Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Armenia: US State Department reports on government's poor human rights record, violence against women and societal harrassment of homosexuals

The US State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor released its Advancing Freedom and Democracy Reports 2008 on 27 May which reflects recent presidential elections in Armenia as well as other democracy and human rights related issues in our country:

"Armenia is a constitutional republic with a popularly elected president and a unicameral legislature (National Assembly). The February 2008 presidential elections were significantly flawed. Problems included favorable treatment of the government's candidate, instances of ballot stuffing, vote-buying, multiple voting, voter intimidation, violence against opposition commission members and proxies, and suspiciously high turnout figures. On March 1, 2008, the government imposed a state of emergency and used force to disperse large crowds of protesters, restricting media freedoms and the right of assembly and arresting scores of protesters. The clashes between protesters and security services resulted in the deaths of at least 10 people. The state of emergency was lifted March 20, 2008, but restrictions on civil liberties remain in force due to a strict new law on public gatherings, pressure on opposition media, and continuing arrests and intimidation of government opponents. The government's human rights record remained poor. Citizens were not able to freely change their government; authorities beat pretrial detainees; the National Security Service and the national police force acted with impunity; authorities engaged in arbitrary arrest and detention; courts remained subject to political pressure from the executive branch; prison conditions were cramped and unhealthy, although slowly improving; and authorities imposed restrictions on citizens' privacy, freedom of press, and freedom of assembly. Journalists continued to practice self‑censorship, and the government and laws restricted religious freedom. Violence against women remained a problem, as well as trafficking in persons, discrimination against persons with disabilities, and societal harassment of homosexuals. There were reports of forced labor."

Full report is available here

This report echoes US State Department annual Human Rights Report for 2007 released in March 2008 which says the Armenian government didn't enforce laws against violence against women, human trafficking and harassment of homosexuals; and more specifically details discrimination against gay Armenians.

*/emphasis mine/

Monday, 26 May 2008

AGLA NY: Mikael Danielyan Attacker Should Be Brought to Justice


AGLA NY [Armenian Gay & Lesbian Association of New York] would like to express its dismay at the recent news concerning the armed attack in Yerevan against Mikael Danielian, President of the Helsinki Association.

Mikael Danielian has been a staunch supporter of human rights in Armenia for several decades now and as such is an invaluable asset to the country and its people.

We hope that the Armenian government and police will open a full and fair investigation and bring his assailant(s) to justice.

We would also like to remind the Government of Armenia that it is only by guaranteeing all its citizens their full civil and human rights that the country will remain a true democracy and abide by the Council of Europe laws and regulations that it's sworn to uphold.

*AGLA NY is part of a worldwide series of Armenian Gay and Lesbian Associations dedicated to educating the public about issues of importance to Armenian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered people and to creating safe spaces for them to express themselves freely and openly.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Armenia in Eurovision 2008: No. 2 - semifinal, No. 4 - final. Pretty good results!

I was watching Eurovision final at a Eurovision party hold in a popular gay venue in central London, Soho. I was with a group of my friends, straight and gay. Atmosphere was very nice there. The venue was packed. And Sirusho's performance was greeted with a big applause, while during her song many were dancing under Qele, Qele.

Well done, Sirusho!

I must say that Sirusho's performance has been improved a lot since semifinal, both vocally and... yeah, hair-wise. I am glad that Armenian team and Sirusho took a criticism the way it should be taken which resulted in a very good outcome. It was not perfect vocally but, overall, an excellent entry for Armenia. She looked stunning on the stage. And dancers were hit among TV viewers, party goers and TV commentators, who were impressed with their fitness, dance routines and... it was kind of hot too. One well-known English TV presenter (I am not referring here to Terry Wogan), after complimenting their fitness, says that they seem like can't get enough each other ;)

Well done, Sirusho! Congrats!!!

Btw, I heard that Sirusho's song is becoming a big club hit in Greece.

Poor Amenian Eurovision future entrants, Sirusho made your life more difficult. Now you have a target of 4th place to achieve and exceed.

South Caucasus

South Caucasus did quite well, overall. During semifinals, Armenia finished 2nd, Georgia - 5th, and Azerbaijan - 6th. And in a final, along with Armenia's 4th place, Azerbaijan finished at No.8 (exactly the way Armenia did at its first entry to Eurovision contest three years ago). Georgia just missed top ten, finishing 11th this year.

And yes, Armenia awarded 2 points to Azerbaijan during the first semifinal ("2 points from Armenia goes to Azerbaijan"). Good for Armenia. Azerbaijan, in the meantime, awarded Armenia "nil points"... May be in time, may be next year, may be in 5 years things would be different...

I loved so much when Georgian TV representative who presented 12 points to Armenia did it singing Qele Qele. It was super!

Winning song

I think Dima Bilan's winning song is definitely worse than his previous entry Never Let You Go two years ago which secured him 2nd place. Anyway, I started thinking whether I should make plans for Moscow in a year time for Eurovision 2009. Have not been in Moscow for ages. Well, may be, just for fun, really, and to blog from Moscow next year :)

BBC 'prediction'

BBC has to change the methodology of its Eurovision surveys. BBC poll failed spectacularly in its main predictions. Their predicted winner - Sweden, did not make it even into top 10 (Ukraine overshadowed her). In fact, Sweden passed through to the final only because of the jury vote (according to the new rules, 10th position in semi-finals is selected by a jury). Betting agencies, on the other hand, were proved to be much more reliable in predicting results.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

My Eurovision 2008 favourites: Armenia, then Portugal and France

Only hours before Eurovision final begins, I thought I would share my favourites, apart from Armenia, of course.

Btw, although Sirusho's chances to win declined following the semi-final performance, she is still considered among top favourites both in betting agencies and Eurovision fan polls. According to the reports on final rehearsals from Belgrade, she looked fantastic on the stage, her performance improved, but vocally there was still "some room for improvements until the final". It remains to be seen if she will deliver the expectations. Any place lower than or equal to No. 8 would be considered as disappointment, as she is the best Armenian entry to date. If not winning (miracle?!), I wish her to be in top 5.

Unzipped and Unzipped: Gay Armenia wishes Sirusho Good Luck!!! I will be voting for you!

Apart from Armenia, here are my two other favourites, which I will vote for too. They are unconventional favourites. I do not care if they are not among bookies' or poll winners. I like them.

Amazing performance. I have not heard Vânia Fernandes before the second semi-final, and was pleasantly surprised, and voted for her, and was very happy that she is through to the final. If not Yerevan, I do not mind Lisbon 2009.

It's different; it has a very retro feeling; it's unlike any other entry in this year's Eurovision. Sébastien Tellier will perform "Divine" for France. "I come from a very underground world in France, so for me Eurovision is the complete opposite and therefore new opportunity to make my art of paradox. In the underground there are too many questions about my music, but in the popular music arena, there is just one question - "do I love it or not?" It's a very simple vote and I love it.[...] Since he's described Eurovision as 'vulgar', is Tellier not afraid of tarring himself with the same brush? 'It's a part of my work to denigrate the past,' he declares, 'because I don't like it; I prefer the future. Even if I had to be vulgar to change, I prefer that. I always say that to be a nobel in the future, you have to be a rebel now, so if you use vulgarity and kitsch, but make really good art, then may be I can transform them.'" (from the interview with Time Out London magazine)

I'd like to finish this post with a hilarious comment by Time Out London:

"...there is a whole new element to Eurovision this year. Following the recent revelations that, when he was not violently repressing political opposition, General Franco's masterplan involved him conducting an international espionage campaign to sabotage Cliff Richard's chances of winning the talent contest in 1968, who knows what other secretive conspiracies the 'Eurovision' may bring? Complimentary sushi trays for UK entrant Andy Abraham courtesy of Vladimir Putin? Robert Mugabe refusing to accept the results as definitive when his rendition of 'I'm Just A Killer For Your Love' is disallowed? Or will it just be a flamboyant celebration of how absolutely bonkers the people of our continent are (epitomised by Spanish entrant Rodolfo Chikilicuatre)? One thing is certain: with the UK being represented by an ex-binman 'X-factor' reject, the trophy won't be ours."

Friday, 23 May 2008

Russian Health Ministry Ends Ban on Blood Donations by Gays

Russian gay activists celebrate their first major victory two years after the start of the campaign

MOSCOW, May 23, 2008 (  –  The Russian Ministry of Health and Social Development has repealed the ban on blood donations by homosexual people, it emerged last night.

