Monday, 30 March 2009

Gay-themed play MetastaZ received theatrical awards in Armenia

UPDATE: (11 June 2009) WTF? A bizarre follow-up to my posts on gay-themed theatre play in Vanadzor, Armenia
Very happy to share this news.

Nune Khechumyan received "Best young director" award for a gay-themed play MetastaZ at the main Armenian annual theatre award ceremony "Artavazd 2009" on 27 March in Yerevan. Also, actor Temur Atchinyan (State Dramatic Theatre named after H. Abelyan of Vanadzor) was named "Best young actor" at the award ceremony. He was among a group of talented actors involved in MetastaZ.

My congratulations!!

For more info about MetastaZ and video clips from the performance, see:

MetastaZ - gay related theatre play in Vanadzor, Armenia

*posters - via PINK Armenia

Sunday, 29 March 2009


Looking at the programme of the 23rd London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, under the “Experimental Visions”, I noticed this description of a short film by Klara Liden “Bodies of Society” (Sweden 2006):

“A sadomasochistic relationship with a bicycle.”

How sweet! :)

'Football is gay' - even according to Armenian media ;)

That ‘football is gay’ is not news for gay blogs and web sites. ‘Gay moments’ in football caught by photographers are being widely posted there (example above). They are pretty entertaining, and at times – pretty hot too.

It is, however, unusual and lovely to see Armenian Aravot daily publishing a series of such photos under pretty revealing heading “Sex at football” ;). Check out Aravot here. Do not forget reading sub-headings to each picture. You would be amused ;)

Thousands of Iranians celebrate Novruz in Armenia due to "liberties"

Thousands of Iranians choose to celebrate Novruz in Armenia. Referring to the Public Radio of Armenia, Huliq says that "close to 20,000 vacationers from neighboring Iran have traveled to Armenia to celebrate Novruz, the Iranian New Year in Armenia due to liberties, affordability and warm weather."
The young people from Iran travel to Armenia with large groups to be able to celebrate Novruz while they can attend Yerevan's numerous nightclubs and can drink in public. Whereas in Iran you can only drink inside your house and there is no such a thing as public drinking.

The reporter of the Armenia radio interviewed a young lady who is staying in front of Yerevan hotel saying "look I can have my beer here and don't have to carry a scarf, which is an obligation in Iran." [...]

"We went to night clubs, danced and were able to have good time with our friends. Yerevan is near to Iran, full of good people and provides good opportunities for fun and celebration," says 25 years old Amir from Iran while shopping in Yerevan and who thinks the traditions are too strict in his country Iran.
As the report pointed out further, "It is estimated that an average vacationer spends $1000 U.S. dollars in Armenia per week, which includes most of the expenses, including hotel and meal. Therefore, 20,000 Iranian tourists leaving $20 Million dollars in the Armenian economy is a good investment in the country of 3.5 million people."

As far as I know from various sources, for the same reasons many Azeris tend to spend their Novruz holiday in Georgia.

As posted on this blog, Iranian artists and gays seek freedom in Armenia too. This is VERY relative, of course, from a local Armenian perspectives, but pretty significant for Iranians.

Here is the morale of this story. Under current economic conditions, focus on tourism should become one of the priorities. And as this report suggests, more social liberties will attract more tourists, and subsequently more money to Armenian state budget and local businesses. Even if for practical reasons, it's time to think of pink pound (or euro/dollar, if you wish).

Friday, 27 March 2009

...on my way from work (London, Friday evening)

...This is why I love London. Friday evening. On your way home from work you see this.

Yes, it’s a part of a sale PR campaign. But there is also money being collected for cancer charity. DJ is good, music is uplifting, girls are cool, men are sexy and naked. Can you ask for a better way to kick off the weekend? Well, unless you are having a date with one of them ;)

This is what I call survival in recession.

Pope faces unprecedented backlash for his anti-condom remarks

The leading and most prestigious London based medical journal The Lancet accused Pope Benedict XVI of distorting the science and endangering lives of millions, BBC reports.

It said the Pope's recent comments that condoms exacerbated the problem of HIV/AIDS were wildly inaccurate and could have devastating consequences. [...]

The Pope said "the traditional teaching of the Church has proven to be the only failsafe way to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids". [...]

"Whether the Pope's error was due to ignorance or a deliberate attempt to manipulate science to support Catholic ideology is unclear," said the journal.

But is said the comment still stood and urged the Vatican to issue a retraction.

"When any influential person, be it a religious or political figure, makes a false scientific statement that could be devastating to the health of millions of people, they should retract or correct the public record," it said.

"Anything less from Pope Benedict would be an immense disservice to the public and health advocates, including many thousands of Catholics, who work tirelessly to try and prevent the spread of HIV/Aids worldwide."
BBC says that "the attack from the Lancet was unprecedentedly virulent", and "the article shows how far the Pope's attempts to clarify the Vatican's position on condoms has backfired".

Pope's deadly comments have caused a Europe-wide (and world-wide) outrage. "The Pope is a disaster" - The Daily Telegraph. "Impeach the Pope" - The Washington Post.

