Controversy continues to surround the 8 May firebombing of D.I.Y., a gay friendly bar in Yerevan. At the beginning of the week, two MPs of the nationalist-leaning Armenian Revolutionary Federation — Dashnaktsutyun (ARF-D) not only surprised many by bailing the two suspected arsonists out of jail, but also by justifying the attack in what some consider to be little more than incitement to further violence against members of Armenia's LGBT community.
The move has been criticized widely, and not least among other members of the ARF-D, most notably in or countries outside Armenia, who believe the MPs contradict the socialist nature of the party. Some ARF-D supporters on Facebook, for example, even created and changed their profile pictures in support of those targeted.
Another voiced their opinion as a Facebook status update.
[…] the statements made by our Parliament member are unfortunate, and the acts of those two idiots are deplorable. […] I hope [the MP] will be removed from the party, simply because he clearly does not uphold the values of the ARF and therefore should not represent us in a position that should be held for our highest standard of leaders.
Several articles and editorials in Armenian-American newspapers affiliated with the ARF-D agreed. Unzipped: Gay Armenia, for example, re-posts a comment left under one such opinion piece criticizing the actions of the two ARF-D MPs.
There are won’t be any marches in Yerevan. No candle lights, no straight folks walking hand in hand with gays or bi’s in the streets of Yerevan claiming the governments disapproval of such hate crime.
What are they waiting for? Do they need some dead bodies? A sensational crime scene decorated by bloodshed … what the hell the Armenian people are waiting for? Go out! Shout out, people! Say “we don’t want bigotery in this country! We had enough of it!
What? This issue doesn’t concern you? What if you will be the next target and nobody will come out to stand up for you?
Think about it!
Even so, in its latest post, Unzipped: Gay Armenia comments on a video interview with two self-proclaimed fascists who say it was the ARF-D's own television channel that encouraged them to target sexual minorities in the country.
In an interview with ARF Dashnaktsutyun affiliated Yerkir Media TV station, these underage “fascists” mentioned that they started targeting DIY after the report by Yerkir Media on DIY owner Tsomak participation in Istanbul Gay Pride. Interestingly, Yerkir Media didn't air this interview tonight.
Nevertheless, while one small opposition party leader has come out in support of D.I.Y., senior government officials have now shocked liberal Armenians by also speaking out in support of those responsible for the firebombing.
@unzippedblog: Exposed: Chief of staff of Public Council of #Armenia supports neo-nazi firebombers http://goo.gl/HbbYr #neonazi #hatecrime #scandal
@unzippedblog: Disgusting! #Armenia ruling Republican party spokesman MP explicitly supports anti #gay #neonazi firebombers
@HimaKaren: The spokesman of the rulling regime of #Armenia and the vice-speaker of the parliament Eduard Sharmazanov has spreaded a statement encouraging the individuals who has attacked the gay friendly DIY club, and blaming the people who condemn the #homophobic attacks. This means that the current regime is officially encouraging and supports the homophobic attacks and Armenia in-spite of the official #humanrights conventions it has sign[ed]
Indeed, reports Unzipped: Gay Armenia, one government official even set up a homophobic Facebook page, now deleted, praising the arsonists.
Hakob Barkhudaryan, chief of staff of Public Council of Republic of Armenia, a consultative body at Armenia president, created a Facebook page in praise of neo-nazi attackers on DIY bar: “In support of firebombers of DIY club”, calling for attackers to be freed of persecution.
This is truly Scandal of the Day. We all know that this council is pretty much a formality, and there are quite a few openly homophobic members there. But support for terrorists? Unbelievable.
What is the position of the president of Public Council re this matter? What is the position of Armenia president?
We need urgent answers as the consequences of this could be enormously damaging for the reputation of Armenia, suggesting support for neo-nazi and firebombers in the very heart of state structures.
Meanwhile, Le Retour in 3 Parts says that officials should instead be condemning the attack and not supporting it.
If there was ever a time for state officials and public figures to speak out, it is now. And again, I say, you may consider us mentally ill (despite the fact that homosexuality is no longer considered a mental disorder […]), you may despise us, you may wish we never existed, but you must stand up and condemn such acts. I believe the authorities are obliged to respond — not by creating a page on Facebook praising the neo-nazi attackers on DIY bar, as one state official did, but by publicly stating that it is acceptable neither to take the law into your hands nor to terrorize, intimidate, vilify or otherwise harass another person or group for ANY reason. Period.
Nevertheless, while some officials and politicians condone the attack, a discussion about the rights of the LGBT community in Armenia has at least started. And with the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) this week ranking Armenia as one of the most homophobic countries in Europe, that discussion is needed more than ever.