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Sunday, 30 March 2014

Yerevan Diaries: Akanat - art cafe with a difference (“book menu”)

Akanat instantly became one of my most favourite places in Yerevan. It's an art cafe, with cool design, relaxing and friendly atmosphere, interesting crowd. They regularly hold art, literature events there. (see Akanat's Facebook page)

Along with the food/drinks menu, you get the “book menu” too, with a selection of mainly contemporary publications by Armenian and foreign authors. Absolutely loved the idea.


I chose “Կիկոսի վերադարձը” by writer Armen Ohanyan.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Yerevan Diaries: Cinema Star, "family space", film censorship, Lars von Trier and Parajanov

Here we are. Previously announced screening of Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac has been cancelled by Cinema Star (part of recently opened Dalma Garden Mall Western style shopping centre in Yerevan), due to unspecified “complaints by individuals and groups". A day or two ago, I remember seeing this film being referred to as “porno-drama” by some on Armenian Facebook.

This reminded me hysteria and eventual cancellation of gay themed Parada film screening a year or so ago.

Even more outrageous, ridiculous, you name it, was Cinema Star's bullsh*t statement 'justifying' the cancelation of film screening by ‘cinema is a family space’ line.
«Որոշման համար հիմք են հանդիսացել մի շարք քաղաքացիների եւ հասարակական խմբերի բազմաթիվ առարկությունները, որոնք կասկած են հայտնել Հայաստանում մեծ էկրանով ֆիլմի ցուցադրության նպատակահարմարության վերաբերյալ: 2013 թվականին բացվելուց անմիջապես հետո Սինեմա Սթար Դալմա Գարդենը դարձավ «ընտանեկան տարածք» եւ երեւանցիների հանգստի սիրելի վայրերից մեկը: Հաշվի առնելով այդ հանգամանքը` մենք որոշեցինք խուսափել իրավիճակից, երբ ֆիլմի ցուցադրությունը կարող է հակասական կարծիքներ առաջացնել մեր այցելուների մոտ», - ասված է հաղորդագրության մեջ:
Forgetting for a moment such an utter nonsense as cinema calling itself a “family space”… If this was the case (which it is not, of course!), then why on earth did they announce the film's screening in the first place?!

If this is a some kind of “family space” cinema, then one would expect the showcase of only “U” or “PG”, or at the very maximum “12+” rating films there. One would expect. One would be wrong.

The even bigger irony is that this very cinema is currently screening a film that is as far from a “family friendly” notion as it can get - The Wolf of Wall Street, released in the UK under “18+” rating. A picture, still from The Wolf of Wall Street, is currently making rounds on Armenian sector of Facebook, along with abundance of jokes, memes and ridicules towards the Cinema Star and their statement.

But there is more ridiculousness incorporated within the statement. They also mentioned that they wanted avoiding the situation when a film’s screening generates “conflicting opinions” among cinema visitors… What?!… I have now ‘conflicting’ urge to laugh or scream…. Isn’t this the best that any film screening could achieve?!

This is a case of censorship, simple and plain. You better remove Parajanov’s picture from your foyer. You don't deserve such associations. You would have succumb to censorship and censor Parajanov too. Because you are such a coward, or as well known Armenian DJ Vakcina described on her FB page (translit AM): “vaxkot u tssik Cinema Star Armenia !”


Speculations are abound as to who is behind this cancellation. Some say it's the church, but no clear confirmation yet.

So here we are. Yesterday it was Parada, today it is Nymphomaniac… What awaits Armenia tomorrow?… Back to the USSR?… or shall I say forward to the Customs Union?

In this age of internet, don't they realise that censorship won't work in Armenia and will only achieve an opposite effect, generating even more interest about (in this case) the film… Don’t they realise how ridiculous they look now - both those who gave the orders and those who complied with such orders.

In the meantime, while publicly, with such stupid actions some want to present an image of Armenia as some kind of backwards, morality and ‘traditional values’ obsessed nation, word ‘porno’ is on top of most widely searched by Armenians online.

In any case, I will never go to any cinema or venue that supports or gave in to censorship.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Yerevan Diaries: no phallic-shaped Christmas lights but plenty of festive decor and warmth amid freezing temperature

With the “Old New Year” of 13th Jan formally closing down the festive period in Armenia and ex-Soviet states, I will start posting some of my latest Yerevan observations under the Yerevan Diaries label.

This will mainly be a collation of my selected #YerevanDiaries daily tweets @unzippedblog directly from Yerevan, with few more observatory notes or pics.

It was (still is) unusually cold in Yerevan, with the freezing temperature ranging from minus 10 to minus 18 C, but the warmth of family, those precious offline moments with dearest craziest awesome friends in Yerevan made this cutting cold so much more bearable.

So here we are. The first post this year with some of festive pics and Christmas decorations from Yerevan.

There were no phallic-shaped Christmas lights on Abovyan st. in downtown Yerevan [picture circulated on FB was a joke and not taken in Yerevan] but there were plenty of tasteful and tasteless Christmas decorations.


