Monday, 30 June 2008
*source: Bread & Water Theatre and Indymedia (Rochester IMC)
Each one-woman show is a unique take on what it is to be a bisexual woman in the modern world. My Gay Family tells the coming-of-age story of a shy, funny, Armenian-American bisexual girl who flees her small town of Walpole, Massachusetts to tell the stories of her family of one gay brother, one lesbian sister and two homophobic parents. The Crochet Penis is a much more biting play as it deals with Nancy’s life in the wake of her grandmother’s death, a woman of courage who survived the Armenian Genocide. In this emotional time she confronts her issues of sexuality, love and loss.
After graduating from Wellesley College with a degree in Studio Art in 1990, Nancy Agabian moved to Los Angeles, where she wrote and presented the poems and solo performance texts collected in Princess Freak. Her writing has also appeared in numerous anthologies. With Ann Perich she formed the folk-punk duo Guitar Boy, their CD Freaks Like Me was released in 2000. In that year she also received the Dolores Zohrab Liebmann fellowship to attend Columbia University’s writing program, from which she graduated in 2003. Her master’s thesis, Me as Her Again, is a memoir that explores the influence of her Armenian-American family on her coming-of-age and will be published by Aunt Lute Books in 2008. Since Dec. 2002, she has been coordinating Gartal, a literary reading series for Armenian-American writers at Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village. In 2007, Ms. Agabian traveled to the Yerevan State University in Armenia where she conducted researched and lectured on the topic “Writing Armenia: Personal Stories” on a Fulbright Scholarship. She currently teaches creative non-fiction writing at Queens College in NYC.
The encore performances of The Crochet Penis and My Gay Family will be presented at 243 Rosedale St. (New Life Presbyterian Church) on July 18th and 19th, 2008 at 8:00pm.
՚Խաղում ենք ընդդեմ ՁԻԱՀ-իՙ. ահա այսպես էր կոչվում Հայկական կարմիր խաչի երիտասարդական բաժնի կազմակերպված ՄԻԱՎ/ՁԻԱՀ-ի կանխարգելման ուղղված բասկետբոլային մրցաշարը, որի եզրափակիչ փուլը այսօր կայացավ ՚Գրացիաՙ միջազգային հետվնասվածքային վերականգնողական կենտրոնի սպորտային դահլիճում:
Կարմիր խաչի երիտասարդական բաժինը Գլոբալ ֆոնդի կողմից ֆինանսավորվող ՚ՄԻԱՎ/ՁԻԱՀ-ի կանխարգելման ազգային ծրագիրՙ դրամաշնորհի շրջանակներում կազմակերպում է լայնածավալ հանրային միջոցառումներ, որոնցից մեկը բասկետբոլային այս մրցաշարն է: Հայաստանի 8 մարզերում բարձր դասարանցիների շրջանում անցկացված մրցաշարի արդյունքում եզրափակիչ փուլի ուղեգիր էին նվաճել ՚Կոտայքՙ, ՚Շիրակՙ, ՚Սյունիքՙ, ՚Վայոց Ձորՙ թիմերը: Բացի բասկետբոլ խաղալուց դպրոցականների շրջանում կազմակերպվել են ուսուցողական դասընթացներ, որպեսզի պատանիները հասկանան, թե որքան մեծ վտանգ է ներկայացնում այս հիվանդությունը:
Դպրոցականները արդեն պատկերացում կազմել էին, թե ինչ է իրենից ներկայացնում ՁԻԱՀ-ը, սակայն մարզերից ժամանած պատանիներն ամոթխած հայացքներով ամաչում էին պատմել իրենց գիտելիքների մասին: Այնուամենայնիվ, նրանից մեկը, խնդրելով չնշել իր անունը, ասաց. ՚Մենք հասկացել ենք, որ ում հետ պատահի չի կարելի սեռական կապ ունենալ: Դա վտանգավոր է շատ, քանի որ այդ հիվանդությունը շատերի մոտ թաքնված է եւ ամիսներով այդ մարդը չի կարող իմանալ, որ ինքը վիրուսակիր էՙ: Կարմիր խաչի երիտասարդության բաժնի վարիչ Կատերինա Վարդանյանը ընդգծեց, որ կոնկրետ այս մրցաշարում հաղթողներ եւ պարտվողներ չկան, եւ նրան մասնակցողները արդեն իսկ հաջողության են հասել:
Այնուամենայնիվ, եզրափակիչ դուրս եկած թիմերի միջեւ թեժ պայքար ծավալվեց եւ ի վերջո հաղթեց ՚Սյունիքըՙ, որը եզրափակիչ խաղում 29:26 հաշվով առավելության հասավ ՚Շիրակիՙ նկատմամբ: Մրցաշարը կազմակերպելու հարցում իր աջակցությունն էր ցուցաբերել նաեւ Հայաստանի բասկետբոլի ֆեդերացիան, որի նախագահ Հրաչյա Ռոստոմյանը ասաց հետեւյալը. ՚Մենք կարեւորում ենք նման մրցաշարերի անցկացումը: Առողջ սերունդ ունենալու գրավականը մեր պատանիներին եւ երիտասարդներին տեղեկացված պահելն է, որ նրանք գիտակցեն, թե ինչպես պետք է պաշտպանվել, մարդության ամենամեծ չարիքներից մեկի համբավը ունեցող ՁԻԱՀ-ի դեմ: Ուրախալի է նաեւ, որ հանրապետության մի շարք մարզերում դպրոցականներից շատերը հնարավորություն են ստացել բասկետբոլում ցույց տալու իրենց կարողությունը, եւ նրանցից շատերը միգուցե կշարունակեն մարզաձեւով զբաղվելՙ:
Sunday, 29 June 2008
The Women’s Resource Center was founded in July 2003 and is open to all women regardless of age, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and social status.
