Tuesday 31 May 2011

Day Against Homophobia in Tbilisi, Georgia

Good to see signs of revival from the Inclusive Foundation, LGBT NGO, in Georgia.

Below is activist video from Tbilisi to mark the International Day Against Homophobia.

And here is a photo report via Civil.ge:

"In what appeared to be probably the first-ever outdoor gay-related event in Georgia, few dozen of people gathered in Tbilisi's old town to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, marked on May 17. The event was organized by one of the few Georgian LGBT rights group, Association Inclusive. Homosexuality, which was decriminalized in Georgia in 2000, is generally regarded as “immoral” and remains a taboo topic and closeted in Georgia."

"Candlelit fake flowers, painted in colors of rainbow gay pride flag were released and floated down the river Mtkvari by gay rights activists and other participants of the event in memory of victims of homophobic hate crimes."

*Photo: Guram Muradov/Civil.ge

Activists from 13 countries, including Armenia and Georgia, met in Ankara for regional initiative to combat homophobia

‘People against homophobia’ from the Caucasus, Middle East and Balkans came to Turkey for “Regional Network Against Homophobia” initiative, within the scope of the International Meeting Against Homophobia to mark IDAHO.

Activists from Armenia, Georgia, Iran, Bosnia, Lebanon, Serbia, Croatia, Palestine, Israel, Macedonia, Greece, Montenegro and Egypt were present in Ankara on 20 May.

Kaos GL, LGBT group in Turkey, hosted the meeting, with the aim at establishing a Middle East, Caucasus and Balkans LGBTT Network for solidarity in the struggle against homophobia.

The meeting was concluded on 22 May with anti-homophobia march in Ankara.

For more pictures and relevant links, see Antihomofobi.

"I Live With HIV", Candlelight Memorial, Yerevan, Armenia, 15 May 2011

"I Live With HIV", Yerevan, Armenia, in front of the office of Armenia president

*via PINK Armenia Facebook page

Tuesday 17 May 2011

International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO): COMING SOON on Unzipped: Gay Armenia

International Day Against Homophobia

17 MAY 

Coming soon:

Blog posts re Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey

Rainbow Yerevan

People against homophobia from 13 countries, incl. Armenia and Georgia, to meet in Turkey

Armenian church: closeted homophobia?

'Gay concern over Eurovision in Azerbaijan'

...and more


Sunday 15 May 2011

Azerbaijan to host Eurovision 2012. Intrigue of the moment: Will Armenia go to Baku?

I hope Armenia will go to Baku in 2012.

We should stop - and this is a good occasion to start with - once and for all this complex of losers or complex of inferiority between our countries, whenever either Azerbaijan or Armenia wins any international contest.

All talks of Armenia boycotting Eurovision in Baku I consider ridiculous and loser’s talk. Let’s pass that psychological complex, and rather concentrate on the quality of performance and the act chosen.

On the other hand, Azerbaijan must ensure that Armenian delegation and fans not only from Armenia but worldwide are able to attend the contest without having any problems with their yan/ian surname.

Problems facing by anyone with yan/ian surname was reminded once again in a post by IanYan:
Plans for Armenia to participate in the festivities in Azerbaijan will be difficult, as Armenians citizens as well as those from other countries who are of Armenian descent are forbidden entry into the country, especially if passports show any evidence of travel to Nagorno-Karabakh. Even the U.S. Department of State travel site warns against it:

“U.S. citizens of Armenian ancestry—you should know your visa applications may be denied by the Government of Azerbaijan on the grounds that your safety cannot be guaranteed,” it says, also adding, “U.S. citizens of Armenian ancestry considering travel to Azerbaijan–you should remain particularly vigilant when visiting the country, as the Government of Azerbaijan has claimed that it is unable to guarantee your safety.”
Azerbaijan must ensure that security of Armenian fans are guaranteed. No excuses will be accepted this time. If Azerbaijan fails to deliver on this, the country should be barred from Eurovision. This will be too damaging for Azerbaijan reputation to risk.

Back to the contest itself.

Azerbaijan was not among my favourites at Eurovision. And that guy looked too ‘sterile’, or shall I say, ‘asexual’ for my taste. I personally voted for Georgia, Greece and Slovenia. [Being in London, I could not vote for the UK, but Blue was among my faves too.]

But Azerbaijan delivered a well executed performance. They made efforts, and they won the contest. And I’d like to congratulate my Azeri friends.

Here is what was happening in Baku last night after the news on winning the contest brought youth to the streets of Azerbaijan capital.

Now the most intriguing and interesting part begins. The build-up to the Eurovision 2012. Will Azerbaijan deliver on the promise to “bring Europe together”?

