Monday, 28 March 2016

Armenian Progressive Youth NGO: “LOVE means LOVE | Սերը՝ սեր է”

Group of volunteers of the Armenian Progressive Youth (APY) NGO made this short video on LGBT rights.

Here is the description of the video, as posted on YouTube: “Protection of human rights concerns the whole society! Everything that is related to society concerns you too. Armenia without discrimination is good for everyone! Check out our new video on LGBT rights in Armenia!

Մարդու իրավունքների պաշտպանությունը մեր ամբողջ հասարակության խնդիրն է։ Այն ինչ վերաբերում է հասարակությանը, վերաբերում է նաև քեզ։ Առանց խտրականությունների Հայաստանը լավ է բոլորիս համար: Դիտեք մեր նոր տեսանյութը Հայաստանում ԼԳԲՏ անձանց իրավունքների մասին։”



Says Ester Violante, volunteer of APY NGO, who produced this video:"In Armenia the struggle of LGBTI people is quite hard: there are a lot of prejudices. Those prejudices bring fear, and fear brings violence. We must stop this vicious circle with knowledge. [...] I want to show that there is no difference between “them” and “us”, because love means love!"

Good to see that the Armenian Progressive Youth stands true to its name in embracing equality and tackling discrimination.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

“Women are different”: Celebration of LGBT-inclusive diversity as Armenia’s Feminist Platform marks International Women’s Day in Yerevan

“Women are different” - this was the main slogan Armenia’s Feminist Platform group chose to mark International Women’s Day.

The invitation to join the march was for everyone regardless of age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, whether local or foreigner, from village or city, to “celebrate different ways of being a woman”.

Not every day you see such a public celebration of diversity - for real (!) - in Armenia capital Yerevan, especially inclusive of LGBT people.

Posters during march read: “women are different”, “lesbian”, “bisexual”, “transgender”, “scientist”, “virgin”, “sex worker”, “woman living with HIV”, “cleaner”, “entrepreneur”, “mother”, “single mother”, “model”, “soldier”, “not married”, “footballer / weightlifter”, “woman with disability” [agree with @Mushegh1 re original Armenian term used on poster “հաշմանդամ”] and more…

Big respects to organisers and participants.

Video below via Epress.am, pictures - via PINK Armenia.



And yes, love this #LoveWins and some other T-shirts spotted during the march.


I noticed one with “We are unstoppable” too.

Of course, as Epress.am reports, not everyone were happy to see such march in the heart of Yerevan:
Most passersby reacted positively to the march and showed interest in what they heard and read. Some people, however, mostly young males, were visibly aggravated by the march and even stopped to inform the marchers that such public actions “are shameful and ugly phenomena.” 
“One might think that women’s rights in this country are totally violated. Who says women have no rights? Sure they do, but that doesn’t mean I should take posters and start protecting people’s rights,” Epress.am reporters overheard one of the young men saying to a female marcher. “These people have the same rights as anyone else. They have the right to freedom of assembly. Besides, the law might provide for equal rights between men and women, but it’s on paper only,” the girl replied. 
The young man was not convinced and proceeded to complain that the marchers were “advocating homosexuality, and that’s not normal.” “I don’t care what they do among themselves, but let them not take to the streets and preach it. They have no right to a family,” he said, adding that “it’s like allowing people to marry animals if they want to.”
Երթին անցորդների մի մասը հետաքրքրությամբ էր վերաբերվում, սակայն կային նաև դժգոհողներ՝ հիմնականում երիտասարդ տղամարդիկ։ «Ապե գիտես չէ, սրանցից մեկին մատով կպնես, կտանեն բերդում կփակեն», – ընկերոջը դիմեց մոտ 25 տարեկան երիտասարդը՝ տեսնելով երթի մասնակից կանանց։ Մեկ այլ երիտասարդ մոտեցավ երկու աղջիկների և հայտարարեց, որ նման հանրային ակցիաներն «ամոթ և տգեղ երևույթ» են․ «Կարա տպավորություն ստեղծվի, որ կնանիքի իրավունքները էս երկրում լրիվ ոտնահարված են»։ Նրա և աղջիկների միջև երկխոսություն ծավալվեց․ - Ով չի ընդունում, որ էս երկրում կինը իրավունք չունի։ Հա, կինը իրավունք ունի, բայց էդ չի նշանակում, որ ես պետք ա պլակատներով հելնեմ ու մարդկանց իրավունքները պաշտպանեմ։ - Բայց բոլորը իրավունքներ ունեն, ինչպես և նրանք իրավունք ունեն ազատ հավաքվելու։ Բացի դա, գուցե, փաստաթղթերով, օրենքով ամրագրված է, որ կնոջ և տղամարդու իրավունքները հավասար են, բայց դա միայն թղթի վրա է։ - Դե հա, բայց ես էստեղ տեսա նաև, որ քարոզում են նույնասեռականությունը, էդ նորմալ չի։ Դե հա, իրենք իրար հետ ինչ ուզում են թող անեն, մենակ թե դուրս չգան, մի տեղ պետք ա փակեն իրանց, կամ եթե դուրս էլ են գալիս, թող չքարոզեն, իրանք իրավունք չունեն ընտանիք պահելու։ - Բայց ինչպես ես իրավունք ունեմ ընտանիք կազմելու, էնպես էլ երկու հոգի, որոնք նույն սեռից են, բայց իրար հարգում են ու սիրում, փորձեն այլ ճանապարհով երեխա ունանալ։ - Դե հիմա, քուրս, քո ասածից դուրս ա գալիս, որ էն մարդը, որը որ կենդանու հետ ա, պետք ա թույլ տանք, որ, ըստ օրենքի, կենդանու հետ ամուսնանա։ Աղջիկները կրկին չհամաձայնեցին, իսկ զրույցի վերջում երիտասարդն ասաց․ «Էն կինը, որը իրա տղամարդուն հնազանդ չի, տղամարդ չի կարող ունենալ իր գլխին։ Մնում ա փողոցում»։

