Thursday, 16 August

Armenia: Different, Not New



By Vahan Bournazian

From the stage in Republic Square, Prime Minister Pashinyan called on us to step up if ever he is in the wrong.  Today I answer that call.

Deputy Pashinyan was elected Prime Minister by the leverage of the people amassed in Republic Square.

As a candidate, Pashinyan had on two occasions the responsibility to announce to the National Assembly who he would work with in his new government, and he declined to do so. 

If today’s list of ministers had been announced then, more than half of those amassed in Republic Square would have, or should have, left.  There are more women than men in this country, and civil society organizations, most led by women, were essential to this movement, and yet only two women are appointed as ministers.  There are plenty of qualified women leaders, and a “people’s government” needs to reflect “the people”.

Unfortunately, this is not the only mistake. 

Born in California, but as the grandchild of survivors of the genocide, I choose to reside and work in Armenia as my personal response to genocide.  In 1989, in violation of my visa, I stood on the steps of the Matenadaran to support the Karabagh Movement.  In 1998 and 1999 I taught law at Artsakh State University in Stepanakert.  I have lived and worked in Yerevan since 2004.  I am an RA citizen as of 2013.  My dedication to Armenia should not be questioned, and yet the new Minister of Economic Development and Investments, when a deputy in 2012, announced that my “type of people” “destroys Armenian society.”[1]   For you see, by chance I was born both Armenian and gay.

In May 2012, two individuals fire bombed the gay-friendly DIY bar in the basement of a residential building on Parpetsi Street.  Considering gas lines, the fire could have spread and caused loss of life to residents.  Thankfully, it didn’t.  Under the RA criminal code terrorism includes committing explosions and arson to violate public safety and to intimidate.  But the perpetrators, supported by today’s Minister of Economic Development and Investments, were only charged with vandalism.  Upon personally bailing out one of them, today’s Minister justified the criminals by stating at that time that they had “acted correctly” “in the context of our society and national ideology”.[2]

Thus, today’s Minister of Economic Development and Investments, while a deputy, announced publicly that attacks against fellow Armenian citizens, who happen to be gay, is correct.  He said that it was correct to commit a crime.  In so doing, he violated his ethical duties as a deputy, and he incited others to commit crimes.  After his comments, DIY bar was attacked a second time.[3]  This is the phenomena of hate speech and hate crime.

Even if building a political coalition was a priority for Prime Minister Pashinyan, a man who can stand up to our former President could have also nicely asked ARF to choose someone else — someone other than today’s Minister of Economic Development and Investments. 

Armenia today is different, yes, but not new.  A new Armenia must be welcoming and inclusive of all citizens.  A new Armenia cannot have as a minister a person who justified and incited hate. 

My grandparents did not survive a genocide, an act of the highest level of discrimination, for me to live in a discriminatory Armenia.

(Born in California, Vahan Bournazian resides in Yerevan where he conducts research and teaches human rights.)


