Monday, 24 May 2010

“Modern gay classic” French Armenian Serge Avedikian won Palme d'Or 2010 at Cannes

Simply amazing news. French Armenian director, actor, writer and producer Serge Avedikian received the highest award at Cannes - Palme d'Or - Short Film, 2010, for Chienne d’Histoire (Barking Island). [Another director of Armenian origin, Lebanese Armenian video artist and filmmaker Vatche Boulghourjian was awarded 3rd prize Cinéfondation Ex-aequo, 2010, for Hinkerord Zorasune (The Fifth Column). Congrats, Vatche!!]

Congrats, dear Serge!!

Serge Avedikian made an unforgettable mark on the history of world gay cinema by playing in a very different wartime love story - Nous étions un seul homme (We Were One Man), film by renown French director Philippe Vallois in 1979.

Critiques call it the “most unusual wartime love story”, “a modern gay classic”.

(picture - Amazon)

For more details - see Unzipped: Gay Armenia

It's Eurovision week

Here we are. The Eurovision week is upon us. As usual, for commentary on and coverage of Eurovision related news, events, developments and intrigues - see Unzipped: Gay Armenia blog and follow me on Twitter.

Eurovision 2010: Armenia Eva Rivas and Azerbaijan Safura - my subjective comparisons

More posts will follow as/when under the label "Eurovision".

Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival demands release of renown Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi

Yerevan's most famous GOLDEN APRICOT International Film Festival has signed the petition demanding Jafar Panahi's freedom more than a month ago, on 12 April 2010. This became known couple of days ago, when festival's press office released the statement via their official Facebook group in response to queries re festival's stance towards the imprisonment of renown Iranian director. In addition, festival's press office informs that in 2007, "when Panahi was one of the honorary guests of GOLDEN APRICOT, festival administration had numerous difficulties to deal with the Iranian embassy in Armenia and finally had to break the relationships with them."

Below is a statement in full.

To Whom It May Concern,

The entire staff of GOLDEN APRICOT IFF, being convinced that imprisonment of Jafar Panahi, the humanitarian interpreter of Iranian cinema, is unfair; joins this initiative (the information of which reached us through Ludmila Cvikova - IFFR programmer, film-critic Shahla Nahid, and other Golden Apricot-friendly circles), and signs this petition demanding his and his colleagues release from the prison.

Armenian spectators had a chance to explore the problems of women in the present Iranian reality in 2007, when Jafar Panahi's film "Offside" was shown within the framework of the 4th GOLDEN APRICOT IFF. Jafar Panahi deserves the right to be heard and must be given the freedom to create.

GOLDEN APRICOT International Film Festival

Jafar Panahi's message from prison

Juliette Binoche sobs at news of hunger strike

Cannes contender Abbas Kiarostami demands release of Iranian film-maker

Friday, 21 May 2010

Arevik and David: story of immigration, Skype love, detention and troubles (Bulgaria - Armenia)

Thanks to Global Voices Online, I learned of this complicated immigration and internet love story of young Armenian guy David Arutyunyan [probably - Harutyunyan], with no legal status in Bulgaria, and Arevik Shmavonyan, a pregnant Armenian citizen who is currently being kept at a detention centre in Bulgaria.

David has been living in Bulgaria from the age of 6 when his parents immigrated from Armenia in 1993. Since then they passed through lots of legal and humanitarian troubles, but eventually David’s parents and sister were granted legal documents. However, David was refused a legal status, as reportedly the Armenian side denied clearing the paper work demanding he serves in the army. I see big problem here, providing all the info I am reading is correct, of course. It’s ridiculous that this guy should be held responsible for ‘avoiding’ military service as he was taken to Bulgaria when he was 6 years old. If the Armenian authorities cleared his parents’ paper work (who were responsible for immigrating to Bulgaria, in the first instance), they should have done so for David too.
David went to primary school, which is mandatory under Bulgarian law. When he was 14, Bulgarian authorities finally allowed his family to obtain Bulgarian ID papers, provided that Armenian authorities would also do their part of the paperwork and give them a go-ahead. So David's parents obtained ID documents for themselves and for their daughter (David's sister). However, Armenian authorities refused to give a go-ahead for David because, according to them, he had to return to Armenia to serve 3 years in the army.
Now about Arevik. As per Bulgarian bloggers’ reports, she met David on Skype, and they were in online relationship for 5 years (!). Around 3 months ago, Arevik came to Bulgaria to meet him in person. The problem I see here is that David had already been in troubles because of lacking legal papers in Bulgaria, so he should have known that Arevik would inevitably face problems. I may only assume that they thought having a baby will help them both in facilitating their legal status in Bulgaria.

