Friday 29 June 2012

PACE delegates slam Armenian MPs who condoned attack on gay friendly bar DIY in capital Yerevan (statement)

*source: PACE (Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe)

Homophobic violence openly condoned by certain Armenian members of Parliament 

27 June 2012  
Written declaration 527 

On May 8 an LGBT friendly bar in Yerevan was firebombed. Two of the arsonists have been arrested.

Certain Armenian MPs have openly condoned the arson attack. One is reported to have stated that the attack was completely “right and justified”, and to have claimed that those who support the rights of LGBT Armenians "are perverting our society, are defaming the Armenian national identity." Two others paid the bail of one of the arsonists. One of these MPs is reported to have asserted that the arsonists "acted in accordance with our society's values and national ideology", although adding that "it was wrong to cause material damage".

We call upon the Armenian authorities to publicly repudiate such statements, to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice and to put in place measures to protect LGBT people from violence and discrimination and to counteract homophobic and transphobic attitudes in society, in accordance with the Committee of Ministers Recommendation on measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. 


ALONSO José Antonio Spain SOC
ANDERSON Donald United Kingdom SOC
AXELSSON Lennart Sweden SOC
CONNARTY Michael United Kingdom SOC
ČRNAK MEGLIČ Andreja Slovenia SOC
DAVIES Geraint United Kingdom SOC
DAVIES Don Canada
DOBBIN Jim United Kingdom SOC
FISCHEROVÁ Jana Czech Republic EDG
GARDETTO Jean-Charles Monaco EPP/CD
HÄGG Carina Sweden SOC
HAUGLI Håkon Norway SOC
JENSEN Mogens Denmark SOC
LUNDGREN Kerstin Sweden ALDE
MEALE Alan United Kingdom SOC
MULIĆ Melita Croatia SOC
OHLSSON Carina Sweden SOC
RECORDON Luc Switzerland SOC
SHERIDAN Jim United Kingdom SOC
SYDOW Björn, von Sweden SOC
VILLUMSEN Nikolaj Denmark UEL
VUČKOVIĆ Nataša Serbia SOC
WURM Gisela Austria SOC

Total = 28

*EPP/CD: Group of the European People's Party SOC: Socialist Group ALDE: Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe EDG: European Democrat Group UEL: Group of the Unified European Left NR: Representatives not belonging to a Political Group

Relevant background reading: 

"How tolerant are citizens of Armenia?" - animation by CivilNetTV

CivilNetTV presents this animation based on compilation of survey data suggesting pretty widespread lack of tolerance in Armenia. On so many levels. An example: 94% of Armenians would not want gay neighbour. [sources of the survey data: the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Caucasus Research Resource Centre]

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Historic Petition: Armenians Support LGBT Rights in Armenia

The Armenian Gay and Lesbian Association of New York has sponsored the following historic petition that is co-signed by 20+ leading Armenian cultural figures who have unified their voices to support human rights in Armenia. This is the first time such a petition has been created in support of LGBT human rights in Armenia.

Please sign and share the petition with all your friends, family and allies.

[I am so glad to see one of my favourite film-makers, prominent Canadian Armenian director Atom Egoyan signature under the petition.]

* * *

For Immediate Release

June 26, 2012

The Government of Armenia: Honor the Constitutional Right of Each Citizen 

We, the undersigned, write to support democratic and human rights for all in Armenia. We are disturbed by the May 8 firebombing of the gay-friendly bar DIY and the subsequent vandalism of the space. Attacks on the May 21st Cultural Diversity march in Yerevan by a few hundred “neo-fascists,” some wearing swastikas, lead us to fear that the democratic nature of Armenian society is threatened. Though police have done an admirable job of maintaining order over the course of the attacks, the government has not responded directly to the incidents, nor produced a clear message of tolerance for diversity. Some members of the Armenian government have even made statements condoning these attacks, going so far as to claim that such violence against LGBT Armenians is a means of protecting “the national ideology.”

