Below I republish an open letter protesting intolerance against sexual minorities in Armenia, which unfortunately is still widespread. I have added my name. If you want to add yours, you can do so following this link. You can find more about the examples mentioned in the letter here, here and here.
After the government in Armenia signed the UN declaration against discrimination based on sexual orientation in December 2008, we have witnessed a resurgence of hostile rhetoric against homosexuals both in official and oppositional media. Many media outlets publish professionally unqualified articles, which at best resemble neighborhood gossips. This phenomenon could have been overlooked if the danger of mass media becoming a platform to disseminate hatred and intolerance did not exist. These publications do not even demonstrate elementary journalistic professionalism and lack any kind of homework or research. Questions, such as what is homosexuality? Who are the homosexuals in Armenia? How do they live? Are they different from larger society (even though the answers to these questions are never simple and straightforward), are never asked?
Even though the general absence of any desire to ask fundamental questions about homosexuality, male homosexuality in Armenia has been consistently described as a threat to national security, a result of accepting European decadent values or a pathology and disease, while homosexual women have been denied of existence all together or condemned in not fitting into the image of a “proper” Armenian woman.
Some of the most recent publications which disseminate hatred towards homosexuals and can potentially become a source of violence, include the article “Armenian lesbians are becoming more active” in Aravot daily (July 22, http://new.aravot.am/am/articles/culture/54469/view); an interview with the rising star of the Republican Party Edward Shahmazanov in the same newspaper, in which the prominent politician claims that he is anti-gay; and the following statement by the head of the “Sustainable Human Development” agency in Armenia Karine Danielyan: “It’s been always considered that 4-5% of humanity has such pathologies…these should be regarded as a disease.”
We believe that such statements are largely a result of illiteracy in issues of homosexuality which is reflected upon the prevalent obsession to defend the patriarchal structure of society and to present it as a national value. Nevertheless, we also realize that such statements uttered by prominent public figures and politicians could be received by mainstream society as the state official policy.
Thus, several civil society groups and individuals, concerned with these developments, strongly condemn the statements which disseminate hatred and intolerance. Before inflicting potentially violent rhetoric, such public figures should realize that they have a responsibility towards larger society and towards its sexual minorities as well, including their safety and well-being.
We urge all officials, politicians, journalists, teachers, doctors and all those who are engaged in public work as well as each and every individual, to get acquainted with problems that homosexual men and women face in Armenia, their socially active initiatives and to the contemporary debates around gender and sexuality.
Please, sign this petition on http://www.queeringyerevan.blogspot.com/. We appreciate further comments and suggestions.
[full list is signatories is here].