Sunday, 21 June 2015

US country musician Steve Grand with Armenian flag during EuroPride in Riga

It was a pretty historic event - the EuroPride that took place in Riga on 20 June. Latvia is currently hosting the EU presidency, and this was the first EuroPride in the ex-Soviet state.

However, Latvia has yet lots to do in order to embrace fully human rights for all. According to ILGA-Europe press release:
…the country is on a cross road between embracing the fundamental principles of the European Union and advancing the human rights of LGBTI people or slipping back into the past and mirroring by its eastern neighbours and introducing discriminatory and oppressive laws.

Just yesterday, the Latvian Parliament adopted a change in education law which prescribes ‘constitutional morality education’ to schoolchildren to ensure children are educated in line with the constitutional definition of marriage as union between a man and a woman. In effect such legislative change mirrors the infamous Russian law banning ’gay propaganda’ to minors. On the other hand, Latvia is in the midst of a very lively and positive debate of a gender neutral cohabitation law which is being championed by some mainstream politicians and gaining wider public support.

Moreover, as per ILGA-Europe Rainbow Europe Index, “Latvia has the lowest score among the EU Member States in terms of laws and policies affecting LGBTI people – only 18% equality achieved”.

One of the biggest flags one could spot during the EuroPride held in Riga was our Armenian tricolour.

And it’s great to see popular and pretty hot openly gay US country musician Steve Grand in Riga’s Euro Pride with Armenian flag

Re Steve Grand: “He became an overnight internet celebrity and was acclaimed by some to be the first openly gay male country musician to attract mainstream attention in the United States. The music video of his first hit "All-American Boy" went viral on YouTube in less than a week in July 2013.” (more on Wiki)

And below is a pic with rainbow flag that Steve Grand posted on his Instagram with the following comment: “#EuroPride in #Riga, #Latvia #USEmbassy It is an important time to be here for #pride. Grateful to be a part of the effort to further #equality in this part of the world”

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Armenia activists challenge legal system and need your support - #HRArmList

The courts in Armenia legitimise ‘blacklists’. In fact, that’s not the only disappointing thing they do. Like many, I have little respect towards Armenian legal system that is not independent and marred with corruption, and with few exceptions, does what the ruling regime dictates. In the face of such backdrop, it’s even more important and encouraging that some activists, the bravest and the brightest, keep challenging the courts and status quo in Armenia.

And when active citizens challenge homophobia and bigotry of public figures, politicians, showbiz reps, media, they themselves turn into targets of abuse and hate propaganda.

For background to this story, read:

Armenia Eurovision national jury’s Arshakyan sisters re Conchita and LGBT: ‘Mental health patients are repulsive’

Tabloid of hate: virulent homophobia awarded by Armenia president’s state medal and stamped by court’s approval
“Effectively equaling hate speech to the “freedom of speech”, all court instances in the country rejected the collective claim of 16 people. The expressions made by the judges during the court hearings proved that they were biased towards the case, and the facts had very little to do with their judgement. As a result, not only did the claim of the citizens didn’t receive a fair treatment, but they also ended up with a heavy financial burden by the court verdicts. The court obliged the “blacklisted” citizens to reimburse the legal expenses of the very media outlet that promotes hatred and discrimination.”
These activists need your support. I am glad to see that after the first day of sharing this campaign on Twitter and Facebook, 50% of the target was achieved, and at time of writing this post - it reached 75%. Please donate and share:

*Twitter hashtag for this campaign is #HRArmList

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Intro: Armenian Feminist blog

Armenian Feminist blog was created by a group of feminists to raise awareness about women’s rights, gender equality and gender identity.

Its main aim is to reach out to the general public in Armenia, including the most remote areas, by making available important feminist texts in Armenian language.
Even with the vast information flow of the 21st century, there are still certain groups in Armenian society, which remain on the margins. Most often these are women who are cut off from the media and alternative modes of obtaining information about their rights, opportunities, etc.
Of course, it will be the most difficult to reach out to such groups, since if they are cut off from the alternative modes of obtaining information, then they would hardly read blogs.

