Armenia: A Vulnerable Place for LGBT Community

Published: 9 December 2014

Country: Armenia

ConchitaRepresentatives of civil society in Armenia united their voices against discrimination and hate promoting speeches by high ranking state officials and other citizens using mass media or other channels to disseminate information.

The reaction was triggered by the court failing to take measures against newspaper “Iravnuk”, which had published a ‘blacklist’ of Armenians connected to the LGBT community labelling them as enemies of the nation.

In the released statement of civil society in Armenia it says: “We, the representatives of civil society, consider discrimination and hate speech, continued physical and psychological persecution of people, as well as violations of the judicial system on these occasions in Armenia unacceptable.”

Everything started during the Eurovision contest, when Armenian national judges, Anush and Inga Arshakyans were “surprised” to find out that Austria’s Conchita ranked second in the public vote.

“I put Conchita towards the bottom of the ranking due to my internal repulsion [towards Conchita]”, said Anush Arshakyan in an interview with Aravot. “I find this phenomenon repulsive, the same way I find mental health patients repulsive”, she continued.

Outraged activists and citizens challenged Anush and Inga Arshakyans in a Facebook group.

The jury members apologised, but the Facebook group was later used by the editor-in-chief of “Iravunk” newspaper Hovhannes Galajyan to publish an article on the newspaper’s website titled: “They serve the interests of international homosexual lobbying: the blacklist of country’s and nation’s enemies.” The article, containing the “blacklist” of 60 people, called for “ordinary people to stop communicating with the lobbyist on the internet, as well as in real life, not to greet them, not to help them with any issues, not to engage in any business relations with them; state officials not to hire those lobbyists for public service jobs, and if they already work there, to fire them under any convenient pretext.”

Pink_ArmeniaIt was Pink Armenia representing citizens of the “blackmail” list who filed the lawsuit against newspaper.

“[The] writings of the newspaper with their nature, contents and purpose contradict the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Armenia; violate the fundamental rights and freedoms set forth in the RA Constitution, laws and international laws; particularly, the right to non-discrimination, the right to liberty and security, the right to respect for private and family life”, said Pink Armenia.

The court not only rejected the lawsuit, but also obliged the citizens to compensate 150,000 AMD ($365) for Iravunk’s lawyers’ fees and compensate the same amount in favour of Hovhannes Galajyan.

“The court decision reflects once more that hate speech and homophobia is supported by high level officials in Armenia, and this creates an atmosphere of impunity, gives floor for hate crime and fascism in the country,” Pink Media said in the statement following the court decision.

More recently, around 30 NGOs, as representatives of civil society showed their outrage towards the court’s decision.

“With this decision, the court puts citizens’ safety, privacy and right to non-discrimination at risk, while it also suggests that more dangerous forms of discrimination can take place with little consequences”, is written in their mutual press release.

Newspaper’s activities are in line with Armenian authority’s new law introduced last year.  The law aims to protect Armenian family values from public promotion of “non-traditional sexual relationships.”

Regardless of the pressure and threatening environment, the LGBT news website was launched for the first time in Armenia.