We stand with the United Nations, the United States Embassy, Amnesty International, the Armenian Ombudsman, the European Union and the Council of Europe, in calling for the Armenian government to act in alignment with global human rights values. We call on President Serzh Sargsyan, his administration, members of Parliament, and all local governing leaders to honor the constitutional right of each citizen of the Armenian Republic to be treated with dignity and respect.

Initial signatories include: Nancy Agabian, Shushan Avagyan, Arlene Avakian, Peter Balakian, Anna Barseghian, Eve Beglarian, Eric Bogosian, Chris Bohjalian, Diana Der Hovanessian, Gregory Djanikian, Atom Egoyan, Aris Janigian, TJ Jourian, Nina Katchadourian, David Kherdian, Nancy Kricorian, Micheline Aharonian Marcom, Marc Nichanian, Meline Toumani, Hrag Vartanian

The text of the petition may be found here.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Armenians at the NYC Gay Pride Parade !!

Armenian Gay & Lesbian Association of New York - AGLA NY, at NYC Gay Pride Parade today.

Have a happy Pride Day, guys!!

*picture via @veken

Saturday 23 June 2012

Armenia: A Slow Slide Into Fascism? (Huffington Post)

Very powerful post by Christopher Atamian on Huffington Post. A must read that should act as an alarm bell.

"Now of course is not the time to abandon Armenia. Armenia continues to be a strong ally of the United States. Armenians around the world, in spite of the oligarchs' best efforts to destroy their people's reputation as an educated, hard-working minority, continue to be a symbol of survival and success. But LGBT organizations, the American government and the relatively powerful Armenian diaspora must unite in putting real pressure on the Armenian government to reverse the worrying anti-democratic and fascistic developments that threaten to completely engulf the country. The Armenian government must not only fight corruption, it must publicly oppose attacks on all minorities, particularly LGBT people, and promote an atmosphere of democracy and tolerance in the country. Not to do so is to shame Armenians around the world, not to mention the memory of 1.5 million people who lost their lives during the Armenian Genocide."
Huffington Post

Armenia: A Slow Slide Into Fascism?

Christopher Atamian 
Writer, director, producer and translator

Armenians in the far-flung diaspora are justifiably proud that their ancestors survived the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and thrived wherever they went in the world, and that Armenia made a significant contribution in the 20th century battle against fascism, contributing over 500,000 men during WW II to fight Hitler and defeat the Nazis, losing an estimated 100,000 in the process. During the Soviet years which ended in 1991, Armenia was even a haven for Jews as some 10,000 "internal" Jewish immigrants fled Russia, the Ukraine and other Soviet Republics to settle in Yerevan, the country's capital, where they encountered an almost complete absence of anti-semitism and quickly assimilated into the Armenian nation.
But since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a far more unseemly and dangerous type of Armenia has emerged. The country has been overrun by a small circle of anti-democratic Oligarchs who have filled their pockets, essentially stealing the nation's wealth while failing to develop the economy: as a result, half the population has left the country and those that remain live in a state of shameful poverty. Elections have been mostly anti-democratic and rigged. The diaspora sends money, opens institutes and businesses and tries as best it can to counteract the frightening news that continues to emerge from Yerevan.
For all practical purposes, Armenia is a step away from dictatorship. It is the same oligarchs who run both the country's business and political worlds who have apparently supported the most recent attacks on the country's tiny and vulnerable LGBT community. Following a brain drain in the 1990s and 2000s, it seems that the Armenian government is intent on chasing out anyone who can possibly contribute to the country's culture, including its LGBT people. Aided by a growing neo-fascist party and a powerful Armenian Apostolic church that also continues to consider gay people "perverted" and "against the interests of the Armenian nation," anti-LGBT sentiment continues to increase in Armenia.
These attacks intensified on May 7th of this year when Tsomak Oganesova's bar DIY was firebombed at 5 A.M. by two Iranian-Armenians who were arrested but quickly set free by a member of the nationalist ARF Dashnaktsutiun Party (the equivalent of Armenian Zionists). DIY was one of the only bars in Yerevan open to free thinkers and where artists and LGBT people were free to gather and exchange ideas. Naturally, many of its patrons were LGBT people. The ARF and the Armenian government have yet to release official statements condemning this last, cowardly attack. In fact Eduard Sharmazanov, the deputy speaker of parliament, also spoke positively about the alleged attackers in a post on his Facebook page. On the ATV television station's "Half-Open Windows" last week one could, however, watch a nauseating alliance of self-proclaimed fascists and priests denouncing gay people in the most vile and deplorable ways.
Now of course is not the time to abandon Armenia. Armenia continues to be a strong ally of the United States. Armenians around the world, in spite of the oligarchs' best efforts to destroy their people's reputation as an educated, hard-working minority, continue to be a symbol of survival and success. But LGBT organizations, the American government and the relatively powerful Armenian diaspora must unite in putting real pressure on the Armenian government to reverse the worrying anti-democratic and fascistic developments that threaten to completely engulf the country. The Armenian government must not only fight corruption, it must publicly oppose attacks on all minorities, particularly LGBT people, and promote an atmosphere of democracy and tolerance in the country. Not to do so is to shame Armenians around the world, not to mention the memory of 1.5 million people who lost their lives during the Armenian Genocide.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Georgian bloggers against homophobia

