Monday 30 July 2007

Hetq article on challenges faced by gay people in modern Armenia

For all those who know Armenian, I recommend reading today’s article published in Hetq (online journal of Investigative Journalists of Armenia). Shushan Harutyunyan describes life and struggle of several gay Armenians and their ways of adjusting to life in a society which still views gays as “enemy of nation” and where homophobia is widespread.

Original article in Armenian is available here; for English version (published 6 August), see here

I re-posted the English version of the article with some commentary here

UEFA: Albania coach fined for his homophobic comments

UEFA is sending long overdue signal that it will not tolerate homophobia in football.

Back in 2004, then Croatia national coach Otto Baric, who currently manages Albania national team, said he could never work with a side that includes a gay player, because he felt it was wrong:

"There is no place for homosexuals in my team. Homosexuality is not good,” he said in an interview to local Croatian press.

Gay football fans (and not only) and human rights activists were outraged and demanded Baric to face an inquiry over his comments.

From UEFA press release:

30 July 2007

Albania coach Otto Barić has been fined €1,825 (CHF 3,000) by the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Committee for discriminatory remarks made in a 2004 newspaper interview.

Newspaper interview
The committee heard that Barić gave the interview to a Croatian newspaper while coach of the Croatian national team. The interview contained comments in relation to homosexuality. No appeal may be made against the verdict in the case, which UEFA said had been submitted to them by the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) movement. The case has been dealt with now as Barić had no coaching engagement between the posts in Croatia and Albania.

Saturday 28 July 2007

Picture of the Day

Safe sex message - massive floating condom

(Friday, 27 July 2007) Concertgoers at a festival in the Dutch city of Lichtenvoorde were treated to an unusual sight: A pink hot air balloon 127 feet high, shaped exactly like a condom, drifting lazily across the sky. The balloon, with the words "Vrij Veilig" (Dutch for "Safe Sex"), which organisers hope will enter the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest condom, was commissioned by local public medical services to increase safe sex awareness.

*(AP Photo/Ermindo Armino, via Yahoo News)

Friday 27 July 2007

Gay men detained for kissing outside Colosseum

A protest "Kiss" action to follow

Two young gay men were stopped by police in Rome and detained for several hours for the only 'offense' they committed - KISSING in public. This incident caused outrage among rights groups and many ordinary people in Italy. Even government minister expressed her dismay over police actions. This incident clearly shows that having human rights declarations are far from enough to ensure equality. It's outrageous that even in EU member country - Italy, affectionate kiss between two young gay men in public could lead to police detention! How solid and trustworthy could be EU's efforts to ensure equality, tolerance and human rights in other countries if they cannot ensure order in their 'own home'?

ROME (Reuters) - Italian police detained two gay men for kissing outside the Colosseum and accused them of "lewd conduct", sparking howls of protest on Friday from rights groups and calls for an apology from a government minister.

The incident took place late on Thursday, when the men, aged 27 and 28, were taken to a police station for several hours before being released, according to gay rights group Arcigay.

Arcigay accused the police of discrimination and called on homosexuals to gather near the Colosseum on Aug. 2 for a protest "kiss".

Police denied they were homophobic. "It's not an issue of homosexuality, but of legality," said Col. Alessandro Casarsa.

"Faced with an obvious violation of the norms that govern a place visited by thousands of people, the two were written up and let go."

[I wonder how many examples of detention of straight couples for the similar 'offense' - kissing in public, they could provide?]

Italy's Health Minister Livia Turco expressed embarrassment over the episode, saying "things like this certainly don't happen in a normal country".

"I hope that these boys are given an apology because this was a bit excessive," she said.

*source of picture: Arcigay, The Italian Gay Association

Activists target UN General Secretary over gay rights at World Affairs Council in San Francisco

As media and bloggers report, activists (Michael Petrelis and Hank Wilson) ambushed UN General Secretary as he spoke in San Francisco at yesterday's World Affairs Council, demanding he break the UN's silence on LGBT rights around the world.

