Saturday, 12 April 2014

Sona Avedian: Former US Marine of Armenian origin chronicles coming out as a trans woman on YouTube

Via BuzzFeed, this personal story of former US Marine of Armenian origin - Sona Avedian, who chronicles her coming out as a trans woman on YouTube.

“I was born in 1982, in a boy’s body,” recalls Sona Avedian. “Ashamed of myself, I hid behind the mask of a U.S. Marine”, trying to “man up”, then marry and start a family [“I met my bride while visiting family in Armenia…"], to live “normal life”…

Feeling isolated and alone, Sona requested to be stationed in Japan for 4 years. It wasn’t until 2001 that Sona stumbled upon the term “transgender” on the internet. Although the discovery was an immense relief, the urge to live a “normal” life was even stronger. “I was taking it to my grave,” Sona recalls.

Finishing up with the U.S. Marine Corps in 2005, Sona worked as a contractor overseas and even started a family. “I thought getting married would help me cope.” […]

In November of 2012 Sona finally came out to her friends and family, making the decision to begin transitioning.
Sona’s parting message: “This is not about passing, it never was. It’s about being YOU, no matter what society thinks – and that is beautiful.”

*Sona Avedian’s Facebook page; YouTube channel
**thanks to Katy for the link.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

PINK Armenia: Human rights situation of LGBT people (Annual Review 2013, Armenia)

PINK Armenia released their annual review of “Human Rights Situation of LGBT People” reflecting
developments in 2013.

It’s pretty good, albeit depressing, reference guide highlighting some of the main cases of human rights violations of LGBT people in Armenia, with (unfortunately!) only very few positive examples.
Issues regarding sexual orientation and gender identity are usually approached from a negative point of view, defenders of LGBT rights are considered as “traitors of the State”, and LGBT people are presented as enemies of society. As a result, any sphere of social life is becoming a place for discrimination, degradation, and ill treatment and violence.
Main topics covered in the report include the following:
  • General overview of human rights situation of LGBT people 
  • Elections (presidential; local Yerevan) 
  • Litigation of DIY pub 
  • Legislation (propaganda bill; draft law on anti-discrimination) 
  • Media 
  • Engagement of Diaspora 
  • Response of international institutions 
  • Human Rights Ombudsman 
  • Gender Equality law 
  • Transphobia 
  • Conference on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance 
  • Rainbow flag
In conclusion, report states that “in 2013 Armenia has clearly slid backwards as intolerant views were voiced extensively, and indeed prevailed, during a national debate around gender equality. Government officials condone violent attacks against LGBT people, characterizing the violence as an expression of “traditional values.”
"Armenian youth will bring more benefit to the people, if they fight against sexual minorities instead of fighting against transportation fare rise."
– Galust Sahakyan, vice-president of the [ruling] Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), the head of RPA parliamentary fraction.
Report is available in Armenian and English.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Armenian trans guy T.J. Jourian named in the Trans 100 (2014)

The Trans 100 is an annual listing of 100 trans individuals from all over the US who are currently alive and active in the work of making the lives of trans people better. It is a curated listing, with nominations from the general public. [FB page
The Advocate: The Trans 100 is compiled through a year-long process, which begins with a call for nominations that may be submitted by anyone. This list of nominations is then narrowed by a team of curators, who research the accomplishments of the proposed names and hold them to a list of standards. This criteria entails that a candidate must identify as transgender and work to positively affect the trans community.

The final selectees […] are announced […] on the International Transgender Day of Visibility [31 March], which celebrates the worldwide transgender population and raises awareness of issues related to discrimination.
Included in the 2014 list of Trance 100 is T.J. Jourian, Lebanese-born Armenian and Middle Eastern transmale activist (raised in Cyprus).

He is the author of Hye Trent blog (invited readers only), cast member of the Sundance docu-series TransGeneration (2005)  [Wikipedia page]. “Produced by World of Wonder and aired on the Sundance Channel and LOGO, TransGeneration chronicled an academic year in the lives of 4 trans-identified college students as they grapple with issues of transition, academics, family, relationships, and discrimination.”

