Saturday, 29 November 2008

“Pretty Padres” – Vatican’s annual calendar

Vatican published 2009 version of what is apparently becoming a regular annual calendar “Pretty Padres”. First issue of Calendario Romano was published in 2004. In a spirit of time, they set up also Facebook and Myspace pages.

For sure, this is designed for the sole attention of housewives. Nothing to do with Vatican’s attempts at ‘pink pound’ (or dollar, or whatever).

*photo - via

Coco Chanel euro coins

German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld designed a limited edition of 5 euro coins (golden and silver) to mark the 125th bday anniversary of world famous French fashion designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.

Although nominally these are 5 euro coins, their cost vary from 45 euros (silver coins) to 5900 euros (golden coins).


*German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld and French Culture Minister Christine Albanel (source: Reuters, via Javno)

“Hollywood's Golden Boy” Rouben Mamoulian season at the British Film Institute, London, 1-30 December 2008

(Wikipedia) Rouben Mamoulian (October 8, 1897 – December 4, 1987) was an Armenian-American film and theatre director.

Born in Tbilisi, Georgia (ruled at that time by imperial Russia) to an Armenian family, Rouben relocated to England and started directing plays in London in 1922. He moved to America the next year to teach in Eastman School of Music and was involved in directing opera and theatre. In 1930, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

Asked how to say his name, he told The Literary Digest "The correct pronunciation is roo-BEN ma-mool-YAN." (Charles Earle Funk, What's the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936.)

British Film Institute presents

Rouben Mamoulian: Hollywood's Golden Boy

1 - 30 Dec BFI Southbank

Revisit the glamour of Hollywood's Golden Age this Christmas with Hollywood's 'Golden Boy', Rouben Mamoulian. The centrepiece of the season is his sensual and stylish take on Robert Louis Stevenson's celebrated tale of terror Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, a searing study of desire and repression that features a stunning dual performance by Fredric March and ground-breaking special effects. Ever the showman, Mamoulian's varied career also took in Greta Garbo's 'comeback' in Queen Christina, Marlene Dietrich in The Song of Songs, Rita Hayworth in Blood and Sand and the sublime Silk Stockings starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse.

Rouben Mamoulian's technically audacious and inventive creations brought together painting, music, dance, sculpture, literature, theatre and film into a gloriously synthetic cinematic whole. Adrian Danks celebrates the work of one of classical Hollywood's most underrated auteurs.

Time Out London: “This retrospective of one of the great Holywood artists opens with classic early sound film Applause”.

*photo – via Wikipedia (& Senses of Cinema); posters - Alternative Film Guide and BFI

Friday, 28 November 2008

VIP Armenia: Weddings etc.

Based on Armenian media reports

Last Saturday (22 November) saw a wedding of Viktor Soghomonyan, spokesperson of Armenia’s former president Robert Kocharyan. According to the Haykakan Zhamanak daily, Karen Karapetyan, head of the presidential administration, was the godfather. Wedding was attended by many former and current officials, including Armenia’s former and incumbent presidents Robert Kocharyan and Serj Sargsyan.

Another Armenian daily, Hraparak, provides more details. According to the reports, Viktor Soghomonyan’s beautiful wife Anna, recent graduate of the Slavonic University, is from ordinary middle-class family. But there is even more intriguing part to this story. Anna is a relative of Ara Sahakyan, former deputy speaker of Armenian parliament, prominent (in past) political figure from Armenia’s first president, currently opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s camp. Therefore, as Hraparak notes, the wedding became the place of pretty interesting and unplanned “political meetings” of current and present political figures.

By the way, the very same day son of the speaker of Armenian parliament Hovik Abrahamyan and daughter of the head of pro-governmental Prosperous Armenia party, Armenian oligarch Gagik Tsarukyan, got engaged.

Another headlining, long-awaited engagement happened a week earlier, on 15 November: Armenia’s Eurovision 2008 representative Sirusho and Levon Kocharyan, son of Armenia’s former president Robert Kocharyan, got engaged (Haykakan Zhamanak daily). Kocharyan’s older son, Sedrak married a daughter of Armenian MP Volodya Badalyan. Kocharyan’s daughter Gayane married a son of the head of real estate agency “Bars”. Kocharyan has two grandchildren. (source)

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Eurovision 2009 schedule unveiled by Moscow authorities... and by Russian gay activists

*via Official opening ceremony of Eurovision-2009 will take place at 8 p.m. on 9 May (Victory Day in Russia) at University Square in Vorobyevy Gory.

The semi-finals of the contest are planned for May 12 and 14, with the final and closing ceremony taking place at Olympiysky Stadium May 16, the same day as the planned Slavic Gay Pride. [...]

Russian gay activists, together with the activists from Belarus, announced earlier this month their intention to stage Slavic Gay Pride Parade on the day of Eurovision final.

In addition to the parade, gays and lesbians are planning other events in Russian capital, including human rights conference dedicated to the International Day Against Homophobia which is marked on May 17.

Turkey: Virginity Test In A Student Dormitory

If this sort of things happen in Istanbul, with 18 yrs old university student, imagine how things are somewhere more remote...