*Candle... or not. All depends on your perception ;)) 


*My favourite Cascade





*Each time I enter Republic sq, the changing lights of the main Christmas tree there turned... blue. I am not kidding. It was pretty hilarious coincidence that became part of talks in the town and my daily routine. No comment, indeed ;))

Happy New Year from Yerevan !! May LOVE rule xxx


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

#PUTinOUT - protesters in Armenia say “Putin, you are not welcome”, denounce ruling regime

Russian president Putin's visit in Armenia happened on a day when Soviets took over control of independent first Republic of Armenia (2 December 1920). Symbolic, eh? Loss of the independence a century ago, the effective loss of the independence now, after Armenia ruling regime ditched the EU integration in favour of Russia-led customs union. The election motto of Armenia’s ruling republican party was “forward, Armenia”. In practice, they have been doing whatever possible and impossible to turn Armenia steadily into a backwards direction.

*Source: Photolure

People took to the streets in Yerevan to say “Putin, you are not welcome in Armenia”, or using Twitter language - #PUTinOUT. They were out in the streets to denounce ruling regime.

*source: shushanblansh

A very diverse “Sovereign Armenia Initiative Group", including a range from ultra-nationalist, far right to very liberal groups and individuals was established on Facebook, with the aim to hold protest actions against Russian president Putin’s visit to Armenia and against decision by Armenia’s ruling regime to join the Russia-led customs union. In a statement, the Initiative says “Armenians are protesting their government’s September 3rd decision to join the Russian-led Customs Union and pull back from the EU Association Agreement”. The statement then continues: “If implemented, the Russian-lead Customs Union, as the latest attempt by Putin to reestablish formal control of former soviet states, would hand over significant portions of Armenian sovereignty to a primarily Russian controlled and unaccountable commission. As such, membership in this union is unconstitutional and illegal. Armenia’s decision to join the Customs Union was a direct result of Russian pressure unbefitting 21st century diplomacy, and more inline with archaic imperial ambitions. Moreover President Serzh Sargsyan, having come to power through fraudulent elections, lacks the legitimacy to make such a decision or to speak on behalf of the Armenian people or in the name of Armenian national interest.”

Reflecting massive protests of revolutionary scale in Ukraine, the Armenian Initiative expressed solidarity with the Ukrainian protesters: “As a sign of solidarity and taking inspiration from the Ukrainian people, Armenians will be carrying Ukrainian flags and expressing their support for their compatriots in Ukraine.” Quite a few of Armenian and Ukrainian flags were later confiscated by police.

Around 1000 people participated in a protest action that was unprecedented for Armenia, considering traditional pro-Russia stance and huge pro-Russia propaganda. A massive detention of estimated 110 protesters followed (most if not all of them were later released). This was truly a police state in progress in Armenia and an indication of things to come with the putinisation of Armenia.

*source: Photolure

The protest action started early in the morning when activists put up large signs in different Yerevan locations denouncing ruling regime and Russia’s president visit. Several activists were detained and later released. Detentions, intimidation followed throughout the day.



“#PUTinOUT”, “Russia is for sad people”, “No to putinism”, “Serj has no people’s mandate”, “Stop RUSSIA” (with “SS” written in red)… these are just few of numerous posters hold by protesters.

*source: CivilNet.am
*source: @nkayserian

It was unprecedented on so many levels. In what was a historic first time ever in Armenia, a rainbow flag was used during a protest action.

*source: @nkayserian

This resulted in a brief scuffle, when ultranationalist participants of the march (from Hayazn group) attacked and harassed activists holding a rainbow flag. For more details - see Unzipped: Gay Armenia - Historic first: Armenia activist holds rainbow flag during #PUTinOUT protest action in Yerevan

Sadly, few days ago, a well known Soviet dissident Natalya Gorbanevskaya passed away. She famously organised a protest action against Soviets military intervention into Czechoslovakia in 1968: “For your and our freedom”. Simple words, and so deep in meaning, and so telling. Current as ever. Revolution in Ukraine. Protests in Armenia. "За вашу и нашу свободу”.

P.S. As news on protest action kept coming, another news broke that ArmRosGazprom is losing the “Arm” part, with Gazprom taking over 100% of the ownership.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Zaruhi - An Gordonach! feat. Assadook - music video highlights problem of domestic violence in Armenia

Difficult to watch, but do watch it. Do not shy away from the problem of domestic violence in Armenia.

[On 25 November, to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, "Coalition to Stop Violence against Women" and activists will march in downtown Yerevan to raise awareness about domestic violence in Armenia.]

 

*source: An Gordonach Scottish-Armenian rock project

"Zaruhi" concentrates on the tragic story of Zaruhi Petrosyan, who was beaten to death by her husband and mother-in-law in Masis, Armenia, in 2010. The song was developed jointly with Iranian electronic artist Assadook and marks a departure from the An Gordonach!'s usual style. The video for the track was directed and edited by Vanadzori filmmaker Raffi Ghazaryan, and includes young Armenian acting talent, including Vahe Mkhitaryan and Ani Oganesyan, who share in the belief of raising awareness on violence against women.

Zaruhi

 'Am I a piece of wool to him?' I wondered as the bruises blackened. The hand that once caressed ignored my pleas and struck again.

Why?

How did I provoke him to shatter my bones? My light was fading fast, I felt so alone.

He snatched the phone and broke my fingers one by one, his mother shrieked and whipped my back. Thrown down the stairs I could not cry for help, blood filled my nose and mouth, my skull cracked as it hit the floor.

Why?

Did I really slip and fall? Do you accept that as the truth? Did the raining blows make him more of a man as I whimpered through my broken teeth?

Don't forget my suffering, though I might be one of many souls. Don't turn your back to this abhorrence and pretend it disappears.

Don't let more girls share my fate though your ignorance and cowardice. Confront this evil in your midst I just won't fade away...

