Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Russia: Homophobia and hate are ‘protected by law’

"Tolerance?! To hell! Faggots should be torn apart. And their pieces should be thrown in the wind."

["Толерантность?! К черту! Гомиков надо рвать. И по ветру бросать их куски!"]

Oleg Betin, the governor of Tambov region, Russia; interview to the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily, 16 May 2008

Russian prosecutors did not see anything offensive or hateful in these remarks and refused to open the case. Moreover, they “concluded that homosexuals are not members of a particular social group against whom hatred can be incited”. Russian penal code outlaws “incitement of hatred and violence towards members of social groups”.

Not that I am surprised taking into account general increase in the threshold of tolerance against xenophobia, homophobia etc., as well as hate-induced crimes in Russia. But I wonder, where the place of gay people is in Russian law? Where do they fit? Under which category their rights should be protected? None, apparently. They do not exist for Russian law. And if those remarks by Russian governor are not hateful, what are they? Compliments???

That’s the reason why we need the law which specifically outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That’s the reason why I disagree with Armenian Ombudsman’s last year statement that in terms of law, rights of LGBT Armenians are protected under general anti-discrimination provisions of our Constitution, and there is no need in specific amendments.

Example above is from Russia, but we know very well that it won’t be surprising to hear similar remarks in Armenia too. We had similar sentiments articulated in less ‘expressive’ ways in past. We have to get protected now for future.

ILGA-Europe: “Destination>>EQUALITY” magazine

First issue of “Destination>>EQUALITY” magazine produced by Europe's leading LGBT rights organisation - ILGA-Europe, is out now. This first edition is focused on transgender people’s rights - "TransEurope".

Patricia Prendiville, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe, said:

“I hope our members and supporters will welcome yet another development towards enhancing our communications work. We believe a new title clearly identifies both the organisational dynamic and marks the ultimate destination where we want to be. We also believe the thematic approach, which has already proven to be popular with our readers, will continue providing added value for all who are interested and passionate about equality issues.

We are proud that the first edition of our magazine focuses on transgender people’s rights. This edition provides a variety of articles covering many aspects of trans people’s lives and rights: from stories of humiliation, intrusion and abuse to stories of hope and inspiration.”

Azeri opposition journalist’s saga continues: he fled to Paris but promises to return

Azeri opposition journalist Agil Khalil’s saga continues. EurasiaNet reports that after several unsuccessful attempts, he eventually fled to France on 24 July to meet leading international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders. No particular reasons of his departure were specified, although it was apparently connected with the recent attacks. He, nevertheless, pledges to return to Azerbaijan.

Khalil’s case came into international spotlight when few months ago he got attacked and stabbed for allegedly his investigation into corruption in land deals in Baku.

Prosecutors never investigated Khalil's beating, but on July 15 a man presented as the reporter's alleged former lover was sentenced to a year-and-a-half prison term for the stabbing. [For details, see the Eurasia Insight archive.] Local and international watchdog groups believe that the charge was aimed at discrediting Khalil in Azerbaijan's homophobic society. […]

"Even though I was persecuted in my country, even though I was a target for pressure, even though they did not punish the people who stabbed and beat me, even though it is not safe for me to be in Azerbaijan, I will not stay here," he said. "I miss my country and I will go back when I finish my business here."

However, his attempt to fly to Paris was marred by a scandalous incident. Witnesses report on a conflict between police and (airport) border guards as to whether allow the opposition journalist to leave the country. Reports say that while border staff was trying to prevent his travel under various ‘formal’ grounds, police disagreed. These reports were unsurprisingly denied by official representatives.

Speaking from Paris, Khalil said that on July 22 he had also tried to fly out of Baku for France, but had failed. "They kept me at the border for half an hour. Then they said 'You are on the list of wanted people,' and showed me some document. I could not convince them that there is something wrong with this information," Khalil said in a phone interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Khalil says that interior ministry bodyguards accompanying him blocked airport border guards from searching his belongings and arresting him. Police officers later arrived on the scene. "The border officers did not show the police officers the document about me being on a wanted list," he recounted. "The border officers and the [police] argued a little bit and then they allowed me to go home."

Intervention by United States and French embassy officials at last solved the problem two days later, Khalil said. "After this, the border service apologized. They said 'Now you can leave the country..."