*photo - Getty Images, via BBC

Monday, 23 March 2009

4th annual GALAS Armenian GLBT conference

"The Road to Equality: The Past, Present and Future of the Gay Rights Movement"

Saturday 18 April 2008

This year with prop.8 in the forefront, GALAS [LA Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society] is focusing the conference sessions on the important political issues relating to GLBT Civil Rights.

There are three sessions scheduled for the conference with excellent and notable speakers!

Session one, "Rear View Mirror: The History of the Gay Movement," we have invited Dr. Hale, a professor from CSUN and the Director of the Gender Studies Department. He is assembling a panel of speakers including guests who will speak about Proposition 6, the Briggs Initiative, etc.

Session two, "Detours: Current Events," will concentrate on Prop. 8 and what is happening right now in the California Supreme Court. The time line of the second session will start with why and how Prop. 8 was on the ballot, the election, and what has subsequently happened since the passing of prop. 8. The guest panel will include lawyers from Lambda Legal, representatives from the Gay and Lesbian Center, and managers of Vote for Equality Campaign who will speak about all aspects of prop 8 (the social, cultural, legal aspects...)

Session three, "The Road Ahead" will concentrate on action steps that need to be taken in the near and far future. This session will also include discussion about what plans are in gear with whatever decision is made by the California Supreme Court. Details are still in the works to make this an exciting session to conclude our conference. We will also speak about GALAS' future and its role in protecting LGBT Civil Rights.

GALAS Education/Resource Committee

Launched: first ever Georgian website for lesbians

UPDATE (24 March 2009): was launched yesterday by Georgian LGBT group - Inclusive Foundation. It will be available both in Georgian and English. Congrats!!
Gay Caucasus reports that for the first time ever lesbian Georgians will have their own website - Pink Room (in Georgian). Reportedly, works are underway to launch (an "official website") too.

While there has been surge in numbers of gay Georgian blogs (mainly directed at gay men), no lesbian Georgian blogs are available, as of now. Today's news suggest that it's perhaps only a matter of time when there will be lesbian Georgian blogs too.

Pride 2009

Pride 2009 music video was made by JGL production company to honour the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots which marked the start of the gay rights movement in the US and around the world. (video - via Queers United)

Armenian to head UN Status of Women Commission

Armenia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Armen Martirosyan, was elected chairperson of the organization’s Commission on the Status of Women for a two year term at its recent 54th session.

The UN’s Commission on the Status of Women is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women.

Every year, representatives of the 45 member states gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide.

*source: Hetq Online
**photo -
Armenia Fund USA

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Pincet - all-female punk rock band in Armenia

Pincet is an all-female electropunk rock band based in Armenia. They recently opened a MySpace page for the band and have posted since a few good songs there. Love it.

Band members are Tsomak (guitar, lead vocals), Astghik Melkonyan (drums) and Jenya (keyboard). Tsomak is an artist, women rights activist, and known from a former punk rock band Incest which was an "original all-female Armenian punk rock band" formed in 2000 and active till 2004.

Below is a photo (source) of Pincet rock band at Avantgarde Folk Club in Yerevan, performing for the World AIDS Day 2008 in Armenia.

INAD rock band performing for the World AIDS Day 2008 in Yerevan, Armenia

Below are two videos of INAD rock band at Avantgarde Folk Club in Yerevan, performing for the World AIDS Day 2008 in Armenia. (photo above - source)

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Les Chansons d'amour ('Love Songs')

I first noticed Louis Garrel in The Dreamers (directed by Bernardo Bertolucci). Since then, he became one of my favourite actors. Talented, different, and sexy.

Yesterday was watching Les Chansons d'amour ('Love Songs').

The film ends with:

"Love me less, but love me a long time."

Perfectly said.

*Louis Garrel's website:

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Clean up at the Pantheon / remembering our Armenian foremothers

As part of the Women's Month in Armenia, organised by the Women's Resource Centre

20 March 2009

Meeting at 11am in front of the Komitas Pantheon, Yerevan.

Program: Cleaning the park and the cemeteries of Armenian women writers.

Poetry reading in front of Silva Kaputikyan's and Shushanik Kurghinyan's tombstones.

Flowers and candle lighting ceremony to remember our foremothers.

Merriam-Webster's dictionary "makes gay marriage official"

Popnography reports that "A new entry in the reference book represents progress -- and (bonus!) pisses off right-wingers."

Here is the new definition of the word marriage according to the Merriam-Webster's dictionary:

Main Entry: mar·riage
Pronunciation: \ˈmer-ij, ˈma-rij\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English mariage, from Anglo-French, from marier to marry
Date: 14th century

1 a (1): the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2): the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage /same-sex marriage/ b: the mutual relation of married persons : wedlock c: the institution whereby individuals are joined in a marriage
2: an act of marrying or the rite by which the married status is effected ; especially : the wedding ceremony and attendant festivities or formalities
3: an intimate or close union /the marriage of painting and poetry — J. T. Shawcross/

*/emphasis mine/

Fashion designer Marc Jacobs engaged to his Brazilian boyfriend (report)

What a cute couple! Congrats!!

