Tuesday 30 December 2008

Figure skating school named after Yevgeny Plushchenko opens in Yerevan

As a big fan of figure skating, I was thrilled with the news of opening new figure skating school in Yerevan named after one of my favourite figure skaters Yevgeny Plushchenko. This new school will operate at the Yerevan Sports and Concert Complex after Karen Demirchyan. Plyushchenko himself was in Yerevan to attend the opening ceremony (27 December) which was marked by an amazing show. Famous Hungarian composer and violinist Edvin Marton was in attendance too.

During Eurovision 2008 song contest Plushchenko and Marton took part in Dima Bilan's on stage performance as part of the winning Russian song Believe.

Below are couple of clips from the Yerevan show (via Tert.am). Simply fabulous!

Yevgeny Plushchenko and Edvin Marton

Elena Berezhnaya & John Timberman and Edvin Marton

Yerevan club life online exhibit

By Yerevan-based entertainment blogger and photographer Kamo Tovmasyan of El style and Night People Yerevan magazines.

Date: 31 December 2008 - 3 January 2009

Place: http://www.kamoblog.am/ (or http://npy.am/blog)

Turkish politician ‘nervous’ of possible SOAD performance for Armenia in Eurovision 2009

Even though there has been no formal announcement, other than rumours, that Serj Tankian or SOAD may represent Armenia in Eurovision 2009, the only thought of it makes some Turkish politicians 'nervous'. Rumours re SOAD/Serj which were circulating few months ago revived again very recently suggesting that another potential contender singer Arame is out now, and the likelihood of SOAD or Serj Tankian to represent Armenia in Eurovision 2009 is very real. But then again, I must repeat that these are still rumours.

Back to the news reports. Azeri APA news agency quoting Turkish sources reports that opposition MP from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) Akif Ekici urged Turkish PM to initiate actions to prevent SOAD’s performance of Armenian Genocide related or mentioning song (directly or indirectly).
The lawmaker asked the Prime Minister what measures would be taken for prevention of this group to join the Eurovision contest with this song. “Were Armenia and European Broadcasting Union addressed on this issue? What will happen if this group wins the contest with its song on so-called “genocide”? Would the world recognize “genocide” in this case, it wouldn’t?”
According to the Eurovision rules, explicit political songs are prohibited in the contest. However, there are always ways to get the message through via more indirect references, and there were number of examples of it in past.

Azeri and Turkish circles ‘furious’ about Dutch court ruling granting adoption of 2 Azeri children to a local lesbian couple

Scandalous headlines are appearing in Azerbaijan and Turkey following the Dutch court ruling to grant adoption of 2 Azeri children to a local lesbian couple. Apparently, Azeri parents, who are residing in Netherlands, were deprived of parental rights after death of one of their children, being accused by Dutch authorities in child abuse, claim disputed by Azeri-Turkish circles.

Azeri-Turkish cultural society in Netherlands voiced its “objection” against that decision citing ‘cultural values’, i.e. that adoption of children by same-sex couple is unacceptable by Turkish or Azeri “culture and traditions” (Day.az and APA). “We can not guarantee that the same will not happen tomorrow to any other Turkish family.” “We respect the decision of the court, but we can not accept it, because this situation is contrary to our culture and traditions.” They threatened civil actions against adoption ruling. They also expressed “gratitude to Turkish Prime Minister Rejep Tayyip Erdoghan for taking stance on this issue”, although it is not clear what exactly Erdogan’s intervention, if any, was.

They perhaps ‘forgot’ in which country they reside in (Netherlands), and that ‘cultural values’ is not a legal category. I can never understand people, regardless of nationality, who are settling in other countries, looking for a “better life”, perfectly aware of more than apparent “cultural differences”, and then demand restriction of prevalent freedoms and human rights in a society where they moved to, instead of contributing to it by adding their own cultural input.

It has to be noted that while one Azeri agency (APA) mentions “Azerbaijani children”, another one (Day.az) reports about “Turkish children”. There are other inconsistencies in these reports too. For example, at the beginning of its report, Day.az cites Dutch court decision to grant adoption rights to a lesbian couple. However, towards the end of the same report, the agency mentions – without providing any clarifications - about July court case which allowed return of children to their biological parents. Moreover, if we trust Day.az, these children are now with their grandfather in Turkey “undergoing a course of treatment”. Pretty confusing reporting, to say the least.

Sunday 28 December 2008

Turkey LGBT news update: Bülent Ersoy, Lambda Istanbul, EU report, UN statement, PEN Turkey

1. Famous transsexual Turkish singer Bülent Ersoy (I wrote about her case in one of my earlier posts) has been acquitted of charges of criticising mandatory military service in Turkey. The decision was made on grounds of freedom of speech during a court hearing:
The law firm of Muhittin Yuzuak says Friday that their client, singer Bulent Ersoy, was acquitted during a hearing Thursday on grounds of freedom of speech. Ersoy is one of Turkey’s best-loved singers.

Ersoy has acknowledged saying on television that if she had children she would not want them to join the army to battle Kurdish rebels who are fighting for self-rule.
The European Union, which Turkey wants to join, is pressing the nation to do away with laws that stifle free expression.

Under EU pressure, Turkey amended a law in April that barred the denigration of Turkish identity and institutions. But human rights groups say the changes did not go far enough.
Bianet also reported the case:
Famous transsexual singer Bülent Ersoy is acquitted of the accusation of “alienating people from military service”, which she faced for her words during a TV show that if she had a son she would not send him to the war with the PKK in the east.
2. Court overturns shutdown of Istanbul-based Turkish gay rights group Lambda Istanbul (via Kaos):
Turkey's Supreme Court on Nov. 27 overturned a decision to dissolve the gay group Lambda Istanbul.

A lower court had agreed with city officials who claimed the organization was unlawful, immoral and against family values.

“Finally, justice has arrived,” Lambda said in an English-language statement. “We are stronger now with the overturn of the decision to close down Lambda Istanbul LGBTT Solidarity Association. As people who face violence, who get expelled from our jobs, who are excluded and isolated, who are denied their legal rights, our voices will now multiply; and as the LGBTT movement we will be louder when we shout out our right to equality.”

“Decisions influenced by prejudices will remain inevitable, and inequality, discrimination and intense human rights violations will prevail as long as ‘sexual orientation' and ‘gender identity' are not added to the equality clause of the constitution,” the group said.

Lambda has been in existence since 1993 and has been officially registered for two years. The group continued to operate during the appeals process.
3. Previously, the EU Commission issued a report on Turkey reflecting the state with the LGBT rights specifically mentioning Lambda Istanbul case and more, including the rejection of registration of the Turkish Armenian Business Development Council:
The registration of the Turkish Armenian Business Development Council was rejected by the Governorate of Istanbul, without clear legal grounds. Following a case brought by the Istanbul Governorate, an Istanbul court decided in May to close down a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual (LGBTT) association. The Istanbul Governorate is accusing Amnesty International (AI) of illegal money collection. The competent Istanbul Administrative Court heard the case and decided in favor of AI. The Governor has appealed the case before the Council of State.
4. Regarding the UN statement against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, a statement issued by a LGBT Rights Platform composed of various LGBT organizations and initiatives in Turkey called for Turkish government to endorse it. LGBT rights groups specifically noted that “The Turkish government is one of the only candidates to European Union that has declined to support” the groundbreaking UN statement.

Following the UN statement, Turkish Hurriyet newspaper said that “Turkey breaks company with EU in gay vote”.
In an atmosphere where Turkey is being criticized for the slow pace of its EU reforms, the country refuses to sign a declaration calling all states to take steps to stop the criminalization of homosexuality, contradicting its commitments to the EU in promoting human rights. […]

"It’s very frustrating for Turks who wish the state to become a member of the EU. Turkey’s position with regard to this issue is more important than Cyprus to us," an EU ambassador told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review after it became clear that Ankara declined to join the 27 EU countries who endorsed the groundbreaking initiative. […]

"Turkey is the only country among the candidate members of the EU that refused to sign the declaration," said Barış Sulu, head of Ankara-based Pembe Hayat, one of the leading Turkish lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, association. "We want the government to protect and encourage everyone to protect human rights for everyone without discriminating the sexual identity or sexual tendencies," Sulu added.