Khalil, who has been shortlisted for an award from human rights watchdog Amnesty International, says that he does not plan to stay in France, however. […]

Local newspapers have speculated that the tussle over Khalil's departure indicates a conflict between law enforcement agencies on treatment of the media. […]

Khalil had earlier attempted to leave Azerbaijan by train, but was stopped at the border. Officials said that the reporter could not leave the country while the investigation into his stabbing was ongoing. Khalil's attorney, Elchin Sadigov, has countered that the law does not provide any basis for stopping crime victims from leaving Azerbaijan.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Hercules and Love Affair - Blind

Recently discovered for myself this excellent debut album by Hercules and Love Affair. They call their music “disco revolution.” I first came across with their Blind composition (below), and instantly loved it. Then bought the album - perfect music to listen to and dance.

My current favourite band.

Band website

Unzipped: Gay Armenia syndicated by LiveJournal

It was unexpected and surprising when I read Hye Trent blog's recent entry. Apparently, a friend of T.J., the author of Hye Trent, set up a syndication of my blog on LiveJournal. Effectively, it's a kind of RSS (feed) reader for LiveJournal community. Users of LiveJournal may now add Unzipped: Gay Armenia to their 'friends' list' by clicking here. That way they can get published posts delivered straight to their 'friends' page'.

Many thanks to T.J. and his friend Michael for that! Btw, Hye Trent is now syndicated on LiveJournal too.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Eurovision 2009: Moscow as Europe's gay capital?

Well, at some point in recent past I did consider the possibility of Eurovision 2009 to be held in Yerevan, picturing it turned into a gay capital of Europe. May be for 2010 or...? In the meantime, it's Moscow's turn for 2009. As soon as the decision by Russian government was announced confirming the choice of Moscow as host for next year's Eurovision song contest, as expected, Russian gay activists were quick to confirm their plans that they will hold Gay Pride the very same day as Eurovision final. In past, Moscow administration headed by homophobe Luzhkov denied all requests for Gay Pride events. There will be pretty tough dilemma before him now, as you can't just easily ban gay related events when thousands of gay men and women across Europe will be in Moscow for the song contest, and millions of TV viewers will follow the action.

Russian Pravda newspaper has already posted a story by RIA Novosti under the headline "Moscow to turn into Europe’s gay capital for Eurovision 2009".

“Now that Prime Minister Putin said that Eurovision 2009 would be held in Moscow, and not St. Petersburg, I am full of compassion to Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. The contest is strongly connected with gay and lesbian organizations of Europe. These organizations hold certain actions every year, within the scope of Eurovision,” a well-known Russian journalist Arthur Gasparyan told RIA Novosti.

“I wonder how Mr. Luzhkov is going to react to this. If he orders the Moscow police to disperse the gay parade, Europe will make a laughing-stock of him. I believe he will have to make a very difficult choice,” the journalist said.

Gasparyan also pointed out further challenges which Russian authorities and tourists may face in Moscow.

“This is not the arrival of a crowd of British football fans in Moscow for a couple of days. The contest will last for at least two weeks. I am not sure how 43 European delegations will travel through Moscow’s traffic jams either,” the journalist said.

He recollected the Olympic Games of 1980 in Moscow, when many Muscovites were ordered to leave the city for the time of the Games. “It is not ruled out that the Moscow authorities will do something ridiculous again,” he said.

To crown it all, the journalist said that Moscow had no appropriate venue, where Eurovision 2009 could be held. “Any of possible variants – Olimpiysky or Luzhniki stadiums – should be reconstructed and repaired immediately,” Arthur Gasparyan said. “If the venues are left the way they are now, it will be the worst Eurovision in history,” the journalist said.

Moscow authorities, however, stated that city is ready for the contest and its participants and tourists will enjoy "the required level of comfort and security". The official reminded the latest Champions League final which took place in Moscow without any incident.

The final of Eurovision song contest will take place on 16 May 2009. Forty-three countries will participate in the contest; number of TV viewers will exceed 100 million people.

It's already known that Greece will be represented by sexy Sakis Rouvas. It will be his second Eurovision entry; in 2004 he finished 3rd. Apparently, Bilan's example was pretty infectious. Sakis certainly will be the one to watch out. I can safely say that we already have one of the main contenders for winning the contest in Moscow. What will be Armenia's answer to this?