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Prominent Armenians issue statement in support of LGBT human rights (in English and Armenian)

More than two-dozen prominent Armenians in the Diaspora have signed a statement supporting equality and justice for all in Armenia. Among the signatories are poet Diana Der Hovanessian,
filmmaker Atom Egoyan, actor and producer Arsinée Khanjian, musician Serj Tankian, and photographer Scout Tufankjian. This array of Armenian artists, intellectuals and professionals felt moved to release this statement in the light of anti-gay legislation that was recently proposed in Yerevan. “This anti-gay legislation is part of a disturbing pattern of intolerance for marginalized people and opposition voices in Armenia,” said publisher Veken Gueyikian. Writer Nancy Agabian said, “People of conscience must not stand by as our LGBT cousins are targeted and demonized.” The statement represents their collective commitment to human rights and to Armenia’s nascent civil society movements.

For more background see:

Armenian Gay and Lesbian Alliance Statement Against Armenian Police Proposal http://aglany.org/2013/10/28/statement-against-armenian-police-proposal/

Amnesty Documents Widespread harassment of Armenia’s LGBT Community http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/08/22/amnesty-documents-widespread-harassment-of-armenias-lgbt-community/

Human Rights Watch Letter to Armenian President Regarding Proposed Anti-LGBT Legislation http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/10/18/letter-armenian-president-regarding-proposal-anti-lgbt-legislation

Statement

“In response to reports of draft ‘anti-propaganda’ legislation in Armenia, modeled on Russia’s recently passed and widely condemned bill, we, the undersigned members of the global Armenian community, say such attempts to codify anti-gay prejudice into law are contrary to our values. We believe in dignity, equality and the right to self-expression for all people regardless of religion, sexual orientation, gender, or race.”

Nancy Agabian
Mika Artyan
Arlene Avakian
Peter Balakian
Anthony Barsamian
David Barsamian
Eve Beglarian
Chris Bohjalian
Melissa Boyajian
Diana Der Hovanessian
Atom Egoyan
Dahlia Elsayed
Houry Geudelekian
Veken Gueyikian
Nonny Hogrogian
Aris Janigian
Nina Katchadourian
Nishan Kazazian
Arsinee Khanjian
David Kherdian
Nancy Kricorian
Micheline Aharonian Marcom
Neery Melkonian
Arthur Nersesian
Joan Aghajanian Quinn
Aram Saroyan
Serj Tankian
Scout Tufankjian
Hrag Vartanian
***
[in Armenian - below]

Սփյուռքի ավելի քան երկու տասնյակ նշանավոր հայեր միացել են Հայաստանում` բոլորի համար հավասարության և արդարության ապահովման մասին հայտարարությանը: Նրանց թվում են բանաստեղծ Դիանա Տեր-Հովանեսյանը, կինոռեժիսոր Ատոմ Էգոյանը, դերասան և պրոդյուսեր Արսինե Խանջյանը, երաժիշտ Սերժ Թանկյանը, և լուսանկարիչ Սկաուտ Թուֆանկջյանը: Հայ արտիստների, մտավորականների ու մասնագետների այս խումբը անհարժեշտ համարեցին հրապարակել այս հայտարարությունը` հաշվի առնելով նույնասեռականության դեմ օրինագիծը, որը վերջերս առաջարկվել էր Երեւանում: «Նույնասեռականության դեմ այս օրինագիծը Հայաստանում խոցելի մարդկանց և ընդդիմադիր ձայների նկատմամբ անհանդուրժողականության մտահոգիչ օրինակ է»,- ասել է հրատարակիչ Վիգեն Գվիկյանը: Գրող Նենսի Ագաբյանն ասել է. «Մտահոգ մարդիկ չպետք է անտարբեր մնան, երբ ԼԳԲՏ մեր բարեկամները թիրախավորվում և պիտակավորվում են»: Հայտարարությունը ներկայացնում է նրանց միահամուռ նվիրվածությունը մարդու իրավունքներին և Հայաստանի քաղաքացիական հասարակության ծնունդ առնող շարժումներին:

Այլ մանրամասների համար կարդացեք նաև.

ԱԳԼԱ Նյու-Յորքի հայտարարությունն ընդդեմ «քարոզչության» օրենքի ներկայացմանը http://aglany.org/2013/10/28/statement-against-armenian-police-proposal/

Ամնեսթին փաստագրել է համատարած բռնություն Հայաստանում ԼԳԲՏ անձանց նկատմամբ (անգլերեն)
http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/08/22/amnesty-documents-widespread-harassment-of-armenias-lgbt-community/

Հյուման Ռայթս Վոթչի նամակը ՀՀ Նախագահին` նույնասեռականության դեմ ներկայացված օրինագծի վերաբերյալ (անգլերեն)
http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/10/18/letter-armenian-president-regarding-proposal-anti-lgbt-legislation

Հայտարարություն

Ի պատասխան Հայաստանում շրջանառված «հակաքարոզչական» օրենսդրության նախագծի` ձևավորված Ռուսաստանում վերջերս ընդունված և լայնորեն դատապարտված օրինագծի օրինակով, մենք, համընդհանուր հայկական համայնքի ներքոստորագրյալ ներկայացուցիչներս, համոզված ենք, որ նույնասեռականության դեմ նախապաշարմունքների օրենսդրորեն ամրագրման փորձերը հակասում են մեր արժեքներին: Մենք հավատում ենք, որ արժանապատվությունը, հավասարությունը և ինքնարտահայտման իրավունքը բոլորի համար են` անկախ կրոնից, սեռական կողմնորոշումից, գենդերից կամ ռասայից:

Նենսի Ագաբյան
Միկա Արթյան
Առլեն Ավագյան
Պիտեր Բալակյան
Անտոնի Բարսամյան
Դեյվիդ Բարսամյան
Եվա Բեգլարյան
Քրիս Բոհջալյան
Մելիսա Բոյաջյան
Դիանա Տեր-Հովանեսյան
Ատոմ Էգոյան
Դահիլա Էլսայեդ
Հուրի Գյուդելեքյան
Վիգեն Գվիկյան
Նոնի Հոգրոգյան
Արիս Ջանիգյան
Նինա Խաչադուրյան
Նիշան Կազազյան
Արսինե Խանջյան
Դավիդ Խերդյան
Նենսի Գրիգորյան
Միշելին Ահարոնյան Մարկոմ
Նիրի Մելքոնյան
Արթուր Ներսեսյան
Ջոան Աղաջանյան Քուին
Արամ Սարոյան
Սերժ Թանկյան
Սկաուտ Թուֆանկջյան
Հրագ Վարդանյան

*picture - via PINK Armenia

Monday, 21 October 2013

Text-book hypocrisy: Armenia hosts Council of Europe conference on combating racism, xenophobia and intolerance in Europe

UPDATE on Unzipped: Gay ArmeniaP.S. The action. Photo, video, media reports: Armenia human rights activists protest and enter CoE conference in Yerevan exposing ruling regime’s hypocrisy
***
On Monday Armenia hosts Council of Europe conference on "Combating racism, xenophobia and intolerance in Europe".

Just to remind that racism and ‘blood purity‘ are part of the ideology of ruling Republican party.

Earlier foreign minister Nalbandyan “told the Assembly that the Armenian Chairmanship is supporting the No Hate speech Movement” (source). What? Supporting "no hate speech movement"?! Needless to say that Armenia has no hate speech or hate crime legislation. It's all words. One face for the outside world, the very different one - for internal consumption.

In reality, high level Armenian officials condone anti-gay attacks, stir-up nationalism, intolerance, hate speech, xenophobia and racism.

This legal vacuum was clearly illustrated in May 2012 with the attack on gay-friendly bar DIY. This fuelled a rise in violence against the LGBT community, including by high profile politicians from the ruling Republican party, as well as church representatives and local media, which frequently relay messages of homophobic impunity (Yes to domestic violence and Yes to attacking gays).

The notion of diversity was once again attacked few days later, when neo-nazi elements attacked Diversity march to mark United Nation’s World Day of Cultural Diversity. They were encouraged by endorsement of homophobic hysteria and anti-gay violence on a very high state level that followed firebombing of DIY bar.

Other examples? Repeated attempts to hold Azeri film festival in Armenia sparked hatred and xenophobia, with direct physical attacks and abundance of hate speech.

More examples? More recent ones? In abundance.

Here is perhaps the most outrageously bizarre one. Deputy sports/youth minister of Armenia, neo-nazi Asryan claimed that opposition MP Zaruhi Postanjian should be burnt alive (!) for her CoE question. And... nothing. Still holds his position. No criminal proceeding. No challenge from the human rights ombudsman. No nothing. You would think that MPs from ruling party of the Council of Europe chairmanship country would retract the insults, reprimand their colleague at the very least? Nope. Pro-Government MPs Stand By Insults with more racist and xenophobic comments.

Of course, there was no challenge from the ombudsman because he himself was busy flirting with neo-nazi. Armenia human rights ombudsman targets trans sex workers and cites neo-nazi website as a basis for his statement.

More? There have been direct threats on Armenian Facebook to attack women rights and activists as part of 'gender equality' law hysteria. And the very latest demonstration of hatred by groups linked to certain elements within the ruling regime and Russia. A demonstration headed by high level priests against the law on gender equality and against human rights of LGBT people. This instantly reminded of ‘taburetka syndrom’ observed in Tbilisi earlier this year.

*picture - as shared on FB

The above are only few examples. This list can go on and on.

Before hosting such forums, first and foremost Armenia authorities must ensure in-house their determination and actions - not words or signatures, but real life actions - to combat intolerance, hate speech, xenophobia and racism. Right now, Armenia is not necessarily an oasis of tolerance in the region. It could have been. But it's not.

What we are witnessing with hosting such conference is a text-book example of hypocrisy.

So when you read headlines about this conference hosted by Armenia authorities, repeat after me: hypocrisy.

***
Group of human rights activists intend to hold a protest action in front of the conference venue on Monday, exposing hypocrisy of the ruling regime in Armenia.

FB event (AM): Հոկտեմբերի 21-22ը Երևանի Մարիոթ Արմենիա հյուրանոցում տեղի կունենա "Պայքար Եվրոպայում խտրականության, այլատյացության և անհանդուրժողականության դեմ" միջազգային խորհրդաժողով: Նույն օրը առավոտյան 10:15-ին Մարիոթ Արմենիա հյուրանոցի դիմաց վերոնշյալ խնդրով մտահոգ Հայաստանի ակտիվ քաղաքացինները իրենց բողոքի ձայնը կբարձրացնեն Հայաստնում իշխանությունների կողմից իրականացվող խտրականության, այլատյացության և անհանդուրժողականության դեմ:

Monday, 14 October 2013

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Re Heritage MP Zaruhi Postanjyan CoE question: It's not about question per se, she is making a point!