*source of picture: Clinton Fein

From press release issued by Michael Petrelis:

SAN FRANCISCO (July 26) -- "A group of activists staged a protest at an evening meeting at the Fairmont Hotel featuring the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, in order to protest the unconscionable, murderous silence of the United Nations concerning continued violence and executions globally which specifically target gays and lesbians. Ban was speaking before the World Affairs Council of Northern California, as San Francisco is considered the birthplace of the UN.

The nonviolent protesters twice interrupted Ban’s speech, first standing on their seats, chanting "Break the silence! Talk about about gays!” while holding up signs which read “Gay Rights Are UNiversal", capitalizing the letters UN to drive home the point that the UN has not accepted its responsibility to monitor and defend the human rights of gay and lesbian people worldwide.

UN Secretary General Ban replied, "That is most unusual welcome for me . . . As Secretary General, I'm supposed to answer all questions . . . The gay rights issue is very sensitive."

The protesters included Michael Petrelis and Hank Wilson, longtime LGBT activists, who were escorted out of the hotel and questioned by U.S. Secret Service agents.

Thirty minutes later, George Duvoisin, a gay youth advocate, wearing a large rainbow flag draped over his shoulders, rose up and asked Ban, "What about gay rights, and specific language in UN documents for gays and transgender people to protect against violence and discrimination?"

The San Francisco action heralds a series of demonstrations across the world in August to ban anti-gay violence across the world. August 3 and 4 have been cited as the Global Days of Gay Solidarity, with protests planned for cities across the globe.

“The UN has been silent for far too long, as our gay brothers and lesbian sisters are aggressively selected for human rights violations, torture and execution across the globe, simply due to their sexual orientation,” said Petrelis, who organized the protest. captured the event on video and has posted it on YouTube:

Wednesday 25 July 2007

Quote of The Day

"I am Gabor Szetey. A faithful Hungarian-European. Citizen, public official, member of the government. And gay."

*read the whole story by Reuters here: Hungarians test eastern Europe's gay taboo
*read my previous post on breaking taboo by Gabor Szetey here:
Anti-Gay Attacks Mar Hungary and Croatia Gay Pride

Quote from 20xx year - Yerevan, Armenia:

"I am [surname]-yan (or -ian). A faithful Armenian-European. Citizen, public official, member of the government. And gay."

*read the whole story by Reuters here: Armenians test South Caucasus's gay taboo

'Eternal optimist'

Tuesday 24 July 2007

'Gay' rally in Georgia cancelled

BBC just published an article on cancellation of "All Different - All Equal" event in Tbilisi, which I first reported in my post "Gay Parade in Tbilisi?" on 19 July 2007 and updated today with 'breaking news' (with additional background and follow-up info - in comments for that post). I thought it's worth republishing BBC's report in full, which is the exact reflection of my fears expressed there.

By Matthew Collin
BBC News, Tbilisi

An event promoting tolerance and cultural dialogue in Georgia has been cancelled, after rumours spread that it was in fact a gay parade.

The highly influential head of the Georgian Orthodox church spoke out against the event.

Organisers told the BBC they feared that the participants could have been attacked if it went ahead.

Gays have come under attack in former Soviet republics, with the Orthodox Church one of their main critics.

Since false rumours spread that the planned event was a demonstration for homosexual rights, the organisers say they have received large numbers of abusive telephone calls and emails, some making threats of physical violence.

Anti-gay feelings

The event was to have been held in the Georgian capital next week as part of a Europe-wide campaign against intolerance, called "all different, all equal".

But it was cancelled on Tuesday amid fears for the safety of the young people taking part. The organisers, a human rights organisation called Century 21, say they are victims of what they describe as disinformation and lies broadcast by Georgian television channels.

The head of the Georgian Orthodox church had also warned that any rally involving sexual minorities would cause widespread offence and possibly lead to physical confrontation.

Georgia is a highly religious country which prides itself on its traditional Christian values.

Although homosexuality is legal, it is widely regarded as immoral. Gay rights activists in Georgia say homosexuals are often the targets for abuse and physical violence.

For further details, read also Gay Parade in Tbilisi? and accompanying comments.

Details of "All Different, All Equal" campaign are available here

Friday 20 July 2007

Remembering Magician...

*image from Namakani film

To the bright memory of Sergei Parajanov...