Homosexuality is not a crime according to Turkish laws. However, "we are not defined in the Turkish constitution’s prohibition of discrimination or the social and civil rights," said Ozan Gezmiş, an activist from the MorEl Eskişehir LGBT group. "We are ignored and ignorance is the utmost violence," Gezmiş said.

"Turkey should vote for human rights on this issue, if it regards itself as a European country. But, we all know this is Turkey’s contradiction, where it tries to be European while on the other hand, acting parallel to Islam countries," Pelin Kalkan said, speaking on behalf of Ankara-based Kaos GL, another leading Turkish LGBT organization.
5. And the latest news. PEN Turkey calls the government to recognise the rights of LGBT people.
Tarık Günersel, President of PEN Turkey, called upon the government and the public to take action to respect the rights of the homosexuals.

Reminding that 64 countries signed the decision to end making homosexualism a crime at the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Günersel said, “The rights of the homosexuals are a part of the human rights that cannot be ignored.”

Sayin “The Turkish government must realize, accept and confirm this fact”, the President of the PEN Turkey said, “It is much better to be the 65th than the 165th.”

Saturday 27 December 2008

Daniel Day-Lewis: Quote of The Year (BBC)

Well, apart from anything else he was the nearest fellow nominee. He's just a great guy. I had to kiss someone. I kissed my wife, and in the interest of parity, I kissed George.
Daniel Day-Lewis explains why he grabbed George Clooney when it was announced he had won an Oscar.

This is my pick from BBC's selection of the most memorable quotes from the world of entertainment in 2008.

Don't we just love Daniel Day-Lewis?! :)

*photo - AFP, via BBC

Deviation: Anthology of Contemporary Armenian Literature (book)

A book featuring the poems and essays of contemporary writers from Armenia and Diaspora was put on sale this week in Yerevan’s Artbridge café-bookstore. The 300-page book entitled “Deviation: Anthology of Contemporary Armenian Literature” is available in English and comprises 11 authors.

The publication was sponsored by the Netherlands’ Prince Claus Fund for Culture and development. Many of the works included in the anthology have appeared in “Inknagir” (Autograph) literary magazine. (http://www.inknagir.org/) The book was compiled by Vahan Ishkhanyan, ArmeniaNow reporter, and “Inknagir” literary club’s chairman and poet Violet Grigoryan, “Inknagir’s” editor. Ishkhanyan’s short stories and Grigoryan’s poems are among entries in the volume.


Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons – Beggin

Personally, I am not a fan of Hip Hop or R’n’B, but there are tunes which are different and quite enjoyable. Madcon’s re-make of Beggin became an instant London club scene hit in 2008, along with Estelle’s American Boy.

Wikipedia: In 2008, The Four Seasons' "Beggin'" was revived not by one but by two acts. Pilooski made an electro remix of that song, while rap act Madcon used it as the basis of their song "Beggin'". The latter went to number 5 in the UK charts and was a hit across Europe. Pilooski's edit of the song was featured in a TV commercial for Addidas shoes entitled "Celebrate Orginality". The Addidas commercial is a popular hit on YouTube and features a house party with famous celebrities such as David Beckham, Russel Simmons, Kevin Garnett, Missy Elliott, and Mark Gonzales.

I prefer Pilooski’s electro remix of the song (below) which is closer to the original by pop/rock group Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. Still, both versions are quite danceable.

Thursday 25 December 2008

Typical Christmas story: Courtney Love vs Rob Kardashian Jr. / Kim Kardashian (war is on)

Courtney Love accused Rob Kardashian Jr. (brother of Kim Kardashian) of physically and verbally assaulting his gay employee. Particularly, Courney alleges that Rob punched her employee while calling him a "faggot". She went even further saying that Rob Kardashian is in the closet and it’s time for him to come out. (Her writing style is a bit messy, to put it mildly)
..well rob jr cold socked and punched my employee right in his face for no reason and broke his nose after my GUY was hanging out with his pal Brody Jenner one night outside hyde lounge closed, then right after yelling the words "FAGGOT FAGGOT FAGGOT!" Rob JR punched my guys in the face. […]

Let me be inviting to you my darling rob because i am SUCH A BIG FAN OF HATE CRIMES and homophobic fruit cake assholes like you this around this holiday season, It's all about self acceptance and particular in your case the acceptance of your own homosexuality […]

happy holidays kids and remember
hate crimes and homophobia is NOT HOT!
Kourtney Love Kobain
p.s Rob throw away your Nirvana cd's i will not allow you to listen to Kurts music nor my music, instead throw on the Mama Mia soundtrack and dance rob! dance you know you want it! work it! feel it sista girlfriend! own it! be it! embrace it! Love ya

Kim Kardashian’s reply was very quick, indeed. Her response was that Courtney’s accusations are “totally false” and Kardashian family passed the matter to their attorneys to work on:
My entire family’s response is this: We are so saddened to hear that someone is blogging this insanity on Christmas Eve. Everything this person writes is obviously untrue and we will forward this terrible nonsense to our attorneys. Merry Christmas!"
*picture of Rob Kardashian - by PR Photos, via Anything Hollywood

Estelle - American Boy

Estelle's American Boy was one of the most popular London club scene tunes in 2008. There are many versions of it, here is pretty good one.

RIP: British playwright Harold Pinter

Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter, who had cancer, died on Christmas Eve aged 78. (BBC)

Tuesday 23 December 2008

Bigot of The Year

Pop Benedict's Christmas 'greeting':

Pope Benedict XVI has said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour is just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction. (BBC)

5x2 (music)

Sparring Partner by Paolo Conte
Director: Francois Ozon

Sunday 21 December 2008

Yeghishe Charents unzipped – nation’s favourite gay Armenian poet

One of the greatest, most prominent, nation’s favourite Armenian poet… These are only few of epithets widely used to describe Yeghishe Charents.

Armenians are proud of their famous representatives. They are proud of Parajanov, they are proud of Charents...

Still, only minority is aware of Parajanov’s sexuality. Even less people, very few in fact, are aware that their favourite poet is gay. It’s not ordinary Armenians’ fault. They simply do not know. It’s a classic example of hypocrisy of those in literary circles or so who for decades shut out this fact from his biography. Luckily, we have taboo breaking literary Inqnagir magazine (editor Violet Grigoryan), and we have taboo breaking journalists/writers like Vahan Ishkhanyan, who never shy away from tackling ‘difficult’ subjects, minority issues, alternative scene. I would also add here Armeniapedia which was the first Armenian online publication to post a list of famous LGBT Armenians.

Vahan Ishkhanyan is working with ArmeniaNow. Recently he started blogging on Tert.am. I recommend his blog (in Armenian).

In his latest entry, Vahan Ishkhanyan writes about hypocrisy in Armenian literary circles and gay Charents posting an extract from never before published in Armenia gay-themed poem by Yeghishe Charents. Full story with gay-themed poems by Charents are available in Inqnagir literary magazine (5th edition). It’s not available online yet, but you may get its printed copy.

Below is an extensive extract from Vahan Ishkhanyan’s blog post (in Armenian). Essential reading!

[…] Մի շաբաթ առաջ, հինգշաբթի, Ինքնագիր 5-ի շնորհանդեսն էր, ու ես գիտեմ որ շուխուր հանողը Չարենցի միասեռական բանաստեղծություններն են։ Մի հատված.

Հիմա, լսիր, սկսում եմ իմ ինտիմ
Պոեմն, անհուն, եւ մեղսական, եւ թովիչ։
Սիրում եմ ես, ինչպես գիտես, կոկաին,
Հայտնի եմ ես, որպես անբուժ մորֆինիստ։
Սիրում եմ այլ արհեստական եւ անհայտ… [մեկ բառ ջնջված է]
Հրապույրներն, ալկոհոլից մինչեւ հաշիշ
Բայց, ինձ համար լուսե ցնորք է անհաս
Վեշտասնամյա պատանու սերն արևոտ
Եվ ոչ մի կին, գեղեցկուհի լինի, թե
Մի տրփուհի աստվածածին կրքերն
Չարժե սիրած մի պատանու մանկատես
Բարով մարմինն, աստվածային ու գերիչ։

Վեշտասնամյա գրաբար է, նշանակում է՝ տասնվեց։ Բայց բանաստեղծության ընթացքում ցանկության տարիքն իջնում է.

