Thursday 29 October 2009

Yerevan diaries: Welcome to Yerevan ;)

Yerevan, Cascade, site of soon to be opened Cafesjian Centre for the Arts (Yerevan MoMA)

Yerevan diaries: Yere1 comedy sketch show on Armenia TV - Homophobic or Not?

Yere1 is a relatively new comedy sketch show on Armenia TV. I first heard and then watched couple of series of Yere1 when in Yerevan in September.

Basically, it’s an Armenian version of highly popular Russian TV show Nasha Russia.

One of the central story-lines there is gay related. Other story-lines from time to time cross that topic too.

However, while Russian main gay character is chosen and presented as one contrary to cliches - overly masculine, with rough habits and taste (similar to what one may consider as a cliche straight man), in Armenian version it’s a cliche - overly feminine - gay man. Therefore, Russian version is frequently funny and tackles and laughed at existing gay or masculine stereotypes pretty OK, while Armenian one is rarely funny and may contribute to existing prejudices.

There are, however, few funny moments in Armenian version too which expose silliness of macho prejudices in our everyday life. What an average Armenian TV viewer will make out of this, is anyone's guess. So far I've heard very opposite opinions re Yere1: from homophobic to gay friendly, from totally stupid to pretty funny. Perhaps, there is a bit of everything there. My main reservation, however, remains the use of unacceptable Armenian equivalent to describe a gay man: “hamaseramol”.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Russian translation of “Artush and Zaur” - Azeri-Armenian gay love story - available online for free download

I’ve been waiting for this since it has been published. Thanks to the info provided by Alekper Aliyev, the author of “Artush and Zaur”, gay love story between an Azeri and Armenian, it is now available in Russian, online and for free.

*For background info - read my post here.

Sunday 25 October 2009

MUST SEE exhibit on breaking masculinity stereotypes up and running online at PINK Armenia website

If you missed it in Yerevan, you should check this must see exhibition organised by PINK Armenia on Masculinity: Breaking Stereotypes. It's is now up and running online at PINK Armenia website.

Vardan Yepremyan, Armenia

The man is free from his complexes, stereotypes, prejudies and is in a free flight of freedom.

Gay Armenians in Sweden can marry and be blessed in a church ceremony

There is a small but active Armenian community in Sweden.
Wikipedia: Swedish-Armenians are Armenians living in Sweden. The number of Armenians is around 8,000 and they come mainly from countries in the Middle East. Recently Sweden is seeing some influx from the Republic of Armenia as well. Most Swedish Armenians live in Stockholm, with a significant number in Uppsala.
Not only gay Armenians in Sweden can marry (gay marriage has been legal in Sweden from 1 May 2009), but those preferring church ceremonies can now be formally blessed in a church wedding as approved by the Church of Sweden.

Armenian online news outlets such as and Capital business daily carry the news.

Sweden’s Lutheran Church Allows Gay Marriage

Sweden’s Lutheran Church Allows Gay Marriage

Sweden, already a pioneer in giving same-sex couples the right to adopt children, becomes one of the first countries in the world to allow gays to marry in a major Church, report AFP and Reuters news agencies.

Sweden's Lutheran Church decided Thursday to allow gay marriages in its places of worship, five months after they became legal.

The Church of Sweden, which was the state church until 2000, had backed the parliament's adoption of the gay marriage law, which took effect on May 1. But it deferred its synod's decision on church weddings until now.

The church said in a statement it would begin wedding same-sex couples on Nov. 1.

A church official said individual priests would still not be required to perform gay marriages. However, local churches would have to ensure that they could wed same-sex couples, if necessary bringing in an outside priest to perform the ceremony.

The country's smaller Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches said they were disappointed by the Lutherans' decision.

"It is with sadness that we learn about the decision by the synod of the Church of Sweden," Fredrik Emanuelson, a leader of the Roman Catholic Church, and Orthodox church senior official Misha Jaksic said in a joint statement.

"In our churches and communities, we will not unite homosexual couples since it is in complete contradiction with the tradition of the church and our vision of creation," they said.

Friday 23 October 2009

Sexy ‘Jesus’ at Oxford Circus, London

Just spotted, on my way to work. It was a Jesus-like performance act. It lasted few seconds, when a ‘crucified Jesus’ was shaking himself all over. I was in a hurry, and managed to make these few photos. Then, ‘Jesus’ came down, and started giving an interview. I have no idea who were they, what was going on, but it was funny. And ‘Jesus’ was pretty sexy ;)

Tuesday 20 October 2009 on 'What is to Take Place' which 'Took Place' by contemporary female artists in Yerevan

Excellent reporting by!