BBC: Lesbos locals lose lesbian appeal


Residents claim using the term to refer to gay women insults their identity

Three residents of the Greek island of Lesbos have lost an attempt to ban the use of the word "lesbian" to describe gay women.

The residents argued that using the term in reference to gay women insulted their identity.

But an Athens court ruled there was no justification for their contention that they felt slighted, saying the word did not define the islanders' identity.

Greeks often refer to the island as Mytilene, after its capital.

"This is a good decision for lesbians everywhere," Vassilis Chirdaris, lawyer for the Gay and Lesbian Union of Greece, told Reuters news agency.

*source: BBC

Sunday, 20 July 2008

'Straight' Armenian guys... meeting (humour)

Sorry to anyone who does not know Armenian. This is just impossible to translate. However, if you know Armenian and Armenian realities, you may find this short video clip of “32 Atam” comedy club in Yerevan simply hilarious. So typical. Good, too good to miss. Thanks to H.V. for the link to this video. As he says, “…this is how it all happens!” Enjoy! :)

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Was Ahmet Yildiz the victim of Turkey's first gay honour killing? (The Independent)

A chilling story from The Independent... This guy is perhaps the first known victim of gay honour killing in Turkey. "Ahmet Yildiz's crime, his friends say, was to admit openly to his family that he was gay."

Full story - The Independent, 19 July 2008; below are selected extracts:

In a corner of Istanbul today, the man who might be described as Turkey's gay poster boy will be buried – a victim, his friends believe, of the country's deepening friction between an increasingly liberal society and its entrenched conservative traditions.

Ahmet Yildiz, 26, a physics student who represented his country at an international gay gathering in San Francisco last year, was shot leaving a cafe near the Bosphorus strait this week. Fatally wounded, the student tried to flee the attackers in his car, but lost control, crashed at the side of the road and died shortly afterwards in hospital. His friends believe Mr Yildiz was the victim of the country's first gay honour killing.

"He fell victim to a war between old mentalities and growing civil liberties," says Sedef Cakmak, a friend and a member of the gay rights lobby group Lambda. "I feel helpless: we are trying to raise awareness of gay rights in this country, but the more visible we become, the more we open ourselves up to this sort of attack."

Turkey was all but closed to the world until 1980 but its desire for European Union membership has imposed strains on a society formerly kept on a tight leash. As the notion of rights for minorities such as women and gays has blossomed, the country's civil society becomes more vibrant by the day. But the changes have brought a backlash from traditionalist circles wedded to the old regime. [...]

"The media ignores or laughs off violence against gays," says Buse Kilickaya, a member of the gay lobbying group Pink Life, adding that Ahmet Yildiz's death "risks being swept under the carpet and forgotten like other cases in the past". Turkey has a history of honour killings. A government survey earlier this year estimated that one person every week dies in Istanbul as a result of honour killings. It put the nationwide death toll at 220 in 2007. In the majority of cases, the victims are women, but Mr Yildiz's friends suspect he may be the first recorded victim of a homosexual honour killing.

"We've been trying to contact Ahmet's family since Wednesday, to get them to take responsibility for the funeral," one of the victim's friends said yesterday, standing outside the morgue where his body has been for three days. "There's no answer, and I don't think they are going to come." The refusal of families to bury their relatives is common after honour-related murders. [...]

*source of photo - The Independent

Friday, 18 July 2008

Police officers in Turkey on trial for assaulting transsexual

Bianet reports that two police officers in Turkey who beat up and insulted transsexual Esmeray a year ago will be eventually put on trial for “bashing and insulting”. Date of the hearing has yet to be set.

“According to Esmeray’s account, she was stopped by a police officer while going back to her home and yelled at for taking the route forbidden to her. The yelling was followed by a punch to her eye and kicks by the other police officers when she hit the ground.”

Despite police “apologies”, Esmeray decided to take the matter to the court since “this was nothing new. Passing by the street in front of the police station (which happens to be one of the major streets in Taksim area in Istanbul and open to public) has been banned to the transvestites and transsexuals for a while.” Esmeray wanted to know if this was legal. She filed her complaint so that others would not have to go through this human rights violation again.”

According to further reports, there was another reported police assault towards Esmeray this May, and the office of prosecutor in Istanbul has already launched an investigation into that incident.

