 2. In his post, the singer said he’d warned that such an appearance could potentially “whitewash” what’s being described as an ongoing genocide in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, where people there are being systematically starved by what Tankian calls a “petro-oligarchic dictatorial regime.”
Though he said he was initially reticent about making his request public, he says a lack of response has forced his hand:
“Now it has to be said.
A few months ago, it came to my attention that @imaginedragons had planned a show on Sept 2nd in Baku Azerbaijan. I was sure they were unaware that Azerbaijan’s petro-oligarchic dictatorial regime was starving 120k people in Nagorno-Karabagh which is now being called a Genocide by the former prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo. So through representatives, I sent them a kind letter urging them to reconsider playing their show in Azerbaijan as it would help whitewash the dictatorial regime’s image there. I included various articles including one by Amnesty Int’l who I was told they have worked with in the past. There was no response. No answer, no response. As the humanitarian crisis worsens in Nagorno-Karabagh with starvation already being recorded I am forced to publicize this letter and their disregard for this humanitarian catastrophe. Maybe they felt they had a legal liability to play the show, maybe they just don’t care. My whole life I have been an advocate for genocide recognition and have always said there has to be a price to pay for Genocidal regimes or deniers. Another genocide is looming by Azerbaijan and while this happens they get to enjoy an American band from LV. Fuck that!
That’s not right.
Go to my profile to sign a petition to the band on change.org if you care to sign and you can see my letter to the band on my Facebook page. Thanks for reading. Serj.”
As he said in his post, Tankian also shared his full letter on his Facebook page, where he apparently tried to appeal to Imagine Dragons’ past stances on “human rights issues and social causes,” as well as their work with Amnesty International.
Tankian is requesting that anyone interested in urging Imagine Dragons to cancel their show as a stand against the human crisis happening there to sign a Change.org petition calling for such.