The good news is that the authors of this blog started getting feedback and contributors from women in Armenian villages too. There is hope, afterwards. And this is a very encouraging sign, indeed.
This situation makes women more vulnerable to sustaining abusive relationships, dysfunctional family relations, abuse of their economic and political rights, etc. Even if these women have access to the media, the lack of coverage on topics that are considered taboo or irrelevant make these women subject to isolation, frustration, lack of acknowledgement. The general attitude of keeping quiet about taboo topics, which make people feel uncomfortable  contributes to the general attitude that there are no problems in society at all.
Along with translations, they make original postings and interviews too.

And the subjects of their posts are quite diverse: from Fem manifesto to domestic violence to problems facing by people with disabilities to the ways of dealing with menstruation among some transgender men.

I personally know the main creators behind this blog. Great bunch of people.

And if you wish to support their efforts, you may donate here.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

US Peace Corps book advice for their LGBT volunteers in Armenia

This is an LGBT-related excerpt from a US Peace Corps book on Armenia ["Armenia in Depth: A Peace Corps Publication", 18 September 2014], providing advice to their volunteers. There are some amusing passages there on expected behaviour re both gay men and women.

Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual Volunteers

“Gay, lesbian and bisexual Volunteers have to practice discretion. Although homosexuals certainly exist in Armenia, homosexuality may be considered immoral by some people. Certain mannerisms considered acceptable in the United States may be viewed with disdain or suspicion by Armenians. Your basic civil liberties may be ignored, and you may be hassled in bars or in the streets.

You may serve for two years without meeting another gay, lesbian, or bisexual Volunteer or Armenian. Most gay, lesbian, and bisexual Armenian probably have migrated to larger cities, while many Peace Corps Volunteers are posted in rural sites. Relationships with host country nationals can happen, but as with all cross-cultural relationships, they are not likely be easy. Lesbians will have to deal with constant questions about boyfriends, marriage, and sex (as do all women). Wearing an “engagement ring” may help. Gay men must deal with machismo: talk of conquest(s), girl watching, dirty jokes etc.

The Peace Corps is committed to providing support for all Volunteers regardless of sexual orientation.”

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Educational short film on need for comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation in Armenia

This great educational short film (in Armenian), with the use of nice graphics and pics,  illustrates various types of discrimination, so widespread in Armenia, and why it is essential to have a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, including discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Մեկ հասարակություն ՝ մեկ իրավունք from EPF Armenia on Vimeo.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Charles Aznavour's “Comme Ils Disent" feature in Divas show, Las Vegas

The fame of Charles Aznavour's groundbreaking "Comme Ils Disent" ("What Makes a Man a Man”) - "the first song about homosexuality" - extended to Las Vegas, featuring in popular Divas show. In fact, it was one of the strongest performances in Divas, emotionally charged, very nicely executed.

If you are in Las Vegas, do not miss your chance to check it out. I highly recommend.

P.S. Today is Charles Aznavour's birthday. Happy bday, Aznavour !! Thank you for your music. And more. Much more !!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Azeri group Peace for LGBTQ held IDAHOT event in Baku

Azeri group Peace for LGBTQ held an event in Baku - "The burden rainbow carry" - to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on 17th May.

As a special guest during their interactive seminar, Dr. Elmir Akbar, well known in Azerbaijan
psychotherapist, spoke about his analysis concerning the causes and treatment of emotional breakdowns experienced by LGBT people, as well as related issues.

Even though it was an open event, the location and the names of participants were kept confidential considering safety issues.

Says Peace for LGBTQ: “The world is beautiful as long as there is peace. It's in our hands to free this world from hatred.”

Participants then hold posters with human rights messages, which were published on the Peace for LGBTQ Facebook page.

"Normal dediyiniz nedir?” - reads one of the messages on posters, meaning ‘What do u define as normal?”. This is one of the slogans of Peace for LGBTQ.