The Women’s Resource Center supports women and provides resources to empower them against gender inequality and discrimination, to encourage their participation in social, political and cultural activities, and to further their personal and professional development.
The Center runs several programs in the various marzes throughout the Republic of Armenia as well as in the city of Shushi in the Republic of Nagorno-Karabagh
Saturday, 28 June 2008
38 years ago today the first LGBT Pride march was held in New York on 28 June 1978 to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The Stonewall riots, that began on June 28, 1969, were the beginning of the gay rights movement in the United States with its world-wide influence. There was a police raid at the Stonewall Inn bar in Manhattan. The police raided the bar at the Stonewall Inn for only one reason, it was a gay bar. People started rioting after the horrific event and the start of the gay rights movement was born.
The New York Public Library has posted the following piece (below) on what was originally called Christopher Street Liberation Day to mark this historic anniversary.
Diana Davies. Gay “Be-In,” Sheep Meadow, Central Park, New York, June 28, 1970.
The first LGBT pride marches were held on June 28, 1970. Originally called Christopher Street Liberation Day, marches were held in 1970 to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Craig Rodwell, activist and owner of the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookstore, obtained support for the march from ERCHO’s (Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations) November 1969 convention. Rodwell drew in support from New York City activists and organizations, such as Gay Liberation Front and Gay Activists Alliance, to create the Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee to plan the march. A sister march was planned and held in Los Angeles by their Gay Liberation Front. The march went from Washington Place in Greenwich Village uptown on Sixth Avenue to end with a ‘gay-in” in Central Park.
Many of the men and women who marched that day would forever remember that moment on top of the bluff. Before them lay a field of uncut grass, a blizzard of banners, dancing, pot-smoking, singing and music, a huge American flag, “gay pride” signs decorated with the Day-Glo hippie flower stickers, and men and women applauding each new arrival over the hill. And behind them—stretching out as far as they could see—was line after line after line of homosexuals and their supporters, at least fifteen blocks worth, by the count of the New York Times, which found the turnout notable enough to report it on the front page of the next day’s paper. No one had ever seen so many homosexuals in one place before. On top of the bluff, many of these men and women, who had grown up isolated and alone, stood in silence and cried.
From Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America by Dudley Clendinen and Adam Nagourney.
Monday, 23 June 2008
System of a Down is very politically active and are noted for the liberal political views expressed in their songs, tackling myriad subjects including the War on Drugs, religion, drug use, and especially censorship. They have actively campaigned to get Turkey to recognize the Armenian Genocide and the subject is often-tackled in their songs. System of a Down is a part of the Axis of Justice, a non-profit organization formed by band member Serj Tankian (along with Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine), dedicated to bringing together musicians, music fans, and grassroots political organizations to fight for social justice. [...]However, it must be said that European Broadcasting Union's Eurovision related rules do not allow overtly political songs, which of course did not prevent their appearance in past, under various 'covers'. Serj Tankian understands this perfectly, and as Finnish blogger Ilkar reports on his Eurovision related Life After Helsinki 2007 blog, he stated over the weekend in Finland that "a love song would probably do better than political song" for the cause.
System of a Down has shown a keen interest in representing Armenia at the Eurovision Song Contest 2009 to be held in Russia next year. However, the soloist of the band, Serj Tankian, has openly stated in a recent visit in Finland that this will be under one condition: if they will be able to use Eurovision as a way to make the much-debated Armenian Genocide issue known. "Esc would be an excellent way to make this theme known. We must seriously think of this." (reference)
Serj Tankian, the solist of System of a down, declared his interest for represanting his native Armenia in the Eurovision when visiting Finland this weekend. The band's on break and Serj tours the world as a solist from New Zealand where he resides these days. System of a down has been active in a group that is trying to make Turkey confess the 1915 genocide where even up to one million people lost their lives. "The idea is very, very interesting. It would be a very good forum to talk about this. A love song would probably do better than political song however" he stated.The question is still open. I suppose one of the reasons that Serj Tankian openly suggested such possibility was to check the reactions of all 'stakeholders' involved, including fans, Eurovision organisers and Armenia's Public TV. It is still hard to believe that rock band with serious reputation and cult following might consider performing at the Eurovision Song Contest which many consider as cheesy pop fest. However, we had examples in past, and if SOAD's or Serj Tankian's representation for Armenia become true, it will be the most talked about topic in Internet forums for sure. It will be Armenia's THE CHANCE to get the Eurovision trophy in Moscow and host it in 2010.
