Last edited: November 06, 2004

Bigots on Baghramian?: Parliament Members Continue Gay Debate

ArmeniaNow, October 2004

By Julia Hakobyan

Leaving behind an agenda of top issues such as corruption, poverty, constitutional reform and the debatable value of sending Armenian troops to Iraq the National Assembly of Armenia continues its “He Is Gay” sessions, which have turned from accusation to slander and from debates to skirmishes.

Prompted by the announcement of the nationalistic Armenian-Aryan Order that some Armenian top officials are gay, Deputy Hakob Hakobyan last week publicly called fellow MP Mher Shahgeldyan a homosexual, saying that he can present proof. Later, Hakobyan announced that his house had been fired upon by a gang retaliating for Shahgeldyan.

In rhetoric laced with hate and hardly befitting lawmakers of a democratic republic, Members of Parliament have said that any member found to be gay should resign – an opinion shared by the Presidential Advisor for National Security Garnik Isagulyan. (click here for related story)

One female MP, Alvard Petrosyan told Aravot daily that, as a “normal” woman she is afraid of homosexuals, calling them “enemies” of women.

While the Armenian officials speculate the issue of homosexuality as hot political argument and debate it from the point of view of morality and political ineligibility, Armen Avetisyan the Chairman of Armenian Aryan Order (AAO) says he and his supporters continue making a list of homosexual politicians.

Last month Avetisyan announced that he possessed photographic and video materials proving that some Armenian ministers are homosexual. Avetisyan said the announcement was made in order to make homosexual officials themselves leave their posts; otherwise he would publish the names before the end of the year.

Avetisyan says he is not surprised that his announcement turned into scandal.

“It’s only the beginning,” Avetisyan told ArmeniaNow. “You will see what happens if the list of homosexual officials is published. Our nation can reconcile itself to a life of poverty but it will never allow itself to be ruled by a group of sexual perverts”

Avetisyan, 41, is a veteran of the Karabakh war and founded AAO in 1993 to advocate for native Armenian values, such as culture, history and family. According to Ministry of Justice data, the political party has about 35 registered members.

Avetisyan says that the name of his organization has nothing to do with fascism ideology and that the word “Aryan” simply has the Armenia “Ar” prefix.

“Our mission is to revive Armenian values,” he says. “Today we see how a group of rascals ruin our country and have to make them leave first their posts, and then leave the country.”

Before taking up the campaign against gays, Avetisyan – whose clout, previously, was minimal at best – had vocally opposed the introduction of Social Security Cards. He claims that the country is being run by Masons who blackmail homosexual politicians into making laws that suit the Masons’ purposes.

Confronted with whether his actions violate human rights, Avetisyan says national rights are above everything else.

“Some people accuse us of interfering in people’s private lives,” he says. “Is a person protected in Armenia only because he is a homosexual? What about thousands of unprotected Armenians, disabled, veterans of war, orphans, people who are being beaten, killed, humiliated, starved. Who advocates for their rights? We have to think about our children, because by accepting homosexuals we threaten our children’s future.” (Avetisyan himself is father of three.)

While some view Avetisyan’s declaration as a self-aggrandizing drama, others are concerned more with the reaction of the Armenian elite and governing authorities.

Micha Meroujean, the Chairman of AGLA France (Association of Gay and Lesbian Armenians of France) says he finds it revolting that not a single politician, humanitarian activist, intellectual or media outlet has condemned Avetisyans announcement.

“I wonder if the parliamentarians and government officials would have been so enthusiastic and determined if someone came out to publish a list of ‘Most Corrupted Politicians in Armenia,” Meroujean told ArmeniaNow.

Meroujean says that when the Council of Europe demanded that Armenia abolish its law making homosexuality a crime, it was supposed that Armenia would no longer discriminate against gays. But today, he says, Armenia remains a homophobic state.

“Avetisyan represents the extreme right movement. He is a political go-getter, a bigot who speculates on nationalistic sentiments by spreading hatred,” says Meroujean, who lives in Paris. “The Armenian Constitution does not say that gays do not have a right to work in public office. What I conclude is that this scenario drives homogeneous Armenia to a fascist regime.”

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