This case proves that even in societies where homophobia is prevalent and the application of law is questionable, to say the least, it is possible to achieve some progress if you do not give up and use all possible legal means to fight for your human rights.

Picture of the Day

*source: Now magazine, Thursday, 17 July 2008

Justin Timberlake kissed David Beckham's right foot at a sports awards ceremony last night.

The singer joked that he wanted to find out what £125 million tasted like – the fee Becks was paid to move to LA Galaxy. Justin, 27, strolled into the seating area while hosting the ESPY Awards and took David, 33, by surprise when he planted a smacker on his leather shoe.

‘That's what $250million [£125m] tastes like,’ he told the audience.

Armenian-Americans join gay rights (marriage) debate

I was pleasantly surprised when noticed these "letters to the editor" published in the latest consecutive issues of The Armenian Weekly, which is a publication of ARF Dashnaktsutyun party. The topics discussed there are gay rights and marriage, taking into account broader aspects of Armenian issues and US politics. The authors of these letters rightly point out the need to view fight for gay rights and equality within a broader context of Armenians fighting for justice, including recognition of Armenian Genocide and other human rights issues.

Lets hope that their counterparts in Armenia, members of coalition government, will eventually embrace these issues too, and soon we will witness more postings and articles touching gay rights and equality in The Armenian Weekly and other media outlets, both in Armenia and Diaspora.

Dear Editor,

As a gay Armenian man, I feel that it is my moral responsibility to reach out to my fellow Armenian-Americans about a very important topic that affects all of us, the anti-gay marriage Constitutional Amendment on Nov. 4.

More than most, Armenians know how if feels to be a minority, oppressed by powerful establishments and regarded as second-class citizens. Incidentally, the gay and lesbian Armenian community is at a crossroads to achieve a milestone in gaining equality.

In the state of California, the Armenian vote is substantial and powerful, and the public needs to be educated on the facts and consequences of their vote. As a gay man, I have attended countless weddings of my family members, relatives, and friends and I hope that I can wed some day and invite all of them back to my special day. But powerful groups are lobbying to see that we are prevented from getting married and that our rightful victory in the California Supreme Court is overturned.

As Armenians, we are always asking government institutions, organizations, and individuals to resist the opposition, see the big picture, and ultimately do the right thing. This has been especially important in getting foreign governments to resist threats, bullying, and blackmail from Turkey in our quest to bring worldwide recognition to the Armenian Genocide.

I hope to see an article in your esteemed publication about this issue and I am confident that Armenians will ultimately do the right thing and support us.
Thank you and kind regards,

Vahe Gerami
Studio City, Calif.
*The Armenian Weekly, Volume 74, No. 26, July 5, 2008

UPDATE 29 September 2010: Second letter was removed upon request by the author citing personal circumstances.

*The Armenian Weekly, Volume 74, No. 27, July 12, 2008

Thursday, 17 July 2008

European media watchdog calls Baku trial 'fake', aimed at discrediting opposition journalist with homophobic sentiment and protecting real attackers

*photo - Agil Khalil in a hospital after being attacked (RFE/RL)

Agil Khalil, a reporter for the opposition Azadlig daily in Azerbaijan was attacked and stabbed in the chest in March 2008. This attack has been widely regarded by local and Western observers as being tied to Khalil's work investigating possible corruption in land deals in Baku.

Aqil Xalil, a 25-year-old correspondent with "Azadliq," Azerbaijan's largest opposition daily, was hospitalized in March after being stabbed in the chest. "Azadliq" editors say the stabbing -- the second time Xalil had been attacked in less a month -- was tied to his work investigating corruption in major land deals in Baku.

Prosecutors opened an investigation into the stabbing after Xalil's case raised an outcry from Western officials and press-protection groups. But instead of tracking down the people responsible for the attack, Xalil tells RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, investigators have focused their efforts on blackmailing him into offering a false confession.

"They gave me three options," Xalil says. "I could say that I was stabbed by one of my colleagues, or I could say that I stabbed myself. Otherwise, they said they would produce a video saying that I had been attacked by a man who was in a homosexual relationship with me, and then air it on state TV. So they said if I didn't want to be embarrassed, I would have to choose from one of these options. I was shocked."

This was followed by a televised 'evidence' where a man identified as Sergei Strekalin said he stabbed Khalil in a jealous rage. Strekalin was sentenced on 15 July to one and a half years in prison.

