With the traditional media in the South Caucasus rarely reporting on sexual or religious minority rights maturely, blogs have stepped in to fill the gap and Unzipped: Gay Armenia continues to post LGBT news from the region. Following recent homophobic remarks from local politicians and civil society activists as well as in articles published by the local press, the blog says there is actually some good news for a change.
First up, although negative remarks continue to define the way in which the media refers to the LGBT community, one local journalist has been awarded by the British Council for an article on lesbians in Armenia.
ArmeniaNow’s Vahan Ishkhanyan placed third, with his article about lesbian Armenians “Coming out: Armenian lesbians raise the curtain”.
In 2006, he wrote an article about gay Armenian men “Love and Loyalty”: Marriage in secret, in an environment of fear
In December 2008, writing for his blog on Tert.am, Vahan Ishkhanyan discussed hypocrisy in Armenian literary circles posting an extract from never before published in Armenia gay-themed poem by prominent gay Armenian poet Yeghishe Charents.
The blog also reports that not only are some media outlets now attempting to properly discuss the existence of sexual minorities in what remains a very traditional and patriarchal country, but some university students have produced a short social ad calling for tolerance in society as part of their coursework.
Brave, tastefully made, right to the point. Well done, guys! Congratulations for this excellent work!! As far as I am concerned, you passed your tests with honors.
Unzipped: Gay Armenia links to the blog of the Pink Armenia NGO which provides a translation of the text in the video.
Being homosexual is not a choice,
- Being infected with HIV, doesn't stop me being your friend,
– By denying me, you don't help me to leave drugs
– I am a sex worker…
– My mother is the best mother in the world
– We all are equal, this world is for everybody
Of course, there are those such as Real Armenia which disagree and even go as far as reminding its readers that homosexuality is condemned in The Bible.
I am so tired of this homosexualists screeming, so far here I’am placing the text for them to keep in their memories.
If the homosexual community chooses to practice homosexuality in privacy, that is there free choice. But let such persons know for certain that the Christian Bible condemns all such practices and God will judge them unfit for the kingdom of heaven if the continue to practice and openly promote homosexual sex.
Nevertheless, Unzipped: Gay Armenia also notes that there are some signs of increased openness emerging in neighboring Azerbaijan with the first web site for the LGBT community now established.
The aim of this web site is to provide local LGBT community with the LGBT-related news, educational materials, fight homophobia in Azeri society including media, and serve as a forum for LGBT Azerbaijani people.
Among upcoming plans of the “Gender & Development” NGO is to publish LGBT magazine.
Web site will be available in three languages – Azeri, Russian, and English.
Very welcome and long-awaited addition to LGBT-related resources in the South Caucasus. Will keep an eye on it.
But perhaps the most unexpected news comes in the form of an extended post on the publication in Armenia's estranged neighbor of a book detailing a love story between two homosexuals from each country set against the backdrop of the still unresolved conflict over Nagorno Karabakh.
Alekper Aliyev, editor-in-chief of kultura.az, has published, as he put it, his “most scandalous” novel “Artush and Zaur” in Baku. It’s a gay love story between an Azeri and Armenian, a sort of partial deconstruction of Ali and Nino (a heterosexual love story of Azeri Ali and Georgian Nino) having instead Azeri and Armenian male lovers against the backdrop of the emerging Karabakh conflict.
The war separates them. Artush moved to Armenia, Zaur remained in Baku. Already adults they meet again – in Tbilisi. They indulge in memories, fall in love and even get married with the help of a Dutch pastor, a confidant of the wife of Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili …
In his interview, the author argues that Azeris and Armenians share similar kitchen, music and mentality. “Armenians are closer to us than, say, Georgians” due to the influence of the Persian culture.
Alekperov says that one of the reasons of writing this novel was to expose the absurdity of all wars in the South Caucasus a la Kusturica. He believes he has the full right to do so as he lost his older brother during the Karabakh war in 1994.
Predictably, this book caused a stir and shock in Azeri forums and blogs, with plenty of hateful and homophobic comments. Some accused the author in treason and betrayal of national interests. Others claimed (with irony) that Azerbaijan now has its very own Salman Rushdie and Orhan Pamuk.
“Who f**ked who?” – this is one of the first and apparently principal questions being discussed in forums and blogs (both Azeri and Armenian), each side wishing for ‘his guy’ to f**k ‘the enemy’. […]
If you discount the nationalities and sexuality of the main characters, the plot may seem pretty routine and unremarkable. However, against the backdrop of nationalism and intolerance in the region, the very fact of the novel that tells about the love story between an Armenian and Azeri, a gay love story between an Armenian and Azeri, makes it a double taboo breaking.
However, Unzipped: Gay Armenia concludes, in a region where homophobia, intolerance and ethnic nationalism still defines society, it remains to be seen whether any reaction against the book will manifest itself as hate attacks on the author.
“Only the bravest among us are ready to break taboos,” the blog says. “Alekper Aliyev is one of them.”