Will Armenia rock the Eurovision 2009 in Moscow? I hope so, even if without SOAD, but even more with...
Monday, 16 June 2008
It's with great pleasure I'd like to inform on new blog started by PINK Armenia, local LGBT related NGO.
Very interesting new blog from a Lebanese-born, Middle Eastern Armenian queer transguy
Welcome to blogosphere, guys!
Friday, 6 June 2008
It is with great pleasure I'd like to share excellent news and introduce new Armenian gay women group - the Women-Oriented Women’s (WOW) Collective, and their gay related blog Queering Yerevan.
Queering Yerevan is a collaborative project of Armenian queer artists, writers and curators to be realized within the framework of the WOW [Women-Oriented Women] collective. It takes as its point of departure concrete mnemonic experiences of concrete queer artists in a specific time and space: Yerevan, 2000s.
Effectively, we are witnessing now a birth of perhaps the first organised gay women group in Armenian reality.
In the long-run, as an integral part of the Women’s Resource Center, the WOW collective aims to act as a sustainable group for the representation and advocacy of queer women’s rights in Armenia, to cultivate and promote the culture of queer Armenian women from both the Diaspora and Armenia, and start a dialog with other queer women from other countries in order to find commonality and support.
Welcome, WOW Collective! Welcome, Queering Yerevan!
Within the Women’s Resource Center, the Women-Oriented Women’s (WOW) Collective—a group of women-oriented women, including lesbian women, bisexual women, and straight women allies, all artists and/or activists—is planning an outreach, awareness and art project to take place during the Summer of 2008.
Queer women are just beginning to come out to each other in Armenia; this project arises out of discussions last year by some members who have longstanding working relationships with each other and more recent collaborations within the Women’s Center. It is an unprecedented project, which requires a brief explanation of the situation for queer women in Armenia. Homosexuality has been severely punished throughout the modern history of Armenia, and from 1936 till 2003 homosexuals were criminalized and imprisoned, if not murdered, on account of Article 116 of the Armenian Criminal Code. The laws have become more tolerant towards the LGBTI community since then, however in Armenian society, homosexuality is still heavily condemned.
In contemporary Armenia, where women’s goals and objectives are slowly becoming heard by Armenian society, the voices of queer women are still being silenced because of society’s ignorance surrounding the issue of the existence of a queer women’s culture in Armenia. The need to create and foster a safe environment for queer women is very urgent for several reasons: a) queer women are oppressed by both women and men in the Armenian society; b) queer women’s culture is unknown to or misunderstood by the majority of Armenians as homosexuality is normally perceived as something perverse or immoral—our goal is to demystify these myths, especially in regards to queer women; c) while homosexuality is generally stigmatized in Armenia, queer women are doubly oppressed by the burdens of women’s traditional roles of marriage and motherhood, and they have scarce means to avoid this oppression; d) coming out to their families and the society in general for queer women is inconceivable due to these traditional burdens; e) whereas the Armenian society is somewhat familiar with the gay culture through Sergei Parajanov and other well-known gay men, queer women and their culture is yet unknown and has no place in the Armenian society—the collective intends to historicize the presence of queer women in Armenian life and to educate the public on these issues. In the long run, working towards progressive social change, the WOW collective envisions a revival (by recovering queer women’s lives and histories), reinterpretation (through art) and sustenance (through collaborative effort) of the cultural heritage of past and present queer Armenian women.
The first step of coming out as a collective to the society, which is one of the aims of this project, is through self-expression. The WOW collective intends to educate and raise awareness about queer women’s lives, questions and activism. Hence the project’s use of art as a vehicle for the communication of concepts and feelings concerning the issues listed above. The participants of this project, the WOW collective members came together as a leadership group that recognizes the need of social change and the urgency of representing the presence, needs, and integration of LGBTI communities into Armenian society. Already WOW collective has held a series of meetings to discuss their own experiences surrounding queer identity, to gain greater understanding of each other, to create a basis of support and a frame of reference for the upcoming project. From those meetings, they decided to create a survey to the general public on Armenian cultural and familial attitudes regarding homosexuality and gender identity. The survey is currently being conducted and the results will be presented during the project and published in Feminist.
