The SERJ TANKIAN Versus IMAGINE DRAGONS Conflict Continues Regarding the Band’s 2023 Performance In Azerbaijan


It all began in 2023 when Imagine Dragons made the decision to hold a concert in Baku, Azerbaijan. At that time, Serj Tankian, the lead singer of System Of A Down, criticized the band, stating that the concert was providing legitimacy to the Azerbaijani ruling regime amidst the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

To sum up the historical context, in 2022, the Azerbaijani government imposed an unauthorized blockade on the Republic of Artsakh, leading to a severe humanitarian crisis where the Artsakh residents endured a year without basic necessities like food, electricity, and medicines. This helps understand why Tankian was enraged, especially given System Of A Down‘s position on this issue expressed in their 2020 singles “Genocidal Humanoidz” and “Protect The Land”.

In a statement in 2023, Tankian penned: “It needs to be highlighted. A while back, I learned that @imaginedragons had arranged a performance on Sept 2nd in Baku, Azerbaijan. I was convinced they were not aware that Azerbaijan’s autocratic regime was subjecting 120k people in Nagorno-Karabagh to starvation, now classified a Genocide by the ex-prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo.

“So, via representatives, I dispatched a polite letter urging them to rethink their decision to perform in Azerbaijan as it would contribute to glossing over the dictatorial regime’s reputation there. I included various readings, including one from Amnesty Int’l, an organization I was informed they had collaborated with previously. But there was silence. No acknowledgment, no response.

“As the plight worsens in Nagorno-Karabagh with reports of starvation emerging, I am compelled to make this letter public and protest their indifference to this humanitarian disaster. Perhaps they felt obligated legally to perform at the show, or maybe they simply didn’t care. Throughout my life, I have advocated for the recognition of genocides and have always emphasized that genocidal regimes or deniers must face consequences. Another genocide is looming in Azerbaijan, and while this unfolds, they get to enjoy the presence of an American band from Las Vegas. Damn that!

“This is unjust. Visit my profile to endorse a petition to the band on if you wish to join, and you can view my letter to the band on my Facebook page.”

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Imagine Dragons proceeded with the performance, and Tankian proceeded to criticize their choice in an interview with Metal Hammer. “I do not know these individuals, but who are they? ‘I don’t comprehend that sort of attitude.’ Shortly after that, Azerbaijan attacked the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, leading to the displacement of 120,000 residents from their historic homes.

“Look, I am not someone to dictate to bands where they should perform or not. There are other artists performing in morally questionable realms governed by authoritarian figures, where basic human rights are scarce, and I understand that they do so for financial reasons, artistic expression, and entertainment purposes, among others.

“However, when a government is on the brink of ethnic cleansing, when Azerbaijan was starving 120,000 Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, depriving them of food and medicine… as an artist, had I been informed of this, I could never have gone ahead with that show. But some artists do. And I am at a loss for words regarding those artists. I do not regard them as decent individuals. Disrespect their art, they are not commendable people, in my opinion.

“If you are so blind to justice that you would perform in a nation starving another nation, and doing so unlawfully, as per the International Court of Justice, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch… if you still proceed with that show, I am at a loss for words. I don’t care about your music if you are not a good human being. That is where I stand. I hold no respect for those individuals.”

In a recent conversation with Rolling Stone, Imagine Dragons vocalist Dan Reynolds finally offered his viewpoint on the issue: “I am against depriving our fans who wish to witness our performances due to the actions of their leaders and governments. I see this as a slippery slope. When you initiate such actions, you are indirectly empowering corrupt leaders and warmongers around the globe, and it raises the question of where do you draw the line?”

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This might appear somewhat half-hearted given the extensive statements made by Tankian, right? More so as Tankian replied in an extensive Instagram post stating: “Dan Reynolds mentioned: ‘I oppose denying our fans the chance to watch our performances because of the deeds of their leaders and governments, I find it a slippery slope. Once you begin down that path, you encounter corrupt leaders and war-proponents worldwide, and where does one draw the line?’

“Respectfully, I draw the line at ethnic cleansing and genocide. When they decided to perform in Baku, Azerbaijan, the dictatorial regime of Azerbaijan, with public support, had already imposed a 9-month starvation blockade on Nagorno-Karabagh, termed a Genocide by former @icc prosecutor @luismorenoocampo. Would they perform in Nazi Germany? Why do they avoid performing in Russia? Is it not popular enough there?

“They support Ukraine but not the Armenians of Artsakh? The only ‘slippery slope’ here is the hypocritical core of this stance. I harbor no ill feelings towards this individual or his band. I simply detest the exploitation of artists to sanitize Genocidal dictatorships.

“Thank you for reading @nmemagazine @rollingstone @the.independent @metalsucks”


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