The No Hate Speech Forum held in Gabala was accompanied by the debate about the openness of the event to a specific group of potential participants, with the questions being sent directly to the organizers of the conference in Azerbaijan.
The answers by the National Assembly of Youth Organizations of the Republic of Azerbaijan –NAYORA, represented by S.S., were that those participants who took part at national level had been selected following announcement of an ‘open call for participation’ created by the Council of Europe (CE)– the sponsor of the Forum.
After the arrival of some of the participants in Gabala, NAYORA also received e-mails regarding the manner of selection of participants to represent the civil society in all its different segments. In that sense, the e-mail sent by one of the participants in the conference read: ‘In what manner are the civil society organizations and the minorities/vulnerable groups subject to hate speech represented at the Forum and how is their representation ensured?’
In the course of the conference, which lasted several days, these questions were intensified and restated (Albania and Poland) and it was finally concluded that approval for participation had only been granted to members of NAYORA – as an umbrella organization of registered youth organizations.
This tendentiousness displayed in the selection of participants was bluntly exposed in the tweets of those who had registered for participation but were either rejected or disregarded. Such is the case of G.A., whose tweet read: ‘I was not selected at the #nohateforum in Gabala. NAYORA blocked the LGBTQ from public speech. I am curious who the representatives of Azerbaijan were. #whatashame.’
Although the official reaction rejected these claims, it was affirmed that G.A. was not part of any nationally-registered youth organization. G.A. responded that the open call failed to mention those criteria, adding that registration of an LGBT organization with the Ministry of Justice of Azerbaijan was impossible.
Taking into account the allegations of G.A. and the absence of the possibility for institutional presence of the LGBT community in Azerbaijan or the antagonism of the Ministry of Justice towards LGBT organizations, the Azerbaijan Government clearly displays a noticeable tendentiousness in the exclusion and its selective approach. At the moment, the Government of Azerbaijan presides over the Council of Europe, which is why the No Hate Speech Forum was completely covered by the Government of Azerbaijan and was held in Gabala. Despite the fact that the organizers in Azerbaijan emphasized their efforts to improve the social position of the LGBT community against the religious influences, the capacity of NAYORA and the experience in the organization of this type of events must be taken into account. In fact, the organization of this forum is an attempt to open the Azerbaijan society to differences and understanding of otherness.