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Serj Calls Out Imagine Dragons for performing in Azerbaijan; He's Right to

"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.”

Last year, Serj Tankian and others spoke out against Imagine Dragons for playing a show in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, despite the rising tensions, and eventual attack, on Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh area. He pressed that their presence there would not just negatively impact the band’s image, but also “help whitewash the dictatorial regime’s image”. He ended the letter with confidence that the band would look into the facts and reconsider their appearance. Imagine Dragons went ahead and played anyway.

Beef isn’t an appropriate word to describe Tankian’s response towards Imagine Dragons. Rather, he’s completely justified in his anger towards them. We all know him as one of the most openly political figures in the metal world, with System of a Down and his own personal catalog having a number of songs against war, police brutality, genocide, and more. The band’s played shows in Armenia in remembrance of the genocide inflicted on them by Turkey and even briefly reunited to create a song in support of the recent struggles.

To understand Tankian’s frustrations, we need background context. Azerbaijan and Armenia have been in heated clashes over border territories, particularly Nagorno-Karabakh. Though it’s considered to be Azerbaijan territory, it’s home to hundreds of thousands of ethnic Armenians. As such, this area has been a consistent spot of dispute between the two nations, leading to two wars. The First Nagorno-Karabakh war occurred from 1988 to 1994, which led to the formation of the Nargorno-Karabakh Republic. In 2020, a second war occured as Azerbaijan, with the support of Turkey and Israel, broke through Armenian defenses to reclaim some area. In 2023, tensions began to build again alongside fears of a third war, and Azerbaijan launched a blitz in the area that led to as many as 100,000 ethnic Armenians fleeing and the dissolution of the NKR. At that time, Azerbaijan formed a blockade to keep aid from reaching Armenians as well. With this being more of a condensed recap, I urge everyone to look further into the conflict for a more comprehensive understanding.

On that note, we live in an age where there’s loads of accessible information at our fingertips. Resources about the ongoing genocides in Palestine, Sudan and Congo are readily available all across the board— the same can be said for what Armenia’s facing at the hands of Azerbaijan, with sites like Al Jazeera releasing up to date articles going back years.

And I understand that not every band forms with the intentions of becoming political beacons. However, you have to understand an example you set when you, being as extremely popular as you are, decide to resume with a show in the capital of a nation that carried out a military assault leading to the deaths of civilians and the mass fleeing of 100,000 people, on top of preventing any resources like food or medicine from coming through. So Tankian’s anger is more than understandable, it’s appropriate.

In a recent interview with Metal Hammer, Tankian expressed his disappointment in Imagine Dragons going forward with the show, stating:

”If you are that blind to justice that you will go play a show in a country that’s starving another country, illegally, according to the International Court of Justice, according to what Amnesty International is saying, what Human Rights Watch is saying… if you still go and play that country, I don’t know what to say about you as a fucking human being. 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.”