In December 2002, Armenia adopted a new Criminal Code and abolished the anti-gay article 116 that dated back to 1936. Since then, homosexuality (i.e. gay male sex) is no longer punishable. At the same time, a "gay scene" started to emerge in the capital Yerevan. To this date, there is no gay rights movement in Armenia, that is, not organised or obvious however more subtle gay rights movements exist in the form of a few emerging gay institutions/venues–at home and abroad–supported by Diaspora organisations. (There are active Armenian gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered associations in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Sydney, and elsewhere.) The first gay bar Meline’s opened in November 2004. The first gay NGO called Menk was officially registered by Ministry of Justice in July 2006. Despite this little progress, Armenian society remains homophobic and therefore visitors are strictly advise not to hold hands or kiss in public–athough you will see men (and women) holding each other’s hands in public or kissing each other when they meet or part; this is not necessarily an indicator of sexual orientation but rather established tradition. Even though some venues listed in Sparacus are frequented by gays and lesbians, that doesn’t mean they can be compared to western gay bars and discos.
(From: Gay Armenia)
December 12, 2002 – The Advocate (glbt)
Armenian activists threaten to out politicians
Armenian gay and lesbian activists are threatening to out members of the political establishment who are gay unless police stop harassing sexual minorities, a human rights advocate told Agence France-Presse on Thursday.
Gay people in Armenia, a deeply conservative, Orthodox Christian nation, face relentless persecution and are sometimes forced to flee the country, said Mikael Danielyan, head of the local Helsinki Committee for Human Rights. "They hide their sexual orientation because – if they don’t – the police put pressure on them, they often lose their work, and are beaten up.
Some of them have to go abroad," Danielyan said. Since the former Soviet republic was admitted in January 2001 to the Council of Europe, a human rights and democracy body, Armenia has taken steps to amend its criminal code, under which homosexuality is a crime punishable by up to five years in jail.
The new criminal code, which classifies a homosexual act as illegal only if it is with a sexual minor or amounts to rape, should be submitted to its parliament for approval by the end of the year, Danielyan said. "But even after these changes the situation of sexual minorities will remain difficult. There is absolute intolerance toward gays in society, and there is not a single politician willing to defend their rights," he added.
9 January 2003 – Gay.com U.K.
Armenia Removes Anti-Gay Laws From Criminal Code
The Armenian National Assembly has voted to adopt an updated criminal code on its second reading – removing an anti-gay law. According to the Association of Gay and Lesbian Armenians of France the country has repealed article 116 of its criminal code which punished sex between men with up to 5 years in prison. Seven men were sentenced in Armenia for gay sex in 1996, 4 in 1997 and 4 in 1999. In 2000 ILGA-Europe (an international NGO) lobbied the Council of Europe, demanding abolition of article 116 must be included in the list of pre-conditions to Armenia being considered to enter the European Community. AGLA France said it is encouraging news that Armenia has taken such a step and that gay rights will improve in the country.
7 August 2007 – gayarmenia.blogspot.com
Armenia’s Animosity Towards Gays
by Hetq; plus some commentary
As I promised in my previous post (now updated), as soon as English version of Hetq article is available, I will re-post it in my blog.As frequently happened in translated versions of original Armenian articles, they are slightly flawed. However, overall, it reads OK. In few cases I put my commentary within .
20-year old Ruben (the names of our interviewees have been changed to protect their privacy) is a bartender at the only gay bar in Yerevan and also one of only three men employed as strip dancers in the capital’s nightclubs. Ruben has not told his family about the nature of his work,only a few of his friends know. And those few friends are also aware of the fact that Ruben is in love with a boy. “My parents were suspicious of my sexual orientation during my last years of school, and we had many fights about it at home. Now we don’t talk about it anymore; they think I’ve changed. As for my work, they know that I’m a bartender in a club, but they don’t know that it’s for gays. The mere mention of the striptease job is out of the question,” said Ruben.
Ruben is a student and future economist. He said that he hardly made any money dancing, because male strip shows were organized very rarely. But he also said that making money was not the biggest problem he faced. His greatest problem has been to overcome the period of dispute with his parents and resigning himself to his current situation. “When my parents found out, they isolated me. They wouldn’t talk to me, kept being hard on me and I was in a very bad state psychologically. I was aggressive and behaved badly – imagine what you would do if the world you lived in did not accept you,” Ruben said.
Mistreatment and intolerance of homosexuals, which often then turns into animosity, are typical in Armenian society. A survey we conducted among 100 people of different ages in the center of Yerevan offered further support to this fact. According to the results, 53 percent of the respondents felt animosity towards homosexuals, 40 percent were tolerant, 4 percent treated them well, and 3 percent were undecided. When asked, “What would you do if your child were a homosexual?” 73of the respondents said that they would disown the child.
Psychologist Davit Amiryan believes that this attitude in Armenian society is actually typical of all former Soviet countries. “Ignorance and misperceptions about homosexual relations have led to its association in people’s minds with perversion, which is why many people don’t consider that it has a place in Armenian society,” said the psychologist. He also said that homosexual tendencies could arise at different ages and that it was necessary to have correct information about homosexuality in general in order to understand the homosexual population. The Armenian Apostolic Church has a categorical position on homosexuality. According to Deacon Suren Nersisyan, the Church views homosexuals as people with an illness and does not allow them to partake of the Communion during mass because they are considered to be in sin. Even if they confess, they are considered to be in a period of repentance and are not given Communion then either (all this, of course, “if the church knows about their homosexual tendencies”). “These people are not unclean, but there is an impurity in them, perhaps even from birth [So we are not "unclean", but there is "impurity" in us, we’ve been sort of ‘contaminated’ from birth – I think modern science call it "genetics", which determine ‘contamination’ with ‘being born straight’ or ‘being born gay’. Apparently, we have very progressive clergy in Armenia, who ‘support’ ‘being born’ theory.]. We recently wrote an email to a homosexual and asked him to bring himself closer to God and repent,” said Deacon Suren.
As Deacon Suren Nersisyan explained it, the whole Christian world has a similar position regarding homosexuals. The only exception is the Methodist Church in the USA, which performs same-sex marriages and where 40% of the community, gathered at an assembly held in 2000, had expressed approval for the ordainment of homosexuals 51-year old Gevorg is a successful businessman. He said that now, in a relationship with a 17-year-old boy, he has had the same feelings that he once had for his wife. Gevorg discovered these tendencies within himself years ago, after living with his wife and children for many years. “I think gay love is more natural, because we are both of the same sex, we understand each other better and act more naturally. I hope the girls who read this will forgive me for saying so, but they are never completely honest in a relationship,” said Gevorg. [Here is another extreme – I re-read several times both Armenian and English versions of the article and could not get it why would anyone consider gay love as being "more natural" than straight one; or what does it mean that "[girls] are never completely honest in a relationship"? – the only explanation I may suggest is that this is the reflection of the influence of traditional, ‘macho’ mentality and male superiority in our society which affects gay people too.] He agreed to an interview with us in his apartment where I was, he said, according to him, the first “straight” person to set foot.
He explained that he had always had homosexual tendencies but it all came to the surface when he grew tired of family quarrels and sexual dissatisfaction. Gevorg has not had a legal divorce from his wife, but they no longer live together. He sees his children every week. He said that his youngest probably remained oblivious, but the elder children were beginning to have suspicions about his sexual orientation, because they were close and spent a lot of time together. “I would like to declare all this openly, because I don’t think I am doing anything unusual. But there are issues of family, friends and work – I don’t want to lose all that I’ve gained in business, and I can’t confide in my old friends,” said Gevorg, adding that he often had parties at his apartment where they would gather together in small numbers and it would remain their secret. Just five years ago, homosexuality was considered a criminal offense in Armenia and homosexuals were constantly targeted by the police, who made frequent arrests and demanded large sums of money. The police today no longer arrest homosexuals, but they continue to meet in secret and prefer to conceal their homosexuality.
Gevorg said that there were a few clubs where they can feel free, and that many gays got together outside, but in his opinion, these gatherings were not well-organized, so he and his friends preferred to stay away. “Many are afraid to even go to clubs, they think they will be recognized as homosexuals. But I say that they can go and see the others for themselves. We have no problems in the clubs. We are also on good terms with lesbians,” said Gevorg. Gay club bartender Ruben said that there would be 10-15 people in the club on a usual day. When there were parties or other special occasions, there would be 50 or more – there would sometimes not even be standing room. Interestingly, there are no officially registered gay clubs in the country, according to the State Registration Agency. They are not registered separately and usually serve a small clientele.
