Sunday, 28 September 2008

Sex And The City in Yerevan

It was good to see Sex And The City: The Movie showing at one of the main cinemas in Yerevan - Moscow Cinema. There is big BUT however. Unless you have seen TV series, it would be hard to appreciate the movie, especially considering its reservations.

Unfortunately, most Armenians have not seen TV version of it. Russian NTV channel was broadcasting it, and it was passed unnoticed in Armenia where TV is filled with countless of low quality soap operas (foreign and local).

In my previous post I mentioned that Sex and The City made quite an impact on Western audiences in terms of liberating sex talk and showing a women's side of the 'story'. And it's great entertainment.

There are so many sharp one-liners and catch phrases in TV series that it is impossible for me to choose a favourite one. Below is just one of the quotes chosen randomly:

Wake up! It's 2000. The new millenium will be about sexual expression. It won't matter if you sleep with men or women. It will be about sleeping with individuals. Soon everyone will be pansexual. It won't matter if you are gay or sraight.


Here is hoping that after the movie Armenian audience would have an opportunity to enjoy the TV series as well and appreciate Sex And The City in full. It would be an eye opener for conservative traditional male-dominated mentality still prevalent (at least on surface) in Armenian society. The question is: Do we have brave enough TV channel to start the prime time 'revolution'?

P.S. What I am saying here may seem like a gross exaggeration, but it's with these steps, which at times are more effective than any legislation or training programme, we could facilitate changes in the mindset. Remember, TV is the most accessible media in Armenia, and Armenians love TV series.

Picture of The Day: Frank Lampard

Frank Lampard is one of my favourite (and sexy) footballers from London's Chelsea. Love this pic (source).

Last year England captain John Terry told the club's TV station that he reckons that Frank Lampard is the best looking player on the team:

"The girls like him a little bit. If I was that way I’d see something in him,” he said.

Back then PinkNews blog commented on Terry's remarks:

"Ahh how times have changed.

Ten, maybe even five years ago, if you had asked a footballer which one of their team mates they think is hot you would have got a punch in the nose.

But those metrosexual Chelsea stars have no such qualms.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Google joins fight against "Proposition 8" which eliminates right of same-sex couples to marry in California

I can't remember another occasion when Google formally voices its position on political or social matters. (may be I am wrong, may be they did so in past but I cannot remember, well, except for the launch of a new, self-censored search engine in China; in any case, it is something very rare, indeed). My respects to Google and its co-founder Sergey Brin for their stance.

So called Proposition 8 was placed on the ballot in California by conservative and religious fundamentalists after the California Supreme Court invalidated the state's prohibition on same-sex marriage in May. In previous days, Brad Pitt, Steven Spielberg and other California A-listers made financial donations to fight proposed gay marriage ban.

Below is Google's statement in full posted by its co-founder Sergey Brin on The Official Google Blog.

Our position on California's No on 8 campaign
9/26/2008 03:23:00 pm

As an Internet company, Google is an active participant in policy debates surrounding information access, technology and energy. Because our company has a great diversity of people and opinions -- Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, all religions and no religion, straight and gay -- we do not generally take a position on issues outside of our field, especially not social issues. So when Proposition 8 appeared on the California ballot, it was an unlikely question for Google to take an official company position on.

However, while there are many objections to this proposition - further government encroachment on personal lives, ambiguously written text - it is the chilling and discriminatory effect of the proposition on many of our employees that brings Google to publicly oppose Proposition 8. While we respect the strongly-held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality. We hope that California voters will vote no on Proposition 8 - we should not eliminate anyone's fundamental rights, whatever their sexuality, to marry the person they love.

Posted by Sergey Brin, Co-founder & President, Technology

*/emphasis mine/

Monday, 22 September 2008

Yerevan: Rock The Borders and Highland Metalfest

There will be two music fests over this week in Armenia's capital Yerevan - rock and metal. A welcome change from traditional pop dominance and chance to get exposed to more alternative music scene. Groups from Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, Russia, Italy and Kazakhstan will participate.


