Wednesday 30 April 2008

Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner calls for specific legal provisions in Armenia to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation

As I wrote back in October 2007, for the first time, gay rights were on the agenda of European Human Rights chief's visit to Armenia. On 7 October, Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, met with representatives of We For Civil Equality (WFCE) NGO, the first LGBT-related NGO in Armenia which was formally registered in July 2006. Mr Hammarberg held meetings with a range of Armenian human rights and non-governmental organisations, along with Armenian authorities, including president, prime minister and head of parliament. As I mentioned back than, it was an important opportunity for Armenian LGBT representatives to present the situation with gay rights in Armenia in its broader context and lobby equality and anti-discrimination legislation.

During my meeting in Yerevan with head of WFCE, I was told that Hammerberg was very attentive to the situation with gay rights, homophobia and Armenian LGBT community, in general. He promised to include these points in his upcoming Human Rights report on Armenia

I am glad that Thomas Hammarberg kept his promise and in a report released today there are special reflections on LGBT rights in Armenia under the “Discrimination” and “Recommendations” chapters:

VIII. Discrimination


155. Since the adoption of the new Criminal Code (2003), same-sex acts are no longer a criminal offence in Armenia (under the old Criminal Code, same sex acts were punishable by imprisonment for up to five years). However, the legal framework in Armenia does not expressly protect LGBT people from discrimination, harassment and violence. The Commissioner therefore calls for the elaboration and adoption of specific legislative provisions against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

156. During his visit, the Commissioner was informed by representatives of the LGBT community about cases of violence and discrimination encountered by LGBT people, including cases of students kicked out from universities, deprivation of housing and discriminatory treatment in healthcare institutions.

157. Homophobia is reportedly widespread in society and politics, and the media are silent on cases of violence against LGBT persons. As a 2005 UNESCO report noted, “public opinions on homosexuality are rather tough: traditional Armenian society rejects displays of non-heterosexual relations.” It thus comes as no surprise that LGBT people are invisible in society and that the LGBT community is fragmented and vulnerable. Nevertheless, the NGO “We for the civil equality” is working on improvement of the position of LGBT people. The Commissioner encourages the work of other NGOs that promote equality for LGBT people, in particular by raising awareness as well as providing support to those whose rights are violated, in particular victims of violence.

158. The Commissioner welcomes the reported positive change of attitude of law enforcement authorities towards the LGBT community and encourages dialogue between the LGBT community and the authorities.

X. Recommendations

Fundamental freedoms

29. Prevent violence and discrimination against LGBT community; elaborate and adopt specific legal provisions against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; conduct dialogue with organisations representing the LGBT community.

Full report is available here

Tuesday 29 April 2008

Medical profession prejudice towards HIV/AIDS in Armenia

While public prejudice towards HIV/AIDS in Armenia is a very serious issue which needs to be tackled via education and awareness programmes, even more serious and unacceptable is medical profession prejudice which has direct impact on prevention and treatment of people with HIV/AIDS. Below is an account by HIV-positive Armenian, via report published by IWPR (Institute For War & Peace Reporting). It also raises a serious issue of lack of proper ethical regulation (and its enforcement) of medical profession in Armenia.

Armen (not his real name) is 38 years old. A former drug addict, he got the infection through needle-sharing and passed it on unwittingly to his wife.

"I learned that I had HIV in 2004," he said. "I am sure HIV is now spreading very rapidly in Armenia. The figures seem modest, but for a country with a small population they are quite high. I wish they would talk more about the problem to make young people take more precautions. It's very important to me, as I have a teenage daughter."

The way doctors treat us makes us keep silent about our status," said Armen. "For example, when I went to the dentist, I used to tell them I was HIV-positive, but then they refused to treat me. Now I know better and I only tell them I have hepatitis-C and that they should sterilise their instruments thoroughly. Hepatitis is also incurable, but I mention it instead because it doesn't lead to the same kind of discrimination."

Armen's close friends and relatives know about his condition, but with others he is discreet, worrying that he will never find a job and that his family will face harassment if people find out.

"One of my friends died of the disease," he said. "His neighbours found out about it from a doctor who'd treated him, and began shunning his family members, avoiding him in the street or not saying hello. His family was forced to sell their flat and move to another area."

Read also HIV/AIDS situation in Armenia

Monday 28 April 2008

Quote & Picture of The Day

"There is no doubt we will win in this confrontation with the Moscow government; it is just a question of time. The ban on our peaceful actions is illegal, and courts will agree with us. [...]

