The appearance of young men wearing red shoes may not be something to write about in many western countries. But in conservative Azerbaijan, where until recently wearing anything that was not black was considered somewhat risqué, this new trend reflects a quest for liberation by a generation that has started questioning all the certainties of the past. With a growing youth population, increasingly better educated and better connected with global processes this is the generation to watch. It is the generation that both government and opposition are also trying to court in different ways.
Mehman (picture left) is one of those rare breed of photo journalists who combines, artistic talent, boundless energy and political acumen. in recent months he has captured moments of Baku’s daily life, as well as moments of political protest and posted them on the internet for the world to see. He has around him a small but talented group of other young photo journalists who for the first time are communicating the “alternative Azerbaijan story” in a way that it can be understood outside the narrow circle of experts and activists.
Fortunately, even hardened opposition activists do not give the red shoes phenomena any partisan political significance. Indeed this is how it should be. The expression of youth needs to be allowed to flourish without being hijacked for short-term political gains.
There are within the Azerbaijani authorities a number of control freaks whoeven so will no doubt see a threat in the red shoes phenomena. They will do themselves and their government a lot of good if they keep their concerns to themselves. In the month when Baku welcomes in its midst Europe’s biggest celebration of diversity, the Eurovision Song Festival, the red shoes of Baku are a sign that the country is part of the process, and not simply a venue for it.
In the meantime though, if you are male and going to Baku for Eurovision or any other reason, do not forget to pack a pair of red shoes. And by the way you should also wear a red belt.
source: LINKS Analysis
photos: Young Bakians in red shoes (pictures courtesy of Mehman Huseynov)