Via People and "Marc Jacobs and Lorenzo Martone are engaged. The designer and his ad executive boyfriend, who have been together for about a year, will go public with the news beginning Thursday, when they arrive in Brazil wearing rings. The couple is headed to Martone’s native Sao Paolo for a fete celebrating the Marc Jacobs multibrand store there, which opened in January. They have not set a wedding date."

*photo - People (Billy Farrell/Patrick McMullan/Sipa)

London, street art

Oxford street

Green Park tube station


London, shopping

6 December 2008

London, athletes for HIV/AIDS

National Portrait Gallery

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Sources: US to sign UN gay rights statement

UPDATE: It's official!

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Obama administration will endorse a U.N. declaration calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality that then-President George W. Bush had refused to sign, The Associated Press has learned.

U.S. officials said Tuesday they had notified the declaration's French sponsors that the administration wants to be added as a supporter. The Bush administration was criticized in December when it was the only western government that refused to sign on.

The move was made after an interagency review of the Bush administration's position on the nonbinding document, which was signed by all 27 European Union members as well as Japan, Australia, Mexico and three dozen other countries, the officials said. [Unzipped: Gay Armenia - endorsed by Armenia too]

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Congress was still being notified of the decision. They said the administration had decided to sign the declaration to demonstrate that the United States supports human rights for all.

"The United States is an outspoken defender of human rights and critic of human rights abuses around the world," said one official.

"As such, we join with the other supporters of this statement and we will continue to remind countries of the importance of respecting the human rights of all people in all appropriate international fora," the official said.

The official added that the United States was concerned about "violence and human rights abuses against gay, lesbian, transsexual and bisexual individuals" and was also "troubled by the criminalization of sexual orientation in many countries."

"In the words of the United States Supreme Court, the right to be free from criminalization on the basis of sexual orientation 'has been accepted as an integral part of human freedom'," the official said.

Gay rights and other groups had criticized the Bush administration when it refused to sign the declaration when it was presented at the United Nations on Dec. 19. U.S. officials said then that the U.S. opposed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation but that parts of the declaration raised legal questions that needed further review.

According to negotiators, the Bush team had concerns that those parts could commit the federal government on matters that fall under state jurisdiction. In some states, landlords and private employers are allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation; on the federal level, gays are not allowed to serve openly in the military.

It was not immediately clear on Tuesday how the Obama administration had come to a different conclusion.

When it was voted on in December, 66 of the U.N.'s 192 member countries signed the declaration — which backers called a historic step to push the General Assembly to deal more forthrightly with anti-gay discrimination.

But 70 U.N. members outlaw homosexuality — and in several, homosexual acts can be punished by execution. More than 50 nations, including members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, opposed the declaration.

Some Islamic countries said at the time that protecting sexual orientation could lead to "the social normalization and possibly the legalization of deplorable acts" such as pedophilia and incest. The declaration was also opposed by the Vatican.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Report: Young gay male recruit in the Armenian army ran away and in hiding after the officers "wanted to rape him"

PINK Armenia just posted this brief news that young male recruit in the Armenian army ran away and in hiding now following a rape threat by the officers who "wanted to rape him" after they found out that he is gay.

Below is the info as it appeared on PINK Armenia blog:

"We were informed by email that a young guy ran away from the army on March 17th, because officers understood that he is gay and they wanted to rape him. The situation is out of control, he is hidden somewhere now and waiting that in the morning police will make a search.

We are trying to clarify and in case to protect him, this is all that we can say now."

If confirmed, this is truly a horrific case, and reportedly not infrequent in the Armenian army.

During the recent meeting with the New York based Armenian gay rights group - AGLA NY, Lala Aslikyan of Huys NGO presented a documented case of male rape in the Armenian army.

PINK Armenia launched its new website

PINK Armenia, LGBT related NGO based in Yerevan, has formally launched its new website.

You may read news, info on events, projects and activities there. It's available in Armenian and English; Russian version will be ready in couple of months.

Prince Harry with pink nail varnish

Prince Harry leaves Raffles nightclub in London on Friday with pink nail varnish of just one hand... and matching boxer shorts ;)

*source of photo: Daily Mail

John Dolmayan purchases 1st Superman comic book for $317 200

Here is what John Dolmayan of SOAD and Scars on Broadway is up to nowadays.

Via LA Times (AP): John Dolmayan, drummer of the rock band System of a Down and a dealer of rare comics, purchases a copy of 'the Holy Grail of comic books' for a client.
New York -- A rare copy of the first comic book featuring Superman has sold for $317,200 in an Internet auction. The previous owner had bought it secondhand for less than a buck.

It is one of the highest prices ever paid for a comic book, probably a testament to the volume's rarity and excellent condition [...]

The previous owner had purchased it in a secondhand store in the early 1950s when he was 9 years old.

Friday, 13 March 2009

IWPR: Armenia Gays Face Long Walk to Freedom

Society remains as relentlessly homophobic here as elsewhere in the Caucasus, but activists say there some grounds for hope.

IWPR (Institute for War & Peace Reporting)

By Vahan Ishkhanian in Yerevan

The recent publication of Azeri writer Alekper Aliev’s gay novel Artush and Zaur, dealing with an Armenian-Azeri love affair, rocked the conservative and mainly Muslim society of Azerbaijan.