Flying Carpets and Broken Pipelines sums up general feeling of Azeri activists:
And as Azerbaijan celebrates its this year victory with a song called "Running Scared" by Nikki and Ell, one of Azerbaijan's young activists, Elnur Majidli declared wanted by Interpol. You know why? Well, simply because Azerbaijan chooses to spend thousands (if not millions) of government money on things like Eurovision while paying no attention whatsoever to the internal situation on the ground where for the record, journalists and activists get arrested on faked up charges.

So yea people, continue celebrating something as unnecessary and stupid as a Eurovision song contest, while turning a blind eye on human rights, freedom of expression and all the other violations taking place in your country. Because who cares about that right when Azerbaijan won such an important event of the year?!
These sentiments were echoed by @scaryazeri and Amnesty International:
@scaryazeri: Great! Now that everyone is excited about #Eurovision, we can all forget about human rights and other issues in #azerbaijan!

@amnestymanc: congrats to #Azerbaijan for #Eurovision win! Now pls free elections & media, no political prisoners & no torture http://tinyurl.com/5tggdmy
But there is now a potential for activists to use the Eurovision for advancing the rights in Azerbaijan.
@GoldenTent: #Democracy advocates of #Azerbaijan - 12 months of #Eurovision coverage can work to your advantage - start your engines! ;) #Caucasus #esc
We may safely bet that despite recent militaristic rhetorics from the Azeri authorities, there will be no war in the coming year.
@supersayatnova: Azerbaijan win at #Eurovision means one more year without war #esc
Another important issue. Eurovision is a contest with huge gay following. Azerbaijan winning the contest means 'Gay Pride parade' is coming to Baku. Will Azeri authorities be able to ensure that rights and the safety of LGBT fans and participants of the contest are protected and they won’t face discrimination? Gay activists in Azerbaijan and abroad could use the occasion to improve the situation with the gay rights and target widespread homophobia in the country.

One of the popular thoughts on Twitter was Armenia coming to Baku and winning the Eurovision 2012.
@mmkarmenia: Imagine if next year #Armenia takes the first place in #Azerbaijan, that can be something. #Eurovision 
@turkhankarim: Next year Armenians will come in Azerbaijan for Eurovision. And they will win... This is my peace opinion. Let it be true :)))
Truly, an incredible thought.

And to end this post, I chose this extremely positive tweet by @dolcenelly:
all i can say is that South Caucasus rules: both Junior and Senior Eurovisions are going to be held in this region!:) #positiveview #Arm #Az
Here is hoping.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

For the first time ever... Armenia is OUT of Eurovision final. Failure that I warned you about...

I feel sorry for Emmy. Stage-wise they did whatever possible or impossible to save the performance. It was entertaining. But... what happened to her voice? Vocally it was too bad. But... that’s not even the most important aspect of it. There was this big BUT there... the BUT that mattered the most... At the end of the day, THAT song sucked. Spectacularly. It always did.

The failure that amounted to a cold shower for the Public TV of Armenia, the organisers of the Eurovision Song Contest. They can no longer rely on Diaspora voting. They must rely on quality, even if Eurovision-like. It’s as simple as that.

I warned you. I sincerely did.

Read my latest comments I made before today’s semi-final so that nothing could influence what I had to say...
Major fail for Armenia in Eurovision. Emmy was robbed of her Eurovision song 
Cute Emmy + hot Greek dancers. Things started looking better for Armenia in Eurovision
Nothing and no one (absolutely no one) could help Armenia to progress further with THAT song, and deservedly so. No, I am not rejoicing that my predictions came true. I am just stating the facts.
(AM) Միշտ ասել եմ: Մենակ մեռնելուս օրը չգիտեմ: Ու տենց... (Նորայրի ականջը կանչի) 
via @onewmphoto: Obviously Armenia needs to hire @unzippedblog for its next Eurovision attempt... #ESC2011
I am glad that my favourites from the 1st semi - Georgia, Lithuania and Greece - all progressed to the final.

Georgia stood out in Eurovision context and may be beyond. Even my sexual orientation was questioned for a moment or two. A friend of mine commented on Facebook re my liking of Georgian entry: “and really, Mika, one would never know you were gay”. [*smile* and *like*]

Respects to Lithuania. Not only they were good vocally, but the use of sign language... RESPECTS.

And Greece... except from that rapping part, it was hot. Seriously.

Sunday 8 May 2011

First case from Georgia to the European Court of Human Rights concerning police homophobia

Good precedent (first such case not only from Georgia but the South Caucasus as a whole)... and FYI: all homophobic officials from post-Soviet states and beyond out there.

