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Hate culture: one year later

IMG_6712Exactly one year ago, on May 8th, 2012, three young men bombed DIY pub in Yerevan, which was followed by scores of state officials justifying the hateful crime. In connection with this, on May 8, 2013 at 12:00 pm, Ani Plaza Hotel hosted “Hate Culture in Armenia: One Year Later”, a round-table discussion organized by concerned citizens with the support of Human Rights House – Yerevan.

The discussion began with activist Lala Aslikyan presenting a chronology of events that took place before and after the bombing. “DIY pub opened its doors in April of 2011 and was subject to frequent threats and attacks by groups of young fascists just a few months after its opening. Attackers would constantly destroy property, break bottles and glass, and spit on the premises,” said Lala. “At 5:00am on May 8th, 2012 five young men bombed the pub. A few days later, extremists graffitied the walls of the pub with images and symbols of fascism. Although the suspects were arrested, one suspect was bailed out shortly after and police released the other after he promised not to leave the country.”

Lusine Ghazaryan presented the legal process of the case, emphasizing that what happened was a hate crime because the act was aimed at destroying not only property, but to intimidate and threaten the owner of the pub as well as the safety of her supporters. “The criminals were charged under Article 185 of the criminal code, which does not include hate crimes,” said Lusine. Adding that this case might have great strategic importance, as it can bring significant positive changes in the law to include intent.

Mamikon Hovsepyan of PINK Armenia spoke about institutionalized homophobia and how every time there are elections, political parties draw attention to LGBT people and use homophobia as a means to gather an electorate since a majority of the population is homophobic. “They target specific people and last year after the parliamentary elections the target was Tsomak”, said Mamikon.

Human rights defender Arthur Sakunts noted, “the structure of the government is monopolized, which creates fertile ground for the emergence of different forms of discrimination to which religious organizations, LGBT individuals, women, ethnic minorities, foreign citizens and anyone else who is somehow different from the ruling majority are subject to. The solution to this problem is Article 1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia which states that Armenia is a sovereign, democratic, social state governed by the rule of law”.

Round-table participant Yura Manvelyan, editor of Epress.am said, “The mass media has created an image of the enemy: Turks, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and feminist activists. The journalist is the only connection between the editor and the microphone. Therefore, the journalist has control of how they want to create the story and twist it around. Usually journalists perpetuate hate culture through their own stereotypes and prejudices.”