Thursday, 9 May 2013

DIY watershed: one year on since gay friendly bar firebombed in Armenia capital Yerevan

One year on... since neo-nazi thugs attacked gay friendly bar DIY in downtown Yerevan. Below are my reflections of what has happened since the event that should have sent shockwaves... Yet let’s see what has since changed.

DIY, the bar: no longer exists. While there are still gay friendly places in Yerevan, no longer there is a place (venue) that I can call *home*. Instead, a disgusting “Patriot Pub” full of ultra-nationalist hateful sh*t opened next door. Everything that DIY stood against.

The firebombers: still at large. The investigation took a year (!) to complete, and now the case is in the court. I wonder what exactly they were ‘investigating’, while everything was recorded and at least direct perpetrators are known and bailed out. The date of hearings is expected to be announced.

LGBT people in Armenia: they became less visible, less vocal. Do not expect any public actions in near future, not even to express protest by marking the anniversary of DIY firebombing. [There was a roundtable discussion on 8 May in Yerevan about culture of violence re DIY, I will post more about it separately, but this is not what I am referring to.] More people, including some prominent LGBT Armenians, left the country.

Diaspora: only very few individuals and groups (such as AGLA NY, GALAS, petition) publicly and unequivocally condemned the attack and government’s and legal system’s inaction to protect rights of its LGBT citizens and held those responsible for the hate crime.

International community: Despite some strong wording condemning the attack and condemning the endorsement of anti-gay attacks by some officials (US, UN, Council of Europe, EU), no REAL actions taken to ensure that respect for human rights, including LGBT rights, is an essential obligation reinforced by Armenia’s international partners before country's authorities and ruling regime. EU wasn’t even able to stage the gay themed Parada film screening despite previously widely advertised.

MPs, politicians of ruling Republican party and ARF Dashnaktsutyun party who endorsed the attack: spokesman for the ruling Republican party, deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament Eduard Sharmazanov [ԷՇ = Էդուարդ Շարմազանով] (example: Terrorists as ‘national heroes’? Armenia ruling Republican party spokesman and MP explicitly support firebombers of DIY bar in capital Yerevan and encourage anti-gay attacks), MP from the ARF Dashnaktsutyun party Artsvik Minasyan (example: MPs of ARF Dashnaktsutyun party bail out neo-nazi attacker of DIY bar. Dashnak MP Artsvik Minasyan supports arson attack, effectively encouraging terrorism in Armenia) + many more. Not only they didn’t get fired or demoted from their political or party positions, but continue with active public engagements and high profile within their respective parties.

Pretty grim, eh?! I am sorry that I can’t write more positive stuff and share with you stories of progress in Armenia. I can’t write how this case was a wake up call for Armenians. How this case shocked the society. How Armenian government and parliament adopted comprehensive anti-discriminatory legislation, and how hate crime definition was introduced into the criminal code to refer to crimes based on sexual orientation too. I am really sorry, I can’t share with you any of these stories. Because they never happened. Reality sucks big time pretty much in all spheres of life in Armenia.

But I want to end with a positive note, nevertheless.

Positive note: DIY case helped me to discover so many awesome people whose existence I would never be aware of otherwise. People, regardless of their sexual orientation, political affiliations who stood up for their LGBT friends, fellow citizens. People who detest and ready to fight the culture of violence and for human rights in Armenia. This was a watershed moment for me.

[For more background and posts on DIY, check DIY label on this blog]