It broke a double taboo – love between Armenians and Azeris and same-sex love, at the same time.

But while the furor cast a harsh spotlight on homophobia in Azerbaijan, on the other side of the ethnic and religious divide, in Armenia, gays face just as much prejudice.

Hovhannes Minasian found this out to his cost. Now 27, he is one of a small minority of gay men in Armenia who do not fear to give out their real names in interviews.

He gained this freedom – involuntarily – after being sent to jail for his sexual orientation. After that, the whole of his former neighbourhood and his relatives learnt about it and there was nothing to hide.

His nightmare began in 1999, when police arrested him and accused him of sodomy. A man who had once had an affair with him apparently betrayed him, and four others, to the authorities.

Minasian, then 17, says he immediately admitted he had had a sexual relationship with a man. “I never thought it was a crime, so when they asked me if I did it, I confirmed it,” he said.

He says the police who arrested him beat him violently, demanding that he name other homosexuals, which he refused to do.

He was one of six persons charged for the then crime of sodomy under Article 116 of the Armenian penal code, receiving a relatively short jail sentence of three months as he was under age.

While in prison, Minasian says he came under constant pressure.
“The prisoners were as cruel to me as the jailors, I was like a toy for them, they used to bully me and throw me around the cell,” he said.

After his release, the lads living next door to him chased him around, throwing stones at him and screaming “gay” at his back.

That is not all. He says a policeman tried to blackmail him into confessing the names of wealthy homosexuals he knew about.

When he failed to extract this information, he told the manager of the bar where Hovhannes worked of his sexual orientation, and Hovhannes and his gay friend were fired.

Nine years since his conviction, the local boys have stopped chasing Hovhannes. They got used to him. He has a job. Still, he is going to leave the country, tired of the general climate of hostility.

In 1922, a few years after the Bolshevik revolution, homosexuality ceased to be a penal offence in the newly formed Soviet Union.

But it was reintroduced as a crime in 1933, and eventually removed from the penal code in 2003.

In spite of the official change in the letter of the law, discrimination and intolerance against Armenian gays remains widespread.

A year ago, Khachik, a 21-year-old student at university, was thrown out of his home when his parents found out about his sexual orientation.

Khachik says he realised he was different from the rest when he was 13 or 14 and accepted he was more interested in boys than girls.

“At that age, when you start to masturbate, I used to imagine guys,” he confessed. “I thought I was alone with all this but then I found people just like me on the Internet.”

He waited until he was 20 to have his first sexual encounter with a man whom he met on the Internet and introduced to his family as a friend.

Trouble erupted after Khachik’s mother discovered that their relationship was not entirely innocent.

“We were watching a film in my room and I didn’t know the door was open. Mother came and saw us kissing,” he recalled.

At first, she wept, but later, once his father was home, the two of them became far more aggressive.

“Dad got really angry and said, ‘Aren’t girls enough for you? You want to start dating guys? My son can’t do that!’

“Mother started screaming that it would be better if I died. It would be better not to have a son than to know he was gay.

“She even tried to hit me. I tried to hold her back, but dad began to help her. Then they told me I was no longer their son and that I had to leave the house. So I went away.”

Khachik has been living in lodgings ever since and has to work in two jobs to support his studies.

Two months after being thrown out, he was exempted from military service because of his “deviant” sexual orientation.

According to the Helsinki Rights Committee in Armenia, in 2004 an internal defence ministry code effectively bans homosexuals from serving in the armed forces.

“When I told the army psychologist I was a gay, he threw the pen on the table and exclaimed ‘Damn it!’” Khachik recalled.

He says another officer struck him with a folder, saying, “You are not a man! How can an Armenian claim he’s limp wristed?”

He was then dispatched to a medical institution for official diagnosis – which duly described him as possessing a “non-traditional sexual orientation”.

On the subject of the deferment of conscription for homosexuals, Colonel Seyram Shahsuvaryan, representing the defence ministry, sent a written response to IWPR.

In it, the colonel denied the existence of any unofficial ban on homosexuals serving in the army, “The law on compulsory military service in Armenia does not allow the exemption from military service of homosexuals.”

In Aliev’s controversial novel, Artush and Zaur, the two lovers eventually decide to take their own lives, jumping from Baku’s Maiden Tower, a symbol of doomed love in Azerbaijan.

Psychologist Davit Galstian says societal pressures in Armenia have driven some gays to take their own lives in a similar desperate fashion.

Within the past three years, he knows of at least ten homosexual men who threw themselves off the Kiev bridge in Yerevan, the capital’s biggest.

He cites several tragic cases that he has come across in his practice. A man’s life that was destroyed when his family discovered his orientation; a woman who rejected her own children and sent them to an orphanage after learning that their father, her husband, is gay; and a father who threw his 14-year-old gay son out of the house, who then turned to street prostitution.

“There is a real phobia against homosexuals in our society, people consider them beasts,” he said.

“My [gay] patients learn about me from each other and come here. They say at least I listen to them.”

Politicians do little to dispel the fog of ignorance and prejudice around the subject. Indeed, some make it worse.

One former member of parliament, Emma Khudabashian, even used to say that people should throw stones at homosexuals.

