Why Such Ill Will?

A Shurnukh Victim's Account of Anti-LGBTQ Attack

A picture of the dinner table, from the evening when a group of activists and members of Armenia’s LGBT community gathered on retreat in the village of Shurnukh. (Photo: Elvira Meliksetyan)

I had promised my friends that I would sleep; instead, I want to throw up…

A dreadful void formed inside me between 8 and 10 o’clock last night, and it will take a long, long time for me to absorb. It will take a long time for all of us to absorb—those of us who were in Shurnukh, physically or in spirit. The scenes from yesterday keep coming back to me in bits and pieces, and everything within me shudders, turning into all-encompassing sorrow and helplessness.

I freeze so that I can gain more time to understand what I have the ability to do, and what I’m unable to do. I was incapable of deciding to not be where I was yesterday; I was powerless to resolve the situation, or influence it in any way, because beginning at some point during that incident, our very lives—the decision whether we would be or not be—was no longer ours to determine. I remember those episodes with every fiber of my being, and my body groans from the burden and the toxicity. I want to vomit, to retch… to throw up the stones crashing against my friends’ heads, ribs, backs, legs. I want to expel those mental images—and the suffocating emotions associated with them—into the pail (once used to carry concrete) which we had used that morning to carry water from the neighbor’s house.

I want to vomit up all the blows against us, along with our incapacity to respond to those blows. I want to vomit up the humiliation, the insults we swallowed, the feeling of being kicked around like a ball in any direction they wished—in this case, out of the village. I want to vomit up the terror of the realization that no one, no one in the entire village (except one elderly woman who brought bandages for my bleeding friend and tried furtively to hand them to us), tried to stop those men who were trampling us underfoot and who mocked our pleading questions—”what for? why?”—with “you deserve it, it’s where you belong; you have no right to live, faggots.”

I want to vomit up that terrifying feeling of being entirely alone after each futile attempt to stop a passing car so we could escape from that place: The cars would not stop. They would not allow the cars to stop.

I want to vomit up those paralyzing few minutes when we thought they had killed our friend and we were powerless to do anything. I want to vomit up the thought that had struck like a bolt of lightning—that we would all be left on that highway, that there was no hope of escaping from their clutches with our lives.

I want to purge the psychological trauma and the humiliation they inflicted on us while keeping us surrounded. I want to expel the mental images of those smirking, mocking faces that smile at me each time I close my eyes; of the dark jungle that encircled us like a heavy shroud, blocking our view of the horizon; of the many humanoid shadows that like an army, with stones and fists at the ready, waited for the opportune moment to hurl our bodies to the ground. I want to exorcise that horrific, glistening cross above the horizon, behind them, upon which they were mentally crucifying us, these “honorable real men,” on our judgment day. I want to vent out my friends’ howling, screaming, shrieking, pleading voices, which ring in my ears and like an alarm clock that keep me from my sleep.

I want to vomit, to throw up with all the power that is in me. I want to expel your lies and propaganda about what I lived through, what I saw, and what I felt… I want to spit out your hatred. I want to disgorge your arrogance. I want to barf up your blindness. I want to vomit up all the “why?!” questions that have no answers.

I want to throw up… and throw up… and keep throwing up…

Whereas from you… I want back our dinner last night on that balcony, our tranquil conversation, and the tears I shed while moved to hope as I listened to this song…


Editor’s Note:  On August 3, nine LGBTQ feminist and environmentalist activists were attacked while on retreat in the village of Shurnukh. This dramatic piece was written as a Facebook post by one of the victims just over 24 hours after the attack, and in the spirit of solidarity, was translated as a collective effort by Diasporans in the Boston area. The primary translator is Vahe Habeshian with contributions from Alik Arzoumanian, Nancy Kricorian, Lorky Libaridian, Sevag Arzoumanian, Lisa Gulesserian, Nancy Aykanian and others.

Elvira Meliksetyan

Elvira Meliksetyan

Elvira Meliksetyan is an activist based in Yerevan.
Elvira Meliksetyan

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you to each and every one of the Boston and New York area writers/activists who participated in translating this piece. It was a truly collective effort! It was actually a very challenging text to translate. Trying to be as faithful to the Eastern Armenian as possible while capturing the spontaneous character, the pacing and the rhythm — in brief, the poetic force — of the original post.

    When Elvira’s Facebook post first appeared the day after the attack, many of us were deeply moved, even devastated, by her account….and were driven to do something (anything!) to help. The least we could do was to make sure her account, and the horrific experiences of her fellow activists in Shurnukh, reached a wider audience.

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