Highland Metalfest, 6 pm, 26 September, Yerevan State Puppet Theatre
(AMD 2500 ($8.5) if bought beforehand and AMD 3000 ($10) on the concert day. Special beer price 350 AMD for 0.5 L bottle)

Sadist (Italy)
Ambehr (Russia)
Stryfe (Armenia)
Sworn (Armenia)
Heavy Cross (Georgia)
P.I. Light (Georgia)
Blood Covenant (Armenia)
Vordan Karmir (Armenia)
Angel of Disease (Georgia)
Im Nebel (Georgia)

For details:

Rock The Borders, 6 pm, 28 September, Children's Park (former Kirov park)
(free of charge)

Sadist (Italy)
Ambehr (Russia)
Alchemy (Kazakhstan)
Bambir (Armenia)
Dogma (Armenia)
Empyray (Armenia)
Heavy Cross (Georgia)
Northern Lights (Turkey)
P.I. Light (Georgia)
Stryfe (Armenia)
Vordan Karmir (Armenia)

For details:

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Gay Azeri artist Babi B has been deported from the UK to Azerbaijan via BMI flight

Breaking news:

Sorry, Babi! We failed to keep you in the UK and potentially safeguard your life.

If anything happens to Babi in Azerbaijan, British government and the BMI airline will bear the ultimate responsibility for that.

Below is a message which I just received via Keep Babi Safe in Cardiff Facebook group:

"As far as we know, Babi left the country on BMI flight BD929 to Baku at 3.15 pm today (Saturday 20th Sept).

BMI received loads of calls about Babi, urging them not to carry him on their flight given his mental condition and the traumas he faces in Azerbaijan. Callers also reminded BMI of the possible boycotts and negative press that would occur if they went ahead and carried Babi to his very precarious future.

Depite all this, BMI decided to comply with the HO decision.

Please write to BMI stating that you will ensure none of your friends and family travel with them in the future, that you will campaign ceaselessly against them, for they have acted selfishly, with no regard to an individual's health and mental well-being.

Let's make sure they experience a backlash. In particular, everyone should contact Rob Coveney: 01332854687 extension 2. This is a man who had the chance to keep Babi safe but instead chose to turn his mobile off in the hours prior to the plane's departure in order to ignore all protest - and probably sit in a beer garden somewhere, soaking up some rays (conjecture, of course, but he certainly wasn't doing his job and manning the phones!)."

P.S. I can't even properly boycott BMI, as it's the only direct airline from the UK to Armenia... But I will refrain from buying any other flights via BMI.

URGENT! Babi’s removal directions have changed

*source: No Borders South Wales

Babakhan (Babi) B was supposed to be deported back to Azerbaijan on Azerbaijan Airlines on the J2800 flight today 20th Sept at 20:00. The airline told campaigners yesterday that they would not be taking Babi on their flight due to harassment.

Babi has also had a medical examination yesterday and the report strongly recommended that Babi should be given time to access the mental health assessment he needs. Babi’s solicitor has lined up an appointment to see a neurologist as it is clear that Babi’s mental health is very fragile. Based on the medical review Jenny Willotts has made strong representations for Babi urging the Home Office not to deport this man.

Babi phoned a friend/campaigner early this morning almost hysterical after he had been told that they were taking him to the airport at 09:00 today. In a move that appears to go against their own rules the UK Border Agency have changed the details of Babi’s forced removal, at the last minute and on a saturday Babi has been given new removal directions, he will now be deported from Heathrow Airport at 15:15 today on flight BD929 British Midlands Airways (BMI) to Baku.


Please contact BMI and let them know in no uncertain terms of the huge level of damage this deportation will do to their company.
Telephone: 0870 6070 555 or 08712240224 or +44 (0)1332 64 8181 (callers outside UK)
Also you can call the BMI switchboard (ask for a senior manager): 01332854000
Fax: 01709 314993

It appears the most effective number to call is 01332854687 extension 2 and speak to press officer Rob Coveney.