Armen Avetisian, head of Armenian Arian Union, an ultra-nationalist grouping, issued a bizarre attack on homosexuals – and on Europe – in July 2006, which was published in three newspapers.

“We should form a community for them, called Hamaserashen (literally, ‘Homosex-burg’),” he said.

“Of course, it should be located in Europe, as homosexuality is a part of the European values, so let them gather there.”

The church is another conservative factor. The Armenian Apostolic Church – like most traditional Christian churches in the world – views homosexuality as a grave sin.

Gay bashing is a popular pastime among Yerevan yobs. In the city’s Komaygi park, where homosexuals sometimes gather, groups often attack and beat them.

Galstian says homophobia is harmful to society, depriving it of potential talent.

“We lost a talented singer, a computer programmer and an excellent student who could have become a chemist,” he said, mulling past suicides. Others have simply left the country.

Yet, on December, 9, 2008, the Armenian government endorsed a United Nations statement outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

That only prompted a greater outcry from homophobic elements in Armenia, however.

“This is a global plan worked out by masonic structures to destroy the world,” Khachik Stambolcian, a well known figure said in one public discussion.

The right-wing Iskakan Iravunk newspaper accused the UN document of glorifying what it termed “human driftwood - those sodomites and lesbians”.

Hrair, a 26-year-old activist, says the government’s endorsement of the UN statement may not have helped gays much in Armenia in the short term.

“Before that, we just lived our lives and worked but then they made a fuss, and it became tense,” he noted.

Avetik Ishkhanyan, chair of the Helsinki Rights Committee of Armenia, and member of Independent Observers’ Group of Penitentiary departments, says homosexuals experience the worst troubles within closed spaces like prisons and barracks.

“In prison, they have a separate cell and it’s a taboo to shake their hands, take cigarettes from them or even touch their stuff,” he said.

“If a detainee uses homosexual’s plates, even by accident, the criminals consider him а ‘pervert’ too.

“They are given the most humiliating work to do, like cleaning toilets and drains.”

According to Ishkhanian, it is hard to defend homosexuals, as few are willing to publicly complain about their lack of status.

Arsen Babayan, of the justice ministry’s penitentiary service, denies gay detainees in prison are singled out for the most humiliating tasks. Every prisoner, he says, chooses his own type of work.

“The fact that gays live separately in penitentiary departments is due to their wish. It’s the same with Jehovah’s witnesses, who also live separate lives,” he said.

Meanwhile, Galstian says things may be starting to change – albeit slowly.

Since Armenia became a member of the Council of Europe in 2001, people generally have started to more actively defend their rights, and more and more homosexuals are open about their identity.

The NGO PINK, short for Public Information and Need for Knowledge, founded in 2007, openly advocates for gay rights, as well specialising in the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

PINK member Hrair broke up with his Iranian boyfriend when the latter wanted to leave for Europe.

“He couldn’t live in Iran, as they hang homosexuals there, but he felt depressed here too, so he was trying to talk me into going to Europe, but I didn’t want to,” he said.

Though well aware of the climate of intolerance in Armenia, Hrair says he is not ready to abandon his homeland now things are starting to shift a little.

“When I was a child, I suffered, trying to understand myself and nobody was there to help me,” he recalled.

“But now we are a big team, and we are trying to help the weaker ones to stand up.

“This is very important to me. I would feel defeated if I went to live in a European country, hiding my head in the sand like an ostrich.”

Vahan Ishkhanian is a freelance journalist and correspondent for Armenianow.

Armenia: Sex in the closet

Armenia: Showbiz Scandals

Turkey: Transgender Activist Murdered (Human Rights Watch)

Human Rights Watch: The killing of Ebru Soykan, a prominent transgender human rights activist, on March 10, 2009, shows a continuing climate of violence based on gender identity that authorities should urgently take steps to combat, Human Rights Watch said today. News reports and members of a Turkish human rights group said that an assailant stabbed and killed Ebru, 28, in her home in the center of Istanbul.

Members of Lambda Istanbul, which works for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and transsexual (LGBTT) people, told Human Rights Watch that in the last month Ebru had asked the Prosecutor's Office for protection from the man who had beaten her on several occasions and threatened to kill her. Lambda Istanbul was told that a few weeks ago police detained the man but released him two hours later. The same man is under police custody as the murder suspect.

[...] This is the second killing of a member of Lambda Istanbul in the past year. In July 2008, an unknown person shot and killed 26-year-old Ahmet Yildiz as he was leaving a café near the Bosporus. No one has been charged with this crime. [...]

A May 2008 Human Rights Watch report on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Turkey, "We Need a Law for Liberation," documents the long and continuing history of violence and abuse based on sexual orientation and gender identity there. A subsequent December 2008 report specifically documents police violence in the country and features cases of harassment and abuses against transgender people in Istanbul.

