Serj Tankian Calls Out Popular Artists for Whitewashing Azerbaijan Regime’s Image
System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian has called out the fact that several popular entertainers have performed in Azerbaijan, which he views as a method of helping to "whitewash this fascist racist dictator's image" in the eyes of the world.
Tankian was responding on Twitter to one fan who had posted video of a French report from ARTE noting popular artists that had performed for dictators in certain countries around the world. At one point in the video, Jennifer Lopez is seen singing "Happy Birthday" to the president of Turkmenistan, while Rihanna concert footage from Azerbaijan and Kanye West concert footage from Kazakhstan are also posted. This comes as pundits in the video piece ponder, "I sometimes wonder if these people ever use Google to find out who their singing to" and "you can't buy love, but you buy pop stars."
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."
Why Tankian and System of a Down Have Interest in How Azerbaijan Is Portrayed
Tankian, along with other members of System of a Down, 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.
"Around midnight on the 12th of September 2022, forces of Azerbaijan led by its corrupt petro-oligarchic leader Aliyev attacked Armenia's whole eastern border bombing civilian infrastructure and homes. Their goal is to terrorize Armenians and gain more concessions from Armenia along with regime change in one of the few democracies in the whole region. This is 2 years after they attacked Nagorno-Karabagh in an attempt to ethnically cleanse the region of Armenians. They have been emboldened by the EU's ill perceived dependency on their natural gas and a perceived weakened Russian hegemon in the region," stated the group at the time.
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.
Back in 2020, System of a Down released their first new music in 15 years with the songs "Protect the Land" and "Genocidal Humanoidz" as a means to speak out on the war on their cultural homelands of Artsakh and Armenia that was being led by the countries of Azerbaijan and Turkey.
And earlier this year, Tankian called for sanctions to be issued against Azerbaijan over their actions. “The conscious and genetic pain stays in the forefront of our collective memory. It continuously reminds us of the importance of the close-knitted reciprocity that we must unitedly exercise to achieve national prosperity,” he said in a post, adding, “Azerbaijan enforcing their illegal blockade of Armenians with checkpoints. #sanction Azerbaijan."
He also called out the U.S. for their position on the country, tweeting out, “This IS the problem. If you’re not going to sanction a terrorist state led by a dictator because he sells Europe oil or has bases for Israel against Iran then he will have the confidence to execute his plan for ethnic cleansing. Then in that case give Armenia weapons like Ukraine."
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System of a Down's Status In 2023
As has been well documented, System of a Down have reunited to play shows over the past decade, but attempts at a new album have eluded them amidst internal artistic conflict. That said, the band did issue the two new songs when they collectively felt the desire to support their cultural homeland in a time of crisis.
The band's status in 2023 appears to be one in which they won't have much public presence onstage, with their May appearance at the Sick New World festival in Las Vegas seeming to be their only show of the year.
Last October, Tankian hinted at a scaled back presence, noting that after back surgery, he was less interested in large scale touring while he recovered. "Based on my health issues and kind of redundancy in doing the same thing over and over again in terms of touring, it's something I'm not very interested in doing at this time. Not just for System, for my own stuff, for orchestra or solo stuff. I just haven't been touring," said the singer.