May 29, 2012

Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society of Los Angeles condemns recent hate crime in Armenia

The Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society (GALAS), based in Los Angeles, California, is shocked and disturbed by recent acts of hate targeting the gay and lesbian community of Armenia. On May 8, 2012, Molotov cocktails were used to fire-bomb DIY, a gay-friendly bar in the heart of Yerevan, Armenia. This violent act was captured on a nearby security camera, which shows several men vandalizing the building and throwing incendiary devices through the windows. Following this unfortunate event, a stream of acrimonious attacks occurred against the gay and lesbian community of Armenia on social media, namely Facebook and YouTube.

The Board of Directors and the membership of GALAS strongly condemn these hateful attacks, clear examples of discrimination, and oppression based solely on a person’s sexual orientation.

The response by members of The Armenian Parliament has been equally atrocious. Artsvik Minasyan, who represents the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), posted bail for one of the suspects who were charged with the fire-bombing. Afterwards, Minasyan said to Panorama news agency that the suspects “…acted the right way, in context of our societal and national ideals.” We reject his actions and call upon the Armenian Parliament and Dashnaktsutyun to reprimand Minasyan and condemn his actions. Furthermore, we seek his immediate resignation or removal from office for his incitement of homophobia, and his endorsement of hate crimes. We further request a statement from the Armenian Parliament and the Dashnaktsutyun stating that neither organization will stand by those who foster hate and intolerance. Let not those who have faced the reality of intolerance and hatred inflict it upon others, no matter what the “context of our societal and national ideals.”

For the same reasons, GALAS is calling for the immediate resignation or dismissal of Eduard Sharmazanov, spokesperson for Armenia’s ruling Republican Party and Parliament Vice Speaker who told Hayots Ashkharh newspaper that, “As an Armenian citizen and member of [the ruling] national-conservative party, I find the rebellion of the two young Armenian people against the homosexuals … completely right and justified…”

GALAS denounces these reprehensible statements made by officials that fuel discrimination and unjustified crimes against innocent people. Citizens must hold their elected officials accountable for their irresponsible rhetoric that creates hatred and fear, and leads to disastrous consequences.

GALAS stands united with its gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, and all who care for justice and a free society, one that is a model of tolerance and mutual respect of fundamental human rights and freedoms.

The Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society of Los Angeles is a federally recognized 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization. Comprised of members of the Armenian community, its mission is to foster acceptance and promote equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Armenians.

May 19, 2012

"Virulent" homophobic attacks put South Caucasus activists at risk

Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan must do more to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, Amnesty International said after a spate of attacks on activists.

Instead of condemning a firebomb attack on a gay-friendly bar in downtown Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, last week, some public officials went on the record making homophobic remarks and condoning violence against LGBTI people.

Meanwhile, on Thursday in neighbouring Georgia, police in the capital Tbilisi did little to prevent an Orthodox Christian group from obstructing a peaceful march by an LGBTI organization to mark the International Day against Homophobia.

“The virulent nature of these recent attacks shows the need for a public dialogue to tackle homophobia throughout the South Caucasus to protect LGBTI people from discrimination,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

Yerevan firebomb

On 8 May, self-described “fascists” were caught on tape by a security camera as they threw Molotov cocktails through the windows of a gay-friendly bar in downtown Yerevan.

Police reportedly arrived at the scene 12 hours later to investigate the arson attack.

Two young men were arrested as part of the investigation, but were bailed shortly afterwards by two opposition parliamentarians from the nationalist Armenian Revolutionary Federation - Dashnaktsutyun party (ARF), who condoned the attack, saying it was in line with "the context of societal and national ideology”.

ARF leaders have distanced themselves from the bailout, saying that the parliamentarians acted in their personal capacity, but they have fallen short of publicly calling on their colleagues to apologize for supporting the alleged hate crime.

Eduard Sharmazanov, spokesperson for Armenia’s ruling Republican Party and Parliament Vice Speaker told Hayots Ashkharh newspaper Thursday that, “As an Armenian citizen and member of [the ruling] national-conservative party, I find the rebellion of the two young Armenian people against the homosexuals … completely right and justified…Those human rights defenders, who are trying to earn cheap dividends from this incident, I urge them first and foremost to protect the national and universal values.”