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Prominent Armenia LGBT activist perfectly shuts down homophobic journalist by coming out… again

Journalist (from hraparak.am): "If an anti-discrimination law is passed [in Armenia] and gays are allowed to come and go freely and be seen during the day, is that normal to you?..."

Mamikon (executive director of PINK Armenia): "Do you not see gays during the day?"

Journalist: "I see them, and it's not normal."

Mamikon: "It's not normal? You and I talking right now is not normal?"

Journalist: "It's normal."

Mamikon: "I am gay. It's not normal to you?"

Journalist: "Then it's not normal." [...]
***
The expression of Mamikon's face and the reaction of the audience illustrated just how ridiculous and outrageous the journalist’s questions were.

Big respects to Mamikon. As he Twitted afterwards:
"we come out every day. my public #ComingOut - season 5, episode 1:)" 
Video (AM), from 31:40 mins:



Via PINK Armenia:
On February 24, a press conference took place at Yerevan’s Media Center (media-center.am) on “Violence against Sexual Minorities: The Approaches of Law Enforcement and Healthcare System”, which was live streamed via YouTube. The speakers of the press conference were Mamikon Hovsepyan, Executive Director of PINK Armenia, Sergey Gabrielyan and Artur Makaryan of New Generation Humanitarian NGO, and Sona Harutyunyan, lecturer at the Medical Psychology Department of Yerevan State Medical University. The recent homophobic attack on LGBT activists, as well as other matters regarding discrimination and hatred towards LGBTQ people was discussed during the press conference. A journalist from hraparak.am asked a question on whether it would be admissible to see homosexual people during the day walking in the streets if anti-discrimination legislation is passed in Armenia. Hovsepyan in turn asked the journalist if she sees homosexuals during the day. The journalist said yes, and that it was “not normal” to her. In response to her statement, Hovsepyan asked if it was “normal” for the journalist to be talking to him, to which she said, “Yes.” “I am homosexual,” said Mamikon in response, coming out publicly in front of journalists and cameras.
Read also Epress.amArmenian Reporter Worried Anti-Discrimination Law Would Let LGBT People ‘Move Freely'.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Armenian parents who support their LGBT children after coming out

I wish one day we will have similar to Istanbul’s LISTAG (Families of LGBT in Istanbul) organisation in Armenia and Diaspora, and we will see parents of LGBT Armenians publicly sharing their personal stories, challenging prevalent homophobic status quo and providing support to family and friends of other LGBT individuals.

In the meantime, great to read about Armenian parents who support their children after coming out. I want to hear and read more such stories which will help and inspire others.

This line sums up the situation perfectly: “It was not Ara’s sexual orientation that his mother was concerned about when he came out to her at the age of 21, but rather the very homophobic society they lived in.” […] Says Ara's mother: “support is the biggest gift a parent can give to their child.”
Արայի մայրն իմանալով, որ որդին գեյ է անհանգստացել էր ոչ թե որդու սեռական կողմնորոշումից, այլ որ զավակն ապրում է չափազանց հոմոֆոբ հասարակությունում, ինչը կարող է վնասել իր տղային: «Աջակցել, աջակցել, աջակցել, աջակցել, աջակցել, աջակցել»,- ասում է Արայի մայրը, -«աջակցությունն ամենամեծ նվերն է, որ ծնողը կարող է տալ իր երեխային»:
Read stories of David, Diana and Ara and their accepting parents in As You magazine (Armenian, English):

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Police in Karabakh target trendy haircuts to ‘prevent teenagers from turning gay’

Remember 5 or so years ago, police in Armenia targeted emo teenagers? [Degradation and stupidity. Police in Armenia hunts down perceived emo teenagers, confiscates ‘weapons of mass destraction’, oh, sorry, souvenirs]

I also remember that years ago some in Armenia used to say ‘there are no gays in Armenia’, sending me angry messages to change my blog’s name. They no longer make such absurd claims.

Now it’s Karabakh’s turn to get over this farce.