Չկա ոչինչ, որ գեղեցիկ լինի, քան
Ոսկեցողուն մարմինը մերկ տղայի,
Տասնևչորսից մինչեւ տասնհինգ տարեկան։

Մարկ Նշանյանը, սփյուռքահայ գիտնական, պատմում էր Կոլումբիայի համալսարանում իր կազմած գրքի մասին՝ «Չարենցը հեղափոխության բանաստեղծ»։ Ու կոպերը փակելով որպես որակի բարձր նշան գովեց գրքում հրապարակված Ջեյմս Ռասելի «Չարենցը մարգարե» հոդվածը։ Եթե էդքան լավն ա, արժի՞ թարգմանենք ու Ինքնագրում տպենք։ Այո, իհարկե, բայց մի հատ Ռասելից թույլտվություն վերցրեք։

Նամակ գրեցի, Ռասելը ուրախացավ, որ Հայաստանում իր գրածներն հետաքրքրութուն են առաջացրել ու առաջարկեց նաև Չարենցի վերաբերյալ ևս 2 նյութ՝ մեկը հայկական կոնտրկուլտուրան ու Չարենցը, մյուսը Չարենցի անտիպների իր հրապարակումը։

Իսկ ես անտիպները կարդացել էի հենց Ռասելի գրքում։ Էն ժամանակ մտքովս չանցավ հրապարակման տեքստը թարգմանել՝ դե եթե անտիպներ են ուրեմն մի օր կվերցնենք կտպենք, իսկ Ռասելի մեկնաբանությունները կարելի է և չթարգմանել։ Ես մի պահ ուզեցի օգտագործեմ անտիպներից։ Հակոբ Մովսեսը Գարունի 2006 թ. 6-րդ համարի ինքնահարցազրույցում գրել էր թե անթույլատրելի է երբ բանաստեղծ է համարվում մեկը ով հոմոսեքսուալ սեր է ներկայացնում, նկատի ուներ Ալեն Գինսբերգին ու մի 2 տող մեջբերում էր արել նրանից՝ նրա հակումը պատանիներին։ Ու նույն ինքնահարցազրույցում մի քանի տեղ Չարենցին հանճարեղ է անվանում։ Ես մեջ բերեցի Չարենցի միասեռկան պոեզիան, ու հռետորականով հարցնում էի՝ խի Չարենցը, որ Գինսբերգից 15 տարի առաջ է միասեռական բանաստեղծություններ գրել, հանճարեղ է, իսկ Գինսբերգը՝ ոչ։ Դե հայ մտավորականի երկակի ստանդարտներն են, մի կողմից Փարաջանովին երկինք հանում մյուս կողմից մոլագար հոմոֆոներ, միասեռկանությունը վերացնելու կոչեր անում։ Որ հայ միասեռական չլիներ էսօր աշխարհում ո՞նց էին Փարաջանովով գլուխ գովալու ու մեկ էլ՝ ո՞նց են Փարաջանովի հոմոսեքսուալությունը թաքցնելով «Նռան գույն» վերլուծում։

Իսկ Գինսբերգին Չարենցի հետ համեմատելով քյասար ստացվում էր «երբ հայերը հոմոսեքսուալ էին, ամերիկացիք չգիտեին թե սեքսը ինչ բան է» ։ Հետո անտիպների մասը հանեցի, հիմա Մովսեսի ամեն բառը հո չէի հերքելու, Իսկ տեքստս տպվեց Ինքնագիր 2-ում։

Ռասելն էլ է համեմատում Չարենցին Բիթնիկների հետ։ Էս հավելվածը ափսոս Ինքնագրում չենք դրել՝ պատճառը, որ չգտանք Գևորգ Էմինի մի բանաստեղծությունը, որի համար գրված էր հավելվածը։ Ռասելը գրում է. «Չարենցն իր ուղնուծուծով կատարյալ մոդեռնիստ էր և նրա ստեղծագործությունների ու կյանքի մեծ մասը նախանշում է Երկրորդ Աշխարհամարտին հաջորդած ժամանակաշրջանի արվեստի Beats և մյուս տեսություններն ու ուղղությունները, որոնք, սակայն, Սովետական միությունում արմատախիլ արվեցին ստալինիզմի օրոք։ Բանաստեղծի կյանքի ու էության այս ասպեկտներն այնքան հեռու են էքսցենտրիզմից, սակայն շատերը հիմա էլ պնդում են, որ համաժողովրդական պոետի կերպարը պետք է կերտել ավելի գորշ, պուրիտանական գույներով»։

Ռասելի նամակից հետո էլի ձեռս առա նրա գիրքը, թերթեցի իմ չիմացած անգլերենով՝ չէ, սա տպելու բան է, չի ծնվել դեռ հայ մի գրականագետ որ կարողանա էս բանաստեղծությունները ներկայացնել ու ծանոթագրել։ Ու 2 գործն էլ թարգմանել տվեցինք՝ «Չարենց Մարգարե» և «Եղիշե Չարենցի անտիպ բանաստեղծությունների արխիվից»։

Ռասելի նյութերով ես տեսա Չարենցին համաշխարհային գրականության կոնտեքստում, ու էնտեղ ուր Չարենցին ընդհանրապես չեն նկատի հայ գրականագետները։ «Չարենցը մարգարե» էսսեում Պուշկինի «Մարգարեի» Չարենցի թարգմանության դրդապատճառն ու նրա կյանքի վերջին շրջանի կրոնական մոտիվները բացատրելով հեղինակը Չարենցի իր գտած աշխարհայացքն է բերում. «Նա ակնկալում էր միանգամայն այլ մշակույթի հաստատում, որը կտարբերվեր թե՜ միջնադարից և թե՜ երեսնականների բռնատիրական ժամանակաշրջանից` մշակույթ, որի հիմնական արժեքները պիտի լիներ էսթետիկ և կրոնական, մարմնական և հոգևոր ներդաշնակությունը, նաև` ազատությունն ըմբոշխնող ու ազատ զարգացում ապրող արվեստը։ Այսպիսով, Չարենցը, ինչպես և Պուշկինը, իր երկրի մեծագույն բանաստեղծն էր և միաժամանակ` ճշմարիտ աշխարհաքաղաքացի, համաշխարհային գրականության քաղաքացի։ Չէ՞ որ նա էլ վկա էր դարձել հայտնության և ուներ իր տեսլականը»։

Էսպես համեմատական գրականագիտության մեթոդով Չարենցը հանվում է մեկուսացած ազգայնականության կոնտեքստից։

Հիմա Ինքնագրի շնորհանդեսից անցել է մի շաբաթ։ Ես Ծաղկաձորի գրողների տանն եմ։ Գրողները ինձնից ուզում են Ինքնագիրը կարդում հետ տալիս։ Մեկը քսերոքս արեց Չարենցի մասը։ «Էդ Սերոժը լեննականցի է»,-էսօր ճաշարանում ահրցրեց Արա Արթյանը, «Չէ, հերն ա լեննալակնցի, պիսեից չի երևու՞մ։ Հա երևում ա, բայց շատ լավ պիես է գրել։ Արան ասում ա Սերգեյ դանիելյանի՝ Յոժի «Սերոժիկ» պիեսի մասին։ Ուրեմն մենակ Չարենց չի, շուխուր հանող գործեր էլի կան։ Իսկ Երևանում դեռ չգիտեմ, արձագանքները։ Միայն մի լրագրող «Հրապարակ» թերթում ուզեցել է ինքնահաստատվել Արտաշես Էմինի վրա բոչկա գլորելով։ ինչի՞ Էմինի, որտև Արտաշեսն է Ռասելին տվել Չարենցի անտիպների պատճենները. «Պարզվում է,-գրում է լրագրողը,-Էմինի որդին որ հրաժարվում էր անտիպները տրամադրել Չարենցի թանգարանին, այն տվել է մի ամերիկացի պրոֆեսորի» и так далее։ Ես չգիտեմ թե էս ինչ բազար ա բացել աղջիկը, բայց գիտեմ, որ Արտաշեսը Չարենցի անտիպների մի շարք էլ տվել էր Բնագրին 2003 թվին, որոնք տպվել են կարծեմ 8-րդ համարում։ Հետո իմացա, որ ձեռագրերը արդեն Գրականության և արվեստի թանգարանում են կամ էնտեղ կլինեն մոտ ապագայում։ «Հրապարակի» աղջիկը դժվար թե ըմբռնի, բայց ասեմ, որ հայրենասիրական պոռթկումը երբեմն բացասկան հետևանքներ կարող է ունենալ ու միշտ չէ, որ փաստաթղթերն ու ձեռագրերը հայրենիքի հիմնարկներին հանձնելը ճիշտ է։ Ինչեր ասես չեն ոչնչացրել հարենիքները՝ գրողների ստեղծագործություններ ու պատմիչների պատմություններ։ եթե աղջկա (կամ նրա ում անունից խոսում է աղջիկը) ուզածի պես աներ Էմինը, ապա դժվար է ասել թե անտիպները կհրապարակվեի՞ն հիմա կամ երբևէ։ Հայ գրականագետները շատ կուզեին որ Չարենցը հոմոսեքսուալ կամ բիսեքսուալ եղած չլիներ ու գրած չլիներ էս բանաստեղծությունները։ Իսկ եթե մի բան շատ են ուզում որ չլինի, ուրեմն ոչնչացնում են դա հաստատող փաստերը։ […]