Customer Relations: 01332854321 extension 2

Please say:
- Babi is medically unfit to travel, and is under threat in Azerbaijan.
- That Azerbaijan Airlines were orginally meant to deport later on today, but they refused for ethical reasons.
- Threaten a boycott of the company and serious finacial consquences that that will cause.
- Highlight the damage it will cause the BMI brand from the large amount of press coverage this will get (point out that there has been a large amount of press coverage of Babi’s case alredy)

PLEASE ACT QUICKLY! Call as many times as you can.

Friday, 19 September 2008

'PINK Armenia' at the Gay Pride in Brazil

PINK Armenia posted a moving account (with photos; see one below) by talented Armenian actor and LGBT activist, one of the founders of PINK Armenia, now residing in Brazil. As far as I am aware, he feels happy there with someone very special. Good luck, Arthur, and… congrats! Look forward to more posts from you.

In Porto Velho, the capital of Brazilian state Rondonha, as it turned out later there was not a single Armenian, except me. I was the one of my type. To present my home land, as a country, where the sexual minorities’ rights are being “protected” or are in this or that stage of protection, was hard to do all by myself. Thanks to people who became my close friends, up to this moment thinking that Armenia is only a name of a character of famous Brazilian actress Arasi Balabanyan «Donna Armenia» from the TV serial “Rainha Da Sucata”, and now knowing for sure, that Ararat is a holy moutain, and that in 1915 armenian nation went through awful Genocide by Osmanian Turkey, decided to help me how to bring out and represent my country in this liberal society...

In the supermarket “Gonsalves Brothers” we bought a flat white towel, red paint ( as there was no pink), a mop, the useless part of which was rounded. In the result of our improvisation a flag was made with an inscription “PINK Armenia” in honour of our organization. There were enough of us to shout as loud as we could, that there are people in Armenian society ready to be among those who are able to accept and not to ignore people, who accept the life differently, the way they like.

The flag “PINK Armenia” was proudly and confidently waving in the sky together with the Brazilian national flag and also with the flag of the state. We moved on...

For full post - see PINK Armenia

PINK Armenia launches Information Centre in Yerevan

Unzipped: Gay Armenia highly recommends PINK Armenia for all your information needs and support while in Yerevan, Armenia

UPDATE! - 5 July 2009: PINK Armenia launches "Masculinity: breaking stereotypes" project at their new office in downtown Yerevan

UPDATE! - 18 March 2009: Sadly, due to financial reasons, this office was shut down in March 2009. However, PINK Armenia is active, and, in fact, widened its activities online and offline. You may contact them via their newly launched website:

Official launch of the PINK Information Centre in downtown Yerevan (see below for contact information) took place last Friday, 12 September 2008. The office is conveniently located near the Yerevan State University.

"PINK Information Center"
40 Charents str, apt. 45
Yerevan, Armenia
tel. +374 10 556 946
Working hours: 11am-19pm
Working days: Monday-Friday

There are good bunch of people working there. Friendly, energetic, open to new ideas and discussions. They know local scene perfectly. They also work with local and international human rights related and other relevant NGOs, as well as some governmental agencies, particularly, the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs.

Below are some pictures from the launch event. We then end up clubbing in one of downtown Yerevan discotheques. We did not stay long though, still, it was fun.

Head of PINK Armenia Mamikon Hovsepyan

Lara Aharonian of Women’s Resource Centre and Mikael Danielyan of Armenia's Helsinki Association

PINK Information Centre has began developing a library of relevant literature, leaflets, CDs/DVDs, educational materials in Armenian, Russian, other languages which they intend to expand into a comprehensive and useful source of information on LGBT related issues, STI prevention (with the special attention to HIV/AIDS) and so on. Any help in this regard or other support for PINK’s activities will be highly appreciated.

Relevant links:

PINK Armenia MySpace page

PINK Armenia Facebook page

PINK Armenia blog

Soon PINK Armenia will launch its own website.

Undercurrent Shifts: modern art exhibition in Yerevan's NPAK

The Undercurrent Shifts project is currently on display at the Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art (NPAK) till 4 October 2008. (see also - "Armenia 2008")

Hamlet Hovsepyan: Pink Illusion

Sarkis Hovhannisian.