In these reports, Human Rights Watch called on Turkey to pass legislation protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Brutality of Homophobia in Armenia (presentation by Lala Aslikyan)

Lala Aslikyan, Huys NGO (Armenia), made this presentation on 16 January 2009, at the meeting with New York based Armenian gay rights group- AGLA NY. It's a damning account on brutal face of homophobia in Armenian society, including in the Armenian army. (more about the latter - in my further posts)

Documented case of rape in the Armenian army

(About Lala Aslikyan) Lala Aslikyan is a psychologist and a political scientist, human rights advocate. She is a member of “Huys” (”Hope”) NGO in Armenia, dealing with human rights protection and advocacy. Since 2004 she has initiated and organized several public forums, demonstrations, public actions aimed at the protection of human rights, free media and implementation of basic democratic principles in Armenia. Particularly, she was involved in the successful advocacy campaign related to a large number of murders in the Armenian army. She was actively engaged in the protests on March 1 and in following events, which put her in dangerous position while dealing with police and army forces used against people and journalists in Yerevan.

She works as Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist in the community project, financed by USAID, Armenia.

Prior to her visit to NY Lala had several meetings in Armenia to prepare a brief presentation on LGBT rights violations in Armenia for the LGBT community in NY. During her 10 minute talk she will give a picture of the LGBT situation in Armenia, highlighting specific problems and the character of violence and harassment based on homophobia in Armenia.

*videos - via AGLA NY

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Azeri-Armenian gay love novel Artush and Zaur banned in Baku, bookstore shut down, meeting with readers cancelled

Yeterday Alekper Aliyev, the author of Artush and Zaur, posted about banning his book and meeting with the readers at Ali and Nino bookstore, the only bookstore which was selling the novel.

He then informed that the meeting will be held at the office of the youth movement Dalga instead.

As there have been no further info on that meeting today (instead, more alarming news from Baku, see below), I may only assume that it probably got banned too.

As the author Alekper Aliyev wrote in his blog, the ‘justification’ provided by the police was that this book is against… Azeri president (?!). Of course, the author then clarifies further that there is no mentioning or referring to Azeri president in the book whatsoever.
Куда уехать? Почему уехать? Это должны уехать превратившие нашу жизнь в сущий ад подонки. А я у себя на родине. Это моя страна, мой город. Это мой, хоть и потерявший самоуважение, народ. Я не могу его винить, хотя бы из-за того, что ровно сорок лет его унижают. Сорок лет планомерного обезличивания. Вам не кажется, что этого срока вполне достаточно, чтобы сделать народ таким, какой он есть сегодня? Но у меня в душе теплиться надежда на перемены, на светлое будущее. Я хочу перемен и я хочу стать их живым свидетелем. Нам не суждено было, но для детей то своих, мы должны оставить в наследство нормальное государство или нет? Вынужден буду уехать только в том случае, если моей семье, детям будет угрожать реальная опасность. Пока их не трогают, никуда не уеду. Надеюсь на такую подлость они не пойдут. link
Few hours ago, Nigar Kocharli, owner of the Ali and Nino bookstore chain in Baku, posted on her blog that at least 2 of the bookstore chains in Baku were shut down today. No more details are provided.

Eurasianet also reflects the news:

After only a few weeks in circulation, the bestseller Azerbaijani-Armenian gay romance novel "Artush and Zaur" has been withdrawn from Baku bookstores amid growing controversy about the work.

In an interview with the Azeri-language Radio Liberty, author Alekper Aliyev stated that Baku police had questioned him about the novel’s references to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. A presentation of the novel, scheduled for March 11, was abruptly canceled.

Inga and Anush released video clip with final version of Eurovision 2009 song for Armenia - Nor Par (Jan Jan)

Video is not bad. Final version of the song is slightly better than the initial one. Still, not good enough for Inga and Anush to display their potential.

In any case, I wish good luck to Inga and Anush.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Gay Caucasus - Гей Кавказ (new blog)

Few days ago, after I wrote about surge in numbers of gay Georgian blogs, the author of the mentioned blog - Tbilisi Gay Life, Alexander left comments there and suggested opening a blog to unite LGBT bloggers from the Caucasus region, to share news and keep in touch.

I thought of this idea before, but never managed to have time to realise it. Thanks to Alexander, the blog is now live, and there are already 2 entries there: a greeting – introduction; and a review of gay Georgian websites/forums/blogs.

The blog is in Russian, so that more local people would understand it.

So far, 2 gay Georgian bloggers, and PINK Armenia signed up as the co-authors of the blog.

If you are LGBT blogger from the South Caucasus, or a broader Caucasus region, and you know Russian and able to post in that language, you are welcome to join. Please, contact Alexander at Gay Caucasus blog.

The only reason that I personally did not join the Gay Caucasus blog is that, as of now, for technical reasons only, it would be difficult for me to post entries in Russian. However, I will keep an eye on it, and will share important developments and news, if any, here.

I welcome this initiative and wholeheartedly support it and wish it to be a success. Let’s see…

Maxim Anmeghichean of ILGA-Europe questions Hillary Clinton on gay rights

Maxim Anmeghichean is Moldovan of Armenian origin. He is a Programmes Director at ILGA-Europe (Europe’s main gay rights group).
After graduating from Moldovan State University with dual-degrees in journalism and communication sciences, Max has devoted all of his professional life to the LGBT movement. He led the team that created the LGBT movement in Moldova; developing it into a respected and powerful national and regional organization.

