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SERJ TANKIAN Criticizes IMAGINE DRAGONS for Performing in Azerbaijan

Published / Sat 6 Jul 2024

SERJ TANKIAN Criticizes IMAGINE DRAGONS for Performing in Azerbaijan

Photo: SERJ TANKIAN Criticizes IMAGINE DRAGONS for Performing in Azerbaijan  /  Credit: Getty Images & Travis Shinn

In a recent social media post, System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian reiterated his criticism of Imagine Dragons for performing in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Tankian’s objections, shared by other musicians, originated from Azerbaijan’s 2020 invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly ethnic-Armenian region also known as Artsakh. The Armenian-American artist perceives performing in the country as an endorsement of its authoritarian government, accused of human rights abuses.

Serj Tankian and Imagine Dragons Clash on Human Rights

Earlier this week, Imagine Dragons’ frontman Dan Reynolds defended the band’s decision to perform in Azerbaijan during an interview with Rolling Stone. “I think that’s a really slippery slope,” Reynolds stated. “I think the second you start to do that, there’s corrupt leaders and warmongers all over the world, and where do you draw the line?”

Tankian responded to Reynolds on social media Thursday, writing…


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Respectfully, I draw the line at ethnic cleansing and genocide and highlighted two instances of alleged human rights violations by Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan’s dictatorship with popular support was already into a nine-month starvation blockade of Nagorno-Karabagh qualified as genocide by former [International Criminal Court] prosecutor [Luis Moreno Ocampo] when they decided to play Baku. Would they play in Nazi Germany? Why don’t they want to play in Russia? Because it’s not popular?

They support Ukraine but not Armenians of Artsakh? The only ‘slippery slope’ is the farce moral equivalency at the heart of this hypocritical attitude. I have nothing against this guy nor his band. I just hate artists being taken advantage of to whitewash genocidal dictatorships.

In June, Tankian expressed to Metal Hammer his discomfort with performing in countries accused of severe human rights abuses, referencing reports from Amnesty International and the International Court of Justice.

If you still go and play that country, I don’t know what to say about you as a fucking human being,” Tankian remarked. “I don’t even care about your music. If you’re a bad human being, I don’t give a fuck. So that’s where I’m at with that. I have zero respect for those guys.

Reynolds, addressing Tankian’s comments in the Rolling Stone interview, maintained his stance:

I think I just said it: It’s a slippery slope, and I’m never going to deprive our fans of playing for them.

In 2020, System of a Down, composed entirely of Armenian-American members, reunited to record two new songs aimed at raising funds for Armenians impacted by the Nagorno-Karabakh war. Tankian described the situation to Rolling Stone at the time as “a really horrible humanitarian catastrophe that needs to be addressed.”


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