European media watchdog calls Baku trial 'fake', aimed at discrediting opposition journalist using homophobic sentiment and protecting his real attackers.

OSCE media freedom watchdog calls Baku trial 'fake', aimed to discredit opposition journalist and protect his real attackers

VIENNA, 17 July 2008 - Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, condemned today the trial against Sergey Strekalin, who was sentenced on 15 July to one and a half years in prison for his self-confessed stabbing of journalist Agil Khalil of Azadliq newspaper in March 2008.

"This is the climax of a smear campaign orchestrated by law-enforcers against Khalil, his newspaper, and the remnants of critical journalism in Azerbaijan," said Haraszti.

Haraszti has observed the fate of young reporter Agil Khalil since he was beaten up by two top security officers in February 2008 while investigating illegal cutting of olive trees in a Baku public garden. Khalil was then followed, threatened, and on 13 March stabbed as he left the editorial office of Azadliq.

"I view the show trial against Strekalin as an attempt to protect the real stabbers," Haraszti said.

"To illustrate how far these allegations are, let me remind you, that after the prosecution stopped the case against the two officers who attacked Khalil in February, it waged a large-scale public campaign to discredit the journalist. To support their scenario, the prosecution ordered the major television channels to broadcast videos where Strekalin confessed to the stabbing of the journalist by posing as a jealous ex-lover," he said.

"The made-up charges against a self-confessing perpetrator are especially regrettable in a country that has overcome the era when prosecutors staged propaganda campaigns to discredit people critical of the government," said Haraszti.

In numerous addresses to the authorities of Azerbaijan, the Representative has criticised the harassment and slandering of journalists and asked for the release of imprisoned journalists.

Read also:

Azerbaijan: Opposition Journalist Says He Is Victim Of Vicious Smear Campaign

Azerbaijan: State Media Embroiled In Gay Bashing Controversy

Azerbaijani media plays "gay" sequel

*Thanks to O.K. for the link to the OSCE media freedom watchdog press release.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Burqa = Straitjacket (Quote of The Day)

I cannot agree with her more. When I see women in burqa, all I see is oppression. There is absolutely nothing there remotely reflecting the idea of choice for women, as some advocates of this ‘prison clothing’ argue.

Fadela Amara, French Urban Affairs Minister (Muslim of Algerian parentage):

"The burqa is a prison, it's a straitjacket," she told Le Parisien.

"It is not a religious insignia but the insignia of a totalitarian political project that advocates inequality between the sexes and which is totally devoid of democracy."

The minister said she hoped the court's ruling [Unzipped: Gay Armenia - to deny French citizenship to a Moroccan woman who wears the burqa] might in future "dissuade certain fanatics from imposing the burqa on their wives".

Ms Amara, who is also a prominent women's rights campaigner, said she made no distinction between the veil and the burqa, describing both as symbols of oppression for women.

"It's just a question of centimetres of fabric," she added.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Picture of the Day

Two pairs

Zoe Leonard. “Two Pairs” from Analogue, 1998-2007

The current photography show at the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, Eminent Domain: Contemporary Photography and the City, features—among others—the work of two major contemporary LGBT artists: Zoe Leonard and Glenn Ligon.

*source: The New York Public Library

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Major initiatives by Council of Europe to combat discrimination against LGBT people in member states

In a historic development, the Council of Europe announced a set of measures to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in member states. Armenia became the member state of the Council of Europe on 25 January 2001.

*via ILGA-Europe media release

In a very important development for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities across Europe, representatives of the 47 Council of Europe member states have committed to stepping up the organisation's work to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Action is to be taken at three levels:

* The Committee of Ministers (which consists of member state Foreign Ministers) is to issue a declaration on combating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, and the need to ensure respect for the human rights of LGBT people
* An intergovernmental expert committee is to examine measures to avoid discrimination against LGBT partners
* All committees involved in intergovernmental co-operation are to take account in their work of the need for member states to avoid discrimination against LGBT people and to make proposals for specific activities designed to strengthen their rights.

In deciding on these actions, the Council of Europe has strongly reaffirmed its commitment to the equal rights and dignity of LGBT people.

ILGA-Europe Executive Director, Patricia Prendiville commented: "This is a historic development. For the first time since the foundation of the Council of Europe nearly 60 years ago, its executive committee, the Foreign Ministers of the 47 member states, is to issue a formal declaration in support of LGBT rights, and to engage the whole organisation in combating discrimination against LGBT people."