Nationally, he has served on the NGO Council, the National AIDS Network, and on the board of the National Youth Council. As an ILGA-Europe board member for the past three years, he chaired the committee to develop the organization's Eastern European strategy, lobbied before the Council of Europe and the European Union and was instrumental in fundraising efforts. In his new post, Max's priorities are to lobby for LGBT rights in Eastern Europe before the OSCE, Council of Europe and EU, develop programs for the transgender community, build advocacy capacity and, as if that's not enough to keep him busy, fundraising!
On 6 March 2009, Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, participated in a meeting with young Europeans hosted by the European Parliament. Max was one of the participants.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was pretty excited by the fact that Max was wearing a T-shirt saying “I love Hillary”, so she said she simply had to take a question from him. And Max used this chance perfectly by posing a question on how the US foreign policy in the field of sexual rights and LGBT issues is going to change under a new administration.

Whatever one may think of Hillary Clinton, wearing a T-shirt saying “I love Hillary” was a very smart move by Maxim Anmeghichean, to be noticed and heard. Well done, Max, you are an inspiration for many.

Max stood up and said: "My name is Max. I am from Moldova, and I am a gay rights activist. In seven countries in the world homosexuals are sentenced to death and many more to prison. A lot of gay men around the world die because of the HIV AIDS policies that the Bush administration had that did not allow to spend money on prevention for men who have sex with men. How do you see the foreign policy of the United States changing in the coming years in the field of human rights and in particular sexual rights and gay and lesbian rights?"

Ms Clinton said that it is unfortunate and unfair that discrimination against gay and lesbian people still exists around the word and sometimes is even condoned or protected by the states: "Human rights is and always will be one of the pillars of our foreign policy. And in particular, the persecution and discrimination against gays and lesbians is something that we take very seriously. It is terribly unfortunate, as you just recited, that right now in unfortunately many places in the world violence against gays and lesbians, certainly discrimination and prejudice are not just occurring but condoned and protected.” She went on to say that it will be one of the priorities for the administration to tackle the issue and some changes in the policy on HIV prevention have already started. She also expressed a hope that she will witness the day when any type of discrimination, including on the ground of who one loves, will be abolished: "I can only hope that we all live long enough to see the end to this kind of discriminatory treatment and recognition that human rights are the inalienable rights of every person no matter who that person loves."

Financial Times Brussels Blog called Max’s Q&A with Hillary Clinton “the best moment” of the meeting. "Clinton’s performance was brilliantly executed in that she pitched her message at exactly the level the European audience wanted. They wanted to hear an American talk like a European, and that’s what they got."

Full coverage of this meeting is available on the European Parliament’s website (Max’s question stars around 11:10:43)

*photo - via Towleroad

Monday, 9 March 2009

"Armenian Women in Turkey Are Doubly Discriminated Against"

Writer Karin Karakaşlı spoke at a panel on “The other’s other: Armenian women”, saying that every identity requires labour and has a price. Kayuş Çalıkman Gavrilof spoke of the need for women to organise.

9 March 2009


“We are ostracised for being Armenian, and then, as if that was not enough, we are ostracised again for being women."

Writer Karin Karakaşlı spoke at a panel organised by an association of Turkish-Armenian women. The panel was entitled “The other’s other: Armenian women.”

She was joined by Kayuş Çalıkman Gavrilof, a member of the Armenian Sayat Nova choir.

The panel was preceded by a short film of interviews on “Namus”, sexual honour, shot by the Filmmor Women’s Cooperative.

Difficulties make us question our identities

Karakaşlı spoke about the concept of identity, saying, “Our most beautiful identity is that of a human being. In second place, we need to experience the beauty of a woman’s identity.”

“When everything is fine, we do not question our identity. But when there are difficulties, we begin to question our identity, or even identities.”

Multiple discrimination

Gavrilof said, “When I am asked about being a woman, I don’t know what to say. But when the Armenian identity is concerned, I cannot stop.”

She added that women in Turkey faced ethnic, class and gender discrimination, mentioning the pressures women faced on the hands of men, society, the system and also other women.

Gavrilof continued, “When I do something, when I try to experience freedom as a woman, my husband tries to take credit for it, saying what a good husband he is. However, it is me who is trying to use my rights as an individual. I do not want this, I want to struggle against this.”

She ended her talk by emphasising the need for women to organise.

Women protests in Turkey to mark 8 March

Women Protesters "Will Not Leave the Streets"

Housewives, students, sex workers, journalists, politicians, transsexuals, teachers, homosexuals, unemployed were yesterday united in a march along Istiklal street, the pedestrian precinct in Beyoğlu, central Istanbul.

Women’s Day had been marked by protests and marches during the day, but yesterday women also walked under the slogan “We will not leave the streets.” More...

*source of pictures - Bianet

Thousands of Women Marked 8 March in Kadıköy

Around 6,000 women walked through Kadkköy, a district on the Asian side of Istanbul, and congregated at Kadıköy square yesterday (8 March) to mark International Women’s Day.

The 8 March Women’s Platform carried placards and shouted slogans, saying “We will resist the patriarchal capitalist system. We insist, we are decided.” More...