Currently Arevik is at (immigrants) detention centre Busmanci where people kept in prison-like conditions, according to the reports by Bulgarian bloggers. In fact, it’s been dubbed “The Bulgarian Guanatanamo”.
In Busmanci, Arevik found out that she was pregnant. Her pregnancy is problematic, causing cyclic vomiting and severe eating and sleeping problems. Arevik has been in Busmanci already for one month, and for this time has been taken twice to hospital unconscious. Nevertheless, she is still kept there, in a room with about 10 other women and without adequate care. Although Arevik has done nothing wrong, her release is not in sight, and her life is in peril as well as the life of her unborn child.
Maya’s Corner writes: “In an April 29 Mediapool article by Irina Nedeva titled Arevik and David - a love story between Montana, Erevan and Busmanci, the head of the Young Armenians' Charity Union Victor Baramov is quoted to say that his organization has many other examples of people without a legal status in Bulgaria despite having lived here for 20 or more years”.

*picture - via Svetla Encheva's blog

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Activists against leniency re Nubarashen child abuse case trial in Yerevan

"A former teacher of Yerevan’s boarding school has pled guilty to “obscene acts” against underage students and now faces 18 months in prison.

During a court trial on Wednesday, Levon Avagyan, whose actions were described by the prosecutor as pedophilia, also asked for a “speedy trial” amid protest from some of the victims who consider such an imprisonment term too mild a punishment for “a person who has committed repugnant acts for years.” (ArmeniaNow)

For more background info about the case - see Armenia: Uncovering evidence of sexual abuse in Nubarashen boarding school N11 for special needs children leads to activist being charged with libel

There was a protest action today by human rights activists in Yerevan against leniency in dealing with the child abuse cases. Next protest is planned for 24 May to coincide with the court proceedings.

This picture by one of the activists Mamikon Hovsepyan became one of the most widely re-posted today among Armenian users on Facebook.

Below is a video by Women's Resource Centre in Yerevan from today's court hearings.

Video description reads: "one of the former students, a victim herself of teacher Avagyan's abuse, was outraged when she heard that the prosecutor is suggesting only 18 months for the pedophile and she started shouting in the court asking for justice for the rapes and abuses that the teacher did during his work in the boarding school for the past 30 years or so. This woman was not allowed to press charges because many years have passed, according to the RA law."

Monday, 17 May 2010

PINK & friends make history in Armenia by marking IDAHO and turning Yerevan sky rainbow

May is truly a historic month for Armenians. Starting this year, it will become even double-triple historic for LGBT Armenians, their friends... [...]

Today, on 17 May, for the first time ever, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) was celebrated in Armenia. PINK Armenia & friends organised a flashmob with balloons in the heart of Yerevan. "We let the colorful balloons fly in the sky as a symbolic move to combat hate, ignorance and intolerance, to combat homophobia and transphobia," say organisers.

PINK Armenia & friends made history today by turning Yerevan sky rainbow. For me, they are the modern day heroes in Armenia. Their spirit, passion, determination make me hopeful that after all there is bright future for Armenia. They are the PERSONS.AM (in capital letters). I hope their spirit won't be broken... EVER!!!

*For more details with pictures and video - see Unzipped: Gay Armenia

Read also: Armenia aligns with the EU statement on International Day Against Homophobia

In a related great news: Gay marriages are now legal in Portugal!!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Be careful: Date rape drug in Armenia is a reality

According to the Women's Resource Centre in Armenia, they received number of calls from women and young girls to their hotline alerting on this issue. You don't have to panic or stop enjoying your time and having great night outs with drinks or not. This is an info for you to consider and be careful, to understand that using date rape drugs is a reality in Armenia.

Wikipedia: "Date rape drug refers to a drug that can be used to assist in the commission of a sexual assault, such as date rape. Drugs used to facilitate rape may have sedative, hypnotic, dissociative, and/or amnesiac effects, and can be added to a food or drink without the victim's knowledge.