Interview with Nancy Agabian: forthcoming book, poetry, family, Armenian community, bisexuality, gay rights and equality
Here is an opportunity to celebrate an achievement. I would like to recommend this interview with well known Armenian gay and women rights activist, former head of New York based Armenian gay rights group AGLA NY (HyeQs of New York), talented writer Nancy Agabian. She is the author of no longer updated (unfortunately!) One Armenian World blog, which was among my favourite blogs back then.
This interview was conducted by Hye Eli initiative. Nancy speaks about her poetry, family, life as bisexual Armenian woman, gay and lesbian Armenians, and her forthcoming book.
Nancy is the author of Princess Freak (Beyond Baroque Books, 2000), a collection of poems and performance art texts. Her writing has also appeared in numerous anthologies, including Birthmark: A Bilingual Anthology of Armenian-American Poetry (Open Letter Press, 1999), Scream When You Burn, an anthology from Caffeine Magazine (Incommunicado, 1998), and Hers 2: Brilliant New Fiction from Lesbian Writers (Faber & Faber, 1997). Her recently completed memoir, which will be published soon, Me as her again, explores her Armenian-American family’s influence on her coming-of-age, especially the stories of her feminist mother and survivor grandmother. Nancy lives in New York City, where she teaches writing and coordinates GARTAL, an Armenian literary reading series.
You may listen to the interview with Nancy Agabian here
Sex and The City made quite an impact on Western audiences in terms of liberating sex talk and showing a women's side of the 'story'. And not only... Not only it's a great entertainment, but it makes you think and could be quite helpful in various 'life' situations too. Not infrequently, when I was home feeling down, all I needed to do for a quick 'cure' was to put it on DVD, and exchange my reality with that created based on Candace Bushnell's best selling novel. It is urgently needed to be shown in Armenia (I mean TV series), where only few watched it either via Russian TV, overseas or DVDs.
Only in very rare cases TV productions transformed into the big screen successfully. Therefore, I did not have very high expectations. My main disappointment with the movie is its lack in sufficient edginess. There was also scarcity of sharp one-liners and catch phrases which TV series were so famous of. Overall, the writing was not as sharp as in TV series. And it was a bit too long. Still, I enjoyed it, it was pleasant enough, it was like meeting your (not so) old TV friends. And I will watch it again, soon.
Thursday, 5 June 2008
Well known Armenian theatre director Armen Mazmanyan is apparently scared of "liberalism" and warns that if things go this way ("pornographic films on TV" and "unmonitored Internet") "soon Armenia will have its gay parade too". (I wish!) He wants "liberalism" to be adjusted for local circumstances/values (and what are those magical 'local circumstances/values'?). I also wonder what is his definition of "liberalism", "pornography" (snogging?)... and what kind of monitoring over the Internet he is proposing?
Anyway, here is what Panorama.am reports (in Armenian) under the eye-catching title "Gay" Parade in Armenia?
«ԳԵՅԵՐ»-Ի ՊԱՐԱԴ ՀԱՅԱՍՏԱՆՈ՞ՒՄ
Շուտով լիբերալիզմը կարող է սեփական ազգի համար պատուհաս դառնալ: Այսօր լրագրողների հետ հանդիպման ժամանակ նման կարծիք հայտնեց «Գոյ» թատրոնի գեղարվեստական ղեկավար Արմեն Մազմանյանը: Նրա հավաստմամբ, ցավալի է, որ Հայաստանն ընդունել է լիբերալիզմն ու ժողովրդավարությունը, սակայն մինչ օրս երկրում չեն ձևավորվել լիբերալիզմի համար սեփական երկրին համապատասխան որոշակի դրույթներ: «Ես գտնում եմ, որ մենք մեր սեփական ժողովրդի գլխին լիբերալիզմով անընդհատ «հարվածում ենք»` ցույց տալով նրա, իբրև թե, դրական ու իդեալական կողմերը, բայց չենք հասկանում, որ այն կարող է «բեսպրիդելի» վերածվել: Շուտով Հայաստանում էլ «գեյերի» պարադ կլինի»,-նշեց Ա. Մազմանյանը:
«Գոյ» թատրոնի գեղարվեստական ղեկավարի ասածին Երևանի «Մխիթար Սեբաստացի» կրթահամալիրի տնօրեն Աշոտ Բլեյանն այսպես արձագանքեց.«Ինչ ասացի՞ք, իշխանության մեջ «գեյերի» պարա՞դ» [Unzipped: Gay Armenia - perhaps, that's Ashot Bleyan's 'sense of humour']: Մազմանյանը բացատրեց, թե այնքան ժամանակ, մինչ հեռուստատեսությամբ պոռնոգրաֆիկ ֆիլմեր կցուցադրվեն ու ինտերնետը չի վերահսկվի, հաջորդ քայլը կարելի է կանխագուշակել...
Հյուրերի հավաստմամբ, միջազգային հանրության համար կարևոր այդպիսի արժեքները կարելի է ընդունել միայն սեփական երկրի արժեքներին համապատասխանեցնելուց հետո, հակառակ դեպքում` կարելի է բացասական «պտուղներ հավաքել»:
Wednesday, 4 June 2008
May be one day we will see the Rainbow Flag flying over the British Embassy in Armenia? Never say never, remember my words...
