YEREVAN (A.W.)—A homemade bomb this month targeted a bar, called “DIY,” which is seen as a haven for “free thinkers” and welcomes the often-shunned gay community of Yerevan. The hate crime, which happened just two days after the parliamentary elections, has given way to controversy, as ARF MPs Artsvik Minasyan and Hrayr Karapetyan reportedly posted the one million dram (approximately USD 2,500) bail to free the assailants.
The attackers, Iranian-Armenian brothers Hampig and Mgrdich (also referred to as Arame) Khapazian, are said to have targeted bar owner Tsomak Oganesova for her activism in the LGBT community, and her participation in a Gay Pride Parade in Turkey.
No one happened to be at the bar at the time of the attack, which happened during the early morning hours on May 8. However, substantial damage was reported to the walls and furniture, which were burned from the bomb.
In an interview with Panorama news agency, Minasyan said, “I consider [Oganesova’s] types—I don’t want to sound offensive—destructive to Armenian society.”
When asked why he decided to post bail, Minasyan said, “Why? Because knowing those youth, I consider them normal people. The investigation will reveal to what degree the violation they committed endangered public safety.”
“In the given situation, I am convinced that those youth acted the right way, in the context of our societal and national ideals. It is a different matter if certain damage has been caused, and compensation must be paid,” he added.
During a press conference, Oganesova said that the ARF has continued to persecute her, and that she will present her evidence before the law.
MPs acted on their own, says ARF member
Another ARF member, Nvart Manasyan, told Epress that her party is not a totalitarian organization, and that its members have the right to express their own opinions. She also said that Minasyan’s reasons for bailing out the attackers should not be linked to the party.
Manasyan said that the ARF is a party that advocates democracy and socialism; that it operates according to the Armenian Constitution, where xenophobia is forbidden; and that it is impossible to condemn such a party for ultra-nationalism.
There was an overwhelming outcry on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter condemning Minasyan’s act, and some demanding that the ARF leadership respond.
Swastikas painted on walls
On May 15, a second attack reportedly occurred. A group of men spat on the bar, burned anti-fascism posters, and spray-painted swastikas on the walls. Two of these attackers were reportedly arrested.