Human Rights Groups Stage London Harlem Shake Protest

A group of Londoners staged a Harlem Shake protest in front of the Azerbaijani Embassy on 13 July to call for the release of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. The protest was organised by the Art for Democracy campaign, ARTICLE 19, and Index on Censorship.

It follows the politically motivated arrest of Azerbaijani youth activist Ilkin Rustemzade in connection with a Harlem Shake video filmed in Baku. Rustemzade joins more than 80 other political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

The protesters made a Harlem Shake video to highlight the absurdity of Rustemzade’s arrest. The video is intended to draw international attention to the serious problem of political prisoners and the overall alarming human rights situation in Azerbaijan.

“The human rights situation in Azerbaijan is deteriorating every day, and we fear it will continue to worsen in the run-up to October’s presidential election. The international community – including the British Government - must end its policy of wilful blindness towards human rights violations in Azerbaijan and stop prioritising other interests ahead of the country’s democratisation”, said Art for Democracy’s Advocacy Director, Rebecca Vincent.

“Rustemzade’s detention is part of a wave of politically motivated arrests. Journalists, members of political opposition groups and artists are routinely persecuted in Azerbaijan for voicing criticism of the authorities. This crackdown on freedom of expression continues to gather pace as the election draws closer and it must stop”, said Dr Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.

"The climate for free expression in Azerbaijan continues to deteriorate -- a situation that is particularly alarming in the run up to the country's presidential election. Authorities are using violence, intimidation and draconian laws, including recent provisions to extend criminal defamation to online content, to silence journalists, bloggers and civic activists. If the election is to be free and fair, the government of Azerbaijan must address these issues immediately and comply with its international human rights commitments", said Mike Harris, Head of Advocacy at Index on Censorship.

The Harlem Shake video filmed at the protest will be released on 17 June 2013, to mark one month since Ilkin Rustemzade’s arrest. The video will be available on Art for Democracy’s YouTube channel.


For more information, or to arrange interviews with spokespersons from Art for Democracy, please contact Rebecca Vincent at +44 (0)7583 137751 or

To arrange interviews with spokespersons from ARTICLE 19, please contact Ayden Peach on +44 (0)20 7234 2510 or

To arrange interviews with spokespersons from Index on Censorship, please contact Mike Harris on +44 (0)7974 838468 or