This move by the Russian authorities  is a victory for the activists from Russian LGBT Human Rights, Project, who have fought the restrictions for more than two years.

Tatyana Golikova, the Minister of Health and Social Development signed the decree on April 16, it emerged yesterday.

The decree amends the rules on blood donations which were  implemented on September 14, 2001.

According to the amendments, provisions for absolute ban on blood donations by people from the so called groups of high risk (homosexuals, drug addicts and prostitutes) are being repealed.


Answering my question (passed by a reader of this blog), Trygve Utstumo (Armenia and me blog), who is working with Armenian Red Cross now says the following re gay blood donation in Armenia (I agree and assume that in Armenia it is like in most countries, for now, and it is discrimination!):

"About the blood donations: Armenia Red Cross is currently not involved in the blood transfusions in Armenia. As far as I’ve understood this is organized by a sub-body of the Ministry of Health. I honestly can’t answer his question, but I would assume that they do as in most other countries: not accepting blood donations from practicing homosexuals. (Not saying that I agree with this practice.)"

Hopefully, this great news from Russia will have influence at some point on Armenia too.

Armenia: Leading Human Rights Defender Assaulted (update)


There are some not so surprising developments regarding yesterday's assault towards prominent Armenian human rights activist Mikael Danielyan. Attacker is turning into a "victim", perfectly in line with the expressed concerns that "state connected Tigran Urikhanyan will happily walk away, while the human rights activist, who is known for his criticism of the Authorities, will be left crying for justice". And it seems that police is taking Urikhanyan's take of the story (surprise-surprise!).

Meanwhile, Urikhanyan accuses Danielyan in "throwing indecent remarks at passing-by girls" alleging that "he tried to behave with restrain" at first but Mikael Danielyan continued with swearing and then attacked him first with "some object". Only then Urikhanyan (according to his 'story') put out his gas pistol and "shot into the air". He desparately wants others to understand that he behaved not as a head of political party but as "ordinary Armenian man".

՚Խնդրում եմ իմ գործողությունները դիտարկել ոչ թե իբրեւ կուսակցության առաջնորդի, այլ շարքային հայ տղամարդուՙ

Urikhanyan further alleges that Mikael Danielyan was drunk and perhaps "under the influence of drugs". The best defence is attacking first - it's as old as the earth!

But wait, the best bits from Urikhanyan are below:
"Seven years, I struggled for stability in the country [Unzipped: Gay Armenia - who would have thought that all these years, days and nights, he was struggling for our country; that's the real 'discovery' for me] and the gradual development, and today it's with the pain I note that the country is in such a situation that financed from abroad, gay rights advocate, half-man with the earrings and hair-tail can put his hands on and throw indecent remarks at Armenian female students and then drunkenly swear at someone who made a remark on his behaviour".

«7 տարի պայքարել եմ Հանրապետությունում կայունության ու աստիճանական զարգացման համար ու այսօր, ցավով եմ նշում, որ երկրում ստեղծվել է այնպիսի վիճակ, որ արտասահմանից ֆինանսավորվող, սեռական փոքրամասնությունների շահերը պաշտպանող, ականջողավոր ու պոչիկավոր կիսատղամարդը կարողանում է ձեռք տալ կամ լկտիություններ տեղալ հայ ուսանողուհիների հասցեին ու դրանից հետո լկտիաբար հարբած հայհոյել իրեն դիտողություն անող մարդուն»,-ավելացրեց Հայաստանի առաջադիմական կուսակցության նախագահ Տիգրան Ուրիխանյանը:

If you even for a moment thought that head of "Progressive Party" Urikhanyan is homophobe or "aggressive towards sexual minorities", you are wrong, oh, you are so wrong. Reading reports further.

In an interview with A1+, Urikhanyan did not deny that he "accused" Mikael Danielyan in "defending gays and destabilising country". "I do not have aggressiveness towards sexual minorities, I am aggressive towards aggressiveness of minorities". Make any sense to you? I think so too, so is A1+ reporter who tried to clarify as to what Urikhanyan meant. "It's out of topic; I am not interested in what others are doing". Very "progressive" idea, indeed.

Ուրիխանյանը չհերքեց այն լուրերը, թե միջադեպի ընթացքում երեկ Միքայել Դանիելյանին մեղադրել է արվամոլներին պաշտպանելու եւ երկիրը ապակայունացնելու մեջ. ՚Ես ագրեսիվ մոտեցում չունեմ սեռական փոքրամասնությունների նկատմամբ, ես ագրեսիվ մոտեցում ունեմ փոքրամասնությունների կողմից կիրառվող բռնություններինՙ: Իսկ ի՞նչ նկատի ունեք` ՚Ա1+ՙ-ի հարցին` Ուրիխանյանը ասաց. ՚Դա թեմայից դուրս է, եւ ինձ չի հետաքրրում, թե ով ինչով է զբաղվումՙ:

Human Rights Watch issued a statement today demanding from Armenian authorities a proper investigation of the circumstances of the attack on Mikael Danielyan.

"The circumstances of the attack on Mikael Danielian suggest that his prominence as a human rights defender was a motive. Given this, the Armenian authorities must consider it as part of a thorough and objective investigation into the attack."

Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch

Full text of this statement, as well as statements by Helsinki Association of Vanadzor, Armenia (signed along others by Zaruhi Postanjyan, MP from opposition Heritage party), in Armenian, and Association of Armenian Attorneys and Lawyers of France, in French - are under comments section of this post, below.

Surprisingly, there are no reports on this incident on RFE/RL. We have not heard yet from Armenian Ombudsman too.

*source of photo - Zhamanak

Thursday, 22 May 2008

"A little bit of gay history was made in the Turkish capital"

The march in Konur Street, Ankara.

Despite widespread homophobia and discrimination, as evidenced in a report released today by Human Rights Watch, UKGayNews says that "a little bit of gay history was made in the Turkish capital on Saturday afternoon" where LGBT activists staged their first ever Gay March to mark International Day Against Homophobia:

Over 100 gay men and women, bisexuals and transgender people assembled in front of the human rights monument in Yuksel Street for a march to Parliament on International Day Against Homophobia jointly organised by Kaos Gay and Lesbian Association and Pink Life LGBTT Association.

Joining local activists were Michael Cashman MRP, the president of the European Parliament’s all-party Intertroup for gay and lesbian rights, and Dutch feminist and author Anja Meulenbelt.

The march encountered minor difficulty. The police, who outnumbered the demonstrators, stopped the march and demanded that the rainbow flags and banners be taken down.

Marchers agreed and were then allowed to continue. There were not other problems.

“I found these two days and in particular the march deeply moving,” said Mr. Cashman.

“There were barely one hundred of us, and it was a reminder to me of how we in countries like the UK take our rights for granted.

“Those Turkish women and men on that march are heroes and warriors who are prepared to put themselves on the front line to achieve equality. I will never forget them and our sense of solidarity.”

Mr. Cashman also spoke at Friday’s conference on LGBT rights and IDAHO where he said that with “courage and conviction”, equality will become a reality.

Earlier on Friday, Mr. Cashman had a meeting with The Queen, UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband and the Prime Minister of Turkey. The Queen was on a state visit to Turkey.

Kursad Kahramanoglu (former ILGA-Europe general secretary), Michael Cashman and Anja Meulenbelt (Dutch feminist author)

*photos - by Ismail Alacaoglu, courtesy KAOS GL, via UKGayNews

Turkey: Homophobic Violence Points to Rights Crisis (Human Rights Watch)

"Democracy means defending all people’s basic rights against the dictatorship of custom and the tyranny of hate."
Scott Long
Director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program, HRW

EU Should Insist on Reforms to Counter Persisting Inequality and Abuses
Human Rights Watch
22 May 2008

Turkey should urgently change law and policy to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people from extensive harassment and brutality on the streets, in homes, and in state-run institutions, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. Human Rights Watch also called on the European Union to make Turkey’s membership aspirations contingent on ending endemic abuses and guaranteeing equal rights and protection for LGBT people.