There were lots of congratulatory tweets for T.J. Jourian.
@TheChrisMosier: Congrats to @tjjourian on being named to #trans100 to HUGE applause. Proud to work with you! #famousfriends

It was very touching when T.J. Jourian tweeted about his mother:
@tjjourian: My amazing Armenian Lebanese mother just called me to congratulate me for the #trans100!! This project is changing lives.
Big congrats !! Well deserved, indeed.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Armenia Eurovision representative Aram MP3: “I reject homophobia”

Finally, a statement from Armenia Eurovision representative Aram MP3 that his fans and friends were expecting. [for background story: 1, 2, 3]

He made this statement in an interview with Eurovision portal on his birthday and hours before performing in Amsterdam’s Eurovision party tonight:
"Music and humor are inseparable parts of my life; I made some remarks recently in a humorous manner, which instead may have hurt the dear friends and fans. I really regret this and want to state clearly that I reject homophobia.”
Interestingly enough, on a second look and after his statement, his song could be taken as a message of all inclusive love ;))

Happy bday, Aram !!

Below is an extract from Aram MP3 interview with esctoday:

Your song gives the clear message that nobody should feel alone. Do you think that sexual orientation or different skin color should be a reason for people to be or feel alone?

Even though people are used to my jokes regarding everything that surrounds me, my Eurovision song opens the other side of Aram Mp3 which is not very humoristic but rather emotional and sincere. This song expresses my feelings and thoughts. I really do think that one of the most wonderful things that can happen to humans is love. Love definitely doesn’t recognize religion, country, age or sex.

Due to an alleged joke you made regarding the Austrian Eurovision representative Conchita Wurst, which was reported in the European press, has stirred a mediatic storm across the continent. Could you please clarify this issue and share with us your views and opinion regarding this matter.

My song reminds everyone that they’re not alone. That’s my main message; I want everyone to know they’re not alone in the world, regardless of what country they come from, their religion or who they love. That is the most important idea I want to deliver to my audience. In my personal life and in my work, the respect for others is my guiding principle. Apart from being a musician, I’m also a comedian. Music and humor are inseparable parts of my life; I made some remarks recently in a humorous manner, which instead may have hurt the dear friends and fans. I really regret this and want to state clearly that I reject homophobia.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

From homophobia to posting ‘Hitler’ picture: Armenia Eurovision representative Aram MP3 fails the ‘funny’ test

UPDATE 5 April 2014Armenia Eurovision representative Aram MP3: “I reject homophobia”
As of now, he didn’t have guts or perhaps didn’t feel like saying “sorry” for his homophobic and transphobic remarks, and for his disrespect towards fellow Eurovision contestant.

[read: Fail: Armenia representative in Eurovision Aram MP3 makes homophobic and transphobic remarks
Conchita Wurst responds to Armenia’s Eurovision representative Aram MP3 homophobic and transphobic remarks]

Some of his fans tried justifying his behaviour by "freedom of speech" and him being a comedian, as if being a comedian somehow justifies bigotry.

Yesterday Aram MP3 put his ‘funny’ side to yet another test and failed it spectacularly.

Aram wrote on his Facebook page that he would have preferred playing “a negative role” if offered to star in a film. And he posted a picture of himself posing as Hitler. Perhaps, he thought that his fans would be amused and entertained by such picture. However, he quickly deleted the picture, following storm of criticism from Facebook users who ‘liked’ his FB page.

*screenshot of Aram MP3 (now deleted) Facebook post

Many expressed their outrage and shock that after scandal over his homophobic, transphobic remarks, Aram would resort to such bad taste amateur behaviour, further antagonising a proportion of his fans.

As one FB user commented under this picture: how would Aram MP3 feel if another Eurovision contestant posted a ‘funny’ picture of his/her-self posing as Talaat pasha, one of the main perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide?

Yes, Aram MP3 quickly deleted this picture. But it left a sense of unease even among his loyal fans.

Seriously, Aram, after being exposed for making homophobic and transphobic remarks, this is all you came up with?

This was a classic face-palm moment when words fail to express how stupid that was.