Bianet: "A principle of a dormitory forced a father to get a virginity report for her daughter C.G. who is a university student (18 years old) in Avcılar Istanbul. The incident happened when the principle of the dormitory where the said university student was staying called her father and told him that he should come and get her daughter, on the grounds that the reddish marks around her face and neck were obvious signs of a sexual relationship. The father had to come and take two virginity reports for her daughter from two different hospitals. The father said he was going to file a complaint." More...

Armenia: Rock bands join NGOs to mark World AIDS Day 2008 in Yerevan

*via PINK Armenia

PINK Armenia, Women's Resource Center, Real World Real People, Red Cross Armenia with Youth cultural organisation and other NGOs are organising the World AIDS Day event in Yerevan.

On December 1st, at 4pm there will be a World AIDS Day march from around the Vardan Mamikonyan statue till Republic Square. Then the marchers will head off towards the Avantgarde Folk Music Club (Pushkin street 3a) for the main event at 5pm, which includes punk underground rock concert (PINCET, INAD, LSD), presentations and films. During the event, information materials on HIV and condoms will be distributed.

Public Radio of Armenia will broadcast a special program on HIV awareness issues, including interviews with NGO representatives.


Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Turkey: police dispersed women march against domestic and sexual violence

Armenian women did march in Yerevan to protest domestic and sexual violence. This action was organised to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

In Turkey, women groups were not able to fully exercise their right to protest. Instead, they were met by... police barricades. As Bianet reports, police dispersed attempts at marching in Istanbul:

"The police did not allow the march of the women on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

About three hundred women shouted the slogan “Barricades for murderers, not for women” in front of the police barricade.

The November 25 Women’s Platform’s exhibition to protest the violence against women, which was held in front of the Galatasaray High School at Taksim, Istanbul at noon time yesterday, was dispersed by the police resorting violence.

The women were at the Streetcar Station at 19:30 to march to the Galatasaray High School, only to be stopped by the police. Platform's spokespeople said that they had reported the march and they had been replied positively. The Police told the women that they could hold the press release, but would not be permitted to march. According to the laws, marching does not require any permission. The women protested the police with whistles, slogans and songs until 21:30."

Bianet notes that women groups decided to mark the March 8 Women’s Day at the same place.

*photo - via Bianet

Kim Cattrall, semi-naked, as “Titian’s Diana”

Sex And The City star Kim Cattrall posed semi-naked in a photo version of Titian's masterpiece Diana and Actaeon.

The Mirror reports that “The Sex and the City star stripped in a campaign to prevent a classic work by Titian being sold abroad.

The original canvas is one of two being sold for £100million by the Duke of Sutherland. He has given the National Galleries until December 31 to raise half the money to buy it from him and keep it for the nation.

Top British artists, including Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Lucian Freud, have petitioned Downing Street to save the painting. The photo including Kim - by artist Tom Hunter - will be featured tonight on BBC2's Culture Show.”

AP adds: “BBC2's The Culture Show challenged Tom Hunter to create a 21st century version of the painting after he backed the campaign to raise £50 million to keep the artwork on public display.”

Guardian suggests Spot the difference. Photograph: Reuters/Tom Hunter/BBC/PA :)

Tom Hunter on Kim Cattrall: “Kim is perfect for Diana… She combines beauty with a sense of threat.”

*pictures - via Guardian and Sky News

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Armenian women march against domestic and sexual violence (video)

For background of the story - here.

Sadly, turnout was very low. Still, whoever marched today, well done! (video via A1+)

Feminist – first openly feminist magazine of modern Armenia

Published by the Women’s Resource Centre:

“The word feminism is generally not understood in our society. What’s more, the questions raised by the feminist movement are seen as foreign and destructive to the Armenian culture, and the way people perceive feminism is far from what the actual movement represents.

In order to comprehend, recognise and grasp feminist ideas, it is first and foremost necessary to gain a multi-perspective understanding of those principles.

Drawn to this cause, the Women’s Resource Centre has initiated the publication of the first openly feminist magazine of modern Armenia, which will offer the opportunity to discuss and analyze the past, present and future of the feminist movement both in Armenia and in the world. Today there are many magazines that are “for” and “about women” that offer various remedies to become beautiful, charming, captivating, loved, successful, etc. The goal of Feminist is to pay particular attention to the woman, mostly to her psychological, social, economical and political issues, as well as to create a forum where women can express their desires, thoughts, and frustrations.

The first issue of Feminist magazine includes interviews with women from Armenia and Diaspora, and foreign women about their views on the roles of Armenian women. In this regard, Azeri activist Rena Tahirova discusses women’s roles in peace processes. Hoping to run this first attempt into tradition, we are also including information about women who have contributed to Armenia’s social, political and cultural life at various epochs, and in this context we are publishing Zabel Yesayan’s letter to Avetik Isahakian from 1934. In the future issues, we are going to publish excerpts from other prominent Armenian writers as well.

Dear reader, we hope that our efforts in Feminist will help change the various gender stereotypes that exist in the Armenian society.

In solidarity,

Women’s Resource Centre”

In solidarity,

Unzipped: Gay Armenia

Women's Resource Centre: for Armenia free of any type of discrimination

*The Women’s Resource Centre in Armenia organises march to stop violence against women on 25 November 2008, to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.*

Lara Aharonian, head of the Women’s Resource Centre

Address: 34 Zarubyan Street, Yerevan, Armenia

Founded in July 2003, the Women's Resource Centre (WRC) is "open to all women regardless of age, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and social status."