All the gay people who spoke with us said that the best means they had to interact was the Internet, where many of them had first established relationships. There are 1,764 homosexuals registered on a social network for Armenian gays – 1,306 of them are homosexuals, 342 are bisexual, 94 are lesbians and 22 are transvestites. They usually post notices looking for someone interested in sexual relations and often mention secrecy as a necessary condition. We tried to contact a few of them through the posts and wrote them emails. They all replied, and an Armenian from the Diaspora, visiting Yerevan for two weeks, agreed to meet. He told us that his friend had been brutally beaten a few years ago while serving in the army, and then moved out of Armenia and in with him after completing his military service.
“I was called a bad word in the street the other day and pretended not to understand Armenian; it was a very unpleasant moment,” said Daron and added that military service was most difficult for Armenian gay men. Gevorg also spoke about his friends in the army. He talked about how the problems his friend was facing came to an end when he openly declared his homosexuality and everyone, starting with the commanders, was then very careful to avoid any incidents with him so that they would not be held responsible. “The insulting thing was that they had separated his plate and cup from the rest and would not touch it, but would come to him when they wanted to satisfy their sexual urges,” said Gevorg. He also had friends who have not had problems in the army because nobody has known about their homosexuality.
Our interviewees gave different answers to the question “When will our society become tolerant towards homosexuals?”
“The problems faced by homosexuals will not be solved in Armenia anytime soon, because the authorities prefer the attitude currently held by most people,” thought Gevorg.
Ruben said that Armenia was more or less under the influence of Russia, and if Russia – relatively more developed than Armenia – still continued to be intolerant towards homosexuals and prohibit gay parades, then it was much too soon to think about a solution in Armenia. Daron said that the animosity he faced from his peers was very painful, but he did not care much about the intolerance shown by older people.
Psychologist Davit Amiryan thinks that negative feelings towards homosexuals will change years down the line. Meanwhile, he presented the results of a survey, wherein 86.5% of young Armenians said that they refused to live near or work with homosexuals. [Interestingly, according to gay.ru, recent survey showed that 87% of young Azerbaijanis do not consider homosexuality as sin; while 64% of them regarded themselves as religious. However, I was not able to locate the original source of that survey and I am not sure about its methodology and representativeness]
Deacon Suren Nersisyan quoted the Bible to remind us that God punished the Romans for worshipping the created, instead of the Creator. He condemned them to vile passions –those vile passions were their unnatural sexual needs.
March 13, 2009 – pinkarmenia.blogspot.com
IWPR: Armenia gays face long walk to freedom
Society remains as relentlessly homophobic here as elsewhere in the Caucasus, but activists say there some grounds for hope.
by Vahan Ishkhanian in Yerevan
The recent publication of Azeri writer Alekper Aliev’s gay novel Artush and Zaur, dealing with an Armenian-Azeri love affair, rocked the conservative and mainly Muslim society of Azerbaijan. It broke a double taboo – love between Armenians and Azeris and same-sex love, at the same time. But while the furor cast a harsh spotlight on homophobia in Azerbaijan, on the other side of the ethnic and religious divide, in Armenia, gays face just as much prejudice.
Hovhannes Minasian found this out to his cost. Now 27, he is one of a small minority of gay men in Armenia who do not fear to give out their real names in interviews. He gained this freedom – involuntarily – after being sent to jail for his sexual orientation. After that, the whole of his former neighbourhood and his relatives learnt about it and there was nothing to hide. His nightmare began in 1999, when police arrested him and accused him of sodomy. A man who had once had an affair with him apparently betrayed him, and four others, to the authorities.
Minasian, then 17, says he immediately admitted he had had a sexual relationship with a man. “I never thought it was a crime, so when they asked me if I did it, I confirmed it,” he said. He says the police who arrested him beat him violently, demanding that he name other homosexuals, which he refused to do. He was one of six persons charged for the then crime of sodomy under Article 116 of the Armenian penal code, receiving a relatively short jail sentence of three months as he was under age. While in prison, Minasian says he came under constant pressure. “The prisoners were as cruel to me as the jailors, I was like a toy for them, they used to bully me and throw me around the cell,” he said.
After his release, the lads living next door to him chased him around, throwing stones at him and screaming “gay” at his back. That is not all. He says a policeman tried to blackmail him into confessing the names of wealthy homosexuals he knew about. When he failed to extract this information, he told the manager of the bar where Hovhannes worked of his sexual orientation, and Hovhannes and his gay friend were fired. Nine years since his conviction, the local boys have stopped chasing Hovhannes. They got used to him. He has a job. Still, he is going to leave the country, tired of the general climate of hostility.
In 1922, a few years after the Bolshevik revolution, homosexuality ceased to be a penal offence in the newly formed Soviet Union. But it was reintroduced as a crime in 1933, and eventually removed from the penal code in 2003. In spite of the official change in the letter of the law, discrimination and intolerance against Armenian gays remains widespread. A year ago, Khachik, a 21-year-old student at university, was thrown out of his home when his parents found out about his sexual orientation. Khachik says he realised he was different from the rest when he was 13 or 14 and accepted he was more interested in boys than girls.
“At that age, when you start to masturbate, I used to imagine guys,” he confessed. “I thought I was alone with all this but then I found people just like me on the Internet.” He waited until he was 20 to have his first sexual encounter with a man whom he met on the Internet and introduced to his family as a friend. Trouble erupted after Khachik’s mother discovered that their relationship was not entirely innocent.
“We were watching a film in my room and I didn’t know the door was open. Mother came and saw us kissing,” he recalled. At first, she wept, but later, once his father was home, the two of them became far more aggressive. “Dad got really angry and said, ‘Aren’t girls enough for you? You want to start dating guys? My son can’t do that!’ Mother started screaming that it would be better if I died. It would be better not to have a son than to know he was gay. She even tried to hit me. I tried to hold her back, but dad began to help her. Then they told me I was no longer their son and that I had to leave the house. So I went away.”
Khachik has been living in lodgings ever since and has to work in two jobs to support his studies. Two months after being thrown out, he was exempted from military service because of his “deviant” sexual orientation. According to the Helsinki Rights Committee in Armenia, in 2004 an internal defence ministry code effectively bans homosexuals from serving in the armed forces. “When I told the army psychologist I was a gay, he threw the pen on the table and exclaimed ‘Damn it!’” Khachik recalled. He says another officer struck him with a folder, saying, “You are not a man! How can an Armenian claim he’s limp wristed?” He was then dispatched to a medical institution for official diagnosis – which duly described him as possessing a “non-traditional sexual orientation”.
On the subject of the deferment of conscription for homosexuals, Colonel Seyram Shahsuvaryan, representing the defence ministry, sent a written response to IWPR. In it, the colonel denied the existence of any unofficial ban on homosexuals serving in the army, “The law on compulsory military service in Armenia does not allow the exemption from military service of homosexuals.” In Aliev’s controversial novel, Artush and Zaur, the two lovers eventually decide to take their own lives, jumping from Baku’s Maiden Tower, a symbol of doomed love in Azerbaijan.
Psychologist Davit Galstian says societal pressures in Armenia have driven some gays to take their own lives in a similar desperate fashion. Within the past three years, he knows of at least ten homosexual men who threw themselves off the Kiev bridge in Yerevan, the capital’s biggest. He cites several tragic cases that he has come across in his practice. A man’s life that was destroyed when his family discovered his orientation; a woman who rejected her own children and sent them to an orphanage after learning that their father, her husband, is gay; and a father who threw his 14-year-old gay son out of the house, who then turned to street prostitution.
“There is a real phobia against homosexuals in our society, people consider them beasts,” he said. “My [gay] patients learn about me from each other and come here. They say at least I listen to them.” Politicians do little to dispel the fog of ignorance and prejudice around the subject. Indeed, some make it worse. One former member of parliament, Emma Khudabashian, even used to say that people should throw stones at homosexuals.
Armen Avetisian, head of Armenian Arian Union, an ultra-nationalist grouping, issued a bizarre attack on homosexuals – and on Europe – in July 2006, which was published in three newspapers. “We should form a community for them, called Hamaserashen (literally, ‘Homosex-burg’),” he said. “Of course, it should be located in Europe, as homosexuality is a part of the European values, so let them gather there.”
The church is another conservative factor. The Armenian Apostolic Church – like most traditional Christian churches in the world – views homosexuality as a grave sin. Gay bashing is a popular pastime among Yerevan yobs. In the city’s Komaygi park, where homosexuals sometimes gather, groups often attack and beat them. Galstian says homophobia is harmful to society, depriving it of potential talent. “We lost a talented singer, a computer programmer and an excellent student who could have become a chemist,” he said, mulling past suicides. Others have simply left the country.