RIGA, June 2, 2008
UKGayNews — A little piece of UK gay history was made when the British Ambassador to Latvia, Richard Moon ordered the Rainbow Flag to be flown at the Embassy to mark Riga Pride and Friendship Days.
It is thought that this might be the first occasion that a Rainbow Flag has been flown from a British embassy anywhere in the world.
“The British Government totally supports LGBT rights in Europe and throughout the world,” Mr. Moon said as he raised the flag.
Pinknews - Last month the Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed its commitment to engage with foreign governments about the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people.
It issued an 'LGBT Toolkit' to its 261 embassies, high commissions and other diplomatic posts.
The kit contains information on the official British policy on gay rights and instructions in how to "provide added value to equality and non-discrimination work."
It covers a wide range of issues, from decriminalisation, sexual health, reproductive rights and health education to bilateral work with other countries.
The document states that LGBT activists are often targets for persecution and that the FCO should ensure these people are "included among human rights defenders concerning whom the UK will lobby and will engage the support of other governments, especially EU members."
A spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office told PinkNews.co.uk:
"The UK remains committed to promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people overseas.
"Last December the FCO adopted a programme of action for promoting the human rights of LGBT people abroad.
"This made clear that sexual orientation cannot be a qualifying factor in the application of human rights.
"We have now worked with partners to develop a programme to guide our embassies overseas.
"This programme has now been sent to all our diplomatic posts worldwide.
"We will continue to engage with our posts to promote the rights LGBT people across the world."
*photo - via UKGayNews
Despite being not recognised by government and almost certainly annulled, today is a pretty historic day for LGBT community in Greece, as BBC reports that the mayor of a Greek island Tilos has defied the threat of prosecution and carried out the country's first gay marriages. This will certainly have a significant impact on gay rights movement in Greece and will trigger changes in legislation to make it comparable with some other EU countries. Even if unrecognised now, these marriages will pave the way for future civil recognition of same-sex couples in Greece .
Two men and two women were "married" by Tassos Alfieris in the ceremonies on the eastern Aegean island of Tilos.
Mr Alfieris conducted the proceedings despite Greece's top prosecutor having issued a directive saying that same-sex weddings were outlawed.
One of the women involved, Evangelia Vlami, was bubbling with excitement as she told the BBC she was "so happy".
"From this day, discrimination against gays in Greece is on the decline. We did this to encourage other gay people to take a stand," she said after the ceremony held at sunrise on Tuesday.
However, the weddings are bound to cause a huge backlash in Greece, says the BBC's Athens correspondent Malcolm Brabant.
Although homosexual practices were widely tolerated in ancient Greece, the modern nation is exceedingly hostile towards gays, he adds.
The conservative Greek Orthodox Church has expressed strong objections, and the country's Justice Minister, Sotiris Hatzigakis, said he believed gay marriages were illegal.
"If the Tilos mayor proceeds, he will have committed the criminal act of 'breach of duty'," Supreme Court prosecutor George Sanidas warned on Friday.
"We will go ahead despite the difficulties," retorted Mr Alfieris. "I still can't believe that someone would be prosecuted for defending human rights."
However, leaders of other municipalities who had previously considered officiating at gay weddings have backed down.
And while Ms Vlami was prepared to be identified, her partner was not.
Similarly, only one half of the male partnership, Dimitris Tsaibrounis, was happy to be named.
As expected, 365Gay.com reports that the authorities in Greece moved to annul these same-sex marriages.
(Athens) The Greek government moved Tuesday to annul the marriages of two same-sex couples after the weddings were performed by the mayor of the island of Tilos.
Supreme Court Prosecutor Giorgos Sanides said he would ask the high court to declare the marriages illegal.
Tilos falls under the jurisdiction of the island of Rhodes. The prosecutor there has charged Mayor Tasos Aliferis with breach of duty for conducting the marriages.
Aliferis performed the wedding for a lesbian couple on Monday and a gay couple on Tuesday.
Hundreds of friends of the couples turned out for the ceremonies, as did dozens of curious townsfolk and the media.
The LGBT rights group OLKE said earlier this year it had found a loophole in a 26 year old update of the Greek civil marriage law that refers only to participating "persons," without specifying gender.
OLKE said that by not naming gender the law, albeit inadvertently, allows same-sex marriage and the group began the search for a mayor who would agree with them and perform the first ceremony.
Sanides disagrees with OKKE's assessment of the law. He maintains the law limits marriage to opposite-sex couples.
The Greek Orthodox Church s traditionally staunchly opposed to granting gays legal rights, and the idea of common-law unions. But its leader, Archbishop Ieronymos, who was enthroned earlier this year has been silent on the issue of marriage.