The 123-page report, “‘We Need a Law for Liberation’: Gender, Sexuality, and Human Rights in a Changing Turkey,” documents a long and continuing history of violence and abuse based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Human Rights Watch conducted more than 70 interviews over a three-year period, documenting how gay men and transgender people face beatings, robberies, police harassment, and the threat of murder. The interviews also exposed the physical and psychological violence lesbian and bisexual women and girls confront within their families. Human Rights Watch found that, in most cases, the response by the authorities is inadequate if not nonexistent.

“Democracy means defending all people’s basic rights against the dictatorship of custom and the tyranny of hate,” said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “Where lives are at stake, Turkey needs to take concrete action and pass comprehensive legislation to protect them.”

In recent years, Turkish authorities have repeatedly harassed human rights defenders and civil society groups working on issues of gender and sexuality. Most recently, on April 7, 2008, police raided the offices of Lambda Istanbul, a nongovernmental organization that has advocated for LGBT people’s rights for over 10 years. The police justified the incursion by claiming the organization “encourages” and “facilitates” prostitution. The Istanbul Governor’s Office has also filed a lawsuit trying to close down Lambda, arguing its name and objectives are “against the law and morality.” Lambda will once again have to defend its right to exist before the Beyoðlu 3rd Civil Court of First Instance on May 29, 2008.

The report examines a wide range of human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Several transgender people told Human Rights Watch how police tortured and raped them. One gay man recounted how another man stabbed him 17 times in an attempted murder that still remains unsolved. A lesbian couple described how their parents used violence to try to separate them; when they turned to a prosecutor for help, he refused, questioning them instead about their sex life. Human Rights Watch also found that, in a flagrant violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Turkish military continues to bar gay men from serving in its forces. At the same time, Turkey withholds any recognition of conscientious objection to military service. Some objectors must instead identify themselves as “sick” – and are forced to undergo humiliating and degrading examinations to “prove” their homosexuality.

The report acknowledges that there have been some positive changes in Turkish law and policy as the country attempts to join the European Union. However, it also calls on the EU to insist on respect for LGBT people’s basic rights as a barometer of Turkey’s human rights progress.

Turkish law offers no express protections for LGBT people’s universal human rights. In 2005, Turkey reviewed some of its laws to bar discrimination, a move meant to show Turkey’s commitment to European Union standards. However, Turkey has yet to adopt a comprehensive antidiscrimination law that conforms to EU standards.

“In the complex path toward European Union accession, this report points to an area where little or nothing has changed,” said Long. “The EU must fully incorporate issues of sexual orientation and gender identity when considering Turkey’s application for membership.”

*/emphasis mine/

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Eurovision: Kiss of the Day (Russia's Bilan + Belarus's Alehno)

Dima Bilan + Ruslan Alehno

*source of photo - (via

Hate crime in Yerevan: Armenia's prominent human rights activist Mikael Danielyan was shot at and physically and verbally assaulted

A1+ reports that prominent Armenian human rights activist, head of Armenia's Helsinki Association Mikael Danielyan was shot at and physically and verbally assaulted in downtown Yerevan today. This assault was carried out by former leader of "Armenian Progressive Party" Tigran Urikhanian. He allegedly called Mikael Danielyan "CIA agent who defends the interests of gays" (in Armenian this verbal assault sounds even more disgusting "հերիք ա, կյանքներս կերար, ՑՌՈՒ-շնիկի մեկը, արվամոլներին ես պաշտպանո՞ւմ"). IA Regnum also carries this story (in Russian). Luckily, Mikael Danielyan did not get seriously injured.

Whether Armenian judiciary will conduct proper investigation of this apparent hate crime, physical and verbal assaults towards prominent human rights activist, and whether those who conducted this crime will get punished, remains to be seen. This should be a test case, including for Armenian Human Rights Ombudsman. I will definitely keep an eye on this story.

Below are news in English, and more detailed reports (in Armenian), via A1+ (here and here)


Today about 3:00 an unknown person fired a shot at the chairman of the Helsinki Association-Armenia Mikael Danielian on Terian Street, Yerevan. According to Danielian's friend they had hardly stopped near a traffic light when Danielian noticed a friend walking along the pavement. He stretched out to salute him.

Just at that moment a BMW began signaling continuously from behind. In reply to Danielian’s inquiries a fellow got off the BMW and started railing at the human rights activist and calling him a CIA “agent” who defends the interests of gays. Afterwards, he took out a gun and shot at Danielian’s chest. Fortunately, the wound wasn't serious as according to the preliminary investigation the criminal had shot from a gas pistol.

Wounded Danielian had been taken to the police department of Yerevan's central Kentron district before an ambulance arrived. Danielian’s friend informed A1+ that the moment Danielian was being taken to the police department the criminals were still on the spot.

Witnesses say that the suspect was the former leader of the Armenian Progressive Party Tigran Urikhanian who was taken to a police station.


Այսօր ժամը 15.00-ի սահմաններում Երեւանի Տերյան փողոցի վրա անհայտ անձը կրակել է Հայաստանի Հելսինկյան ընկերակցության նախագահ Միքայել Դանիելյանի վրա: Դեպքը պատահել է առաջին հայացքից կենցաղային թվացող պատճառով. ըստ Միքայել Դանիելյանի ընկերոջ, իրենք ավտոմեքենայով լուսացույցի տակ կանգնած են եղել, երբ Միքայել Դանիելյանը նկատել է Տերյան փողոցով քայլող իր ընկերոջը եւ ավտոմեքենայի միջից ողջունել նրան:

Այդ պահին նրանց ավտոմեքենայի ետեւում կանգնած BWM մակնիշի ավտոմեքենան սկսել է ձայնային ազդանշաններ տալ առանց դադարի, իսկ երբ իրավապաշտպան Միքայել Դանիելյանը շրջվել եւ հարցրել է, թե ինչ է պատահել, ինչու է աղմկում, արտասամանյան մակնիշի ավտոմեքենայից իջել է մի երիտասարդ, հայհոյել Դանիելյանին, հընթացս ասելով՝ ՚հերիք ա, կյանքներս կերար, ՑՌՈՒ-շնիկի մեկը, արվամոլներին ես պաշտպանո՞ւմՙ, ու գրպանից հանել ատրճանակն ու կրակել Միքայել Դանիելյանի կրծքավանդակին: Բարեբախտաբար, վնասվածքը լուրջ չի, քանի որ, ըստ նախնական տեղեկության, անհայտ հանցագործը կրակել է գազի ատրճանակից: Թեեւ Միքայել Դանիելյանի վրա եղել են արյան հետքեր, նրան բուժօգնություն չի ցուցաբերվել, քանի որ մինչեւ շտապ բուժօգնության ավտոմեքենան կհասներ դեպքի վայր, ոստիկաններն արդեն Դանիելյանին տեղափոխել էին Կենտրոնի ոստիկանության բաժին: Միքայել Դանիելյանին ուղեկցող ընկերը ՚Ա1+ՙ-ին տեղեկացրեց, որ այն ժամանակ, երբ իրենց տանում էին բաժին, հանցագործներները դեռ դեպքի վայրում էին:

Ըստ ականատեսների` Միքայել Դանիելյանի վրա կրակողը եղել է Հայաստանի Առաջադիմական կուսակցության նախկին առաջնորդ, հայ հանրությանը ոչ անհայտ Տիգրան Ուլիխանյանը, որը եւս տարվել է ոստիկանություն:


Հայաստանի Հելսինկյան ընկերակցության նախագահ Միքայել Դանիելյանի վրա Տերյան -Մոսկովյան փողոցում ասօր գազի ատրճանակից կրակել է Հայաստանի առաջադիմական կուսակցության նախկին առաջնորդ Տիգրան Ուրիխանյանը: Ուրիխանյանը չի հանգստացել միայն կրակելով:

՚Երբ ես տեղեկացա եւ գնացի Տերյան փողոց, մեքենան, որից դուրս էր եկել Տիգրան Ուլիխանյանը եւ կրակել, դեռ դեպքի վայրում էր: Իմ ներկայությամբ մի երիտասարդ մոտեցավ Միքայելին եւ ասաց` արի առանձին խոսենք: Միքայելը հարցրեց, թե երիտասարդը ով է, վերջինս էլ ներկայացավ Արսեն անունով: Այդ ընթացքում նորից մոտեցավ Ուրիխանյանը` հայհոյելով ասաց.՚Կյանքներս կերար, Գեյ-ին ես պաշտպանում, երկիրը քանդում եսՙ եւ հարվածեց Միքայելին: Ուրիխանյանի օրինակին հետեւելով Միքայելին հարվածեց նաեւ Արսեն ներկայացած տղանՙ,- ՚Ա1+ՙ-ին պատմեց Հելսինկյան քաղաքացիական ընկերակցության Վանաձորի գրասենյակի նախագահ Արթուր Սաքունցը: Նա նաեւ հայտնեց, որ Տիգրան Ուրիխանյանն ու նրա ընկերը Տերյան փողոցում այնքան են սպասել մինչեւ ոստիկանները ժամանեն, իսկ հետո մոտեցել են ու նրանց ասել.

