Monday, 21 April 2008

Opposition "Chorrord Ishkhanutyun" newspaper must stop using homophobic references in its attacks on Armenia PM Tigran Sargsyan

Around and immediately after his appointment, I read here and there occasional comments attacking newly appointed PM Tigran Sargsyan with homophobic references for his presumed or perceived homosexuality. I do not care whether our newly appointed PM is gay or not. What I do care is no one has the right to attack others for their sexual orientation, perceived or real. Totally unacceptable tactic, from whatever side it comes. And very, very cheap, aimed at the lowest possible instincts among ‘ordinary’ citizens taking into account widespread homophobia in our society. Ironically, homophobic references and bigotry are becoming a favoured mean for some within the both sides of Armenia’s current political stand-off to make an attention grabbing headlines. This can only be a sign of lack of proper arguments and sensationalism preferred by some, be that individual, blogger, established politician or newspaper.

I was wondering where this ‘gay storyline’ came from. Publications by the opposition “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” newspaper (CHI) made things clearer (reader of my blogs pointed me out to this). I suppose that its role played also non-macho (cliché) image of PM Tigran Sargsyan.

So what’s the buzz all about?

“In a search for blue dreams”, “Great achievements from the blue side of the horizon” – under these heading & sub-heading CHI published its main article (9 April 2008, online reference, no direct link, you may find it under ‘archive’) in relation to the appointment of the head of Central Bank Tigran Sargsyan as Prime Minister of Armenia. ["Blue" is a ‘coloured’ reference to gays in post-Soviet states, normally having negative connotations.]

Apparently, there was a “scandal” in Armenian parliament back in May 2006 when MP Victor Dallakyan “publicly” referred to the then head of Central Bank Tigran Sargsyan as “sexual minority”.

Back in May 2006, during parliamentary debates, speaking of “excessive” expenses of the Central Bank of Armenia, MP Dallakyan declared that even cleaners in the Central Bank have higher salaries than MPs. [Imagine the level of ‘debates’] In response to that, in an interview with the opposition “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily, Sargsyan “invited MPs to work as cleaners” in the Central Bank: “No, our cleaners receive less than MPs. But if they [MPs] wish, they could come to work with us”. [I clearly remember this incident but I did not remember the existence of a ‘gay storyline’ there until I read this piece by CHI] Reacting to this “invitation”, Dallakyan “publicly” demanded an apology from Tigran Sargsyan: “He should come here and say “Sorry!” to us. Yesterday he was speaking here about minorities. Of course, I am not referring to sexual minorities, we do not judge sexual minorities, that is him”. After that he stood up and added: “Son of a bitch”. [You lost my respect, Mr. Dallakyan.]

CHI continues that back then Tigran Sargsyan did not say “Sorry!”, and MPs “did not have strength to defend their reputation and swallowed it”.

When asked by CHI correspondent about “sexual minority” reference made by Dallakyan in relation to the newly appointed PM Tigran Sargsyan, MP from the ruling Republican party Rafik Petrosyan instead “mainly” wondered as to “how Dallakyan could prove it”, states CHI, clearly unsatisfied with Petrosyan’s reaction.

At least twice (April 11 and April 15, online reference) after this publication CHI again used gay references to PM Sargsyan, directly or indirectly, in an apparent negative connotation.

Unless CHI stops these cheap tactics and campaign, it risks losing any credibility and joining a growing list of potentially boycotted enterprises, with a very clear “yellow” colour sticking on it. I hope that ordinary to higher level opposition representatives who have influence on this newspaper will pass this message to the CHI. Nothing could be more damaging to the opposition movement than having bigotry associated with it.

*photo - via RFE/RL


Onnik Krikorian said...

Well, I think this is indicative of society in general and politics in general. It's why many of us aren't happy with the mentality among many behind the radical opposition and the government. Instead of concrete issues its all personality-based and usually amounts to nothing more than accusations and personal attacks. It is interesting to note, however, that both sides play on the homophobia prevalent in society.

As for Chorrord Ishkhanutyun, I don't think its ever had any credibility as a newspaper, but its a surprise that the some in the radical opposition are taking this line of attack -- regardless of whether they believe it or not -- simply because it can hardly endear themselves to the Council of Europe.

At a time when the opposition is trying to represent itself as the only political force representing European values in terms of democracy and human rights it hardly sends the right message.

Azad said...

Thank you very much for this post.

In addition to condemning the newspaper, the essayist/s and journalist/s who wrote such articles should be exposed and denounced as they carry part of the responsibility.

The article printed in the April 9 issue of CHI was signed by Taguhi Tovmasyan. I couldn’t identify the others.

artmika said...

Yes, Taguhi Tovmasyan is the author of the main (9 April) article.

For other two publications:

11 April - Grigor Voskanyan
15 April - not signed

Blogian said...

Actually, this summer I heard from an "Aryan" in Armenia that Tigran Sargsyan is not only gay but of the Jewish faith as well. When he was appointed as the PM, I was thinking of writing an article that I am glad that Armenia has its first Jewish and gay Prime Minister! Perhaps neither identities are true. But it's interseting how anti-Semitism and gaybating in Armenia are connected. Actually, I think it started with Armen Avetisyan for who gays and Jews are synonyms. We should put together a conference on anti-Semitism in Armenia. It must be an Armenian conference for Armenians in the Armenian language in Armenia.

artmika said...

And it’s not just Armenia-specific thing. I wrote about this a number of times in my blogs: intolerance towards one minority group is a reflection of and generates intolerance towards others. There is ‘perfect’ example of it in Russia too: same people and groups who attack gays, they also attack other minorities, including those from the Caucasus region, including Armenians… These Armenian bigots must go for a tour in Russia to visit their ‘colleagues’. I am sure they will learn a good ‘lesson’ from them.

Arteau said...

It's no one's business whether Armenia's PM is gay or not. I think that the only merit of these authorities that came to power by pouring the blood of their own people on 1 March, is the courage to appoint two gays as the country's Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister (the latter's homosexuality is not a secret for anyone in the country).

What I deplore is the hypocrisy of those presumed (yet obviously real) gays. I am sure that none of the two, or the others in that administration, like the former minister of justice, will ever have the guts (or balls) to assume their homosexuality and be their true selves and prove that gays can be good professionals, much better and more nuanced than any next-door Armenian macho homophobe.

Caveat: I am convinced that the elections were rigged and these people should not have been in power today.

Artmika, I am surprised that this blog let the 1 March events go unheeded. Is this an online branch of H1?

artmika said...

Arteau, I never expected receiving such a ‘compliment’ – “online branch of H1”...

I wish H1 devoted at least 1% of its time to gay rights and homophobia.

As to 1 March events… Regular readers of my blogs are well aware that I have 2 inter-connected blogs – Unzipped and Unzipped: Gay Armenia. As I mentioned here before, all up-to-date info and analyses on Yerevan 1 March events are provided in my
Unzipped blog.

I would recommend you checking my Unzipped blog, especially my entries from February-March till today. I am sure you will be of very different opinion afterwards.