*Portrait of Yeghishe Charents by Martiros Saryan

UK and US: same-sex civil partnership – two different stories

Three years ago today, on 21st December, England introduced civil partnership for same-sex couples, which was effectively a gay marriage in all but name. Since then same-sex couples in England and throughout the UK enjoy same rights as married heterosexual couples.

The Economist marks this anniversary with the report on England’s success story of equality. It’s a different matter in US where civil partnership for same-sex couples introduced in few states became “an inadequate substitute for marriage”, as the latest editorial of The New York Times points out. Have a look at these two reports below.

Happy anniversary

Dec 18th 2008

From The Economist print edition

Three years on, civil partnerships are going strong—especially among men

VALENTINE’S Day is a couple of months off, but this weekend many couples will be out celebrating. On December 21st it will be three years since civil partnerships—gay marriages in all but name—were introduced in England and Wales (Scots and Northern Irish registrars began one and two days earlier respectively). The pent-up eagerness of many couples to tie the knot created an early rush: nearly 4,000 people got hitched that December. Candlelit restaurants will be doing brisk business in the next few days.

By halfway through this year nearly 60,000 Britons had entered a same-sex union, giving them legal rights virtually identical to those of married couples. In contrast to their American counterparts, most British gays seem relaxed about not having the right to call their partnership a marriage. “It meant we could get the law through sooner. Changing the wording is not really a priority,” says a spokesman for Stonewall, a gay-rights lobby group. And speed is not everything: Denmark was the first country to recognise gay partnerships, in 1989, but still does not let them adopt children.

Gay couples getting hitched are older than straight ones: men are 43 on average and women 41, compared with 36 and 34 among straight couples (including those remarrying). And it seems that gay men, though often characterised as promiscuous, are settling down in greater numbers than lesbians. Men have out-partnered women in every quarter since civil partnerships were introduced; in London last year nearly 75% of those contracted were between men. Some unions have already broken down; but so far male partnerships have proved less likely than female ones to end in dissolution.

One explanation offered for this bias is that lesbian identity has been shaped by an anti-marriage strand of feminism. But that seems to fall down elsewhere: in Vermont, for example, the first American state to offer comprehensive civil unions, about two-thirds of partnerships are between women. It may simply be that Britain has more gay men than lesbians. The census does not pry that far, but the Office for National Statistics announced on December 4th that it would begin quizzing people about their sexuality next year in six of its regular surveys. Estimates broken down by age and region will be available in 2010.

It will be interesting to see if they tally with the government’s current guess that between 5% and 7% of the population is lesbian, gay or bisexual. Data on civil partnerships suggest that the last category might prove the most surprising: of those who have formed partnerships so far, a tenth of men and nearly a quarter of women were married before to someone of the opposite sex.

Editorial (The New York Times)

Separate and Not Equal

Published: December 20, 2008

Civil unions are an inadequate substitute for marriage. Creating a separate, new legal structure to confer some benefits on same-sex couples neither honors American ideals of fairness, nor does it grant true equality. The results are clearly visible in New Jersey, which continues to deny same-sex couples some of the tangible civil benefits that come with marriage.

Gov. Jon Corzine of New Jersey has long said that he would sign a measure granting the right to marry to couples of the same sex. We are heartened that he has declared that that should happen sooner rather than later.

We hope Mr. Corzine intends to prod legislators into passing such a law early in the 2009 session. That would make New Jersey the first state to legalize marriage for same-sex couples through legislative action. Three other states — Connecticut, Massachusetts and California — have done so through the courts. Unfortunately, California voters approved a ballot measure in November rescinding that right, at least for now.

Mr. Corzine made his statement after a state commission released its final report on New Jersey’s two-year-old civil union law. The commission noted the hurt and stigma inflicted by shutting out gay people from the institution of marriage. It also found that civil unions do not assure gay couples of the same protections, including the right to collect benefits under a partner’s health insurance program and to make medical decisions on behalf of a partner who is unable to do so. The panel concluded unanimously that the state should enact a law to remove the inequities.

We regret that the leaders of the state’s Democratic-controlled Legislature do not view this issue with the same urgency. Senate President Richard Codey, for instance, said recently that progress in civil rights areas “is typically achieved in incremental steps.” We suspect that political expedience is clouding Mr. Codey’s sense of fairness. Next year in New Jersey, the governorship and all seats in the Assembly are up for grabs in an election. Some Republicans already are talking about making their opposition to same-sex marriage a campaign issue.

Governor Corzine typically takes the right side on important issues, but he has been known to retreat in the face of opposition. We hope that’s not the case here. It’s past time for him and for the Democrats in Trenton to find the political courage to extend the right to marry to gay couples.

Saturday 20 December 2008

Worldfocus on Armenia’s endorsement of groundbreaking UN LGBT human rights statement

Via Worldfocus:

[…] Armenian blogger “Artmika” calls his country’s support of the decriminalization declaration “historic,” writing that it is the first time Armenia has set such an example. […]

*Thanks to Hrag for passing me this link.

Georgia LGBT news update: new issue of Me magazine, new LGBT website

Homo Georgicus – new issue of Georgian LGBT magazine “Me”

New issue of Georgian bilingual LGBT magazine “Me” is out now. Main topic is the history of homosexuality in Georgia and former Soviet Union, touching also very current issues of cultural stereotypes, societal prejudices and bigotry by Georgian Orthodox church.

Magazine provides updates on Georgian LGBT NGO Inclusive Foundation work over the last few months. In particular, representatives of the NGO took part in various training seminars in European countries, as well as participated in Amsterdam Gay Pride. They also organised number of events for the local gay community in Tbilisi, such as film screenings, women’s club meetings.

Magazine also reports on the use of homophobia which was employed by some nationalist online Russian groups and internet spammers during the war in August. Back then, I posted about it on this blog:



In the meantime, Georgian LGBT magazine specifically notes solidarity expressed by many in Russian LGBT community. Next issue of the magazine “will feature an extensive analysis of wartime media reports.”

Below are extracts from the articles exploring historical references on homosexuality in Georgia and Russia/Soviet Union:

In pre-revolutionary Russia, homosexual relations were forbidden by law. A person convicted of homosexual rape would be sent to a labour camp in Siberia. When it came to consensual homosexual relationships, however, both the authorities and the church turned a blind eye, particularly when the matter concerned representatives of the aristocracy.

At that time aristocrats, artists and poets would gather at Bohemian salons, which were relatively free from moralist dogma about sexuality. But the homosexual subculture was not limited to intellectual and artistic circles. There was another subculture, which brought together those engaged in prostitution. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there were places in Tbilisi, just as there were in other large cities of the Russian Empire, so-called “pleshkas” , where gays could find sexual partners.