Georgia PM’s EU trick: ‘OK for LGBT inclusive anti-discrimination bill, but only if we discriminate more, constitutionally’

Georgia's PM offers setting constitutional ban on same-sex marriage as a trade-off for passing LGBT inclusive anti-discrimination bill. Basically, on one hand, the authorities in Tbilisi are showing-off with anti-discrimination bill to tick all the EU check boxes, on the other hand, in practice, constitutionally reinforcing the very discrimination they (supposedly) committed to tackle.
In parallel to endorsing an anti-discrimination bill, which will now be submitted to Parliament for confirmation, the Georgian government has also proposed to define marriage in the constitution as a “union of man and woman.” The proposal, as PM Irakli Garibashvili put it, aims at avoiding “speculation” over the planned anti-discrimination legislation, which will provide protection against discrimination on the ground of, among others, sexual orientation. Adoption of this legislation is among requirements set in Georgia’s Visa Liberalisation Action Plan with the EU. Article 36 of the Georgian constitution currently reads: “Marriage shall be based upon equality of rights and free will of spouses.” Same-sex marriage is already banned in Georgia’s civil code, which defines marriage as “voluntary union of man and woman.”
For the European Union to accept the proposed ‘solution’ would make a mockery of the very idea of anti-discrimination legislation they are trying to enforce. This would be a dangerous precedent, indeed. What is a point of anti-discrimination bill if as a result of its approval you are getting discrimination constitutionally reinforced?! I’d say better not have such legislation at all.

If Georgia is not ready yet to move closer towards the EU, then it's not ready. The EU should never agree with such artificial and unacceptable trade-off, which is nothing less than throwing dust in the eyes.

As Georgian gay rights group Identoba noted, the country is on a “dangerous path” with proposed homophobic amendment in the constitution.
[…] Campaigning on  xenophobic and recently, on homophobic grounds has been a strategy of choice for most political players in the country, since it gained independence in the 1990s. The initiative came as  shock to many, since the issue of same-sex marriage has never come to the agenda of LGBT movement in Georgia which has struggled to exercise basic rights to security and protection. In 2012 and in 2013, under UNM and GD parties being in power, respectively, Georgia has consistently failed to ensure the freedom of assembly for Georgian LGBT activists. Georgia has not been able to persecute a single person for the horrific attacks against LGBT activists and supporters on  May 17th, IDAHO day. Therefore, constitutionally banning the prospect of marriage equality, already banned by Georgia’s Civil Code, can only be seen as a homophobic move. It further deteriorates already feeble state of LGBT human rights in Georgia. If the amendment is successfully initiated, it will directly violate universal equality of single parents, LGBT community and many others who do not live nuclear families. Alarmingly, this homophobic and cynical move ultimately kills the very spirit of equality protection of incoming Anti-Discrimination Law. 
Identoba, Georgia’s largest LGBT and gender equality protection NGO calls on all parties to speak up against proposed changes in Georgia’s Constitution.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Conchita Wurst responds to Armenia’s Eurovision representative Aram MP3 homophobic and transphobic remarks

UPDATE 5 April 2014Armenia Eurovision representative Aram MP3: “I reject homophobia”
Austria’s Conchita Wurst responded to Armenia’s Eurovision representative Aram MP3 homophobic and transphobic remarks. [see Fail: Armenia representative in Eurovision Aram MP3 makes homophobic and transphobic remarks]

Says Conchita (Heute): “Oh, that means he won't marry me? To be honest, I did not take seriously what he said about me. One thing is clear, Aram thinks that I apparently want to be a woman… Aram, sweetheart, I'm a working lady, and a lazy young man in my free time and it can't be the other way. If you have problems with understanding that, I'll gladly sit and explain it to you. Oh, and concerning your homophobic remarks… seriously, ON THAT we're actually going to have a talk!” 

Awesome response.

Meanwhile, silence so far from Aram MP3. No “sorry for unintended offence caused” or “misunderstanding” statements.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Fail: Armenia representative in Eurovision Aram MP3 makes homophobic and transphobic remarks

UPDATE 5 April 2014: Armenia Eurovision representative Aram MP3: “I reject homophobia”
I am pretty disappointed that from the very first day when Public TV announced Aram MP3 as Armenia representative in Eurovision, he started making homophobic and transphobic remarks, especially in relation to Austrian representative in Eurovision. I am sure Eurovision fans in Europe, including many LGBT people, won’t be impressed to learn about Aram MP3 statements so far.

