January 29, 2009

Open letter against intolerance

After the government in Armenia signed the UN declaration against discrimination based on sexual orientation in December 2008, we have witnessed a resurgence of hostile rhetoric against homosexuals both in official and oppositional media. Many media outlets publish professionally unqualified articles, which at best resemble neighborhood gossips. This phenomenon could have been overlooked if the danger of mass media becoming a platform to disseminate hatred and intolerance did not exist. These publications do not even demonstrate elementary journalistic professionalism and lack any kind of homework or research. Questions, such as what is homosexuality? Who are the homosexuals in Armenia? How do they live? Are they different from larger society (even though the answers to these questions are never simple and straightforward), are never asked?

Even though the general absence of any desire to ask fundamental questions about homosexuality, male homosexuality in Armenia has been consistently described as a threat to national security, a result of accepting European decadent values or a pathology and disease, while homosexual women have been denied of existence all together or condemned in not fitting into the image of a “proper” Armenian woman.

Some of the most recent publications which disseminate hatred towards homosexuals and can potentially become a source of violence, include the article “Armenian lesbians are becoming more active” in Aravot daily (July 22, http://new.aravot.am/am/articles/culture/54469/view); an interview with the rising star of the Republican Party Edward Shahmazanov in the same newspaper, in which the prominent politician claims that he is anti-gay; and the following statement by the head of the “Sustainable Human Development” agency in Armenia Karine Danielyan: “It’s been always considered that 4-5% of humanity has such pathologies…these should be regarded as a disease.”

We believe that such statements are largely a result of illiteracy in issues of homosexuality which is reflected upon the prevalent obsession to defend the patriarchal structure of society and to present it as a national value. Nevertheless, we also realize that such statements uttered by prominent public figures and politicians could be received by mainstream society as the state official policy. Thus, several civil society groups and individuals, concerned with these developments, strongly condemn the statements which disseminate hatred and intolerance. Before inflicting potentially violent rhetoric, such public figures should realize that they have a responsibility towards larger society and towards its sexual minorities as well, including their safety and well-being.We urge all officials, politicians, journalists, teachers, doctors and all those who are engaged in public work as well as each and every individual, to get acquainted with problems that homosexual men and women face in Armenia, their socially active initiatives and to the contemporary debates around gender and sexuality.


Please, sign this petition on queeringyerevan.blogspot.com. We appreciate further comments and suggestions.

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Signed,

- WOW – Women-Oriented Women

- Women’s Resource Center

- Anna Barseghian, director of Utopiana Association, cultural practitioner, mother of two children

- Stefan Kristensen, PhD in Philosophy, father of two children

- Unzipped: Gay Armenia (gayarmenia.blogspot.com), (unzipped.blogspot.com)

- PINK Armenia (pinkarmenia.blogspot.com)

- Transgenders in Armenia (trans-armenia.blogspot.com)

- Onnik Krikorian, journalist/photojournalist (www.oneworld.am)

- Robyn Pirckens, art curator

- Myrthe Korf, human rights activist & human being (armenianodar.blogspot.com)

- ILGA-Europe (www.ilga-europe.org)

- Edgar H. Manukyan, MD, MS, Assistant Professor, Department of Dermatology, STIs and Cosmetology (users.freenet.am/~skinsti) * Yerevan State Medical University

- The Cali Garmo (www.thecaligarmo.com)

- Tatevik Tuniyants, lunguist, Area Studier, MD

- Sergey Gabrielyan, New Generation NGO Armenia

- Guarantee NGO Armenia

- Jirair Ratevosian, MPH, United States field coordinator for the Health Action AIDS Campaign of Physicians for Human Rights (www.physiciansforhumanrights.org/hiv-aids)

- Queers United (queersunited.blogspot.com)

- David Hayrapetyan, executive director, "New Vision to Democracy" NGO, Ijevan

- Micha Meroujean, founder of Yesoudo.com

- Mikael Danielyan, Helsinki Association (www.hahr.am)

- Paata Sabelashvili, President, Inclusive Foundation, Republic of Georgia (www.inclusive-foundation.org, www.gay.ge)

- ILGA International (www.ilga.org)

- Dikran Safarian

1 comment:

PINK Armenia said...

We will keep fighting for our rights and we will expose hypocrites
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The letter will be sent to a series of international organizations, and to the human rights Ombudsman. We MUST expose the hypocrites, ideologues of hatred and homophobia, such as Karine Danielyan who is a "respected" professor at the Yerevan State University.

We WILL expose that Danielyan who "is a highly respected academician and former minister for nature protection in the Republic of Armenia, the UNDP national expert on sustainable development, president of the national association “for sustainable human development”, and chairperson of the non-governmental sector of the national council of sustainable development in Armenia" is in fact someone who endorses selective and preferential treatment of "humans" - gays and lesbians obviously are excluded from her definition of a human being.

The letter will be sent on February 1, 2009, to proclaim and to remind everyone in Armenia and elsewhere of our rights as equal citizens of the Republic of Armenia and our declaration that we will not stop fighting for our rights!

Shushan A., Women-Oriented Women’s (WOW) Collective (Queering Yerevan blog)