Reports from Karabakh say local police enter hair salons ordering barbers not to make trendy haircuts for teenagers to ‘prevent them turning gay’.
Լեռնային Ղարաբաղում, մասնավորապես մայրաքաղաք Ստեփանակերտում, կարծես թե որոշել են լրջորեն պայքարել նույնասեռականության դեմ եւ այդ գործը սկսել են ոստիկաններին գեղեցկության սրահներ գործուղելով: Իրավապահները վարսավիրներից պահանջում են դեռահասներին աբստրակտ սանրվածքներ չանել` փաստորեն համոզված լինելով, որ մազերի զուսպ ու դասական կտրվածքն է, որ անհրաժեշտության դեպքում կարող է նրանց հետ պահել ոչ ճիշտ ճանապարհից:

Ստեփանակերտի գեղեցկության սրահներից մեկում աշխատող վարսավիր Անուշը երեկ հաստատեց ոստիկանների այցի մասին մեր տեղեկությունները: [...]

Ավելի ուշ զրուցեցինք Ստեփանակերտում գործող մեկ այլ գեղեցկության սրահի տնօրենի հետ, որը նույնպես հաստատեց, որ ոստիկանները այցելել են, պահանջել զերծ մնալ աբստրակտ սանրվածքներ անելուց:
*cartoon via MediaLab

If you thought that the absurdity of this situation ends here, you are wrong.

Police spokesman denied reports by saying… ‘there are no gay people in Karabakh’, because apparently people in Karabakh live at frontline and defend borders, that's why they cannot be gay. Killing logic, indeed.
Բայց ահա Լեռնային Ղարաբաղի Հանրապետության ոստիկանության լրատվական ծառայության ղեկավար Ֆելիքս Հարությունյանը կտրականապես հերքեց, թե ոստիկաններն իրենց առջեւ նման խնդիր են դրել: «Բացարձակապես հերյուրանք է, ոստիկանությունը նման գործողություններ չի կատարում, իսկ ինչ վերաբերում է ձեր նշած՝ իբր Ղարաբաղը լցվում է եսիմինչ բնույթի սեռական կողմնորոշում ունեցող մարդկանցով, ապա դա ինձ թվում է, բացարձակ ապատեղեկատվություն է: Ղարաբաղցին 50 կիլոմետր հեռավորության վրա դիրքեր է պահում, այդպիսի երեւույթ չկա, այդպիսի բան չկա Ղարաբաղում, բացառվում է»,- ասաց նա:
What is encouraging here, at least some barbers rejected police demands outright stating that they will continue making haircuts according to their customers' preferences.

Regime manipulates lack of awareness and unsubstantiated fears to attempt at enforcing totalitarian rule, a kind of absurdistan, where they control everything from your body to beyond.

Good to see how much Karabakh police actions are being ridiculed on Armenian social networks. Because their actions are laughable. Their arguments are laughable. They are laughable.

*cartoon via ArmTimes

Hate crime in Yerevan: targeted in homophobic attack, then mocked by medical staff

*picture - via A1+
2 staff members of PINK Armenia were among 5 LGBT activists who were attacked in downtown Yerevan by 3 young men on 15 February 2016. The case was reported to the police, although I could not find reference to it on police.am website. As per reports, police is very slow to act on this case.

The attackers first targeted and started beating up a person who they perceived as gay.

As if the hate crime in itself was not bad enough, what is equally disturbing is reported attitude of some medical staff at hospital No.1 where the victim of assaults went seeking medical assistance.

Reports say that medical personnel at hospital No.1 did not provide all the necessary medical assistance. Instead, they mocked the victim of hate crime, suggesting carrying out tests to determine his “deviation”.
Five LGBT activists were beaten on February 15 in Yerevan and were subsequently shown disrespect and treated badly by the staff of the Heratsi hospital complex, Public Information and Need of Knowledge NGO (PINK Armenia) executive director Mamikon Hovsepyan told Epress.am Wednesday, branding the incident a “hate crime.” 
The activists, Hovsepyan said, were attacked by a group of 3-4 unknown assailants Monday evening on a central Yerevan street. In addition to beating the activists, the group shouted profanities related to the sexual orientation of one of the victims.  
In the hospital following the attack, the speaker added, the most seriously injured activist was subjected to mockery and ridicule by the medical staff: “Let's get you a blood test and see if you have any abnormalities we could cure,” Hovsepyan cited a staffer as saying. The hospital also failed to conduct a proper medical examination: “They demanded money, otherwise refusing to treat [the victim]. They carried out some external exams, drew up protocols, and discharged him,” Hovsepyan said. The victims have filed a police report in connection with the attack. They also intend to complain against the medical treatment to the Health Ministry.
Փետրվարի 15-ին Թիվ 1 հիվանդանոցային համալիր դիմած ԼԳԲՏ ակտիվիստների նկատմամբ անհարգալից վերաբերմունք են դրսևորել բժշկական անձնակազմի անդամները: Այս մասին Еpress.am-ի հետ զրույցում ասել է «Հանրային տեղեկատվության և գիտելիքի կարիք» ՀԿ-ի (Փինք Արմենիա) գործադիր տնօրեն Մամիկոն Հովսեփյանը: 
ԼԳԲՏ 5 ակտիվիստների վրա մի խումբ երիտասարդներ (3-4 հոգի) հարձակվել են նույն օրը Երևանում՝ Մոսկովյան փողոցի վրա։ Նրանք թիրախավորել են ակտիվիստներից մեկին, որին մի քանի հարված են հասցրել։ Մյուսները փորձել են պաշտպանել ընկերոջը։ Հարձակվողները նաև ԼԳԲՏ ակտիվիստներից մեկի սեռական կողմնորոշման հետ կապված հայհոյանքներ են հնչեցրել: Հովսեփյանը հարձակումը որակել է որպես ատելության հիմքով հանցագործություն: 
Հիվանդանոց դիմած տուժողներից մեկին, Հովսեփյանի փոխանցմամբ, շատ վատ են վերաբերվել: «Արի արյան անալիզ վերցնենք, տեսնենք շեղում ունես, շեղումներդ բուժենք», – ըստ Հովսեփյանի՝ ԼԳԲՏ ակտիվիստին ասել է բժշկական անձնակազմի անդամներից մեկը: ՀԿ֊ի նախագահը նշել է նաև, որ հիվանդանոցում լիարժեք զննում չեն անցկացրել. «Ասել են՝ փող տուր, թե չէ հետազոտություն չենք անի: Արտաքին մի քանի զննում են արել, արձանագրություն գրել են, բայց նրան չեն տվել»։
PINK Armenia issued a statement condemning attack that targeted “5 LGBT activists, including 2 staff members of PINK Armenia”.

