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«Տրանսերը» նամակ չեն գրել
*Source: Epress.am (+ here; and AM)
A few trans sex workers came to the editorial offices of Epress.am earlier this week to protest two recent stories published by local daily Hraparak.
In the conversation which ensued, the guests spoke about their relationship with the police and the consequences of publishing material without verifying the facts, which could very well endanger their lives.
The photos in the video were supplied by the individuals in the photos and are published here with their consent. They did not, however, wish to have their faces visible in the video. The dialogue is in Armenian only.
"I'm the only trans Vika, I did not give any information to the paper Hraparak. I don't know who could've done something like this against me," said local Armenian cross-dresser Vika, commenting on a story published by local daily Hraparak in which a transvestite by the name of Vika threatened a businessman by the name of Hovik. The paper informed Epress.am that the story was prepared on the basis of a telephone conversation. The editors say that a transvestite named Vika called Hraparak and described the incident, which they subsequently published. [Unzipped: Gay Armenia - Տրանսվեստիտը սպառնում է բացահայտել իրեն սպառնացող գործարարին]
Visiting the editorial office of Epress.am along with two other gay cross-dressers, Vika Swarovski insists that he's the only known transvestite Vika in Armenia, and those sources who presented themselves as such aim to endanger him.
Epress.am spoke with Hraparak assistant editor Vahagn Tevosyan and asked him to comment on Vika's statement.
"I am officially saying, not only one, but also a few dozen Vika's can contact you and say that they're not the Vika who called you, but we don't insist, that's that trans Vika who contacted you," he said.
"Whoever wrote that, let them prove it; if there's been a phone conversation, let them tell us the number," said Vika, adding that if they don't reveal who did this, he is prepared to take Hraparak to court.
"If they don't clarify who did it, I'll take them to court. I'm ready to complain. The one who presented himself as Vika and the one who wrote the open letter [referring to another story published by Hraparak] are the same person. They invented it and wrote it," said Vika, visibly upset.
"Let him take us to court, but this is all so absurd. What is he going to say, he's going to say that he's not the Vika who called us, and then?" said Tevosyan.
Recall that on Dec. 7, Hraparak published an open letter signed by "a group of homosexuals," which, according to another trans sex worker Lorena Madonna Diva, couldn't have been written by them, since, for example, the Armenian word "hamaseramol" is used in the letter which is a derogatory term. [Uzipped: Gay Armenia - Միասեռականների բաց նամակը ՀՀ ոստիկանապետին]
Further, according to Lorena, the statement in the letter that trans sex workers pay $100 to local police in order to work in the Children's Park (near Yerevan City Hall) is untrue. Also, the license plate number of the police vehicle noted in the letter is unfamiliar to them. Note that the community of trans sex workers in Yerevan is quite small and it's unlikely for them not to know each other or that another group of "homosexuals" who also work in the park would have written the letter.
Upon Epress.am's request, Hraparak also commented on the open letter they published.
"The eighth page of our paper is called publication of free speech. There we reserve space for such anonymous open letters," said Tevosyan.
According to Lorena, a targeted campaign has launched against them in the press recently. "They can't cook up anything [new], it began with writing against the Jehovah's Witnesses, then the emos and now us," she said.
"Every day, pedestrians, people, come and assault us, in quite a perverse way, they want us, having an interest, they begin to hit us, drive over us with their cars. We go to the police, but they respond to the case of whoever they can get money from. There are incidents where they beat, they kill in front of the eyes of the police, and the police say, that's too little for you, they have to burn you, pour gasoline and burn you," said Lorena.
Speaking to the two stories published by Hraparak, Lorena denies that any one of them could have written the letter or called in the incident. "Definitely it wasn't one of us, it was those publishers, they improvised. And all this to our detriment, police will get agitated at us, they'll come and shoot us, they'll take us to special departments at the police station, they'll hit us so hard... I know many such cases. Don't I have a right in Armenia, in my country, to express myself freely? I've told the police a thousand times, let's be friends, let's understand each other. They don't want to understand," she said.
Speaking to Epress.am, PINK Armenia President Mamikon Hovsepyan explained the situation: "Perhaps someone called [Hraparak] and informed them, but the issue is you can't generalize and write on behalf of a group. That's unacceptable. With this, they want to create tension between the police and transvestites. By disseminating such inaccurate information and different false opinions, a tense situation is created among the public. Now they're trying to attune the public against transvestites, endangering the lives of the members of this vulnerable community."
Hovsepyan noted that the Human Rights Defender isn't engaged in such issues. "They cover up the complaints; they don't even include them in their annual reports. When incidents happen, they don't appeal to the Ombudsman — they've lost hope." [...]
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