Letter: You Cannot Threaten, Condone, or Enact Violence Against LGBT Armenians

Dear Editor,

In the aftermath of the fire-bombing of the gay-friendly bar DIY on May 8 in Yerevan and the subsequent bail out of one of the bombers by Dashaksutyun MP Artsvik Minasyan, who condoned the act “in accordance with national ideology,” numerous statements have been made by ARF members that condemn homophobia in general and wholeheartedly support human rights for all Armenians as part of their mission, calling for dialogue and tolerance. This should be applauded. However, there has been no direct action taken by the ARF, to my knowledge, towards Minasyan. No reprimand, no investigation, no call to remove nor request resignation–logical steps given the stated position of ARF spokespeople and leadership. In fact, most ARF statements condemning hate speech, including those from Shant Student Association, ARF Western U.S. Central Committee Chairman Avedik Izmirlian, the chairman of the party’s parliamentary bloc, Vahan Hovannesian, ARF Political Affairs Director Giro Manoyan, and Vice-President of Socialist International Maria Titizian Minasyan, fail to even mention Artsvik Minasyan by name. Therefore, these statements of the ARF’s support for LGBT and human rights account to little more than hollow pronouncements.

Like any group of human beings on earth, Armenians contain 10 percent of gay people–it's a given that needs to be accepted, rather than denied with statements of 'Amot eh.'

Furthermore, there have been defensive statements that the ARF as a whole should not be seen as homophobic or blamed for the firebombing because of the actions of a few. This goes without saying. But the fact of the matter is, when action is not taken against those who continue to make hateful comments that could potentially incite more violence, it is too late for “dialogue and discourse.” And it is not enough to simply disassociate from a few individuals. In this case, lack of action is seen as tacit support.

Since Minasyan’s actions and statements, a few other MPs have made increasingly hostile and dangerous comments, validating violence against LGBT Armenians as a national value, including Armenian ruling Republican Party spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, and Republican Party MP Hovhannes Sahakyan. They too should be reprimanded, investigated, and asked to step down for disregarding the constitutional rights of all RA citizens based on Article 14.1 and for generating unsafe living conditions for not just queer Armenians, but any Armenians who are seen as nonconforming to ultra-conservative values: feminists, artists, intellectuals. International observers have taken notice of the potentially incendiary situation, including Amnesty International. But because of the lack of response from any other MP or governing institution, “virulent” comments continue.  Today, Dashnaksutyun MP Artur Aghabekyan stated that he “welcomes young people who do not simply ring the alarm bell but make practical steps in fighting against those who defame our national values and faith.”

Here is an actual call for more violence. When will the aggression stop?

Aghabekyan may as well have equated LGBT Armenians with the government of Azerbaijan. Because the firebombers acted on the anniversary of Shushi’s liberation, it’s clear that they mistakenly equate anyone with a differing identity as somehow threatening to Armenian national sovereignty. Given statements to this effect by said MPs that LGBT Armenians are destructive to the Armenian society and nation, it seems clear that this prejudiced idea has taken root in the minds of other Armenians. To allow it to propagate and gain traction by official members of the government is a grave mistake.

A few queer Armenians attended a gay pride march in Turkey last year, including Tsomak Oganesova, the manager of DIY, for the usual reasons: to feel supported in their identity, rather than seen as invisible, spurned, and outcasted. There is no means to attend a gay pride march in Armenia, a largely homophobic country. The point is, queer Armenians did not go to Turkey to undermine the Armenian nation (neither, it could be said, did the Armenians who are working in Turkey today in order to survive, not to mention the Armenians who have lived in Turkey as part of Armenia’s historic homeland). Rather, their trip to Istanbul was just one of a variety of exchanges that have taken place over recent years between Armenian and Turkish artists, activists, intellectuals, and scholars to open dialogue across a closed border. Such grassroots efforts bring us closer to finding mutual understanding and solving our longstanding differences.

Clearly, lack of awareness about the issues of LGBT Armenians is part of the problem. Various organizations, including AGLA NY, GALAS, PINK Armenia, Queering Yerevan, Utopiana, and the Women’s Resource Center have been working steadily to educate people and to counter widespread notions of fear and “otherness.” At a time when marriage equality has been passed by several states in the U.S. and President Obama announced his support for gay marriage, queer Armenians–in Armenia and the diaspora–still are not being seen and valued for their positive contributions to Armenian society in the arts, human rights, business, political institutions, medicine, family life, etc. Like any group of human beings on earth, Armenians contain 10 percent of gay people–it’s a given that needs to be accepted, rather than denied with statements of “Amot eh.”

I believe that Dashanaksutyun understands this reality. However, we now need the further support of the ARF to send a strong message to everyone in Armenia and the diaspora: “You might not be gay, you might not support gay marriage, but whoever you are, you cannot demonize LGBT Armenians as anti-Armenian because of their identity; you cannot threaten, condone, or enact violence against LGBT Armenians.” This message can only be sent if those issuing threatening statements are dealt with accordingly. All members of the ARF need to act immediately to oust from office Minasyan and other hate-speech issuing MPs if they truly want to support and protect the human rights of thousands of innocent Armenians.

Nancy Agabian
Queens, N.Y.

Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.


  1. The ones who really undermine the Armenian nation are the thieves, thugs, bribe takers, blood suckers of so many kinds today’s Armenia has no shortage in. Then come our “wonderful” neighboring governments (note” not people). Then – all the indifferent people… the list is long, and gays are not in it.