՚Ես լսեցի, որ Տիգրան Ուրիխանյանը ոստիկաններին ասում էր, թե իբր Միքայելը ինչ-որ աղջկա է նեղացրել եւ նրանք էլ իբր փորձել են պաշտպանել: Իրականում ոչ մի աղջկա խնդիր էլ չկարՙ:

Երբ ՚Ա1+ՙ-ը ժամանեց դեպի վայր, Միքայել Դանիելյանին եւ Տիգրան Ուրիխանյանին` ընկերոջ հետ տեղափոխել էին Ոստիկանության Կենտրոն-Նորք-Մարաշի բաժին: Ոտիկանոթյան մոտ որոշ աշխատակիցներ միմյանց հետ ծիծաղելով զրուցում էին.՚Ագենտ ենք բռնելՙ: Քիչ հետո Ոստիկանություն եկավ ՀՀ-ում ԱՄՆ դեսպանության Քաղաքական եւ տնտեսական բաժնի աշխատակից Մարկո Վելիկոնյան: Նա հայտնեց, որ եկել են պարզելու, թե ինչ է տեղի ունցել իրավապաշտպանի հետ, քանի որ իրենց ահազանգել են դեպքի կապակցությամբ: Պարոն Վելիկոնյան հրաժարվեց հարցերի պատասխանել, բացատրելով, որ ինքն էլ տեղյակ չէ, թե ինչ է տեղի ունեցել եւ միայն նշեց, որ իր ներկայությունը պայմանավորված է ոչ թե Միքայլ Դանիելյանի անձով, այլ այն փաստով, որ հարձակվել են իրավապաշտպանի վար: Տեղի ունեցածի մասին Հայաստանի Հելսինկյան ընկերակցությունը ահազանգել է ՀՀ-ում բոլոր դեպանություններին եւ Մարդու իարվունքների պաշտպանին: Միքայել Դանիելյանն ու Տիգրան Ուրիխանյանը դեռ Ոստիկանության բաժնում են:

*photo - via A1+

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Eurovision: In final, but ...

Well, Armenia with Sirusho is through to final, but... Sirusho's performance today was definitely better than last night's rehearsal. Three-male dance show was much much better and looked quite OK. But what I always considered her strongest part, vocally it was rather disappointing. I know she can do much better (I heard it!), I do not know what happened to her voice over the last few days. Let's hope that for final on Saturday it will get improved. She desperately needs it if there is any chance to finish in top ten. And someone from our team in Belgrade, please do something with her hair: she has beautiful hair but they are not properly set for her performance and rather interfering badly with it.

Anyway, unless miracle happens till Saturday, I guess it is (unfortunately!) safe to say that we won't see Eurovision 2009 in Yerevan.

Monday, 19 May 2008

HIV/AIDS Candlelight March in Yerevan

Armenia and me reports that Red Cross youth volunteers organised a candlelight march in Yerevan this Sunday in memory for the victims of AIDS and to raise awareness on HIV/AIDS related issues, as part of international day of actions:

"In Yerevan, more than 60 Red Cross youth volunteers marched through the citycenter with candles this sunday. By posters and talking with curious bystanders they managed to get a lot of attention on this important case. Several bystanders also tagged along and followed us to the square by Moscow cinema where we filled an HIV ribbon on the ground with candles."

Below are some photos from the event (source - Trygve.u )

Eurovision 2009 - Yerevan, Armenia (!): Go Sirusho! Go Armenia!

I’d love to see Eurovision 2009 in Yerevan, Armenia. For few weeks, Yerevan would become a gay capital of Europe. (Average Armenian perhaps not that aware that one of the most active and influential supporters and fans of the Eurovision song contest are LGBT communities in the continent) For several months at least, Armenia would be in headlines all over the Europe, and its record on gay rights and equality would be scrutinised as never before. And not only gay rights, but human rights in general. Yes, it may sound superficial at first glance, but let’s keep this in mind and reflect it when (if) day comes. Besides, holding Europe-wide event such as Eurovision would be a great exposure to different cultures and free spirit. It would be invaluable to boost tourism in Armenia. And it would be a great fun and celebration of pop music!

And after all, we have our best entry (to date) in Eurovision, and Sirusho is one of the top favourites in online polls and betting agencies, although this may have unexpected side effects too: At this moment, Armenia is one of the favourites with the bookmakers. Does this fact put some extra pressure on you, or does it make you more confident?

Sirusho: "I don't even want to think about that, because I remember something that happened in 2006: Kate Ryan was leading according to many predictions and odds, but in the end, she didn't even qualify for the final. I don't know what happened - maybe nobody voted for her because everyone thought she would make it to the final anyway? She had a great song, and she had all that the Eurovision Song Contest actually needs. That's why I don't even want to think about that."

My main problem with Sirusho’s performance is that dancing or show part. I am not satisfied with the way it looked during rehearsals. Not that I am against three-male dance show, quite the contrary, but it does not look coherent to me, it does look somehow separate from Sirusho’s performance, and not very impressive on the TV screen. With that song we could have staged much better show than the one I witnessed over rehearsals. That famous Russian who was hired to stage Armenian show did not deliver my expectations, as well as many others'. Let’s hope that during the semi-final it will look different, and camera work will be able to catch Sirusho’s performance at its best.

Other than that, I think vocally Sirusho is doing a great job and on the stage she looks stunning. Fingers crossed for her! Go Sirusho! Go Armenia!

*source of photo -

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Unzipped: Gay Armenia - LIST 2008

To mark International Day Against Homophobia (17 May) -exactly one year ago I started my Unzipped: Gay Armenia blog - I launch Unzipped: Gay Armenia LIST 2008, which will be published annually. This LIST recognises individuals, organisations, media, blogs, events and other contributors(tions) to gay rights and equality in Armenia and Diaspora. It also 'names' main homophobic occurrences over the past year, to evolve eventually into Armenian version of Homophobia Hall of Shame. Time period covered by the LIST incorporates one year prior to 17 May (including 16 May). 

This year the LIST was compiled by myself only. For the following years, I will do my best to take into account also readers' and broader Armenian LGBT community views. This LIST by no means claimed to be complete. However, it recognises, to my best knowledge, key developments relating to Armenian LGBT community in Armenia and Diaspora over the past year. New categories will be added in future depending on availability of entries (like Exhibition of the Year, Book of the Year and so on).

1. Person of the Year - International

Mariela CastroMariela Castro, daughter of Cuba's incumbent president Raul Castro. She proves once more that one person can make enormous impact in transforming a society and changing its values.

I wish we have Armenian 'Mariela Castro'!

Castro champions gay rights in Cuba (photo via BBC)

"As head of the government-funded National Centre for Sex Education, she is trying to change people's attitudes towards minority groups in the community.

She is currently attempting to get the Cuban National Assembly to adopt what would be among the most liberal gay and transsexual rights law in Latin America."

2. Person of the Year - Armenia/Diaspora


Micha Meroujean, head of former AGLA France, well known gay rights activist, originally from Armenia, currently living in France. He set up Armenian gay rights organisation in France - AGLA France, which recently ceased to exist. However, he continues advocating gay rights and equality in Armenia and Diaspora, supporting local LGBT activists.

He set up Armenian Social Network online - Yesoudo, which I currently consider to be the most gay friendly Armenian social network on the web. He is also a talented film-maker. Last summer he presented his film in Armenia - "The Diary of an Exiled Queer" - first of its kind in Armenian reality where via personal diary and perspectives he touches the issues of gay rights, equality and homophobia in Armenia and Diaspora.