It is not clear if the attackers specifically targeted LGBT activists. However, taking into account anti-gay profanities shouted by attackers, PINK Armenia rightly considers this incident as hate crime. In their statement, PINK Armenia indicates that the atmosphere of impunity and inaction by Armenian legal system against previously filed but subsequently discarded hate speech instances and threats contributes to increasing wave of hate crimes in Armenia.
Փետրվարի 15-ին ժամը 21:00 սահմաններում 3 անհայտ անձինք Երևանի կենտրոնում հարձակվել և ծեծել են 5 ԼԳԲՏ ակտիվիստների, որոնցից 2-ը` Փինք Արմենիայի աշխատակիցներ են:
Ելնելով հարձակվողների հնչեցրած սեռական կողմնորոշմանն ուղղված արտահայտություններից ու հայհոյանքներից` Փինք Արմենիան դեպքը դիտարկում է որպես ատելության հիմքով հանցագործություն:
Փինք Արմենիան խստորեն դատապարտում է մարդկանց սեռական կողմնորոշման հիմքով բռնություն գործադրողներին և այն արդարացնողներին: Տարիներ ի վեր իրավապահ համակարգը Հայաստանում անտարբերության է մատնում ԼԳԲՏ անձանց հասցեին ուղղված սպառնալիքները և ատելության կոչերը` առկա դիմում-բողոքները կարճելով` «հանցակազմի բացակայության» հիմքով: Իսկ այդ համակարգի կողմից որակարվորված «առանց հանցակազմ» սպառնալիքները վերաճում են ատելության հիմքով հանցագործությունների, որոնք ավելի հաճախական և շարունակական են դարձել:
Իրավապահ մարմիններին կոչ ենք անում հետամուտ լինել հանցագործներին բացահայտելու և պատասխանատվության ենթարկելու գործում: Հիշեցնում ենք, որ ատելության հիմքով հանցագործությունները օջախն են բոլոր ցեղասպանությունների:
Հայաստանի բոլոր քաղաքացիները պետք է պաշտպանված լինեն, և իրավապահ մարմինները պատասխանատու են, որպեսզի ՀՀ քաղաքացին` անկախ սեռական կողմնորոշումից, գենդերային ինքնությունից, ռասայից, լեզվից, սեռից, դավանանքից կամ այլ հայացքներից իրեն ապահով զգա երկրում, որտեղ աշխատում ու հարկ է վճարում, որպեսզի իրավապահ մարմիններն աշխատավարձ ստանան ու ապահովեն իր պաշտպանվածությունը:
Below is A1+ report (AM), including interview with PINK Armenia staff member who was among those attacked.



In a strongly worded statement Bekum Democracy Support Centre condemned the attack, as well as police inaction and behaviour of medical staff “which violated the available Armenian legislation and medical ethics”. They demanded that police take immediate actions to find the attackers and to hold them accountable according to the law, and for the Ministry of Health to rectify the unacceptable behaviour of the medical personnel. “We call on civil society groups, human rights activists and international community in Armenia to comprehensively follow up the developments of this case.”

Coalition to Stop Violence against Women issued statement condemning culture of violence:
«Փետրվարի 15-ի երեկոյան անհայտ անձինք ծեծի են ենթարկել ԼԳԲՏ ակտիվիստներին, միաժամանակ արժանապատվությունը նվաստացնող արտահայտություններ ու հայհոյանքներ ուղղել նրանց հասցեին: Այնուհետև տուժածներից մեկն անհրաժեշտ բժշկական օգնություն ստանալու նպատակով դիմել է թիվ 1 հիվանդանոցային համալիր, որտեղ արժանացել է խտրական վերաբերմունքի:

Մենք՝ ներքոստորագրյալ կազմակերպությունների ներկայացուցիչներս,

- խստորեն դատապարտում ենք խտրականության հիմքով ցանկացած բռնության դրսևորում,

- գտնում ենք, որ նման երևույթները ամրապնդում և նպաստում են ԼԳԲՏ անձանց նկատմամբ մեր հասարակությունում առկա կարծրատիպերի ամրապնդմանը և ատելության խոսքի հնչեղացմանը,

- կոչ ենք անում իրավապահ մարմիններին շուտափույթ բացահայտել ատելության հիմքով հանցագործությունը և պատասխանատվության կանչել բռնարարներին,

- առողջապահության համակարգին հորդորում ենք կատարել իրենց կոչմանը համապատասխան գործողություններ և հատկապես բռնության զոհ դարձած անձանց հանդեպ ցուցաբերել մասնագիտական պատշաճ մոտեցում:

Ոչ մի առողջ հասարակություն չի արդարացնում բռնությունը»

My LGBT heroes: People at PINK Armenia (The Guardian)

I'd like to start my first post of 2016 with a positive note.