RFE/RL on Artush and Zaur

Artush and Zaur novel by Alekper Aliyev about a gay love story between an Armenian and Azerbaijani against the backdrop of the emerging Karabakh conflict is increasingly becoming a centre of attention of major media outlets. Today it's a turn of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

Selected quotes from Controversial Azeri Novel Takes On Double Taboos below:

"I started a war against two stereotypes," Aliyev said. "See what people [in Azerbaijan] do these days: either they look for someone's Armenian origins, or they say, 'I don't like you, so you must be gay.'"

He continued: "Having a nontraditional sexual orientation is nothing to be ashamed of. There's no shame in being gay, or in being Armenian. But it is shameful to be corrupt, to be dishonest, to be treacherous. This was a message about two major stereotypes."
One bookseller told the Caucasus Reporting Service the novel was "selling like hotcakes." But pressure from religious customers forced one of the two Baku-based bookstores to stop selling it last week.
Reports of authorities using charges of homosexuality against journalists and human rights activists in Azerbaijan have surfaced in recent months.

In April, 25-year-old journalist Aqil Xalil was stabbed after doing a series of investigative reports on large property transactions in Baku. Around the same time, officials threatened Xalil that they would broadcast a video purporting to show a man confessing to having been the young journalist's male lover.

In 2005, ahead of parliamentary elections, a number of state-run media outlets carried stories insinuating that a well-liked opposition candidate, Popular Front party head Ali Kerimli, was gay.

Though the country decriminalized homosexuality in 2000, the U.S. State Department’s 2007 report on human rights practices in Muslim-majority Azerbaijan found ongoing societal prejudice against homosexuals.

What Aliyev describes as his "war on stereotypes" has attracted more notice than Azerbaijani dissident writers did during the Soviet period.
Aliyev himself is politically active, and tells RFE/RL he believes the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict -- a territorial disagreement going back to 1988 -- is related to a lack of democracy in both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
"Artush and Zaur" is Aliyev's sixth book, and the 31-year-old author and journalist says he has already started a seventh, "Bible," about the reincarnation of Jesus Christ in Azerbaijan.

Aliyev says he is in the midst of negotiations with Russian publishers for a translation of "Artush and Zaur," which he expects to be published in Russia soon.

*Full RFE/RL report

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Bloggers at war: anti-LGBT blog campaign in Syria

To all hate bloggers out there. This is a lose-lose war.

via GVO: This weekend the Syrian blogosphere warmed up for a new confrontation. A group of bloggers launched a campaign against the spread of blogs advancing LGBT rights, and the response came quick. LGBT is controversial everywhere, but within a society that is conservative in its majority, the topic gets much more sensitive and hotly-debated. More...

International Women’s Day in Armenia: small women’s march, riot police van, 'private burial' of “Red Apple”, business as usual

It was business as usual in Armenia marking International Women’s Day. Still, overwhelmingly, it was “flowers and chocolates” for women. Only few, very few in fact, tried to make it somehow relevant.

Women’s Resource Centre , along with some other NGOs and supporters marched via downtown Yerevan, calling for equal rights, and held a ‘private burial’ of “Red Apple” (more about this tradition and meaning of the ‘funeral’ – here)

Onnik Krikorian posts photographs and an account of how these civil society groups marked International Women's Day in Armenia on the Frontline Club blog.

There were attempts at disrupting the event by some. Some of those ‘defenders of traditions’ were discussing the other day on their blogs the option (among others) of bribing religious women at Yerevan churches (!!) so that they will come and disrupt the action. No surprises here.

Twice the marchers were stopped by police, which was a clear violation of the Armenian Constitution and laws allowing any march of less than 100 people to pass without a prior authorisation. To see a riot police van accompanying a small women’s march, that’s something. How frightened are they with any display of rights movement...

Overall, machismo was on full display in Armenia on International Women’s Day.

Sadly, I have to agree with Onnik Krikorian that “...the day illustrated how tradition and patriarchal attitudes are slow to die out in countries such as Armenia. Basically, if anyone is expecting a female liberation movement, let alone a sexual revolution, to occur anytime soon, well, don’t hold your breath.”

On the other hand, thanks to that small group of activists, the hope for changes in our country stays at least alive. Well done to Women’s Resource Centre and supporters for making International Women’s Day in Armenia somehow relevant to its real meaning.

*all photos - by Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 2009 (+ The Caucasian Knot - Oneworld Multimedia Facebook Group)

Russian Criminal Tattoos

Time Out's review (below) of this small photo exhibition (9 photos only) was more exciting than the exhibition itself. Still, was interesting, and did not know that there is Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia. (more on the Encyclopedia - Unzipped)

"Subtitled Bodies as Text, this exhibition consists of black and white photographs by Sergei Vasiliev taken to accompany thousands of drawings of prisoners' tattoos compiled between 1948 and 2005 by ethnographer and fellow prison warden Danzig Baldaev. The tattoos, coded symbols and illustrations created with inks made from soot, sugar, ashes and urine, are sometimes are applied forcibly by one inmate to another. They denote the prisoners' crimes and political allegiances and their rank in the prison hierarchy and, recognising the usefulness of Baldaev's research, the KGB supported its supplementation and authentication by Vasiliev's pictures. The illustrations and photographs have been compiled by publisher Fuel in the Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia."