With blogs fast becoming synonymous with heated online political debate of late, there is the danger that the much larger potential for blogging in Armenia is missed. That is, while most political blogs simply duplicate the views of an already polarized media, the voices of those stuck in between, denied access to the airwaves, or who are simply misrepresented, are often ignored.
However, in the area of specialist subject matters such as education, the situation might be slowly changing. This is also true when it comes to an emerging and active LGBT blogging scene. Ironically, bloggers were first used by the media to perpetuate the homophobia prevalent in society, as Unzipped: Gay Armenia reported in January.
What on earth homosexuals have to do with an article on blogging in Armenia, one may wonder. The answer is simple. Journalist Tatev Harutyunyan probably worried that her article on blogging would not attract much attention, so she had to sensationalise it, to spice things up. What else could be more attention grabbing than gay-related headline or homophobic rhetoric? Nothing, apparently.
I was not surprised in relation to Aravot newspaper’s periodic ‘masterpieces’. Last spring it published an ill-informed and blatantly homophobic article on gay people in Armenia, ironically rightly stating that gay life is pretty much hidden in our country without even realising (?) that it’s partly because of media attitudes like theirs, that gay men and women prefer remaining ‘in closet’ (“hidden”).
Since then, however, the number of LGBT blogs from Armenia and the Diaspora has mushroomed. In part, this is probably because of the important precedent set by Unzipped: Gay Armenia. The blogger from Armenia now resident in England truly did cover sensitive issues such as gender, homosexuality and homophobia in what still remains a largely male-dominated patriarchal society with little regard for sexual minorities or women's rights.
According to UNICEF report released today, 1 in 4 surveyed women in Armenia (22%) believe that under certain circumstances, husband has the right to beat his wife. The situation is even worse in Georgia – 30%. (in Ukraine – 5%; and in Uzbekistan – 70%!)
Survey was conducted among women 15-49 yrs old.
Sadly, not a shocking news…
In a country where many issues are only covered only in a localized rather than regional context, Unzipped: Gay Armenia also took upon itself to cover neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia without resorting to nationalist rhetoric, bias or prejudice given that many territorial disputes and frozen conflicts linger on in the region.
This is especially true in the case of Babi Badalov, a gay Azerbaijani artist seeking asylum in the United Kingdom. Although Armenia and Azerbaijan are still effectively at war over the unresolved conflict of Nagorno Karabakh, Unzipped: Gay Armenia continues to cover his case in a way that most local journalists probably wouldn't.
Babakhan Badalov, (Babi) is an openly gay, internationally renowned radical artist and poet from Azerbaijan. His art and poetry have been explicitly critical of the government and present/past presidents. These factors have led Babi to become a target of repression and persecution over many years. These factors have led Babi to become a target of repression and persecution over many years. He has recently been described by the government and prominent public figures as being a traitor to Azerbaijan.
Since Unzipped: Gay Armenia, other blogs by members of the LGBT community in the Diaspora have sprung up. These include An Armenian Lesbian Blog, The Thoughts of a Californian Garmo in Europe, Queering Yerevan, AGLA NY, and Hye Trent. More importantly, perhaps, a new Armenian LGBT organization is using its blog to effectively report on matters that the local media usually does not. What makes PINK Armenia unique is that it is actually located in Armenia.
Given that blogs can serve as a medium through which unrepresented groups or voices can communicate their ideas, thoughts and concerns, LGBT/Gender blogs arguably illustrate the potential blogging has in countries such Armenia and neighbors such as Iran. Other key groups which blogs could also empower — especially if they were to utilize social networking sites, online video and podcasts as well — include youth, ethnic minorities and environmentalists.