There will be a gay pride parade in the city in May, no matter what city authorities may say. This is our constitutional right and we intend to use it," - says Russian prominent gay rights activist and gay Pride organiser Nikolay Alexeyev

*via Queerty

Sunday 27 April 2008

'Diplomat to be' Sirusho in London as part of her Eurovision 2008 Song Contest promo tour

Armenia’s Eurovision 2008 representative Sirusho was a guest of Armenian Diaspora’s Navasardian cultural centre in London this Friday. She came to London as part of her promotional tour ahead of the contest in Belgrade, Serbia.

First question was about “Qele, qele” – whether it is Armenian name? (surprise, surprise!) In response, Sirusho reminded the audience about famous Armenian composer Komitas’s “Qele, qele” song.

The most surprising discovery for me was to learn that Sirusho is currently studying at the Yerevan State University… Department of International Relations… for a diplomat (!). In fact, her final exams coincide with the dates of Eurovision contest. Not that anyone doubts she will pass.

She refused answering to personal questions, e.g. on marriage plans, saying that for now her focus is on Eurovision. (rumours: she is a girlfriend of Armenia ex-president Robert Kocharyan’s son)

At the end she performed “Qele, qele”. She then headed to the London nightclub Scala for the UK Eurovision Preview Party with invited Eurovison 2008 contenders from a number of countries.

She will become the first female artist to represent Armenia at the Eurovision Song Contest and is the first Armenian Eurovision representative to visit the UK on a promotional tour. Most observers also note that comparing with the previous two years, Sirusho’s promotional tours are much better organised. She is now heading to Germany, the Netherlands and France.

Sirusho is among favourites to win (or at least to be among top scorers) in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, as per Internet fans and betting agencies. Armenia’s former Eurovision representatives Andre and Hayko, who both scored 8th place, will join her in Belgrade as part of the country’s support group.

Significant part of the audience were children. They were also the most active in asking questions.

Good luck, Sirusho!

*Sirusho at the UK Eurovision Preview Party, Scala nightclub, London

First time in Belarus: rainbow flag at Chernobyl protest

*via Petrelis Files, via gay Belarus advocacy organisation TEMA

More than a thousand people took part in the opposition’s march staged on the occasion of the 22nd Chernobyl accident anniversary in Minsk on April 26. It was a first time in a history, when rainbow flag used on political public event in Belarus.

The crowd started gathering at the square in front of the National Academy of Sciences at 2 p.m. and a short rally followed. Leaders of opposition had did speeches.

Sergey Androsenko, 19y.o. gay - leader of Gay Youth Association, stay with big rainbow flag in the center of crowd. Anarchists promise to protect gays on this event if somebody will try attack them.

The crowd then walked some two miles on sidewalks from the square to a church built to commemorate Chernobyl victims at the intersection between Arlowskaya and Karastayanavay Streets. [...]

After reaching the church, the crowd observed a minute of silence for those who died of illnesses caused by the Chernobyl fallout and laid flowers at a monument commemorating the victims. The demonstrators started dispersing shortly afterward.
Police did not interfere and no arrests were reported.

This case definitely will become a part of Belarusian LGBT history as a date of beginning of cooperation between civil society and LGBT movement, and the date of proud when LGBT activists didn’t afraid to become visible.

Svyatoslav Sementsov

Saturday 26 April 2008

‘No “girly” gobelin classes for our sons’

Parents at one of Yerevan schools complain that during “Manual Labour” classes their male offspring are being taught how to knit a gobelin. According to parents, it is not right for their sons as it cultivates “girly” features.

Not a breaking news, of course, but typical...

Aravot daily (26 April 2008) provides details of this story (in Armenian):


Հովհաննես Հովհաննիսյանի անվան թիվ 52 դպրոցի որոշ ծնողներից «Առավոտը» դժգոհություն ստացավ այն մասին, որ աշխատանքի ուսուցման դասերին 5-6-րդ դասարաններում սովորող տղաներին գոբելեն գործել են սովորեցնում: Տղաներն էլ դժկամությամբ են հաճախում այդ դասերին: Որոշ ծնողներ էլ կարծիք հայտնեցին, թե լավ չէ տղաների մեջ «աղջկականություն» սերմանել: Այս դժգոհությունը «Առավոտը» փոխանցեց թիվ 52 դպրոցի տնօրեն Լյուբա Բլեյանին: Նա պատասխանեց. «Ինչքան տղամարդ ուսուցիչ հրավիրեցինք, հետագայում ավելի լավ աշխատանք գտան եւ սոցիալական պայմաններից դրդված թողեցին դպրոցը: Իսկ ինչ վերաբերում է աշխատանքի ուսուցման դասերին, ապա գոբելենից բացի, մեր երիտասարդ ուսուցչուհին աշակերտներին սովորեցնում է նաեւ փայտամշակում եւ լուցկու փայտիկներով գեղեցիկ կոմպոզիցիաների պատրաստում»:

"Birth certificate"

*Exhibition of Phillipe Doncov (Филипп Донцов) in Aydan Gallery, Moscow

Friday 25 April 2008

Iran: Gender apartheid and sexual harassment

Sahel reports[Fa] that “students in Sahand University in Tabriz,in Iran, protested against “gender apartheid” and cultural and social pressure in Sahand University.” It seems that male and female students can not attend same classes together. It is said some girls have been victims of sexual and moral harassment by employees. Watch photos here.

*source: Global Voices Online

Tuesday 22 April 2008

A1+ covers story of gay Armenian in LA who committed suicide after being forced into marriage

[11:17] 22 Ապրիլի, 2008

Ամերիկայի Լոս Անջելոս քաղաքի հայկական համայնքում մեծ աղմուկ է բարձրացել 22-ամյա համասեռամոլ տղայի ինքնասպանության պատմությունը: Երեկ արդեն հայկական ֆորումներում եւ ինտերնետային բոլոր միջոցներով բազմաթիվ քաղաքացիներ իրենց բողոքն էին արտահայտում եւ խնդրում տարածել հաղորդագրությունը:

Պատճառն այն է, որ տղան ինքնասպանություն է գործել ընտանիքի կողմից ճնշման արդյունքում աղջկա հետ ամուսնանալուց հետո: Տղայի ընկերներից մեկը պատմում է, որ տղայի ծնողները ամաչում էին նրա համար, ճնշում էին գործադրում` ապրելու հայկական համայնքում ընդունված ավանդույթի համաձայն: ՚Նա վերջին օրերին խիստ սթրեսի մեջ էր եւ հոգեկան ճնշված վիճակումՙ,-պատմում է ընկերը:

Սփյուռքահայության շրջանում աղմուկը բարձրացել է եւ քննարկման մասնակիցները ասում են, որ սա հաճախ հանդիպող դեպքերից մեկն է, եւ մեր հասարակությունում դեռ շարունակվում է հոմոֆոբիան օրինաչափ լինել:

*For details of this story, see here

Gay and lesbian adults more into blogs than heterosexuals (survey)

According to a recent national [US] survey conducted by Harris Interactive®, gay and lesbian adults online are reading more blogs than their heterosexual counterparts. When asked, just over half (51 percent) of the gay and lesbian respondents reported reading some type of blog, compared to 36 percent of heterosexual adults. A similar question on blog readership also was asked in November 2006, and at that time 32 percent of gay and lesbian adults then reported reading blogs. [...]

Gay and lesbian adults are also more active in and connected to the blog medium. When asked to choose from a list of online activities, 27 percent of gay and lesbian adults reported posting a comment on a blog in the last month, compared to 13 percent of heterosexuals. Also, more than one out of five (21%) gay and lesbian respondents said they had written a personal blog in the last month, compared to 7 percent of heterosexuals.

Regarding the varied interests of blogs, the survey found 28 percent of gay and lesbian adults reported reading news and current issue blogs, compared to 19 percent of heterosexuals. More than a quarter (26%) of gay and lesbian adults also read entertainment and pop culture blogs, compared to 11 percent of heterosexuals. Given the heightened interest in this year’s electoral contests, a significant number, nearly one-quarter (23%), of gay and lesbian adults also read political blogs. In comparison, only 14 percent of heterosexual adults reported reading political blogs. [...]

Apart from blogs, gay and lesbian adults also participate in other online activities more than heterosexuals. Half (50%) of gay and lesbian adults say they have sent instant messages (IMs) in the last month, compared to just one third (34%) of heterosexual adults. When asked overall, in a typical month, how often they send instant messages to friends or other people, for reasons other than work-related tasks, 25 percent of gay adult men responded that they send instant messages at least once a day. In comparison, only 15 percent of heterosexual adult men said they did.