The act of adding such substances to drinks is known as "drink spiking". The reasons for drink spiking range from personal amusement or maliciousness to theft or (sexual) assault".

Արդեն որերորդ դեպքն է, որ կանայք և երիտասարդ աղջիկները զանգում են մեր Սեռական բռնության ճգնաժամային կենտրոնի թեժ գծին /0800-01-280/ և հայտնում, որ իրենք անհասկանալի կերպով խնջույքի ընթացքում կորցրել են իրենց գիտակցությունը /քնել/ մեկ բաժակ ալկոհոլ խմելուց հետո, արթնանալով զգացել են սուր ցավեր սեռական օրգանների շրջանում և հասկացել, որ բռնաբարվել են: Հնարավոր է, որ այս ամենը Ձեզ իրական չի թվում և որ շատ դեպքերում մենք նման երևույթներ դիտում ենք ընդամենը գեղարվեստական ֆիլմերում, բայց ցավոք նման դեպքերը իրականություն են և բավականին հաճախ են պատահում:

Սիրելի կանայք և աղջիկներ զգույշ եղեք խնջույքների ընթացքում ինչ-որ բան խմելուց, քանի որ շատ հնարավոր է, որ ձեր խմիչքի մեջ որևէ թմրեցնող կամ քնեցնող նյութ խառնած լինեն: Զգույշ եղեք նույնիսկ, երբ տվյալ խմիչքն առաջարկում է Ձեր իսկ ընկերը կամ զուգընկերը, քանի որ շատ դեպքերում դա արվում է հենց ծանոթ մարդկանց կողմից, ում մենք վստահում ենք և շատ դեպքերում մատուցողի կամ "բարմենի" հետ պայմանավորվածության արդյունքում: Շատ կարևոր է, որ երբ առաջին անգամ ինչ - որ քիչ ծանոթ, միգուցե առաջին հայացքից վստահելի թվացող, անձնավորության հետ պատրաստվում եք գնալ որևէ ակումբ, գնացեք միգուցե ընկերուհու կամ մեկ այլ վստահելի անձի հետ, ուշադիր եղեք: Ես չեմ փորձում վախեցնել Ձեզ, ուղղակի մի փոքր ուշադիր և զգույշ լինել եմ խնդրում:

Եթե նման իրավիճակում եք հայտնվել, անպայման պետք է որքան հնարավոր է շուտ գնալ և բժշկական ստուգում անցնել /սեռավարակներ և արյուն/: Տարբեր թմրեցնող նյութեր մի քանի օրվա /շաբաթվա/ ընթացքում արյան մեջ մնում են և կարելի է դրանց առկայության մասին վկայող ապացույցներ ունենալ:

Ամեն դեպքում միշտ հիշեք, որ օգնության և աջակցության համար կարող եք դիմել մեր կենտրոն` տեղեկատվություն ստանալու նպատակով:


<Սեռական բռնության ճգնաժամային կենտրոն> ՀԿ
Թեժ - գիծ 0800 - 01 - 280

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Cameron and Clegg: A very British “civil partnership”

It’s funny how British commentators refer to Lib Dems + Conservatives coalition government deal (Nick Clegg + David Cameron) as a “marriage”, or “civil partnership”. [gay marriages in form of civil partnerships became legal in the UK since December 2005] Then some of them remind that 50% of marriages end up in divorce :) This is a very real not so honeymoon-y perspective for this newly formed "power couple". Yes, they say opposites attract, but there is truly an ocean between Clegg and Cameron, or is there?

But the most entertaining discovery for me was that Lib Dems leader Nick Clegg has Russian aristocratic roots.

Wikipedia: "Clegg's paternal grandmother, Kira von Engelhardt, was a Russian Baroness whose German-Russian aristocratic family fled the Bolsheviks after the 1917 Russian Revolution. Clegg's paternal grandfather, Hugh Anthony Clegg, was the editor of the British Medical Journal for 35 years. Clegg's great-great-grandfather, the Russian nobleman Ignaty Zakrevsky, was attorney general of the imperial Russian senate. His great-great aunt was the writer, Baroness Moura Budberg.

Clegg's Dutch mother, Hermance van den Wall Bake, was, along with her family, interned by the Japanese in Batavia (Jakarta) in the Dutch East Indies. She met Clegg's father during a visit to England in 1956, and they married on 1 August 1959.