3. Good news of the Year

AGLA NY: Armenian gay rights organisation in New York expands

PINK Armenia - new LGBT related NGO registered in Armenia (December 2007)

4. Bad news of the Year

AGLA France: Armenian gay rights organisation ceased to exist

5.  Homophobe of the Year

Armenian Aryan Order 

(Attention seeking bigots say "Thanks" for withdrawal of Hoagland's nomination as US envoy to Armenia)

6. Article of the Year

Armenia's Animosity Towards Gays (by Shushan Harutyunyan, Hetq Online)

7. Blog posts of the Year

Blogrel  - Critical response to the article "Homosexuals Are Hidden in Armenia" (see also So why "Homosexuals Are Hidden in Armenia"?)

A1plus blog - Արմեն Հարությունյանի պատասխանները “Ա1+”-ի ընթերցողների հարցերին ("Armenian Ombudsman Armen Harutyunyan answers to the questions of A1plus blog readers" - see also here)

A1plus blog - Այսօր հոմոֆոբիայի դեմ պայքարի միջազգային օրն է (Today marks International Day Against Homophobia")

Oneworld Multimedia Blog - Homophobia in the South Caucasus

Special mention to Onnik Krikorian - as Regional Editor for Caucasus at Global Voices Online - for constantly linking to Armenia and South Caucasus LGBT related blog posts thus ensuring these issues have wider exposure and audience.

8. New LGBT related blog of the Year

Armenian Gay & Lesbian Association of New York (AGLA NY) blog

9. Homophobic articles of the Year

Here is hoping that these Armenian newspapers will change their attitude and will start publishing articles to be mentioned under the "Article of the Year" category for the next year's LIST 2009.

Aravot daily - ՀԱՅԱՍՏԱՆՈՒՄ ՀԱՄԱՍԵՌԱՄՈԼՆԵՐԸ ԹԱՔՆՎԱԾ ԵՆ (see also So why "Homosexuals Are Hidden in Armenia"?)

Aravot dailyՉեն սիրում քաղաքական խաղեր, արհամարհում են համասեռամոլներին (see also Aravot newspaper: Routine homophobia on ‘behalf’ of Armenian bloggers)

Chorrord Ishkhanutyun - (no direct link to original article in Armenian; see Opposition "Chorrord Ishkhanutyun" newspaper must stop using homophobic references in its attacks on Armenia PM Tigran Sargsyan)

9. LGBT related international reports for Armenia

Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner calls for specific legal provisions in Armenia to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation

Discrimination against gay Armenians: US State Department Human Rights Report 2007

1o. NGO(s) of the Year

These two local NGOs directly work with the LGBT community in Armenia and deserve recognition and support.

We For Civil Equality (WFCE)

PINK Armenia

11. Venue of the Year

Meline's Bar - despite closure and re-opening again, controversial opinions, Meline's remains the first and the only gay bar in Yerevan, a place where LGBT Armenians can be themselves, spend evening/night out, relax and have fun. For other gay-friendly venues, see my Armenia Gay Guide

12. Social networking site of the Year

Yesoudo - Armenian Social Network,  the most gay friendly Armenian social network on the web

13. Film(s) of the Year

The Diary of an Exiled Queer (director Micha Meroujean) - see above, "Person of the Year - Armenia/Diaspora"

East/West - Sex and Politics (director Jochen Hick, Germany, 2008) - an in-depth account of the attempts to mount a Gay Pride parade in Moscow in 2006 and 2007 - prominently features gay Armenian storyline (P.S. I intend to write about this film in a separate post; when ready, I will indicate the link under the comments section below)

The 2008 Homophobia Hall of Shame

Human Rights Watch

The president of Poland, the leader of Uganda, and the UK Home Office are making prejudicial policies and public statements that deny people’s dignity and endanger their lives, Human Rights Watch said today in its annual “Hall of Shame” to mark the International Day Against Homophobia.

On May 17, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups in dozens of countries will commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia, an initiative launched in 2005 that commemorates the day in 1990 when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its roster of disorders. 

“Homophobia allows political leaders to smear loving relationships, smash the doors of houses, and slam the doors of a safe haven that should welcome refugees,” said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “Where prejudice trumps privacy and intolerance stifles intimacy, no one’s rights are safe and no one’s place is secure.” 

Inductees to the "Hall of Shame"
Human Rights Watch named three leaders to the “Hall of Shame” for their actions in the past year in endangering LGBT people’s dignity, families, and safety: 

President Lech Kaczynski of Poland: for denying people respect for their family. Kaczynski and his allies – including his brother, the former prime minister – have campaigned for years to deny basic rights to Poland’s LGBT people. In March 2008, in a nationally televised speech, Kaczynski railed against ratifying the European Union Reform Treaty, which would adopt the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. He claimed that provisions in the charter prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation would force legal recognition of same-sex relationships. He used film clips of the Canadian marriage ceremony of the US couple Brendan Fay and Thomas Moulton to warn of the “dangers” of legalizing same-sex marriage. 
Fay and Moulton spoke out against how the president exploited their relationship. Eventually, they visited Poland to send a message that their marriage was a promise and affirmation, not a threat to others. Kaczynski is only one among many public figures worldwide who attack LGBT people’s families for political ends. In Guatemala in 2007, Congress debated a bill to eliminate single-parent or other non-nuclear families from the definition of “family,” and bar same-sex couples from any form of legal recognition. A proposed measure in Romania would define heterosexual marriage as the basis of the family, depriving many Romanian families of basic civil rights. In the name of protecting a particular model of the family, such measures deny innumerable families desperately needed protections. 

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda: for denying people privacy and security. In August 2007, after a coalition of LGBT organizations in Uganda launched a campaign called “Let Us Live in Peace,” the government showed it had no intention of doing so. Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo publicly called homosexuality “unnatural”; while dismissing claims that police harassed LGBT people, he warned, “We know them, we have details of who they are.” The deputy attorney general called for the arrest of gays and lesbians, “because homosexuality is an offense under the laws of Uganda.” 
LGBT Ugandans have faced official harassment for years. In 2005, authorities raided the home of human rights defender Juliet Victor Mukasa and forced her into hiding. Government officials have censored media discussions of homosexuality and threatened to respond to any advocacy for LGBT rights with prison terms. 
A colonial-era sodomy law in Uganda punishes homosexual conduct with life imprisonment. Worldwide, over 85 countries criminalize consensual homosexual conduct. Such laws give governments like Uganda’s a pretext to invade people’s private lives and deny them an essential right: to live in peace. 

Home Office, United Kingdom: for denying people protection. People fleeing countries where they face abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity often face asylum systems that fail to recognize the reality of their persecution, despite clear legal obligations not to deport individuals to countries where they are at risk of torture and abuse. The recent ordeal of the Iranian asylum-seeker Mehdi Kazemi, who in 2007 faced deportation from the United Kingdom to Iran – despite laws imposing torture and the death penalty for homosexual conduct in Iran – points to how the UK Home Office is failing to implement its human rights responsibilities. In 2008, Lord West of Spithead, Home Office minister in the UK House of Lords, said: “We are not aware of any individual who has been executed in Iran in recent years solely on the grounds of homosexuality, and we do not consider that there is systematic persecution of gay men in Iran.” 
“An asylum system where only the dead are found deserving is an asylum system that does not work,” said Long. “Human rights law demands that those who face persecution be given protection, but persecution does not require corpses to prove it.” 
Human rights law forbids deporting people – including LGBT people – to places where they risk torture and serious abuse. 

Recent Progress in LGBT Rights

Human Rights Watch has also pointed to three areas where advances in human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have given reason for hope.

In Colombia, the nation’s Constitutional Court has handed down landmark decisions protecting LGBT people’s rights in the sphere of relationship and family. It extended health care benefits and pension benefits to same-sex partners on a basis equal to those enjoyed in heterosexual relationships, and condemned the lack of legal protection for same-sex relationships. The decisions cited human dignity, personal autonomy, and equality as the core principles behind these decisions. The court has shown leadership to the country’s Congress, which has debated at least six legislative initiatives to protect LGBT people’s families in the last decade, without enacting any of them into law.  

In Ireland, the High Court finally ended a transgender woman’s 10-year legal struggle for state recognition, by ruling that the government had to grant her identity papers corresponding to the gender she lived in. The decision marked the first time that the High Court had ever found an Irish law incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The “Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Law in Relation to Issues of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” which spell out international legal standards for protecting against violence and discrimination, state that: “Each person’s self-defined sexual orientation and gender identity is integral to their personality and is one of the most basic aspects of self-determination, dignity and freedom.”  