Sonia Balassanyan: Flock

Anushavan Hovakimyan: Current

Art Attack - Russia

*via Towleroad

A gay rights activist (top) and a migrant worker (bottom) who are part of Russia's art collective Voina took part in a mock lynching in a mall in Moscow in order to draw attention to the marginalization of minorities. The event took place in conjunction with Moscow's 'City Day' over the weekend.

More on Voina here.

Gus Van Sant's Milk (trailer)

Judging by this first trailer, a must see film from one of my favourite directors Gus Van Sant. It's about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the United States, as a city supervisor in San Francisco. "Mr. Milk was previously the subject of the Academy Award-winning documentary feature "The Times of Harvey Milk," but "Milk" - filmed on location in San Francisco - is the first non-documentary feature to explore the man's life and career."

Milk will be premiered in San Francisco on 29 October 2008. General release is expected from December onwards.

Brad Pitt - Man of The Day

Good actor, sexy man, great guy!!!

Brad Pitt donating $100,000 to fight gay marriage ban

Brad Pitt announced Wednesday that he's donating $100,000 to fight California's Proposition 8, a November ballot initiative that would eliminate same-sex couples' right to marry.

"Because no one has the right to deny another their life, even though they disagree with it, because everyone has the right to live the life they so desire if it doesn't harm another and because discrimination has no place in America, my vote will be for equality and against Proposition 8," the actor said in a statement.

Pitt's donation marks the largest thus far to the anti-Prop. 8 campaign by an A-list celebrity.

Political strategist Chad Griffin, who is helping coordinate efforts in the entertainment industry to defeat the controversial initiative, said he is hopeful that the move will prompt others to get involved. He added that Democratic billionaire Ron Burkle has agreed to host a large fundraiser at his home in October to rally the entertainment industry against Prop. 8, which opponents say will take away important benefits such as health insurance and will complicate decision-making related to medical emergencies and other situations in domestic partnerships.

In recent weeks, tens of thousands of dollars -- much of it from outside California -- has been donated to groups on both sides of the issue.

The measure was placed on the ballot after the California Supreme Court invalidated the state's prohibition on same-sex marriage in May.

(LA Times)

Back in 2006, Brad Pitt has revealed that he and Angelina Jolie won’t even consider getting married until gay marriage is legalised in the US.

Brad told Esquire magazine: “Angie and I will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able.”

*source of photo: Warren Toda/EPA (via LA Times)

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Singer Pink, comedian Cho and McCain's Palin

Pink did it again; that's why I love her. Here is what she has to say to the US Republican presidential candidate John McCain's running mate (VP's choice) Sarah Palin:
"If I were writing a letter to Sarah Palin," Pink told PopEater during her Sessions taping on Thursday, "it would be a lot of whys and hows. Who are you? Do you know? Why do you hate animals? Please point out Iraq on a map ..."

What scares Pink are women who consider the Alaska governor's selection a feminist victory. "This woman hates women," the singer said. "She is not a feminist. She is not the woman that's going to come behind Hillary Clinton and do anything that Hillary Clinton would've been capable of ... I can't imagine overturning Roe vs. Wade. She's not of this time. The woman terrifies me."

Pink, an animal rights activist, suggests creatures other than humans should be just as scared of Palin: "I can't imagine shooting a wolf out of a helicopter."
Last year her message ('probing questions') to the US president Bush was as straightforward and powerful. It was a song - Dear Mr President... (I posted it in April 2007). According to some reports, it proved to be so controversial that has been unofficially banned from radio stations across the US back then.

Comedian Margaret Cho's choice of words was even more extreme:

"I think [Palin] is the worst thing to happen to America since 9-11,” Cho said. "Someone who has no thoughts about women's rights and who wants to send women back to the Stone Age? You might as well not let women vote. I came out of the Democratic convention feeling so proud and excited, but now I fear that our country is so backwards in so many ways and the ignorance that exists is greater than we can even imagine.” [...]

"The reach of homophobia and hatred is so wide, it's disturbing how deep it is,” Cho said. “Now with Sarah Palin, who is so anti-gay and advocated camps for them to go to be brainwashed, she is a real sign of something very wrong with this country, a real problem. We are battling homophobia on so many fronts." [...]