True, making unsubstantiated claims - even if to humiliate a person who deserves it - is not necessarily my type of thing, or to my liking. True, I wish Zaruhi used other than casino question to humiliate president Serj Sargsyan, because there are many more substantiated claims one could have made for those purposes. But the casino question is not the point here.


The whole political system in Armenia is a joke. The real scandals are not being discussed and dealt with by politicians or mainstream media, only the cheap shots, tricks, conspiracies and gossips. Some went as far as to resort to racist remarks towards Zaruhi:
Lawmakers from Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) were particularly furious with Postanjian’s embarrassing verbal attack, comparing it with high treason. “Today Zaruhi Postanjian was more of a Turk than any Turk, more of an Azerbaijani than any Azerbaijani,” one of them, Karen Avagian, wrote on his Facebook account. 
I also read in quite a few places on Facebook that this is 'damaging to Armenia's reputation'. Really?! So it's because of this kind of stupid or not so questions Armenia reputation gets tarnished? I do not think so.

Imagine Zaruhi is asking the most refined politically relevant question in a calm intelligent manner... And? Do you have any doubts what the answers to those questions would be? It will be the usual blah blah blah by Serj. Don't get me wrong. I do agree in usefulness of 'real question' challenging, but this is just another legitimate tactic of defying the authorities.

Concentrating on 'casino question' is missing the point here.

The real point Zaruhi was making was not in a casino question but right before that when she was explaining why any other questioning would be irrelevant, i.e. fraudulent elections that keep this person (Armenia president Serj Sargsyan) & co in power.

This is very relevant to CoE and EU too, as by accepting the election results they gave Serj the legitimacy. Something they were hoping to get back in return to his 'European agenda' promises which turned out to be another farce of its own.
***
Recommended reading (AM): Զարուհին չէր կարող չասել այն, ինչ ասաց

From my archive: Zaruhi Postanjyan: “Fearless In Face Of Authority”

Sunday, 8 September 2013

How Armenia ruling regime and Putin’s Russia fooled the EU over Association Agreement

Surprise. Shock. U-turn... Yet if we look at the bigger picture, including developments of last few months, this turn of events will not seem that surprising.

First sign that we are going to witness what we eventually witnessed, i.e. Armenia president announcing (3 September 2013) country’s intention to join the Russia led Customs/Eurasian union, was... yes-yes, the anti-gender-equality-law-hysteria.

Armenian government proposed the law on gender equality, as part of its European commitments, made sure it was approved by the under control parliament (no efforts needed, just order), then along with Russia provoked and contributed to the backlash against the very law they adopted by equalling “gender” with “European amorality” and “LGBT”. To note, women's groups, including Women's Resource Centre that became target of orchestrated hate campaign and LGBT rights groups had no role whatsoever in developing or promoting the law.

Never before Armenian public underwent such an intoxicating dosage of anti-EU hysteria with propaganda machine making all the possible efforts for EU to be associated with "amorality", "destruction of traditional Armenian families", "making your children gay"... You got the picture.

While this puppet show was clearly governed from Moscow, Armenia authorities not only did nothing to explain the benefits of their ‘EU integration’ policy, a policy they ‘worked towards’ for the last 4 years and seemingly (only seemingly!) committed to, but all their under control media, including Public TV, was engaged in an anti-EU campaign.

They used this ‘hate the EU’ campaign to prepare the public for the announcement of 3rd September.

Since the introduction of Eastern Partnership, It has always been the case that Russia dislikes (to put it mildly) the initiative and will do whatever possible to derail it. Armenia’s dependence on and close ties with Russia was never a secret.

It’s inconceivable to believe that Armenia authorities committed to EU and went so far - only steps away to sign (initial) the Association agreement, including deep and comprehensive free trade agreement - without Russia's blessing.

They waited the right moment to announce the U-turn as a diplomatic coup triumph for Russia and a scare tactic directed primarily to Ukraine.

For Armenia authorities, hardly bearers of or devotees to European values, the main reason why they entered this game was because in return they received EU/West legitimacy, despite fraudulent elections. The only things that matter to them are power, money and travel enjoyment. With Russian help, they made EU to believe that they are committed pro-Europeans. Ha!

Now they can present themselves as victims of Putin’s pressure: ‘poor Armenian authorities, they simply had no other option but to succumb to Russia’s pressure.’ How convenient.

This way they will try to avoid EU sanctions and may get something light in return. You know, the way they like the concept of ‘human rights light’. Now it will be ‘EU light’. Something that won't put too much responsibility on them in terms of commitments by still giving all the main benefits in terms of keeping power, money and travel. Win/win for Armenia ruling regime and Putin’s Russia. Big fail for the EU.

Armenia ruling regime clearly demonstrates how unreliable international partners non-elected authorities could be. Time wasters.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Hate movement against women's rights groups in Armenia

There have been direct threats in Armenian Facebook to attack Women's Resource Centre, target Armenian Progressive Youth group and other women and rights groups and activists as part of 'gender equality' law hysteria. [read also: How Armenia ruling regime and Putin’s Russia fooled the EU over Association Agreement]

Women's Resource Centre already applied to the Yerevan police. Such threats appear particularly on pages or by members of so called "Pan-Armenian parents committee" and "no to gender equality law" FB pages/groups.


