Serj Tankian of System of a Down called out several popular artists earlier this year for helping Azerbaijan “whitewash” their image in the eyes of the world by performing in the country. Now he’s calling out a massively successful pop-rock band after reaching out to them and receiving no answer. Tankian has now revealed what happened when he attempted to contact Imagine Dragons, as well as the initial letter addressed to them outlining why they should withdraw from a potential event in the country. To recap, Tankian was involved in a Twitter debate with a user who had posted video of a French program from ARTE identifying popular artists who had performed for tyrants in various nations across the world in June of this year. According to the fan who shared the video with Tankian, “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.”
“It was not just @rihanna who played in Azerbaijan, but a slew of well-paid artists along with @F1 shamelessly helping whitewash this fascist racist dictatorship’s image,” Tankian said in response. Each of these events and artists is liable for additional human rights crimes.” Tankian has reason to be concerned about Azerbaijan, as he and his System of.a Down colleagues have been active on Armenian concerns in the past. In 2022, the band spoke out in response to a September bombing at Armenia’s eastern border launched by Azerbaijani soldiers. Tankian also wrote an article for Rolling Stone in 2022, explaining why world leaders did not step in to help amid Azerbaijan’s assault. The musician has also frequently shared his ideas on his YouTube video channel.
Why Is Serj Tankian Speak Out About Imagine Dragons’ Performance in Azerbaijan? Tankian reveals in a lengthy social media post that he contacted Imagine Dragons after learning the band was due to perform on September 2 in Baku, Azerbaijan. He endeavored to educate the group on some of the regime’s crimes and why playing there would effectively aid to “whitewash” the regime’s image in the eyes of the world before deciding to play. However, as Tankian relates, his attempts to contact him were met with silence. “I wrote them a nice letter asking them to reconsider performing in Azerbaijan because it would help whitewash the dictatorial regime’s image there.” I included several pieces, including one from Amnesty International, with whom I was assured they had previously collaborated. There was no reaction. “There has been no response, no response,” continues Tankian, adding, “as the humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabagh worsens, with starvation already being recorded, I am forced to publicize this letter and their disregard for this humanitarian catastrophe.” Maybe they believed they had a legal obligation to perform on the broadcast, or maybe they just don’t care.”
“My whole life I have been an advocate for genocide recognition and have always said there has to be a price to pay for Genocidal regimes or deniers,” the System singer continues. Azerbaijan is about to commit another holocaust, but in the meantime, they can enjoy an American band from LV. Screw that! That is not correct.” Adding to his efforts, Tankian shared a Change.org petition begging the band to rethink, as well as what he first wrote to the group in the hopes of changing their minds. You can read Tankian’s full piece, which covers both, below.