In his first Public TV appearance following the nomination, answering pretty ridiculous question by Armenia Eurovision delegation head: [what is your opinion about Austria’s “the bearded woman” Conchita’s “orientation”?], Aram MP3 replied that for him it’s “not normal”, “not adequate” and as if jokingly continued: ‘hopefully, we will help her to eventually decide whether she is a woman or man’. [see video (in Armenian) from 30:43 minutes]
A note for Armenian media and for Aram MP3 re drag artist Conchita Wurst [Conchita is not perceived as drag act but rather trans, gay by many in Armenia]:   
Because of the discrimination against Tom in his teenage years, he created Conchita. The Bearded Lady, as a statement. A statement for tolerance and acceptance- as it's not about appearances; it's about the human being.

On 20th March, during press conference with local reporters, similar remarks repeated again.
Reporters also asked about his opinion of Austrian representative Conchita Wurst. Aram MP3 confessed smiling: ‘it will be difficult’. 
“I just realised that, after all, we will be on the same stage, because as part of the Eurovision all participants perform one song together. If you want to know my position, when I pass next to Kom aygi [Unzipped: cruising park in downtown Yerevan frequented by gay men and particularly trans sex workers], I speed up my car. In this case [re Conchita], I will try to somehow put up with.”

Լրագրողները նաև հետաքրքրվեցին, թե ինչպիսին է նրա մոտեցումը Ավստրիայի ներկայացուցիչ Կոնչիտա Վուրստի նկատմամբ: Արամը ժպիտով խոստովանեց, որ դժվար է լինելու: «Նոր հասկացա, որ այդուհանդերձ նրա հետ նույն բեմում ենք գտնվելու, քանի որ «Եվրատեսիլի» շրջանակներում բոլոր մասնակիցներով պետք է համատեղ մեկ երգ կատարենք: Իսկ ընդհանրապես, եթե ուզում եք իմանալ իմ մոտեցումը, ապա «կոմայգու» մոտով անցնելիս ես արագացնում եմ իմ մեքենայի ընթացքը. այս դեպքում պետք է մի կերպ համակերպվել»,- ասաց Արամը:
Such references to Kom aygi are being routinely used in Armenia by media and individuals to stir-up or gave in to homophobic and transphobic sentiments among mainstream public. Participation of Austria's Conchita led to calls to boycott Eurovision by homophobic circles claiming it would be ‘dishonour’ for Armenia participant to be on the same stage with Austrian representative.

The following day, during his RFE/RL Facebook ‘press conference’ (event's page), many Armenian FB users expressed their dismay about his remarks from above meeting with journalists.

In reply to criticism, Aram MP3 said he only “jokingly" noted that it would be difficult for him, ‘to make journalists laugh’, but he was “honest”: “I do not live such life, and regardless how the world progressed or regressed, this is an unacceptable subject matter for me.” After journalist’s insistence, he stated he did not mean to offend Conchita. [see video (in Armenian) from 7:39 minutes]

I dare Aram MP3 to repeat such “jokes" and views to European journalists covering Eurovision. 

I am not a big fan of his song, but good for Aram that it quickly became top viewed among Eurovision entrants on YouTube and bookmakers’ favourite. Shame for Aram’s amateurish attitude towards his colleagues and for his repeated homophobic and transphobic remarks.

I hope and wish that mixing with the Eurovision crowd will open up his eyes to diversity of people, and to the importance to respect and value such diversity.