When The Guardian asked via Twitter to nominate LGBT heroes ["Who are your LGBT heroes? Tell us about the activists bringing change"], I had no doubts whatsoever who I will be nominating.

My LGBT heroes are people at PINK Armenia. First and foremost I relate this to the staff of PINK Armenia, but also their - and mine - friends and allies.


Below is what I posted on The Guardian:

My LGBT heroes are people at PINK Armenia.

I’d like to add just few more examples to already made nomination of PINK Armenia to illustrate why I consider them my LGBT heroes.

Regarding their latest achievements, a particular praise goes to holding of groundbreaking Rainbow Armenia forum (October 2015), the first such LGBT gathering in Armenia with the aim to empower the movement.

What I find particularly encouraging and worth pointing out, they work very closely with other members of civil society in Armenia towards global human rights issues in the country and beyond. In fact, they became one of the most active and respected groups in Armenia. Along with LGBT related actions, they are very vocal and active regarding much broader issues ranging from social (such as electricity price hike) to environmental (protecting green spaces), democracy (election monitoring), domestic violence and women's rights.

PINK Armenia continues to defy status quo and challenge relevant state bodies regarding their commitment for LGBT rights and against discrimination. It was the first time I could recall that Armenia president’s administration replied to LGBT rights related formal query raised by PINK Armenia (July 2015).

Along with annual LGBT rights reports (annual reviews on human rights situation of LGBT people in Armenia), they conduct or commission important LGBT-themed surveys/research. Their latest research on “The impact of LGBT emigration on economic indicators of Armenia” (2015) was highly publicised and discussed in various forums.

PINK Armenia stage regular film screenings, art related events, video or flashmob to highlight LGBT related discrimination and homophobia.

In December 2014, (IN)2VALUABLE exhibition took place based on submissions for the photo contest of the same name organised by PINK Armenia, aimed at drawing attention to the problems of discrimination and intolerance in our society, with the entries reflecting concepts of tolerance and anti-discrimination.

“I am against homophobia” video series, involving Armenian and Ukrainian activists, as well as videos tackling anti-LGBT bullying in cooperation with other allies were among widely distributed in Armenian social and other media.

I can go on and on with more and more examples of breaking taboos and tackling homophobia, human rights abuses in Armenia by this brave and great bunch of people who work in a very challenging environment of prevalent homophobia in Armenia. It’s PINK Armenia and friends who keep my hope alive that one day Armenia will change its homophobic routine and become a country where individual freedom and equality will prevail.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Armenia ruling Republican party rep to constitutional referendum observer: "Go back to Holland to gay and lesbian parties"

For my general commentary re constitutional referendum in Armenia and its aftermath, read: Defeated in Armenia
***

This video (along with number of other updates and videos on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere), posted by one of the brave election observers Nairi Hakhverdi (Diasporan Armenian from the Netherland, lives in Armenia for years now) reflects perfectly the overall atmosphere of intimidation and general level of 'conversation' by ruling regime representatives at voting precincts:

"This Republican Party proxy said something along the lines of: "Just watch, it's going to be VERY different in 2017." I turned on the camera and asked him to repeat what he said. What follows is something about going back to Holland and going to gay and lesbian parties. According to him, I've ruined this country. 9/23 #ArmRef15 #ditord"

[Unzipped: Gay Armenia: by "2017", he refers to the parliamentary election that will be conducted according to new constitution]



This Republican Party proxy said something along the lines of: "Just watch, it's going to be VERY different in 2017." I turned on the camera and asked him to repeat what he said. What follows is something about going back to Holland and going to gay and lesbian parties. According to him, I've ruined this country. :) 9/23 #ArmRef15 #ditord
Posted by Nairi Hakhverdi on Monday, 7 December 2015

Friday, 4 December 2015

Why ARF Dashnaktsutyun in Armenia suck big time

There are many reasons why Dashnaks in Armenia suck. Here is just one of the reasons. Prominent party member, MP Artsvik Minasyan endorsed in the past fire bombers of gay friendly DIY bar in Yerevan. [you may find his utterly disgraceful remarks here]

Not only he was not reprimanded by ARF in Armenia or abroad but he remained on top positions within ARF Dashnaktsutyun.

Now, as a servant of Armenia ruling regime interests, not only he is out and about campaigning FOR new constitution (as part of Dashnaks’ shameful endorsement of the pro-regime ‘YES’ campaign) but to make his case ‘convincing’ praises anti-gay and anti-human rights provisions in the constitution, as reported by Armenpress:

"He also stated that for the first time the family will be under state protection, which means that the state will struggle against gay families, which foreign powers try to import into Armenia.”