This film was made at Hayk studio in Yerevan (Armenia) in 1995; written and directed by Andrei Ayrapetov (for his Diploma work). It contains rare footage of Parajanov just months before his death...

From Wikipedia:

Sergei Parajanov is considered by many to be one of the most original and critically-acclaimed filmmakers of the 20th century. He was born to Armenian parents Iosif Paradjanyan and Siranush Bejanyan, in Tbilisi, Georgia.

He died of cancer in Yerevan, Armenia, on July 20, 1990, aged 66, leaving his final masterpiece The Confession unfinished. It survives in its original negative as Paradjanov: The Last Spring, assembled by his close friend Mikhail Vartanov in 1992. He left behind a book of memoirs, also titled "The Confession".

Such luminaries as Federico Fellini, Tonino Guerra, Francesco Rosi, Alberto Moravia, Giulietta Masina, Marcello Mastroianni and Bernardo Bertolucci were among those who publicly mourned his passing.
From interview with Ron Holloway, director of documentary Parajanov, A Requiem (1994), 2 years before his death:

- You've been planning your new film, Confession, for a long time.

I owe Armenia a cinematographic confession, a sort of personal bible. It's about my mother, my father, my childhood, my isolation in prison, my vision of dreams. And the tragedy of a cemetery being torn up to allow for a cultural park in honour of (Sergei) Kirov. The cemetery must give way to honour the Communist Kirov. The Soviet patriot arrives, and the ghosts are cast out. They don't know where to go, so they seek shelter with me, their living heir. But I can't take them in. I'm obliged to report to the local police that they are spending the night with me. I, who have no electricity, who is not an insurance agent. They know no evil. Their generation, back then, was kinder. They only want to stay with me. And I must die before their eyes to prove I love them.

It's my duty to my people. I am an Armenian from Georgia. I've made films in the Ukraine. I've suffered behind bars in Georgia and the Ukraine. Sometimes I wake up at night, and I imagine I am being attacked by lice. You may enter prison clean, but they swarm all over you. Within two hours you are covered with lice.
Back in 2004, in relation to the article Remembering the Magician... published in ArmeniaNow, Micha Meroujean (AGLA France) wrote the following comment:

I liked the article about Paradjanov. There is one thing is inexact and partial. The author of the article mentions that he was imprisoned for " ..incitement to suicide and homosexuality". It is true that the Soviet regime was using the anti-gay law of the penal code to intimidate non-conformist and dissident intellectuals. But in case with Paradjanov one thing is true that he was homosexual. And he never denied it. In Moscow there was published a book of Pardjanov called "Confession" with some of his letters to his friends and wife from prison detention. In a letter to the film-director Roman Balayan he compares his destiny with the one of Oscar Wilde. They were both married, they both loved men passionately and they were both imprisoned for their homosexuality. This part of Paradjanov's life is often ommited by his fans and biographers. But time will come when Armenia will love the "gay" magician, too. If today's Armenia is having difficulties with accepting its "homosexual" citizens ... doesn't mean that they didn't exist, they don't exist or they won't exist. The time will come ... I believe in it. And Armenia will regret the period when it was so badly deaf and myope to the destiny of its gay and lesbian citizens.

Thursday 19 July 2007

Gay Parade in Tbilisi?

***Breaking News update (24 July 2007): After all histeria and homophobia surrounding this event (see my comments below) which aimed at promoting Equality and Tolerance towards disadvantaged and minority groups, and which was, in fact, not "Gay Parade" at all, but rather broader event organised by Council of Europe in Georgia within their campaign "All Different - All Equal ", the event got cancelled by one of organisers and apparently will not go ahead. Very sad news, indeed...

Sounds too good to be true, isn’t it? I felt the same reading the news received via Kornelij Glas, in the first instance. Here is the story.

Rosbalt Russian news agency broke the news yesterday on upcoming Gay Parade in Tbilisi. I intentionally waited for some time (almost a day) before publishing this post, waiting for any confirmation from independent sources, other news or gay-related agencies or institutions. None so far…

News report was based on Georgian “Rustavi2 TV” report and suggested that there will be first-ever Gay Parade in Tbilisi on 29 July 2007. Based on TV report, Rosbalt stated that according to organisers of the Tbilisi parade, it will differ from similar Gay Pride events in other countries, without elaborating on details. Organisers aim at “stirring up not only sexual minorities, but also ethnic and religious minorities, promote their integration with the majority”. As indicated, it will be the first time ever when representatives of LGBT community will march through Tbilisi streets.

