Saturday, 4 August 2018

Hate crime: chasing, beating, stoning, insulting - LGBT activists attacked in Shurnukh village, Syunik region, Armenia


Last night, a mob of around 30 or so people surrounded the private house in Shurnukh village (Syunik region, Armenia) where 9 LGBT activists gathered, and then attacked activists by chasing them along the highway, insulting, beating and stoning them.
Via PINK Armenia FB page:

BREAKING: Today, on the 3rd of August, around 20:00, in Shurnukh village, Syunik region, more than 30 people attacked 9 LGBT activists and beat them. As a result, 2 of them were hospitalized with different corporal injuries. Others 7, who had minor corporal injuries, are currently in the police station. The police arrived to the place of crime around 21:30, more than an hour after the activists have called them. Representatives of PINK Armenia went to Goris. The Ombudsman representatives also went there. We will provide updates if there are any news. 
We are calling upon the police officers of Goris Police firstly to ensure the safety and security of the activists, as well as undertake the appropriate measures to find and prosecute the perpetrators.

UPDATE 23:00 - 7 people, who had minor corporal injuries, are now being taken to hospital for medical check. 

UPDATE - Ombudsman's office told, that they are in contact with law enforcement in Goris. None of them went there. For more updates (AM) - here
Apparently, some of the main attackers knew 2 of the present LGBT activists and insulted them with the hate speech few months ago in Goris too, but police did not act on it back then.
«Մենք բոլորս մտածում էինք, որ չենք ապրի էլ։ Եթե ինչ-որ մեկը ընկներ, այնտեղ էլ կմնար», — Epress.am-ին դեպքի մանրամասները պատմել է տուժած իրավապաշտպան, ակտիվիստ Էլվիրա Մելիքսեթյանը, որն այդ պահին նա գտնվում էր  ոստիկանության ավտոմեքենայում։ Երիտասարդները օգոստոսի 2-ին ժամանել էին իրենց ընկերոջ՝ նույն գյուղի բնակիչ Արամի (անունը փոխված է-խմբ.) տուն։ Այսօր՝ ժամեր առաջ, երիտասարդներին են այցելել երկու տղամարդ։ Նրանք դեռ ամիսներ առաջ Գորիս քաղաքում հարձակվել էին Էլվիրայի և Արամի վրա։ «Այդ ժամանակ ԼԳԲՏ-ի հետ կապված ատելության խոսքեր ասացին։ Բացի դրանից՝ Արամի՝ Թուրքիա այցելելու հետ կապված բաներ ասացին։ Ասել էին՝ դու էն Թուրքիայի շուռնուխեցի՞ն չես», — դեռ այդ ժամանակ Էլվիրան և Արամը դիմել են ոստիկանություն, մի ամբողջ օր այնտեղ էին անցկացրել, սակայն ոչ մի մեղադրյալ չէր գտնվել։ Այսօր` 20:00-ի սահմաններում, այդ մարդիկ նորից այցելել են Էլվիրային և Արամին։ «Կանչեցին Արամին զրույցի։ Մենք իրան ասացինք, որ խոսալու բան չկա, սակայն նա ներխուժել է տուն։ Քֆուր բան տվեց։ Հետո եկան Արամի բարեկամները, նրան դուրս հանեցին, որ հասկանան՝ ինչ է կատարվում։ Այդ ժամանակ շարունակում էին մեզ քֆուր տալ։ Ասում էին՝ դուրս եկեք էստեղից, մի հատ նայեք ձեր տեսքին ու հագածին, ես չեմ ուզում իմ ընտանիքը տեսնի ձեզ։ Ոնց հասկանում էի՝ ողջ գյուղն էր հավաքվել մոտ 40 հոգի, տղամարդիկ և կանայք, դեռահասներ և երեխաներ։ Հետո Արամի ախպոր դաբռոյով, կարծես, մեզ տնից հանեցին։ Մենք ճամպրուկախառը հայտնվեցինք տռասայի վրա։ Այդտեղ դիք էր։ Մեզ դիքից ուղղակի շպռտեցին, սիլաներով, քարերով, մեր երեխեքից երկուսի գլուխը ջարդված ա»։
What kind of dark ages these people live in? Violence became a norm that is not just tolerated but also encouraged by some especially against anyone who is different or perceived LGBT.