Yet, on December, 9, 2008, the Armenian government endorsed a United Nations statement outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. That only prompted a greater outcry from homophobic elements in Armenia, however. “This is a global plan worked out by masonic structures to destroy the world,” Khachik Stambolcian, a well known figure said in one public discussion. The right-wing Iskakan Iravunk newspaper accused the UN document of glorifying what it termed “human driftwood – those sodomites and lesbians”.
Hrair, a 26-year-old activist, says the government’s endorsement of the UN statement may not have helped gays much in Armenia in the short term. “Before that, we just lived our lives and worked but then they made a fuss, and it became tense,” he noted. Avetik Ishkhanyan, chair of the Helsinki Rights Committee of Armenia, and member of Independent Observers’ Group of Penitentiary departments, says homosexuals experience the worst troubles within closed spaces like prisons and barracks.
“In prison, they have a separate cell and it’s a taboo to shake their hands, take cigarettes from them or even touch their stuff,” he said. “If a detainee uses homosexual’s plates, even by accident, the criminals consider him ? ‘pervert’ too. They are given the most humiliating work to do, like cleaning toilets and drains.”
According to Ishkhanian, it is hard to defend homosexuals, as few are willing to publicly complain about their lack of status. Arsen Babayan, of the justice ministry’s penitentiary service, denies gay detainees in prison are singled out for the most humiliating tasks. Every prisoner, he says, chooses his own type of work. “The fact that gays live separately in penitentiary departments is due to their wish. It’s the same with Jehovah’s witnesses, who also live separate lives,” he said.
Meanwhile, Galstian says things may be starting to change – albeit slowly. Since Armenia became a member of the Council of Europe in 2001, people generally have started to more actively defend their rights, and more and more homosexuals are open about their identity. The NGO PINK, short for Public Information and Need for Knowledge, founded in 2007, openly advocates for gay rights, as well specialising in the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. PINK member Hrair broke up with his Iranian boyfriend when the latter wanted to leave for Europe. “He couldn’t live in Iran, as they hang homosexuals there, but he felt depressed here too, so he was trying to talk me into going to Europe, but I didn’t want to,” he said.
Though well aware of the climate of intolerance in Armenia, Hrair says he is not ready to abandon his homeland now things are starting to shift a little. “When I was a child, I suffered, trying to understand myself and nobody was there to help me,” he recalled. “But now we are a big team, and we are trying to help the weaker ones to stand up. This is very important to me. I would feel defeated if I went to live in a European country, hiding my head in the sand like an ostrich.”
Vahan Ishkhanian is a freelance journalist and correspondent for Armenianow.
source: Institute for War & Peace Reporting
July 2, 2009 – PinkArmenia
PINK’s new steps in new office
On June 27 “Public Information and Need of Knowledge” NGO organized an event on the occasion of new “Information, Education, Communication” (IEC) office opening and “Masculinity: breaking stereotypes” program starting. The event was organized with the help of NGO’s staff, members, volunteers and friends. Members of partner organizations, volunteers and guests who were just interested in NGO’s activities participated at this important event.
Mission and objectives of organization, implemented activities, provided services and programs planned to realize during following 6 months were presented at the first part of the meeting. After the presentation during the treat guests had an opportunity to communicate, ask questions to the staff, make motions and just have nice time.
“Public Information and Need of Knowledge” NGO’s IEC is situated at Pushkin 2 address and works from Monday to Friday from 10:00 to 19:00 and organization’s doors are open from 14:00 to 19:00 for anyone who is interested. Within the framework of this NGO’s activities we organize trainings, group discussions, film watching and other events. You can get information about these activities from PINK calendar(http://www.pinkarmenia.org/en/calendar.html). And every Wednesday visitors can get psychosocial support and confidential and anonymous counseling concerning sexual health.
Main objectives “Masculinity: breaking stereotypes” of the program are to break stereotypes and spread tolerance. PINK IEC’s basic steps will be toward gender identity. Organization also continues its main and primary program implementation which is prevention of sexually transmitted infections and human rights protection. Our mission is your protection
Happy PINK people
August 24th, 2009 – Global Voices
Armenia: Homophobia turns deadly
by Onnik Krikorian
Even if homosexuality was decriminalized in Armenia in 2002, society remains largely intolerant and traditional in its values. Naturally, in a country where nationalist ideology is also somewhat prevalent, fears that homophobia might turn even more extreme appear to be turning into reality. With blogs providing LGBT activists with a medium through which to voice their concerns, such fears can now be highlighted more openly than before.
This is especially true when in many cases it is actually the local media, and even some civil society groups, which seeks to promote homophobia. However, in recent weeks the level of intolerance in the mainstream media has alarmed many, with one newspaper going so far as to seemingly encourage hate crimes against members of the LGBT community in the country.
5 February 2010 – Gay Armenia
British Council in Armenia launches anti-discrimination campaign
A welcome initiative by the British Council in Armenia. Good to know that it’s being conducted in partnership with the Ministry of Labour and Social Issues, and that it’s inclusive of sexual orientation. As far as I understand, the work is in progress now, and hopefully we will witness these leaflets/posters in Yerevan and Armenian regions in the very near future. I would be interested to learn of people’s reaction, and would be especially interested to know what sort of educational initiatives, if any, would accompany these visual displays. Posters are important, but what we urgently need is Education.
The British Council in Armenia in partnership with the Ministry of Labour and Social Issues launched an awareness-raising city campaign "A world without discrimination" on 10 December, the International Human Rights day and in the framework of the one-month disability campaign announced by the Government. The campaign features posters and flyers devoted to the British Council’s main six areas of equality and diversity – Age, Gender, Disability, Religion, Race and Sexual Orientation. You can download the leaflet in English (MS Word, 2.19MB) or Armenian (MS Word, 2.01MB).
The aim of the campaign is to promote equality in these six areas through positive images of diversity and flyers containing a number of general etiquette and communication tips that will help people to avoid discriminatory language and manners in regard to the representatives of different communities to create a fair and inclusive society that values diversity and respects human rights and individual differences. During 2010 the campaign will reach higher educational institutions, transport and other public areas in the capital and marzes of Armenia.
11 March 2010 – Gay Armenia
US State Department human rights report: "Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity" in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan
In past, gay rights were reflected within the US State Department annual human rights country reports very briefly under the "Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination" section (see e.g. 2007 and 2008 reports). In a remarkable shift of policy, this year’s report which was published today and reflects 2009, features gay rights much more prominently under the separate section: "Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity" This may be the clearest yet indication of shift in Obama administration’s policy and that gay rights in the region and elsewhere will be monitored and act upon more seriously.
Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity General societal attitudes towards homosexuality remained highly unfavorable. The country’s endorsement of the UN December 2008 statement against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity caused a public outcry and increased the number of negative articles in the media about homosexuals. Society continued largely to view homosexuality as an affliction.
Persons who were openly gay were exempted from military service, purportedly because of concern that they would be abused by fellow servicemen. However, the legal pretext for the exemption was predicated on a medical finding of gays possessing a mental disorder, which was stamped in their documents and could affect their future. During the year there was at least one reported case of a young man, whose homosexuality was revealed during military service, being diagnosed and hospitalized with "homosexuality disease."
According to local human rights activists, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender persons experienced some of the most humiliating discrimination in prisons, where they were forced to do some of the most degrading jobs and separated from the rest of the prison population. Societal discrimination based on sexual orientation continued to be a problem with respect to employment, family relations, and access to education and health care for sexual minorities.
Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity There are no laws that criminalize sexual orientation, male-to-male sex, or female-to-female sex; however, homosexuality was not widely accepted in society. There were a few lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) organizations; however, they did not work exclusively as such and instead promoted tolerance more broadly. One reason for this was the strong societal stigma against homosexuality, including its denunciation by the Georgian Orthodox Church. The new public defender (see section 5) stated that among his priorities would be the protection of LGBT groups and individuals, and on July 31, in a debate with another nominee for the post, he said that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was unacceptable.
On December 15, the office of an NGO that promotes LGBT equality was searched by police. Reportedly, officials used antihomosexual slurs, made unnecessary strip searches, unnecessarily damaged organizational posters, and unnecessarily ransacked offices. The Ministry of Internal Affairs denied that any procedural violations took place and maintained that the profile of the organization was irrelevant in terms of the law. The ministry reported that its General Inspection Office gave one officer a reprimand at the "severe" level in accordance with the police code of ethics, as his actions were determined to be nonethical and inappropriate for police officers. Two other officers were also given a reprimand at the "severe" level for not preventing the above-mentioned officer from making the unethical statements.
Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity There are no laws criminalizing sexual orientation. There were numerous incidents of police brutality against individuals based on sexual orientation. During the year there were no investigations into or punishments of those responsible for these acts, although this was largely due to victims’ unwillingness to file claims due to fear of social stigma. In 2007, after an official complaint was made through the ombudsman’s office, two police officers were removed from their positions.
During the year police raided gay bars on four occasions and arrested almost 50 persons. Police reportedly held the individuals and threatened to expose their sexuality publicly unless they paid a bribe. The human rights Ombudsman’s Office intervened to resolve the incidents. One NGO worked on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues in the country. This NGO worked to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and provided legal advice, psychological assistance, and outreach activities. The NGO reported no official harassment of its work. There were no attempts to organize gay pride marches during the year; however, there was a small gathering on May 17 to commemorate International Anti-Homophobia Day.
There were no reported deaths during the year due to violence based on sexual orientation. However, domestic violence due to sexual orientation remained a large problem.
The government did not officially condone discrimination based on sexual orientation; however, there was societal prejudice against LGBT persons. While being fired from a job for sexual orientation remained illegal, LGBT individuals reported that employers found other reasons to fire them. Discrimination in access to healthcare was also a problem. In 2008 two transgender individuals died from injuries received from a car accident because physicians at Baku Hospital Number 1 refused to treat them.
March 31, 2010 – EurAsia Net
Armenia: Gays Live With Threats Of Violence, Abuse
by Marianna Grigoryan
Two years after Yerevan signed an international agreement to uphold the civil rights of gays, homosexuals in Armenia still face the constant threat of physical abuse and social isolation because of their sexual orientation. "When my parents learned that I was homosexual, they first beat me and then kicked me out," Armen, a 22-year-old Yerevan resident who works as a teacher, told EurasiaNet.org. "Even now, after years have gone by, my mother doesn’t let me in, and some of my friends keep asking whether I’m really one of ’those’ people."
Armen (not his real name) says he realized he was gay at the age of 13 when he fell in love with his classmate. He met his first boyfriend in an online chat room when he was 20. "I introduced him to my parents as just one of my friends. But one day my mother saw me kissing him, and that’s when all this started," Armen said. "My mother yelled that I’d better be dead, and my brother left the army to come home and beat me. So I went to live in the streets." Armen now lives with his grandmother.
Homosexuality has not been a criminal offense in Armenia since 2003; two years ago, the country signed the United Nations Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, which asserts the right to equal treatment regardless of sexual orientation or gender. It has also ratified a protocol to the Council of Europe’s Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms that bans all forms of discrimination.
But gay Armenians are still often the targets of discrimination. Aside from the risk of losing work, homosexuals face becoming social outcasts – a heavy burden in Armenia’s communal, family-centric culture. Some families have been known to emigrate to escape the stigma of having a gay family member. Similar social prejudices prevail in neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan as well. The United States Department of State’s 2009 Human Rights Report described the Armenian public’s views on gays as "highly unfavorable;" homosexuality is "largely" seen as "an affliction," the report found. [For additional information click here].
"Armenia has always been intolerant toward homosexuals," commented Mikael Danielian, the chairperson of the Helsinki Association of Armenia, a human rights non-governmental organization. Danielian says that his organization regularly receives alarming calls about attacks on suspected homosexuals. But criminal cases for the assaults usually are not filed because victims are afraid of publicity and additional public scorn, he said. "Frankly speaking, we cannot do anything in these cases," Danielian said. Sometimes, gays who have been the alleged victims of discrimination simply want attacks mentioned in the organization’s reports, he added.
One recent assault was reported in mid-February when local media outlets claimed that Yerevan Mayor Gagik Beglarian had ordered police officers to use force against suspected homosexuals and transvestites who allegedly routinely gathered in a park adjacent to the mayor’s office. Yerevan mayor spokesperson Anzhela Martirosian declined to comment on the reports, maintaining that the incident "didn’t concern the mayor’s functions."
One new political group has welcomed what it sees as the mayor’s decision to rid the Armenian capital of homosexuals. The National Conservative Movement, a small right-wing party founded last year, hailed Mayor Beglarian as a "true Armenian man" and urged supporters to continue attacking homosexuals. Gay rights and violence against homosexuals are not issues that other political parties — whether members of Armenia’s governing coalition, or in the opposition — discuss publicly.
The Armenian Apostolic Church is similarly reticent. Father Vahram Melikian, spokesperson for the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin, the seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church, identified homosexuality as "a sin" and "negative phenomenon."
"[B]ut even these people can be granted absolution and come back to the right path," Father Melikian said. Anti-gay attitudes appear to run particularly strong in the military. Since 2004, gays have been exempted from military service for supposedly being mentally ill. One man, who gave his name as Narek, told EurasiaNet.org that an army officer had beaten him when he revealed his homosexuality during a psychiatric exam for military service. Narek claims that he spent three days in a mental hospital and was discharged from military service with the diagnosis of a "personality disorder."
One non-governmental organization, Public Information and Need for Knowledge (PINK) Armenia, was formed in 2007. It aims to raise awareness about minority rights, and advocates for a break with traditional prejudices. "We live in an atmosphere where people are full of hateful words against homosexuals, and this drives them to commit hate crimes," commented Marina Margarian, PINK Armenia’s project coordinator. "An atmosphere exists where being gay is a terrible disgrace and beating a gay person is an honorable act." Given the fear of reprisals, many Armenian homosexuals try to keep their contacts with other gays as discreet as possible. The members-only Armenian gay social network www.GayArmenia.com thoroughly scrutinizes a candidate’s personal data before admitting him as a member. The website has about 1,000 registered users, half of whom live in Armenia.
"The access to the website is limited for security reasons because many people were afraid to place their photos. And we had to create a place where homosexual men could meet safely," said GayArmenia.com founder Micha Meroujean. Reason exists for such caution, states one gay young man, who claims that some his friends were badly beaten by unknown assailants after trying to establish contact with an allegedly gay man through an online dating service. Chances for change appear slim. Said Meroujean, who emigrated from Armenia to Europe to escape mistreatment: "Society’s bad attitude again and again shoves Armenia’s homosexuals into the closet."
Editor’s Note: Marianna Grigoryan is a freelance reporter based in Yerevan.
17 May 2010 – Unzipped: Gay Armenia
PINK & friends make history in Armenia by marking IDAHO and turning Yerevan sky rainbow
May is truly a historic month for Armenians. Starting this year, it will become even double-triple historic for LGBT Armenians, their friends… On 4 May, there was a groundbreaking presentation in Yerevan of the landmark report on discrimination towards LGBT people and state with their human rights in Armenia conducted within the framework of “We and Our Rights” project by PINK Armenia.
Today, on 17 May, for the first time ever, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) was celebrated in Armenia. PINK Armenia & friends organised a flashmob with balloons in the heart of Yerevan. "We let the colorful balloons fly in the sky as a symbolic move to combat hate, ignorance and intolerance, to combat homophobia and transphobia," say organisers. PINK Armenia & friends made history today by turning Yerevan sky rainbow. For me, they are the modern day heroes in Armenia. Their spirit, passion, determination make me hopeful that after all there is bright future for Armenia. They are the PERSONS.AM (in capital letters). I hope their spirit won’t be broken… EVER!!!
18 June 2010 – Unzipped
UN expert calls for better protection of human rights defenders, including LGBT, in Armenia
Unfortunately, so far UN human rights missions in or outside the region did not give us hope that this will be anything but a paper-based exercise. Still, good to see that Margaret Sekaggya is highlighting some important issues which Armenian authorities should take into account not for the sake of international organisations but for the sake of our country.
Armenian authorities must take steps to protect human rights defenders, who are often physically attacked, harassed or stigmatized as they try to carry out their work in the Caucasus nation, an independent United Nations expert said today. Margaret Sekaggya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, also voiced concern about restraints on freedom of assembly in Armenia as she wrapped up a five-day fact-finding visit – the first visit to the country by a UN human rights envoy since 2000.
