Iran is embroiled in a diplomatic row with neighbouring Azerbaijan, which is set to host the Eurovision Song Contest. Iranian clerics have protested that a gay parade will feature in the contest, and withdrawn their ambassador from Baku.
Iran has expressed its disapproval of its neighbouring secular country's supposed intent to stage a gay parade in Baku. According to Reuters senior Iranian cleric Ayatollah Sobhani issued a statement saying "We heard that the government of Azerbaijan is hosting the international Eurovision Song Contest and that during this contest there will also be a gay parade." He urged Muslims to protest such anti-Islamic behaviour.
Pink News reported Azerbaijan responded by accusing Iran of slander, saying there was no word in their language for gay parade, even though homosexuality is not a crime there. An official insisted “They are making statements about something that does not exist. We are holding Eurovision, not a gay parade." Nevertheless Iran withdrew the ambassador to Azerbaijan.
Iran's interference in its neighbours affairs resulted in an anti-Iranian protest in Baku where protesters carried placards which read “Azerbaijan does not need clerics — homosexuals!” whilst carrying pictures of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The diplomatic row exacerbates existing tensions between the two Islamic countries which were brought to a head when Iran accused Azerbaijan of assisting Israel in the murder of Iranian scientists.
Meanwhile the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest is set to be the costliest yet according to Der Spiegel, as Azerbaijan spends an estimated €630 million ($797 million) to present the glitzy contest. The final will be hosted on May 26.