The route of the parade will begin from the State Philharmonic Hall in the centre of Tbilisi and will end up in one of city squares on the banks of the river Kura.

“Everyone is different – everyone is equal” – this will be the logo of the day, and many NGOs have already prepared various souvenirs, posters, T-shirts.

As common in case of many blog or news sites, this sort of news led to a sea of comments from ‘concern citizens’ full with homophobia, verbal abuse and ‘conspiracy theories’. I will not waste my time on reflecting those comments – same old s**t.

I still have some doubts about the authenticity of this information and the nature of the event. It seems to me a bit strange of having Gay Parade as a common event with ethnic and religious minorities, not because I do not wanna see it, quite the contrary, I think all minorities should join forces in their fight for equality and universal human rights for everyone. However, knowing reality and mentality of people there, I doubt that, say, Armenians or Azerbaijanis as “ethnic minority” (not as “sexual minority”) will march with gay Georgians, or that Muslim people as “religious minority” will join the event, unless they are gay. I fear that due to widespread homophobia in Georgian society, like everywhere else in the region, ethnic or religious minorities may find marching with LGBT people or being related to them as too much of negative publicity and trouble for them. Besides, many of representatives of organised ethnic or religious minority groups are homophobes themselves, and along with representatives of various groups from ‘majority’ promote hate and intolerance towards gay people.

I want to be proved wrong (I wish!) and if I am wrong, I will salute organisers of the event. Again, as I mentioned before, this news needs to be confirmed by other sources, and I will certainly keep an eye on all developments in neighbouring Georgia.

Even though homophobia is widespread in society as a whole, the attitude towards gay people in Georgia, especially Tbilisi, is more open-minded and gay scene is more developed than in surrounding countries, as pointed out by Spartacus International Gay Guide (2007). In fact, Georgia was the first country in South Caucasus to decriminalise gay male sex in 2000.

If this information is true and Gay Parade goes ahead, it will be the first most significant event (after decriminalisation of gay male sex) in terms of gay rights movement not only for Georgia, but also for the whole South Caucasus, including Armenia and Azerbaijan.

'How I escaped from torture in Iran'

An asylum seeker who was deported to Iran in 2004 has been describing how he managed to escape from custody and make his way back to the UK.

In this three-part series, the BBC News Website follows Shahin Portofeh's story, from deportation and alleged torture in Iran, to his escape and flight to the UK in an arduous and dangerous journey across Turkey, Greece and Italy.

(by Russell Joslin, BBC News)

read first part here
Part 2: An asylum seeker's escape
Part3: An asylum seeker's escape

*source of picture: BBC - Shahin Portofeh sewed up his eyes and lips in 2003

Sunday 15 July 2007

10 years without Gianni...

"A gay hero", as Todd Richmond, Editor of, rightly characterised him.

"Versace was at the peak of his fashion career. He was as fearless in his vision for aesthetics as he was in his openness about being gay.

He was one of Italy's first public figures to come out and worked tirelessly with out singer-composer Elton John on behalf of people living with AIDS."

*source of picture: AFP (Pierre Verdy)

- tonight, at the La Scala opera house

Saturday 14 July 2007

State Homophobia (Map)

World Legal Map on legislations affecting LGBT people around the world
(by French newspaper Le Monde and ILGA)

*click here to enlarge

*Note that this Map reflects situation before 2004. According to State-sponsored Homophobia 2007 report, "consensual sexual acts between persons of the same sex in private were decriminalised in Cape Verde in 2004, Marshall Islands in 2004, Fiji in 2005 and Puerto Rico in 2005."

In Armenia, gay male sex was decriminalised in December 2002. Lesbian sex was never legally banned. An age of consent of 16 was set regardless of the gender of those involved.