“I am worried by documented cases of ongoing violence, assaults, intimidation, harassment and stigmatization of defenders, in particular journalists,” she said in a statement issued in Yerevan, the capital. “These cases would seem to illustrate an apparent culture of impunity in Armenia which impinges upon the work of human rights defenders. This impunity appears to be closely related to the deep-rooted problems within the police system as well as with the shortcomings of the justice system.” She recommended that the Government implement a comprehensive reform of the police service, immediately take steps to tackle the problems in the justice system and set out an anti-corruption strategy for government.
Ms. Sekaggya, who met Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan during her visit, urged Armenian authorities to “undertake prompt, thorough and transparent investigations of all human rights violations, in particular attacks against journalists, in order to create a safe and enabling environment in which human rights defenders can carry out their activities.” She also called on Mr. Sargsyan to publicly acknowledge the important role that human rights defenders play in a pluralistic and democratic society.
Human rights defenders and civil society groups should be consulted and included in decision-making processes, Ms. Sekaggya said, adding the specific needs of women defenders and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender defenders must also be addressed. In addition the Special Rapporteur spoke out against what she described as “significant constraints” on freedom of assembly within Armenia, nothing that the right to peaceful, open and public demonstrations should be available to all.
“I also add my voice to those who have already expressed serious concerns about the amendments to the Law on Television and Radio. If signed into law by the President of Armenia, these amendments will further restrict and seriously hamper the plurality of voices and opinions available to Armenian society.” Ms. Sekaggya serves in an independent and unpaid capacity and reports to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Her full report on the visit to Armenia will be presented to the Council in March next year.
07 Agustos 2010 – BiaMag
Tahran’a yaptigim kisa ama yogun seyahatin son gecesinde arkadaslarim Lusin, Rafi, Nayiri ve Sasun beni açikhavada güzel bir ‘Sofrahane’ye götürüyorlar. Türkçe, Ermenice ve Farsça’nin ortak kelime haznesinden ve benzerliklerinden söz ediyoruz.
by Mehmet Binay
Siyasetçiler ülkeleri, din adamlari da kiliseyi böldü" diyordu Iran Ermeni Kilisesi’nin baskani Baspiskopos Sarkisyan. Tahran’da Aziz Sarkis kilisesinin avlusunda baspiskoposla bürosunda tadi 40 yil aklimda kalacak Lübnan kahvesini yudumluyoruz. Aziz Sarkis Kilisesi’nin görüntülerini bundan neredeyse 10 yil önce Iran’a geldigimde bir televizyon programi için çekmistim.
O zamanlar Iran Ermenileri’nin varligindan bile fazla haberdar degildim. Simdi ise Sayin Sarkisyan 1976’da daha genç bir din adami iken atalarinin memleketi Anadolu’ya gerçeklestirdigi seyahati anlatiyordu bana. Antep’ten yola çikmis, Malatya, Harput üzerinden Erzurum’a kadar uzanmislar ve eski Ermeni köyleriyle kentlerini ziyaret etmislerdi.
Her seyahatte oldugu gibi onlara kapilarini, evlerini açan insanlarla da tanismislar ama jandarmaya Ermeni altinlarini aradiklari iddiasiyla sikayet de edilmislerdi.
Baspiskopos Sarkisyan’a Türkiye’ye 70’lerden sonra dönüp dönmedigini soruyorum. ‘Evet, tabii gittim!’ diyor, ‘Son olarak 2005’te Türkiye’deydim ve çok farkilastigini gördüm, demokratiklesme hissediliyordu ve sivil toplumun güçlendigini de fark ettim.’ Sarkisyan’la diyalogun önemi üzerine konusuyoruz, Türkler’le Ermeniler’in bireysel düzlemde de tanismasinin, konusmasinin önemli oldugunu ve birbirimizin hikayelerini dinlememiz gerektiginden bahsediyoruz.
Sarkisyan ‘Anadolu’dan Fisiltilar ve Konusan Fotograflar’ isimli belgesellerimizden övgüyle bahsederken ben de onun fotograflarini çekiyorum. Odasinda güzel dini motifler, eski fotograflar, tablolar ve Anadolu’nun çesitli yerlerinden artik yikilmis manastirlarin canlandirmalari var…
Disarida avluda ufak bir soykirim aniti da bulunuyor üzerinden karanfillerin eksik olmadigi. Hemen arkasinda Aziz Sarkis kilisesiyle avlusunu gözleriyle süzen devasa bir Ayetullah Humeyni duvar resmi var.
Bugün Iran Islam Cumhuriyeti’nde 75.000 Ermeni yasiyor. Cemaatin çogunlugu bundan yaklasik 400 yil önce Fars hükümdari Sah Abbas tarafindan bugünkü Ermenistan çevresinden bu topraklara yerlestirilmis. Anadolu’da 1915 katliamlarindan kurtulan az sayida Ermeni de buraya yerlesmis ve o zamandan bugüne kendilerine verilen kültürel ve dini haklarla mutlu mesut yasamislar.
Tahran’da beni misafir eden arkadasim Rafi Pirumyan, ‘Farsiler bize çok iyi davraniyorlar ve kültürel, dini özgürlüklerimiz yerinde’ diyor. Tahran’da konustugum Ermeniler’in hepsi ayni seyden bahsediyor, tabii ki Iran’da toplumun her kesimini etkileyen siyasi ve sosyal problemlerden onlar da arada dem vuruyor ama Ermeniler’e yönelik bir ayrimciligin olmadigini söylüyorlar.
1979’da Sah rejimi devrildikten ve Seriat yönetimi göreve geldiginden bu yana azalan bir Ermeni nüfusu söz konusu. Kaçan ve bir daha dönmeyenlerin tek sikayet ettigi sey rejimin zorlugu ve ekonomik problemler… Bugün Iran ciddi bir ekonomik krizle bas etmeye çalisiyor. Issizlik özellikle gençler arasinda yüksek, demokratik gelisim ise tutucu yönetim tarafindan geçen yildan bu yana sert bir sekilde bastirilmis durumda.
Müslüman kadinlar gibi Hristiyanlar da baslarini örtmek zorunda ama artik ‘hijab’in sadece ismi kalmis… Bayanlar protesto olsun diye baslarinin sadece üçte birini örtüyor, tepki vermek için saçlarini kirmiziya boyayan kadinlar sokaklarda dikkat çekiyor.
Tahran sokaklarinda gezerken sehir mimarisinin ne kadar da Ankara’nin 1970’lerdeki haline benzedigini düsündüm. Devasa sehir bugün güneyindeki fakir semtleriyle birlikte 15 milyon insani barindiriyor. Güneydeki gecekondu mahalleleri ve yeni apartmanlar, Baskan Ahmedinecad’in da oylari topluca aldigi fakir ve tutucu kesimin kalesi. Köy ve kasabalardan Tahran’a göç eden fakir kesime hizmet ederek belediye baskanligina, ardindan da Iran Islam Cumhuriyeti’nin baskanligina uzanan hem uzun hem de kisa bir yol… Tahran, tozun farkli tonlarina boyanmis ve sokaklarinda ilginç siyasi ve sosyal kamusal sanat eserlerinin izlenebildigi bir sehir. Acemler, ince sanatin en güzel örneklerini vermis ve Arap alfabesinin de en etkili kaligrafi sanatini sergilemis uluslardan biri.
Güney-Kuzey ekseninde uzanan devasa sehir Tahran’in kuzey mahallalerinde gökdelen ve yeni toplu konut insaatlari göze çarpiyor. Iran, bölgenin en büyük ekonomik unsurlarindan biri; Çin, Rusya ve Venezuella gibi ABD karsiti ülkelerle yaptigi ticari anlasmalarla alternatif bir güç ekseni kurmaya çalisiyor. Tahran’in toplu konut, metro ve yol insaatlarinda hep Çinli sirketlerin imzasi görünüyor proje levhalarinda.
Ülkenin Orta Dogu’da Suriye, Lübnan gibi ülkelerle kurdugu sosyo-ekonomik, askeri iliskilerini ve Basra Körfezi kiyilarinda etkiledigi büyük Arap Sii nüfusunu da gözardi etmemek gerek… Aksamüstüne dogru sehrin sokaklari kipirdamayan trafigiyle Istanbul’u ve Kahire’yi animsatiyor bana. Yol kenarlarinda dolmus ve otobüs bekleyen insanlar arasinda çalisan kadin nüfusunun çogunlugu dikkatimi çekiyor.
Iran kadini kapali olmasina ragmen sergiledigi moda anlayisi ile izleyenleri büyülüyor. Zaman zaman Türk modern mahreminin Tahran’a moda anlayisini gelistirmek için tur düzenlemesi gerektigini de düsünür hale geliyorum.