In Tbilisi, the Gardens of Ortachala and the Sulphur Baths were known as such places. Kintos, who were a part of this subculture, lived alongside urban subcultures (an interesting description of the Kinto subculture can be found in Ioseb Grishashvili’s “Old Tbilisi”; the issue is also tacked in modern writer Aka Morchiladze’s “Flight over Madatov and Back”). In addition, homoerotic themes were especially popular in Georgian visual arts in the 1920s. […]

Noted dissident Valeri Chalidze, in a work devoted to lifestyles of criminals and the establishment of social institutions of organized crime in the Soviet Union , wrote: “It seems that the Soviet leadership indeed considered homosexuality to be a political crime.” Chalidze came to this conclusion in part because, during Stalin’s lifetime, homosexuals were arrested and persecuted not by the police, but by the state security bodies (Cheka, NKVD, KGB).
In an article on homophobia, magazine pointed out the prevailing attitude in Georgian society to consider homosexuality as something “foreign”, imposed from the “outside”, and as such “homophobia rises to the rank of general xenophobia”:

[…] … the traditional attitude of Georgians towards homosexuality: it is largely an echo of the same cliches that characterize all patriarchal and Christian societies – “sin”, “perversion”, “deviance”, “immoral behaviour”, a “sickness”, and so on, but at the same time, there is one specific tendency which has not changed over the centuries, one which can be called “foreignizing” or attributing “otherness” to homosexuality.

This tendency acknowledges the existence of homosexual relations in Georgia, but at the same time underscores the fact that gayness is inherently un-Georgian, that it is foreign and unbefitting to the Georgian character. According to this notion, homosexuality is of non-Georgian origin and, when it does occur in Georgia, it always comes in from outside the country. These foreigners who place homosexual “investment” in Georgia are mainly Georgia’s enemies or people who are ethnically non-Georgian.

Examples of “sodomy” or the “sin of Sodom” first appear in Georgian ecclesiastical literature in the 10th and 11th centuries. In these texts, the church expresses concern over the spread of this phenomenon and demands that perpetrators be forbidden from taking communion for several years. In 1103, at the Ruisi-Urbnisi ecclesiastical conference, which was convened by King Davit the Builder, one of the main topics of discussion was precisely sodomy. The most sweeping provision of the resolution adopted at this conference, Article 18, dealt precisely with sodomy, which in 12th century Georgia was so widespread among both the clergy and laymen, that the state and the church both demanded that stronger measures be taken against it. But they spoke not only about enacting repressive measures, but also about the factors that conditioned the rise of sodomy. The answer was always unambiguous and unequivocal: this sin had been “implanted” from without, by foreigners or enemies. The identity of these “outsiders” varied with the times – sometimes they were Arabs, sometimes Byzantines, sometimes Turks, sometimes Armenians. For Orthodox fundamentalists and ultranationalists in modern Georgia, homosexuality comes from the secular and atheistic (or heretical) West and it is aimed at weakening Georgia and preventing it from fulfilling its spiritual mission. As such, homophobia rises to the rank of general xenophobia and homosexuality becomes either a component part or a manifestation of the “enemy” or “ill-wisher”.

Modern Georgian homophobia represents a combination of Christian notions from the Middle Ages and Soviet totalitarian stereotypes, the latter of which considered homosexuality to be deviant behaviour or perversion. It should be pointed out that, in the early days of the Soviet Union, homosexuals were not persecuted and that in the early Soviet period, their acceptance was even considered part and parcel of modernity. The law prohibiting homosexuality was approved only under Stalin, in 1934. […]
And here is an extract from the article on Parajanov:
Art kept Parajanov going in prison: he would assemble collages from the most utilitarian and cheap objects. In almost every letter to his friends he asks them to send random, useless old objects. “I spent the best years of my life in isolation,” he would later say of his time in prison, where he wrote a total of 100 novellas, 3 screen plays and made 120 drawings and collages and endured true hell.

Yet Parajanov believed that it was necessary for an artist to endure all of this. After a pause of nearly 20 years, his films were just as colourful, just as full of life and unlimited freedom, just as full of symbols and just as “skewerless”. The rhetoric of “perestroika” accepted him, but now his Armenian background was unacceptable to some nationalist xenophobes.

To access the new issue of the magazine, click here.
For previous issues of the magazine, click here.

New LGBT Georgian website – Gay.ge

Previously, Gay.ge was effectively a forum, available in Georgian only. Now it’s been developed into a website. It is still not fully functional, but you may already access it. Gay.ge is now bilingual – Georgian/English.

Friday 19 December 2008

History in making: 66 countries, including Armenia, signed a joint UN statement against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

18 December 2008

Sixty-six countries signed a joint statement in support of LGBT human rights, which was tabled at the United Nations General Assembly today.

Armenia was the first country in the South Caucasus and broader region to endorse the statement. In a welcome move, Georgia then joined in too. Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan did not endorse it.

Not surprisingly, there is no US signature there. As far as I understand, this statement is open and in time other countries may join in too. So hopefully Obama's new US administration will follow its promises and sign it.

The 66 countries that signed the joint UN statement for LGBT human rights are:

Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

The UN statement, which includes a call for the decriminalisation of homosexuality worldwide, was read by Argentina.

For more details on this statement, read my previous post here: http://gayarmenia.blogspot.com/2008/12/armenia-endorses-historic-un-statement.html

"This was history in the making. Totally ground-breaking. It is the first time that the UN General Assembly has been presented with a statement in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)human rights. Securing this statement at the UN is the result of an inspiring collective global effort by many LGBT and human rights organisations. Our collaboration, unity and solidarity have won us this success," said Peter Tatchell of the British LGBT human rights movement, OutRage!, which lobbied for countries to support the statement.

"To decriminalise homosexuality worldwide is a battle for human rights," added Louis-Georges Tin, the President and founder of the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), which in 2006 initiated the global campaign to end the criminalisation of same-sex relationships and secured the support of dozens of international public figures, ranging from Nobel Prize winners to writers, clergy,actors, musicians and academics."IDAHO has worked hard for two years to promote this issue. For us,this is a great achievement. I want to thank the many other people and organisations who have worked with us since the beginning, and more recently. I also want to remind everyone that ending the criminalisation of same-sex love will be a long, hard battle. To love is not a crime".

"IDAHO expresses its particular appreciation to the French Secretary of State for human rights, Ms Rama Yade, for her role in organising this statement and bringing it to the UN," said Mr Tin.

Mr Tatchell added:

"The original initiative for the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality campaign came from the inspiring French black activist and gay rights campaigner, Louis-Georges Tin, coordinator of the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). He lobbied the French government, which agreed to take the lead in organising the presentation of the statement at the UN.

"As well as IDAHO, I pay tribute to the contribution and lobbying of Amnesty International; ARC International; Center for Women's Global Leadership; COC Netherlands; Global Rights; Human Rights Watch; International Committee for IDAHO (the International Day Against Homophobia); International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC); International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association (ILGA); International Service for Human Rights; Pan Africa ILGA; and Public Services International.

"The UN statement goes much further than seeking the decriminalisation of same-sex acts. It condemns all human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, urges countries to protect the human rights of LGBT people and to bring to justice those who violate these rights, and calls for human rights defenders who oppose homophobic and transphobic victimisation to be allowed to carry out their advocacy and humanitarian work unimpeded.

"Although not binding on the member states, this UN statement of principle has immense symbolic value, given the six decades in which homophobic and transphobic persecution has been ignored by the UN General Assembly.

Background briefing:

On May 17 2006, the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), the IDAHO Committee launched a campaign « for the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality », and published a list of the first signatories, which include several Nobel Prize winners: (Desmond Tutu, Elfriede Jelinek, José Saramago, Dario Fo, Amartya Sen), entertainers (Merryl Streep, Victoria Abril, Cyndi Lauper, Elton John, David Bowie), intellectuals (Judith Butler, Noam Chomsky, Bernard-Henri Lévy), and humanitarian organisations like ILGA, Aids International and the FIDH.

On IDAHO 2008 (17 May this year) the French government announced that it would bring a LGBT human rights statement to the General Assembly of the United Nations. The text was read today in New York, and was supported by 66 countries in the world, and it clearly inscribes sexual orientation and gender identity as human rights.