ILGA-Europe's Council of Europe adviser, Nigel Warner added: "Much of the credit for this great step forward goes to LGBT human rights defenders in Central and Eastern Europe. Their courageous work in advocating for LGBT rights has revealed the appalling extent of homophobia and transphobia in many countries, and shocked the Council of Europe into taking action".

Global Voices on Armenian LGBT blogs

Armenia: LGBT Blogs

Many thanks to Onnik Krikorian, Regional Editor for Caucasus at Global Voices Online, for this exceptional round up of Armenian LGBT blogs. I am very happy to witness that LGBT Armenians are becoming more active in using blogging tools as means to make their voice heard and increase their visibility in our society. In fact, this visibility is very slowly but increasing, indeed, and contribution of blogs is of great importance here as they are effectively the only sources which report on these issues. Sadly, as Onnik rightly indicated, traditional media remains silent or prejudiced towards gay community but there are some positive signs there too. Global Voices and its Caucasus editor are doing outstanding job in making voices of those under-represented and silenced groups and minorities heard, ensuring their wider exposure and audience.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Antonio (Spain) is Mr Gay Europe 2008!

Budapest: It was Antonio Pedro Almijes (19) from Spain who Saturday evening took home the crown of Mr. Gay Europe 2008. “Winning Mr. Gay Europe is a bit overwhelming, but I am excited and I look forward to do my best in supporting not only my home community, but hopefully I can help other young guys in Europe and making them feel that it is okay to come out of the closet and be gay!” (source)

Mr. Gay Europe was forced to move venues to secret locations due to anticipated clashes between the Hungarian police, right-wing extremists and gays celebrating Budapest Pride this Saturday .

Unfortunately, due to financial reasons, Armenia was not able to participate in this year's contest, for the first time ever, as previously announced.

*photo - via Mr Gay Europe

Sirusho's Qele, Qele at the London Gay Pride parade

Amnesty International supporters staged 'Eurovision Pride Contest' at the London Gay Pride parade on 5 July 2008, awarding symbolic 'nul points' to countries with poor gay rights record.

"Love Is A Human Right" - that was the main message.

Sirusho's Qele, Qele (Eurovision 2008 entry from Armenia) was among only few selected Eurovision songs from previous years to accompany the Amnesty's float during the Gay Pride parade in central London.

P.S. If Armenia related similar poster was there too, I would have carried it, but Amnesty chose as an example of Eurovision countries with poor gay rights record only Turkey, Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Lithuania and Estonia. This list has to be much longer (unfortunately!).

London Gay Pride parade - 5 July 2008

All photos - by Unzipped: Gay Armenia

Picture 233

Picture 240

Veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and actor Sir Ian McKellen. Peter Tatchell marched  carrying a poster ridiculing the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It featured a photo of Amhadinejad wearing blue eye shadow, red lipstick, a gold
earring and pink nail varnish. The placard was emblazoned with the words: "President of Iran. Murderer. Homophobe." Next to the President's tiny wagging finger was a mocking speech bubble with the words: "My penis is this big."

Picture 254

Picture 255

Picture 256

For the first time in history, LGBT representatives from all three armed forces - Navy, Army and Airforce, were out parading in their full dress uniforms. Metropolitan Police and Fire Brigade were out there too.

Picture 279

Older LGBT community

Picture 287

Picture 290

LGBT Muslims

Picture 296

Picture 297

The presence of transgender community was particularly strong this year.

Picture 308

Amnesty International supporters staged 'Eurovision Pride Contest' at the London Gay Pride parade, awarding symbolic 'nul points' to countries with poor gay rights record.

Picture 315

Stonewall's campaign Education for All and Boycott Heinz featured prominently during the march.Picture 327


Picture 331    Colourful

Picture 329

A handful of protesters (Christian fundamentalists). Very sad people, indeed!Picture 338

Rainbow flag over the St Martin-in-the-Fields church. What a sight, eh?! Picture 339

Absolut vodka known for its gay-friendly ads, turned rainbow for the occasion, Soho, London.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Boycott Heinz!!!

What better way to respond to Heinz's ridiculous decision to pull an innocuous ad containing a male-on-male kiss on the cheek?