Sehrin kuzeyinde Vanak meydanindan saga dönüyor, zengin mahallelerin arasindan geçerek Ararat Kültür Merkezi’ne variyoruz. Burasi yüksek duvarlarla içinde bulundugu mahalleden ayrilmis, kendi içinde bambaska bir dünya barindiran Iran Ermenileri’nin sosyallestigi, spor yaptigi, kültürel organizasyonlarini gerçeklestirdigi devasa bir kompleks. 1954’te kurulan merkez, Tahran Ermeni cemaatinin nefes aldigi, kadinlarinin da basörtüsüz dolasabildigi yegane yer. Ararat, ayni zamanda Ermeni gençliginin kendi tarihlerini ögrendikleri yer. 1979 sonrasinda Los Angeles’a göç etmis bir Ermeni arkadasim Ararat’i duyunca söyle diyor: ‘Orada yüzmeyi ve Ermeni olmayi ögretmislerdi bana’.
Futbol sahasinin kenarindan yürüyerek Ararat’in güney kisminda ‘Anadolu’dan Fisiltilar ve Konusan Fotograflar’ belgesellerimizin gösterilecegi açik alana ulasiyoruz. Bu, diyasporaya ‘Müslümanlasan Ermeniler’le ilgili hikayemizi gösterecegimiz üçüncü seyahat. Konuklar arasinda Acemler de var, onun için Ararat ekibi haftalar öncesinden iki belgeselin de Farsça altyazilarini hazirlatmis. Sicak, dostane bir karsilama bekliyor beni, gözlerde ise ‘Türk belgeselci bu mu?’ sorusunun merakli yansimalari var. Toplam 400 kisi o aksam gösteriye geliyor, onlarca kisi yanima gelip tanismak, baglanti kurmak istiyor. Ilginç kisiliklerden birisi de Ermenistan’in Tahran Büyükelçisi…
Büyükelçi Kirkor Arakelyan’i Ermenice ‘Barev’ diyerek selamliyorum ve sohbetimize Ingilizce devam ediyoruz. Büyükelçi israrla Türkçe konusmaya çalisirken dilinde Azeri lehçesini seziyorum. Bu sefer, Azerbaycan’da ögrendigim Bakü Azericesiyle büyükelçiyle konusmamiza devam ediyorum.
Arakelyan, Tebriz’de dogmus bir eski Iran vatandasi. Mahallesinde Azerice konusarak büyümüs, bana Ermenilerin Iran Azerileriyle ne kadar da dostane iliskiler içinde oldugunu anlatiyor. Azerice’nin müzikal ve siirsel konusurken Türkler’le Ermeniler’in birbiriyle sohbet etmesinin, birbirini tanimasinin ne kadar da önemli oldugundan bahsediyoruz. Politika bir yanda dursun insanlarin yüregindeki sinirlari açmak ve kirmak kolay diyor Büyükelçi Arakelyan.
400’e yakin konuk aksam karanlik çökünce kurulan açikhava sinemasinda ‘Anadolu’dan Fisiltilar ve Konusan Fotograflar’i izlerken ben de arkama yaslanarak yüzlerinde olusan tepkileri ve ifadeleri seyrediyorum. Baspiskopos Sarkisyan sessizce masaya ellerini dayayarak belgeseli izliyor, Büyükelçi Arakelyan ise arada esine bir seyler fisildiyor.
Türkiye’de 1915’ten sonra kalarak müslümanlasan Ermeniler, buradaki cemaat için yepyeni bir öykü ancak görüntüleri izlerken belgeselin farkli unsurlarina empatiyle bakiyorlar. Yakin bir cografyada yasiyor ve benzer bir kültürün ortak mirasina sahip olmak, belgeseli izlerken onlara yardim ediyor.
Toroslar’da gizli kalmis Geben kasabasindaki öyküyü ve köy dügününü izlerken yer yer egleniyor, zaman zaman da baslarini sallayarak üzüntüye daliyorlar. 42 dakikalik Anadolu’dan Fisiltilar bittikten sonra sadece 14 dakika uzunlugundaki Konusan Fotograflar’i seyrediyor ve sonuna dogru da göz yaslarini tutamiyorlar.
Memleketini terk etmek zorunda kalmis bir insanin öyküsü ve geçmisini arayisinin hazin hikayesi, Iran Ermenileri’ni de gözyaslarina boguyor. Kimbilir belki onlar da bir gün bu ülkeden çikmak zorunda kalabilecekleri ihtimalini hep akillarinin bir kösesinde tutuyorlar.
Belgesel bittiginde izleyicileri kisa bir Ermenice ve Farsça konusmayla selamliyor ve belgesellerin isimlerine dikkati çekiyorum. Ilk belgeselimiz fisildarken, ikincisi konusuyor, iste Türkiye’nin son yillarda geçtigi zorlu ama dinamik yol da böyle. Iranli izleyicilerime, Türkiye’nin de degismeye basladigini, 1915 gibi meselelerin artik konusulabildigini söylüyor, sivil toplumun gelistiginden bahsediyorum. Ardimdan konusan Baspiskopos Sarkisyan uzun hutbesinde Türkiye’nin daha olumsuz bir resmini çiziyor, sabah kahvesini içtigim misafirperver papaz, kitlesinin önünde gerçek bir siyasetçiye dönüsüyor. Diyalogun öneminden bahsetmek yerine, Ermeni cemaatinin hafizalarindaki kliselesmis Türk Devleti imajini güçlendiriyor. Masada etrafimda oturan konuklardan bazilari bir ona, bir de bana ironiyle bakarak dinliyorlar konusmayi. Sabah içtigim aci Lübnan kahvesinin tadini animsiyor ve Sarkisyan’in bana söyledigi cümleyi tekrarliyorum:
"Siyasetçiler ülkeleri, din adamlari da kiliseyi böldü" demisti baspiskopos ayni günün sabahinda…
Bugünlerde kimin kimi böldügünü derin bir süpheyle düsünürken, Türkler ve Ermeniler’in kronik halini gözümün önünde seyrederek ben de üzüntüye daliyorum. Geçen yüzyilin basinda insan kitlelerini kiskirtan imamlari ve papazlari düsünüyorum…
Sonsuza dek ‘Bizi arkadan biçaklayan Ermeni’ ve ‘Katil Türk’ imajindan acaba kurtulamayacak miyiz diye iç geçiriyorum ve aklima bir dizi yeni soru geliyor: ‘Birbirimizin acisini dinleme olgunluguna acaba ne zaman ulasabilecegiz?’, ‘Bir tek bile Ermeni veya Türkle tanismadan 20. Yüzyilin basinda bizi ayiran seyleri unutmayarak yüzlerce yil da ortak bir yasam sürdügümüzü nasil animsayacagiz?’, veya ‘Öteki’ denen o içimizdeki klise düsmani birakip, sivil bir toplumun bireyleri olarak ne zaman bagimsiz adimlar atabilecegiz?..
Tahran’a yaptigim kisa ama yogun seyahatin son gecesinde arkadaslarim Lusin, Rafi, Nayiri ve Sasun beni açikhavada güzel bir ‘Sofrahane’ye götürüyorlar. Türkçe, Ermenice ve Farsça’nin ortak kelime haznesinden ve benzerliklerinden söz ediyoruz, yanimiza gelen saticidan Sah Dönemi’nden kalan ve bugünlerde yasakli kadin sarkici Suzen ve Gugus’un CD’lerini aliyor, Tarkan’dan, Sezen Aksu’dan ve Manga’dan bahsediyoruz.
Onlar gülüserek kiz erkek iliskilerinden komik hikayeler anlatirken ben de Istanbul’un eglence hayatindan söz ediyorum, hayranlikla dinliyorlar. Manga hayrani arkadasim Sasun’a bir de Sertab Erener’i dinlemesini salik veriyor, Istanbul’da her yil rock ve heavy metal festivalleri düzenlendigini anlatiyorum…
Etrafimizda oturan diger konuklarin dedikodusunu yapip, kimin ne giydiginden, kizlarin erkeklerin elini nasil da rahatça tuttugundan söz ederken birbirimizi aslinda ne kadar da az tanidigimizi itiraf ediyoruz…
Hos sohbetimiz, 1915, soykirim, katliamlar ve politikadan pop müzige, sinemaya, ortak yemeklere ve seyahat etmenin cazibesine akiyor. Güzelim Tahran’dan ayrilirken orada edindigim yeni Ermeni arkadaslarimi Istanbul’a, onlarin degimiyle Bolis’e davet ediyor, yakin zamanda gelmelerinin de sözünü aliyorum. Çünkü daha konusacak çok sey var. (MB/EÜ)
28 October 10 – Armenia Now
Living in shadow
by Gayane Abrahamyan – ArmeniaNow reporter
Constant clashes during the recent two months between the police and gay prostitutes (whose night meeting point is Children’s Park near the Yerevan Municipality) resulted in hot discussions over gays in Armenia, where homosexuality is hardly tolerated and still considered a moral disease. During the recent few months press reports have circulated that Yerevan Mayor Gagik Beglaryan is out to “clean” the park from its reputation as a night-time cruising point for gay prostitution.