Monday 15 December 2008

Reporting on HIV/AIDS in South Caucasus: Manual for Journalists

Via Mark Grigoryan, one of the co-authors, BBC World Service Trust posted this Manual for journalists on HIV/AIDS reporting in the South Caucasus, published by UNESCO.

"The central assumption of this manual is that, in a learning society, the media is key in any attempt to build socio-cultural approaches to HIV and AIDS. Besides disseminating accurate information on the epidemic, they can offer a forum where different voices can be expressed and dialogue, whilst drawing the attention of their fellow citizens and policy-makers on the issues that underpin HIV and AIDS such as stigma, discrimination and gender relations. This manual seeks to provide Caucasian journalists with a hands-on, training tool for reporting on these highly complex dynamics."

Manual is available in 5 languages - Armenian, Azeri, Georgian, Russian, and English.

Sergei Grigoryants remembers Sergei Parajanov

One of the most famous Soviet (and current Putin's Russia) dissidents of Armenian origin Sergei Grigoryants remembers his friend, world famous film director and artist of Armenian origin Sergei Parajanov (yet another dissident).

*video in Russian, via Gay.ru (plus some Russian language links on Parajanov, also spelled Paradjanov)

Sunday 14 December 2008

Happy bday, PINK Armenia!!

One year ago, on 14 December 2007, I posted a statement by PINK (Public Information and Need of Knowledge) Armenia formally announcing the establishment of new LGBT-related NGO in our country.
The mission of the organisation
o Raising awareness in society about facts and background of sexuality, STIs, HIV/AIDS, LGBT.
o Searching for role models, create an info centre, self help groups and build a ground for advocating gay rights.
o Developing projects and undertaking studies or research in various fields that are of particular concern to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people
This new LGBT group realised the potential of new internet based technologies and social networking sites to reach out to the wider audience. They opened MySpace and Facebook pages; Armenian LGBT Community discussion group on Yesoudo. Soon after the establishment, PINK Armenia started blogging.

Official launch of the PINK Information Centre in downtown Yerevan took place last Friday, 12 September 2008. The office is conveniently located near the Yerevan State University.

On 1st December 2008, along with number of NGOs, PINK Armenia organised the World AIDS Day in Yerevan (also here).

Mamikon, head of PINK Armenia, recalls the formation of the organisation: “...me and my friend Garri decided to create a nice project for Armenian LGBT community. It was in October. We had so many ideas and dreams but didn't know how to make them come true. Finally we thought to register an NGO and start to work in the frames of our project. Our third friend, Arthur joined us and we registered our organization officially.We call it "Public Information and Need of Knowledge", to have the abbreviation PINK."PINK Armenia" was born in December 14, 2007...”

Below are pictures of the founders of PINK Armenia: Mamikon, Arthur and Garri.

I wish PINK Armenia a very busy and successful year ahead. Keep up the good job you are doing!

Happy bday!!

Saturday 13 December 2008

New bar - Rock Bar Yerevan

Via The Caucasian Knot, Rock Bar Yerevan opened its doors in downtown Yerevan around two weeks ago. Co-owned by 4 friends, “the bar is an authentic venue for rock fans and musicians to hang out and drink.”

It’s on Parpetsi 16 street, Yerevan, Armenia (map).

I do not know yet if this bar can be considered as gay friendly to add it into my Armenia Gay Guide. But based on Onnik Krikorian’s comments and various photos I’ve seen, it seems like a free-spirited place, worth to visit and check out.

They have website (not properly functional, as of today) and Facebook group.

*photo - by Onnik Krikorian/ Oneworld Multimedia 2008

*photo - by Rock Bar Yerevan Facebook group

Friday 12 December 2008

Thursday 11 December 2008

Gay foot fetish in new Diesel shoe ad

Model Jon Kortajarena, Diesel Spring/Summer 2009 shoe ad.

*source: Out.com (via Towleroad)

Update (12 December 20o8)

* via WWD: Diesel is continuing its surrealistic direction in its ads for spring, which will break in February magazines, including GQ, Details, Flaunt and Nylon, as well as outdoors in major cities like New York and L.A. Using black-and-white images shot by John Scarisbrick, the ads center on darkly enigmatic scenes such as an elderly foot fetishist worshipping model Jon Kortajarena’s Diesel high-top sneakers or a ramshackle apartment filled with cats. Rock progeny Alexandra Richards makes a cameo in one of the ads, which were photographed at 1896 Studios in Brooklyn.

“There are no messages, themes or commentary to understand,” explained Diesel creative director Wilbert Das of the hipster take on David Lynch. “Our objective is to intrigue and provoke a thought.”

Wednesday 10 December 2008

Armenia endorses historic UN statement against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

Armenia was the last country in the South Caucasus to decriminalise gay male sex towards the very end of 2002. It now became the first country not only in the South Caucasus but in a broader region to sign up for the proposed French-sponsored and EU-backed UN statement against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

There are many current problems in Armenia with regards to human rights. In short, respect for human rights is in pretty poor and vulnerable state. However... praise when praise is due.

I do commend Armenian authorities for endorsing the UN statement. This is pretty unprecedented and historic occasion.

At last, Armenia became part of the world headlines for the very RIGHT reasons. Let’s hope this trend will continue, and we will witness changes not only on the level of international declarations but also local level implementations.

The presentation of the declaration is now expected to take place at the UN General Assembly between 15 and 20 December - not on 10 December as previously reported.

The list of supporting countries is growing but still well short of a majority [although it does not require voting].

It will be tabled by France with the backing of all 27 member states of the EU; plus non-EU European nations including Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Ukraine, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine, Armenia and Macedonia. Russia and Turkey are not signing.

The call for the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships also has the support of the Latin American states of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico and Uruguay but not, notably, Columbia, Guyana or Venezuela.

Only three African nations – Gabon, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau – are endorsing the declaration so far. South Africa has not signed up. No Caribbean nation has offered its support, not even Cuba.

Although New Zealand is committed to the declaration, Australia is not. Nor is the US. But Canada is a sponsor.

No country in the Middle East, apart from Israel, endorses the declaration, and in Asia only Japan has agreed to approve it. China and India are silent on where they stand.

I just received welcome news that Australia endorses the statement. Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey did not endorse it, as of now.

Russian gay right activists sent a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs calling Russia to join the UN declaration. The letter to minister Sergei Lavrov says that “we would like to pay attention to the fact that natural allies of Russia, including Orthodox states such as Armenia and Serbia, but also Venezuela have already agreed to sign the declaration. As of today, more than 50 countries agreed to sign it”.

This is the first time that Armenia is brought as an example for championing gay rights on international level. For now, I feel proud that my country aligned itself with the more progressive segments of international community. I will feel even more proud if everything written in that declaration gets implemented too. It will take time, efforts. As friend of mine (internationally based Armenian gay rights activist) said to me today, “positive steps on an international level but the national level advocacy is lagging behind in Armenia”.

Veteran British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell calls this a “watershed for gay rights”: “It will be the first time in its history that the UN General Assembly has had before it a declaration in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) human rights.”

The statement deals with human rights abuses, directed against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, including violence, criminal sanctions, torture, threats against human rights defenders and discrimination in accessing economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health.


We have the honour to make this statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity on behalf of [...]

1 - We reaffirm the principle of universality of human rights, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights whose 60th anniversary is celebrated this year, Article 1 of which proclaims that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”;

2 - We reaffirm that everyone is entitled to the enjoyment of human rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, as set out in Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 2 of the International Covenants on Civil and Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as in article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

3 - We reaffirm the principle of non-discrimination which requires that human rights apply equally to every human being regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity;

4 - We are deeply concerned by violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms based on sexual orientation or gender identity;

5 - We are also disturbed that violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatisation and prejudice are directed against persons in all countries in the world because of sexual orientation or gender identity, and that these practices undermine the integrity and dignity of those subjected to these abuses;

6 - We condemn the human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity wherever they occur, in particular the use of the death penalty on this ground, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the practice of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, arbitrary arrest or detention and deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health;

7 - We recall the statement in 2006 before the Human Rights Council by fifty four countries requesting the President of the Council to provide an opportunity, at an appropriate future session of the Council, for discussing these violations;

8 - We commend the attention paid to these issues by special procedures of the Human Rights Council and treaty bodies and encourage them to continue to integrate consideration of human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity within their relevant mandates;

9 - We welcome the adoption of Resolution AG/RES. 2435 (XXXVIII-O/08) on “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity” by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States during its 38th session in 3 June 2008;

10 - We call upon all States and relevant international human rights mechanisms to commit to promote and protect human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity;

11 - We urge States to take all the necessary measures, in particular legislative or administrative, to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention.

