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Armenia: Nationalists Disrupt Cultural Diversity March

As was the case in 2009 during a rally to mark International Women's Day, nationalists in Armenia infiltrated and disrupted a march in Yerevan on 21 May to commemorate World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.

The counter-action was also followed by reports of new attacks on D.I.Y., a gay friendly bar in Armenia's capital that was firebombed on 8 May. With some officials and politicians justifying the attack, liberal bloggers are concerned.

Unzipped: Gay Armenia likens the 21 May disruption to fascism.

To mark United Nation's World Day of Cultural Diversity, PINK Armenia and Women's Resource Centre announced a variety of events as part of the Diversity Week. The week should have kicked off with the Diversity march on 21 May to call for respect of… yes, diversity in Armenia.

But the notion of diversity was once again attacked in Armenia in an organised provocation by neo-nazi elements and their supporters. To gain a wider support among masses, they dubbed Diversity march a “gay pride” and fuelled aggression towards marchers by intentionally spreading misleading information.

[...]

Neo-nazi elements attacked marchers encouraged by endorsement of homophobic hysteria and anti-gay violence on a very high state level that followed firebombing of DIY bar. [...]

Watch these reports. Look at these pictures. Faces of fascism in Armenia.

Diversity march in Yerevan © PanARMENIAN Photo / Tigran Mehrabyan

Global Chaos also posts an extensive account, drawing a comparison with recent clashes in neighboring Georgia. While also stressing the Yerevan march was not a gay parade, the blog notes the presence of Armenian priests.

[...] due to PINK Armenia's previous campaigns against homophobia, somehow the Diversity March was distorted in the public mind and presented as a “gay parade” by certain ultranationalist (for the sake of avoiding the “neo-Nazi” term) elements and groupings, who showed up to the event. Their numbers far exceeded those of the actual Diversity marchers and with their aggression and noise they did manage to hijack and distort not only the objective, but also the intended meaning of the event.

[...]

This event, along with all that's been going on with D.I.Y. is becoming a growing trend in Armenia. The blind worship of Garegin Nzhdeh (who, despite his patriotic work, was, let's not forget, a Nazi-cooperator and a supporter of “Aryanism”, having successfully established with Berlin that the Armenians were an “Aryan race”, too) and the increasing influence of the Armenian Apostolic [Echmiadzin] Church encouraged by Armenia's ruling Republican Party is not only worrisome but dangerous. Their ideology, as well as the activities undertaken by its various bodies and supporters, are too similar of Nazism; while their talk about the protection of Armenia's “genetic pool” is dangerously reminiscent of eugenics.

[...]

The fact that aggression against minorities, especially sexual minorities, is encouraged by a range of political forces within the country (including those that are in the supposed opposition), makes this state-supported neo-Nazism. Given Armenia's membership in the UN and the Council of Europe – and therefore, its commitment to such documents as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, and especially, the PACE's Resolution 1728 (on “Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity”) – the Armenian political leadership should be held accountable not only for allowing such developments in the country, but, especially, for actively supporting them.

One priest in particular made a point of referring to Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as praising the “patriotic youth” who had gathered there to demonstrate their devotion to God and their nation [...].

Another Armenian blog, Le Retour in 3 Parts, comments on the policing of the event.

[...] we were no longer in control. Because from this point on it was the cops telling us how to move, where to go, where to stand. We were being controlled by the state apparatus. I don’t believe for a minute that the police actually cared about our safety (in fact, a couple of marchers and supporters told me afterwards the remarks they heard by police officers — remarks that sanctioned the hate rhetoric chanted by protestors). Police follow orders from above — not from activists (and least of all not by activists they perceive as gay or gay allies).

[...]

[...] And yet I felt more like an animal lured into its cage. Because now we were barricaded in, while counter-demonstrators were outside, continuing to chant, sing and proclaim themselves as defenders of the nation and “national values”.

As has been customary for similar actions in Armenia, liberal values were condemned by the nationalists who infiltrated the march with chants such as “Gays go to Baku [Azerbaijan]” and “No to Perversion” reported.

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