*This man says: " we should blow up the Women's Resource Center... like Tsomak's pub (DIY)" [this was posted on a "no to gender equality law" hateful Facebook group]. For more info - see Epress.am.

On 26 August 2013, Women's Resource Center posted on their FB page:
We would like to inform everyone that the persecution of Women's Resource Center is continuing. A few weeks ago the member of Parliament, Hayk Babukhanyan, wrote a letter to the Persecutor General to investigate our activities. We would like to remind you that we sued a website, www.zaruhi.com, for writing lies about WRC, and consequently won the case. That website is a part of 'Iravunq-holding", which belongs to Mr. Babukhanyan.
Today the Women's Resource Centre issued a more comprehensive statement detailing the developments. This statement was posted on international women's rights group - AWID - website [re-posted below].
***

Persecution And Threats Towards Women’s Rights Defenders And Threat To Freedom Of Association And Expression In Armenia 

Source: Women’s Resource Center 28/08/2013

Following the adoption of the law number 57 on “Equal Rights and Equal Opportunities for Men and Women” by the Armenian Parliament in May 2013, a heated debate started around the concept of “gender” and “equality”.

Extremist groups started disseminating misinformation on social networks sites, targeting women’s non-governmental organizations and women’s rights defenders in Armenia. In order to spread hate and fear in society, these groups are manipulating the wording of the law and associating “gender equality” with homosexuality propaganda and pedophilia. Women’s rights defenders are called “traitors of the nation”, “destroyers of families” and a “threat to Armenian values” and promoters of sexual abuse towards children and minors.

Almost anyone daring to speak about “gender” issues or women’s rights is being mocked and ridiculed online and broadcast media. Their photos are being circulated so people will identify them and attack them. Some of our members who have been targeted are afraid for their lives and security and taking extreme measures to stay safe.

In the face of this hysteria, Parliament members who adopted almost unanimously the law on gender equality is remaining silent and no concrete steps are taken by the government to protect and support the women’s rights defenders and those working on gender equality.

Following these violent movements, on several sites, there have been concrete threats and calls to violence towards our organization (WRCA), such as “ blow up the Women’s Resource Center, and Burn the women’s human rights defenders for raising gender issues and challenging gender stereotypes in society”. Our organization’s chairperson presented complaints to the Republic of Armenia Police and evidences of such threats of terrorism against the Center, but no specific actions have been taken so far.

Some members of Parliament, like opposition party Prosperous Armenia, Deputy Ms Naira Zohrabyan (European Integration Committee Chair) influenced by the reaction of a group of extremists immediately took a defensive position and suggested changing the law on gender equality. Another member of parliament from the ruling party, Mr Babukhanyan, presented an official complaint against the Women’s Resource Center and its defenders to the RA Prosecutor’s General’s office to investigate the organization’s activities, accusing its members of promoting sexual deviation and homosexuality among under-aged girls. Although all these allegations are not founded, it is creating black PR to the organization, increasing hate towards them in society and threatening their freedom of assembly. This is not the first time that the Women’s Resource Center has been targeted by the Deputy Babukhanyan. On several occasions, during parliamentary hearings, Mr Babukhanyan, stated publicly “that organizations like the Women’s Resource Center are destroying Armenian Families by working on domestic violence issues and they need to be shut down.” In 2012, in one of the online magazines he owns, an article was published stating the same message about the organization. Following which, the Women’s Resource Center took this magazine to court for defamation and won the case. He tried to review the case on different levels but the decision of the court remained the same and now his magazine needs to publish an official apology for spreading misinformation about our work. We believe that these attacks are direct consequence of that court case. His journalists continue harassing us during public actions and circulating misinformation about our work.

Our concern is that these extremist movements who are very pro-Russian (mainly publishing articles in Russian language and providing evidences from Russian sources) are also part of the present geopolitical situation in Armenia. Our concern is that these actions are part of the struggle between the Association agreement with the EU on one side and the unity with Russia on the other.

WRCA appeals to you to pressure our government to take concrete steps to defend the rights of women’s rights defenders in Armenia and initiate actions to stop the hate war and persecution of women’s organizations working on gender equality and violence against women. We urge you as well to raise the issue among our governmental officials to ensure the safety of the women’s rights defenders and their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

The Women’s Resource Center is a grassroots organization working in Armenia since 2003 on empowering women. Our main mission is to counter gender discrimination in Armenia and provide psychological and legal support to survivors of gender-based violence and sexual abuse. The Center has been also lobbying for amendments to the criminal law regarding sexual violence and more specifically toughening the sexual abuse articles against minors, which is very lenient in the law.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Armenia: ...when the ‘victory’ against transport fare hikes is good news for the authorities

My first comment about the protest action against transport fare hikes in Yerevan was on Twitter on 20th July:
Re transport price hike in #Yerevan - I wonder if genuine anger was encouraged by #Armenia authorities to distract, solve internal conflicts 
I didn’t comment much afterwards. I could see genuine passion of civic activists and non-activists, ordinary people, who were united for a purpose. What I liked the most re anti-fare-hikes civic action: people stepping up to offer free transportation for those in need.

When you then suddenly see most of pro-regime media, ‘stars’, personalities etc. in support of the action, you realise a relatively safe bet is in place here. The support and encouragement from pro-regime forces was so blatant that at times overwhelming. It was in line with what some high level officials wanted. To deal with their internal conflicts over the control and influences. Presidential administration, PM, government, Taron the mayor, ‘chorni Gago’ the minister, other oligarchs or so called owners of these transport lines...