She worries that the Republicans will "probably fix the election again" and feels that their vice-presidential pick of Sarah Palin was meant to "appease disgruntled Hillary voters." In Cho's opinion, the consequences of voting for the so-called "pitbull with lipstick" will be disastrous.

Turkey: Transexuals and transvestites under police pressure

Police are putting increasing pressure on transsexuals and transvestites, a prominent human rights organization complained at a recent press meeting, daily Taraf reported yesterday.

"The police are only ignoring our complaints and keep pressuring us. They are arresting transsexuals not based on the law but however they want," said one member of the Women's Door Association.

The meeting also included the Lambda Istanbul Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Transsexual, or LGBTT, Solidarity Association, which has been threatened with closure by the courts in recent months.

Speakers at the meeting said the police were charging transvestites and transsexuals fines based on a law called the “misdemeanor law.”

“We have complained to the police about what is happening. But the pressures have only increased. During the past month, they started checking our ID when walking down the street and even putting us in their cars, driving far out of the city and leaving us in abandoned places," said sociologist Eylem Çağdaş. "There are police cars with black windows driving around our houses."

The statement by the association was also supported by other NGOs, such as the Red Umbrella Sex Workers' Network and Global Action Group.

*source (11 September 2008 - Turkish Press Scanner)

**Read also:

Police officers in Turkey on trial for assaulting transsexual

Famous transsexual singer sued for "alienating people from military service"

Fighting back tears on stage - a standing ovation to Turkish transsexuals

Report: Babi to be deported on Saturday

More bad news following gay Azerbaijani artist Babi B's detention (he is seeking an asylum in the UK).

No Borders South Wales reports:

Babi was moved from Rumney Police station to Campsfield Immigration Removal Centre at 4am this morning (thursday) from where some of Babi’s friends have been talking to him on the phone and receiving texts from him.

Babi has been able to find fellow prisoner and No Borders supporter Jean Pierre Gueutchue, who is also in Campsfield and has been able to offer some advice on coping with life in a detention prison, as well as some much-needed solidarity and friendship.

Babi was able to tell us of his removal directions:

“J28 8pm 20th September My deportation flight to Hellbaijan, Pliz all stop me here”

Babi is very distressed, and is fears the worst:

“PlizPLIZpliz i wontWONTwont GO back. i WANT die HERE THAN AZERBAIJAN. HELL O FAKING 21st Century! Can I stay in UK? Can I live 5 year happy here? FAK THE LAW MAKER! humanity”

It seems that the proposed deportation of Babi will take place on Azerbaijan Airlines flight J20008 at 8pm on Saturday 20th September from Heathrow.

What you can do to help

Please contact Azerbaijan Airlines to register your disapproval at their willingness to deport Babi.

[Unzipped: Gay Armenia - To be honest, I think they won't give a damn]

The UK address is: Rooms 842-843, Norfolk House, South Terminal, London Gatwick Airport, West Sussex RH6 ONN
Tel.: (44-8707) 605 757 & (44-1293) 568 000Fax.: (44-1293) 568 222Email:

A model letter can be found here: babi-flight-model-letter

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Gay Azeri asylum seeker Babi B detained in the UK! Demonstrate!

Here is the message I got from the Keep Babi Safe in Cardiff Facebook group in support to gay Azeri artist Babi B's asylum campaign:

"Unfortunately, Babi was detained this morning during his weekly signing. He is being held at Rhymney Police Station, but could be moved to Campsfield detention centre at any point (

NoBorders Wales is organising a protest outside the UKBA offices on Newport Road, Wednesday 12-1pm. More info at"


Date: Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Time: 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Location: UK Border Agency offices
Street: 31 -31 Newport Road
City/Town: Cardiff, United Kingdom

Monday, 15 September 2008

HIV/AIDS posters in Armenia's international Zvartnots airport

I spotted quite a few HIV/AIDS related posters in Armenia's international Zvartnots airport. Migrant workers are the main target for this campaign as they are among the key risk groups for HIV transmission in Armenia.