A similar trend can also be seen in online communities and dating websites. A majority (57%) of gay adult men online declare they are a member of a social networking web site, compared to 37 percent of heterosexual men. Also, two out of five (42 %) gay and lesbian adults have visited an online social community or network in the last month, compared with roughly a third (32%) of heterosexuals. Just over one-quarter (26%) of gay adult men reported visiting a dating or match-up site in the last month, compared to 9 percent of heterosexual male adults.

*source; /emphasis mine/

Monday 21 April 2008

Opposition "Chorrord Ishkhanutyun" newspaper must stop using homophobic references in its attacks on Armenia PM Tigran Sargsyan

Around and immediately after his appointment, I read here and there occasional comments attacking newly appointed PM Tigran Sargsyan with homophobic references for his presumed or perceived homosexuality. I do not care whether our newly appointed PM is gay or not. What I do care is no one has the right to attack others for their sexual orientation, perceived or real. Totally unacceptable tactic, from whatever side it comes. And very, very cheap, aimed at the lowest possible instincts among ‘ordinary’ citizens taking into account widespread homophobia in our society. Ironically, homophobic references and bigotry are becoming a favoured mean for some within the both sides of Armenia’s current political stand-off to make an attention grabbing headlines. This can only be a sign of lack of proper arguments and sensationalism preferred by some, be that individual, blogger, established politician or newspaper.

I was wondering where this ‘gay storyline’ came from. Publications by the opposition “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” newspaper (CHI) made things clearer (reader of my blogs pointed me out to this). I suppose that its role played also non-macho (cliché) image of PM Tigran Sargsyan.

So what’s the buzz all about?

“In a search for blue dreams”, “Great achievements from the blue side of the horizon” – under these heading & sub-heading CHI published its main article (9 April 2008, online reference, no direct link, you may find it under ‘archive’) in relation to the appointment of the head of Central Bank Tigran Sargsyan as Prime Minister of Armenia. ["Blue" is a ‘coloured’ reference to gays in post-Soviet states, normally having negative connotations.]

Apparently, there was a “scandal” in Armenian parliament back in May 2006 when MP Victor Dallakyan “publicly” referred to the then head of Central Bank Tigran Sargsyan as “sexual minority”.

Back in May 2006, during parliamentary debates, speaking of “excessive” expenses of the Central Bank of Armenia, MP Dallakyan declared that even cleaners in the Central Bank have higher salaries than MPs. [Imagine the level of ‘debates’] In response to that, in an interview with the opposition “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily, Sargsyan “invited MPs to work as cleaners” in the Central Bank: “No, our cleaners receive less than MPs. But if they [MPs] wish, they could come to work with us”. [I clearly remember this incident but I did not remember the existence of a ‘gay storyline’ there until I read this piece by CHI] Reacting to this “invitation”, Dallakyan “publicly” demanded an apology from Tigran Sargsyan: “He should come here and say “Sorry!” to us. Yesterday he was speaking here about minorities. Of course, I am not referring to sexual minorities, we do not judge sexual minorities, that is him”. After that he stood up and added: “Son of a bitch”. [You lost my respect, Mr. Dallakyan.]

CHI continues that back then Tigran Sargsyan did not say “Sorry!”, and MPs “did not have strength to defend their reputation and swallowed it”.

When asked by CHI correspondent about “sexual minority” reference made by Dallakyan in relation to the newly appointed PM Tigran Sargsyan, MP from the ruling Republican party Rafik Petrosyan instead “mainly” wondered as to “how Dallakyan could prove it”, states CHI, clearly unsatisfied with Petrosyan’s reaction.

At least twice (April 11 and April 15, online reference) after this publication CHI again used gay references to PM Sargsyan, directly or indirectly, in an apparent negative connotation.

Unless CHI stops these cheap tactics and campaign, it risks losing any credibility and joining a growing list of potentially boycotted enterprises, with a very clear “yellow” colour sticking on it. I hope that ordinary to higher level opposition representatives who have influence on this newspaper will pass this message to the CHI. Nothing could be more damaging to the opposition movement than having bigotry associated with it.

*photo - via RFE/RL

Friday 18 April 2008

Gay Armenian in LA committed suicide after being forced into marriage

I am very angered and very saddened. News on suicide committed by young gay Armenian guy in LA (Los Angeles, US) after being forced into marriage proves once more that Armenian society - whether in Armenia or Diaspora - with its ‘traditional values’, intolerance and homophobia is responsible for his death.