I will not be voting for Aram MP3, because I simply cannot vote for someone with such views. You decide yourself. But if he wins, I will be only happy to see "gay parade" Eurovision coming to Armenia, although it would be ironic that a person with such questionable views would make this happened.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

From English National Ballet to my letterbox

English National Ballet definitely knows what kind of letters I would appreciate receiving in my letterbox ;))

P.S. New production Lest We Forget (2-12 April 2014) at Barbican, London. Already booked.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Tbilisi: "Combating Hate Crimes in Georgia" (LGBT advocacy video project)

Combating Hate Crimes in Georgia from New Media Advocacy Project on Vimeo.
"The history of LGBT human rights in the Caucasus is a sordid one: homosexuality was a crime in the former Soviet Union, and remains so today in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. In contrast, the Republic of Georgia remains one of the few post-soviet States that legally prohibits discrimination against LGBT people; however, legal protection does not defend Georgians against the violence directed toward this marginalized group. The country’s entrenched homophobia surfaced last year when a group of conservative Ultra-orthodox supporters assaulted gay rights activists at a rally in the capital city of Tbilisi. Unfortunately, instances of targeted violence extend far beyond the events of May 17, 2013. One in three LGBT people were physically assaulted in the Republic of Georgia between 2011-2012 – a statistic that only measures the small group of people who are active in the LGTB community in Tbilisi. N-Map partnered with Identoba to produce a short film with a specific advocacy goal: to empower the Georgian LGBT community by encouraging them to demand accountability for hate crimes and become a part of the growing LGBT movement in Georgia."

Thursday, 27 February 2014

How homophobic posters turn into anti-homophobia message in Yerevan

Some active citizens cleverly turn homophobic posters in Yerevan streets into ones with anti-homophobia message.

The original poster (in Armenian) reads: “Say no to homosexuality”, while transformed one by overwriting part of it - "Say no to homophobia”.

 Another example of transformation (below) totally changing the original meaning :))

For more on the topic and some previous examples of targeting homophobic posters in Yerevan, read:

Homophobic posters in Yerevan, Armenia

Keep Yerevan clean of hate garbage - social ad by ArmComedy

"One Love" against homophobia and hatred - action in Yerevan

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Yerevan diaries: Anecdote, Grindr and more :))

Few light-hearted stories and observations from Yerevan.

Let’s start with a joke that made me burst into laughing. (you have to know Armenian to get it)

Հայկը Բելին մի նետով սպանեց [կարդալ “մինետով”]

This follows by remark (in translit using Russian letters):

шат нетагргир а

A female teacher at one of Yerevan universities, to make her point stronger (or so she hopes), regularly swears in front of her students on something apparently very sacred to her: “I swear on my virginity” (“Клянусь своей девственностью”) 

Just to clarify, this is not a joke, this happens for real.

As Grindr is getting more popular in Armenia, so are the stories associated with its use. This one is about those users who are soliciting money for sex.

Apparently, when you use Grindr in Armenia, you frequently get asked: “local?”

Depending on your answer, you may hear different offers from the same person: 1. if you answered “yes” (i.e. you are local), you may get offer for sex for say 5-10K AMD; 2. if your answer is “no” (i.e. you are foreigner) - expect much higher price for sex: e.g. 200 US dollars or… iPhone.

...and finally.

This composition at Yerevan Cascade is dubbed “Artush and Zaur”.

[for background re “Artush and Zaur", the book, check relevant label on this blog]

Thursday, 6 February 2014

British Council Armenia continues shameful collaboration with homophobic media

This seems like a deja vu.
"British Film Festival 12th Edition is organised by the British Council with the support of the British Embassy Yerevan, UNICEF and ArmenTel (brand name Beeline). In addition to showcasing the best of the British film industry of the recent years, training and competitions will be organised. […]
The information partners of the 12th British Film Festival are H2 TV station, Dar21 TV station, Laym TV station, Yerkir Media TV station, Shoghakat TV station, Civilnet, Public Radio, Radio Van, Radio Hay, Armradio FM 107 and,,"

The history of pretty close relationship between British Council in Armenia (more of their local staff) with the homophobic radio Van station was exposed by this blog back in 2010 [‘Champion of equality’ British Council Armenia sponsors homophobic radio station in Yerevan]. It took efforts for the former British ambassador in Armenia to make essential steps at damage control. And here we are again.