Unfortunately, Velvet Revolution government has so far been silent re LGBT discrimination, and this sends a wrong signal that anti-LGBT attacks could be tolerated. They should send a very strong message that no violence, no human rights abuses, including based on sexual orientation and gender identity will be acceptable in New Armenia.

Instead, no single minister up to now used the wording “LGBT” or “նույնասեռական”, even when responding to LGBT related question. Even human rights ombudsman’s office on their FB page vaguely referred to what happened in Shurnukh as ‘incident in Shurnukh’ without further elaboration as to what this ‘incident’ was about.

Until this situation changes, all those key government messages - spearheaded by PM Nikol Pashinyan - asking Armenians to return to Armenia will remain shallow and unconvincing.

No wonder during a recent town-hall meeting in LA with the minister of Diaspora, GALAS member Nikole Yeghiazarian asked the minister what the new administration’s plans are for making sure LGBT Armenians are safe in Armenia:
“One day I would like to move back to Armenia, but for people like me it is not necessarily safe to move back to Armenia. So my question for you is what will the ministry of diaspora do to make Armenia safe for LGBT Armenians who want to go back and visit and hope to one day live in Armenia?”
Via equality_armenia:

Kudos to @galas_la member Nicole Yeghiazarian @anam0t for asking Armenia’s Minister of Diaspora @mkhitarhayrapetyan what the new administration’s plans are for making sure LGBT Armenians are safe in Armenia.

Although the Minister’s answer was not specific, in essence he said that they’re working towards creating Armenia where “...all human rights are protected”.
You can see this question and answer on this video, starting 1:15:00

Selected comments on Twitter:

Monica Ellena, editor of Chai Khana:
Between 2011 and 2013 alone 5,891 #LGBT people left #Armenia according to data collected by @pinkarmenia. As a mob of 30 people assaulted nine activists it is not surprising the community feels under attack. #HumanRights
Giorgi Gogia, Associate director, Europe and Central Asia Division, Human Rights Watch :
Disturbing reports about #hatecrime attack against 9 LGBT activists in #Armenia's Syunik region, several injured. "It seemed that we wouldn't survive," says one of the activists. Prompt & thorough investigation needed!
Maxim Eristavi, jounalist, human rights activist:
Shocked by this barbaric anti-LGBT hate crime in Armenia, brutal even by the country's placing as one of the most homophobic places in Europe. Hold on, guys

Thursday, 2 August 2018

“Թող միշտ պանծա Հայաստան” - Mamikon Hovsepyan of PINK Armenia recipient of Soul of Stonewall award at CSD Pride event in Berlin and Changemaker award by LA based Diaspora Armenian LGBT group GALAS


Stephan Cooper of Queer Amnesty group within the Amnesty International in Germany presented the award during a ceremony at famous Christopher Street Day (CSD) Pride event in Berlin on 28 July. 

Soul of the Stonewall Award 2018 in the telling category Resistance was awarded for the fifth time, with previous recipients coming from Nigeria, Turkey, Bangladesh, and Kenya.


Presenting the award to Mamikon Hovsepyan of PINK Armenia, Stephan mentioned current changes in Armenia [re: Velvet Revolution]. He touched upon history of Armenia, including 1915 Genocide, and even amusingly cited a line of the National Anthem of Armenia (Lass Armenien stehts ehrenvoll sein - Թող միշտ պանծա Հայաստան).

It’s a 3rd award in less than a year that Mamikon received, starting with the Bob Hepple Equality Award 2017 in London.

As Stephan mentioned, for more than a decade Mamikon has been active in the field of human rights – fighting for free and equal Armenia.