Armenian version


‘What Is to Take Place’: a Contemporary Art Affair by Female Artists 'Took Place'

"What is to take place" was a contemporary art affair organized by the Women-Oriented Women's Collective which took place on Sunday, October 18 at Zarubyan 34 in Yerevan.

The event included members of the collective as well as invited artists and featured video and performance works, as well as photo series, a collection of drawings, book art, and stencil art. The event took place in the outside garden where a number of tables and chairs had been arranged in small groupings. One could imagine that instead of a contemporary art event, they were meeting friends at a local cafe. The sun was shining (the weather unusually warm for an early October evening), and the atmosphere was relaxed.
The organizers had prepared large quantities of popcorn and coffee, and with a little bit of salt (for the popcorn) and a little bit of sugar (for the coffee), the event began. Attendees were invited to visit various "stations" where a number of laptops had been set up to display the artists' works. There was a video by Lusine Talalyan loosely based on a survey on homosexuality called "Don't Be Silent," a video by Lusine Vayachyan reading her emotionally moving text, a music video edited by Arpi Adamyan which featured music by Tsomak (who had created a song based on Violet Grigoryan's poem "Tslik," roughly translated to "Cunt" in English).
"What is to take place" also featured Arpi Adamyan's graphic art (seen above), outlines of friends and acquaintances in various everyday gatherings; a photo series by Adrineh Der-Boghossian, simply titled "Her, sleeping"; and stencil art work and stickers by Tsomak ("Smash patriarchy") . Invited artists included Eka Ketsbaia, an artist from Georgia who presented her book art: a sequence of about 300 small format ink on paper drawings (seen below); and Arax Nerkararyan distributed slips of paper with her text on it.
Lucine Talalyan also presented an album of her photo series "Arzni Retreat." Prior to the event, Angela Harutyunyan curated the collective's work in cyberspace and placed it on the blog; one of the laptops at the event had the page up so attendees could read Angela's curated work.
After attendees had an opportunity to view the work, the performance began. Lara Aharonian, Lusine Chergeshtyan, Adrineh Der-Boghossian, Lusine Talalyan and Arpi Adamyan read a piece of work that was comprised of various conversations they have had on various themes (the full text, in Armenian, can be viewed on the Queering Yerevan blog). Interspersed with the text were lines from Lara Aharonian's poem Hoqnel em ("I am tired") and excerpts from Zarubyani Kanayk ("The Women of Zarubyan"), a piece by WOW collective member Shushan Avagyan, who was not in attendance. (Upon Shushan's request, her work was read by Gago).
The authors of the various works were not identified and no descriptions of the works were presented. This was intentional. Furthermore, the group did not receive any financial support in organizing the event; they did, however, receive support from the Women's Resource Center in Armenia by way of providing the space for the event.

Queering Yerevan is a collaborative project of Armenian queer artists, writers and curators to be realized within the framework of the WOW (Women-Oriented Women) collective. For more information, visit their blog at http://queeringyerevan.blogspot. com.


Sunday 18 October 2009

Exhibition in Yerevan aims at breaking masculinity stereotypes congratulations to PINK Armenia. This is only the beginning. More to follow, have no doubts about it. Below are few pictures from the exhibit Masculinity: Breaking Stereotypes, thanks to Lara Aharonian. The exhibition will be displayed online too. More info - as and when... Big thanks to artists, activists, media representatives, and Norwegian government for supporting the exhibition.

Tert. am and PanARMENIAN.Net posted an info about the exhibit. publishes an interview with Mamikon Hovsepyan of PINK Armenia, as well as provides an info on the exhibit itself and its three winners.

Armenian in Brooklyn (new blog by gay Armenian woman)

I'd like to introduce what seems to me an exciting new blog by gay Armenian woman: Armenian in Brooklyn.
I am an immigrant from Yerevan living in Brooklyn for the past 13 years. This is a blog about seemingly contradictory identities that I will weave into something new. Perhaps I can make another world possible for someone who may feel like their struggle corresponds with mine.
In her first two entries, she touches upon complex and sensitive issues of identity, of being Armenian and gay woman, and relevant issues.
All I know is that if there is room to practice being Armenian by being homophobic and sexist and racist, then there must be room to practice being Armenian and being queer, being feminist, being pro-Palestine, being conscious of the different oppressions that afflict our common world all at the same time. At the end of the day, when I trace back my roots to where I come from and I end up in the lands of the Caucasus mountains, in Van, in Tbilisi, in Yerevan, I know that I can never ‘lose’ this history/memory. Who I am and where I come from has made me. Queer.
Welcome to blogosphere, Maral!