Armenia should abandon its unjust and unwise travel ban on people with HIV

Prominent HIV/AIDS campaigners and international health advocates of Armenian origin Jirair Ratevosian and Dr. Amy Hagopian co-authored this editorial on Armenia's discriminatory HIV-related travel restrictions. It calls on the government of Armenia to consider the widespread consensus among medical and public health professionals regarding the lack of evidence to support HIV-related travel restrictions and to reverse the policy (see below).

The editorial was published first by The Armenian Weekly and subsequently reprinted in Asbarez on Friday, September 5, 2008.

Unzipped and Unzipped: Gay Armenia joins this call.

About the authors:

Jirair Ratevosian, MPH, is the U.S. field coordinator for the Health Action AIDS Campaign of Physicians for Human Rights.

Amy Hagopian, Ph.D. teaches at the University of Washington School of Public Health in Seattle, Wash., and chairs the International Health Advocacy Committee of the American Public Health Association.


By Jirair Ratevosian and Amy Hagopian

The first cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) were diagnosed 25 years ago, opening a new tragedy in human history and changing the way the world thinks about public health.

While HIV, the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS, has killed 25 million people and ravaged many parts of the world, it has been relatively less serious in Armenia, which has reported fewer than 500 people with the HIV virus, only 30 percent of whom progressed into the full AIDS disease, and only 42 of whom have died. In contrast, approximately 33.2 million people—about 1 in every 200—are living with HIV worldwide.

Armenia has organized a relatively progressive and reasonably effective response to the national epidemic by providing free testing and drugs for AIDS treatment through its National Centre for AIDS Prevention. However, there is still one important human rights issue to be addressed at the national level: removing the travel ban that prevents people living with HIV from entering the country.

At the International AIDS Conference in Mexico this month, HIV-related travel restrictions in a handful of countries worldwide—including Armenia—drew sharp criticism from participating officials and civil society. Armenia remains one of only 12 countries (including Brunei, China, Iraq, Qatar, South Korea, Libya, Moldova, Oman, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan) that bar people with HIV or AIDS from visiting or immigrating to the country. Further, the European AIDS Treatment Group reports that according to the Armenian Ministry of Health, non-citizens who fall ill in Armenia may be deported.

Banning the entry of people with HIV into Armenia, whose strong people have withstood so much enmity and hostility in its history, does not do us proud. While it is true that the majority of people with HIV have spent some time in the Russian Federation or Ukraine, the citizenship status of those people is not known and it is not clear that banning their entry will have any positive effect on the spread of the disease. The American Public Health Association has stated, "There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that the ban is an effective way to prevent the spread of HIV or that it reduces costs to the public healthcare system."

Travel restrictions violate the human rights of people living with HIV, and, further, they may actually do more harm than good. People forced to hide their HIV status, however, may behave in ways that threaten the health of themselves and others. Travel bans perpetuate stigma and discrimination that lead people to hide their status and avoid seeking the care they need.

When HIV was identified in the early 1980's, many countries established travel restrictions—out of ignorance and fear—to prevent the virus from entering their borders. Now that the virus is no longer a death sentence, but rather a manageable disease with the proper diagnosis and treatment, most countries have lifted their bans.

Some may be concerned that lifting the travel ban could encourage HIV positive people to cross Armenian borders in search of treatment. Other countries have not had that experience, however. Brazil, for example, with its universal access to treatment, has dropped HIV travel restrictions and has not had either short or long-term migration problems.

The World Health Organization, UNAIDS, and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights oppose the use of HIV and AIDS-related travel restrictions. These agencies say HIV and AIDS do not pose a threat to public health because, although it is infectious, HIV cannot be transmitted through casual contact (through the air, or from common vehicles such as food or water). HIV is transmitted through specific behaviors that are almost always private. The primary vehicle for HIV transmission among Armenian men is injection drug use, while women tend to acquire their disease through sexual transmission.

In the age of globalization, and in the setting of dramatic improvements in HIV care and treatment, HIV-travel restrictions are archaic and highly inappropriate.