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Comments (25)
1. Zareh18:14 - 13 May, 2018
100% spot on. I always wondered why Minster of the government Minassiian was not sanctioned at the time for uttering such thoughtts that would be considereda criminal hate mongering in any sane society.And why he was not kicked out of his part for doing so. Perhaps that, and other spineless behaviour, would explain ARF’s total demise in the upcoming electiones. If that happens they have only themselves to blame. And this coming from a life-long supporter of the ARF.
2. Raffi18:15 - 13 May, 2018
Relax . Its his first week in office . Im sure if you were in his shoes you would understand the situation the country is in and making sure quick tactical moves are required to ensure this momentum becomes a long lasting phenomena. This is the problem with us Armenian quick to judge or disagree . Let the guy do his work . You liberal snowflakes need to chill . Lucky we serve Armenian soorj rather than that latte you must drink
3. Maro Matosian19:01 - 13 May, 2018
Very well put Vahan jan. We are all feeling the pain.
4. Levon19:45 - 13 May, 2018
A very incorrect "tactical" move on Pashinyan's part.
5. Scoob 20:35 - 13 May, 2018
So your main gripe is that 1. There are only 2 women ministers. 2. And one of the ministers doesn’t like gays. Ok lemme break it down for you since you seem a bit confused. 1. I don’t care what gender they are. What matters is not gender - but whether or not they can do a proper job. Don’t be a sexist here Vahan. 2.The sentiment of the ENTIRE country (overwhelming majority) is against sexual deviancy and homosexuality. You ready to denounce 97% of the country too? If your values are in conflict with Armenia’s traditional approach to conventional life - consider moving elsewhere.
6. Heqiat21:05 - 13 May, 2018
I would have to disagree, several women in YELQ have spoken up and addressed the issue of not enough women beIN appointed. As they stated yes there are strong women leaders but they are not in politics or qualified enough for the positions. I think Nikol has stated and underlined/highlighted women's importance in this movement many times. Let's give them a chance and see if they do a good job or not, it hasn't even been a full week yet....
7. Garnik21:44 - 13 May, 2018
My dear compatriots , I admire your high social values , Armenia needs those values to stay a respectable civil society .However in starting a new social order , one needs to be very pragmatist ( that means, one needs to pay attention to those tasks with highest priorities ) .Yes it is very important for Armenian society to have opportunity to benefit from male and female members of it's society equally in running every aspect of government and business.I agree with you that a healthy society needs to be tolerant and inclusive and the list goes on.I would like to invite every body to join forces to achieve 1) New electoral and political party law 2) New Electoral code of conduct 3) New non partisan judiciary system So lets keep our fire on hold and push together for above mentioned goals , if we achieve our goals the rest of jigsaw will come together
8. joe22:03 - 13 May, 2018
The lack of adequate women represented is testament to a lack of respect for women in today's Armenian society and is an obstacle that needs to be overcome. Same with sexual orientation. Apparently today's Armenia doesn't understand this inherited lifestyle and feels threatened which may be understandable but encouraging criminal activity against Armenia's gay community is unacceptable and goes counter to the new movement and needs to be rid. There is no room for discrimination of any sort that leads to violence. Yes its early but sorry Nikol, like all Armenia's leaders, do need to be held accountable as well.
9. parap23:12 - 13 May, 2018
Scoob, 1) I care what gender they are. I also care that they are qualified. They are representing the people. Women are more than 50% of the population. I want to see that reflected in government, and not just in Ministries of Culture and Social Affairs. I want to see a woman as Deputy Prime Minister or Minister of Finance. There are highly qualified women who could easily take up these positions. It's not sexist to ask for fair representation of people in government. In fact, it's sexist to be ok with a government that is practically all male and presides over everyone. 2) This isn't just about homosexuality. It's about the fact that a person now appointed minister condoned a terrorist act aimed at intimidating and potentially harming innocent people and their basic human rights. That alone should raise everyone's hackles. Including yours. Raffi, you're the snowflake for fearing justice and change in your life.
10. Vahram 02:42 - 14 May, 2018