Only last week it was revealed that head of the radio Van station Shushanik is a member (“friends”) of “Griboedov” club in Yerevan, established by notorious “burn gay hearts” Putin propagandist Dmitry Kiselev. Indeed, Shushanik's utterly homophobic views earned Radio Van their place in Armenia: Homophobia Hall of Shame.

Not to mention some other questionable, to say the least, choices by the British Council Armenia, such as Yerkir Media TV, nationalist ARF Dashnaktsutyun outlet that was instrumental in instigating hatred towards gay friendly DIY bar firebombed in Armenia capital in 2012.

Ironically, festival’s web page mentions that “12th Edition dedicated to Inclusion and Communication”.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Armenian lesbian matchmaker to the straights kicks off season 2 with a serious message

Very special first episode of season 2 by Lousine Shamamian, Armenian lesbian matchmaker to the straights: “Dedicated to all people who have been judged, victimised or rejected for their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The day for firsts is here. Sonya's first wool beating and Lousine's first entirely honest conversation with her mother.
Big part of the episode is in Armenian (with English subtitles). Must watch.

For the very first episode of Lousine's hilarious show - see here.

Love x

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Notorious “burn gay hearts” Putin propagandist Kiselev established club in Armenia capital

Reports surfaced today that notorious Kremlin propagandist Dmitry Kiselev established "Griboedov" club in Armenia capital
. The aim of this so called club is to ‘exchange opinions’ between Armenians and Russians and promote ‘integration processes’. Well, we all know what it means.

Meetings are closed, reportedly at elite restaurants, over expensive meals.

Says Kiselev about gays: "They should be banned from donating blood and sperm, and if they are killed in a car crash their hearts should be buried in the ground or burnt as unfit for helping to prolong anyone's life."

Among listed local members of “Griboedov” club are at least one closeted gay Armenian and homophobic head of Radio Van station Shushanik Arevshatyan (example), along with some other odious personas.
«Հայկական ժամանակ»  թերթը գրում է. «Տեւական ժամանակ է, Երեւանում կիսագաղտնիության քողի տակ գործում է «Գրիբոյեդով» ակումբը, որի հիմնադիրը Կրեմլի քաղաքականության քարոզչության թիվ 1 հրապարակային դեմքն է՝ հայտնի հեռուստամեկնաբան Դմիտրի Կիսելյովը։ «Գրիբոյեդով» ակումբի հավաքները տեղի են ունենում ամիսը մեկ անգամ, երեւանյան տարբեր էլիտար ռեստորաններում, որոնք հավաքների ժամանակ փակվում են։ Այդ հավաքներին մասնակցելու համար ամեն ամիս Հայաստան է ժամանում անձամբ Դմիտրի Կիսելյովը, ով էլ յուրաքանչյուր անգամ մեծ-մեծ հաշիվներ է փակում էլիտար այդ ռեստորաններում ակումբի մասնակիցների ընթրիքից հետո։ Ընթրիքներն ընթանում են հարցուպատասխանի ֆորմատով, տեղացիների հարցերին պատասխանում են ՌԴ-ից հրավիրված հյուրերը, որոնք փոփոխվում են։  Հայաստանի քաղաքագետների միության նախագահ Հմայակ Հովհաննիսյանը, ով ի թիվս մի շարք այլ հայ հանրային դեմքերի, «Գրիբոյեդովի» անդամ է եւ մասնակցում է Կիսելյովի կազմակերպած հավաքներին, երեկ պատասխանել է «Գրիբոյեդով» ակումբի վերաբերյալ մեր թղթակցի հարցերին՝ հաստատելով մեր տեղեկությունները.
Հայաստանից ովքե՞ր են «Գրիբոյեդով» ակումբի անդամները:  Վազգեն Մանուկյանն է, Արմեն Մազմանյանն էր, Տիգրան Լիլոյանը՝ ԻՏԱՌ-ՏԱՍՍ-ի, էդվարդ Սանդոյանը, Կարինե Գեւորգյանը, ով աշխատում է Մոսկվայի Արեւելագիտության ինստիտուտում, ՆԱՏՕ-ի գրասենյակի ղեկավար Արա Թադեւոսյանը՝ «Մեդիամաքս», Շուշանիկ Արեւշատյանը, Եգոր Գլումովը, Շուշան Պետրոսյանը։

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Azerbaijan LGBT rights activist commits suicide: “This country and this world are not for me”...