Just this month, the United States government made a $48 billion commitment to helping other nations fight the AIDS epidemic. The new law also dropped the outdated and discriminatory provision of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act that had declared all non-citizens with HIV inadmissible to the United States. The U.S. action to repeal the HIV entry ban is in keeping with international momentum toward policies based on human rights and public health.

We call on the government of Armenia to consider the widespread consensus among medical and public health professionals regarding the lack of evidence to support HIV-related travel restrictions and to reverse the policy. This law represents an unreasonable restriction on the freedom and human dignity of people living with HIV and must change if international commitments to universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support are to be met.

In this 60th anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Armenia should not keep company with the few nations who cling to a travel ban on people living with HIV or AIDS. The Armenian people have survived several treacherous decades, and have successfully reconstituted a nation (against all odds), while maintaining an abiding commitment to justice and a resilient spirit. By protecting the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS and promoting an attitude of care and solidarity, we continue this history of protecting our dignity as human beings. It is time for Armenia to join hundreds of counties, including (finally, now) the United States, in repealing the travel and immigration ban against HIV-infected non-citizens. It is the right thing to do and it is long overdue.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Modern art: new sculptural composition in central Yerevan

For quite some time we have this sculptural composition in front of the cinema Moscow (Aznavour square) in central Yerevan.

Yesterday I spotted this very new addition nearby. Love it.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Last Day of Meline’s bar – 31 July 2008

Meline’s bar, opened in November 2004, the only openly gay bar in Armenian capital with gay staff and clientele, was closed down due to financial reasons, as well as ongoing renovation projects in central Yerevan. Despite previous closure and re-opening, controversial opinions, Meline's remained a place where LGBT Armenians could be themselves, spend evening/night out, relax and have fun. It’s for that reason that I recognised Meline’s a “Venue of the Year” in Unzipped: Gay Armenia LIST 2008 (For other gay-friendly venues, or venues of interest for gay community, see my Armenia Gay Guide)

I am glad that Pawel Leszkowicz, art curator and writer from Poland, was in Yerevan and in Meline’s on its very last day and provides this valuable account of a “definite ending with a splash called a naked party”. He says that “the patrons in Meline’s seems to be optimistic and sure that new bars will open in the future.” I certainly hope so.

(For selection of posters from Meline's past years - click here)

*From One Week in Yerevan: Art, Politics, and Sexuality by Pawel Leszkowicz (pictures of Meline’s last day by Pawel Leszkowicz)
**pictures have been taken out from this post upon request of people captured there, for understandable reasons.

On the 31st of July is the last night of the one and only gay club in Yerevan. Melines Bar is located in the very center of the town next to the Republic Square with its famous fountains and the Armenian National Gallery holding the early frescos representing the heritage of the first country that adopted Christianity as its religion in 301 AD. Melines Bar has its own history of on and off operations since the 2004. But today is a definite ending with a splash called a naked party.

Since 2002 when homosexuality was decriminalized in Armenia due to the country membership in the Council of Europe, gay scene started to emerge queering the city of Yerevan. For a while there was a popular mixed disco called Monte Christo but it didn’t survived. The final closing of Meline’s is a symptom of another process of modernization and capitalization, the center is being gentrified and the building housing the bar is doomed for destruction. A new monumental architecture of expensive apartments and shops pop up all over the center. The new just finished Northern Avenue haunts with surrealistic emptiness and Georgio Armani ads. Yet the elegant Armenian men rather prefer fake (Turkish) D&G T-shirts. Shoe fetishism is also crucial for male vogue here. The fashion/art photographer Raffie Davtian documents the Armenian sense of style and urban life changes.

In the small cellar space of Meline’s a crowd of topless men dances in an erotic frenzy. It is far after midnight and the music is a global pop/disco with a strong Russian’s divas influxes that made the patrons ecstatic. Russian is still the second language here and the Russian pop rules. The open homoerotic sexual expression is a twist of a traditional patriarchal same sex bonding in Armenian culture where young men walk on the street holding hands and kiss on the mouth upon meeting. Supposedly it does not have a sexual meaning?! The old Soviet abjection of homosexuality combined with the new condemnation by Armenian Christian Apostolic Church defines the negative social attitude towards gays and lesbians. Quite recently Mikael Danielyan the president of local branch of Helsinki Association was beaten by an Armenian politician for speaking for the rights of “faggots”. Yet the patrons in Meline’s seems to be optimistic and sure that new bars will open in the future.

