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Is it not a shame to play football for Azerbaijani money? HFHR’s letter to Atletico Madrid

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has sent a letter to the management of Atletico Madrid in which it has raised the issue of the club’s funding by the Azerbaijani authorities. In the HFHR’s opinion Atletico Madrid players contribute to the promotion of President Ilham Aliyev’s regime by appearing in shirts with the slogan “Azerbaijan. The land of fire”. “We believe this conduct is not worthy of a club with such an excellent sports tradition”, reads the Foundation’s letter.

“Our initiative is related to the recent events in Azerbaijan. Over the last three weeks the Azerbaijani authorities have arrested many human rights defenders, including Rasul Jafarov, Leila Junus and Intigam Aliyev”, says Dr Adam Bodnar, HFHR Deputy President. Those three activists and their associates have been involved in providing support to Azerbaijani political prisoners and promoting dialogue aimed at reaching understanding between Azeri and Armenian people in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Last month, the Azerbaijani authorities instigated proceedings against non-governmental organisations for alleged money laundering activities. The international community shows barely any concern about these events. In August, the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued an announcement in which it called on the Azerbaijani authorities to stop repression against civic society activists and opposition politicians and their families.

“Azerbaijan, as rich in natural resources, notably crude oil, as it is, has managed to build for itself a reputation of a country that cares about democracy and the rule of law system”, says Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska.

In its letter the Foundation appeals to the management of Atletico Madrid to consider renegotiating a sponsorship agreement agreed between the club and Azerbaijan. “The Western world supported the Polish struggle for freedom in the communist era. Today, the values of solidarity movement should guide our actions towards protecting those suffering in Azerbaijan”, further reads the letter.

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