In Nepal, after years of civil war accompanied by violence targeting lesbians, gays, and transgender people, the Supreme Court on December 17, 2007, mandated legal and constitutional protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. The landmark decision requires that LGBT people’s human rights be addressed in the process of reconciliation and reform, and may make Nepal a regional leader in addressing discrimination.

“In each of these cases, dedicated judges have upheld rights and the rule of law in the face of prejudice,” said Long. “Their commitment to principle should be an example to political leaders.” 

Friday, 16 May 2008

Armenian gay rights organisation in LA - GALAS, blasts Glendale Armenian American homophobia

AGLA NY reports on a welcome move by Armenian gay rights organisation in LA - GALAS, which publicly stood up against homophobia within the local Armenian community effectively breaking the usual pattern of "what has until now been the overwhelming silence to homophobia and heterosexism in the Armenian American community":

Recent “Day of Silence” at Glendale’s Hoover High School was an act of unity with schools across the country to call attention to how gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth are “silenced” by harassment and bullying in schools. The event took place on April 25 and many prominent members of Glendale, including Glendale News Press Armenian American columnist Patrick Azadian, supported the action.

Unfortunately some people, including many Armenian Americans, objected to the protest and one confused individual named Martik Abramian wrote a letter to the Glendale News Press newspaper saying:

Don’t be fooled by the Day of Silence, which is a cover-up and in reality is to promote homosexuality. We need to have a day of awareness instead of a Day of Silence and teach students about the dangers of homosexual life and its destructive consequences.


In today’s Glendale News Press, the president of the Gay & Lesbian Armenian Society (GALAS) in Los Angeles, California, Haig Boyajian, takes to task the usually unchallenged Armenian American homophobia of Martik Abramian and others (for instance Naira Khachatrian as quoted in an article by Dan Kimber). GALAS’ response was powerful and here’s an excerpt:

We want to state unequivocally that the handful of Armenian parents who were vitriolic in their opposition to the Day of Silence do not represent the entire Armenian community. The members of the Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society of Los Angeles and our many supportive family members and friends belong to the Glendale and Los Angeles Armenian communities, and we all believe that there can be no tolerance for bullying and harassment of any student, regardless of his or her sexual orientation.

We condemn the homophobic comments that were aired on a recent Armenian television program. They were irresponsible since such speech can cause disastrous consequences for children, who might go so far as to commit suicide or substance abuse as a result of rejection from their families.

The Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society of Los Angeles is saddened to see that some Armenians are unable to see the parallels between racial and sexual orientation discrimination. We come from a culture that is, sadly, too familiar with what can happen when one group is ostracized and discriminated against. However, we have hope for the future that springs from the students who courageously organized and participated in the Day of Silence event, especially given the sometimes hostile response it has received in the community. And, we are proud and encouraged that some of the participants in Day of Silence were Armenian.

We call upon our fellow Armenian brothers and sisters to support tolerance, the local school districts, and most importantly our children. We must all raise our voices against hate and misunderstanding and support valuable programs like Day of Silence that can make a positive difference.

*source - AGLA NY blog

AGLA NY calls its members and friends to help people in Myanmar and China

Armenian Gay & Lesbian Association of New York (AGLA NY) calls its members and friends to help with financial assistance victims of natural disasters in Myanmar and China:

"Most of you will remember the devastating Earthquake that hit Armenia in 1988 and how important relief efforts were to helping in the reconstruction of Northern Armenia. Natural disasters have struck again, this time in Myanmar and in China. Over 12,000 are dead in China alone and many more injured."

Clean-up operation in Dujiangyan on May 15, 2008













According to the latest data, death toll in China could reach 50 000 and over, and in Myanmar  - "Burma's state media have raised the official death toll to 43 318 with 27 838 missing," AFP news agency said.

A large statue of Buddha sits in water at a temple heavily damaged in last week's cyclone on the outskirts of Rangoon

*photos -  via BBC' and  BBC''

History in making: California legalises same-sex marriage

News of The Day

AP: The California Supreme Court overturned a voter-approved gay marriage ban Thursday in a ruling that would make the nation's largest state the second one to allow gay and lesbian weddings.

Petrelis Files provides with an important quote from the decision:

"[R]etaining the designation of marriage exclusively for opposite-sex couples and providing only a separate and distinct designation for same-sex couples may well have the effect of perpetuating a more general premise -- now emphatically rejected by this state -- that gay individuals and same-sex couples are in some respects 'second-class citizens' who may, under the law, be treated differently from, and less favorably than, heterosexual individuals or opposite-sex couples. Under these circumstances, we cannot find that retention of the traditional definition of marriage constitutes a compelling state interest. Accordingly, we conclude that to the extent the current California statutory provisions limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, these statutes are unconstitutional."

Looking at celebrations in California, I could hardly resist my tears, tears of happiness for gay and lesbian Americans who struggled for decades to make this day happened. Importance of this decision should not be understated. California is the largest US state and its Supreme Court’s decision will have wider US and world-wide influence.

This decision is important for me for several reasons:

- Importance for gay rights movement and equality in the US and worldwide;

- Influence of this decision on California’s large Armenian Diaspora where homophobic mentality is still prevalent;

- Influence of this decision, via world headlines, US and Diaspora influences on Republic of Armenia.

Here is hoping that California’s Supreme Court landmark ruling will help to prevent tragedies similar to the one we recently witnessed within the Armenian community there, when gay Armenian in LA committed suicide after being forced into marriage.

AP calls this decision "a monumental", although warns that it could be short-lived as various national and religious groups plan to challenge it by trying to "put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November that would undo the Supreme Court ruling and ban gay marriage."

However, California's governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who previously "twice vetoed legislation that sought to legalize gay marriage, saying the issue should be decided by voters or the courts", says that he will uphold Court's decision: "I respect the court's decision and as governor, I will uphold its ruling."

He also reiterated his previously stated opposition to an anti-gay marriage initiative proposed for the November ballot stating that he "will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling."


*photo - by Getty Images, via CNN: Gay couple John Lewis, left, and Stuart Gaffney celebrate outside the California Supreme Court on Thursday.

March against homophobia to be staged in Ankara

UKGayNews reports that to mark International Day Against Homophobia LGBT groups in Turkey plan to hold a "March Against Homophobia” in the capital Ankara on 17 May, for the first time.

“We are marching against homophobia and transphobia this year for the first time,” the organisers said in a statement.

PinkNews details that "the march will start at the Human Rights Monument in the Turkish capital and end at the National Assembly."

Authors, journalists and human rights activists will be marching under the rainbow flag. Michael Cashman (UK) - one of only two out gay MEPs in the 785-member European Parliament - will join the march.

French Armenian designer Véronique Nichanian's 10 rules for men


“I don’t make any compromises, because I want excellence.” 
French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) quotes Véronique Nichanian as saying:

"Véronique Nichanian joined French luxury brand Hermès as Artistic Director of men’s ready-to-wear in January 1988. Later that year, her first collection at Hermès earned her the City of Paris Grand Prix of Creative Art. Prior to Hermès, Véronique Nichanian worked with Italian couturier Cerruti for twelve years after graduating from the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in 1976, eventually becoming co-manager of the men’s collections. One of the few women to design collections for men, Nichanian enjoys the technical aspects of fashion and is passionate about details, exquisite materials, and colors—qualities that characterize the Hermès spirit. "

And here are 10 rules which this well-known menswear designer at Hermès advises each man to follow (as provided in the latest issue of Details):

  1. The right proportion and fit are a matter of centimeters—millimeters, really. When you choose clothes that are perfect for you, you feel strong, comfortable, and more self-confident.
  2. Style is a question of charm, not nationality. It’s not true that French men have more allure or style than American men. It’s just that they dress with more personality. They don’t follow dress codes, and sometimes they mix things in a way they shouldn’t. Like how Serge Gainsbourg dressed, with his reptile shoes with jeans and blazer and white shirt—that’s charm.
  3. For a weekend away, a man should bring a simple shirt, two cashmere sweaters, three polos, and one pair of jeans. For shoes, either sandals or light leather moccasins—just the essentials.
  4. In relationships, you must show proof of love and do something passionate. I once had a boyfriend fly from New York to Paris just to have dinner with me. It was very smart.
  5. Age is not important. A man, no matter if he’s 20 or 60, can wear a tee and jeans if he has the right body.
  6. You should have one watch for the weekend, one for the week, one for suits, one for sport. I love watches. Watches are for men what perfume is for women. They are very personal, and you can wear them according to your mood.
  7. Wearing a scarf is about attitude. A man should just wrap one around his neck, maybe two times—but not tightly like women do. It should be nonchalant.
  8. Men make a mistake when they follow fashion instead of their own personality or their own body. When they dress in a very slim shape even if they don’t have the right body, it’s all wrong. It’s awful. With my husband, I tell him, ‘Stay yourself and I’ll take care of you.’ He’s the most spoiled man in Paris.
  9. You can never have too many cashmere sweaters. There are so many kinds of fits and colors. You should have a lightweight one for summer and a heavier one for winter. Whether you wear darker colors like navy or brighter ones like green or yellow can depend on the way you wake up.
  10. The most timeless article of clothing a man can have is a leather piece. An Hermès leather bomber.