*based on Peace for LGBTQ FB page

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

U.S. Ambassador in Armenia marks International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

Kudos to US Ambassador for marking IDAHOT by holding a reception of LGBT rights activists and NGO representatives in Armenia.

*via US embassy in Yerevan

In recognition of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia on May 17, U.S. Ambassador Richard M. Mills, Jr. met with Armenian civil society representatives who advocate for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights in Armenia. During their meeting, the Ambassador heard from the civil society representatives about their work to ensure that the legal and human rights of LGBT Armenian citizens are fully protected.

The United States remains unwavering in its commitment to advance LGBT equality at home and around the world. Both former Secretary Clinton and Secretary Kerry have made strong statements condemning discrimination and violence against LGBT persons, recognizing that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The U.S. Embassy has supported NGOs who advocate for equal rights for all Armenians through its Democracy Commission Small Grants program.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Rainbow flag in the very heart of Armenia capital to mark IDAHOT 2015

*picture: via PINK Armenia FB page

Even if for a short while, to make this picture as a statement, rainbow flag was present in the very heart of Armenia capital Yerevan to mark IDAHOT 2015, thanks to this awesome bunch of people.

Big respects !!

British and Swedish ambassadors in Yerevan and Tbilisi mark IDAHOT 2015, while others kept silence

Great statement from the British Embassy in Yerevan and Ambassador Kathy Leach to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Glad to see the UK's support, as we share common goal:
"The UK has always been next to the individuals and organizations that are under very challenging circumstances trying to promote LGBT rights locally and globally." 
"No one should face discrimination because of who they are and who they love. Our goal is a diverse, respectful and fair world."
Full statement below and on British embassy's Facebook page

In a related separate development, respects to the Ambassador of Sweden to Georgia and Armenia, Martina Quick, who stood next to LGBT activists and allies in Tbilisi today, marking IDAHOT 2015 in a small but peaceful event, under police protection.
[For more about IDAHOT events in Tbilisi: here]

Unfortunately, at time of writing this post, there has been no statement from the US embassy in Armenia, although embassy's Twitter and FB pages shared some general LGBT related human rights messages. [UPDATE: 19 May 2015 U.S. Ambassador in Armenia marks International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia]

Pretty astonishing of all was a position of the EU delegation in Armenia. A total silence, that is, i.e. ZERO mention of IDAHOT by them. Instead, their Twitter account was busy sharing concert pictures and selfie. They did not even share the EU's statement on IDAHOT. They got my big FAIL mark.

#‎IDAHOT2015‬ Day Statement

May 17 is the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. This is a day marked globally to raise awareness about the discrimination faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. Despite progress in some parts of the world, there is still a lot to be done both to fight against prejudice and also to ensure everyone is equally protected under the law.

The UK has always been next to the individuals and organizations that are under very challenging circumstances trying to promote LGBT rights locally and globally. Here in British Embassy Yerevan we have welcomed and supported the efforts of local LGBT activists, media and bloggers. This year an LGBT community dedicated media started to function – – which took the local efforts a step further.

No one should face discrimination because of who they are and who they love. Our goal is a diverse, respectful and fair world.

Kathy Leach
British Embassy Yerevan

Armenian version of “Some People Are Gay. Get Over It!” in Yerevan to mark IDAHOT

Activists in Yerevan posted Armenian version of Stonewall's message - “Some People Are Gay. Get Over It!”  - "Ոմանք գեյ են, թեթև տարեք" - across various parts of Yerevan, including street crossings, to mark IDAHOT. Respects!!

Exclusive pictures below.

UPDATE: 18 May 2015 - One day after my post:

...and this :))

UPDATE: 19 May 2015 - Two days after my post:

...and these :))

Friday, 15 May 2015

How incorrect use of Armenian translit turned this rap song ‘gay’

Few days ago, I received a Google alert update that there is this ‘gay Armenian’ rap song on YouTube. The title of this song looked weird in English: “ETE HET GAY / ARMENIAN RAP / 2015”

It was obvious to me that at least the first two words were written in Armenian translit. But I was still not sure what it actually meant combined with the word “gay”. So I started watching (well, listening to), and everything became instantly clear. I burst into laughing.