12 - We urge States to ensure that human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity are investigated and perpetrators held accountable and brought to justice;

13 - We urge States to ensure adequate protection of human rights defenders, and remove obstacles which prevent them from carrying out their work on issues of human rights and sexual orientation and gender identity.

Here is what Peter Tatchell had to say in The Guardian:
A declaration calling for the global decriminalisation of homosexuality will be put before the United Nations general assembly in the next two weeks. It will be the first time in its history that the UN General Assembly has considered the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights.

Although it will not be binding on the member states, the declaration will have immense symbolic value, given the six decades in which homophobic persecution has been ignored by the UN.

If you want to understand why this decriminalisation declaration is so important and necessary, ponder this: even today, not a single international human rights convention explicitly acknowledges the human rights of LGBT people. The right to physically love the person of one's choice is nowhere enshrined in any global humanitarian law. No convention recognises sexual rights as human rights. None offers explicit protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Yet 86 countries (nearly half the nations on Earth) still have a total ban on male homosexuality and a smaller number also ban sex between women. The penalties in these countries range from a few years jail to life imprisonment. In at least seven countries or regions of countries (all under Islamist jurisdiction), the sentence is death: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Mauritania and parts of Nigeria and Pakistan. […]

Unsurprisingly, the Vatican and the Organisation of Islamic States are leading the fight against the UN declaration. The opposition of the Pope is truly sickening, depraved and shameless.

Of course, the Vatican has form. In 2004, it teamed up with Islamist dictatorships in the UN Commission on Human Rights to thwart a resolution sponsored by Brazil that opposed homophobic violence and discrimination. The Holy See is so viciously homophobic that it opposed the UN condemnation of the murder of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Last week, the papal envoy to the UN, Monsignor Celestino Migliore, explained the "logic" of this opposition when he announced the Vatican's rejection of this week's decriminalisation declaration. The monsignor argued that the UN declaration would unfairly "pillory" countries where homosexuality is illegal; forcing them to establish "new categories (gay people) protected from discrimination." Such laws would "create new and implacable acts of discrimination ... States where same-sex unions are not recognized as 'marriages,' for example, would be subject to international pressure."

In other words, protecting LGBT people against discrimination is an act of discrimination against those who discriminate. Since the Vatican is against discrimination, it opposes discrimination against countries that discriminate. This is the mediaeval mindset of the Pope and his placemen.

Never mind, there are already plenty of countries committed to supporting the UN decriminalisation declaration. […]

Armenia’s “Human Rights Day”

10 December – Human Rights Day, 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

For details - see Unzipped

Armenia urged to lift travel restrictions on people with HIV in time for the Vienna World AIDS Conference in 2010

Thirty countries deport HIV+ migrant workers, sixty six countries discriminate HIV+ travellers, including 19 in the WHO Europe region [including Armenia].

EU HIV Civil Society Forum, which represents some 40 European NGOs, supported by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association (ILGA), European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG) and German AIDS Federation (DAH), calls for action to remove HIV related travel and residence regulations for people living with HIV in time for the Vienna World Aids Conference in 2010. States should do whatever possible to insure that legal discrimination of people with HIV ceases to exist. People with HIV should have the same rights than others.It is the responsibility of policy makers to build up a society that does not discriminate on the ground of HIV status.

Armenia bars people with HIV or AIDS from visiting or immigrating to the country, although there are no practical mechanisms in place to enforce this. However, as the European AIDS Treatment Group reports, quoting the Armenian Ministry of Health, non-citizens who fall ill in Armenia may be deported. I am not aware of any statistics as to how many non-citizens (if any) have been deported. But this potentially could cause troubles and constitutes a human rights violation.

According to the global survey on HIV related travel restrictions (an initiative of the German AIDS Federation, the European AIDS Treatment Group and the International AIDS Society), “There are no specific entry regulations for people with HIV/AIDS in Armenia. Neither a medical certificate nor an HIV test result is required at the border. However, the current AIDS law allows the deportation of foreigners diagnosed as HIV-positive. Antiretroviral medication can be imported for personal use and for the duration of the planned stay (up to six weeks). A medical certificate including the diagnosis in Russian or Armenian language has to be presented at customs.”

With 19 countries in the WHO Europe region still holding HIV specific restrictions in their legislation and the next World Aids Conference in 2010 to be held in Vienna, Austria, civil Society wants to see these restrictions removed by 2010 and calls for a European response towards the EU institutions to work closely together to demonstrate leadership and to give proof that Europe is a dignified host for the conference.

These countries with restrictions in the European region of the World Health Organisation are Andorra, Armenia, Belarus, Cyprus, Georgia, Germany (Bavaria, Saxony, Brandenburg), Greece, Hungary, Israel, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

“These restrictions range from the denial of work and residency applications and study permits due to HIV status, (treat of) deportations, mandatory HIV tests for certain groups and populations, like house maids, construction workers, sex workers and people working in the tourism industry, people arriving from endemic regions and returning citizens” , specify David Haerry and Peter Wiessner, both are members of the EATG and are for a long time involved in the fight against these restrictions.

“Exclusionary policies like these are a shame for Europe”, says Karl Lemmen from the German AIDS Federation. “European States and institutions should do everything possible to remove HIV related travel restrictions within its territory to guarantee that human rights prevail and `European values` exist.

The call for a European response to remove HIV related travel restrictions in Europe by 2010 had been adopted by the EU HIV Civil Society Forum, which represents some 40 European NGOs. The policy paper wants to enhance a discussion in Europe to remove restrictions by 2010, when the International AIDS Conference will take place in Vienna. It includes concrete proposals for further actions to the European Commission and intergovernmental bodies like WHO Europe, UNAIDS and IOM.

“HIV related travel restrictions wherever they are not only against public health evidence; they violate as well the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS and enhance stigma, discrimination and xenophobia” , say Renato Sabbadini and Gloria Careaga, co-Secretaries generals of ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association, a partner in the project.

Few months ago, prominent HIV/AIDS campaigners and international health advocates of Armenian origin Jirair Ratevosian and Dr. Amy Hagopian called Armenian government to consider the widespread consensus among medical and public health professionals regarding the lack of evidence to support HIV-related travel restrictions and to reverse the policy.

There are signs that the legal regulations on HIV/AIDS in Armenia might be amended in the near future. During World AIDS Day 2008 press conference in Yerevan, Ara Babloyan, a former health minister chairing the Armenian parliament’s standing committee on healthcare, indicated that there will be changes in legal regulations of HIV/AIDS in Armenia, to update them taking into account current realities and human rights issues. He did not specify the exact changes proposed, but he said that they are upcoming. Let’s hope that within the proposed amendmends these discriminatory travel restrictions on HIV-positive people will be overturned, in accordance with the prevailing medical evidence and to comply with human rights of those affected.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

'The kiss of deaf'

This news made my day. It is so hilarious, so weird that I could not resist to post it in full on my blog (below). Who could have thought that “excessively passionate kiss” may leave someone “partially deaf”??! I know, I know, it’s bad, but could not stop laughing while reading the news via BBC.

I hope next time passionately kissing someone, this news would not come to my mind and won’t ruin it. On the other hand, I am kind of curious. How intense kissing should be to result in such an outcome? Am I missing something? Does it worth trying it? May be the secret is in Chinese men, may be I should try one?? ;)
Chinese girl gets 'kiss of deaf'

A young Chinese woman was left partially deaf following a passionate kiss from her boyfriend.

The 20-something from Khuhai in Guangdong province arrived at hospital having completely lost the hearing in her left ear, said local reports.

The incident prompted a series of articles in the local media warning of the dangers of excessive kissing.

"While kissing is normally very safe, doctors advise people to proceed with caution," wrote the China Daily.

The doctor who treated the girl in hospital was quoted in the paper explaining what had happened.