Since November 2006, WRC has initiated the following projects:

Book Club: reading and discussion of books, articles and poems on gender issues.
Film Club: movie screening and discussion.
• Career Development Club: language and computer skills development, assistance to find a job, professional portfolio making and interviewing skills.
• My Body/My Right: training on sexual rights and health.
• Adolescents for the Mature Life: trainings, workshops, discussions aimed at the personal development of participating adolescents and toward professional orientation.
• No one is Perfect: parental skills development program designed for mothers and children under 2 years.
• Pre-natal program: program for pregnant women regarding pregnancy and newborn childcare. • Peer-to-peer Service: assistance to available to anyone who needs to talk or to receive consultations.
• Life is Just Beginning: program designed for women aged 40 years and plus involving meetings and discussions.
• Round-tables and workshops on issues surrounding women and gender.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Cyprus: gay Iranian asylum seeker Abbas Bagherian threatened with deportation to Iran

This gay Iranian guy may well have Armenian origin, as his surname suggests (Bagherian)...

UPDATE (26 November 2008):

Great news: Cyprus grants resident status to gay Iranian asylum seeker Abbas Bagherian (via PinkNews)

MEPs have welcomed the decision of Cyprus interior minister to grant resident status to an gay Iranian asylum seeker.

Labour's Michael Cashman, Lib Dem Baroness Ludford, Tory John Bowis and Greens Jean Lambert and Caroline Lucas were among 13 MEPs who put their name to a parliamentary question to the European Commission on the issue.

They wanted to know if the refusal of asylum to Abbas Bagherian by Cyprus on the grounds of sexual orientation was a breach of EU directives.

After Cypriot MEP Panayiotis Demetriou raised the case in discussions with the interior minister, Mr Bagherian was granted residency.

"I strongly welcome the decision to allow Mr Bagherian to remain in Cyprus," said Baroness Ludford, Liberal Democrat justice and human rights spokeswoman and an MEP for London.

"A rejection of his application and his return to Iran would have left him vulnerable to imprisonment, torture and in the worst case the death penalty, simply for being gay.

"I hope that we are starting to see a general move in EU countries to recognise the validity of asylum claims based on the risk of persecution due to sexual orientation.

"There should be a consistent EU policy, because such fears may be absolutely justified regarding a country like Iran."

Urgent need for action

*via Gays Without Borders

Mr Abbas Bagherian Noveiri, citizen of Iran, came to Cyprus and applied for asylum in June 2004 and for the last three years he has been living with his Cypriot partner. Mr Bagherian had an initial interview at the Asylum Service in July 2005. At the interview, He was not able to reveal that the genuine cause of his persecution in Iran was his sexual orientation, because he was afraid that this information would have been leaked to the Iranian authorities and in case of a rejection of his application for international protection, he would face, upon his forced return to Iran, imprisonment, torture, even death sentence.

Mr. Abbas Bagherian informed the Asylum Service of the above and in April 2007 he had another interview at the Asylum Service. During his interview, Mr Bagherian informed the Asylum Service that he was a homosexual and that he was arrested and detained at the age of 15 by the authorities of Iran because of his homosexual relations. In addition, Mr Bagherian informed the Asylum Service that he had been arrested four or five times by the authorities of Iran, during which he had been detained and beaten up.

Mr Bagherian also informed the Asylum Service that he was afraid that in case he returned to Iran, the Iranian regime would arrest, torture and execute him. Despite this, on April 2007 the Asylum Service decided to again reject his application for asylum.

In May 2007, Mr Bagherian filed an appeal at the Refugee Reviewing Authority against the decision of the Asylum Service. In October 2008 the Refugee Reviewing Authority rejected his appeal.

At present, Mr Bagherian is considered to reside in Cyprus “illegally”. As a result, he was arrested and now held in detention with detention and deportation orders issued by the Migration Officer and could be either detained indefinitely (according to national law) or deported to Iran any time.

Unfortunately, in Cyprus there are no judicatory procedures for the examination of the substance of the decisions of the Refugee Reviewing Authority. If Mr Bagherian files an appeal at the Supreme Court of Cyprus against the decision of the Refugee Reviewing Authority, the Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to examine only the procedures used by the Refugee Reviewing Authority for the examination of his application for asylum.

In light of the above, we believe that both the Asylum Service and the Refugee Reviewing Authority have unjustifiably rejected Mr Bagherian’s application for asylum.

Moreover, we believe that Mr Bagherian’s case raises serious concern about the fairness and effectiveness of the asylum procedures in Cyprus.

With this letter we urge you to send a letter to the Minister of Interior and to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (see below their contact details) expressing your solidarity to Mr Bagherian and requesting his immediate release.

