Thursday, 5 November 2015

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.

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