While Heinz's decision to withdraw the ad might have been seen by them as an easy way to palm off 200 fundamentalist Christian complainants, it seems to have been made under the quaint impression that it will cause no offence to Britain's 3.6 million lesbian and gay consumers. Or any of their friends, or families, or colleagues, 13,000 of whom have signed the online petition complaining about the decision.

Above all, Heinz's prim retraction seems to have been made without any thought for the damage that might be done to its business. Supporters of Stonewall have been professing a sudden fondness for Branston baked beans, Baxters soups, Buitoni spaghetti, Jardines tomato ketchup and Hellmann's mayonnaise!

*source: Stonewall Ebulletin

Yerevan park 'outlaws' love making


Love making in this park is absolutely prohibited


Via Reporter-arm, these hilarious announcements which recently appeared in one of Yerevan central parks - English park. You have to know Armenian to get fully the hilariousness of these announcements (with accompanied spelling error). I am not even sure that I translated right the word "sirabanutyun" (something like "love making"). But you got the idea :) They call it "sirabanutyun". What they really mean is... cruising which this park is known for. (I doubt there is direct Armenian equivalent of "cruising"?)

Posters against sexual violence in Armenia

Queering Yerevan published two posters (here and here, below) made by Women's Resource Centre for their campaign against sexual violence.

This poster campaign looks like an impressive start to tackle these serious issues. Posters made are tasteful and arty. My main suggestion here is that for more mainstream campaign aimed at general public, it would be better to have less complex, more straightforward posters too so that the message will go through to the masses, as they say, in fact as wide as possible.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Rita Boyadjian's story: follow-up (Gay marriage: until deportation do us part?)

On 23rd July they will leave US. They are among tens of thousands of bi-national gay couples who are given no other choice but to leave the country to stay together or to split up. “I can’t believe that I’m gonna be a refugee of the United Sates of America”. She is a first generation US citizen of Armenian origin; a successful businesswomen (She paid $1 400 000 taxes to the federal government last year but apparently her “money is not green enough”.)

Outrageous and sad story... I thought that California's historic decision to legalise same-sex marriages will help in cases like her but apparently immigration related legal issues in the US are much more complex and tough, and inhuman... I posted about Rita Boyajian's case a year ago. Back then her partner was pregnant, and she was hesitating into moving to Canada, if necessary. Reuters carries a follow-up to her story a year on... Boyadjian spoke to Reuters [see video below] about her decision to move to Germany so the couple and their nine-month-old baby can stay together.

Reuters - Rita Boyadjian wishes she were in a better mood to celebrate the weddings of fellow gay friends after California began legally marrying same-sex couples last month.

But her partner of six years is a German woman whose U.S. student visa runs out soon. Even if they were to legally marry in California, Margot (not her real name) could not stay in the United States because the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage for immigration purposes.

This month the well-to-do couple and their nine-month-old baby will move to Germany so they can stay together.

"It's a little bittersweet, I have to be honest," said Boyadjian, 38, a first-generation American who owns a Hollywood entertainment marketing company.

"I am very happy for my friends and I do know a lot of people who are getting married this summer ... but I am sad that while the celebrations are going on, I have to leave."

Gay rights activists estimate that 40,000 binational gay and lesbian couples in the United States are caught in the same legal limbo. A solution, they say, is years away.

When California's Supreme Court struck down a ban on gay marriage in May, becoming the second state after Massachusetts to allow same-sex nuptials, Boyadjian said she was inundated with congratulatory calls from friends believing the couple's problems were solved.

But the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services confirms that nothing changes with the California court's ruling.

"The couples are married under state laws in California. The federal government does not recognize these marriages for immigration purposes," USCIS spokeswoman Chris Rhatigan told Reuters.

Binational couples could make matters worse if they wed since getting married signals intent to stay in the United States.

"We cannot get married in California without jeopardizing Margot's future visa applications," said Boyadjian.

Indeed, legal experts are telling these couples not to rush to the altar in California, which, unlike Massachusetts, will marry non-resident gays and lesbians.

[…] At least 19 nations worldwide provide some form of immigration benefits to the same-sex partners of citizens and permanent residents, while the U.S. still refuses. They include Canada as well as about a dozen European countries.