The Armenian National Assembly has repealed article 116 of its criminal code which punished sex between men with up to 5 years in prison (Armenian legislation followed the corresponding article from the former Soviet Union). According to various reports, 7 men were sentenced in Armenia for gay sex in 1996, 4 in 1997 (Amnesty International 1999 Report on Armenia) and 4 in 1999 (Opinion of the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee of the Council of Europe on the accession of Armenia - Doc. 8756 - 6 June 2000). After 1999, article 116 has no longer been put in practice.

On 28th June 2000 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe made repeal of article 116 a condition of Armenia's membership to the Council of Europe. With this repeal, the last remaining law in Europe criminalising same-sex relationships was repealed.

State-sponsored Homophobia (Report)

A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults
(April 2007)

Homophobia is the fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals. The hatred, hostility, or disapproval of homosexual people.

The impressive collection of laws presented in this report is an attempt to show the extent of State homophobia in the world. In 2007, no less than 85 member states of the United Nations still criminalize consensual same sex acts among adults, thus institutionally promoting a culture of hatred. With this publication, we hope to raise awareness about this reality which extent remains unknown to the vast majority of people.

Although many of the countries listed in the report do not systematically implement those laws, their mere existence reinforces a culture where a significant portion of the citizens need to hide from the rest of the population out of fear. A culture where hatred and violence are somehow justified by the State and force people into invisibility or into denying who they truly are.

Whether imported by colonial empires or the result of legislations culturally shaped by religious beliefs, if not deriving directly from a conservative interpretation of religious texts, homophobic laws are the fruit of a certain time and context in history. Homophobia is cultural. Homophobia is not inborn. We learn it as we grow.

In many cases, "prejudice against homosexual people” is the result of ignorance and fear. This long catalogue of horrors is but a tale of the intolerance against what is foreign and different.

On occasion of May 17th, the International Day against Homophobia, we take this opportunity to praise the work of human rights defenders who tirelessly fight against injustice and challenge homophobia, lesbophobia and transphobia which surround us.

Decriminalization of same sex activity is as urgent as ever. The fight for the respect of every minority has to be everyone’s fight. We believe that the recognition of sexual minorities as civil components of our societies and the acknowledgement of the equality of their human rights can contribute to learning how to live together, that is, the learning of democracy.

Rosanna Flamer Caldera & Philipp Braun
Co-secretaries generals of ILGA, the International Lesbian and Gay Association

*This report compiled by Daniel Ottosson and published by ILGA, the International Lesbian and Gay Association. A copy of the report is available here

Friday 13 July 2007

Turkish LGBTT Group Faces Closure in Istanbul

Below is a press statement about attempts to close one of the leading Turkish LGBTT groups (Lambda Istanbul) in Istanbul. This petition is signed by a number of human rights groups in Turkey.


We are asking: Is it immoral to be organized?

Stating that "Not only heterosexuals live in this society!", Turkey's lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transvestite and transsexual (LGBTT) associations are trying to benefit from their freedom of speech in order to fight against the discrimination based on sexual orientation and sexual identity. Turkish LGBTT people are against denial, marginalisation, stigmatisation and violence; they are seeking recognition of their existence in society.

Since 2005, civil groups and associations that apply to gain NGO (non-governmental) status were always confronted with the similar types of obstructions. Attempt to establish “Kaos GL” wanted to be rejected with a claim that "an immoral association cannot be founded". However on October 12 2005, they won their first victory when prosecutors rejected an official demand to shut down a newly-formed LGBTT association.

Now “Lambda Istanbul” faces the same threat of being closed down.

The Turkish Civil Code states that associations against law and morality cannot be established. Because Lambda Istanbul’s title has the words “lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transvestite and transsexual” in it, this association's title and purposes were found to be against the Turkish Civil Code," said the governor's letter sent to public prosecutors and the group, Lambda Istanbul.

The first trial will be held on July 19th, Thursday at 10:00 am.

On January 29, 2004 Turkey's Parliamentary Justice Commission voted to alter the 'discrimination' clause in the Penal Code to include ‘discrimination based on sexual orientation’ as a crime. Turkish LGBT activists praised the legislation that would result in criminal charges against a person who refuses anyone service, housing or employment on the basis of sexual orientation. If the law had passed, Turkey could have became the first predominantly Muslim country to pass such a law.