Warm regards

Doros Polykarpou

Director of KISA

- - - - - Form Letter - - - - -

7 November 2008

To: Minister of Interior, Mr Neoklis Sylikiotis,

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Marcos Kyprianou

Subject: Iranian homosexual threatened with deportation to Iran

Mr Abbas Bagherian Noveiri, citizen of Iran, came to Cyprus and applied for asylum in June 2004 and in July 2005 had an initial interview at the Asylum Service. At the first place, because of his fear, he didn’t draw the attention to the Asylum Service about his homosexuality but in April 2007, informed the Asylum Service that he was a homosexual and that he was arrested and detained at the age of 15 by the authorities of Iran because of his homosexual relations. The authorities also arrested and detained him four or five times beaten him cruelly. Despite this, on April 2007 the Asylum Service decided to again reject his application for asylum. In May 2007, he filed an appeal at the Refugee Reviewing Authority against the decision of the Asylum Service. In October 2008 the Refugee Reviewing Authority rejected his appeal. As a result, he was arrested and now held in detention with detention and deportation orders issued by the Migration Officer and could be either detained indefinitely (according to national law) or deported to Iran any time.

Dear Minister, we’re urging you to re-examine this case under the spirit of the respect of human rights and we’re asking you his immediate release and to grand this person the fully state of asylum.


- - - - - End of Form Letter - - - - -

Minister of Interior
Mr Neoklis Sylikiotis
Dimostheni Severi ave
1453 Nicosia
Phone: 22867600
Fax: 22676709

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr Marcos Kyprianou
Presidential Palace ave,
1447 Nicosia
Phone: 22401200
Fax: 22663649

*See also IRQR

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Life = receipts

By Mexican artist Gabriel Kuri, Sadie Coles HQ, 9 Balfour Mews, London

Under Scan (London, Trafalgar sq)

Under Scan is a "large scale video art installation featuring more than 1000 interactive portraits of people from London and the East Midlands." The work was created by Montreal-based Mexican artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.

It transformed public space of Trafalgar sq "into a new site of exchange". On entering the flood lit area in front of the National Gallery, people are detected by special tracking system. Moving across the square they encounter interactive video portraits cast within their shadows. "The piece is intended as a public takeover of a city by its inhabitants and links surveillance technology with strategies of self-representation."

I unexpectedly walked in "Under Scan" in Trafalgar sq few days ago (on till 23 November). It was great fun and kind of surreal.

Sarah Lucas’s Penetralia

This was her first exhibition in London since 2006. (69 South Audley Street) This was slightly different Sarah Lucas. The overall theme was the same, but the medium used was somewhat different, perhaps under the influence of her recent move from London to the countryside.

It's Christmas time in London

Regent street Christmas lights, London

Carnaby street, London

*see also “Christmas Gloom” in London: “buy one, get one free” for cars

Monday, 17 November 2008

Eurovision 2009: Slavic Gay Pride in Moscow

Russian and Belarusian gay activists agreed on holding a Slavic Gay Pride to coincide with the Eurovision 2009 finale in Moscow (Saturday, 16 May).

Moscow mayor Luzhkov will surely be thrilled with this news. :)

Piramid LGBTT - world's first Kurdish gay rights group

Thanks to the reader of Unzipped: Gay Armenia, below is the link to the blog of world's first Kurdish gay rights group - Piramid LGBTT (in Kurdish and Turkish):

"They are based in northern Kurdistan in the city of Diyarbakir. They are very active and arranging demonstrations, lectures, debates etc. This year was the first year ever that a gay organisation participated in the Kurdish Newroz celebration in Diyarbakir and in all of Kurdistan!"

In fact, in March 2008 I posted the story (mentioned above by the reader of this blog) on Kurdish gay rights group's first ever participation in Newroz celebration:

As I do not know Kurdish or Turkish, I won't be able to personally follow the blog, but will appreciate updates from readers of this blog who know either of these languages.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Turkey: LGBTT march for slained transsexual İnce

*Bianet reports

Transsexual Dilek İnce, who was killed by a gun shot in Ankara, was interred by family and friends. The members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transvestite and Transsexual (LGBTT) Rights Platform marched to the Prime Ministry to protest the killing.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexsual, Transvestite and Transsexual (LGBTT) Rights Platform held an activity in Kızılay, Ankara and protested the death of Dilek İnce, who was killed by a gun attack.

After İnce’s funeral, a group of about hundred people marched down the Yüksel Street wearing shrouds protesting the hate killings against the member of the LGBTTs.

“We do not know who is next”

Reading the press release on behalf of the group, Serra Can asked, “how long are you going to watch our getting killed by fueling homophobic and transphobic hatred.”

Stating that İnci was killed by the hetero-sexist hatred, Can said, “We are sad and angry, because we have come here from the cemetery. We are angry, because we do not know which one of our gay and transsexual friend is next.”

“Who killed transsexual İnce at the Capitol by a pump-gun and will they be caught? Who killed gay Ahmet Yılda by a gun and why the Istanbul police has not found the killers yet? Who forced gay Ege Tanyürek to suicide in Adıyaman.”

“Prime Minister, is it not a crime to discriminate between the citizens?”

Saying that they are in fear and anxiety, Can called out to the Prime Minister.

“Mister Prime Minister we are asking you if the homosexuals and transsexuals are not citizens. Is it not a crime to discriminate between the citizens? We are asking you if their killers will be found. Will the prosecutors and the judges quit releasing them because of excessive provocation? We are asking you who will protects our lives and provide our security. We are in fear and anxiety, because we do not know how many homosexuals and transsexuals will the Prime Minister’s citizens who lost their patience kill? We are curious if Mister Prime Minister will create the just and peaceful society by using fear?