The government recently introduced civil partnership legislation that would grant legal rights to unmarried couples, but the bill specifically excludes same-sex couples.
Gays and lesbians have some legal protections under Greek law - mainly in the areas of employment and housing.
The issue of whether the vagueness of the current law on marriage allows same-sex couples to marry has divided Greek legal experts, although most believe that without a specific definition of what constitutes a couple the court will likely deny the government application to annual the weddings.
*photo - via BBC
ISTANBUL (Reuters) The only gay rights association in Istanbul has been ordered to close by a Turkish court, after a prosecutor claimed that it broke public morality laws.
It was claimed, in a court in the Beyoglu district of Istanbul, that the aims of LambdaIstanbul broke the law for the protection of family and public morality.
LambdaIstanbul, which will appeal against the decision at the Court of Appeals, will be the first gay rights association to be closed by the European Union candidate nation.
Although homosexuality is legal in Turkey there are no laws to protect homosexuals from discrimination.
“We are in a country where a closure case has been opened against the ruling party. The political atmosphere is antidemocratic and it lacks tolerance,” Bawer Cakir, a gay rights activist, said. /emphasis mine/
The Turkish authorities must decide whether nongovernmental organizations are fair game for harassment, or full partners in a free society.
Emma Sinclair-Webb, Turkey researcher
Istanbul/New York, June 02, 2008) – A Turkish court’s decision to disband a human rights organization defending lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people shows that official repression poses a serious threat to democratic rights and freedom of association, Human Rights Watch said today.
On May 29, 2008, the Third Civil Court of First Instance in the Beyoðlu district of Istanbul ruled in favor of a complaint brought by the Istanbul Governor’s Office, and ordered the closing of Lambda Istanbul, a group advocating for LGBT people’s human rights. The complaint argued that Lambda Istanbul’s objectives are “against the law and morality.” The court failed to address these claims in its judgment and reached a decision that the association should be closed on purely procedural grounds. The ruling is the latest in a series of legal measures targeting organizations promoting the rights of LGBT people.
“The judge’s arbitrary decision highlights the prejudiced proceedings,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, Turkey researcher at Human Rights Watch, who attended the hearing in Istanbul. “If the authorities can close one organization on procedural pretexts, all of civil society is in danger.”
The judgment referred to article 17 of the Law on Associations and article 60/2 of the Civil Code, which taken together provide for closure of associations if they do not “remedy errors and deficiencies” in their statutes. But the court’s judgment did not specify these “deficiencies.” The proceedings made no reference to these articles before this last hearing on May 29. Neither the Governor’s Office nor the judge or prosecutor raised any such deficiencies in the statutes during previous hearings.
Lambda Istanbul’s lawyers told Human Rights Watch they will receive a fuller explanation when the court produces a full verdict in the coming weeks. Lambda plans to appeal the decision and the case will be referred to the Court of Cassation.
The Office of the Governor of Istanbul demanded Lambda Istanbul’s closure in early 2007, claiming the name and objectives of the group were offensive to Turkish “moral values and its family structure.” In July 2007, the local Prosecutor’s Office rejected the complaint, but the Governor’s Office took the case to the courts. The court conducted six hearings before issuing the May 2008 verdict.
In October 2007, Human Rights Watch researchers met with Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler about the case. Although a department under his authority had initiated the complaint, he stated that the case was out of his hands and a matter for the judiciary. Human Rights Watch researchers and members of Lambda Istanbul met again with Deputy Governor Mustafa Altintas on May 23, 2008. Paradoxically, in view of the ongoing attempt to close the organization, he affirmed the commitment of the Governorate and its affiliated Provincial Human Rights Board to cooperate with Lambda Istanbul in future projects to promote LGBT people’s rights.
“The Turkish authorities must decide whether nongovernmental organizations are fair game for harassment, or full partners in a free society,” said Sinclair-Webb. “Promotion of tolerance and respect for civil society by the Turkish government is key.”
In another recent incident, on April 7, 2008, police raided the offices of Lambda Istanbul.
The police justified the incursion by claiming the organization “encourages” and “facilitates” prostitution.
Turkish authorities have targeted other LGBT organizations as well. In September 2005, the Ankara Governor’s Office accused the Ankara-based group KAOS-GL of “establishing an organization that is against the laws and principles of morality.” Similarly, the Ankara Governor’s Office attempted in July 2006 to close the human rights group Pembe Hayat (Pink Life), which works with transgender people, claiming to prosecutors that the association opposed “morality and family structure.” In both cases, prosecutors dropped the charges.
Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is a party, requires the Turkish authorities, including the judiciary, to protect freedom of association. Any restriction on this right requires convincing and compelling justification.
On May 21, 2008, Human Rights Watch presented the 123-page report, “‘We Need a Law for Liberation’: Gender, Sexuality, and Human Rights in a Changing Turkey”. The report documents a long and continuing history of violence and abuse based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The report calls on the EU to monitor respect for LGBT people’s basic rights as a barometer of Turkey’s human rights progress.