Although "sexism" and "discrimination against sexual orientation" are different issues of facts (aspects), the Minister of Justice Cemil Cicek claimed that they would express similar things and demanded that the expression "sexual orientation" should be taken out of the main paragraph concerning "discrimination".

Therefore on July 6, 2004 The Parliamentary Justice Commission took up the discrimination clause and decided to replace it with the discrimination clause that exists in the Constitution. According to the Article No.10 of the Turkish Constitution, discrimination based on language, race, skin color, gender, political opinion, religion, denomination and similar reasons is prohibited but it does not directly refer to sexual orientation.

Criteria and conventions must be binding for everybody and everywhere!

We want to remind that the Republic's Chief Prosecutor in Ankara rejected an official demand to shut down a newly-formed LGBTT association (Kaos GL) in Ankara in 2005. The prosecutor said in his ruling that the American Psychiatric Association did not rate homosexuality as a disorder and the words "gay" and "lesbian" were widely used in daily life and scientific research. He also put some international laws into consideration such as: the EU's political criteria, the Accession Partnership Document, the European Convention on Human Rights and supporting international conventions on human rights:

We also remind that both LGBTT associations "Lambdaistanbul," and "Kaos GL," are founded with the same objectives and are working in the frame of the law. We demand to fairness and have the same criteria and conventions in the city of Istanbul as well.

Even before registering to gain a legal NGO status, Lambdaistanbul has been an active organization in the past.

We, as members of below-mentioned Turkish associations that fight for human rights and freedom, are declaring to the public that we will continue to support Lambdaistanbul and its ideals and together resist the discriminatory practices that we face.

Main petitioners:

Kaos Gay-Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Association

Pembe Hayat Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transvestite and Transsexual Solidarity Association

TPC Women Platform


Ankara University Gender Studies Group

Ankara Women Platform

“Say Stop! to Racism and Nationalism” Initiative

Kaos GL Ýzmir

Kaosist Homosexual Non-Governmental Initiative

MorEl Eskisehir LGBTT Organisation

*via Kaos GL

Wednesday 11 July 2007

Tuesday 10 July 2007

Cold Showers

Gay-Interest Film at Golden Apricot 4th Yerevan International Film Festival

Cold Showers (France 2005)
Director: Anthony Cordier

12 July 2007, 18:00
Moscow Cinema, Blue Hall

*trailer via PictureThisEnt

Monday 9 July 2007

Iraqi LGBT Needs Your Help

As I mentioned in my previous post on London Pride 2007, Gay Pride events in countries like England are not only a celebration of achievements but also an occasion to raise the issues of human rights abuses, discrimination and homophobia in many parts of the world. Among the most disadvantaged are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Muslims who live under the constant fear of being prosecuted and tortured in their countries. Some of them are brave enough to get organised and provide support to their compatriots.

Today I specifically want to mention Iraqi LGBT whose conditions were worsened to the impossible extent after the start of the war and now under the process of 'democratisation' of Iraq. Iraqi LGBT had a special stall in Trafalgar square in London during the rally which was a part of London Pride events. I had a chat with some of Iraqi activists and was introduced to the head of Iraqi LGBT organisation in Britain. The stories of survival and struggle they told sounded a bit surreal, but the sad reality is that they were real... They desperately need our help in order to continue the provision of support to LGBT Iraqis. Not only they communicate the information on human rights abuses to the outer world, they also provide individual LGBT people in Iraq with very practical help: refuge in the safer parts of Iraq, in relatively safe houses under the protection of special 'LGBT security'; efforts to help them seek refuge in neighbouring countries or asylum abroad and so on...

For more information and to help Iraqi LGBT, please visit their site here

Here is a copy of leaflet distributed by Iraqi LGBT activists during the London Pride:

Saturday 7 July 2007

Anti-Gay Attacks Mar Hungary and Croatia Gay Pride

According to AP news agency, several hundred skinheads and right-wing activists threw rotten eggs and smoke bombs at people participating in a gay rights parade in Hungary's capital Budapest on Saturday. Police detained several of the protesters and tried to disperse the rest, some of whom threw beer bottles at police. No injuries were reported.