IANYAN: "...on being Armenian"

"[...] I’ve accepted that many of the stereotypes attached to Armenians are valid. I’m not condoning stereotypes or the act of passing judgment, but what I am saying is that there is a reason stereotypes exist: they all stem from a little bit of truth. Accepting that your background, your family, even you yourself have faults is the best thing you can do to aid progress. We have problems. We have problems with multi-culturalism, with sexuality, with lesbian, gay and transgender issues, we have problems with violence against women, domestic abuse and ignorance. We have many who now encompass the new Armenian-American generation who have morphed into materialistic and apathetic young people that have no interest in the matters of the world. [...]"

Source: IANYAN (one of my favourite Armenian blogs)

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Must see: Zara - “Karmir Khndzor” (‘Red Apple’)

I saw the preview of this clip by Zara “Karmir Khndzor” (‘Red Apple’) while in Yerevan. Now it’s released. Love it. Well done, Zara. 

And what an influence the action by Women’s Resource Centre and activists is having. Pay attention to the ending of this clip - ‘burial of Red Apple’. And now read the story of 8 March 2009 in Yerevan:  International Women’s Day in Armenia: small. It may have been small, but its impact and influence are evident. (more about this tradition and meaning of the ‘funeral’ – here)

Monday 12 October 2009

He broke my heart too ;)

¿Por qué?
Sunday Spain-Armenia match was an inspiration not only to football fans but also quite an event for young female population of Yerevan. Spanish football goalkeeper Iker Casillas broke at least one Armenian heart by not appearing on the pitch.

*Source: ArmeniaNow

Saturday 10 October 2009

PINK Armenia vs Iravunk tabloid: interview with MaxLiberty (RFE/RL)

PINK Armenia interview with MaxLiberty RFE/RL youth programme re Armenian tabloid Iravunk editor's accusations for 'gay propaganda'. (starts from 12.45 mins, lasts around 6.5 mins.) Includes interview with Iravunk editor too. Well done to Mamikon and MaxLiberty.

*for some background to this story - see here

PINK Armenia: "Masculinity: Breaking Stereotypes" (17 Oct 09)

"Public Information and Need of Knowledge" NGO invites you to take part in "Masculinity: Breaking Stereotypes" exhibition. The entrance is free. The event will take place in State Theatre, 26 Amiryan, (Yerevan State Institute of Theatre and Cinematography), on 17 October, 1pm-5pm. Official opening - 2pm.
PINK Armenia

Sunday 4 October 2009

Germany to appoint the first openly gay foreign minister in the world

***And here is some background on why homosexuality is no longer an issue in German politics - Foreign Policy. Picture above - Guido Westerwelle, right, celebrates his party's victory with his boyfriend. (Thanks, Myrthe, for the link.)

NewsweekGermany is getting a new foreign minister. Cabinet officials come and go in Europe's democracies, but this is different: Guido Westerwelle, the leader of the German Free Democratic Party, will become the first openly gay foreign minister in the world. The prevalence of openly gay politicians in Europe is hardly big news: Iceland's prime minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, is the world's first openly gay head of state; the mayors of Paris and Berlin are also out of the closet. And yes, it's a milestone that this could occur in Germany, a nation that only 70 years ago attempted to exterminate homosexuals. But the truly significant thing about Westerwelle's new job is not what it means for Europe's economic powerhouse—already a country very tolerant of gays—but what it means for the rest of the world.

Westerwelle is about to become the face that Germany presents overseas—which might be a problem for the nations where the denial of homosexuality and the imprisonment, torture, and murder of gay people are official state policies. That's why, after he takes the helm of the Foreign Ministry, Westerwelle ought to kick off his tenure with a tour of the world's most homophobic nations, speaking about the horrific ways in which these regimes treat their gay citizens. Unfortunately, he might be on the road for a while. [...]

While it's unfortunately true that many homophobic regimes channel popular homophobic opinion in their countries, it's also true that individuals are more likely to support equal rights for homosexuals if they interact with them. For the vast majority of the people in nations Westerwelle visits, he will be just a distant figure, someone whose face they will see on the front page of newspapers and on television. But his being in the room during high-level talks with the likes of Ahmadinejad and Vladimir Putin may alter their attitudes about homosexuality, if only a little.