*photo - via FIAF

Thursday, 15 May 2008

2nd European Transgender Council transforms into 1st global conference of transgender activists

 Transgender Europe_TGEU-logo2

*based on press release





More than 200 transgender activists from 5 continents came together on 2-4 May for the 2nd European Transgender Council in Berlin.

Participants came from 83 groups and 38 countries, among them Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey,  Russia, Ukraine, Belarus,  USA, Peru, Japan, Namibia, Kyrgyzstan, Israel, Serbia, Iceland, Romania, Croatia.

Human rights issues, anti-discrimination legislation and an exchange of experiences on an international level were the central concerns of the Council.

The first comprehensive study (2007) of the legal rights situation and experience of health care of transgender people in Europe shows that transgender people continue to face massive violations of their human rights in most European states.

Despite much scientific controversy, forms of transgender continue to be listed in the DSM IV of the American Psychological Association (APA), just as homosexuality once was, and in the ICD-10 of the World Health Organization (WHO) as psychological disorders. DSM and ICD are guideline manuals used in healthcare to standardise the definitions of what constitutes mental illness. Transgender Europe (TGEU) emphatically refuses this pathologisation and will assist the next reformulation of the DSM in a critical manner, when this is carried out in 2011.

At the plenary meeting of Transgender Europe (TGEU), a new Executive Board and a new Steering Committee were elected, with representatives from Denmark, Germany, England, Ireland and Italy. The new President of the Organisation is Stephen Whittle, PhD, Professor of Equalities Law, Manchester Metropolitan University, President of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH, USA) and Vicepresident of Press for Change (PfC, UK).

Monday, 12 May 2008

Armenia in the Mr Gay Europe 2008!

PInk Armenia logo This year for the first time Armenia intends to take part in the Mr. Gay Europe. PINK Armenia is the official representative who will organise Mr. Gay Armenia every year and the winner will participate in the European contest. Due to 'sensitivity', time constraints and organisational issues, this year Armenian representative will be chosen internally by PINK Armenia. However, from next year they promise organising more formal selection process, perhaps in a form of Mr Gay Armenia contest.

I am aware that there are already couple of contenders from whom to choose our representative in the Mr Gay Europe 2008. Others can still apply.

"Mr. Gay Europe celebrates the gay European man and pays tribute to the diversity as well as what we have in common as gay men in Europe."  Gay men all over Europe are invited to take part in this festivity in Budapest. This year's theme is "Unity – Solidarity -Diversity."

Here is the invitation:

Welcome to Mr. Gay Europe  July 2-6, 2008 in Budapest, "The Pearl of the Danube"!
The Mr. Gay Europe Organization hereby invites you to enter your Armenian Delegate in the Mr. Gay Europe Competition. We are happy to invite you to wonderful and exciting Budapest who has taken upon themselves hosting Mr. Gay Europe in 2008! This year's theme is to be Unity through Solidarity, focusing on the gay men's situation in the eastern part of Europe.

Read more about the rules and regulations and the Delegates at

However, at the moment PINK Armenia does not have funds to pay for travel expenses (flight + visa).  Mr. Gay Europe will cover all the expenses in Budapest only, except flight + visa. This will cost approximately 700 euro. Sponsor who will help in covering these costs will be able to display its advertisement link on Mr. Gay Europe's website for about one month and on PINK's page for about 2 months (if sponsor wants). PINK Armenia will provide sponsor with the receipts of all expenses paid. Please, if you are able to help, contact PINK Armenia, or alternatively you may  email me and I'll forward your message to them.

As I mentioned before, I do not normally pay much attention to Mr/Miss contests, straight or gay. However, participation in the Mr Gay Europe contest is much more. Last year, for the first time a representative from the South Caucasus participated in the Mr Gay Europe 2007 contest. It was a participant from Azerbaijan Sadikh Ragimov, 19, Baku. I mentioned back then that "He did not win any prize, but the only fact of participation is worth mentioning in this case. It is not Western Europe for you, it's South Caucasus country (predominantly Muslim) we are talking about, where homophobia is very high."

I really hope that Armenia will be able to participate in the Mr Gay Europe 2008 contest. It will feel very liberating for me, and I am sure for many others.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

It’s May. It’s Masturbation Month!!!

Goya_Two Women and Man_masturbation

*Goya's Dos Mujeres y Un Hombre depicting two women laughing at a masturbating man (source)

I bet most of you did not know that May is unofficial National Masturbation Month in US. It should be extended world-wide! It’s healthy and gives pleasure so regardless of your gender, sexual orientation and political views, do masturbate!

And yes, it does not mean that you should masturbate only one month a year. Be healthy year-long!.. and enjoy ;)prostate

Research shows that “frequent masturbation may help men cut their risk of contracting prostate cancer.”  (source of picture)

“It is believed that carcinogens may build up in the prostate if men do not ejaculate regularly, BBC News reported [based on Australian research findings]. The researchers surveyed more than 1,000 men who had developed prostate cancer, and 1,250 men who had not. They found that men who had ejaculated the most between the ages of 20 and 50 were the least likely to get cancer. Men who ejaculated more than five times each week were a third less likely to develop prostate cancer.

Sexual intercourse may not have the same effect because of the higher risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, which could in turn raise the risk of cancer. "Had we been able to remove ejaculations associated with sexual intercourse, there should have been an even stronger protective effect of ejaculations," Graham Giles of the Cancer Council Victoria, who led the researchers, said in the article.

The prostate produces a fluid that is incorporated into ejaculation, which activates sperm and prevents them from sticking together. Studies on animals have shown that carcinogens like 3-methylchloranthrene can be harbored in the prostate. Frequent ejaculation encourages the cancer-inducing fluids to "flush out." (The Advocate)”

“Having regular orgasms is as important to your health as flossing your teeth.” - Devra Lee Davis, head of the Centre for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute – what a wise woman! (Cosmopolitan, June issue 2008)

In the same issue of Cosmopolitan, actress Kim Catrall (from my favourite “Sex and The City”) stresses the importance of “learn[ing] to pleasure yourself”:

“The earlier you learn to masturbate, the better your sex life will be. It took me years of self-discovery to get there – I even read books by sex therapists and stood naked in front of a mirror to try to learn how to get in touch with my body. Experimenting at an earlier age would’ve provided me with a basis for a more fulfilling sexual relationship.”

It’s “coming of age” for Armenian blogging

Onnik Krikorian, Caucasus editor at Global Voices Online, posted analysis on evolution of Armenian blogging which reached the point of “coming of age” following the recent political stand-off and media blackout in Armenia. Highly recommend it!

Only few months ago, practically no one in Armenia was aware of blogs or blogging, including media representatives. Now blogs/blogging/bloggers became the It topic with various reports in Armenian online and printed media, as well as radio, dedicated to them.

Future media professionals in Yerevan also turn their attention to blogging by writing their final thesis on blogging phenomenon.

Full post is availabe here: Armenia: Blogging Comes of Age

My blogs Unzipped and Unzipped: Gay Armenia also mentioned there:

“One blogger from Armenia now living and working in the United Kingdom had already set a precedent for blogs covering issues that were not reported elsewhere with his Unzipped: Gay Armenia site. The blogger applied the same level of professionalism, albeit in support of the former president, on his other blog, Unzipped.”

