Armenia: ‘You have no right to call yourself Armenian’ Say Gay Man’s Attackers

A gay man was assaulted and beaten last week while walking down the street at night in Yerevan. The man, 23-year-old Yerevan resident Vrezh “Max” Varzhapetyan, a gay rights activist and Right Side NGO staff member, told the Armenian Weekly that on the evening of February 11, three men pursued him down the street, shouting profanities and homophobic slurs. Before police could arrive, his assailants asked him if he was Armenian, and upon his response, beat him and threw him into the road. The men told him he had no right to call himself an Armenian and that he was not a man, but a “sister.” Varzhapetyan says he suffered a broken tooth and injuries to his mouth and nose.

For years, the Armenian government has failed to investigate anti-LGBT violence effectively. The criminal code does not recognize hate against the LGBT community as an aggravating criminal circumstance, and a government bill on equality does not include sexual orientation and gender identity as a ground for protection from discrimination.

In November 2018 ahead of the snap parliamentary elections, the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups and the New Generation Humanitarian NGO (Yerevan, Armenia) were forced to cancel an upcoming forum in Yerevan. The organization issued a statement that included, “We are deeply distressed and disappointed that political violence, death threats, and vandalism directed at LGBTI people constitute a genuine threat to the safety of our participants.” Responding to these concerns, police feigned indifference. Armenia’s police chief Valeriy Osipyan told journalists the same day that he didn’t consider it “appropriate” to hold the forum in Armenia, “considering the risks and security considerations,” and advised that it be held elsewhere.

LGBT and other human rights activists are not optimistic about a systematic and institutionalized end to homophobia in Armenia. After the Velvet Revolution, there was hope in Armenia that a new era had begun devoid of corruption, oligarchy and brutality. Yet despite the sweeping changes triggered by the revolution, the situation for LGBT Armenians remains the same.  Read more via Armenia Weekly