Who said that all cabinets should be split 50/50 between men and women? next time it can be 70% women and 30% men , are we going to denounce the cabinet? the concern was to put the right person in the right place rather than worrying about gender issues. As for Minassian's personal opinion about gays, this has nothing to do with official Yerevan or the new cabinet. The writer of this article has made up his sexual choices and Minassian has got also his own views. Don't waste our time with such articles.
11. preston bagrationi04:22 - 14 May, 2018
Right on Vahan. Armenia should be ALL inclusive of ALL sexes, and ALL means ALL. Whether one is sexual, asexual, straight gay or quadrisexual, the important thing is if an Armenian Can and Would love Armenia and is qualified to serve the motherland, irrespective of their sexual orientation. As for women, yes, I would like to see More women in Pashinyan's cabinet, and less oligarchs....if possible.
12. Scoob 06:17 - 14 May, 2018
Parap, have you considered those in government are representing the people (men AND women) meaning they stand for ideals. The proper representation of ideals and merit is what’s important not thier chromosomes. The fact that you make gender an issue is the literal definition of sexism - and no amount of mental gymnasts will change that. 2. The MP in question is allowed to have any opinion he likes whether it be in support of your beliefs or otherwise - accepting that people can have differing views is the very essence of tolerance
13. Scoob 06:32 - 14 May, 2018
Furthermore, what transpired in May 2012 could hardly be accepted as an ‘act of terrorism’ . An act of violence for sure and even categorized as a ‘hate crime’ in the West. But its definitely not “terrorism”. Use of such terminology devalues actual terrorism. And to compare the suffering and systematic genocide of a race to homosexuals calling for the right to publicly hold degenerate parades is absolutely sickening.
14. Iranian Armenian12:57 - 14 May, 2018
Armenians in Genocide killed because they were christians.Genocode in 1915 were a christian genocide.Armenia can not accept homosexuality.Look the researches.97% of Armenians in Armenia dont accept homosexuality.If ypu dont like this go away.
15. parap15:20 - 14 May, 2018
Scoob, 1) If you don't think gender matters, but you think having a practically all-male government is okay, then you don't understand the concepts of gender, equality, representation, and sexism. 2) Semantics. Call it a "hate crime," call it an "act of violence." Either way, the man condoned it. Hence, his appointment as minister is rightfully questioned and criticised.
16. joe17:29 - 14 May, 2018
@ Iranian Armenian, Armenians were killed because of the planned theft of wealth and land and putting certain actors as the main controllers of the silk road trade routes. It was economical and the Christian factor was the excuse to get average Turks and Kurds to slaughter the Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians. Today Turks are murdering Kurds, fellow Muslims, for the same economics as well. Being gay is something you are born with. Its not a choice so I assure you will not rub off on anyone. You may not like it but to advocate violence against the gay Armenians makes one no better then Turks.
17. preston bagrationi18:49 - 14 May, 2018
To: Iranian Armenian. Give me one "good" reason why Armenia cannot accept homosexuality. Did you know that according to psychologists people who hate gays are themselves "closeted gay men." And if you did Not know that gays are born that way, then you must go back to college and continue your studies and learn a thing or two about homosexuality. Gays and straights of Armenia are ALL children of our motherland. Armenia needs ALL it's sons and daughters to go and live in Armenia. Narrow minded backward attitudes are the things of the past....for the sake of pete, grow up already. And this from one straight Armenian. Remember: ALL means ALL.
18. An Iranian Armenian20:59 - 14 May, 2018
Hey you , Iranian Armenian , do not use my name for your indefensible opinions. Another Iranian Armenian
19. Scoob 21:21 - 15 May, 2018
Again, parap. You seem to be purposely missing the point entirely. I simply wish to see society move past the tribalism and division you want to create. I understand very well the nature of your arguments and found them quite hollow and archaic. The only “Representation” the matters should be about the ideals of the people - ideals are greater than mere chromosomes and unite a nation. It’s unfortunate that you struggle with this simple concept and cannot see a greater society above primitive gender lines. 2. Semantics eh? Comparing the sheer unrelenting terror and genocide to those lobbying for degenerate parades is only a difference in semantics huh? I don’t know what kind of unhinged reality you live in but I hope one day you move past this and see the bigger picture instead of dividing a nation along superficial lines.
20. parap21:29 - 16 May, 2018