Russian gay activists were once again not allowed to stage Gay Pride parade, but they were able to hold a brief protest action in Moscow on 1 June. According to reports, overall the action passed without violence, with few, mainly anti-gay far-right protesters detained. What was remarkable that despite an incident with barricaded gay activists, police behaviour was different this time. Alexey Davidov, Russian gay activist who was briefly detained by the police said that "he was treated well".
When told he could leave, he was advised to be careful when leaving, the militia being concerned for his safety. An anti-gay protester also in the bus passed comment to the militia that "these gays are not men". The militia replied with a question: "Did you serve in the military yourself?". No was the reply from the protester. "So don't say you are a man," the militia replied.
Photos below via UKGayNews which did a remarkable job of live blogging from Russia's capital throughout the day.
*Gay activists fooled the Moscow authorities by unveiling their banners and flags in front of the statue of Tchaikovsky, arguably the most famous Russian in history who was homosexual.
(photo © 2008 GayRussia.ru)
*The banner hanging from an apartment opposite Moscow City Hall. It reads: "Rights for Gays and Lesbians " and "Homophobia of Mayor Luzhkov should be prosecuted"
For next year, Russian gay activists plan to coincide Moscow Gay Pride with Eurovision 2009 which will be held in Russia (either Moscow or St Petersburg). It is a very clever move, as even homophobe mayor Luzhkov (if Eurovision takes place in Moscow) would hardly be able to ban gay related event surrounded by thousands of LGBT people from throughout the Europe. He would otherwise face an inevitable major European scandal. If only for Russia's 'pride', thanks to Eurovision, Russian gay activists has the most real chance to date to stage a proper Gay Pride event next year.
The Homomonument - a memorial in the centre of Amsterdam - "commemorates all gay men and lesbians who have been subjected to persecution because of their homosexuality. Opened on September 5, 1987, it takes the form of three large pink triangles made of granite, set into the ground so as to form a larger triangle, on the bank of the Keizersgracht canal, near the historic Westerkerk church."
While in Amsterdam, I paid my respects to the memorial (see photos below).
BBC reports that a similar memorial, but of much larger scale, was inaugurated in Germany "to honour the thousands of homosexuals persecuted by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945":
The four-metre high monument, which has a window showing a film of two men kissing, was unveiled in Berlin.
The Nazis branded homosexuality an aberration threatening their perception of Germans as the master race, and 55,000 gay men were deemed criminals.
As many as 15,000 of those were killed in Nazi concentration camps.
Very few who survived ever received compensation from post-war German governments for the persecution they suffered.
The new memorial - which was inaugurated by Berlin's gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit, and Germany's Culture Minister, Bernd Neumann - is situated close to that for the six million victims of the Holocaust.
Mr Wowereit said it was typical of post-war Germany that the victims had not been honoured until now.
"This is symptomatic for a society... that did not abolish unjust verdicts, but partially continued to implement them; a society which did not acknowledge a group of people as victims, only because they chose another way of life," he said.
During the opening ceremony, Linda Freimane, member of ILGA-Europe’s (Europe's leading gay rights organisation) Executive Board, said:
“Today, our continent is a safe place to live if you are homosexual – safe in comparison with many other places on our earth, where homosexuality is still considered a punishable crime.
Europe has come a long way in its battle for the right of each individual and in dealing with its history of discrimination. Today, in many European countries, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people along with other vulnerable groups enjoy the protection of their state against prejudice, discrimination and violence. In many places in Europe same-sex partners can register their partnership or get married, in some countries the state also supports our wish to become equal parents. We have not yet reached full equality, but we sense the political will to get there.
But this is not enough. You must now also be the ones who do not stay silent when other countries, which have already entered the EU or are knocking on its door, violate the rights of their own citizens. Please remind homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, racist and sexist political leaders that they too belong to a Europe, which is built on the assumption of each individual’s right to freedom, dignity, and respect and to seek his or her own happiness. And please, do not forget all those LGBTI people around the world who live in fear and despair, who face persecution, humiliation, imprisonment and death for simply being who they are.
I hope that the present and future mayors of Berlin and members of German governments will remember to bring their foreign guests to this memorial when they show them the beautiful city of Berlin.”
ILGE-Europe reports further that "One side [of this memorial] has a small opening through which viewers can see a black and white art film scene of two men kissing. " A simple kiss could land you in trouble," says the text which accompanies the memorial. This memorial was designed by the Danish-Norwegian artistic duo Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset."
A short, looped clip of two men kissing, a key component of the memorial, was screened at Tate Modern (London) during the afternoon 27 May to coincide with this historical event. Photo below - via Tate Modern: Elmgreen & Dragset The Kiss (National Memorial for the Homosexual Victims of the Nazi Regime) 2008;
courtesy the artists and Victoria Miro Gallery.