  2. A good message. And the message is received by ARF, I believe. But if you’re expecting blunt moves from ARF, you’re probably in for a disappointment. I would be happy to stand corrected. Your suggestions (reprimands, dismissals, etc.), though appropriate, are befitting of a North American society with a Western value system. Public castigation works mainly in North America, where every single issue is mediatized, but not necessarily in other places (DSK will be back in French politics eventually), and certainly not in Armenia. Time is needed for Armenia (and one of its entities, the ARF of Armenia) to undergo the necessary transformation. Remember, the US and Canada had their shares of attacks on minorities, bombings and massacres at abortion clinics, etc., to reach where they are today. And where the US is on some societal issues is still far from being exemplary. (Incidentally, in the last “big”, mediatized case, that of Trayvon Martin, the killer was out on bail). Let us hope and make effort that the transformation in Armenia will come with no cost in lives. However noble and well-intentioned, change cannot be dictated to a party like ARF and a society as that of Armenia, from outside. ARF has its way of doing things. Regardless of its social-democratic platform, harmonizing the daily principles it abides by in geographical and sociological arenas as different and diverse as those of Armenia and the Diaspora is definitely a mountain to climb. It would be better if the ARF side of the story is left to ARFers to handle. Armenia is the bigger and the more important picture here.
    On a side note, the Washington-dictated Turkey-Armenia grass-root efforts are geared solely to rid Turkey and the US of a chronic headache called the Armenian issue.

    Levon, Canada

  3. Well said, Levon. And may I add:

    Obama’s qualified support for gay marriage (“For me personally” i.e. no policy action) was pure political calculation, a politically-convenient return to a position he held 16 years ago in Illinois. Armenians and Armenia are better than Obama and don’t need to follow his example for anything. This is coming from a progressive liberal who just graduated from Obama’s alma mater.

  4. It is a pity that the political party that claims to promote socialist and humanistic ideals and values promotes in reality hate speech, condones and even encourages violence on the grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation. When the ARF statements that condemn hate speech or acts come from Armenia, they are made essentially by ARF leaders with Western background and by Vahan Hovannesyan (probably, ex officio). Those statements are primarily addressed to the outside world. “Locals” among ARF leaders do not seem to have scruples about engaging in hate speech. Nancy Agabian in her letter rightly mentions Artsvik Minasyan and Artur Aghabekyan. Tonight Armen Arustamyan in a talk show on Kentron TV plainly accused LGBT people. In his view they are to blame. They “dared” to come out publicly. They “provoked” just anger of “patriots,” etc., etc. Yeah, blame the victim…
    This is pathetic also because this very same Armen Arustamyan on March 16, 2010 voted in the PACE Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights for the Resolution 1728 (2010) and Recommendation 1915 (2010) that condemn hate speech and discriminatory statements against LGBT people… A clear case of double standards. In Europe he poses as a civilized person, whereas here at home he feels free to engage in hate speech…

  5. Nancy writes in her letter, “All members of the ARF need to act immediately…” to right the wrongs and to send the right message. Indeed, that is what one would expect. However, the ARF in Armenia is sending a totally different message. Today the official media outlet (“Yerkir”) of the party published a piece calling the “Diversity march” held in Yerevan on May 21 a “provocation” (See “Diversity” provocation (in Armenian) at http://www.yerkir.am/am/news/25746.htm)
    This anonymous piece equates (whether deliberately or not, I can’t say) the Diversity march with a gay parade. The march (not parade) took place not on May 17 (the day to fight homophobia) but on May 21 designated by the UN as a day to celebrate cultural, etc. diversity and to promote tolerance, understanding, dialogue, etc. The piece accuses the organizers of the march of a provocation to promote the LGBT cause. It also laments that such events “justify” fascism as a reaction… Like I said in my previous post, another example of blaming the victim. The ARF has again showed its true colors… And yes, the text clearly conveys prejudice, homophobia and even hate…

  6. Why are all of you so upset?
    how many Armenians do you know in your neighbourhood that accept homosexuals?
    In general we Armenians do not care what a person does in his private life. We even can be firends with homos as long as they do not go over the borderline, like demanding to have the same rights in the church, having the right to child adoptions etc.
    And do you know what? – we are not alone – most citizens in other “civilized conuntries” act the same!

    You that demand equality – do you not instinctly feel dsigused when you see two persons of same gender kiss each other or even worse things? I would say that you are a lier if you say you do not!

    • The main reason I am replying to your ignorant and prejudicial comment is to make the point that rights for people who identify as LGBTQ are ESSENTIALLY human rights. To try and strip someone of their natural rights because of their sexual/gender identification is inhumane.
      What people need to realize is this, no one is asking for you to be over-accepting/over-loving/ or even the best ally you can be.
      We are asking for you to understand and realize that everyone is a human being and therefore deserves the same EQUAL treatment in society as well as the law.
      Neither you, nor any one else has the right to oppress other human beings into a second class citizen position.

      Stop confusing your personal preferences with justice.

  7. After watching videos of the Diversity March I do wonder when Armenians will come to accept the reality of the LGBT population without so much hatred, fear
    and violence. It will take true leaders to help the country evolve as is always the case with change. Unfortunately, change is violent usually, as the emotions involved run so deep. I’m confident Armenia will get there, it is that are become extinct.

  8. All that victim blaming sounds like the Turkish government blaming us for committing genocide on ourselves. After all we have suffered, I pray that do we not turn the sin of hatred and intolerance on others. Peace.

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