Azerbaijan has accused neighbouring country Iran of slander after claims that Baku would host a gay pride march to coincide with this week’s Eurovision song contest.
It seems the country is now keen to disassociate this year’s competition from the gay pride rumours, as senior presidential administration official Ali Hasanov addressed a press conference to clarify the issue.
“They are making statements about something that does not exist. We are holding Eurovision, not a gay parade,” he said.
He added: “There is no word in the Azerbaijani language for a gay parade, unlike in their language.”
There has been confusion over whether a gay parade will accompany the song contest this year – the Eurovision website and the independent Escotoday site were hacked by a group calling itself ‘The Devotees of Azerbaijan’.
The rumours have sparked yet more negativity between the two countries – in the tough financial climate, Hasanov has accused Iran of being jealous of Azerbaijan’s economic success.
This year’s Eurovision song contest, particularly popular among the LGBT community, was seen by the International Lesbian and Gay Association as an opportunity for the country to ‘move towards openness’ after concerns over the country’s gay rights record.
Azerbaijan has a large Muslim population, but the government is secular. Homosexuality was decriminalised in the country in 2001.
Despite negativity, the song contest will still go ahead, and will be broadcast across Europe to around 125million people. Azerbaijan won the right to host Eurovision this year after Ell and Nikki won last year’s contest.