City Hall refused commenting on the issue, saying that “the municipality has much more important problems than gays to solve.” Yerevan residents living near the park say that nighttime fights in the park are common. They say that transvestites and presumed gay men are often attacked and beaten. “They disturb us, too – we cannot simply pass by that section at late hours. Nevertheless, they are people, and it is unacceptable to deal with them like that,” says Armen Saribekyan, 48, resident of Zakyan Street, bordering the park.
In 2009, Armenia joined the UN Statement on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity, taking the responsibility of defending the rights of sexual minorities. However, as human rights activists say, homosexuals face serious physical and psychological pressure, and encounter employment discrimination. Even though many say this is a problem concerning prostitution, human rights defenders insist that the problem is, in fact, directed against homosexuals.
“This is evident homophobia. You would never see prostitutes being beaten at Circus [one of the main gathering spots for prostitutes in Yerevan]. Of course, it is not against prostitutes, but rather against homosexuals,” says Mikael Danielyan, Head of Helsinki Association in Armenia. Mamikon Hovsepyan, Head of Public Information and Need of Knowledge NGO (PINK Armenia), founded in 2007 (dealing with Armenia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) says that many become prostitutes because they are not able to find a job, “they simply have no other means of earning their living.”
Petros (the name is changed) was 20 years old, when he told his mother that he was a homosexual; and he lost his mother and family that very day. “I knew that my parents would receive that news with great difficulty, but I did not expect that my mother would start hating me. My mom prefers seeing me dead, but she does not understand that I am not guilty,” says Petros, who is 25 years old now. He left home to avoid his father’s wrath. It is very difficult to get a job here; as soon as they [employers] think that you are gay, they fire you to save their reputation from disgrace,” says Petros, explaining the reason he became a prostitute. Every time you, do not know what will happen to you. There were even cases when people entered the park with a group and beat everybody severely right and left. If you are lucky enough, you may flee, but if not – you would be better dead,” Petros says.
It is rare in Armenia that homosexuals report abuse to police, because they are subjected to even more severe violence and pressure there. “The attitude is really very cruel, it is eventually necessary to understand that people are born with a sexual preference, and it is necessary to be more tolerant,” says Danielyan.
According to research by the Republican HIV/AIDS Prevention Center of Armenia, there are about 12,000 gays in Armenia; however, the number is believed to be far less than reality.
Armen (the name is changed), 21 years old, realized his homosexuality, when he was a schoolchild. “I was suffering, I did not understand myself, I felt that I was interested in boys more than in girls, but I could not understand what it was,” says the Yerevan State University student of five languages.
7 November 2010 – Gay Armenia
My Yerevan. The way I see and like it. Or… to Yerevan with love
I had forgotten. I had forgotten how this city changes at night. How the expression “as different as night and day” takes on new meaning in the Armenian capital. And I have missed it. Oh, how I have missed you, dear Yerevan night. Walking the streets of this city at night, you see the queers, the foreigners, the misfits. If you never went out at night, you would think that Yerevan is “proper” Armenian girls, young boys laughing in groups, schoolchildren, and older women buying produce, while […] men in groups in dark-colored clothing talking politics in the park. […]
But it is a night — even better, late at night —, when the “proper” Armenian girls have gone home (after all, they’re not allowed to stay out past midnight), when the young men with their flashy cars have possibly retired for the evening, and when families are fast asleep, that Yerevan wakes up and shows you the possibilities of what this city can be. I hear more languages at night than I do during the day. I see people I didn’t know live here, doing things I didn’t know people in Yerevan do. I see all manners of people being accepted because the night is different: it allows for certain freedoms (most likely aided by certain amounts of alcohol) that would simply be frowned upon during the day.
Of course, it’s not all rose-coloured glasses: the stereotypes and the conservative opinions are still there, but I suppose they’re not felt as much, or perhaps they simply lose their potency at night. […] This might sound odd, but Yerevan at night reminded me I’m queer. And that I love my queer brothers and sisters. In the past couple of nights, I met many more new misfits and came to the following revelation: The ratio of queers to straights in Yerevan is probably higher than in Toronto, and maybe even London and New York.
You might find this hard to believe, but trust me: just come to Yerevan. And go out at night. Yerevan is a small city compared to many other capital cities around the world, but it has an infinite amount of possibilities. […] Yerevan at night reminded me why I love this city and its people, and brought to mind this quote: “With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”
16 December 2010 – Gay Armenia
Gay man was stabbed to death in Azerbaijan in an alleged hate crime
Online news outlets in Azerbaijan report on an alleged hate crime "on the grounds of sexual orientation". Reports of 14 December 2010 state that Namik Eyvazov, 52 yrs old resident of Jalilabad region in Azerbaijan, was murdered in his own apartment 3 days ago. Police was alerted by neighbours who became suspicious after noticing that the front door to Eyvazov’s apartment was left open. He was a local tailor, lived alone, and he was gay.
When I first read of the incident, I wondered how they knew that Eyvazov was gay. I thought it was perhaps due to ‘local knowledge’. But according to one Azeri media, his "non-traditional sexual orientation" was "reported" by pathologists who examined the body.
Multiple "stabbing-cutting injuries" ("seven") were found on his body (he was stabbed in the chest and abdomen). As per police, this murder was most likely committed "on the grounds of sexual orientation", because Eyvazov was not involved in any suspicious activities. As of today, no one has been detained. The case is being considered under the "premeditated murder" article of the criminal code.
4 January 2011 – Unzipped: Gay Armenia
Armenia: Homophobia Hall of Shame
Serge Avedikian: ‘I never rejected my homosexual experiences as a youngster, and never thought of them to be within the confines of normality or abnormality’ As I mentioned in my earlier post, Serge Avedikian – French Armenian director, actor, writer and producer – made an unforgettable mark on the history of world gay cinema by playing in a very different wartime love story – Nous étions un seul homme (We Were One Man), film by renown French director Philippe Vallois in 1979. [Read “Modern gay classic” French Armenian Serge Avedikian won Palme d’Or 2010 at Cannes]. Serge was recently in Yerevan to participate in Golden Apricot international film festival.
This exclusive interview was first published in October 2004 on the website of the former Armenian gay rights group in France – www.agla.info (no longer exists). Thanks to Micha Meroujean, head of then AGLA France, I can now post it, with accompanied pictures, on Unzipped: Gay Armenia.
This extract – from the original interview in French – was translated using Google Translate. I only slightly edited it
12 January 2011 – Unzipped: Gay Armenia
Arman’s Armenian storyline at the heart of documentary on gay Russia at London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival
East/West – Sex & Politics (director Jochen Hick, 2008)
3 years ago… Fresh from Berlin Film Festival… 3 years… That’s how long it took me to write this post, adding and amending bits over this period.
Arman realised he is gay at around 12-13 when he’s got a crush on his PE teacher (“??????? ???????????”). The realisation that he is gay was like a torture to him, as he knew very well that it was not “accepted”, it was not “normal” in Armenia. He came to Moscow around 4 years ago (early 2000s) seeking a freer society. Despite all the state level homophobia and violence towards gays, Russian society remained more open re gays, sexuality and sex compared to other post-Soviet states [This was the case during the Soviet Union too.] In fact, it was in Moscow that for the first time Arman came out as gay. But not to all, and surely not to his parents.
I have to say, he is a brave guy by deciding so openly to participate in this film and become one of its main heroes. While watching the film I couldn’t help myself but wonder what would happen if Arman’s parents see the film. Of course, no one expects that this kind of films would go on broad release in Russia and Armenia, but still… Now, 3 years on after the first screening of East/West – Sex & Politics, I wonder if he is still afraid of telling his parents that he is gay… I wonder if these years (from the time of shooting the film to present days) brought about changes in his life. There surely must be changes. But what kind of changes? I hope for better. Brave guy, in any case…
He is handsome, politically and socially conscious, regular at gym. He said there is no such term as “homophobia” in Armenian language as this problem is “nonexistent” for Armenian society. However, he mentioned that ironically, if you visit Yerevan, you might get an impression that everyone around is gay, as men walk holding hands in public. He was once got severely beaten when Russian neo-nazi skinheads made a real bloodshed in front of a gay club in Moscow. They were attacking, beating everyone whom they perceive as gay. Arman said that only a miracle made him stay alive. He also mentioned that in his case the perception of being gay perhaps did not play an important role, but rather his dark, Caucasian looks.