Pawel Leszkowicz is a curator and lecturer/writer from Poland ,specialising in contemporary art/visual culture and sexuality/queer studies. He curated the exhibition of contemporary queer art "Love and Democracy" (2005/2006) and wrote with his partner Tomek Kitlinski the book "Love and Democracy. He intends to develop an international perspective and contacts in this field, particularly in Eastern Europe. In Poland he teaches at the Department of Art History at the University and the Department of Intermedia at the Fine Arts Academy.

Meline's bar: posters

A small tribute to Meline's bar, which was closed down having its last ever party on 31 July 2008. Below are some posters from Meline's past years.

(Opened in November 2004, the only openly gay bar in Armenian capital with gay staff and clientele, was closed down due to financial reasons, as well as ongoing renovation projects in central Yerevan.)

Iranian artists and gays find freedom in Armenia

"Every summer many Armenians living abroad in diasporas are coming home to experience their sacred ancient land; the local tourism caters mainly for them. However Armenia is also a space of…. freedom for quite different group of people. The young visual artists from Iran that borders Armenia in the south are coming here to study, create and show representational/figurative art that is forbidden in the Muslim fundamentalist society. The picturesque mountain lake Sevan – an Armenian natural treasure – is also a holiday destination for Iranian gay couples imprisoned and persecuted in their own country. The lake surrounded by mystical medieval monasteries cools the heat of this volatile yet promising region."

*from One Week in Yerevan: Art, Politics, and Sexuality by Pawel Leszkowicz

Pawel Leszkowicz is a curator and lecturer/writer from Poland ,specialising in contemporary art/visual culture and sexuality/queer studies. He curated the exhibition of contemporary queer art "Love and Democracy" (2005/2006) and wrote with his partner Tomek Kitlinski the book "Love and Democracy. He intends to develop an international perspective and contacts in this field, particularly in Eastern Europe. In Poland he teaches at the Department of Art History at the University and the Department of Intermedia at the Fine Arts Academy.

Armenia: 'Political dissent and alternative culture'

*From One Week in Yerevan: Art, Politics, and Sexuality by Pawel Leszkowicz

Pawel Leszkowicz is a curator and lecturer/writer from Poland ,specialising in contemporary art/visual culture and sexuality/queer studies. He curated the exhibition of contemporary queer art "Love and Democracy" (2005/2006) and wrote with his partner Tomek Kitlinski the book "Love and Democracy. He intends to develop an international perspective and contacts in this field, particularly in Eastern Europe. In Poland he teaches at the Department of Art History at the University and the Department of Intermedia at the Fine Arts Academy.

[...] At the same time the streets of Yerevan are bursting with another kind of dissent – the mainstream political one. In the evening of the 1st of August thousands of people gathered in front of the legendary Matenadaran Depository of Ancient Manuscripts with a collection of thousands of ancient and medieval manuscripts from many cultures. Today the male leaders of the opposition speak in front of Matenadaran addressing the crowds holding Armenian flags. In March 2008 during another similar oppositional rally ten people were shot by the police and many others arrested. There are still memorial posters with photographs of the victims located on main streets and people protest around them. The 1st of August march is the biggest since the tragic Spring events. Thus there is a tension on the streets and a lot of police and military patrolling the city. We hoped that this time the demonstration would be peaceful - and it was!

The leader of the opposition is Levon Ter-Petrossian, the first president of independent Armenia who seems to be a national hero. The strange coalition of parties from far left to the right that he represents is called the Armenian Congress. They revolt against the current president Serge Sargsyan and the Republican Party in power. The local artists’ community supports the opposition and argues that it is a movement towards democracy against the corrupt government with a dictatorial strain. People that I know from the Utopiana and the Meline’s are among the protesters that march through the city in the night. I wonder if this would be a democracy also for them and not only for the class of ruling men?

*photo - by