no borders wales
An exhibition of the work of Azerbaijani artist Babi Badalov is to go ahead despite the fact that he has been deported from the UK. The show opens at 6pm on Saturday 27th September running until Sunday 19th October at the tactileBosch studios, Llandaf North, Cardiff.
Babi, who has become a fixture of the Cardiff art scene since he claimed asylum in the UK and moved to the city in 2006, has worked with friends to make sure the show will go on.
Babi, an openly gay, internationally renowned radical artist and poet from Azerbaijan was arrested on Tuesday 16th September while signing on at the UK Border Agency Offices in Cardiff. He went for his weekly sign-in with friends from the Keep Babi Safe in Cardiff Campaign.
When he did not come back out of the building campaigners became concerned and enquired after his well-being only to be told he had been detained and would be removed from the country as soon as possible. Despite massive pressure from MPs, campaigners, and friends, Babi was deported on a BMI flight from Heathrow last Saturday 20th September.
On hearing of Babi's deportation, Kim Fielding tactileBOSCH's Director and one of the curators of the exhibition, said:
“This is deeply saddening for all of us at tactileBOSCH. Babi is a unique character, an asset to the arts community in Cardiff, someone to be treasured, not deported”.
Neesha Lamb a friend and No Borders South Wales activist said:
“We are all incredibly sad that Babi is not in Cardiff any longer. He is inspirational and we feel like he has been ripped away from us. It is traumatic when someone you love and have a connection with is taken back to a place that they truly fear. We're really glad that his exhibition is still going ahead despite his deportation and are grateful to all at tactileBosch for helping make this happen”.No Borders South Wales, who worked with Babi on his campaign to stay will be holding a stall to spread the word about the UK’s racist migration regime. They will also be holding a collection to help Babi survive in Azerbaijan.
Notes for editors:
More info about the exhibition can be found at the tactileBosch website here: http://www.tactilebosch.org/
Background info on Babi’s campaign: http://noborderswales.wordpress.com/campaign-to-stay/keep-babi-safe-in-cardiff/
For his current situation: http://noborderswales.wordpress.com/tag/babi-badalov/
Among others Babi's campaign has gained the support of writer and playwright Patrick Jones, Leanne Wood AM, Bethan Jenkins AM, Chris Bryant MP, Adam Price MP, Jenny Willott MP, Cardiff Council Leader Rodney Berman and Deputy Leader Neil McEvoy.
Babi’s art and poetry have been explicitly critical of the government and prominent members of present/past regimes in Azerbaijan. These factors have led Babi to become a target of repression and persecution over many years. Because of his sexuality and the radical nature of his creative activities, he has endured government-led suppression together with physical and mental abuse from other sectors of society. He has now been completely disowned by his family. His brothers have threatened to kill him to defend their honour because of the shame that his being gay is seen as having brought on the family.
A recent ILGA report into the human rights of Gay people in Azerbaijan states that the price of open homosexuality is often “estrangement from family, bullying, social exclusion, discrimination, blackmailing and hate crimes”. Similarly an Amnesty International report into freedom of expression in the country cited numerous instances of “harassment, including physical abuse at the hands of law enforcement officials” and a number of “violent attacks which have led to serious injury and even death”.
Babi arrived in Cardiff in December 2006 and engaged fully with various parts of the local community, making many friends in his new home. He remained continued to produce art and poetry despite the mental stress brought about in part by the precariousness of his immigration status. He is in the process of writing a book about his art/gay life experiences and is also working on a film addressing the rise of Muslim fundamentalism. This latter work, as well as many other aspects of his art, would of course be impossible in his country of origin. For the first time in his life, Babi felt happy and safe in Cardiff. He felt able to openly express himself artistically, politically and with regard to his sexuality, without associated feelings of fear, shame and imminent repression.