"The kiss reduced the pressure in the mouth, pulled the eardrum out and caused the breakdown of the ear."

The chorus of warnings was echoed by the Shanghai Daily, which wrote: "A strong kiss may cause an imbalance in the air pressure between two inner ears and lead to a broken ear drum."

The young woman is expected to regain her full hearing within about two months.

*photo - Getty Images, via BBC - "Couples are advised to "proceed with caution"

Sirusho to perform at Tel Aviv’s gay party

Esctoday reports that Armenia’s Eurovision 2008 representative Sirusho, along with Serbian and Israeli Eurovision representatives, will perform at a gay party this weekend in one of the leading clubs in Tel Aviv (Israel). Earlier it was revealed that Armenia’s Sirusho, Serbia’s Jelena Tomasevic and Israel’s Boaz Mauda “will be recording a special song about peace together in December. The song will be released in many countries.”
The three entrants of the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest: Sirusho from Armenia, Serbia's Jelena Tomasevic and Israeli Boaz Mauda, will be performing together this weekend in Tel Aviv.

Sirusho has recently revealed on Armenian national television, that Serbian Jelena Tomasevic, Israeli Boaz Mauda and herself, who all represented their respective countries in the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest, are engaged in recording a special song about peace together in December. The song will be released in many countries.

As part of this joint venture, the trio will be performing in Israel this weekend. Their main act will be in the gay Pop Ring party, in one of Tel Aviv's leading clubs, the Theater, this Thursday night. You may find further information about the party in the Pop Ring website (click).
Few months ago, I wrote that Sirusho’s Qele, Qele became hit among Eurovision gay fans and was selected for the Amnesty International’s float at the London Gay Pride 2008. It became an instant club hit in Greece too. In fact, Sirusho is currently working on her new Greek music video Erotas xafnikos (Sudden love) which will be ready early next year.

Last month, Sirusho got engaged with Levon Kocharyan, son of Armenia’s former president Robert Kocharyan.

*photo - by esctoday.com

Gay Azeri artist Babi B: “Artist on the run” (life post-deportation and before…)

I covered gay Azeri artist Babi B’s story (asylum seeker in the UK with the subsequent deportation) in a number of posts. However, there has been no much news after Babi’s deportation back to Azerbaijan. I knew that he then almost immediately flew to St Petersburg being supported by his artist friends in Russia and elsewhere and started working on personal exhibition. That was pretty much all.

Recent article in The St Petersburg Times provides extensive update on Babi B’s post-deportation life, as well as more intimate insight into his life story. Sadly, growing nationalism in Russia forced Babi to seek safer place somewhere else. However, good to know that he is coping relatively well, and moving forward with his life, with successful new exhibit and other plans on the horizon. Hopefully, Babi will settle down soon and be able to enjoy his life and art work in full.

Below are selected extracts from The St Petersburg Times:

Artist and poet Babi Badalov feels that his life is threatened both in his home country Azerbaijan and in Russia because of his politically conscious art and because he is openly gay. Growing nationalism and increasing attacks on people from the former Soviet republics also means that Russia is not entirely safe for someone from Azerbaijan. Badalov thought he had found a new home in Cardiff, Wales, where he had been based since December 2006, but earlier this year the U.K.’s interior ministry denied his application for political asylum.
“[In Britain] I mixed with many people who applied for asylum — Afghans, Iranians, Somalis, people from all over the world. We went to the Refugee Council together, lived at the hotel together. There is such a word used there — ‘chance,’” Badalov said during a recent phone interview.
“You never know what will happen, everybody says it’s all up to ‘chance,’ that it’s a ‘lottery.’ You can have a solid case and still be denied asylum. Some other person can come [to the U.K.] just for the hell of it and receive [asylum].”
Badalov, who was one of the best-known artists in the St. Petersburg independent art scene centered at the Pushkinskaya 10 art squat in the 1990s, recently spent several weeks in the city, en route to Western Europe from Baku, Azerbaijan. While in town, he opened an exhibition of his work called “The Persian Ambassador,” which runs through December 28.
Deported to Azerbaijan from the U.K. on Sept. 20, despite a massive campaign in his defense launched by friends and supporters both in the U.K. and abroad, Badalov had to live covertly in Baku for two days, hiding from brothers who are angered by his homosexuality. His sister had warned him over the phone never to come to the country again.
“It’s not just my relatives. My whole small town is aghast that such a ‘faggot’ comes from our village,” he said.
“I can’t tell you how horrible it is. If I die and there’s a funeral, nobody will come: the mullah won’t come, nobody will read the Koran. [The body of a gay man] is a dirty, foul body. It cannot be touched; it cannot be washed. It must be thrown into a pit, because it’s so shameful. This attitude still exists there.” […]
Sending Badalov to Azerbaijan was also a danger to him as he is known for works criticizing the country’s authoritarian rulers.
“Azerbaijan is one of many countries that wants to be a member of the European Parliament. It wants to be an imitation of Europe, like Russia does, but in reality everything is rotting there, worse than it was in the Soviet Union,” he said.
“I tried to exhibit my work called ‘Mister Musor’ [Mr. Garbage] a few times, where I am standing on a heap of garbage in Lenin’s pose.
“When the Azeri President died, they put his monuments everywhere — on every central street, on every central square — giant, hi-tech posters are everywhere, posters of Heydar Aliyev. The main street in every village is named after Heydar Aliyev, while all the rest are rotting. You walk ten meters [away from the main street] and it’s all sores. People live in shit, eat bones, die of hunger. But when [current President Ilham Aliyev] visits, there’s a monument to his father, and everything is fine. Lenin has been resurrected.”
After two days in hiding in Baku, where he slept in an art gallery, Badalov flew to St. Petersburg on a plane ticket bought over the Internet by a friend in London.
Born in 1959 in Lerik, an Azeri village near the Iranian border, Badalov came to Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in 1980, after serving two years in the Soviet Army.
“As we all knew in Soviet times, St. Petersburg was the cultural capital. So, as a person interested in everything that is new, I decided to go to Petersburg, as many did, to be closer to the modern, progressive world,” he said.
“There I met nonconformist artists and went to their gatherings. But it was scary: I worked as a night guard, as a concrete worker; I had a limitnaya propiska (a limited residence permit) and lived in a creepy workers’ hostel.”
But Badalov recalls the early ‘90s in Petersburg with affection.
“When Russia opened up and the Soviet Union broke down, we became interesting,” he said.
“It was a golden time. There was a need for contemporary art. Western artists started to come, and it became easier to hold exhibitions. That is why my works began to sell, and it became much easier for me as an artist; I had money, a studio, contacts.”
This soon changed, as St. Petersburg became Russia’s “criminal capital.”
“These ‘New Russians’ emerged; it became scary to go out on the street. I got scared and ran from Russia,” said Badalov.
Badalov first moved to Turkey, but could not put down roots there. He then moved back to Azerbaijan, where his life soon became intolerable.
“I was forced to get married and live behind the mask required by my parents and relatives,” he said.
“It was a creepy time. I acted like an actor, always playing some role, controlling myself.”
In 2006, he was invited to do a workshop as part of an international art program for two weeks in Oxford. With a British visa already in hand, he later decided to move to the U.K. for good.
While he is fond of his Russian friends and the Russian language, the country is not mutually welcoming to Badalov. He said he received threats from unknown men in the street, who told him that he should leave.
“I criticized the Russian authorities in some of my poems,” said Badalov, who wrote a poem about Anna Politkovskaya, the Novaya Gazeta journalist and persistent critic of the Kremlin’s politics who was shot to death in Moscow in 2006.
“I read it in Italy; it mentioned Putin and Anna Politkovskaya. I have some other provocative poems, so I am simply afraid to stay in Russia. It’s scary there. Even though I love Russian culture and my best friends live there.
“I was visiting a friend [in Petersburg], and I was horrified when I walked back home. In the West, it is just the opposite; I like to walk at nights there, rather than in the daytime.” […]
Thomas Campbell, the exhibition’s curator, described Babi as an “iconic figure” for the St. Petersburg alternative art scene for his vision, incredible productivity, and willingness to join other artists’ projects. […]
*Babi B’s blog is at http://babibadalov.wordpress.com/
**photo - by Sergey Chernov / The St. Petersburg Times