Apparently, this guy, who uploaded his own music video, indicated his song’s title - which should read in English “If I were to come back” - in a weird Armenian (incorrect) translit, directly mirroring the way he speaks [a certain way that people in certain Armenian circles speak :))] and inadvertently turned his song into a ‘gay Armenian’ rap song.

Here we are, as of today, 7 days after uploading his music video, this guy still did not realise what his song’s title (the way he indicated it) really means in English :)) Or may be he did it intentionally?! I doubt it, but I am all smile writing this post.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Armenia: System Of A Down remembers all victims of the Genocides, including gays, in a live concert in Yerevan

By making the parallels between the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust, the animated on-screen introduction to the part 2 of the SOAD’s concert declared [see from 49:25 - captions below in Armenian, in the video - with English voice-over]:

[“Inspired by the example of openly committing mass murder with impunity [the Armenian Genocide], he [Hitler] became an architect of the new Genocide - the Holocaust, Nazi Germany’s evil campaign to rid Europe off Jews, Poles, gypsies, gays, the disabled and all those who did not fit in Hitler’s twisted vision of “pure race”.]
They then went on with more current examples of the “terror that persists”. “We can no longer seat back and watch those dreadful acts committed around the globe. Time to wake up the souls.”

Hear this, Armenian and worldwide fans of the System of the Down. Embrace the diversity. Hear this, Armenian politicians and other world leaders. Your oppressive politics will be eventually rocked apart.

Says Serj Tankian live in Yerevan: “There is still fucking work to do [in Armenia]. It’s a responsibility of the government to bring in the principles of the egalitarian civic society, getting rid of institutional injustice and stopping depopulation that is occurring.”

This was in line with Serj Tankian’s previously expressed support for environmental issues and LGBT human rights in Armenia: Prominent Armenians (including Serj Tankian) issue statement in support of LGBT human rights

As victims of the Genocide, Armenia and Armenians should lead by example, by embracing diversity.

I want to hope that particularly younger generation who got inspired over the last few weeks with Kanye West’s awesomely crazy impromptu gig in Yerevan, Kim Kardashian’s ability to shake off the routine and bring world media’s attention to the country, SOAD’s epic concert, and the presence of so many diverse awesome people both in Armenia and in Diaspora, will challenge the status quo by making Armenia a country of our dreams, where everyone, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability will be welcomed and treated equally, with respect. By setting ourselves free of prejudices, we will provide the best evidence of failure of the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide.

And as yet another evidence of such failure is the joint commemorations by Turks and Armenians in Istanbul of the centenary of the Genocide, despite Turkish government’s continuous denial and oppressions. Also, this joint statement by Armenian and Turkish LGBT groups marking the anniversary and pledging to fight together for human rights. And this very awesome personal story by gay Armenian Haig Chahinian, published on The Washington Post on the April 24th:
"I didn’t have to procreate to carry on my Armenian-American family legacy. As a gay man, I couldn't marry the Armenian woman my father hoped I would. But I can still honor our traditions."

It’s very telling that The Guardian’s great coverage of the Armenian Genocide topic this year included the interactive format for the descendants’ family stories, a format used for the similar accounts of racial profiling in the US and experiences of LGBT communities around the word, as stated by The Guardian’s Maeve Shearlaw, in an interview with Armenian Mediamax agency.

"This isn't a rock’n’roll concert. To our murderers, this is revenge" - said System of a Down's Daron Malakian, during live concert in Yerevan.

Here is for the next 100 years.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Joint statement by Armenian and Turkish LGBT groups re centenary of the Armenian Genocide

Kudos to the signatories of this statement - PINK Armenia and Kaos GL. Great example of solidarity between Armenian and Turkish LGBT groups.
Pink Armenia and Kaos GL made a joint statement to mark the centenary of the Armenian Genocide, commemorating those killed, and underlined that they will fight against homophobia, transphobia, racism and nationalism together. 
*Armenian version 
*Turkish version

One hundred years ago, a huge crime was committed on the land that we have been living together, one unpardonable, irreversible crime, which can by no means be compensated. In order to shatter Armenian people, their culture, social and economical set up into pieces Great Crime/Meds Yeghern caused pains that cannot be located in the language of cold statistics. In the process of massacre, Assyrian and Greek people in Turkey had also been the target of systematic extermination policies. We still witness the effects of the unpardonable Armenian Genocide that had been initiated by Ottoman Empire.

