22 July, 2013

Pink Armenia raises awareness on cases of hate crime in the country

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Ruxandra Pandea
2 pm

Pink (Public Information and Need of Knowledge) Armenia is a non-governmental organisation that aims to increase public awareness about sexual and reproductive health and rights, sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS. In the sphere of human rights protection PINK Armenia promotes the ideas of equality and acceptance of vulnerable groups. We want to bring into being acceptance and appreciation of diversity in our society through encouraging cultural sensitivity, acceptance and through eliminating any kind of discrimination.

Here are just some examples of cases of hate crime, gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms documented by the organization. Names of victims have been changed for security reasons.

Arson attack on gay-friendly bar D.I.Y>

Club before the attack

On May 8, 2012 a fire was intentionally started in gay-friendly bar called D.I.Y., located on 14/11 Ghazar Parpetsi Street, Yerevan, Armenia. It was owned by a lesbian woman Tsomak, and was a very well known and long established meeting place for members of the LGBT community. Long before the explosion Tsomak was subjected to harassment, threats and intimidation because of her sexual orientation and because of the role played by D.I.Y. in the life of the LGBT community in Armenia.

Club after the attack

Following the fire, which caused extensive damage to the building (photos below), a criminal case was initiated by the police and two fascist, nationalist young men who were charged with intentional infliction of damage to property to the Criminal Code of Armenia, and not hate crime, as Armenia lacks hate crime legislation to protect LGBT people. During their first statements the accused young men said that they started the fire because Tsomak is lesbian, people like her have no place in Armenia and they regard members of the LGBT community as abnormal. Some days later the pub was again attacked, this time by unknown persons who destroyed the bathroom of the pub, and drew swastikas and wrote threatening messages on the walls. During their first statements the accused young men said that they started the fire because Tsomak is lesbian, people like her have no place in Armenia and they regard members of the LGBT community as abnormal. Some days later the pub was again attacked, this time by unknown persons who destroyed the bathroom of the pub, and drew swastikas and wrote threatening messages on the walls.

Public officials support and justify the attacks

 Following the arson attack noted in the first case, some public officials of Armenia, including ruling party (Republicans) representatives, deputy speaker of Armenian Parliament, made public statement in support of the fascist guys who attacked the bar, stating that the illegal and violent act ‘’was right and justified as it was directed against LGBT Armenians. […] Young people behaved in the context of our societal and national ideology, in a right way and people like the owner of the club, destroys our nation’’. This ‘’classic’’ hate speech example was accepted normally by other officials and by most part of society in general, and many other officials also publicly shared the same opinion.

Aram, and the fear to report homophobic attacks

Aram, who is gay and whose sexual orientation had been learnt about by a group of boys living in the same district, was forcibly taken to the nearest internet club on regular basis, where he was subjected to physical and psychological violence: Aram was naked by those boys, beaten, tortured on regular basis for some period. The young men also called dirty words, defamatory and humiliating statements towards Aram. The victim refused his case to go public, even refused to bring lawsuit against them, as he was afraid of publicity of his status, his sexual orientation and the public reaction to the case.

When homophobia is stronger than Hippocratic oath

Levon, who went to a medical institution located in Yerevan, faced discriminatory treatment by the doctor, who prescribed wrong medicine on purpose, as he knew that Levon was homsexual man. Moreover, he did not give the tablets to be taken home by the patient Levon and called him every day to the hospital to give one. The drugs were having negative effects on Levon’s health, and he decided not to continue the treatment, short time after which he learnt that the medicine prescribed by the doctor was usually intended to result in adverse effects on the person who had that exact health problem, that Levon had.

Police forces abuses

Two police officers knowing that the X woman is a sex worker, approached her, maltreated by the use of insulting and derogatory statements, which was later accompanied by the use of physical pressure by the two police officers and forcibly took her to the nearest police station with the pretext of their duty to take to appropriate medical institutions for preventing the spread of infectious diseases. The woman was kept in the police station for some time, then taken to the medical institution and brought back to the police station, fined and released. During this whole period she was maltreated in derogatory and insulting way by the police officers. When the woman began complaining about that she must not be treated like that, one of the police officers hit her twice on her head stating that she ‘’deserves it’’ because she is a prostitute woman.

For further information, you can check the report of PINK Armenia here  and/or contact Lusine Ghazaryan, lawyer at PINK Armenia and volunteer in the No Hate Speech Movement.

Photos in this article by Onnik Krikorian. You can also read his report on the attack on D.I.Y. club here.


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