Letter: The ARF Should Send a Strong Message

Dear Editor,

The ARF has been part of my bloodline. I never knew of a time when I wasn’t associated with it. During most of my life, I was involved in it. It is with great pain and distress that I learn that members of the Armenian Parliament, who are ARF members, have bailed out men who attacked a gay bar in Yerevan (or, at least, a bar that is open to the gay community).

On May 15, the bar was attacked a second time. A group of men burned anti-fascism posters and painted swastikas on the walls. Several of these attackers were reportedly arrested. (Photo by Lara Aharonian)

There’s only one thing to do, only one possible ethical act that could follow this action: ARF members who are proud to be part of an organization that champions equality and justice must demand the ARF to castigate these members of the organization for the shameful way they acted. Unless that is done, the ARF is tarnished with this heinous act. One cannot in clean conscience rage for equality and social justice while promoting not only homophobia, but active violence against homosexuals.

The ARF members who bailed out these men should remember the words of the ARF anthem.

And ARF leaders should realize that this is exactly what drives young people away from the organization. And I’m talking about the hypocrisy. The rejection of gay rights being a whole different matter.

Of course, the reaction from within Armenia may be predicted—many will think of the outrage caused by this news as simply a way for the diaspora to push its policies on the homeland. But that is a vapid sentiment when the issue at hand is actually examined. This is about simple human decency and the right of people to congregate, the right of people to live and not be killed by homemade explosives. It is truly unfortunate that nationalistic groups often produce jingoistic bigots who claim that they are trying to keep the “national identity pure.”

I would challenge anyone to find a simple example in history where someone trying to keep “national identity pure” didn’t commit a terrible act.

The ARF must send a strong message. It must send the message that homosexuality is actually part of the Armenian identity, too, just like it is part of the identity of every nation, and of the species and of nature as a whole. The rejection of one tenth of the human population is the stupidest basis for a national identity that could possibly be fathomed. Unless the ARF is willing to send this message, it is tainted, and it should not complain if it is painted with a very wide brush.

Simon Beugekian
Boston, Mass.

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Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles written and submitted by members of the community, which make up our community bulletin board.

10 Comments

  1. Totally agree with the author of the letter! It is a must-do thing to keep the ARF clean. We already say that at the beginning of the century, ARF’s target was Istanbul and nowadays ARF tries to cover YEREVAN’s streets with blood. Make our mouths shut by your actions then! Show yourselves tolerant dashnags!! Don’t be afraid!

  2. ARF has always had an important role in my life and although I am not a member now I used to be in ARF’s youth group. I don’t live in Armenia but I have been actively encouraging people to vote for ARF in recent election. In the last few days I have had to rethink all my connections with ARF. I have suddenly realised that ARF is supporting fascist cells that want to kill me and burn me alive because they think my sexuality makes me a threat to Armenian identity. I have worked all my life to support, help and promote Armenia and Armenian culture and issues. I have made investment in villages in Armenia to create jobs, I spend all my holidays in Armenia to support the economy, I am planning to move to Armenia in the coming year to encourage people to remain there, I have taken numerous friends on visits to Armenia, and yet ARF thinks I deserve to be killed, or silenced or have no rights. I have recently been encouraged by people like Maria Titizian and Lilit Galstyan who have argued for the ARF’s original principles and ideology and I was planning to join the party. It saddens me that I now have to start struggling against it as a reactionary force. What ARF has done has caused itself and Armenia unimaginable damage. Damage to itself because more educated, enlightened people will perceive ARF negatively, and damage to Armenia because more people will feel that they have to leave Armenia. It is a tragedy that Armenian patriotism is based on hating others, since independence we have forced most minority’s to leave Armenia, them Armenian have been leaving in droves, now LGBT groups will feel unsafe to remain, then it will be people with disabilities, tall , short, fat, slim. We seem to be a people full of hatred supported by our church in this mission. Is this the independent country we always dreamed of. People keep referring to Armenian traditions for oppressing others, I don’t know what these people know about Armenian past but Armenian were one of the most progressive nations in the whole of Turkish, Russian and Persian empires. Today we have fallen decades behind all of our neighbours. This is at a time when Turkey is one of the fastest developing countries both socially and economically. While we are threatening to kill gay people in Armenia, the gay pride in Istanbul is evolving into an important event in Europe. Can you see how the civilised world is going to compare us at a time when we have so many unresolved issues with Turkey.