*source of photo - Reuters

Picture of the Day

Boris Johnson, newly elected the Mayor of London, has a questionable record of voting/supporting gay rights and equality in past. Now he is holding a Stonewall's Education for All campaign poster to tackle homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools: "Some People Are Gay. Get Over It!"; and in an interview with PinkNews says that he is "very much looking forward to" taking part in this year's London Pride parade on Saturday, his first ever gay event.

*photo - via PinkNews

Gay Azeri artist's asylum campaign update

No Borders South Wales reports that "Babi B has been campaigning to stay in the UK since his claim for asylum was rejected. He has been informed that he is now liable to be detained and has to sign in every week at the Border and Immigration Agency offices in Cardiff. His first signing was last Tuesday (24th June) and supporters from the campaign accompanied Babi to the BIA offices. Concern is high that he may be snatched at one of these signings so everyone was relieved to see him come out of the building, not least Babi himself."

Apparently, local Azeri newspaper run a story on Babi B, disputing his "internationally renown artist" credentials. Effectively, this article outed Babi to the whole family, and he received threatening phone calls.

However, "this article has raised Babi’s profile even further in Azerbaijan, resulting in letters being written to the press in his defence."

Babi will speak about his experiences on Thursday 3 July 2008, 7.30 pm during a public meeting at Butetown History and Arts Centre in Cardiff, Wales.

*photo via No Borders South Wales

EU to tackle homophobia and discrimination

At last, EU is making real steps to tackle homophobia and LGBT related equality issues in member states. This will undoubtedly influence its relationships with candidate states too, as well as others who wish one day to become a part of the European Union, including South Caucasus countries Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan which are signatories of the 'European Neighbourhood policy'. Overall, very welcome move, indeed. Hopefully, it will get materialised soon; first steps in a right direction are made.

Media release by EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency

Equal protection by EU anti-discrimination law remains an ideal not a fact for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals (LGBT) living in many parts of the European Union (EU). Greater legislative protection and wider support within the EU is required. Legal analysis covering the EU 27 released today by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) identifies differences in treatment and protection by the law and a lack of full and equal enjoyment of rights in areas of EU competence, particularly with regard to same sex partnerships. As the European Union begins its debate on non-discrimination with the publication of a new Communication by the European Commission on 2 July, the FRA believes that the equal right to equal treatment should underpin the legislative direction.

“Equal treatment is a fundamental right that all members of our society should enjoy”, said FRA’s Director Morten Kjaerum, “the fact that Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals are not treated equally in some aspects of EU legislation, particularly concerning same sex couples should be a cause of concern for us all. More comprehensive legal protection, as well as wider powers and resources for equality bodies are required, and I urge that the new measures on non-discrimination discussed by the EU will ensure this”.

The report finds that in 18 out of 27 EU Member States, any artificial “hierarchy” of those facing discrimination has been disregarded and members of the LGBT community enjoy legal protection and rights in the areas of employment, access to public goods and services, housing and social benefits. The report also concludes that rights and advantages of married couples should be extended to same-sex partnerships. This is equally relevant for rights and benefits for spouses and partners related to free movement and family reunification.

The principle of equal treatment, a fundamental EU value, is guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights: Article 21 prohibits any discrimination based on grounds such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation. The new measures on non-discrimination discussed by the EU should therefore, commensurate to the EU Fundamental Rights Charter, extend legal protection to all the areas covered by the EU’s racial equality legislation and in all Member States of the Union.

Homophobic hate speech and hate crime represent obstacles to the possibility for individuals to exercise their free movement and other rights in a non-discriminatory manner. This can be combated using EU wide criminal legislation. The report also documents incidents of banning LGBT demonstrations, such as “pride parades”. In addition, the continuing misunderstandings concerning the gathering and compilation of statistical data needs to be addressed to ensure that efforts to combat discrimination can make full use of the tools available and rely on solid and comprehensive statistics.

Transgender issues, often ignored or forgotten, are also treated in this report, which calls for a clarification of their treatment under anti-discrimination legislation.

The report highlights examples of good practice to overcome underreporting of LGBT discrimination, to promote inclusion and to protect transgendered persons.

FRA’s legal analysis is the first of two reports related to homophobia and discrimination experienced by members of the LGBT community. The second report detailing the social aspects will be released later in the autumn.

A summary of FRA’s report entitled “Homophobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation in the EU Member States Part I – Legal Analysis” is available at http://fra.europa.eu