Amnesty International believes this type of official discourse is dangerous, fuels discrimination and undermines the role of human rights defenders.

“The official response to the firebombing in Yerevan is utterly shocking – protecting the human rights of LGBTI people is not a concession, but an obligation under international law that Armenia is a party to,” said Dalhuisen.

Homophobia and Transphobia in Tbilisi

On Thursday, a peaceful march in central Tbilisi marking the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia came under attack when a group of Orthodox Christians and members of the “Orthodox Parents’ Union” began insulting and threatening protesters from IDENTOBA, a Georgian LGBTI rights organization.

Orthodox priests were among the counter-demonstrators, who prevented the marchers from continuing to the Georgian Parliament, shouting abuse and throwing punches at the peaceful protesters. Fighting reportedly broke out as the counter-demonstrators attacked marchers, tearing up placards.

A video of the incident shows police intervening once a scuffle broke out between the two groups. Five people were detained – including three of the IDENTOBA protesters – and were released shortly afterwards.

“A hallmark of a tolerant society is allowing peaceful protests to proceed and stopping discrimination in its tracks,” said Dalhuisen.

Public authorities must respect the freedom of expression of all groups without discrimination. This extends to protecting peaceful demonstrators from violent attacks.

“Police in Tbilisi failed to prevent homophobic and transphobic violence from marring the International Day against Homophobia march – they must now investigate what went wrong and implement measures to improve their policing of peaceful demonstrations in future,” Dalhuisen added.

Concerns in Baku ahead of Eurovision

LGBTI groups in the neighbouring South Caucasus country of Azerbaijan have also raised concerns about the safety of LGBTI participants in the upcoming Eurovision song contest, which will take place in the capital Baku from 22-26 May.

Azerbaijan decriminalized same-sex relations in 2001, but has so far failed to enact laws that specifically ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and provide effective protection to LGBTI people. Homophobia and transphobia remain rife and little progress has been made to change public attitudes and the discriminatory practices against LGBTI people.

May 18, 2012

AGLA NY’s Statement In Response to the May 8th Terror Attack in Yerevan

For immediate release
May 17, 2012
Press contact:

The Armenian Gay and Lesbian Association of New York is appalled by the terrorist firebombing of DIY bar on May 8 and the subsequent hate crimes against the establishment this past week. We also condemn the proliferation of verbal, Facebook, Youtube and other online attacks lodged against the queer community of Yerevan. Furthermore, we denounce acts of hate speech and threats against anyone in Armenia deemed different or “threatening to society”, including artists, intellectuals, and other free-thinkers.

Most despicable are the words and actions of Dashnaktsutyun MP Artsvik Minasyan, who financially sponsored the bail for one of the two neo-fascist attackers of DIY and who recently deemed their actions “in accordance with national ideology.” In the same interview with Panorama News Agency, Minasyan targeted the manager of DIY, Tsomak Oganesova, stating that “her kind are destroying Armenian society.” Such statements may be used to justify violent acts against hundreds if not thousands of peaceful, law-abiding citizens. To date, there has been no official call from Dashnaktsutyun or the Armenian government to investigate Minasyan or to take him to task: this is unacceptable. In the meantime, Minasyan is violating Dashnak philosophy and continues to issue egregiously homophobic and harmful statements under their banner. The Armenian Parliament and Dashnaktsutyun should reprimand Minasyan, ask him to resign or remove him from office immediately for inflaming conflict and endangering lives.

Today on May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia, AGLA NY stands in unity with our partnering organizations PINK, the Women’s Resource Center, Queering Yerevan, and others to call for tolerance and a renewed commitment to human rights among individuals and institutions, in Armenia and in the diaspora. Most importantly, to the LGBT community in Armenia who are living under dangerous circumstances, we offer our undying support.

Founded in 1998, the Armenian Gay and Lesbian Association of New York (AGLA NY) provides a space for lesbian, gay, bi and transgender Armenian-Americans, their partners and their allies to come together as a community. It is a forum which fosters our visibility and strengthens our cultural and ethnic ties to the queer communities and Armenian communities to which we each belong. The purpose of AGLA NY is also to inform both the Armenian and American communities about issues of importance to LGBT Armenians and Armenian-Americans, as well as the larger American community. For more information, visit AGLA NY at or email