Saturday, 10 May 2008

ex-KGB surveillance of Armenian gays and swingers

Prominent Armenian opposition figure and well known editor of popular Haikakan Zhamanak newspaper  Nicol Pashinyan writes about the role of former KGB (now - (NSS) National Security Service) in Armenia and the need to dismantle it. Part 3 of his piece, translated in English by Armenaker Kamilion, along with other issues, reflects also surveillance of Armenian gays and swingers by ex-KGB (NSS) to collect a "compromising dossier" and use it whenever suits them. Original article by Pashinyan (in Armenian) is available here.

Nicol Pashinyan is a close associate of Armenia's first president and leader of opposition movement Levon Ter-Petrosyan. Pashinyan is in hiding now to avoid political persecutions by Armenian authorities following the recent violent crackdown on opposition in Armenia in the aftermath of disputed presidential election.

Armenian Kamilion notes that "Pashinian is bringing into the conversation important changes in sexual practice that a portion of the Armenian upper-middle class is adopting, namely, wife-swapping."

It was always known that secret services (and not only in Armenia) conduct surveillance of gay people or - in general - individual's private life to collect a "dossier" and use it.  However, it was perhaps for the first time that the existence of Armenian swingers has been noted. I heard rumours from here and there about Armenian swingers before but I did not know that they became organised to the extent of having own club. Watch out England!

Below is a relevant extract from Pashinyan's article:

"[...] But in public political life there are also young people that have not had connections to the KGB. How should they be treated? [Pashinian is asking this question from Kocharian/Sargsyan's point of view] [Unzipped: Gay Armenia - Kocharyan/Sargsyan - Armenia's former and current presidents]. Their lives should be put under the microscope. If their lives contain nothing that is compromising, then it is necessary to dig into the life-histories of their relatives and find something that is compromising. Of course, compromising facts of a sexual nature have always been considered to be the best ones. People sometimes have unusual inclinations: One likes to have sex with men, while being a man, himself; another betrays his wife, has a lover, or spends time with prostitutes; a third's wife is unfaithful to him; a fourth visits suspicious clubs with his own wife. Naturally, the National Security Service must spend time investigating these matters, preparing relevant dossiers, and securing them with "video-materials."

In other words, if someone is gay, the NSS must take photographs of him, photograph the sexual act. This is not an easy thing to do, you understand, and requires physical access, technical equipment, and detailed plans of operations and their realization. And our country's National Security has carried out numerous such operations. If you have been surprised by any given politician's sudden reversal of position, betrayal, don't be: It means that that politician or his relatives have engaged in one or another kind of shady dealings or have unusual sexual preferences. People are wont to explain the "sale" of our political functionaries through the money factor. What can be said about this? Money does play a decisive role in all this, but, in order to put the person in the mood to be sold for money, they first present him with the compromising fact. This is logical, because, after taking the money, the person in question might decide to change his mind; it is, therefore, necessary to have something on him. And, on the other hand, the mere operation to put someone in a compromised situation renders "the victim" hostile toward "the client," which is an unacceptable situation. This is the famous biscuit and whip [the carrot and the stick] method. And, incidentally, notice how well Serzh Sargsyan's favorite word--"customer"--fits the situation described. And now, as a summary of this chapter, let me tell the story of a government functionary and his family, a story of events that have been essential in the internal progress of the country.

It turns out that there is a club in Armenia that married couples go to, meaning--the husband goes there with his wife. Numerous other couples go there as well, and the point of [going to the] club is to swap partners. In other words, the members of the club hand their wives over to others for a few hours, and they, themselves, choose another woman. After this club gathering, they go home again as a loving married couple. There are similar such clubs in numerous other countries, and it is natural the NSS would not fail to notice the appearance of one in our country and, especially, the political figures turning up there. And while some cannot understand the meaning of recent events and the political bobbings up-and-down, everything is extremely clear: The NSS has the relevant photographs."

Famous transsexual Turkish singer sued for “alienating people from military service”

Turkey's penal code definitely does not suffer from the lack of articles restricting freedom of expression.

And it is not only that infamous article 301 on "denigrating Turkishness" which recently underwent cosmetic changes only. There is also article 318 on “alienating people from military service” under which a famous transsexual Turkish singer Bülent Ersoy is being sued now.

Bianet reports:

In a TV show during the Northern Iraq military operation, the famous singer Ersoy demanded “solution instead of death” and Bakırköy Public Prosecutor sues her for “alienating people from military service.”

The famous transsexual singer Bülent Ersoy is sued for “alienating people from military service.”

According to daily Taraf, the authorities decided to open a case against Ersoy for “alienating people from military service” after investigating her words regarding how she would not sent her son to someone else’s war, which were said during a TV show.

Her words which brought the case were: “If I had given birth to a child and someone sitting at a desk had said ‘You will do this, he will do that’, and I would have buried my child, would I accept that?”

According to the report mentioned above, Bakırköy Public Prosecutor Ali Çakır asked for three year prison sentence for Bülen Ersoy, claiming that she committed the crime of “alienating people from military service.” Not only that the public prosecutor did not see Ersoy’s explanations within the context of freedom of expression and critique, he also included her speech in the scope of article 318, which regulates the deed of “alienating people from military service”, found under the category of crimes committed against the national defense, and thus first asked for two year prison sentence.

Ersoy gave her statement to the Public Prosecutor Ali Çakır on March 14.


Turkey's gay magazine publishes 100th edition

On a more positive note, Turkey's first and only gay magazine “Kaos GL,” being produced for 15 years has been published for the 100th time (Turkish Daily News):

"The latest edition of the magazine includes articles and interviews by renowned personalities such as, Adnan Yıldız, Aksu Bora, Ayşe Düzkan, Kürşad Kahramanoğlu, Murathan Mungan, Tanıl Bora, Tuğrul Eryılmaz, Yıldırım Türker, Naim Dilmener and Zeynep Aksoy. They all contributed to the 100th edition.

  The magazine, which was just an eight-page photocopy when it was first published, has played an important role in drawing attention to the rights of homosexuals.

  The edition covers 100 songs, films and books that have an important place in homosexual culture. There is an interview with Hande Yener, the famous Turkish pop singer, who was chosen as Turkey's “gay icon” in a poll of Kaos GL readers. Letters from gay parents are also part of the content. "

*source of photo - Wikipedia

Iranian authorities urged to halt threats to “cyber-feminists”

Reporters Without Borders has called on the authorities to halt a crackdown against women’s rights publications after three women were jailed for six months in March this year and on 2 May, Parvin Ardalan, editor of feminist website “Change for Equality” was handed down a two-year suspended sentence.

“The Internet is the only way for these feminists to demand their rights. They have become an easy target and are suffering real harassment,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “The websites they contribute to are regularly blocked. We urge the authorities to halt this systematic repression of cyber-feminists”.

Ardalan, 36, was sentenced on 2 May to a two-year suspended sentence for “illegal assembly and refusing to obey police orders with the intention of harming national security”. Legal proceedings against her date back to 4 March 2007. She was tried for taking part in a demonstration in Tehran’s Hafte Tir Square on 12 June 2006 calling for reform of laws that discriminate against women in Iran. She was in March awarded the 2007 Olaf Palme prize for her commitment to advancing women’s rights in Iran but was denied the right to leave the country to receive it.

Three feminist activists were each sentenced to six months in prison and a suspended sentence of six strokes of the whip for “disturbing public order”. Nasrin Afzali, Nahid Jafari and Marzieh Mortazi took part in a demonstration on 4 March 2007 in protest at the trial of five women for their part in the June 2006 demonstration, including Parvin Ardalan. They contribute regularly to websites “Change for Equality” and “Feminist School”.

Elsewhere, the first sports website for women ( as well as feminist websites “Change for Equality” (, “Feminist school” (, “Canon Zeman Irani” ( and “Meydaan” ( are inaccessible. In addition the news website Fararu ( was blocked from 19 to 24 April.

Iran is on Reporters Without Borders’ Internet Enemies list and is the Middle East’s most repressive country towards bloggers. More than ten of them were arrested in 2007 in connection with articles posted online. Iran is in 166th position on Reporters Without Borders’ world press freedom index, which monitors a total of 169 countries.