Thanks to his friend, we learned about this story. How many similar cases pass hidden?!

I ask Armenian bloggers, media representatives, anyone who has links with local (both in Armenia and Diaspora) and international media to disseminate this story as widely as possible. Time to speak up. Enough is enough! We should prevent similar tragedies from happening in future.

I tried to summarise what is known so far about this guy based on PINK Armenia press release and comments in Yesoudo: LGBT discussion group.

A few days ago a young gay Armenian in LA committed suicide... He was 22 years old. The stress of being gay was too hard for him to handle. He was forced to get married with an Armenian girl to cover up his sexuality... He came out to his family and they forced him to marry a girl to keep up appearances... and sadly 3 months into the marriage . . . he couldn’t take it anymore... he was under a lot of stress from his family and the general stress that the Armenian community brings to the table about homosexuality...

Here is what his friend has to say:

[He was] an amazing friend of mine… we loved him dearly... he was young, smart and handsome... god I’m going to miss him...

What is wrong with Armenians how can we keep letting this happen! This isn’t right, this isn’t fair! The sad part is no one mentions that he did it because he was gay! He even wrote it in his suicide note and no one mentions it! How many Armenians are we going to lose like this!

Below are few comments expressed so far in response to this news:

“As for doing something once again it comes down to his family issues. It’s not so simple coming out and saying btw you pushed your gay son to that point! How do you put it "fact that you have a gay dead son is your fault"

“It`s a tragedy what`s happened but it`ll be even worse if the truth stays hidden. In closed minded communities such as the Armenian one (sadly) things don’t just change like that, usually something big, something drastic and unfortunately something tragic has to happen for people to start reconsidering their views and mentality. So now u have this opportunity to at least use this poor guys tragedy to make something good come out of it and if I just stay silent and let it go, that`ll be even more tragic.

I`m sure that any mom, even an Armenian mom will rather have a gay son alive than a dead one. So if u can get it touch with some news papers or some media and tell the truth, that`ll maybe prevent tragedies like this from happening again in future. I`m sure if an Armenian mom that has a son read the real sorry, hear the real story she`ll think twice before driver her son to suicide. So u should gather his friends and write a huge article about him, about the truth and if u guys are afraid about your own families finding out about you, you can do it anonymously. U can ask the newspaper to do it anonymously, but u shouldn`t let this go by. Just give his family some time 2 morn and then do something, either something on TV news, in news papers or even a video of him with his pics with the real story and put it on Youtube in memory of him. But do something!”

“Well, this is a story of a typical Armenian gay, which is of course very sad, one of the ways is the solidarity among gays, especially Armenians, we need to support each other, because the only way to fight against the violence, somebody may call it traditions/customs, is to be strong, to make your character stronger, and WE ALL have to do that, to support each other, even if it may cost something to us. The fact of suicide of that gay is a big shame for his parents and at the same [time] big loss and pain for all of us. Rest him in peace...”

“It is depressing indeed. I would not thinking of who is to blame in the whole story. I dare say not even the family of the young gay man, who has chosen this solution out of the situation. They are victims of their society as well this way or another. What we could do is to voice out the case and perhaps try to forward the message to mass media both in Armenia and abroad. Showing devil a mirror could be a best way to fight it.”

“Parents like this are just idiots and they have no right to show up themselves in public anymore unless they start being activists in gay parental associations to buy themselves out! some Armenians even in America live in Stone age. What you can do? LA gays should be more visible and more activist!”

Is this art???

It is very difficult to shock me with controversial projects in art. I like controversy in art. But this one seems too bizarre to me to accept as “art project”. Being firmly "pro-choice" in relation to abortion, the way it is handled here kind of horrified me.

Queerty reports referring to Yale Daily News:

Beginning next Tuesday, [Aliza] Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself “as often as possible” while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process.

In original news article, this art student provides with the following aim of her project:

The goal in creating the art exhibition, Shvarts said, was to spark conversation and debate on the relationship between art and the human body.

Live underwear models

I spotted them today (Thursday) after work when walking down Regent street, London. They were behind the window display of Armani Exchange (A/X) store. Any routine walk in London could turn into something unexpected and entertaining ;)

Wednesday 16 April 2008

Turkey: End Harassment of Gay Rights Groups

Human Rights Watch

(Istanbul, April 16, 2008) – A police raid on a Turkish human rights organization is the latest incident in an escalating pattern of harassment of gay rights groups, Human Rights Watch said today. In a letter to Turkish Minister of Interior Beºir Atalay, Human Rights Watch called on the government to cease official harassment of groups working on sexual orientation and gender identity issues, and to ensure training of all criminal-justice officials in human rights principles.