When I heard today Armenia PM effectively supporting civic protests against transport fare hikes, followed by “suspension” of fare hikes, I could not help myself but go back to my earlier tweet.

I don't want to break the heart of activists, ordinary people who genuinely acted against unreasonable and unjustified increase in transport fare. After all the failures when it comes to bigger, REAL problems, e.g. inability to change the ruling regime via election, these small victories give hope to people and motivate them. This is a good and positive factor in itself, indeed.

Unfortunately, you do not see much similar examples when it comes to politically motivated arrests, dependent courts, corruption, protection of rights and freedom. If only such passion and unity occurs and directed to the root cause of problems...

Unfortunately, the ‘victory’ today was a victory against consequence not the cause... This is exactly what the authorities want. Concentrate on secondary things, get distracted from the root causes of the problem(s). Good news for the authorities, after all.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Sign on the door: "This Is Not A Brothel. There Are No Prostitutes At This Address" (Soho, London)



*7 Meard Street, Soho, London. The sign on the door reads: "This Is Not A Brothel. There Are No Prostitutes At This Address"

This door is now part of London's history - Sebastian Horsley door. [Wikipedia - Sebastian Horsley]

Monday, 10 June 2013

Iconic undercroft in London's South Bank under threat of 'redevelopment' by retail units

You may think that in London while deciding on redevelopment, construction, they would pay special attention to preserving historic, iconic parts. Partly - yes. But not so much. Few years ago they demolished Astoria theatre for a big transport redevelopment Crossrail  project. I will always remember Astoria: gigs, clubbing, my first boyfriend in London...

Now the so called 'redevelopment' (= relocation, and instead filling the space with even more shops and restaurants) threatens another iconic London place - undercroft on South Bank. A place filled with graffiti, skateboarders. A location for film settings etc.

If you ever been on South Bank, one of my fave parts in London, it would be impossible to miss the undercroft. It has very cool, alternative, counter-culture feeling.

I was there on Sunday, and joined the protest against re-location of undercroft by signing the petition. You may do so online too: petition






Naked Bike Ride - Sat 8 June, London

Naked Bike Ride is an environmental movement (across many countries) to protest oil dependency and expose vulnerability of cyclists. For more background info to this movement - read here. Below is a photo story of London event, Sat 8 June.

















Sunday, 19 May 2013

Armenia - Russia Eurovision war

I watch Eurovision for the show, for the costumes, for songs, for its weirdness, ridiculousness, for occasional talent, for the ‘gay factor’, for all the comments exchanged (online or offline), especially on Twitter, for Eurovision parties. But one of my most favourite parts of the Eurovision is the voting announcement by countries. This is a show in itself. No less entertaining, than the actual show.

This is the best time when you can observe all the country alliances, people’s preferences, cultural ties, politics, and all the subtle or not so changes in relationships.

Traditionally, as “strategic partners”, Armenia and Russia exchange top marks, the likes of minimum “8”, but more like “10” or “12”. Up until recently, this has been a fair reflection of the situation on the ground, taking into account the Soviet legacy and ties, big Armenian Diaspora in Russia, and the influence of Russian pop culture in Armenia. However...

With Armenia moving closer towards Europe, effectively rejecting new post-Soviet Russia (Putin) sponsored economic/political alliance, and the recent hike in (Russian) gas price in Armenia, the impossible happened: ‏

@unzippedblog: Headline of the day. Only 7 points from #Armenia to #Russia #Eurovision #gas
@unzippedblog: Headline of the day (2). Only 2 points from #Russia to #Armenia #Eurovision #war 

Finita la “strategic alliance”, Eurovision way.

As for the Armenia entry Dorians, all I wanted to say I have already said in my previous post. Same applies to the final. In my opinion, they are the most talented Armenian entry so far. But they were robbed a chance of any high place or win because of the choice of song. Lack of PR added to the expected outcome. Just one last example. Only yesterday I found out that they have a Twitter account @dorians_am that was so not publicised that at a time of pushing the “follow” button, they had only 70+ followers (!). And this was on the day of Eurovision final. You got the picture.

I particularly want to praise the host Sweden for putting an excellent show and stage for the Eurovision. Plus, we had both gay women and gay men kisses during this Eurovision. Thumbs up to Sweden for spreading the message across. My “douze points” for you.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Despite odds, Armenia rock band Dorians makes it into Eurovision final

Today was the Eurovision semi-final where Armenia is represented by rock band Dorians. I feared the worst.

Dorians - one of my fave Armenian rock bands. Still remember them performing in Yerevan as an "opening act" for Serj Tankian concert. That was the first time I saw them live, and here is my impression, as I posted in my Yerevan Diaries:
Dorians - more than an opening act
Absolutely loved Dorians. Always liked them via their YouTube clips, but now that I managed to enjoy their performance live, I am 'officially' their fan. Top class rock performance, in line with best young rock groups elsewhere.
So you could imagine how happy I was to learn that they have been selected to represent Armenia in Eurovision 2013.

However, I believe the choice of song (Lonely Planet) was wrong. It's a bit boring song and doesn't allow Gor and Dorians to show their full potential.

There was also scandalous lack of PR from organisers, Armenian Public TV and Armenian media outlets. Article on media.am published today headlined as Lack of Official Media Support for Armenia's 2013 Eurovision Entry.

