Government Must Address Climate of Impunity, Intolerance, Inequality

(New York City, August 20, 2018) – Over 100 Armenian organizations and prominent individuals today issued a public letter to the Armenian government as well as Armenian political parties, international organizations and churches calling on them to condemn the recent attacks against Armenian LGBT activists and to promote legislative and policy changes to grant equality and end discrimination against LGBT persons in Armenia.

“The Armenian government urgently must address the policies, laws and social climate that foster intolerance and violence against the LGBT community of Armenia,” said writer Nancy Kricorian. “Without a clear plan for legislative reform and education, the Armenian government will have failed in its duty to protect the LGBT community from violence and discrimination and to grant them basic human rights guarantees.”

The letter to the government followed in the wake of the recent violent attack on nine people, among them LGBT activists, in the village of Shurnukh in the Syunik region of Armenia on 3 August. The attack reflects a disturbing and persistent pattern of hatred and discrimination against the Armenian LGBT community. Reportedly, the police launched an investigation, questioned the victims and detained several suspected attackers on 3 August, releasing them the next day, but apparently have not brought charges against anyone.

“It is particularly disturbing that at least one member of parliament, Gevorg Petrosyan, from the Tsarukyan Faction, called for the expulsion of LGBT persons from Armenia on his Facebook page,” said Sarkis Balkhian, human and refugee rights advocate in Yerevan. “While the statement of the government’s Office of the Human Rights Defender was a welcome gesture, the condemnation was tame and insufficient.”

The law in Armenia fails to provide equal rights to LGBT persons in Armenia (see statement from Amnesty International). Armenian law does not prohibit discrimination against LGBT individuals in employment, housing, or social benefits, nor does it sanction as hate crimes attacks against LGBT persons.

The letter detailed its call to the Armenian government to:

  • establish an agenda and timetable for legislative reform to grant LGBT persons in Armenia equality under the law;
  • propose a plan to promote tolerance and respect throughout society for LGBT persons, including through the issuance of public statements and the establishment of a public education program;
  • issue a statement condemning all attacks against LGBT persons and a commitment to investigating and punishing perpetrators and providing protection for LGBT persons.

It called on Armenian political parties to express their support for such a reform agenda and plan, and to issue their own condemnations of attacks against the LGBT community. It also called on international Armenian organizations, including Armenian churches of all denominations, to express their support for such a reform agenda and plan, and to issue their own condemnations of attacks against the LGBT community.  Armenian voters and supporters of international organizations deserve to know where their parties and organizations stand on these issues.

“The new government of Armenia has brought hope for true reform to address issues of transparency, fairness, and equality and reforms in the LGBT arena should be part of this promise for a new age,” said Nancy Kricorian. “Outdated and false justifications based on ‘religion’, ‘culture’ and ‘values’ can no longer cover for hatred, violence and intolerance against Armenian LGBT persons.”

For more information, please contact: 
In Yerevan, Sarkis Balkhian (English Armenian, Arabic): +374-94-44-13-53 (mobile); or sarkisbalkhian@gmail.com. Twitter: @SarkisBalkhian
In New York, Nancy Kricorian (English): +1-646-234-8529 (mobile); or nkbookgroup@gmail.com. Twitter: nancykric