Even if Westerwelle were not to make an issue of his own homosexuality, recognition of it would be inevitable—especially in countries where homosexuality is viewed as a foreign, specifically "Western" export. The prospect of an openly gay person in a prominent public position is unfathomable in many societies, and the interest in Westerwelle would be almost voyeuristic. That he leads a perfectly normal domestic life alongside a long-term partner—with whom he could travel, forcing foreign governments to provide diplomatic protection and ceremonial recognition to a same-sex couple or lose out on state visits—would dispel many of the bigoted notions that so many people hold about homosexuality. [...] (Thanks to Hrag for the link.)

Thursday 1 October 2009

Armenia aligns with the EU human rights / gay rights statement

"Human rights apply equally to every human being regardless of sex, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity, religion, disability or any other factor."

Now if only these statements implemented for real...

Swedish Presidency - EU statement at the UN Human Rights Council on the follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

Statement by H.E. Ambassador Hans Dahlgren, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the United Nations Office in Geneva on behalf of the European Union.

Check against delivery

The Swedish Presidency of the European Union, 30 September 2009

United Nations
Human Rights Council – 12th session
30 September 2009

EU Statement
Item 8 - General Debate:
Follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

Mr. President,

I speak for the European Union

While Turkey, Croatia*,the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia* , Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine, Moldova and Armenia align themselves with this declaration.

Mr President,

The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action confirmed the universality and indivisibility of human rights. The European Union supports the continuing efforts of the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms to implement those documents.

The European Union commends the quality of the work carried out by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and fully supports the High Commissioner in her continued efforts to pursue her task efficiently and with integrity.

The Vienna documents highlighted the fundamental role played by civil society in ensuring the respect and promotion of human rights. The past years have seen the worldwide emergence of NGO's working with the implementation of international human rights treaties.

The Declaration in Vienna also reaffirmed the obligation of states to create favourable conditions to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights. States must make every effort to eliminate all violations of human rights and their causes. In this context, Mr President, the European Union notes with great concern the increasingly violent political climate in Guinea. It urges the current leadership to respect human rights and to allow a return to democracy and constitutional order in the Republic of Guinea.

In practice, many people continue to be denied enjoyment of their rights and fundamental freedoms. Human rights defenders frequently pursue their struggle while risking their own lives and the lives and well-being of their families. The EU condemns any acts of intimidation against human rights defenders and reiterates the responsibility of governments and individual political leaders to refrain from statements that might endanger their safety.

The international community is facing a severe challenge in handling the climate crisis, while at the same time coping with one of the most serious economic crises in decades. It is crucial that the difficulties these challenges present for us all are not used as a pretext to lessen our commitment to fulfilling our human rights obligations.

Persistent discrimination and other large-scale human rights violations facing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender persons are a source of strong concern, of which the situations in Iraq and Uganda are troubling examples. However, there are also positive examples such as the ruling in July by the Delhi High Court in India that consensual sex between adults of the same sex is not against the law. Human rights apply equally to every human being regardless of sex, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity, religion, disability or any other factor.

The Vienna documents draws our attention to the importance of women's rights, and does also explicitly recognise gender-based violence, sexual harassment and exploitation of women. Trafficking of women and girls is among the worst forms of violation of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the EU attaches importance to the elimination of this exploitation.

Thank you, Mr President.


*source: Swedish Presidency of the European Union

/emphasis mine/

Yerevan diaries: Cocktails

 Still, New York is THE place to try quality cocktails. Even in London you may have hard time spotting decent cocktail venues.
In Yerevan, it's even worse. I would suggest trying pure drinks. Some people would disagree with me, but over the last few years, I failed to find any venue in Yerevan which provides with quality cocktails. The last example was at a "7 Kadr" new cafe-bar behind the cinema Moscow in downtown Yerevan. Nice design. Slow service. Decent food. Not too expensive. As to the cocktails... I started with the classical ones – Apple Martini and Cosmopolitan. They were anything but... I quit, and ordered mineral water instead.

Yerevan diaries: NPAK - The Way It Is

NPAK - modern arts centre in Yerevan, is one of my all-time favourite places. The latest exhibit/installation there was called "The Way It Is". I instantly spotted my dear friend Lucie's work (last picture, right). Love it.

Yerevan diaries: HighFest opening ceremony (disappointing!)

Disappointed with the HighFest (International Performing Arts Theatre Festival in Yerevan, Armenia) opening ceremony. Children/teenagers made an effort, of course. However... Lasted 15 mins instead of 1hr. Nothing cutting edge.