Clegg is multilingual: he speaks English, Dutch, French, German, and Spanish. His background has informed his politics. He says, "There is simply not a shred of racism in me, as a person whose whole family is formed by flight from persecution, from different people in different generations. It’s what I am. It’s one of the reasons I am a liberal." His Dutch mother instilled in him "a degree of scepticism about the entrenched class configurations in British society".

His wife - Miriam González Durántez, is Spanish. Wikipedia: "They dated for several years in Brussels before they decided to marry. They married in 2000 and have three young children: Antonio, Alberto and Miguel. She insisted on Spanish names if they were to have the family name "Clegg." She is Roman Catholic, and together with her husband they agreed that their children will be raised as such, though her husband has said he does not believe in God."

*picture - by Number 10

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Elephant parade, London

Elephant parade is a campaign aimed at highlighting the crisis faced by endangered Asian elephant. Over 250 life-size elephants painted by various artists or celebrities are being placed at various locations in central London. They will be on display until early July. All elephants will then be up for an auction to raise money for the cause.

I took these pictures around Leicester square, in the heart of London’s entertainment district.

*see also:
Rainbow elephant, London
Weird elephant :) South Bank, London

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Eugene Ohanjanyan (Евгений Оганджанян) - young Brodsky in Khrzhanovsky's "A Room and a Half" film

Overall, good reviews for the film by Time Out London and the Evening Standard (pictured, above). Haven't seen the film yet, but worth checking it out. As for Eugene Ohanjanyan, young Russian Armenian actor, could not find much info about him, other than that this is probably his first film and he is a high school student.

A Room and a Half ('Полторы комнаты, или Сентиментальное путешествие на родину') released in the UK this Friday 7 May 2010.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

History in the making: presentation and landmark report on LGBT rights in Armenia

4 May 2010

Congratulations to PINK Armenia and big thanks to all those who participated and supported a groundbreaking presentation and discussions of the results of legal analysis and qualitative research on discrimination towards LGBT people and state with their human rights in Armenia conducted within the framework of “We and Our Rights” project. It was history in the making in Armenian gay rights movement. Here is hoping for practical results to follow.

PINK’s new website is currently under the construction but you are able to download the short version of the reports in Armenian and English there.

A must read.

During the event, there was an excellent coverage of this truly historic presentation on #LGBTArmenia (official Twitter hashtag for the event) by @pinkarmenia and @Lara_Aha. Some great tweets out there. Now need time to digest and get more insight.

Detailed blog posts to come later, over the coming days on Unzipped: Gay Armenia.

*picture - by PINK Armenia

Russian journalist of Armenian origin Zurab Nalbandian shares his views on UK election and life in London

The Observer asked few foreign correspondents based in London on their views re upcoming (6 May) UK general election. Among them was Russian journalist of Armenian origin Zurab Nalbandian.


Russia: Zurab Nalbandian

foreign-correspondent-nalbandianZurab Nalbandian, London bureau chief for Moskovsky Komsomolets. Photograph: Antonio Olmos
The London correspondent for two Moscow daily newspapers – the mass market Moskovsky Komsomolets, and the broadsheet Vremya Novestei. Nalbandian, 65, has been in London for 11 years.
Zurab Nalbandian has recently written, for a Russian audience, a book about "the changing face of Britain". It takes in, he tells me, the royal family (of course), our obsession with cookery programmes, Tesco ("where the British buy their stuff"), the expenses scandal ("Russians were so happy"), and binge drinking – shocking even to an Armenian newspaperman. "I remember going to Maidstone on a Friday night," he says. "People drink in Russia, of course, but steadily, never like that. The people who lived in this small town were just terrorised every weekend…" The book has already been reprinted four times.
When it comes to British politics, however, he admits there is much that his readers find hard to grasp. "Most Russians would not know that there is a Labour party even, or at least any of its history. You have to remember that for 70 years we were told nothing about how democracy worked. I would say Russians just know Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. Stalin wrote to Churchill, Thatcher was friendly with Gorbachev and Blair was friendly, to start with, with Putin."
He has lately been introducing his readers to David Cameron – "very English" – and Nick Clegg, who, with his mother's Russian heritage, is a somewhat easier sell. "We had the same thing with Boris Johnson and his Russian ancestry," Nalbandian says. "It makes Clegg a slightly more understandable figure to a Russian reader but, to be honest, they will wait to see who wins before they get particularly interested."
The process itself, with its hung parliaments and vestigial royal consent, is even more arcane. "I tried to at least explain the TV debates. As a foreign correspondent, you are always trying to say how things could be at home. What is hard to explain is how a couple of phrases from Nick Clegg, about the two other 'old parties', seems to have changed the mind of so many of the electorate. The Russians would find it intriguing that the British public could be so persuadable."
Is his "how things could be" a mostly positive view of our democracy? He smiles. "It is more: this is one of the ways that democracies work."
When he was first posted to London, in 1999, after long stints in the Middle East and South Africa, Nalbandian was somewhat daunted at the prospect. "For me, London was the mother of all journalism, and for Russians of my generation there is always something epic about this city. I had all these romantic ideas."
And have those ideas matched up to reality? "I have not been disappointed for a minute. I came here in an effort to understand, and if you come with that approach then even when a yob confronts you in the street, or whatever, and tells you exactly what is on his mind, you find it curious. Like everything else, those things help you understand this unusual country."

