LGBTnews.am talked to the Head of “New Generation” Humanitarian NGO Arman Sahakyan about today’s cancelled Forum of LGBT Christians in Armenia, as well as about the state of LGBTI rights in the country.
-After yesterday’s announcement made by the Chief of Police Osipian, your organization informed the public that it had to cancel the LGBT Cristians’ Forum, which should take place in November in Armenia. If I remember correctly, you had announced via media about your intention to hold the forum until the change of government.
֊–Still, before the revolution, there was an interview about which one of the Russian webpages prepared a story. It was about the LGBT Christian Forum, which is held each year, and this year, the 11th one is planned to be held in Armenia. Since the conduction of public events was not planned during the forum, there was no specific task to inform the public about its holding, it was only spoken about during the interview.
We thought that Armenia, which proclaimed itself to be the first Christian state, would welcome the Christians from other countries with love and solidarity, they will see Armenia, the country will be more recognizable, and why not in terms of tourism as well. Those people are ordinary Christians who, following the biblical commandments, try to spread love and tolerance to all understanding the Bible as it is, not as a book of hatred, but the one of love and solidarity. The objective of the event was not at all the editing of the Bible or interfering in domestic politics, public events, as it was further distorted and propagandized by different directed groups and media.
–The forum, which was announced before the change of power, from a point suddenly became an active target. Why did suddenly this happen?
–If we look at the chronology, we will see that the directed political groups began their attacks in the political tense period when the idea of dissolution of the parliament began actively to be discussed, which quickly transformed into a conflict between the revolutionary government and the old National Assembly.
It was obvious from this campaign in the heated political climate that the motives of these directed groups, retrospective groupings is inner-political, as repeatedly was happening before; once again, they tried to make LGBTI rights an issue of speculation and provocation. In the front line of the campaign were public figures, acting and former MPs, some organizations, individuals, who spread hatred and misinformation through social networks, as well as through fake and other pages, media, press conferences and even leaflets.
They wrote that as if gay parade was going to be organized, disinformation was spread about the number of participants, instead of real 50, at first they were speaking about 1500, then about 2000, and then about 3000 participants; they told we were going to edit the Bible, to destroy the Armenian family, the church, the state and other deceptive things. Then they demonstrated, gathered with dozens of people, engaged in propaganda of hatred; they saw that this was digested and began open threats, MP from Prosperous Armenia Gevorg Petrosyan called on Armenian citizens to be expelled from the country, former MP Aragats Akhoyan spoke about “beating” at the press conference, and in one of the interviews he even threatened to use violence, and the law enforcement bodies did not respond adequately to these, even though we also applied to the police.
–I want to recall that the context was wider; immediately after the change of power, the topic of LGBTI rights became a subject of speculation not only within the framework of LGBTI Christians’ Forum: Shurnukh’s provocation when people associated with the RPA predisposed the peasants of the village against the community activists hosted in the village, and then other outrages which they tried to organise, they focused on the LGBT Christians Forum, Sharmazanov and Urikhanyan presented homophobic bills to the NA …
–Yes, and the result of this provocative campaign was that some part of the society began to believe that LGBTI people are the worst evil for the society and the state forgetting about corruption, about the crimes of the previous authorities and so on. This was done to distract the public from the real political agenda.
–The authorities, in the name of Nikol Pashinyan, responded to all these with the speech at National Assembly and at Government in the next day …
–Nikol Pashinyan actually did not consider LGBTI persons as full citizens with inalienable rights and freedoms, but presented them as a mass, which is a headache, a problem, with whom something should be done, to treat somehow and formulating questions by the logic of Hitler’s Nazi philosophy, suggested to think whether to burn these people, imprison them with the logic of Soviet legislation, to drive tanks, or somehow to tolerate them.
In the newly independent Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan is the first of the top officials to publicly address LGBTI people, and this is how he referred to it forgetting that each person is of highest value. He did not consider LGBTI people as the ones who have equal rights and freedoms as other citizens and did not refer from the perspective that these people have acute problems that need to be solved, but referred from the perspective of what to do with the mass which has become a headache. In other words, “they” should sit and decide what to do with a group of people; the versions of the solutions are simply shocking.
–So what actually happens? Some groups, pursuing some interests, organize consistent homophobic campaigns, throughout all that time the LGBTI community, understanding their intentions, was not provoked, did not respond to this campaign, whereas the law enforcement system persistently ignores the illegal calls and actions, the response of the number one face of the state is as you described, so weren’t the inaction of law enforcement officers and Pashinyan’s speech in fact a green light for the provocateurs? After Pashinyan’s speech, they have already begun to keep track of the members of your organization, and you had to announce that the organization temporarily stops its active activity…
–We have repeatedly sent letters to the Government of Armenia, namely to Nikol Pashinyan, and informed that a Forum of LGBT Christians is planned to be implemented in Armenia, that this forum is a closed, non-public event, during which public actions have not been envisaged, but all our letters have remained unanswered. And so, yesterday, the Chief of Police Osipyan made his shameful statement that the conduction of the forum is not expedient, it will not happen in Armenia, moreover, safety risks are presented as an additional, not as the main argument.
-Love and solidarity are thus selective and discriminatory …
-That is it. And you know what’s interesting: an attempt is made to present as if those homophobic groups won and we lost. In reality, the Republic of Armenia, the democracy, the rule of law failed, a regress was registered along the way to achieve democracy. But I want to emphasize that this regress is temporary; love, tolerance, freedom, equality have no alternative, and sooner or later they will win. As a result of the analysis of the incidents and facts, we came to the conclusion that there is still much to be done to establish real democracy and to ensure equality for all.
-About future actions: what long-term activities do you plan to do in that direction?
–Firstly, the work with the society for strengthening the legal awareness, providing information, introduction with constitutional rights; secondly, the documentation of illegal phenomena and its consistent presentation to the judiciary system, as well as to the international partners, the work on the direction of judicial precedents; thirdly, the discussion of LGBTI rights agenda with different authorities; fourthly, the work with the media and so on.
-Your organization has temporarily stopped its activity. Have you resumed it now?
–We will continue our activities on a regular basis, we will work in all these areas, and we are confident that we will achieve a truly free, democratic, equal, fair state and society.