Serj Tankian Calls Out Imagine Dragons for Booking Concert in Azerbaijan
Earlier this year, System of a Down's Serj Tankian called out several popular artists for helping Azerbaijan "whitewash" their image in the eyes of the world by playing in the country. Now he's calling out a hugely successful pop-rock outfit after he reached out to them not to play and was met with no response. Now Tankian has shared what happened when he tried to contact Imagine Dragons, while also sharing the initial letter sent to them explaining why they should bow out of a proposed show in the country.
To refresh, back in June of this year, Tankian got involved in a Twitter discussion with a person who had posted video of a French report from ARTE noting popular artists that had performed for dictators in certain countries around the world.
The fan sharing the video with Tankian noted, "Those people who have never lived in a dictatorship help whitewash the image of dictators and normalize their human rights violations within countries and war attacks against neighbors."
Tankian noted in his response, "It was not just @rihanna that played in Azerbaijan but a slew of well paid artists along with @F1 shamelessly helping whitewash this fascist racist dictatorship’s image. Every one of these events and artists are responsible for further human rights violations."
Tankian has reason to voice his concern over Azerbaijan as he and System of.a Down bandmates have been vocal on issues pertaining to Armenia over the years. And in 2022, the band spoke out to bring attention to a September bombing that occurred at Armenia's eastern border led by Azerbaijan forces. Also in 2022, Tankian penned a piece for Rolling Stone sharing his thoughts on why the world leaders have not stepped in to assist during the Azerbaijan aggression. The singer has also often shared his thoughts through his YouTube video channel as well.
Why Is Serj Tankian Speaking Out on Imagine Dragons Playing Azerbaijan?
In a lengthy missive via his socials, Tankian explains that he reached out to Imagine Dragons after learning the band was scheduled to play a show on Sept. 2 in Baku, Azerbaijan. Figuring the group was unaware of the regime's actions before agreeing to play, he attempted to educate them on some of the atrocities and why playing a show there would essentially help to "whitewash" the regime's image in the eyes of the world.
But, as Tankian reveals, his attempt to reach out was met with a non-response. "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," explains Tankian, adding, "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."
The System singer continues, "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."
READ MORE: Why Are System of a Down So Popular?
Furthering his efforts, Tankian shared a Change.org petition that is asking the band to reconsider as well as what he initially wrote to the group hoping to change their mind. You can check out Tankian's full posting that includes both below.
Now it has to be said.
A few months ago, it came to my attention that Imagine Dragons 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.
Below is a petition to the band on change.org if you care to sign and and my letter to the band if you care to read:
Dear Dan, Wayne, Ben and Daniel,
First and foremost, congratulations to you all for your successes over the past decade. They are well deserved and I’m sure your future holds much more of it.
One of the things I appreciate about you as artists is that you're active proponents of various human rights issues and social causes. Your work with Amnesty International and your outspokenness about the war in Ukraine among them.
I am reaching out to you today to urge you to reconsider and hopefully cancel your upcoming scheduled performance in Baku, Azerbaijan on September 2nd of this year. This is due to the horrendous human rights violations carried out by the corrupt petro-oligarchic dictatorship of Ilham Aliyev against not only his own people, but thousands of Armenians (my people). Since 2020, Azerbaijan has created war against Armenians, killing thousands, displacing tens of thousands and terrorizing countless more via an illegal blockade that has been ordered to be reopened by the ICJ and the European Court of Human Rights. Some more info here on Azerbaijan’s human rights record - https://www.amnesty.org/.../azerbaijan/report-azerbaijan/
Our band System Of A Down released two new songs back in 2020 as part of an awareness and fundraising campaign to help put an end to these atrocities and help curb this aggression. With the world in so much turmoil since COVID and the subsequent war in Ukraine, too much of the world is still unaware of what’s happening to Armenians by Aliyev’s regime. They’ve invaded Armenia and have been carrying out heinous human rights violations with impunity. Intenational events and performances by artists have only served to normalize and whitewash their status among the family of nations.
There have been artists that have actually spoken up and cancelled their concerts in Baku over these injustices, including Ukrainian pop star Max Barskih. https://euroweeklynews.com/.../serj-tankian-comments.../
As an Armenian and a human rights activist, I feel disgusted learning that entities such as F1 Formula Racing and some notable musical artists have performed in Baku and I’m left wondering if they’ve done any research as to where they are doing their business. To that end, Loudwire recently posted an article regarding my outspokenness on the whitewashing of the Azerbaijani regime's image by performing there amidst all of the bloodshed and human rights violations. https://loudwire.com/serj-tankian-calls-out-popular.../
I really feel that performing in Azerbaijan would have a negative impact on your brand as well. I’m confident that you can decipher all the facts for yourselves to decide whether to cancel your concert. Either way, I truly appreciate your time and consideration. Thanks for hearing me out and I hope to meet you all one day.