I warned about this in past repeatedly:
On 20 April I tweeted: Since 11th April no Google Alert re #Armenia #Eurovision entry Dorians. Less than a month to go. PR #fail
On 22 April I tweeted: Don't say I didn't warn you.Scandalous lack of PR turns #Armenia entry Dorians into #Eurovision #fail.Song doesn't help either.Wake up call. 
As if there was a campaign of intentionally sabotaging Dorians.

But well done Gor and Dorians. You went through to the Eurovision final despite that song, and despite the lack of PR. Because of your talent.

You are so unlike the majority of contemporary Armenian pop stars, and so unlike the majority of Eurovision performers.

That's the reason why I like you, and will support you during the final.

Good luck!!

Monday, 6 May 2013

Armenia: in need of REVOLUTION

This was the end of #armvote13: the process that started with the 2008 presidential election, with another wave post February 2013 election, only to finally die out on the 5th of May Yerevan election.

From year to year, from election to election: same process, same violations, same sh*t... and same (plus/minus the level of bizarreness) outcome. Non-ending story of f*-ed Armenian elections.

I became convinced that with current ruling regime in place, no change is possible via election. But it’s not just a matter of the authorities.

Even accounting for massive electoral fraud, the numbers received by main opposition parties are so small (even compared with previous elections) that should ring an alarm bell and serve them a food for thought. Armenian opposition could collectively write a bestseller: “How to lose electorate”.

True, Armenia has changed since 2008. With the use of online social networks, and particularly Facebook, and some influential offline actions, the voice of civil society and human rights activists is louder and more influential than it was ever before.

In addition, Diaspora is becoming (finally!) more aware and involved in current day Armenia issues, such as democracy, corruption, human rights. And unprecedented in numbers Diaspora observer mission during Yerevan election is a good sign that needs to develop further.

Ironically, European observers with their robotic “in line” and “improvements” concluding remarks, became a part of the problem. Not only they completely discredited themselves, by becoming a laughing stock among Armenian citizens, but turned into an obstacle to progress by effectively legitimising fraudulent elections.

Instead of flirting with the authorities, EU (and USA) should stand firm and demand - unequivocally - systematic changes in all fields of life. Not improvements. But radical changes. And without all these blackmail talks that this move will push Armenia more towards Russia. Armenia will steadily turn into ‘Russia’ without such changes anyway.

In the meantime... people are leaving the country. Armenia is being increasingly deserted of its potential. As @Golden_Tent rightfully pointed out on Twitter, “for the next 4 years, all voting in Armenia will be done with feet and one-way tickets.”

Armenia needs revolution. Revolution of minds. Cultural revolution. Sexual revolution. Revolution that will change the regime in Armenia before using such democratic means as election. Revolution that will swipe out the factor of “թաղի տղերք” [“neighborhood guys”] that became so defining in this and all other elections.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Will Yerevan election bring what Armenia presidential election fails to achieve?

Here we are. Less than a day before crucial Yerevan council and mayor election. This could either be the ‘official’ end of the process started with #armvote13 presidential election in February or its transformation to a different level, if opposition takes control of Armenia capital.

Low numbers for recent rallies of main opposition parties, including HAK (Armenian National Congress party) and ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosyan, are indicative of general mood of disillusionment in political processes in Armenia. Obviously, I am not even considering here any attempt at comparison with gatherings by ruling Republican party, as we all know that people go there by orders rather than voluntarily.

*Hope* for free and fair election may only materialise if the election observers from all opposition parties and civil society stick to their promise of putting aside party or other differences for the task of proper monitoring. In this sense it was good to hear ex-president Ter-Petrosyan calling for the same. However, whether this will turn into reality remains to be seen. Also, good to see so many election observers lined up for the 5th May election.

*Hope* for change will come if silent majority decides to vote and cast their protest vote, just like they did during presidential election in February, despite disillusionment in political parties. We will know about it in a matter of less than 24 hours.

Opposition mayor will be a huge contribution to changes in Armenia. Having Republican party 're-elected' means that we will not witness any substantial changes in the following 4-5 years, only cosmetic ones.

On a personal sympathy level, among all candidates I support Armen Martirosyan for the position of mayor, although quite a few young people in opposition HAK list are also highly sympathetic to me.

So I would urge anyone to go cast their vote and vote for either #barevolution movement “Barev Yerevan” bloc, headed by Armen Martirosyan of opposition Heritage party (of presidential challenger ex-FM Raffi Hovhannisyan), or opposition HAK party lists.

[for a good roundup of Yerevan election process, read Yerevan’s May 5 Election: Stakes and Specifics by Tamara Voskanian in Asbarez]

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

#Barevolution Faces of Resistance: students strike pics of the day(s)

These are Pictures of the Day(s) for me. Faces of growing resistance to Armenia’s ruling regime. Faces of #Barevolution [‘Revolution of Hello’ - as the presidential challenger, ex-FM Raffi Hovhannisyan dubbed the movement for change that is being developing since February election]

They are a relatively small group of students. For now. A sign of revival of long forgotten spirit of students strike and protest in Armenia. But it’s so liberating to see these students defying the barriers, climbing over a fence, jumping out of a window to join the students strike. It’s liberating.

Oh, and yes, showing a certain gesture to the system.

*picture by Hetq.am (FB page)

© PanARMENIAN Photo / Hrant Khachatryan

© PanARMENIAN Photo (FB page) / Hrant Khachatryan