Thursday 5 November 2015

US Ambassador and UN office in Armenia in solidarity with LGBT activists amid homophobic hysteria and threats following groundbreaking Rainbow forum

A group of homophobic Putin fans in Armenia announced their plan to stage a protest action on 6 November against US Ambassador’s statement in front of... the EU office in Yerevan. These guys certainly need a geography lesson. Along with many other lessons, of course. Well, at least one of them was recently outed on Facebook as a closeted gay. Some revealing Skype chat screenshots were in circulation in what perhaps the first such exposé in Armenia.

But lets forget about these people, they were mentioned here for entertainment purposes only.

Back to the important matters. Great move and statement by the US ambassador in Armenia. Respects.

[more about groundbreaking Rainbow Armenia Forum: here; more about threats received: here. Unzipped: Gay Armenia will make a separate post on Rainbow Forum.]

*picture - via PINK Armenia

*via US Embassy in Armenia

US Ambassador Meets with PINK NGO Representatives, Expresses Concern about Threats of Violence Issued against Them

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills, Jr., visited the offices of the Public Information and Need of Knowledge (PINK) NGO on Thursday, October 29, 2015.

The group briefed the Ambassador on their recent Rainbow Forum, a gathering organized by PINK earlier this month in Lori, which focused on ways to protect the basic human rights of the members of the Armenian LGBT community.

During his visit, PINK representatives described to Ambassador Mills the very real and extreme threats they’ve received since the forum took place, including death threats made against several of its members. The group recently submitted a formal complaint about the threats to the Armenian Prosecutor General.

The U.S. Embassy is deeply troubled by these threats, and condemns in the strongest possible terms such calls for violence. The U.S. Embassy expects the Armenian authorities to fully investigate these threats and protect the basic human rights of the group’s members and all LGBT residents and minority communities in Armenia.

“I have been in Armenia long enough, and spoken to enough Armenians throughout the country, to know that violence and hatred are not part of Armenian society and values.  I urge Armenians to reject these calls to violence.  Those who would espouse such strong hatred of people simply for being different do not adhere to Armenian values as I have seen them,” Ambassador Mills said.
And another important statement by UN office in Armenia:

The United Nations in Armenia is concerned about the recent manifestations of aggressive homophobia and threats of violence against LGBTI activists particularly in social media, following a recent meeting held by activists.

The threat of violence against any group cannot be tolerated, and all persons should be allowed freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and not be subject to discrimination and intimidation.

We call upon the authorities to investigate and prosecute incidents of harassment and abuse against the LGBTI community, to discourage all hate speech, and to take measures to foster tolerance.

Through its international obligations Armenia has made laudable commitments to non-discrimination and tolerance, and the respect of human rights, including those of the ethnic, religious and sexual minorities.

The United Nations stands ready to support Armenia in these commitments. See also the recent global call of the UN for an end to violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons.
More international reaction, this time as a statement of concern by Frontline Defenders human rights group:

LGBTI rights defenders and participants in the first Armenian LGBTI forum have been exposed to ongoing harassment and personal threats since the publication of an article about the forum and its participants on 20 October 2015. […]

Front Line Defenders expresses its concern over the harassment against members of PINK Armenia and other LGBTI forum participants, and the personal death threats they are facing on social media and in person, and believes these acts to be an attempt to prevent LGBTI rights defenders from carrying out their peaceful and legitimate advocacy in defence of human rights.

Bayer Healthcare distances itself from homophobic head of the Armenian Association of Young Doctors, avoids making public statement

Following my blog post President of the Armenian Association of Young Doctors calls for anti-gay violence, quite a few activists and concerned citizens both in Armenia and elsewhere contacted Bayer Healthcare to express their concern and outrage with the fact of their sponsorship of the conference co-organised by the Armenian Association of Young Doctors [to remind, the head of this Association is a virulent homophobe Gevorg Grigoryan who wants gays (“fag*ots”) to be burnt].

From my side, apart from sharing the blog post on FB and Twitter, and tweeting @Bayer and @BayerHealthCare, I contacted directly Bayer via their general maildesk contact system, as well as writing an email to the head of media relations Günter Forneck.

Although I did not receive replies from my email communication, I received a message from Bayer Healthcare via Twitter, explaining their position:
Dear Mika, we have seen your Tweets you published earlier this week.

Bayer condemns any behavior that discriminates against particular groups for example on ground of race and ethnic origin, color, nationality, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, political affiliation.

Bayer does not sponsor the Armenian Association of Young Doctors.

Bayer’s support to the medical conference “Health-related issues of quality of life” in Erevan, 5-7 November 2015, was triggered by its partnership with the Armenian Anti-ageing Medical Association, one of the co-organisers of the conference.

Similar messages were received by others who contacted Bayer Healthcare re this issue.

While I was glad to receive a quick reply from the Bayer Healthcare distancing themselves from the Armenian Association of Young Doctors, and reaffirming their commitment to non-discrimination, I was not happy that these were done via private messages only, i.e. no public statement or press release by Bayer to make their stance firm and public.

My reply to them followed shortly:
Thank you for clarifications about your sponsorship of the conference and for re-affirming your stance against discrimination. I am writing to you on behalf of a group of LGBT activists and allies. I am glad to know that you do not sponsor directly the Armenian Association of Young Doctors. However, your support for the conference, even if via your partnership with the Armenian Anti-aging Medical Association, means that you sponsor an event which include organisation headed by a virulent homophobe. This was covered in social and other media, including the Armenian media outlet The Armenian Association of Young Doctors widely uses the fact of your sponsorship for their PR purposes (example). I would therefore like to ask you to issue a public press release to clarify the situation and your stance. Thank you in advance.

Unfortunately, despite repeated communications and twitter exchanges, I have yet to receive any public statement by Bayer Healthcare.

It is exactly because of such lack of firm stance that homophobes are able to use sponsorship from organisations like Bayer for their PR purposes, by effectively getting rewarded for spreading hate.

As I mentioned in my reply above, support for the conference, even if via partnership with another co-organiser, in the absence of public statement to clarify their stance, means that Bayer Healthcare sponsors an event which is co-organised by a virulent homophobe. As a consequence, many activists now question a non-discrimination commitment by Bayer, while number of young doctors in Armenia are unable to participate in the conference due to virulent homophobia by one of its co-organisers.

This tweet by @hambvart is very telling, indeed:
As young doctor I can't be @ @BayerHealthCare-sponsored conference cause I'm #gay & coorganizer calls 2 burn faggots

Many on Twitter and elsewhere expressed their outrage. Selected examples below:


@unzippedblog @BayerHealthCare really an appalling case of bigotry. Looking forward to read both the blog post and the statement


@unzippedblog @VismundCygnus1 @Bayer @BayerHealthCare This doctor should not only not be rewarded but should lose his license


Young #Armenia|n doctor says "they [#gay|s] should be burnt," must not know about the Hippocratic Oath.


@KarenaAv This is incitement, plain and simple. Surely some law must cover it.

@VismundCygnus1 (here and here):

@GoldenTent @unzippedblog @Bayer @BayerHealthCare yep raises big questions. What if a client unknowingly goes for him for treatment and is a homosexual, wat will he do? Kill d client?! I agree this person cant be a doctor anymore


@VismundCygnus1 @unzippedblog @Bayer @BayerHealthCare I expect Bayer to condemn this & withdraw its support. People are watching.