...with their version of classic Lily Allen - F*ck You

Well done!!

*via Queer Georgia FB group

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Widow of Armenia national hero Monte Melkonian blasts ultra-nationalists for hijacking his name to spread hatred and anti-gay violence

This picture shows one of the ‘activists’ from the ultra-nationalist, neo-nazi crowd who attacked diversity march in Yerevan, few weeks ago. He spotted wearing T-shirt with Monte Melkonian face on it.

In a letter to contemporary writer, journalist Vahan Ishkhanyan, widow of Armenia’s national hero Monte Melkonyan blasts Armenian ultra-nationalists for hijacking Monte’s name to spread hatred and anti-gay violence.

“Poor Monte, what have they made of him”, writes his widow Seta by making it clear in no uncertain terms of Monte’s dislike towards such ultra-nationalists. He was anti-fascist and defender of rights of minorities, including LGBT, claims Monte’s widow.

Truly, Monte would have felt mortified seeing how neo-nazi thugs exploit his name against everything he believed in. Today is the anniversary of his death.

Below I am re-posting extracts (AM) from a MUST READ entry by Vahan Ishkhanyan. Lessons from Seta, widow of Monte, to ultra-nationalists in Armenia.

Ի՞նչ հայրենիք էր ուզում տեսնել Մոնթեն. դաս ուլտրա-նացիոնալիստներին

Seta and Monte
Կպատկերացնե՞ր Մոնթե Մելքոնյանը, որ գալու է ժամանակ, երբ իր դիմանկարով շոր հագած  երիտասարդը պայքարելու է իր գաղափարների դեմ ու Երևանի փողոցներում գոռալու է «գոմիկներին Բաքու», «մաքուր հայեր», և որ ուլտրա-նացիոնալիստները իրեն դրոշ են դարձնելու ատելության քարոզի ու միասեռկաններին ճնշելու համար:

Մայսի 22-ին բազմազանության երթի վրա հարձակվող լուսնկարի երիտասարդը, ինչպես երևում է կրում է Մոնթեի դիմանկարը: Տեսաֆիլմերում նա ամենակտիվ արգելափակողներից էր Նկարիչների միության մուտքը, ուր գտնվում էին Բազմազանության ցույցի մասնակիցները:

«Խեղճ Մոնթէ, այս ի՜նչ են դարձրել իրեն,- ԱՄՆ-ից նամակով իր վրդովմունքն է հայտնում Մոնթեի կինը` Սեդա Մելքոնյանը,- Հայաստանի լուրերից գիտէի արդէն DIY ակումբի ամօթալի դէպքի մասին: Նաև կարդացել էի քո Blog-ը այդ առնչութեամբ: Սա ի՞նչ խայտառակութիւն է:

Հայերը մարդկանց իրաւունքները յարգելու փոխարէն իրենց տգիտութեամբ մարդկանց դաստիարակելու են դուրս եկել: Ինձ համար ամէնակարևորը այստեղ մարդ արարածի իրաւունքն է: Մարդը պէտք է ազատ լինի իր սեռային նախընտրութիւնը ընտրելու կամ որոշելու:
Իսկ Մոնթէն ոչ թէ միայն հակաֆաշիստ էր և փոքրամասնութիւնների պաշտպան, այլ մարդկային իրաւունքների պաշտպան: Նա երբէք մարդկանց պիտակ չէր կպցնի նրանց սեռային նախընտրութեան հիման վրայ և վատ չէր վերաբերուի նրանց: Նրա յարգած պատմաբաններից մէկը Նշան Սարոյանն էր, ում ես անպայման ուզեցի և յաջողացրեցի ծանօթանալ 1993-ին՝ AIDS-ի պատճառով նրա մահուանից մի քիչ առաջ:

Նշան Սարոյանը Կովկասի և յատկապէս Ատրպէյճանի մասնագէտ էր, որքան յիշում եմ: Ափսոս երիտասարդ մահացաւ: Միասեռական էր և վարակուեց AIDS-ով, երբ դեռ հիւանդութիւնը կարգաւորելու դեղորայք չկար: Ես նրան Պըրքլիում հանդիպեցի 1993-ի աշնան: Շատ շոյուած էի, որ հակառակ տկար լինելուն կարողացաւ գալ՝ սիստեման ձեռքին միացրած: Մի քանի ժամ միասին անցկացրեցինք: Իսկապէս լաւ մարդ էր»:
Մոնթեն հայացքները ձևավորվել են ձախ գաղափարներով և նրա մտերիմ ընկերները հենց ձախ արմատական շրջանակներից էին: Իսկ փոքրամասնության, մասնավորապես սեռական փոքրամասնությունների պաշտպանության գաղափարը առաջին անգամ բարձրացրել են հենց ձախերր և այսօր էլ փոքրամասնությունների և մասնավորապես միասեռականների պաշտպանության առաջամարտիկները ամբողջ աշխարհում ձախ, մարքսիստական հոսանքներն են:
Մոնթէն բացարձակապէս տանել չէր կարողանում ազգայնամոլութիւնը և ատում էր «վրէժ» բառը: Ճիշդն ասած երբ Վրէժ անունով մարդ էինք հանդիպում, միշտ ծիծաղում էինք ասելով, որ «ի՜նչ մեղք է: Խեղճին անունը Վրէժ է»: Յարգանք ունէր լաւ մարտիկի նկատմամբ, նոյնիսկ եթէ այդ մարտիկը ազերի է: Մարտադաշտում յարգում էր խիզախ տղաներին և կատաղում երբ մարտից դուրս վնասում էին «թշնամուն»: Գոնէ մէկ դէպքում պատժել է մի մարդու՝ գերի ընկած անզէն ազերի զինուորին վնասելու համար: Անշուշտ բացատրել էին, որ այդ մարդու եղբօրորդին զոհուել էր և դրա համար էր նա ծեծել վիրաւոր զինուորին ու Մոնթէն պէտք է ներող լինի: Բայց Մոնթէն չէր զիջել և գոռացել էր «պատւալ տարէք այդ մարդուն» ևայլն, ևայլն: Կարճ՝ մարդկային իրաւունքների հարցում Մոնթէն որևէ խտրութիւն չէր դնում: [...] Սրանց էլի պէտք է յիշեցնել, թէ ո՞վ էր Մոնթէն և ի՞նչ տեսակ հայրենիք էր ուզում տեսնել

*pictures - via Vahan Ishkhanyan blog on

Saturday 9 June 2012

FYI Sharmazanov & co: European Commission against Racism and Intolerance re Armenia leading political figures openly condoning homophobic violence

Statement by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance about recent events in Armenia, involving leading political figures openly condoning homophobic violence 

*via European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)

Strasbourg, 7.6.2012 - The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) of the Council of Europe wishes to express concern about recent events in Armenia, involving leading political figures openly condoning homophobic violence.