Intolerance, lack of justice, families not accepting their LGBT children, homophobic speeches from members of the parliament and representatives of the mayor office - these are just a few examples of what LGBT Armenians routinely face in their daily life, as noted during presentation of the award.

You can see event and Mamikon’s acceptance speech on this video starting around 1:47:00.


As per Stephan, back in 2002 Mamikon went to USA with the initial intention to stay there. But he changed his mind and returned to Armenia with the understanding that he can change his own country only if he himself participates in this change.

No wonder a month ago in LA he received a Changemaker award by the most prominent Armenian Diaspora LGBT group - Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society (GALAS), that marks its 20th anniversary this year.
Over 180 guests gathered for the  (GALAS) 20th anniversary on June 2nd in Glendale, California. Members of Armenian LGBTQ community were surrounded by friends and family for a special, intimate evening marking two decades of empowering LGBTQ individuals of Armenian descent.
Gevorg Khudyan, member of GALAS, presented the Changemaker Award, and along with his husband Karo Margaryan also donated 12K USD to PINK Armenia for organisation’s office rent and utilities.


In all his acceptance speeches, Mamikon repeatedly states that Armenia has a potential to be one of the best countries where human rights are protected. This is especially true after the Velvet Revolution of April-May 2018, also known as a Revolution of Love and Solidarity.


Says Mamikon Hovsepyan on the occasion of 20th anniversary of GALAS:
“1998, the year when Galas was founded and I was a 16 years old guy struggling with my sexuality in a very conservative city of Armenia – Gyumri. 5 years later I already had the courage to take part in changemaking processes. […] That was the time I started to overcome my fears and since then nothing can stop me to fight against the regime, to protect the community that I belong to, to raise the voice of voiceless, to fight for justice, equality and dignity. […] And today is the best day for all of us to celebrate our achievements, because we are creating the future for Armenia, the future of love and solidarity!”
I am so happy and proud that finally Armenian LGBT activists getting international recognition they deserved. Of course, as frequently the case, such formal recognition comes from the outside of their home country. Here is hoping that eventually the Velvet Revolution, that happened in Armenia with the active participation of LGBT Armenians too, will fully recognise and respect the rights of its citizens. And I am not referring here to medals or awards, but the concept of human rights for all, that was pledged by prime minister Nikol Pashinyan.

*pictures via @Khaghaghordyan and PINK Armenia

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Elton John, friend of Armenia president, vows support for country’s LGBT community while president Armen Sargsyan says he has ‘no relations with that community'

Elton John arrived in Yerevan as part of charitable project by Starkey hearing aids company. It was great to see he is accompanied by husband David Furnish.

*picture via news.am

And it was awesome that in front of Armenia president and media Elton says he/his foundation will support LGBT community in Armenia.



Unfortunately, Armenia president Armen Sargsyan did not live up to expectations when he shrugged off the question of Elton John meeting with LGBT community saying that this question doesn’t relate to him as he has ‘no relations with that community’.

From 4:05 (video below): "Դա ինձ չվերաբերող հարց է որովհետև էտ համայնքի հետ ես որևէ կապ չունեմ բայց Էլթոն Ջոնը հայտնի է ինքը"



To remind, Elton was invited by Armenia president Armen Sargsyan. President refers to Elton as friend (he even used Armenian wording “բարեկամ” - literally “relative” but used to express closeness).

So, Armenia president is only friends with LGBT people if they are foreigners and wealthy. Big fail here, Mr. President.

Until this mentality changes, New Armenia will keep remaining as a dream rather than a reality.


Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Armenia LGBT activists mark anniversary of anti-gay pogrom in Chechnya

LGBT activists in Yerevan marked the anniversary of anti-gay pogrom in Chechnya with a candlelight vigil on 6 April. Pretty emblematic that this commemoration took place at the “United Cross” statue symbolising the Armenian-Russian friendship.


It was quite a sight seeing the statue surrounded with the rainbow flags and posters reflecting the anti-gay pogrom.