P.S. There are tons of reasons why you should never support proposed by Armenia ruling regime new constitution and say your firm NO #ՈՉ during referendum on 6 December. Here are just few of them.
Of course, considering fraudulent voting record of the ruling regime in Armenia, no doubts they will 'draw' required percentage to prolong their very survival. We should, however, never surrender to the fraud and hate.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

US Ambassador and UN office in Armenia in solidarity with LGBT activists amid homophobic hysteria and threats following groundbreaking Rainbow forum

A group of homophobic Putin fans in Armenia announced their plan to stage a protest action on 6 November against US Ambassador’s statement in front of... the EU office in Yerevan. These guys certainly need a geography lesson. Along with many other lessons, of course. Well, at least one of them was recently outed on Facebook as a closeted gay. Some revealing Skype chat screenshots were in circulation in what perhaps the first such exposé in Armenia.

But lets forget about these people, they were mentioned here for entertainment purposes only.

Back to the important matters. Great move and statement by the US ambassador in Armenia. Respects.

[more about groundbreaking Rainbow Armenia Forum: here; more about threats received: here. Unzipped: Gay Armenia will make a separate post on Rainbow Forum.]

*picture - via PINK Armenia

*via US Embassy in Armenia

US Ambassador Meets with PINK NGO Representatives, Expresses Concern about Threats of Violence Issued against Them

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills, Jr., visited the offices of the Public Information and Need of Knowledge (PINK) NGO on Thursday, October 29, 2015.

The group briefed the Ambassador on their recent Rainbow Forum, a gathering organized by PINK earlier this month in Lori, which focused on ways to protect the basic human rights of the members of the Armenian LGBT community.

During his visit, PINK representatives described to Ambassador Mills the very real and extreme threats they’ve received since the forum took place, including death threats made against several of its members. The group recently submitted a formal complaint about the threats to the Armenian Prosecutor General.

The U.S. Embassy is deeply troubled by these threats, and condemns in the strongest possible terms such calls for violence. The U.S. Embassy expects the Armenian authorities to fully investigate these threats and protect the basic human rights of the group’s members and all LGBT residents and minority communities in Armenia.

“I have been in Armenia long enough, and spoken to enough Armenians throughout the country, to know that violence and hatred are not part of Armenian society and values.  I urge Armenians to reject these calls to violence.  Those who would espouse such strong hatred of people simply for being different do not adhere to Armenian values as I have seen them,” Ambassador Mills said.
***
And another important statement by UN office in Armenia:

The United Nations in Armenia is concerned about the recent manifestations of aggressive homophobia and threats of violence against LGBTI activists particularly in social media, following a recent meeting held by activists.

The threat of violence against any group cannot be tolerated, and all persons should be allowed freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and not be subject to discrimination and intimidation.

We call upon the authorities to investigate and prosecute incidents of harassment and abuse against the LGBTI community, to discourage all hate speech, and to take measures to foster tolerance.

Through its international obligations Armenia has made laudable commitments to non-discrimination and tolerance, and the respect of human rights, including those of the ethnic, religious and sexual minorities.

The United Nations stands ready to support Armenia in these commitments. See also the recent global call of the UN for an end to violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons.
 ***
More international reaction, this time as a statement of concern by Frontline Defenders human rights group:

LGBTI rights defenders and participants in the first Armenian LGBTI forum have been exposed to ongoing harassment and personal threats since the publication of an article about the forum and its participants on 20 October 2015. […]

Front Line Defenders expresses its concern over the harassment against members of PINK Armenia and other LGBTI forum participants, and the personal death threats they are facing on social media and in person, and believes these acts to be an attempt to prevent LGBTI rights defenders from carrying out their peaceful and legitimate advocacy in defence of human rights.

Bayer Healthcare distances itself from homophobic head of the Armenian Association of Young Doctors, avoids making public statement

Following my blog post President of the Armenian Association of Young Doctors calls for anti-gay violence, quite a few activists and concerned citizens both in Armenia and elsewhere contacted Bayer Healthcare to express their concern and outrage with the fact of their sponsorship of the conference co-organised by the Armenian Association of Young Doctors [to remind, the head of this Association is a virulent homophobe Gevorg Grigoryan who wants gays (“fag*ots”) to be burnt].

From my side, apart from sharing the blog post on FB and Twitter, and tweeting @Bayer and @BayerHealthCare, I contacted directly Bayer via their general maildesk contact system, as well as writing an email to the head of media relations Günter Forneck.

Although I did not receive replies from my email communication, I received a message from Bayer Healthcare via Twitter, explaining their position:
Dear Mika, we have seen your Tweets you published earlier this week.

Bayer condemns any behavior that discriminates against particular groups for example on ground of race and ethnic origin, color, nationality, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, political affiliation.

Bayer does not sponsor the Armenian Association of Young Doctors.

Bayer’s support to the medical conference “Health-related issues of quality of life” in Erevan, 5-7 November 2015, was triggered by its partnership with the Armenian Anti-ageing Medical Association, one of the co-organisers of the conference.

Similar messages were received by others who contacted Bayer Healthcare re this issue.