    • Serge,

      Please don’t blame the whole ARF for a couple of bad apples. I am an openly gay man in my Gomideh in RI and I have never been more welcome by any group of people. You, Simon, and all the others are right, our organization the ARF needs to take a strong stand against all types of violence. We are one nation and need to act as one.

  3. As regards to the quote: “On May 15, the bar was attacked a second time. A group of men burned anti-fascism posters and painted swastikas on the walls. Several of these attackers were reportedly arrested”. As far as I know there is nothing said in the local press and mass-media about second attack. Is there any proof of the attack or arrested guys apart from the unsubstantiated statements.

  4. The actions of a few individual members should not be confused with ARF policy or ARF ideology. Below is a statement that was just published in Asbarez:

    “ARF Shant Student Association Issues Statement on Yerevan Hate Crime

    ARF Shant Student Association

    LOS ANGELES—The Armenian Revolutionary Federation Shant Student Association on Wednesday issued a statement condemning a recent hate crime in Yerevan that has sparked controversy. Below is the text of the statement.

    The news of a recent fire-bombing incident at a private business operating in Yerevan is disturbing. Furthermore, the fact that the violence was motivated by intolerance and homophobia makes it even more outrageous and deserving of the strongest condemnation.

    In the aftermath of this incident, certain groups and individuals have opted to point the finger of blame on the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, simply because the suspects apprehended for the unfortunate crime allegedly have affiliations with the organization. What has inflamed the matter further are the equally unfortunate statements made by some individual party members in Armenia.

    The egregious act and the subsequent statements run counter to the fundamental tenets and ideology of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. As the ARF Program states: “the ARF advocates individual freedoms and rejects all forms of and expressions of domination and exploitation including fascism, racism, and chauvinistic manifestations of national supremacy.”

    The ARF firmly believes that democracy is anchored by respect for human and civil rights and freedoms for all and that free expression, even amongst party members, is vital to the growth and development of any peoples.

    True to its ideology, the ARF is dedicated to utilizing its resources to defending the political, economic, social, and cultural interests of the Armenian nation with the goal of creating the Free Armenian, the Free Citizen, and a free homeland.

    We stand in full support of an Armenia that is free of all forms of discrimination, intolerance, and violence. Those responsible for the crime must be brought to justice to the full extent of the law. We, along with countless others inside Armenia and throughout the Diaspora will be vigilantly advocating equal rights by encouraging a long overdue dialogue and discourse that will advance the cause of freedom and free expression and quell any future incidents that target a group or individuals that are subjected to discrimination.

    ARMENIAN REVOLUTIONARY FEDERATION “SHANT” STUDENT ASSOCIATION (USA)”

  5. Meaningful and concise article.
    But missed to address the breeding grounds for some ultra-nationalist and fascist elements within ARF organization staining its image for years!

  6. Wherever the source and whichever organization the inspiring ground of these attacks may be, the attacks should be condemned in stronges terms. Discrimination against a social minority group is in itself reprehensible, using violence inspired by such discrimination is much worse.
    We may not like gays and homosexuals, but we must respect their right to live peacefully in a society that aspires to be modern and progressive.

  7. I also grew up surrounded by ARF, and have felt more and more disenfranchised as an out gay man as I’ve gotten older. I’m glad to see this conversation becoming visible. I hope that the ARF as a whole (and not just individual chapters) will openly condemn acts of hatred, and I hope to see opinions and attitudes shift within the diaspora. I think it’s most important for us in the diaspora to shine the light on community organizations WITHIN Armenia that are doing the work, and starting the necessary conversations at (I assume) great personal risk to themselves.

    http://www.pinkarmenia.org/en/main/

  8. Garen: The ARF has been one of the most welcoming places for me as an Armenian gay man. I take my partner to events, the agoump and not one person has made a derogatory comment for the past decade!

    We seem to moving towards that inclusive ARF that I have always believed in!

  9. As an openly gay member of my Gomideh, I have been welcomed with open arms. For those of you that have grown up in the ARF or are members today I would like to get to know other LGBT members. I think it would be a great opportunity for us to talk about our experience in the LGBT community and how we can bring that experience to the ARF.

    Please email me at george.mangalo@gmail.com

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