Setting a club on fire was characterised by a high-ranking State official as a rebellion against homosexuals, which was completely right and justified. And one of the persons arrested by the police in connection with the attack was bailed out by two members of parliament, who appeared to provide support for the alleged perpetrators in, inter alia, declarations made to the press.

ECRI draws attention to the destructive consequences that such statements - and the various manifestations of hatred they have encouraged - are likely to have for the peaceful and tolerant society it has always tried to foster in Armenia and all other Council of Europe member States.

In ECRI’s view, events of this nature create a dangerous sense of impunity which undermines, in a fundamental manner, overall respect for human rights. ECRI, therefore, calls on the Armenian authorities to investigate fully the underlying criminal acts with a view to establishing, inter alia, the motives of the alleged perpetrators. It also calls urgently on all Armenian political parties to distance themselves from such extreme forms of expression, which are clearly incompatible with the values that ECRI has always promoted.

ECRI is a human rights body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts, which monitors problems of racism, discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin, colour, citizenship, religion and language, as well as xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance, prepares reports and issues recommendations to member states. For more information on ECRI: Press contact: Stefano Valenti, Council of Europe, tel. +33 (0)3 90 21 43 28 ; E-mail

Read also: 

Terrorists as ‘national heroes’? Armenia ruling Republican party spokesman and MP explicitly support firebombers of DIY bar in capital Yerevan and encourage anti-gay attacks

MPs of ARF Dashnaktsutyun party bail out neo-nazi attacker of DIY bar. Dashnak MP Artsvin Minasyan supports arson attack, effectively encouraging terrorism in Armenia

Disgraced Armenia MP from ARF Dashnaktsutyun Artsvik Minasyan calls for fight against gays as “threat to national security”

Human Rights House Network: 'Actions of extremist protestors in Yerevan constitute criminal behaviour and illegal under Armenia Constitution'

"The actions of the extremist protestors in Yerevan constitute criminal behaviour, which is based on discrimination against sexual minorities. This kind of hate speech, which amounted to threats of violence, is illegal under the Armenian Constitution."

*via Human Rights House Network

Violent reactions against peaceful diversity and LGBT demonstrations 

Peaceful demonstrations celebrating the 10th anniversary of World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, and the International Day against Homophobia were met with violence and retaliation.

Friday, 08 June 2012, by HRHF Geneva Office, based on various sources and HRHN partners

The 10th anniversary of the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development was marked by tension and violence in Armenia. In Belarus, Georgia, Russia and Ukraine, LGBT rights demonstrations have been met with resistance from authorities and conservative sectors of society. The United Nations 2012 world day of cultural diversity, on 21 May, sought to encourage support for diversity, to foster an intercultural dialogue on inclusion, and to combat isolation and stereotyping.


The peaceful march staged in Yerevan on 21 May, organised by Human Rights House Network partners PINK and Women's Resource Centre, to promote and celebrate Armenia’s cultural, ethnic, human and fauna diversity, was met with violence from civilian protestors. The march - which included participants from various social backgrounds; civic activists, refugees living in Armenia, and representatives of NGOs and international organisations - was surrounded by a human chain formed by the civilian protestors, who directed homophobic insults and fascist slogans at the procession.

Prior to the march, misleading information had been spread via social media, claiming that it was in fact a gay parade, provoking the discriminatory actions of the civilian protestors. The extremist protestors attempted to stop the march, threatening violence and intimidating the participants, the homophobic hate speech directed towards the marchers was framed as “patriotic.” Police clashed with the protestors, and managed to stop them from gaining entry to the art exhibition that had been organised for the occasion, however, PINK reports that the situation was not handled well by police, as their presence failed to ensure the safety of the activists.

The actions of the extremist protestors in Yerevan constitute criminal behaviour, which is based on discrimination against sexual minorities. This kind of hate speech, which amounted to threats of violence, is illegal under the Armenian Constitution. 