In April 2017, Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta first reported on state level detentions, arrests, torture and killing of gay people in Chechnya. As per reports, more than 100 gay men were arrested, number of them were killed or remain missing.

“One year after Chechen authorities violently carried out an anti-gay purge in an attempt to “cleanse” Chechnya of gay men, no criminal cases have been opened into the mass detentions and torture by law enforcement. No high-level Russian officials have publicly acknowledged or condemned the violence in the republic, which is part of the Russian Federation.” - Human Rights Watch



*Pictures via PINK Armenia / @mnvartik / @pinkarmenia 

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Armenian Haunting - Armenian Genocide themed film featuring LGBTQ character (interview with writer/director Art Arutyunyan)

Writer and director Art Arutyunyan, known to readers of this blog for his gay-themed animated film Adamantine, have written and directed a film that touches on the theme of the Armenian Genocide - 'Armenian Haunting', and it features an LGBTQ character. It is planned for release in March 2018.
“ On the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, a young Armenian-American journalist's relatives mysteriously die one by one. Faced with the resistance of her secretive family, she must uncover the truth, but has to rely on the supernatural." (from the official synopsis)
The film combines the historic elements surrounding the Armenian Genocide and the genre of horror and supernatural.

The cast includes actors Vaneh Assadourian, Jay Dersahagian, Aneela Qureshi, Kyle Patrick Darling and Tamara Grigorian.

LGBTQ character Garo, played by Kyle Patrick Darling, is the main character Maro's best friend. Garo is gender fluid and posseses clairvoyant powers which he hides from people around him. Here are images with Garo in the scene.



Art Arutyunyan: “We are not going anywhere, and we will become a stronger voice in Armenian culture” 
- interview with Unzipped: Gay Armenia -


- In your ‘mini-bio’ on IMDb, it was mentioned that you were born and raised in Uzbekistan, then moved to LA to pursue a career in fashion. Could you tell me a little bit more about yourself, your family, your Armenian roots? And your move from being a fashion designer to film director/writer.

Both my parents were born in Armenia and moved to Uzbekistan in 1960-s, where they met. I was born in a small town, which didn't even have a name, but just a number: "Number-6". When I was 5 we moved to the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, then a very diverse city with large Armenian, Korean, Jewish and other Russian-speaking communities. So, I was surrounded by a multitude of cultures. All of my friends and I went to Russian-language schools and colleges. As a child, I traveled to Armenia every summer as both of my parents still had a lot of relatives back home.

I was in High school when USSR collapsed. I got my Bachelors degree in Economics at Tashkent State University, then moved to Los Angeles to study fashion and found a job in the garment industry fairly quickly. The rest of my family followed one by one. I designed clothing for Forever 21, Nordstrom, Target, Kohl's, Macy's, and that was my specialty: affordable fashion. However, there was a point where my love for film kept pulling me away.

While I was still designing, I wrote and produced my very first short film with my now business partner, Armand Petri. And so our partnership began, and now we have "Together Magic Film Group" that consists of 3 divisions: "Reel Nightmare" - horror, supernatural, paranormal; "Together Magic Films" - LGBTQ themed; "Winning Streak" - dramas, comedies and other general public genres.

- Your quote from the same ‘mini-bio’: "It is important for me to develop scripts and concepts that I respond to on an emotional level rather than intellectual”. The topic of the Armenian Genocide must have been quite an emotional for you too. Do you remember any personal stories that your parents or grandparents perhaps told you?

The theme of Armenian Genocide has always been a part of my conversations with my father, who's a very passionate Armenian, perhaps the most passionate. I must admit, I didn't feel connected to the subject up until maybe a couple of years ago, when I was looking for a theme to write about. I started talking to my father about it again, and the stories just poured out of him, and his passion has definitely inspired me. I recorded our conversations and started doing more research.