*photo of the Berlin memorial - via ILGA-Europe
Monday, 2 June 2008
It feels sad right now. It feels like the end of an era in fashion... Great talent, fashion king, with not so successful personal life...
Below is a selection of articles, via BBC.
Yves Saint Laurent, considered by many as the greatest fashion designer of the 20th Century, has died in Paris at the age of 71.
Saint Laurent changed the face of the fashion industry when he became chief designer of the House of Dior at 21.
He designed clothes that reflected women's changing role in society: more confident personally, sexually and in the work-place.
He retired from haute couture in 2002 and had been ill for some time.
Saint Laurent died on Sunday evening in the French capital, the Pierre-Berge-Saint Laurent Foundation announced.
Pierre Berge, the designer's former business and personal partner, said he had died at his home after a long illness. He did not give details. More...
Yves Saint Laurent changed the face of the fashion industry when he became chief designer of the House of Dior at the age of 21.
*Paloma Picasso, daughter of the artist, was among his admirers
His creations adorned some of the world's most famous women; he counted Catherine Deneuve, Paloma Picasso and Princess Grace of Monaco among his most ardent admirers.
But so much too of what ordinary women wear today has been influenced by Saint Laurent.
He designed clothes that reflected women's changing role in society; more confident personally, sexually and in the work-place.
Yves Saint Laurent was born in Algeria, on 1st August 1936. Although his parents were wealthy (his father owned a chain of cinemas), French Algerians were often looked down upon by people in mainland France.
The young Yves had an unhappy childhood. Because of his homosexuality, he said, he was bullied and generally ill-treated at school.
His mother brought him to Paris and he joined the House of Dior in 1954, and such was his impact that he became chief designer when Christian Dior died three years later.
Saint Laurent brought elegance and beauty to haute couture
There followed a period of unremitting success. He was credited with introducing short skirts and leather jackets to the world of haute couture in 1960.
But later that same year his world and career collapsed. He was conscripted into the French Army at the height of the Algerian war, and suffered a nervous breakdown.
After three months in hospital he was discharged from the Army as medically unfit. But his return to the House of Dior was short-lived - he left almost immediately amid rumours that he had been dismissed.
He denied this, and claimed that he had resigned because the fashion house wanted him to work in London.
A lean period followed, but he made a comeback designing costumes for Zizi Jeanmaire, the French cabaret artiste. His love of the theatre led to many more triumphs as a set and costume designer.
In 1962, with his business and personal partner, Pierre Berge, he founded what was to become the multi-million-pound Saint Laurent fashion and perfume empire.
His flair re-established him as one of the world's top designers, dictating couture and ready-to-wear fashions. He brought in the safari jacket, the cape, peasant flounces and military blousons.
But his personal life was less successful. The depression that ended his military career persisted - his partner, Pierre Berge, once said Saint Laurent had been born with a nervous breakdown. His ego was famously fragile.
In the 1970s and '80s, he retreated into excess, becoming addicted to drink and drugs. He also indulged in what he himself called "an extraordinary sex life". *Pierre Berge (source)
He and Berge split romantically but remained business partners. Reclusive, Saint Laurent rarely left his Paris flat, where he lived surrounded by a massive art collection.
In 1999, he and Berge, having failed to find a suitable successor of their choice, sold their ready-to-wear company Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche to Gucci for $1bn after it had run into financial difficulties.
It was a decision he continued to regret, and left him a bitter and disillusioned man. He had little good to say for the new generation of designers, saying "I have nothing in common with this new world of fashion which has been reduced to mere window-dressing."
It was a sad end for a man whose very name became synonymous with elegance and beauty.
Sunday, 1 June 2008
With same-sex marriage now legal in California, mothers across India and elsewhere are eager to see their gay sons and daughters finally get hitched.
(source: Salon.com, by Sandip Roy)
When I left India for America, my aunts worried about who I might end up marrying. "I hope you'll marry another Bengali," an aunt told me. Over the years that relaxed to, "I hope she's a Hindu, even if she's not Bengali." Then it became, "At least another Indian," until finally we reached, "I hope you'll get married to someone before we all die."
She probably didn't mean another man.
But now it might just happen. Same-sex marriage is on a roll in California. First a Republican-dominated Supreme Court said there was no reason gays and lesbians couldn't get married. Now there comes a new Field Poll that says that, for the first time ever, a majority of Californians think same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. [...]
And the revolution will have to find some new frontier.
Imagine this ad in the local Indian weekly: Hindu very well-established Los Angeles family invites professional match for daughter, 25, 5-foot-3, slim, wheatish complexion, U.S. born, senior executive in Fortune 500 company. Loves music and dance. Prospective brides encouraged to reply in confidence with complete bio data and returnable photo. Must be professional, under 30, caste no bar.
It might just be time for the gay arranged marriage.
Full story is available here; photo via Salon.com
*Thanks Katy Pearce for the link