[Read also: HATE CRIME: DIY bar in Armenia capital Yerevan under neo-nazi arson attack and Neo-nazi attack Diversity march in Armenia capital Yerevan calling it "gay pride"]


In Tbilisi, a peaceful demonstration organised in support of LGBT rights on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, on May 17th, was met with opposition from protestors, most of whom were Orthodox Christians or priests. BBC reports that one priest among the civilian protestors called the march “propaganda [for a] wrong way of life.” These protestors called on the police to put a stop to the march, and when the police refused to do so, the protestors took matters into their own hands, and violence erupted. Police stepped in, and arrests where made on both sides.

Human Rights House Tbilisi member, the Human Rights Centre reported that the police action was unsatisfactory in protecting the LGBT activists and their right to freedom of expression; despite contacting the police in advance about possible threats to their safety during the march, activists’ security was still not guaranteed.

Furthermore, Human Rights Centre reports that when making arrests, the police targeted the LGBT activists, rather than the violent protestors. [...]

Thursday 7 June 2012

Kanan Taghiyev to represent Azerbaijan at Mr Gay Europe 2012 (No longer! - post updated)

UPDATE 9 June 2012: As per update I received from the office of Mr Gay Europe, due to "unforeseen circumstances", Azerbaijan has had to pull out of the Mr Gay Europe:

"I would just like to inform you that for unforeseen circumstances Azerbaijan has had to pull out of the Mr. Gay Europe Competition. This saddens us greatly as it would have been great to have a representative from this part of the world do a great job for gay rights. I wish him all the best in all his future endeavours."

I may only speculate that "unforeseen circumstances" mean this guy came under pressure from certain circles in Azerbaijan to pull out of the competition, as soon as news of his participation became public. [I posted the info on my blog 2 days ago as soon as Mr Gay Europe made initial delegates' info public] Sad to know, indeed...
For the second time in a brief history of this contest, Azerbaijan will be represented at Mr Gay Europe.

Kanan Taghiyev will represent Azerbaijan at Mr Gay Europe 2012 to be held in Italy in August.

Name: Kanan Taghiyev 
Representing Azerbaijan
Age: 21
Height: 173 cm
Zodiac: Leo
Hair: Brown
Eyes: Brown
City: Baku
Occupation: Study social and cultural service and tourism
Hobbies: Relaxing

Neither Armenia nor Georgia participated in the Mr Gay Europe. Initial intentions and announcement on possible Armenia participation from 2008 were scrapped due to lack of sponsorship. In 2007, Azerbaijan was represented by Sadikh Ragimov, 19 yrs old, from Baku. Interestingly, over the last two years Russia's entrants to the Mr Gay Europe were Ramin Ismailov of Azeri origin (in 2010/11) and David Baramija of Georgian origin (in 2009).

*picture - via Mr Gay Europe

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Homophobe Gevorg Altunyan promoted to head Armenia Public TV’s main propaganda machine - Haylur

As a deputy head of news and analytical programmes at Public TV, Gevorg Altunyan was known to be a not so subtle manipulator of information under the disguise of ‘analytical commentary’.

His ‘Tesankyun’ programme was simply impossible to watch as it was a crying example of KGB style propaganda and manipulation of information to suit authorities’ orders.

He is also a well known homophobe , and constantly spreads hate and intolerance towards LGBT people in Armenia. Not surprisingly, he is part of Armenia Homophobia Hall of Shame.

Haylur sucked in past. Haylur sucks now. With Gevorg Altunyan promoted to head it, Haylur will continue producing information garbage in the foreseeable future.

Guests of the Rights Awards ceremony at the US embassy in Armenia: Ups and Downs

For background - read Secretary Clinton honors Armenia rights advocates

Thumbs Up!

*picture - by PanArmenian photo (Varo Rafaelyan)

I am glad to see that along with the head of PINK Armenia, owner of DIY Tsomak was among the invited guests too. This was a nice gesture and show of support and solidarity from organisers. ["HATE CRIME: DIY bar in Armenia capital Yerevan under neo-nazi arson attack"]

Thumbs Down!