On April 7, 2008, approximately 12 police in plainclothes entered the headquarters of the Lambda Istanbul Cultural Center, which defends the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Their warrant cited suspicion that Lambda “facilitates prostitution, acts as a go-between [and] provides a place for [prostitution],” criminalized under Article 227 of Turkey’s Penal Code. The raid took place 10 days before an April 17 court hearing in a case against Lambda Istanbul brought by the Istanbul Governor’s Office, accusing the group of violating Turkish “moral values and its family structure.”

“What’s really immoral is the Istanbul authorities’ campaign against Lambda Istanbul for protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people,” said Scott Long, director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “The government should reform laws that allow officials to harass groups like Lambda Istanbul in order to guarantee everyone’s human rights.”

After a two-hour search the officers took a list of Lambda Istanbul’s members, along with records of its decisions and other documents. The organization’s property has still not been returned. Lambda Istanbul’s attorney told Human Rights Watch that prosecutors informed him the group had been under surveillance since March 2008.

Lambda Istanbul has suffered harassment by the Turkish authorities since 2007, when the Istanbul Governor’s Office demanded its closure, arguing the name and objectives of the group were offensive to Turkish “moral values and its family structure.” The Prosecutor’s Office rejected the complaint in July 2007, but the governor’s office pursued the case to a higher court. After four hearings, the case is still pending.

Under human rights law, including the European Convention on Human Rights, which applies in Turkey, the Turkish authorities must guarantee freedom of association to all, without discrimination.

Sunday 13 April 2008

Best independent and arthouse cinema in Yerevan - National Gallery of Armenia

This is the best place for independent and arthouse cinema in Yerevan, from Pasolini to Fassbinder and other gems of cinematorgraphy, with regular Q&A sessions, thematic screenings, restrospectives, festivals. A rare pleasure. Highly recommend it! Screenings are normally held over weekends, but check out the programme from the National Gallery to get the full listings. You may also wish to enjoy permanent and temporary exhibitions at the Gallery.

National Gallery

When I was back in Yerevan over the New Year holidays few months ago, this cinema at the National Gallery of Armenia was one of the biggest discoveries for me. Imagine my shock (a pleasant shock!) when I saw their programme which included a screening of Pasolini's Salo. Salo is considered as one of the most controversial films ever made. It is still banned in many countries, and only recently has been released uncut in the UK. Although I've seen Salo few times, I decided that I have to experience it in Armenia, which seemed kind of surreal for me. Unfortunately, due to technical reasons (broken movie projector) they had to cancel the screening.

Melik Karapetyan, head of Film Programs Department at the National Gallery of Armenia is doing fantastic job and deserves our support. His programming could rival the best independent cinemas worldwide.

Current programme includes:

  • Great Women Artists / Artists of the 20th Century
  • Regional Silent Film Festival 4th Edition
  • Jan Svankmajer’s Film Retrospective
  • German Classic Cinema and Fassbinder’s Films

For up-to-date listings, check out ArmeniaInfo's "Calendar of Events". However, to make sure you do not miss anything, I'd rather suggest picking up a programme from the Gallery (artfully made). 


*photo via National Gallery of Armenia

Armenia Gay Guide update

After a while (last review was in August 2007), I managed to find time to update Armenia Gay Guide which now includes more up-to-date information on gay and gay-friendly venues in Armenian capital Yerevan, as well as additions to various sections, including art, NGOs etc.

Armenia Gay Guide will be updated regularly as/when new info is available.

If you think that the info or listings in this Guide are incorrect, please let me know your additions based on reliable sources. If you are aware of other gay or gay-friendly venues and attractions in Armenia or any other info which you think may be of interest or relevance to LGBT people who live in or visit Armenia, please let me know so that I will update this Guide.

Armenia Gay Guide

Yerevan Experimental Theatre (NPAK): Slaughterhouse (play)

Sounds interesting.

*via Facebook

Date: Thursday, April 17, 2008
Time: 7:00pm - 10:40pm
Location: Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art (NPAK)
Street: Pavstos Buizand Blvd., 1/3
City: Yerevan, Armenia


A human is sentenced to loneliness. He has failed to love, to be loved. He has been alienated from surrounding world, has been put in opposition with fake and dishonest relations, and theatricised behaviorism. He is lonely. “Poor white craw”. This woman, with her torturous monologue unmasks human evil. But nobody needs it. She is target of society repentance. The sacrifice offered at the slaughterhouse.