Members of the right-wing Movement For A Better Hungary and the Hungarian National Front said they were angry about two recent developments. On Thursday, Gabor Szetey , a state secretary in the prime minister's office, announced he was gay and started a political process to break the taboo of being gay in Hungary, while the smaller party in the Socialist-led ruling coalition said it would seek to legalise gay marriages.

Some 2,000 people participated in Saturday's march, which took place over several kilometers, from Heroes' Square to the foot of one of the bridges over the Danube River.

In the meantime, similar scenario was developing in neighbouring Croatia. According to AFP, violence marred a Gay Pride march through the centre of the Croatian capital Zagreb. Organisers said more than 20 marchers had been the target of homophobic attacks. "Around 10 people were hurt, with two needing medical treatment," Marko Jurcic, one of the organisers, told AFP. Italian senator Gianpaolo Silvestri was in one of the groups attacked, but was unhurt, Jurcic said.

Police said the eight arrests were made for threatening behaviour towards the marchers. "Five of them were carrying what appeared to be Molotov cocktails, but the contents of the bottles they were carrying has yet to be analysed," police spokesman Marina Burazer said.

Earlier, around 200 gay people braved the jeers of onlookers to take part in the annual Gay Pride march through Zagreb to back demands for gay rights. The marchers were protected by almost as many police as they made their way through the city centre, jeered and taunted by around 20 youths.

*picture by Denis Lovrovic (AFP)

The leaders of the city's gay and lesbian association said they faced rejection, discrimination, job dismissals and physical assault in Croatia, whose population of 4.4 million is nearly 90 percent Roman Catholic. The Croatian parliament passed legislation giving limited recognition for same-sex unions in 2003.

Three days ago, Human Rights Watch launched online photographic celbration of Gay Pride marches from cities around the world. As Celine Casey from PinkNews noted, it "captures the courage, the exuberance, and the human faces of LGBT people’s Pride marches on five continents, over more than a decade. "

These two pictures from that photo essay particularly touched me and are very relevant in the light of today's events and continuous anti-gay violence in Eastern and central Europe, and world-wide.

A participant in Jerusalem's Gay Pride continues to march after he was stabbed by a homophobic protester, July 1 © 2005 Reuters Limited

An anti-gay nationalist mob beats a gay activist during the first attempt to hold Gay Pride in Belgrade, Serbia, June 30 © 2001 Reuters Limited

Wednesday 4 July 2007

Radio Liberty, Hetq and LGBT community in Armenia

Recent events surrounding the discussions in Armenian parliament of proposed bills that may effectively terminate the broadcast of popular Radio Liberty through the National Radio of Armenia, should concern everyone who value human rights and freedom of press, and particularly LGBT community in Armenia and Diaspora. Unless we have free and independent media, future progress of democracy, and thus gay rights, in Armenia are impossible. Luckily, for now Radio Liberty is safe, but it does not garantee future attempts to atack this or other media in Armenia. For details, see here, here and here.

There was interesting twist surrounding these events which indirectly connect Radio Liberty, and LGBT community in Armenia.

On 2 July 2007 Hetq (Hetq Online is run by the Investigative Journalists NGO in Armenia) published an article Radio Liberty Will Turn Into a Newspaper. While focusing on media freedom and particularly Radio Liberty and reactions surrounding the parliamentary discussions, Tigran Paskevichyan touches also the issue of LGBT rights in Armenia, in the context of free press:

"After these objectionable laws are passed we can perhaps join a convention on the protection of LGBT rights and commit ourselves not to interfere with the execution of, say, a gay parade. And why not? That is quite close to the values preached by the government-controlled media."

In order to fully understand the meaning of this passage, you probably need to read the article in full here. UkGayNews rightly pointed out that "Tigran Paskevichyan writes about the question mark hanging over the future of the Armenian service of Radio Liberty. While not specifically a "gay issue", the LGBT community in Armenia would be affected by the station's closure, proposed by the government of Armenia."