Can said the doors their knock to receive justice are not opened to them.

“We have knocked their doors, we have screamed, we have worn shrouds…They kill us just because we are homosexuals, just because we are transsexuals. We seek justice, but we do not get any. It is not much we want; we just don’t want to be killed for out identities of sexual orientation.”

Announcing that “The killing of homosexuals and transsexuals is a political act, we know the killers, the platform leader said, “We will not quit going after these events.”

After the press release was read, the participants marched to the building of the Prime Ministry Human Rights Presidency, clapping their hands and chanting slogans. Demanding the murderers must be caught, they left a kefen in front of the building.

Her friends and her husband bid farewell to İnce

İnce was killed by a gun shot received at an attack in Etlik, Ankara. More than 70 people, including her friends and her husband, were at the funeral.

Umut Güner of Kaos GL told bianet that despite the belief that the people of LGBTT orientation die alone, İnce was not alone. (BÇ/EÜ/TB)

*This news report was prepared with the help received from

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

There’s no pride in silence: domestic and sexual violence against women in Armenia

25 November marked by the UN resolution as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. UN resolution calls “governments, international organizations and NGOs to organize activities designated to raise public awareness of the problem on that day. Women's activists have marked 25 November as a day against violence since 1981. This date came from the brutal assassination in 1960, of the three Mirabal sisters, political activists in the Dominican Republic, on orders of Dominican ruler Rafael Trujillo (1930-1961).” On 20 December 1993 the General Assembly adopted Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Report issued today by the Amnesty International (to be formally launched in Yerevan tomorrow) suggests that “more than a quarter of women in Armenia have faced physical violence at the hands of husbands or other family members. Many of these women have little choice but to remain in abusive situations as reporting violence is strongly stigmatized in Armenian society.” (see details below)

Women’s Resource Centre in Armenia organises march against violence against women on 25 November 2008. (below are selected photos from last year's event)

There will be round-table discussion on sexual violence against women in Armenia on 27 November. Also, thanks to the initiative and cooperation of the U.S. Embassy and other organisations, Armenia's first-ever walkathon to raise awareness about domestic violence issues in Armenia is being organized in connection with the "16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence," spanning from November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women, to December 10, International Human Rights Day. Walkathon for a Violence-Free Future for Women is on Sunday, November 30, 2008.

There’s no pride in silence: domestic and sexual violence against women in Armenia

Amnesty International /12 November 2008/

Full report

National surveys suggest that more than a quarter of women in Armenia have faced physical violence at the hands of husbands or other family members. Many of these women have little choice but to remain in abusive situations as reporting violence is strongly stigmatized in Armenian society.

Violence in the family takes many forms, ranging from isolation and the withholding of economic necessities, to physical and sexual violence, and even murder, yet women have few options to escape situations in which they are at risk.

Violence in the family is not defined in law separately from other kinds of violence involving strangers, and abused women face powerful pressures not to report violence to the police. Strong family bonds are an integral aspect of Armenian culture and women who report violence are seen as threatening the family and are pressured to keep domestic violence a private “family matter”.

The social stigma associated with separation or divorce is worse than that associated with domestic violence. The pressure not to report rape is even more powerful and rape victims commonly encounter the attitude that they are to blame.

Women who try to report violence in the family often experience social isolation, as friends, relatives and neighbours reject them. This culture of preserving silence on violence extends to the police force.

Women often experience reluctance on the part of the police to get involved, and in some cases the police endorse the view that domestic violence is a "family matter".

Since 2002, a handful of shelters have been operating despite facing widespread criticism for their part in making domestic violence a public issue. These shelters, which are run by non-governmental organizations, are reliant on intermittent funding, and most of them have been forced to close or reduce their operations in recent years due to lack of funds.

While shelters are not a catch-all solution, they fulfil a crucial role in providing women who face violence with an initial, short-term step out of their situation. Establishing a network of shelters must be a key element in government strategies to address the issue of violence against women in Armenia.

The fact that some state officials now acknowledge that violence against women actually exists both signifies progress, but also the fact that there is a long way to go. Some positive steps have been taken towards addressing violence against women:
• A draft law criminalizing domestic violence is currently under discussion.
• Police training programmes have been initiated to implement guidelines for police responsibilities in responding to domestic violence.

Amnesty International calls on the Armenian authorities to clearly and forcefully condemn violence against women. They must also take other urgent steps to change wider social attitudes to domestic and sexual violence. These should include, though not be restricted to, the following:
• Criminalizing domestic violence, facilitating its prevention and providing support to its victims and survivors;
• Ensuring that victims of domestic and sexual violence have access to the criminal justice system without facing pressure to withdraw their complaints;
• Raising awareness of family violence as a crime and a human rights violation.

Obama and McCain condoms

Be protected... now with 'political' condoms ;)

Monday, 10 November 2008

Disappointing: Armenian American LGBT groups keep silent over same-sex marriage ban in California

UPDATE (19 November 2008):
After posting this entry, I received updates from LA and NY based groups - GALAS and AGLA NY, as per in comments section below. Although this information was not previously publicised, GALAS was active during pre-voting period to ensure defeat of the Proposition 8; and AGLA NY participated in a number of post-voting protest rallies.