We, as LGBT organizations struggling against homophobia and transphobia in Armenia and Turkey, call both LGBT and overall public societies to confront with what had been lived. We recapitulate our call for confrontation with genocide and protect our lives dimmed by hands of nationalism and state policies. As well as being against homophobia and transphobia, struggling against racist, nationalist and sexist policies in our region, We, as Pink Armenia and Kaos GL, commemorate everyone killed a hundred years ago and express once again that we share the painful memoirs and are in solidarity with the Armenian population scattered all over the world.

Today, struggling against racist and nationalist ideologies of homophobia and transphobia, which have intertwined with racism and nationalism both in civil society and public space all throughout the countries in our region including Turkey and Armenia that resulted in genocide is more important than ever. State-handedly institutionalized racist and nationalist discourses turn borders of our countries into impassable borders in between communities. The way to pass beyond the intercommunal borders is to act with solidarity via creating horizontal networks. Only our struggle will make it possible to get rid of abstract discourses of equality, justice and freedom, and to put our struggle at the center of our lives.

Armenian Genocide is a source of shame for all humanity. This shame and the scares of this massacre left us with big questions to answer. Assassinated by the people of 1915 mentality, the question posed by Hrant Dink, the Chief Editor of Agos Journal, is still waiting unanswered:

“Are we to act just like the responsible persons of the past extreme catastrophe or shall we take our lessons from past errors and write the new pages like civilized human beings?”

We, as Pink Armenia and Kaos GL, will strive to find answers to this question through our struggle. The way to be liberated with the ‘rainbow’ is through giving voice to the truths that have been overshadowed by nationalism.

PINK Armenia & Kaos GL

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

EU sees "limited" human rights progress in Armenia and calls authorities to adopt LGBT inclusive anti-discrimination legislation

In an annual report to assess the implementation of whatever remained from the European Neighbourhood Policy in Armenia, EU noted "no tangible developments in the implementation and enforcement of legislation on human rights and fundamental freedoms", and overall "limited progress on deep and sustainable democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms".

Among its recommendations, EU calls Armenia authorities to adopt and implement a "comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation":
  • adopting and implementing a comprehensive anti-discrimination law; implementing and monitoring implementation of the law on equal rights and equal opportunities for women and men, including taking further steps towards harmonising legislation in this area with the EU acquis; adopting the law on domestic violence
EU report states: "Armenia still does not have a comprehensive legal framework against discrimination. The human rights action plan only suggested assessing the compatibility of relevant Armenian legislation with international law and weighing the merits of adopting an anti-discrimination law. No measures were put in place to protect the rights of LGBTI people, while discrimination and hostility continued to be a major problem. There was also widespread discrimination against people with disabilities with regard to their economic, social and cultural rights. People with disabilities were also socially segregated in all areas." [emphasis mine]

Full report is available here.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Irrepressibles gig in London: full of emotions, strength and vulnerability

I am a big fan of The Irrepressibles, and was super excited to finally see them performing live in London. It was their first London gig (Islington, Assembly Hall, Fri 20 March 2015) of the NUDE.

I had pretty high expectations, and this was one of the instances when my high expectations were fully met.

The vocals, emotions, combination of strength and vulnerability, their performance was emotionally draining and very honest.

And yes, Jamie, the lead singer, was pretty sexy with the beard. I loved his new image. There were frequent shouts "You are so sexy", "I love you" from the  audience.

If you ever have a chance to see The Irrepressibles live, do it, it's a must.

And below is a pic of the opening support act by Ebe Oke, and of the stage before the show.