Scoob, 1) you do realise, don't you, that you are the one creating tribalism and division by not being inclusive? When you do not hire women to represent 50% of the population, you are excluding them from the conversation. That's tribalism and division along gender lines. That's not unity. And it also does not reflect the ideals of an equal society. In other words, you are defending the ideals of politicians who ignore 50% of the population. And you're calling me a sexist and telling me I'm missing the point. 2) Nobody compared genocide to homophobia. The comparison was between the discrimination of ethnicity and sexual orientation. But, as I said in my first post, the act of violence that was committed to intimidate and potentially harm many innocent people was condoned by a person who has now been appointed a minister. However, because you're wearing your homophobic lens so close to your nose, it's obvious that you're incapable of seeing an act of violence against homosexuals as a crime. On a final note: the bar DIY was bombed with a Molotov cocktail, solely because it was gay friendly. If that's not an act of terror and discrimination, then I don't know what is.
21. Vartan17:28 - 20 May, 2018
Armenians don't like gay people that's their right! They don't want to have public places for them, that's their right! You have to accept it!!
22. preston bagrationi19:44 - 23 May, 2018
Vartan, "Armenians don't like gay people that's their right! They don't want to have public places for them, that's their right! You have to accept it!! " is a flawed generalization. Just because you are narrow minded bigoted and unsure of your sexual orientation, does NOT mean ALL Armenians are bigoted idiots. I am a straight, man of a man man. However, when you are unsure of Your sexual orientation, you start looking for culprits to blame for your sexual inadequacies. In fact, very few Armenians, just like you, mostly uneducated, hate homosexuals. Most have no reason to fear them, gays are artistically inclined, nationalistic, overall are less corrupt than you are, and serve Armenia well. Why does their bedroom intrigue you is beyond me. Why the interest in their sex life drives you bananas is beyond me. Vartan, time to get out of the closet and accept your sexuality. You seem to be an angry closeted gay man. And NO, Armenians don't hate gays, you do.
23. Vartan23:29 - 24 May, 2018
@preston bagrationi Sorry but you are talking a lot of Bullshit :) . I am a researcher in a quite good institutions in central Europe. I understand your point of view and also the point of view of most of the Armenians. You have to accept people that are homophile (like you) and people that are homophobic (most of Armenians). Statistics show that Gays change very often partners and a high percentage of Gays and bisexual men have HIV Here some stats concerning US (and it's similar in other countries) : "Gay and bisexual men accounted for 67% of all diagnoses and 83% of HIV diagnoses among males." (src:hiv.gov) Gay and bisexual spread HIV disease !!! that's not cool !!! And concerning Armenia: "...According to the survey, 93.8 per cent of the 1,017 people interviewed said they did not want to see gay couples holding hands in the street and 97.5 per cent were against them kissing in public. ..." You have the right to think what you want but you have to accept and respect people that are not homophile like you, you can't force Armenians to accept a behavior which is against their values. And I repeat : Armenians don't like gay people that's their right! They don't want to have public places for them, that's their right! You have to accept it!! Why are you so Homophile? If you are Gay or you are working as a lawyer for an LGBT organization then it is understandable, but if you are not, then why are you defending the interests of a group of people that have a sexual behavior that spreads diseases and goes against nature? Why?
24. preston bagrationi09:30 - 25 May, 2018
Vartan what you are telling us is that people, the likes of Vahan Bournouzian spread diseases, right? Are you out of your mind? Are you a sick man unsure of your sexual orientation? Am I dreaming here? We are in the year of 2018 and your mind is bogged down in the year 1500 AD. You are one bigoted sick man.
25. Vartan23:59 - 26 May, 2018
I am a researcher i am looking the data and facts :), you are just writing bullshit :) 83 % of men that are diagnosed with HIV are GAY or bisexual (US statistics, and you have similar numbers in other countries). That's because of their sexual behaviour. This means having a men that has HIV you can be very often sure that he is gay or bisexual. Until recently (1970's) being Gay was considered as mental illness, this depends on the definition of mental illness. What is quite obvious is that it is an abnormal sexual behaviour. If you are Gay then of course you would like to be able to show you abnormal behaviour (which is normal of your point of view) everywhere, and you would like to have more people that are Gay so you have more potential partners. But if you are not, why are you supporting it? Why are you a Homophile? Why? Are you an idiot?
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