GALAS: “GALAS helped sponsor a fundraiser on October 23rd along with Club Nur, MJ's Bar and a few others raising almost $7000. We also submitted letters/articles to the Glendale Newspress, Armenian Reporter, Asbarez, and Pasadena Star News. The Armenian Reporter printed an open letter from GALAS directed to the Armenian Community to vote No on Proposition 8.
Letters (1 November, Armenian Reporter)
Vote "No" on Proposition 8 in California: The Armenian thing to do
On November 4, Californians will be asked whether they want to insert within their state constitution a ban on marriage for a portion of the state's population. If passed, Proposition 8 will take away a fundamental right that the California Supreme Court confirmed in May of this year: the right of any person to marry another person of his or her choosing. No matter what you feel about gays or lesbians, it is wrong to deny a group of people a right that is so cherished by society. It is also unfair: On the one hand, gay people are sometimes accused of being promiscuous; on the other hand, when they want to form a committed, monogamous, long-lasting relationship, they are told that they cannot protect that relationship within the framework of civil marriage. And remember, the court's decision said nothing about whether churches or other religious institutions would have to recognize gay marriage. Prop. 8 has nothing to do with religion. It has nothing to do with gay marriage being "taught" to children in schools, which will not happen. And nobody is going to get sued over their personal views on homosexuality. All these are lies that the opponents of gay marriage are spreading to scare Californians into voting in favor of the marriage ban. In fact, the opponents of gay marriage have gone even as far as to call people who are in favor of gay marriage and tell them to vote "yes" (which is the wrong way to vote if you support equal marriage rights). As Armenians, haven't we experienced firsthand what it means to be discriminated against? As Armenians, shouldn't we be promoting equality and justice for all people, regardless of our personal views of those people? As Armenians, we should not judge other people who have done nothing wrong, and we certainly should not use our vote to discriminate against them. This has everything to do with fairness and justice. On November 4, please vote no on Proposition 8.
Very truly yours,
Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society of Los Angeles (GALAS)
Significant attempts were made to get the others printed as well.
We've had politically oriented meetings for the last three months and our last meeting was held in conjunction with The LA Gay and Lesbian centers Voting Day party at the Henry Fonda Theater.
A major outreach/awareness program is in the works with AGLA of New York to reach out to the entire Armenian American Community.”

AGLA NY: In the meantime, AGLA NY posted the following entry:
“This past week has been full of highs and lows for LGBT Armenian Americans. [...]
It is particularly disheartening that the heavily Armenian populated counties of Fresno and Los Angeles both voted to pass Prop 8 which seeks to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry.
As a sign of solidarity with our LGBT brothers and sisters in California and recognizing that LGBT rights are universal rights, AGLA NY will be participating in at least 2 Prop 8 protests in NYC this week: one in front of the Mormon Temple on the UWS this Wednesday; and the second at City Hall on Saturday.
Please join us as we make our voices heard to those who would challenge the rights of LGBT people to marry."

"Proposition 8 eliminates equal rights for one segment of the population while continuing to grant that right to others," said Maria Armoudian, an Armenian-American radio personality on KPFK in Los Angeles. "We Armenians have had to endure a century of discrimination. Let us now stand together calling for an end to discrimination for all people. Vote NO on Prop 8."
30 October 2008

It’s been almost a week that historic presidential elections in the US were accompanied by disappointing voting results in California effectively banning recently introduced historic same-sex marriage ruling there.

There are protests currently going on in California, elsewhere in the US, and it seems that gay rights movement re-gaining its seemingly lost momentum.

It’s, therefore, strange and disappointing that Armenian American LGBT groups keep silent over these issues. We have at least 4 groups in the US – in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Boston. Groups in LA and NY are more advanced in terms of structural organisation.

No doubts, many individual gay (and straight) Armenians are part of the process. It is only natural to expect that organisations that are supposed to represent and support them will voice their position, or even better, get involved in more active participation, being part of the process.

Disappointingly, so far, there is no even single statement issued by Armenian LGBT groups in the US.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

The Economist: Transvestites in Turkey

by Amberin Zaman

Turkey is said to have more transvestites per head than anywhere bar Brazil. Fascination with cross-dressing dates to Ottoman times, when winsome boys dressed as girls would belly-dance for the sultan. But, just as tolerance of Christians and Kurds withered under Ataturk’s republic, so it did for transvestites and gays. The success of a few transvestite singers disguises the “general acceptance in Turkish society that we are freaks,” says Funda, a transvestite dancer. More...

Armenia's "special women" - new blog

[...] “I am a woman who is not accepted by the society,” out of all the women I photograph for this story, none would say this or anything similar. Yet every time any of them walks along the street people look with amazement.

When I would see one of them in the streets I would look at them just as everyone else would. There was strange interest and respect I felt towards them, so I decided to get to know them closer, talk to them, and photograph them for memory. [...]

Anush Babajanyan's photoblog

*UPDATE (3 July 2013): link above is no longer working. However, all the pictures and photostory is available on Anush Babajanyan's website.

*thanks to GVO for the link

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Greek gay rights activist gets sued for denouncing hate speech

A Greek bishop sued a Greek LGBT activist and an HIV/AIDS charity for 1 million euro, after the latter denounced him for his homophobic hate speech.