Despite ‘being himself’ in Moscow, he did not seem very happy, complaining that all his encounters end up to be one night stands, or flings… But he did not give up his dream of finding THE man.
On the day of attempts at staging a Gay Pride event in Moscow, which was disrupted by a violence from extreme orthodox religious fanatics and neo-nazi, he got a call from someone inviting him to a party. He was kind of dismayed by this invitation. He said, on one hand, there are people trying to fight for their and our rights and got attacked, on the other hand – that very night, another group of gay people keep partying. I know, it could be an ethical dilemma. I suppose one can’t expect from everyone to fight for rights etc. There are people who just want to enjoy their life, and it is perfectly acceptable and OK for me. But no guesses needed that I would associate myself more with Arman in this case, than with party goers, although – don’t get me wrong – I do like partying too.
Guys like Arman could be good role models for gay Armenian teenagers, and this film should be screened among them. OK, OK. I hear myself. What I just wrote sounds very old fashioned. “Role model”… Still, I use it in its broader sense. Basically, what I wanted to say, I sympathise with guys like Arman. Russian gays are divided into cliques, Arman said. Well, this is evident in Armenia (and other countries) too, and not just for gays. There are lots of cliques within and across the layers of our society. However, Arman said that he does not belong to any, he is kind of a loner. In this context, good for you, Arman. ‘The worst thing for Russian gays is being ugly and poor.’ [The whole auditorium, myself including, burst into laughing.]
29 March 2011 – Unzipped Gay Armenia
Public TV in Georgia dismisses 2 journalists because of hate speech on Facebook, while in Armenia… even British Council & co promote homophobes on a VIP level – Excellent precedent. This is perhaps the first of its kind in the South Caucasus when journalists got dismissed because of hate speech (including homophobia).
On 18 March 2011, the Georgian Public Broadcaster dismissed two of its journalists, Giorgi Tukhareli and Giorgi Gabrichidze, because of offensive comments they made on Facebook against homosexuals and the Vatican as well as the Catholic Church. The journalists wrote the remarks on the wall of a page, I don’t love my Patriarch, but even if the comments later disappeared, someone managed to take a screenshot to post on the Internet. According to reports, Gabrichidze and Tukhareli resigned themselves and Vakho Sanaia, the anchor of a program they worked on, personally met them. He said that it would be impossible for him to work with them again in the future. “Their comments are incompatible with our values and work style,” Vakho Sanaia told Media.ge,” Journalists quit their jobs themselves, and that’s what I wished.” Sanaia also said that he would not have worked with them from the beginning had he known that they were homophobes.
“I’m shocked, I could not believe until I saw it with my own eyes. Both Gabrichidze and Tukhareli were some of the best journalists and they have proven that many times by risking their lives to cover recent events in Egypt. Despite all this, program has its image, which has been jeopardized. We condemn this kind of action from a journalist even if they write it on their Facebook wall,” Rusudan Vashakidze, the Producer of the program, told onlinenews.ge. According to Netgazeti.ge, Vashakidze talked to Gabrichidze over the phone and later denied accusations claiming that his profile had been hacked while those responsible for the program they worked on said that Facebook is a public space and journalists had to understand that everything they wrote would negatively affect them. Gabrichidze and Tukhareli violated the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s code of ethics and therefore had to quit.
Not that this culture has any deep roots in Georgia, as homophobia & religious fanatism is pretty widespread there – see my previous posts re situation in Tbilisi & elsewhere or the latest from Eurasia.Net – but this is an excellent precedent to start with. I never heard of an example by the Yerevan Press Club or similar groups to voice against homophobic instances in Armenian media. Perhaps, our human rights and LGBT related groups should be more active too, in monitoring and formally complaining about each such incident. That said… I remember how one prominent head of media rights group, when approached re condemning hate speeches in local media… the only thing he was interested in and curious about was… whether we would be publishing names of high profile gays in Armenia. Truly, to laugh and to cry.
Not only we are lacking similar precedents in Armenian media, but even some prominent international organisations (example – British Council) or Diaspora linked think tanks (example – Civilitas) continue their shameful policy of supporting media, groups or individuals that promote hate, intolerance and homophobia. This typically follows by lame excuses and patronising ‘clarifications’. What sort of messages, say, British Council Armenia conveys, in behaving the way they do? The one of hypocrisy. They promote homophobes, then in response to the outrage by activists, to ‘save the face’, they organise trainings. Next day… they get engaged in yet another promotion of homophobes on a pretty prominent level
26 June 2011 – Global Voices
Armenia: LGBT Persons Still Facing Discrimination
by Liana Aghajanian
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons are still facing discrimination in Armenia and much of the rest of the South Caucasus, a new groundbreaking two-year study by the Council of Europe (CoE) on the situation across member states has found. In addition to being the last member state to decriminalize homosexual male sex, Armenia, which joined the CoE in 2001, does not recognize same-sex marriage or partnerships and adoption rights for LGBT persons, notes Unzipped: Gay Armenia. "In some member states, being gay or lesbian is viewed as a “betrayal” of national values and unity. Such arguments may be grounded on a specific understanding of the nation or the state which aims to preserve the homogeneity of the nation. For example, an interlocutor from the authorities explained that in Armenia being homosexual is often seen as disloyal to the traditional values of the Armenian people."
Armenia’s neighbors, Azerbaijan and Georgia didn’t fare too well CoE’s report, either. When it comes to having gay neighbors, Turkey and Armenia both tied with 87 percent of the population saying they did not want to have a gay or lesbian neighbor, according to respective surveys with unknown methodologies. In Georgia, the figure was 84 percent. A 2009 incident is highlighted with regards to LGBT rights in Azerbaijan. In Azerbaijan during 2009 police raided bars which LGBT persons visit and arrested almost 50 people. Police reportedly held the individuals and threatened to expose their sexual orientation publicly unless they paid a bribe. A film documentary from Azerbaijan in which several people testify about their experiences also points to such incidents of blackmail."
While Armenia’s place at the bottom of the table when it came to decriminalization of gay male sex isn’t anything to be proud of, says Unzipped, there’s room for hope when it comes to progress for LGBT rights: "Let’s be among the first within post-Soviet countries to start implementing equality and human-rights-for-all legislative and social changes. Dreaming? May be. But no one can deprive me of dreams. Especially if they are potentially achievable." Earlier this month, Public In Need of Information and Knowledge (PINK) signed a historic memorandum with Armenia’s Human Rights Ombudsman on protection of LGBT rights, the NGO wrote in its blog. While Istanbul celebrates its 19th LGBT Pride Week, including a much-anticipated parade, the blog Le Retour in 3 Parts advocates why Yerevan needs a similar celebration: "In Yerevan, I have met straight people who hang out with queers, who are tolerant (as much as I hate this word), who support equal rights for all peoples. These people would stand out against injustice in any form and if someone attempted to physically hurt another person because he was gay, they would be up in arms in a second to defend him."
"But too often I find that this “tolerance” has a limit, a boundary which cannot be crossed. Sometimes this limit has to do with queers raising or adopting kids, sometimes it has to do with gay marriage and sometimes it’s just simply being out as queer. And then there’s the disparity when it comes to men and women (and let’s not even talk about the disparity when it comes to acceptance of sexual preference vs. acceptance of gender identity): Too often in Yerevan (as I have no doubt elsewhere) I have come across straight guys who say they have no problems with lesbians but thinking about two men having sex is just disgusting and unnatural."
But to get back to the title of this post, why Yerevan needs a pride parade: even the Well-Intentioned, Tolerant guys, even the human rights defenders and activists, even those who will stand beside us and be our allies and supporters — even these groups of people don’t realize what it means to be queer and live in this society, why we need to be reclaim space and why even though he may be tolerant, deep down he thinks that being gay is unnatural, that queers shouldn’t raise kids, we shouldn’t marry or attend church, and that really everything would be so much better if we didn’t exist and complicate his world.
There are 47 states that have membership in the CoE and all are signatories of the European Convention on Human Rights, an international treaty drafted in 1950 in which all CoE member states are party to.