While I was glad to receive a quick reply from the Bayer Healthcare distancing themselves from the Armenian Association of Young Doctors, and reaffirming their commitment to non-discrimination, I was not happy that these were done via private messages only, i.e. no public statement or press release by Bayer to make their stance firm and public.

My reply to them followed shortly:
Thank you for clarifications about your sponsorship of the conference and for re-affirming your stance against discrimination. I am writing to you on behalf of a group of LGBT activists and allies. I am glad to know that you do not sponsor directly the Armenian Association of Young Doctors. However, your support for the conference, even if via your partnership with the Armenian Anti-aging Medical Association, means that you sponsor an event which include organisation headed by a virulent homophobe. This was covered in social and other media, including the Armenian media outlet Epress.am. The Armenian Association of Young Doctors widely uses the fact of your sponsorship for their PR purposes (example). I would therefore like to ask you to issue a public press release to clarify the situation and your stance. Thank you in advance.

Unfortunately, despite repeated communications and twitter exchanges, I have yet to receive any public statement by Bayer Healthcare.

It is exactly because of such lack of firm stance that homophobes are able to use sponsorship from organisations like Bayer for their PR purposes, by effectively getting rewarded for spreading hate.

As I mentioned in my reply above, support for the conference, even if via partnership with another co-organiser, in the absence of public statement to clarify their stance, means that Bayer Healthcare sponsors an event which is co-organised by a virulent homophobe. As a consequence, many activists now question a non-discrimination commitment by Bayer, while number of young doctors in Armenia are unable to participate in the conference due to virulent homophobia by one of its co-organisers.

This tweet by @hambvart is very telling, indeed:
As young doctor I can't be @ @BayerHealthCare-sponsored conference cause I'm #gay & coorganizer calls 2 burn faggots http://gayarmenia.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/president-of-armenian-association-of.html


Many on Twitter and elsewhere expressed their outrage. Selected examples below:

@Khaghaghordyan:

@unzippedblog @BayerHealthCare really an appalling case of bigotry. Looking forward to read both the blog post and the statement

@GoldenTent:

@unzippedblog @VismundCygnus1 @Bayer @BayerHealthCare This doctor should not only not be rewarded but should lose his license

@GArmasCardona:

Young #Armenia|n doctor says "they [#gay|s] should be burnt," must not know about the Hippocratic Oath.

@CrazyPsyKO:

@KarenaAv This is incitement, plain and simple. Surely some law must cover it.

@VismundCygnus1 (here and here):

@GoldenTent @unzippedblog @Bayer @BayerHealthCare yep raises big questions. What if a client unknowingly goes for him for treatment and is a homosexual, wat will he do? Kill d client?! I agree this person cant be a doctor anymore

@KarenaAv:

@VismundCygnus1 @unzippedblog @Bayer @BayerHealthCare I expect Bayer to condemn this & withdraw its support. People are watching.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

President of the Armenian Association of Young Doctors calls for anti-gay violence

Here we are. Gevorg Grigoryan, doctor, urologist, president of the Armenian Association of Young Doctors, and… advocate of anti-gay violence.

Says Gevorg Grigoryan: ‘They [gays] should be burnt.’ There should be total mobilisation to “fight fag*ots”. ‘We should not let them procreate’. Calls for beating, physical violence against gays and ultimately killing, as per Facebook screenshots of his comments (below, in Armenian).


“I will always be the one who will fight against homosexuals” [using derogatory Armenian word to refer to gays], calling LGBT people and their allies “grant seeking animals”, while the organisation he is heading aims at getting grants from international organisations ["- Միջազգային կազմակերպությունների կողմից առաջարված գրանտային ծրագրերի մասնակցություն"].


In a screenshot above, he confirms his anti-gay comments saying he is “proud” that he is against “perverse” people and “does not regret” what he said.

The Armenian Association of Young Doctors he is heading is holding a conference (6-7 November 2015, Yerevan, Armenia) re “health related quality of life”, and the conference is sponsored by number of organisations and pharma companies, including Bayer Healthcare. [other sponsors listed are Unipharm, Prom-Test Laboratories, Recordati]



I want to believe that they are not aware of the views of the president of the organisation they are sponsoring. Well, now they know.

I expect immediate actions from sponsors, and particularly Bayer Healthcare, by distancing themselves from this group, and withdrawing sponsorship.

Ethics Code of Recordati group offers “equal employment opportunities without discriminating on the basis of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, physical or mental handicaps, nationality, faith, politics or trade union membership”.

Bayer specifically stresses that they will not fund “organisations that discriminate on bases of race, color, creed, gender, sexual orientation or national origin”.


Time to amend mistakes in relation to this Armenian organisation.

And in future, I call international medical, healthcare organisations, pharma companies, health/medical related groups and individuals in Armenia, Diaspora and elsewhere to boycott this and similar groups.

Not only Gevorg’s comments are in contradiction with all possible ethical and professional norms that any doctor should uphold, but they border with criminal activity as clearly contain hate speech and calls for physical violence.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Lesbian Azeri activists in Baku stage photo-session in front of mosque : “We exist!”

Photos coming from Azerbaijan capital Baku target visibility in a context of LGBT, Islam and secular society.