Hate speech against gays, lesbians and transgender people in Greece takes place with impunity. Several leading politicians, ministers, and religious leaders, as well as several journalists and other public figures, repeatedly insult and demean gays and lesbians without any legal or disciplinary consequences.

The latest example is the bishop of the Piraeus, Seraphim, who in an article maligned gays as ‘morally corrupt, obsessed with satisfying their psychopathological deviation and who have made a life value out of the faeces elimination tract'. Such is Seraphim's hatred against gays that he supports the claims of an alleged murderer. The bishop said that the popular Greek actor Nikos Seryanopoulos, who was murdered in what seems to be a homophobic crime, brought this on himself because, according to the alleged murderer, Seryanopoulos forced him to have sex, and him not being ‘that way' got upset and defended himself by stabbing the actor 21 times.

You can offer your support to the Greek gay rights activist Leo Kalovyrnas and the non-governmental organisation Synthesis HIV/AIDS Awareness who were recently sued for a 1 million euro in defamation charges after denouncing Greek-Orthodox bishop Seraphim's misanthropic and homophobic hate speech. The trial has been set for 3 February 2009.

Please sign our petition to the Greek Government to ban hate speech against the Gay, Lesbian and Transexual community in Greece by changing the anti-discrimination law 927/1979 so as to cover hate crimes against the Greek LGBT community.

Click here and sign our petition.

For more information, please contact Leo Kalovyrnas and Synthesis HIV/AIDS Awareness at

"The biggest SOAD fan" tattooed Serj Tankian's entire poem on her body

She is the winner of the "biggest SOAD fan" contest, as reported by the SOAD blog: "In addition to the pogo mushroom tattoo on her wrist and the SOAD posters all over her room, she has the ENTIRE Serj Tankian poem "Misunderstood Rose" tattooed on the side of her body!"

Madonna: it's time US says "I do" to gay marriage

AFP — Pop star Madonna said it was a shame the United States could put a black man in the White House but not allow same-sex marriage, rocking on her world tour with guests Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears.

Voters approved a proposal in Tuesday's presidential elections which amended the California's constitution to say that only marriages between men and women are recognized in the state.

The decision came only six months after California's Supreme Court overturned a previous ban on same-sex marriage, paving the way for thousands of gay and lesbian couples to tie the knot in the state.

"If we can elect an African-American as president, we can support gay marriage!," Madonna shouted to 20,000 fans at Dodger Stadium late Thursday, referring to president-elect Barack Obama. "Defeat Prop 8! We will not give up!."

*photo - via AFP

Friday, 7 November 2008

Small town in the US made history by electing nation's first openly transgender mayor

On the same day that the US elected its first black president, history was made also in a small American town Silverton, Oregon, where residents elected the first openly transgender mayor in the United States.

Fascinating story!

Fox News reported the story; more details via TransWorldNews:

A small town in Oregon has elected who is believed to be the first openly transgender mayor in the United States. Silverton, Oregon residents elected Stu Rasmussen as mayor.

Rasmussen is a heterosexual man but says he likes to dress as a woman. He has breast implants, long red hair, and wears high heels and skirts. "I identify mostly as a heterosexual male. But I just like to look like a female,” he explains."Some guys' mid-life crisis is motorcycles or sports cars or climbing mountains or trophy wives or whatever. I always wanted cleavage, so I went out and acquired some."

Rasmussen, who has a girlfriend, served two terms as the Mayor of Silverton in the 1990’s but had not admitted to being transgender. He says he only “came out” a few years ago.

Despite worrying about how his appearance would affect the election, Rasmussen won by 13 points.

"The first 30 seconds they think, am I in a freak show? Is there a camera behind me? What's going on here? And then we get down to discussing whatever the issue is - city business or business or whatever - and they figure out this guy's different, but he knows what he's talking about,” he says.

*source of photo

I Am A Fighter Of H8


Only 2.5% of local communities in Armenia run by women

Only 2.5% (23) of 926 local communities in Armenia are run by women. According to the government representative, “this is not a good indicator reflecting specific problems in our society" in relation to gender policy. Local communities led by women are “more organised”. (source)

UK: Ministry of Defence compensates victims of military homophobia

This is yet another evidence of shifting attitudes towards gay servicemen in the British Army.

London - 7 November

The UK Ministry of Defence has revealed that it has paid £4 million in compensation to 65 former service personnel who were booted out of the armed forces because of their homosexuality.

The average payout was £61,500.

The ban on gays in the British military was overturned in 1999, after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that it was a violation of a person's right to a private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

"These payouts are small compensation to people who were often subjected to degrading interrogation and detention, and who lost their job and service accommodation. They ended up unemployed and homeless," said Peter Tatchell of the gay human rights group, OutRage!, who campaigned for three decades to end the ban on gay and lesbian people serving in the armed forces.

"For many gay and lesbian service personnel, dismissal from the military destroyed their distinguished careers and caused them immense financial and emotional suffering.

"Although this monetary compensation package is welcome and long overdue, what's really important is the official recognition that a grave injustice was done to these people and to hundreds of other dismissed lesbian and gay soldiers, sailors and air crews," said Mr Tatchell.