I have a big reservation, however, re one particular invited guest - environmentalist Karine Danielyan. She is a Soviet-style 'activist' and doesn't fit contemporary rights movement. She is included in Armenia Homophobia Hall of Shame for considering gays as 'threat to national security', and more recently spotted promoting her 'activism' by claiming cleaner environment contributes to reducing number of LGBT people (!). Bigots like her should not be welcome in any civilised gatherings, especially RIGHTS related.

Secretary Clinton honors Armenia rights advocates

U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, joined the U.S. Embassy, Counterpart International, the British Embassy, the OSCE, and the EU to honor individuals working to promote human rights, accountable governance, and free speech in Armenia at the Universal Rights Awards Ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan. Secretary Clinton delivered remarks at the event and met privately with the award recipients. The Universal Rights Awards Ceremony was the first multi-mission initiative to highlight the contributions of Armenia’s civil rights activists, government officials, and media representatives to the promotion of human rights. Armenian government officials, foreign diplomats, NGO representatives, and the press attended the event.
Well deserved Awardees. Big congrats!!
Freedom Defender Award - Artur Sakunts
USAID/Armenia Mission Director, Jatinder Cheema, opened the ceremony and awarded Artur Sakunts with the Freedom Defender Award. “Artur defends all minorities, especially those that are the target of intolerance, such as ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities. He is not afraid to take unpopular stances, working constantly for a more tolerant Armenia,” said Director Cheema.

Woman of Courage Award - Tsovinar Nazaryan
Counterpart International’s Chief of Party, Alex Sardar, presented the Woman of Courage Award to Tsovinar Nazaryan for her military reform efforts. “Tsovinar should be proud of her role in encouraging the military to embrace reform, which will lead to a more modern, effective, and humane force for Armenia,” Mr. Sardar said.

Award for media excellence -
Presenting the award for media excellence to the editors of -- Sonya Apresova, Yuri Manvelyan, and Armen Melikbekyan -- the Head of the OSCE Office in Yerevan, Ambassador Andrey Sorokin, commended them for their fair and balanced coverage and commitment to human rights reporting. Ambassador Sorokin stated, “Epress’s coverage of human rights plays an important role in informing the public and contributing to public debate. This type of reporting is an important element in Armenia’s democratic transformation.

*based on Hetq Online, pictures - by Counterpart International Armenia FB page

Sunday 3 June 2012

Vahan Bournazian: Sex, Choice, Fascism and the Nation (MUST READ!!)


*via The Armenian Reporter

Vahan Bournazian

Vahan Bournazian is associate professor at the American University of Armenia (AUA) in Yerevan and has been living in Armenia since 2004.
Police are containing anti-gay demonstrators harassing a "diversity march" in Yerevan; signs being held up say "Keep children away" and "They are gay." Photolure

Sex, choice, fascism and the nation

Jun 01, 2012: Following the May 8 arson at a gay friendly club in Yerevan and subsequent pro-diversity march accompanied by an anti-gay demonstration on May 21, human rights lawyer Vahan Bournazian writes about sexuality, the importance of personal liberty and dangers of fascism.  more...

*via Hetq Online
[Armenian version: Սեռ, ընտրություն, ֆաշիզմ և ազգ]
31 May 2012

Sex, Choice, Fascism and the Nation

By Vahan Bournazian*

Who chose that you would be male or female?  When did you choose to be heterosexual?  Our nature is not our choice. 

In 1999 I could have married.  I knew an intelligent, kind and wonderful friend who I think would have said yes.  But I didn’t ask, because it would have been a lie.  How could I lie to my friend?  

To live an honest life we must be brave enough to recognize our own true nature.  And the bravest of all live openly.

To be gay is not a choice.  Who would choose to be hated?  And what society, culture, church or institution would choose that we lie and deceive each other by means of false relations?  Neither sex nor sexual orientation is a choice. 

Also, sexual orientation is not the same as sex.  Sexual orientation is a spectrum, and individuals exist all along the line between the two points.  There are many medieval notions of the world that we now reject, and science has shown that the earth is a sphere and that individuals in over 240 species in nature engage in homosexual behavior. 