LGBT Rights in the World (Map)

International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) launched the 2008 version of its map on LGBTI rights in the world on occasion of the federation’s 30th anniversary (previous version of the map - here).


According to the map, in South Caucasus (as well as in a broader region, including Russia, Turkey and Iran), only Georgia has introduced legislation which specifically outlaws discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Armenia, Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan do not provide similar provisions. However, this map does not specify the level and comprehensiveness of that protection, which varies. Particularly, in Georgia antidiscriminatory provisions cover only employment: since May 2006, as part of the new Labour Code, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal in employment. This by no means implies that the situation with LGBT people and gay rights is particularly better in Georgia than say in Turkey. However, it is a step forward in a right direction.

Among our neighbours, the most appalling situation is certainly in Iran which is one of only 7 countries worldwide where death penalty for same-sex acts is still in place and acted upon.

Below I provide a brief summary statistics on LGBT rights in the world, as of January 2008, taken from the map:


  • death penalty: 7 countries
  • imprisonment: 76 countries and 6 entities


  • antidiscrimination laws: 49 countries and 33 entities


  • recognition and registration for same-sex unions: 19 countries and 14 entities

According to PinkNews, ILGA is now preparing the 2008 version of State-sponsored Homophobia Report which will be ready for 17 May, International Day Against Homophobia.

Friday 11 April 2008

Karabakh women defend their rights for “gender self-determination”

A rare article by ArmeniaNow on gender equality and women rights in Karabakh. I post here my favourite extracts under the subheadings I created. Article in full is available here

Male Minister of Education fighting “morality war” and losing it
At the beginning of this school year principles in Stepanakert received a very strange order from Minister of Education Vadik Khachatryan forbidding female teachers from wearing trousers to work. The minister explained his oral instruction by a wish to ensure the teachers’ appropriate moral image.

But the teachers did not share the minister’s views on morality and declared that they are not going to follow his instructions. The order raised noisy protest and almost turned into scandal. The minister was taken aback and trying to justify himself said that he did not mean trousers, but meant provocative clothing.

It has never been clear what the minister intended, but it sure that he did not base his judgment on contemporary thought. Women in Karabakh have changed, having survived war, famine, bitterness of losses and equally shared all the hardships of post-war years with men.

Power women
Working as a business woman in Karabakh is no more a surprise to anybody. The National Assembly has 33 deputies, 4 of which are women. Two out of 11 minister’s chairs belong to women- Narine Azatyan is the Minister of Social Affairs, Narine Narimanyan is the Minister of Justice. About half of the judges are women.

Gender equality ≈ development of household appliances
Some people think that gender equality in any country depends on the development of household appliances.

“I used to waste all my free time from work on housework. I had to clean, cook, do the laundry by hand. My husband and I constantly argued. Now I have an electric meat grinder, washing machine, dish-washing machine. In other words, the same work that would take me my whole evening, takes me an hour now. I have spare time for fitness, Internet, and my husband and I even go out for a walk sometimes,” tells a nurse, Aida Adamyan.

Women rights NGO
In 2004 in Shushi Harmony NGO was founded. The founder Julietta Arustamyan says that the main goals of the organization is struggle for peace and women’s rights, Artsakh women’s spiritual and professional improvement, as well as organization of cultural leisure.

“We have a dream to open our own women’s center in Shushi where women could spend nice and useful time. It will be possible to get free psychological and legal consultation there, attend, say fitness club or dancing class, needlework class etc. Many of our women could have jobs at our center,” says Arustamyan.

“Given a desire” (I think “desire” is the key word here)
Svetlana Petrosyan has been heading a state institution in Stepanakert for many years.

“I have a family, but I can assure you that there are no barriers for women in Karabakh. Any woman is free to have a career, given a desire,” Petrosyan says.