*information received via Peter Tatchell

UK: Northern Ireland politician named “Bigot of the Year”

PinkNews reports: Northern Ireland politician Iris Robinson has been named as the Bigot of the Year at the Stonewall Awards. She has refused to withdraw comments that homosexuality is an abomination and gay people can be "cured" by therapy. […] Mrs Robinson caused further uproar in July, when it emerged that during committee proceedings in the Commons last month, she told MPs: "There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children."

I am glad that my favourite publication Time Out London was named “Publication of the Year” “for its weekly essential information on lesbian and gay London, including features and cultural events beyond the capital’s commercial scene.” Well deserved.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

San Francisco: "Our pride flag at half mast"

The morning after Prop 8 was passed and banned same-sex marriage, the pride flag at Harvey Milk Plaza stood at half mast. (source: Jamison)

What an irony!

President-Elect Barack Obama became the first to mention gays in his acceptance speech last night, as three marriage amendments across the country passed, restricting the rights of LGBT citizens.

"It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America," he said Tuesday night before a crowd of more than 100,000 at Chicago's Grant Park. (The Advocate)

Eurovision 2009: Arame for Armenia?

I hope these rumours are wrong. I do not have anything against Arame per se, but he is typical, unremarkable pop singer. Well, yes, Eurovision is pop, and not the best quality music, but there should be something more to get you win it. I am afraid, Arame is not a Eurovision winner, unless something magical happens... I wish previous rumours which I wrote about - Will SOAD or Serj Tankian represent Armenia at the Eurovision song contest 2009 in Moscow? - are true, although these talks died out subsequently. Serj Tankian would have been a sensational representation for Armenia and true potential winner. Oh, well, it’s Eurovision, and Armenia will not rock it in 2009. Or may be I am wrong.

*For info - Arame was named as “the best male singer of the year” at the Armenian National Music Awards 2007 which was held in February 2008. During the same ceremony, Sirusho won the title of “the best female singer”, and subsequently represented Armenia in Eurovision 2008 finishing 4th.

**photo - by Photolur, via A1+

It's "official": Sex and The City sequel

Yes! I know, I know, I can’t get enough of SATC :)

People: After months of speculation, Kim Cattrall confirms that there will be a sequel to this year's hugely popular Sex and the City: The Movie.

*source of picture: Vogue

Michelle Obama: "That Dress? Everyone Has an Opinion"

Yes, this was a 'hot' topic of discussion the day after. In Armenian circles too. I must say, most times I quite liked Michelle Obama's style of dressing, but I would agree that in this particular case it was a fashion lapse. Still, she is not afraid of taking risks. It's not boring, for sure.

Via The New York Times:

Some of the most heated conversations on the morning after election night centered on Michelle Obama’s dress. The first lady-elect took to the stage at Grant Park in Chicago on Tuesday night wearing a red-and-black sheath by Narciso Rodriguez. A sleeveless, scoop-neck adaptation of a more revealing design for spring that Mr. Rodriguez showed on a runway in New York in September, it sparked instant debate among viewers, with some calling it an eye-catching statement and others, an eyesore.

“I voted for Obama, but I didn’t vote for that dress,” said Jessica Bettencourt, a homemaker and mother of three in Mequon, Wisc., who shared a widely held view that Mrs. Obama had exhibited a rare lapse in taste. [...]

Based on her many public appearances of the past two years, Mrs. Obama’s tastes run from J. Crew to adventurous American labels. She frequently accessorizes with ultra-wide belts and theatrical brooches. Certainly, her style is a departure from the starchy attire that first ladies historically favored.

At the least, it promises four lively years of fashion-watching at the White House.

*source of photo

California: "Power of numbers to discriminate against minority. Courts should step in to protect fundamental rights!"

Excellent editorial by the San Francisco Chronicle in reflection to the voting results in California to approve the so called "Proposition 8" which would constitutionally ban historic same-sex marriage decision by the Supreme Court.

The fight over Prop. 8 goes to the courts

On Tuesday night, the portrait gallery of American presidents was finally widened to include a face of color.

On Wednesday came the sobering reminder that flat-out discrimination against gays and lesbians remains socially acceptable and entrenched in the law.

It was disturbing enough that voters in Florida and Arizona approved measures to prohibit same-sex marriage. But the passage of California's Proposition 8 was all the more unsettling because it did not just exploit voters' discomfort with the notion that sexual orientation should not be a barrier to the rights and responsibilities of marriage. This was an open assault on a right that was affirmed by a state Supreme Court ruling in May. This was an ugly slap that threatens to disrupt the lives of the 18,000 couples who have legally wed since then.

This was a classic case of a majority using its power of numbers to discriminate against a minority group.

[...] As soon as Prop. 8's victory was assured, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera and his counterparts from Los Angeles and Santa Clara County went to the state Supreme Court to try to invalidate it on the grounds that it conflicts with the equal protection pillars of the state Constitution.

"It goes to the heart of what the judiciary is supposed to do: To ensure that everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law," Herrera said.

The legal swords have been drawn. Opponents of same-sex marriage instantly decried the possibility that "unelected judges" could thwart the will of the majority.

But when the will of the majority is discrimination against a minority group, the courts have a legal and moral obligation to step in to protect fundamental rights.

*/emphasis mine/

Below are some pictures via Towleroad from anti-Proposition 8 rally in West Hollywood yesterday.