Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Aram + Ashot, Hovul + Ruben - from Armenian grammar book to inscriptions on Berlin wall

Couple of days ago I saw on Twitter this extract from the Armenian grammar book that teaches an example of combining two male names to create a new name, apparently: Aram + Ashot

I thought this was pretty hilarious on so many levels. This instantly reminded me of what I saw on Berlin wall recently: Hovul + Ruben (in Armenian).

Here we are. 'Gay propaganda' all the way from Yerevan to Berlin :))

The Stonewall Inn... Place, where Pride began

The Stonewall Inn, NYC. Always fills me up with emotions. Always takes me back to the time when I was not born yet. Time which would have a lasting impact not only on the history of rights movement "[the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States" and beyond], but as such a very deep personal impact too.

Happy to learn that "In June 2015, the Stonewall Inn received official landmark status from the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission for its role as the catalyst of the LGBT movement. It is the first landmark in New York City that has been recognized because of its status in LGBT history."

 *Stonewall Place, NYC
*Gay street, NYC

Thursday, 23 July 2015

New draft of Armenia Constitution effectively bans same-sex marriage

Armenia’s (current) Constitution in many aspects (not all) is pretty progressive. Of course, having the Constitution full with progressive ideas does not mean that they are being implemented.

Now that Armenia president is moving towards the end of his second (and final) consecutive terms, ruling regime is finding ways to keep him in power even if not directly, and to ensure that Armenia is governed by Republican party in the foreseeable future. And here we are, we have this recently circulated new version of the Constitution to be approved by the parliament and then via national referendum.

Not only this new version of the Constitution is pretty dangerous in terms of turning Armenia into seemingly parliamentary but in reality autocratic country, but it contains further limitations of freedoms and rights, including LGBT related.

While current Constitution is way ahead of many other European constitutions by effectively allowing possibility of same-sex marriage (not that it was implemented, but at least there was no limitation), new draft with subtle changes in wording re-defines marriage as between man and woman.

In its latest newsletter, PINK Armenia circulated translated summary of these limiting provisions. One more reason, why there should be a firm NO to this draft Constitution.
On July 15, a state commission formed by President Serzh Sargsyan on publicized its draft constitutional amendments envisaging Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic with a largely ceremonial head of state not elected by popular vote.

Under the new Constitution, the president of the republic will be elected by an electoral college consisting of National Assembly members and representatives of local government bodies. It is widely believed that President Sargsyan has initiated the reform to be able to stay in power in some other capacity after completing his second and final presidential term in 2018.

Lawmakers discussing plans to amend Armenia's constitution back in 2005 expressed broad support for a ban on same-sex marriages. 10 years later we still witness the same intention. The Constitutional amendments refer to changes for the freedom of marriage.

Article 35 of the (current) Constitution of The Republic of Armenia states: Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and found a family according to their free will. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and divorce.
Article 34, in contrast, according to the amendments, states: Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry with each other and found a family according to their free will. Thus, the new Constitution is limiting the freedom of marriage to opposite sex, Armenia is to join the countries who have a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
The draft Constitution is expected to be completed by early August. Subsequently, the draft shall be submitted to the President. If approved, it will be introduced to the National Assembly, and then a Referendum Day will be set.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Armenia president’s administration, ministries respond to LGBT rights letter

While replies from both president’s administration and ministries are vague and do not suggest any commitment by the authorities for tackling discrimination based no sexual orientation and gender identity, what is more important here is that PINK Armenia defied status quo and challenged relevant state bodies re their commitment for LGBT rights and against discrimination. It is the first time I could recall that Armenia president’s administration replies to LGBT rights related formal query.
Via PINK Armenia: “Necessary prerequisites exist in RA legislation to exclude any act of discrimination” - reads a formal reply from the administration of Armenia president in response to letter by PINK Armenia calling Armenian authorities to the call of PINK Armenia to protect LGBT rights.

To mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, PINK Armenia addressed a letter to the Armenia president Serj Sargsyan, several ministries and MPs, with a call to provide in the Republic of Armenia legal provisions for combating discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to monitor cases of discrimination against LGBT people. The administration of the president noted further that “if there is a need for further legislative regulations, it should be noted that the president of the Republic of Armenia has no right to initiate legislation”.

PINK Armenia also urged president Serj Sargsyan not to award national prizes to individuals and organisations who spread blatant hate speech against LGBT citizens of Armenia and the persons involved in the protection of their rights, to which head of legal department of the president’s staff Grigor Muradyan clarified in the response letter that the person’s worldview is not considered when awarding prizes “if that person does not display any illegal behavior which is to become a subject of assessment of authorities in each specific case”. This part is particularly vague and

Replies were received from the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Justice too.

The Ministry of Justice noted that they have conducted a legal study on relevance of having a separate piece of legislation to combat discrimination, where the matters regarding discrimination have been analysed. [Unzipped: Gay Armenia - I wonder what did they conclude?!…]

The Ministry also reminded that in 2010 the Gender Policy Concept Paper was approved and Republic of Armenia Gender Policy Strategic Program for 2011-2015 was confirmed. [Unzipped: Gay Armenia - Unfortunately, these positive gender related initiatives are effectively stopped now, following Russia inspired hysteric anti-EU outburst]

The letter from the Ministry of Health stated that the issue is outside the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health. However, the Ministry of Health is willing to provide assistance if recommendations from relevant bodies are made.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Turkey’s Armenian MP Garo Paylan: I want “new world” founded on equality

We need more MPs like Garo Paylan both in Turkey and Armenia, and beyond. The world, and the world of politics, will be a better place with them.

Highly recommend this interview by Armenian Weekly’s Nanore Barsoumian with the newly elected ethnic Armenian MP of the Turkey parliament from progressive LGBT-friendly HDP party.

*Garo Paylan (Photo: Nanore Barsoumian)

Selected extracts below /emphasis mine/:

“Three weeks after his election into Turkey’s Parliament on the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) list, Garo Paylan spoke to the Armenian Weekly about his path to parliament, and the challenges of being an Armenian in Turkey’s political scene.

During the interview conducted in Istanbul, Paylan also discussed issues that are close to his heart, including the HDP’s politics and commitment to creating what he terms a “new world” founded on equality.”

Says Garo Paylan: “Turkish citizens want the change—so they will vote for whoever speaks the new language for them. We wanted equality, and they heard us. It’s the radical democrats that for the first time are offering equality. We are radical democrats and we have everyone sitting at our table. This is why we have to struggle for LGBT rights, for the Armenians, the Kurds, and the Alevis. We have to offer equality to every identity.

Of course, we had some concerns. For instance, we were concerned that people were not ready to hear about the Armenian Genocide. Yet, we are vocal about the Armenian Genocide. We also support LGBT rights, and equality between men and women—everything that is considered radical about democracy. This is about [creating] a new world.”

“The AKP thought that insulting Armenians will gain them the Muslim votes, but it didn’t work. They tried to spotlight the fact that we had an LGBT candidate, thinking that it would affect the conservative vote, but it didn’t. There were other similar attempts, but they also failed. This is important. Our words won. We trust our words. This is what’s most important.”

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: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/activists-fight-for-justice-in-armenia

*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 – www.lgbtnews.am – 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.