Tuesday 8 April 2008

"Gender Trouble" - The Exhibition

As mentioned in my previous post, the exhibition of feminist art “Gender Trouble” opened on 7 April in Armenia’s capital Yerevan to coincide with the “Motherhood and Beauty Day” - “the second official holiday dedicated to women” (after 8 March) . It is not surprising therefore that one of the main messages of this exhibition, according to Shushan Harutyunyan, local journalist and good friend of mine, was that the real meaning of 8 March (International Women’s Day) has been erased from people’s memories. Instead, we keep reminded daily on a society level of the notion of women as “the fair sex” or “weaker sex”…

S.H.: “I liked the exhibition, it was rather creative exhibition. Mainly, video art was displayed there. Artists’ works were controversial. They presented with the different approaches to the subject matter. As a result, their work varied, from depicting the process of plastic surgery to grandmother at boxing training. Perceptions are subjective, of course.”

All photos from the exhibition – by Shushan Harutyunyan. Many thanks, Shushan!

Sunday 6 April 2008

Yerevan, Armenia: "Gender Trouble" exhibition

Day: Monday, April 7, 2008
Time: 7:00pm
Location: "Academia" Gallery, Baghramyan 24, Yerevan, Armenia


...Is it possible to talk about feminist art in the context of Armenia when the majority of women artists who take part in such thematic shows and who really employ feminist strategies in their works are not associated with feminist movements outside the scope of their art? It is indisputable fact that feminist orientations must be recognized as program and ideology which then have to be codified in art forms. Today we have the state of growing self-awareness about the incompleteness, uncertainly but also femininity (as a socio-cultural phenomenon) of the representational works. At the same time, there is the state of growing understanding of the notion of the aesthetical - when the feminine is able to identify, form and defend itself against the background of the Power and the hardening shapes of the predictability of this Power. Without this it is impossible to either form art strategies, or conceptualize and describe these strategies from the position of gender theory. It may sound paradoxical, but in spite of the absence of consistency and clear positions in feminist issues in Armenia art context, the topic itself remains open. Feminism is not uninteresting for Armenian artists and this is much better than the silence...
Susanna Gyulamiryan "Gender Trouble"

"The name "Gender Trouble" is taken from the title of the book by American philosopher Judith Butler ("Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity" 1990). Judith Butler can be defined as a post-structuralist thinker. Feminism is one of the major subjects of her works."

*event descriptions and photo - via Facebook

Saturday 5 April 2008

Gay rights advocate will chair OSCE

Taking into account that Armenia, as well as other post-Soviet countries are members of the OSCE, the appointment of gay rights advocate Alexander Stubb as Foreign Minister in Finland, which is currently chairing OSCE, would hopefully have a positive impact on putting forward equality agenda in member states.

“Priorities of the 2008 Finnish OSCE Chairmanship include progress towards resolving the region's protracted conflicts, enhancing engagement with Afghanistan as well as co-operation on maritime and inland waterways, combating trafficking in human beings, promoting tolerance and non-discrimination and gender equality.”

PinkNews provides additional details:

Members of the European Parliament have welcomed the appointment of Alexander Stubb as Finland's Minister of Foreign Affairs.He has been one of the Parliament's leading gay and lesbian rights campaigners and Vice President of the LGBT Intergroup.

"The Intergroup is thrilled for Alexander and sends him our warmest greetings," said British MEP Michael Cashman, President of the Intergroup. "It has been a great pleasure working with Alexander. Finland has made a great choice."

Mr Stubb was appointed on Tuesday, his 40th birthday. "When your country calls, the answer is unequivocally yes," he said of his decision to return to national politics, according to Helsingin Sanomat. He has been an MEP since 2004 and is a member of the National Coalition Party, which is centre-right but pro-Europe.Former

Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva resigned after he was embroiled in a scandal involving text messages he sent to a female dancer.

Mr Stubb, who is married with three children, previously worked as an aide to Romani Prodi, the former President of the European Commission.

"The Parliamentary group of the National Coalition Party described Stubb as surprising and courageous, adding that "he puts a smile on one's face," reported Helsingin Sanomat. "Stubb is widely regarded as a competent figure, and is known to be a firm advocate of Finnish NATO membership."

"It has been exciting working side by side with Alexander on protecting rights of LGBT people in Europe and beyond," Sophie in 't Veld, Vice-President of the Intergroup. "It is sad he leaves us at the Intergroup but I wish him all the best in his new position."Lissy Gröner, Vice-President of the Intergroup for the PSE added, "Alexander has been such a nice colleague in the Intergroup."I want to thank him for the contribution he has made for the rights of LGBT people."

*photo via OSCE - Finland's new Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Alexander Stubb, speaks at a press conference following his appointment, Helsinki, 4 April 2008. (Finnish MFA/Raino Heinonen)