This is because sex is not about reproduction alone.  Married couples do not engage in sex for the goal of reproduction.  No one engages in sex with the sole intent to reproduce.  If reproduction were the goal of sex, then all methods of contraception would be banned, both legally and morally, for contraception prevents reproduction. 

Sex is about transcendence.  Our individuality isolates us; each of us is like a caterpillar trapped in the cocoon which is our body.  We seek to transcend our isolation, break our loneliness, by bonding with another, both spiritually and physically.  We achieve communion with another only to varying degrees, and sometimes we call it love.  But true transcendence, true love, is rare; and if it ever happens to you, embrace as a gift from God. 

How often in your life have you been denied the right to choose?  Maybe your parents decided where and what you should study.  Maybe your family decided with whom you would socialize, and with whom you should not.  Maybe you could not practice your profession because the job was given to someone less capable but with greater influence.  Maybe you were even told who to marry.  But no one can ever dictate whom you love. 

How do you feel when you have no choice in your life?  How do you feel when others dictate decisions for you?  What would it be like for society to demand that you be the opposite of who you are?  

Fascism abhors choice, because Fascism rejects individuality.  Fascism values the nation, but to an extreme that negates the value of the individual.  Fascism does not value individuals, neither me nor you. 

Fascism is totalitarian:  the organization of all aspects of society into one hierarchical structure whereby decisions are made from above and you are to obey.  It is the militarization of all aspects of life and the only question is to find your place in the hierarchy:  whose head will you stand on and who will stand on your head? There may be good reason for an army to be organized as a hierarchy that cannot be questioned.  But no one wants to live his/her entire life under orders as a soldier.  Also, Fascism must be enforced by violence and hatred because the devaluing of the individual to such an extreme is unappealing to everyone once it is realized. 

Fascism is detrimental to the Armenian nation because, by denying choice, by rejecting individuality, Fascism does not allow individuals to develop to their full potential.  Armenia has few natural resources.  Our only real asset is our people.   Armenia needs each individual to discover and cultivate their natural gifts.  The student who chose her field of study is more likely to pursue her studies wholeheartedly.  The employee who chose work that she enjoys will do a better job.  The couple who marry for love will create an honest and loving environment for children.  By employing the power of choice individuals excel in what they choose to do. 

What is good for the individual is good for the nation.  The university faculty filled with students who chose that field of study will be a better faculty.  Students must want to learn.  Professors cannot force students to learn:  a call to duty and threats of reprisals achieve little.  A student interested in her field of study will learn much more, and a faculty filled with students who want to learn will achieve more collectively, as a community, than a faculty filled with disinterested students.  Likewise, a company or a ministry filled with capable people who chose their profession will work better and achieve more than a company or ministry filed with people who just want a job and know someone to place them there.  A call to duty means little to a disinterested person or one incapable of doing the job.  The power of choice provides for the development of the individual, and likewise the development of the nation. 

And what of families?  Families are for children and each child deserves a loving, harmonious family.  Everyone loves their children, but logic dictates that parents who chose each other freely, based on love, are more able to create an honest, loving environment for children.  I cannot change my nature.  Should society use violence and shame to force me into a heterosexual relationship?  Duty and obligation cannot be a substitute for the transcendence of the soul.  Lonely and unfulfilled, constantly wondering about the growing void in my life, I would not be capable of making anyone else happy, least of all my family.  Duty and obligation are poor substitutes for choice.  

And for a society to demand that an individual reject transcendence, reject a chance for true love, and instead engage in a deceit, in a lie, which is against the individual’s own true nature, is for the society to act against God.  My sex and my sexual orientation are not a choice; should I ever find love, it will be based on my true sexual orientation and it will be a gift from God. 

We are a small nation in a small country.  We have to find a way to respect each other and make space for each other.  Those who call for violence and hatred against fellow Armenians who happen to be different, dehumanize their own brethren and display the same intolerance that was the foundation of the Genocide.  To drive out from Armenia Armenians who are different in this way or in that, will be to do the work of our enemies for them.  The true nationalist respects individuality, truth and choice because these values grow a better nation.

*Associate Professor of Law at AUA.  All opinions and perspectives are his own.