For more background info on this story:

Police attacks Georgian LGBT group Inclusive Foundation in Tbilisi. Head of organisation Paata Sabelashvili arrested

More details re detention of Paata Sabelashvili, head of Georgian LGBT group Inclusive Foundation

Europe's gay rights group ILGA-Europe condemns police raid of member organisation in Georgia, demands immediate release of its board member Paata Sabelashvili (statement and pictures)

Armenian groups condemn violence against gays in Georgia and call for immediate release of detained Georgian gay rights activist Paata Sabelashvilli

Interestingly, Paata was not mentioned among applicants to the European Court. He was the head (co-founder) of the Inclusive Foundation, LGBT NGO in Georgia. Unfortunately, the Inclusive Foundation is no longer active.

Thanks to LGBT Asylum News for the info.

*via LGBT Asylum News

Sunday, 8 May 2011
First case from Georgia to the European Court of Human Rights concerning police homophobia


The International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights (INTERIGHTS), together with Article 42 of the Constitution, a Georgian human rights NGO, has submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Aghdgomelashvili and Japaridze v Georgia (Application no. 7224/11).

The case concerns a police search of the premises of the ‘Inclusive Foundation’ (IF) conducted on 15 December 2009. From 2006 to 2009 the IF was the only lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) NGO in Georgia. It was co-founded by the first applicant, Eketarine Aghdgomelashvili who is currently the Executive Director of ‘Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group’ (WISG). The second applicant, Tinatin Japaridze worked for the IF as a full time programme officer from 2006 to 2009 and is currently a project manager at the ‘WISG’.

The complaint to the Court alleges that, in conducting their search, the police officers abused their powers and violated the relevant domestic procedures whilst subjecting the applicants to humiliating and degrading treatment.

In particular, as soon as the police officers discovered the nature of the IF’s work, they displayed extreme homophobic behaviour towards all the individuals present in the office including the applicants.  This included multiple insults and rough treatment based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation. The IF staff were also unlawfully strip searched without being provided with any explanation or information about their rights.

Even though it has been two years since the incident, both applicants are still extremely upset and stressed by the police officers’ behaviour and its negative effect on their lives.

The seriousness of the incident is reflected in the significant amount of attention it has received both in the media and civil society. Both national and international NGOs have made public statements condemning the violations and appealed to the Georgian authorities to remedy them. However, despite all of this, there has never been any investigation or attempt to hold any of the police officers accountable.

The application argues that the applicants were subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights) and /or interference in their private lives (Article 8 of the Convention) as well as discrimination based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation (Article 14 of the Convention; Article 1 of Protocol No 12). In addition, it is contended that applicants’ strip searches were not “in accordance with the law” and did not pursue any of the legitimate aims envisaged by the second paragraph of Article 8 of the Convention. Further, it is submitted that, in the absence of an investigation into the incident, including whether it was motivated by homophobia and a subsequent failure of the State to identify and punish those responsible, there is a continuing procedural violation of Articles 3, 8 and 14.  The lack of effective remedies also breaches Article 13 of the Convention.

This is the first case from Georgia concerning homophobic ill-treatment by the police. In the absence of any similar judgments against other member states to the Council of Europe, it provides the Court with the opportunity to express its position in relation to such a serious issue. In particular the application places the incident within the wider context in Georgia where discriminatory practices towards LGBT individuals, a vulnerable group, regularly occur.

This case is a further illustration of attempts by officials in the former Soviet Union space to suppress LGBT activism which has already been done through banning gay-pride marches (see Alekseyev v Russia, nos. 4916/07, 25924/08 and 14599/09; Genderdoc-M v Moldova, no. 9106/06), resorting to hate speech (Alekseyev  et al v Russia, no 39954/09) or refusing to register LGBT NGOs.

*picture - via ILGA-Europe

"I got f**ked at your mum's house" - "pop/punk/emo/rock anthem" :)

*Central London

'Trashy Lingerie' & more, Soho, London

Sunday 1 May 2011

Cute Emmy + hot Greek dancers. Things started looking better for Armenia in Eurovision

While I have big reservations about Emmy’s Boom-Boom song, I started getting a little bit excited about her performance. Well, the picture says it all ;) Good choice of hot Greek dancers + cute Emmy. After all, this might not be as bad as I have thought before. Will keep an eye.

*picture - by Alain Douit (EBU) via Eurovision.tv

UK Eurovision entry Blue Royal Wedding themed performance at G-A-Y (Heaven nightclub) in London

Thoroughly enjoyed performance by Blue - UK Eurovision representative - at popular gay club G-A-Y (Heaven nightclub) in London tonight. At first, club promoter Jeremy Joseph conducted his Eurovision themed quiz. Then Blue started their performance with the Royal Wedding themed entrance. A fabulous one (you may see it towards the end of the video).

I am so routing for Blue to win the Eurovision. In any case, they were fab at G-A-Y, and very sexy, indeed. You rock, guys.

Related: Hot! UK Eurovision entry - Blue, naked on the cover of Attitude magazine