Quite the different reaction came from one of notorious Armenian bloggers, who is blogging from outside the Armenia and is known for his pro-establishment and very osseous, out of touch views on any subject. He would not have deserved my attention otherwise, but I want to bring it on here since this is very practical example to clearly show how 'sensitive' some of our 'compatriots' may be when someone even slightly touches the issues of gay rights. This 'compatriot' could not help himself but to express his "disgust" towards gay people. He went on further and suggested to "boycott" because "they are spreading homosexual propaganda". I do not think that President Kocharyan or PM Sargsyan need his support, quite the contrary, they could not get more anti-propaganda than the one which is supposedly conducted by this guy in their favour. And yes, if you have not guessed, he is quite happy to see Radio Liberty out of national coverage and probably felt devastated that Armenian parliament failed to pass the bill.

This particular example also shows the need for gay community to join forces with all progressive representatives of Armenian civic society (be that in Armenia or Diaspora) to protest any attack on freedom of speech in Armenia and support independent media.

Tuesday 3 July 2007

Let's come together

This video "Film Lovers Will Love This!" is one of four videos distrtibuted through European Commission in support of its Media project to promote European films. This sex-scene clip proved to be the most viewed video on EUtube since its launch.

According to BBC, "European Commission spokesman Martin Selmayr said there had been a flood of complaints from Poland about an intimate scene between two men - but refused to accept there was anything controversial about the film.

Fuming at what he called "quasi-religious bashing of the very important cultural diversity we have in the European Union", he said the lovemaking clips were excerpts from award-winning films, and that the commission was proud of the EU's rich cinematic heritage.

"The European Union is not a bible belt, we believe in freedom of expression and artistic creativity," he added."

As BBC pointed out, "None of the e-mailers to the EUtube site has objected about sexual content. The main complaint has been that few of the films are yet available in languages other than English, but the orgasmic cries of Film Lovers Will Love This! need no translation."

More info about the Media project by European Commission is available here

*video via EUtube

Sunday 1 July 2007

London Pride 2007

35 years of Pride

Tens of thousands of people ignored the pouring rain and failed attempts of terror attacks in the capital just hours ago, and took to the streets of London to celebrate Pride. People then gathered for the rally and pop concert in Trafalgar square, and street parties in the heart of London, in/around London's main gay 'village' - Soho. Environment was increadible, as always. You could just feel the Freedom there! It was a celebration of significant achievements of gay community in Britain. But it was not only a celebration, it was also a call, a political call to end discrimination against LGBT people in other parts of the world, particularly in Muslim world (killing Fatwas and prosecutions) and Eastern Europe (lack of rights, inequality, discrimination and homophobia).

Below is my photo-post from the London Pride 2007 (click pics to enlarge):

Peter Tatchell, prominent British gay rights activist, who was attacked during recent Moscow Pride by extreme right and religious fanatics, was among the first to start the march; I spotted him afterwards too, at the rally in Trafalgar square.

London's mayor, Ken Livingstone (centre), joined actor John Barrowman (next, left), comedian Amy Lamé (far left), and the UK’s most senior openly gay police officer (who recently retired from the force) Brian Paddick (far right) on the parade's lead float. I later spotted John Barrowman in the crowd greeting marchers and chatting with people.

LGBT members of Royal Navy, police and fire services marched through the streets in uniform.

Well-known gay rugby/football club from London; they played the ball while marching.

Different people, different styles, the way they liked it.

It was particularly great and heartening to see those brave gay Muslims who marched with their float despite the threats of death and prosecution.

All balconies along the route of the march were filled in with well-wishers, gay and straight.

A handful of Christian protesters were holding up signs citing... bullshit. Gay marchers blew kisses and gave them thumbs down as they passed by.

He was out on hist first Pride too, all dressed up :)

British Transport Police marched the streets in uniform, Metropolitan Police was in uniform too, and on their float police car was decorated with rainbow flags for the occasion.

Amnesty International marched this year Eurovision style, awarding NUL points to Eastern European countries for the state of (lack of) gay rights (these 2 pics are via UkGayNews; all other pictures in this post are taken by me during the London Pride).

Street party in Soho after the parade and rally.

P.S. Along with London, hundreds of thousands of LGBT people and their supporters gathered for massive parades this Saturday in Paris and Madrid too. Amid the fun, there was a serious message for equality and end of discrimination in Europe and elsewhere. France24 has video here