The photo-session is titled “Z-53”, and as Azeri LGBT activist explained to this blog, this refers to Sura (chapter) from Quran, aya (verse) 53, where it is mentioned: “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves (by singing), do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful”.
“Our society always says that being LGBT is a great sin. Allah cursed them all, but these sentences from Quran show different view of Islam which denies all the dogmas in secular Azerbaijani society”.
Says Gulara Azimzadeh, head of the “Peace for LGBT” organisation:
“The photo-session “Z-53” represents religious, national and legal aspects of Azerbaijani LGBT people’s lives. Those photos are a message and a protest to the unbearable levels of discrimination from the homophobic society towards LGBT people. The fear for our lives derived during the making of “Z-53” did not suppress our demand for freedom of expression. For years our existence has been ignored – today we say “We exist”! Despite all the shaming, humiliations for years, and making us believe we were doing wrong - we accept our homosexual nature, we are not ashamed of who we are! You did not give us the rights to take them away. Do not try to fit everybody under the same figure! It is time to accept us – the people “different” from you.”
Unsurprisingly, as per organisers, this action generated a “huge wave of hatred” towards them, as is always the case whenever LGBT activists in the South Caucasus lower a threshold of visibility by their actions.

Respects to these brave Azeri activists.

*pictures courtesy of "Peace for LGBT"

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Tangerine: transgender revenge story, intertwined with Armenian storyline

Tangerine was premiered this week in London as part of the London Film Festival.

Transgender revenge story, raw, realistic, filled with elements of comedy and drama, with Almodovar-like touch, and played by transgender people.

Intertwined with that was a story of a typical Armenian family in LA who moved there from Armenia capital Yerevan. Any Armenian will be able to identify at least partly with that family, whether in reference to their own family, relatives or friends.

Highly recommended. And very relevant to the National Coming Out Day.

And to note that this film was shot using an iPhone !! You would never realise that unless you read about it. Great achievement by director and the whole cast and crew.

Following Q&A, I received a poster of the film and asked director Sean Baker and one of the lead actresses Mya Taylor to sign it for me.


Gay Armenian man from Boston: “What would happen if people of Yerevan knew I was gay?”

On this “National coming out day” I would like to share the thoughts of one gay Armenian man from Boston who came to study in Yerevan and was an intern with PINK Armenia.

And using this occasions, few pics I made of the Arlington Street Church in Boston. [On May 17, 2004, the Arlington Street Church was the site of the first state-sanctioned same-sex marriage in the United States - Wiki]


“Love Is Stronger”. It certainly is.


*Selected extracts below. Re-posted from PINK Armenia (for Armenian version: here).
21 years old Karl Afrikian was born and raised just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, USA to an Armenian father and an American mother. He is a student at Sewanee: The University of the South studying Economics and Russian culture. He first came to Armenia in 2014 to study at the American University of Armenia for a semester, when he was introduced to PINK. He returned to Armenia for summer 2015 to intern with PINK Armenia to help the fight for gay rights.

“[…] I came in to the office [office of PINK Armenia in Yerevan] and remember being in the safest place for LGBT people in the country, which was comforting for a recently out person in a land known for its homophobia. Being from Boston, a hugely gay city, I have experienced very little discrimination firsthand; yet, in Armenia, I was again afraid in this new land, yet my time studying there and meeting fellow queer Armenians reinforced my hope for the community.”

“Right next to my apartment, I saw graffiti on a wall “vomank gay en, tetev tarek” (some people are gay, take it easy) which helped ignite my passion early on for helping the cause. ”
[Read: Armenian version of “Some People Are Gay. Get Over It!” in Yerevan to mark IDAHOT]

“I was shocked to hear of the police ignoring the rights of gay victims of assault, the horrible things Armenians would do to their LGBT brothers, and how public opinion promotes rampant hostility towards gay individuals.”

“I would spend nights sometimes walking on Northern Avenue or at Hraparak at the Dancing Fountains thinking about what would happen had these people knew I was gay. Would they beat me up? Would they kill me? How would my cousins in Armenia react to such a thing?  Being gay is not always something written on your sleeve, thus there was no way they could truly verify any of these possibilities without having me tell them. Although I did not fear being publicly outed at any point, I still had this uneasiness in my heart knowing that these people who could be so nice and friendly to me could possibly become hostile towards me all due to who I love.”

“I was really unsure why this bothered me so much – I was only in Armenia for about two months, my friends queer and straight were all very supportive, and it was not as if I was being persecuted on the streets personally. […] This time, I was aware of the graveness of the situation. Eventually, I came to several realizations about how I was feeling. In Armenia today, my gayness stands against the “traditional values” held so dearly to many of our people. The traditional gender roles in Armenia prescribe that a man must marry a woman and produce children to continue our people.

Even as I came out to my father in America this tradition has held strong, and his major concern was of course having grandchildren, even though today he has learned to accept that I am gay.

Many closeted-gay men in Armenia from what I observed married women to keep their public identity secure and to appease society […]”

Saturday, 10 October 2015

#RidewithPride - take a ride on DLR trains in London wrapped in rainbow

So great to have a ride on DLR trains in London tastefully wrapped in rainbow colours, with the indication #RidewithPride. Great example of cross-agency support for LGBT rights - TFL (Transport for London), their LGBT staff network and Barclays bank that sponsored the re-design of selected trains.

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.