Even though this is a historic event, I wanted to write about it in more dramatic terms, where the Armenian Genocide is a backdrop to a character, where it puts him or her through the tragedies. So, as of now I have written 2 scripts on the subject: "Armenian Haunting", a paranormal mystery and "Anoush", a drama that follows a young Armenian girl Anoush as she fights for survival in the 1915 Turkey. "Armenian Haunting" is set to be released this year, while "Anoush" is in need of financing. Ideally, I would like to shoot "Anoush" in Armenia with local crew and cast, of course, in Armenian language.

- Any news item, article, let alone the film about the Armenian Genocide are being treated with sensitivity among Armenians both in Armenia and Diaspora. Are you afraid of the reaction you may receive?

"Armenian Haunting" is at its core a paranormal mystery film. On the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, young Armenian American, Maro, finds herself in the midst of a mysterious plague that kills her family one by one. I wanted to make an entertaining and educational film that, hopefully, keeps the audiences interested and at the same time teaches them about the Genocide. I treat the subject with respect, but I do realize that there is a risk of getting unwanted reaction. I am a firm believer that Armenians everywhere deserve to have this story told in as many ways a possible. Same as the theme of Holocaust. Armenian Genocide needs to be told in different ways: dramas, horror, documentaries, historical series on PBS, you name it. It needs to become a strong cultural theme and soon! 

- I always wanted to see a film that will depict a same-sex relationship, love set against the backdrop of the Armenian Genocide. I understand your film’s storyline is different but how important for you to have an LGBTQ character in such film?

In "Armenian Haunting", the LGBTQ character, Garo is important not only as he provides Maro with important information, but also as a voice of frustration of the Armenian LGBTQ community. We are frustrated because we are not accepted and understood by our own people. In the film, Garo points out that Maro's family suffers from "Armenicus Mysogynisticus". It is absolutely important for me to represent LGBTQ characters in all kinds of different ways, including Armenian LGBTQ persons. It holds a special place in my heart.

- Do you plan to showcase it in Armenia? As you may be aware, last year the Golden Apricot international film festival based in Yerevan censored 2 Armenian LGBT-themed films. But I believe we should keep challenging it. Do you plan to submit it there? Or any other international and Diaspora film festivals?

"Armenian Haunting" will have Armenian subtitles and I hope to reach Armenians all over the world. And I agree with you, we need to challenge Armenian culture's attitude toward LGBTQ community. We are not going anywhere, and we will become a stronger voice in Armenian culture.

I am not thinking about festivals yet, but it definitely will be on my radar with "Armenian Haunting".

- In an email exchange you were very fond of the actors in the film. How did you know or chose them? I would imagine an indie film like the Armenian Haunting would have a small budget.

"Armenian Haunting" has a minuscule budget, so I had to make sure my script was in good shape before I approached actors. My main goal was to cast as many Armenian actors as possible, due to the subject matter. The lead actress in the film is an absolute gem, Vaneh Assadourian. I felt so lucky to have her on the set every day of the shoot. Vaneh brought that special quality and Armenian flavor to the role of Maro. 

- What is next in your pipeline? Any Armenian LGBTQ-themed storyline?

We are releasing a drama set in Louisiana, "Are You From Dixie?" this year, as well. It was written by my business partner, Armand Petri and I had an honor of directing it. And I am looking for financing for "Anoush" that features an important gay character. 
***
Look forward to watching the film, and will definitely keep an eye on Anoush and more works by Art Arutyunyan.

Few more stills from the Armenian Haunting film.



Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Help PINK Armenia to open LGBT centres outside capital Yerevan - in Vanadzor and Gyumri

Great cause for new year donation to support establishing LGBT community centres in 2 major cities outside Armenia capital Yerevan - Vanadzor and Gyumri.

33K USD will help to establish the centres and to cover running costs for a year. The costs include logistics, rent, refreshments in the centres, services of professional psychologists and lawyers.

PINK will then apply to other programs to sustain the centres beyond the first year. If successful, this could serve as a basis to expand community centres in more places in Armenia.

Donate today and become a part of the change!