Monday, 3 May 2010

Armenia police chief Alik Sargsyan’s esprit de corps

Although RFE/RL presents his statement as “unprecedented public apology”, I am afraid, I can’t see “sorry” here. Armenia police chief Alik Sargsyan simply uses this no-sorry-but-let-me-make-an-impression-of-being-sorry statement, yes, to make an impression and damage limitation to his career. Too late for “sorry”, Mr. Alik Sargsyan. Way too late. Especially when it is NOT “sorry”. And btw, where is his “sorry” and condolences to Khalafyan’s family?

He misguided public in what looks like an attempt at cover up the alleged murder in a police department by portraying it as a “suicide case” and adamantly denying any violence or torture from the police side. However, few days ago, this ‘idyllic’ picture of the “purest” police force in the world got crashed when the head of the criminal investigations unit has been charged with using violence against Khalafyan.

I do agree with the human rights activist Artur Sakunts who argues that police chief should at the very least resign in such circumstances. I disagree with a senior member of the ruling Republican party that his position would be untenable if another similar incident happens. Do we need more deaths to act?

It’s not that violence could not happen in police. It must not, but in real life you can’t be guaranteed from such incidents even in the most democratic countries. It’s an attempt at cover up the incident and protect the esprit de corps (‘честь мундира’) that is inexcusable.

There is now a special page set up by some activists in Armenian sector of Facebook demanding resignation of Alik Sargsyan. Last time I checked, it had more than 500 supporters.

While the title of that page may be considered a bit rude, frankly, that’s not important right now. The essence is clear. Violence and brutalities in Armenian police departments must stop. All responsible for human rights abuses must be held accountable before the law. Armenia police chief must go.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

The Armenoids

It’s by The Armenoids project. They call their music a “progressive folk”.

I can't explain how I feel about this video, but it's fascinatingly weird. Yes, and that toothbrush moment :)

Here is their MySpace page.

*Thanks to Harut for the link to the music video.

Disturbing video: ‘Celebration’ and dancing to mark the Armenian Genocide anniversary in front of Turkish embassy in Washington, D.C.

When I watched this video of 'celebration' of the Armenian Genocide anniversary by a group of apparently Turkish and possibly Azeri Americans or residents (based on the flags on display), I felt disgusted and disturbed.

I may understand when I see group of Turks protesting the Armenian efforts of recognising the Genocide. I will not agree with them, but will understand, as this is what they’ve been told over the decades.

But 'celebration' and dancing to mark the anniversary of deaths, even if you do not believe it?!

And if they were 'welcomed' by the Turkish Ambassador, as ANCA reports, then this was pretty scandalous too.

Those who participated in ‘celebrations’ are sick. Too low, even for hardline nationalists.

"British Politics"

As the UK general election approaches (6 May), it’s all about politics in London. Even bookshops re-designed their window displays in tune with the increased public interest in British politics fueled by the first ever party leaders’ TV debates. I have to say, those TV debates were pretty entertaining and helped me in better understanding of dynamics in British politics.

Picture above is of Foyles bookshop at Charing Cross Road in central London.