[…] Isa says that, the pressure from the family leads most LGBT (lesbian, gay,bisexual, transsexual) to suicide. 
[extract from interview with Isa Sahmarli, October 2013]

Reports say that 20 years old Isa Sahmarli, Azeri LGBT rights activist, head of Azad LGBT group, committed suicide today. According to friends, he hanged himself with the rainbow flag. This video  that impossible to watch shows unsuccessful attempts to resuscitate him.

According to RFE/RL, he left a suicide note on his Facebook page reading: “I am leaving you. God bless you. This country and this world are not for me. I am going to be happy now. Tell my mother I loved her very much. I blame you all for my death. This world is not colorful enough for my colors. Farewell."

In an interview posted in October 2013, Isa commented on discrimination and abuses faced by LGBT people in Azerbaijan:
His family doesn’t want to accept that Isa is homosexual. Is also admits that it is difficult for his family to change mind. “ Though psychologists explained everything to my family ,they still accept it as illness.” Isa says that, the pressure from the family leads most LGBT (lesbian, gay,bisexual, transsexual) to suicide.
…And how many such cases go unknown or unreported, and not only in Azerbaijan…

Sadly, at times it’s such tragic events that generate reaction strong enough to shake the society to its core with changes in both attitudes and rights. Unfortunately, I do not think we will see Stonewall any time soon in Azerbaijan.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Human Rights Watch: World Report 2014 on LGBT rights violations in Armenia and Georgia, silence re Azerbaijan

Unfortunately, no similar section (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) is available within the country specific Human Rights Watch report for Azerbaijan. This is regrettable, as in a country with the poorest rights record in the South Caucasus, there is no doubts about violation of rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity too. Subsequently, without more publicity, LGBT rights in the country are moving even more underground and the issue is becoming even less visible while the rights abuses continue in Azerbaijan. Of course, the situation is exacerbated with the lack of active groups such as PINK Armenia (Yerevan) and Identoba (Tbilisi) in Baku.


Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Local lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights activists have expressed concern for the alarming level of homophobia in Armenia. According to PINK Armenia, a local rights group, transgender women who engage in sex work are frequently assaulted and receive no police protection when they report abuse. PINK Armenia also reported that the LGBT population continues to experience employment discrimination, obstacles to health care, and physical and psychological abuse in the army, in public, and in families.

According to an August Amnesty International report, government officials frequently condone violent attacks against LGBT people, characterizing the violence as an expression of “traditional values.” In July, the Armenian police made a proposal to amend the code of administrative offenses to establish a fine of up to US$4,000 for promoting “nontraditional sexual relationships.” The proposal was subsequently withdrawn.

Also in July, a Yerevan court convicted two people for damage to property stemming from a bomb attack in May 2012 against DIY, a bar frequented by LGBT and women’s rights activists. Graffiti identified LGBT people as targets of the attack. One attacker was sentenced to 19 months in prison and the other received a two-year suspended sentence. They were both amnestied in October. Local human rights groups expressed frustration that the sentence was too lenient. Armenia does not have hate speech legislation.


Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

On May 17, 2013, a peaceful gathering to mark International Day Against Homophobia was violently disrupted by thousands of counter-demonstrators, including some Orthodox clergy. The day before, the patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church publicly urged the authorities not to allow the gathering, calling it an “an insult” to Georgian traditions. Police had to evacuate the LGBT activists to safety, but they failed to contain the mob, which attacked a van carrying the activists, throwing stones and other objects; one journalist was hit on the head and briefly hospitalized. Authorities charged two Orthodox priests and three other men with obstructing freedom of assembly and petty hooliganism. The Tbilisi City Court ordered that charges be dropped against one priest. At time of writing, the trials against the others were ongoing.

Identoba, a local LGBT rights group, reported 34 incidents of violence and intimidation against LGBT people during and after the May 17 incident. The group noted that many victims do not report homophobic violence due to fear of retribution and police failure to investigate adequately.