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Armenia - Turkey: For anti-discrimination laws concerning sexual orientation and gender identity

Screening of Lesir Indz (LGBT rights in Armenia) in Geneva

The screening of the "Lesir Indz" ("Listen to me") documentary about the absence of LGBT rights in Armenia, co-organized by Hyestart and Dialogai on 29 April at Dialogai in Geneva, was quite successful. Some 50 people with various profiles attended the screening of the documentary of the LGBT NGO Pink, in which 10 members of the Armenian LGBT community come out and share their experiences. Such testimonies are both rare and courageous in a context marked by strong homophobia. Homophobic discourse is indeed commonplace in Armenia, whether on television or in the spheres of power. Edward Sharmazanov, one of the strongmen of the ruling Republican Party, has for example declared himself to be openly "anti-gay" in the Aravot daily newspaper back in 2009. After the Molotov cocktail attack targeting DIY, the only "open" bar of the Armenian capital in 2012, the same Sharmazanov declared that he found the attack "justified". In fact, there is no legal protection for LGBT people whose rights are regularly violated. Many fear violence in the workplace, on the street or in their families, and do not file complaints on violations of their rights because impunity prevails.

In the discussion that followed the documentary, Turkish sociologist Pinar Selek and Hyestart President Alain Navarra presented their point of view. Pinar Selek stands up for what she calls herself the "oppressed", especially the LGBT community. Persecuted in her own country since the end of the 20th century, she now lives in France. We were honoured by her presence. She stressed the necessary convergence of struggles among minorities (ethnic, sexual, gender), as well as regionally. In Turkey, no more than in Armenia, there is still no legal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Alain Navarra, a long-time LGBT rights' activist, recalled his militant engagement with the Homosexual Liberation Groups (GLH) in the 1980s in France. In 1978, this group organized in Paris the fortnight of homosexual cinema. The French minister of culture of the time, Michel d'Ornano, had prohibited the screening of 17 films and the spectators of the festival had to undergo, one night, the attacks of a far-right group. Fully subscribing to Pinar Selek's argument, he also called on the Armenian Diaspora to commit to LGBT rights in Armenia.

In conclusion, Hyestart underlined its intent to continue its engagement with the Geneva-based United Nations human rights bodies so that Armenia (which signed the 2008 UN Declaration against Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity) and Turkey finally introduce legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

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