Friday, November 27, 2009

Armenia’s Future Lies in its Female Athletes

For all the hustle and bustle that “Football Diplomacy” has struck up since last year (see here and here), I think the true champions in diplomacy and international relations are Armenia’s female athletes competing in basketball and weightlifting.

A few local residents confessed to me that Armenians aren’t good at sports where they have to play as a team — it’s all that ego and overall male chauvinism. Hence, the twice-defeat by our male football players (soccer in North America) against Turkey in last year’s notable home game and this year’s, if one could say, even more notable away game (played in the Turkish city of Bursa — Armenia lost both times with the same score, 0-2). Both games were World Cup qualifiers.

But take sporting events like chess and weightlifting. Now these are some events Armenian athletes can actually excel in. But basketball? That’s a team sport, isn’t it? Maybe the reason basketball stands out from the rest of the team sports as being a sport Armenia seems to be doing well in is because, in Yerevan’s women’s basketball team HATIS at least, the majority of players are not Armenian by descent. I hate to say it, but the top players in the team (Maurita Reid, Ganna Zarytska, Bojana Vulic) have been recruited from elsewhere (and thank god for that!).

The latest victory is HATIS’ “major upset” against Turkey’s BESIKTAS. They played in Istanbul the day before yesterday (on November 25, the UN-designated International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women: interesting coincidence) and won the game by a landslide (87-64). This is the team’s second victory in the 2009 EuroCup Women tournament: on November 19, they beat Russia’s CHEVAKATA (103-99). Russia and Turkey: two very strong teams. Good for you, HATIS!

For more info on the team and a schedule of their upcoming games, visit the team’s page on the FIBA Europe website here.

The other recent winning victory for female athletes was Nazik Avdalyan winning a gold medal in weightlifting. Avdalyan competed in the 69kg group in the 2009 World Weightlifting Championships taking place in Goyang, South Korea.

Apparently, in weightlifting there are two types of lifts (both with really odd-sounding names!) and to win the ultimate gold medal, you must win in both categories. First, Avdalyan won a “small” gold medal by winning the Snatch (yes, that’s the name of the first type of lift) with 119 kg. The next lift, called the Clean and Jerk, found Avdalyan competing once again with Russia’s Oxana Slivenko. Slivenko finished at 146 kg; in order for Avdalyan to win the championship, she had to lift as much as her opponent. The 23-year-old weightlifter did better than that: she beat Slivenko by 1 kg, finishing at 147 kg.

This means that Nazik Avdalyan gained the World Champion title by lifting a total of 266 kg. Can you believe it? That’s amazing! For further details, you can visit the 2009 Goyang World Weightlifting Championships’ official website here.

I love that we have such amazing female role models, not only representing Armenia (which Armenia’s high-ranking officials are only too happy to declare only after they bring back a gold medal), but also showing Armenian audiences (both male and female) the power that women have — and for men, who so dominate the sports arena, both in talking about it and participating in it, this is something they can only praise and give it it’s due respect.

My friend Chris (who’s male, by the way) was right: The future is female.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gender Activism meets Environmental Activism meets Queer Activism: all in one day and all in Yerevan

The “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” annual campaign kicked off today with a press conference followed by a march organized by the Women’s Resource Center in central Yerevan.

Highlights of today’s march include

*Women (and a few men) carrying huge posters that read “Don’t be Silent” while informing participants that this is a silent march (I find out from one of the organizers that part of the reason, anyway, for the silence is that it was a condition on getting a city permit. The mayor wanted confirmation from the Women’s Resource Center that they wouldn’t disrupt the peace. Can you believe it?)

*Famous Armenian environmental activist Mariam Sukhudyan (of SOS Teghut, though also known for voicing her concern that staff mistreated and abused children at a special needs school in Armenia; see here for more info and here and here) peeling off sticker paper with violence against women stats on it that WRC volunteers and march participants had stuck on trees (being instructed to sticker everywhere and anywhere). To her credit, Mariam had a calm, peaceful smile on her face while removing the stickers. I understand her reasoning, of course, the sticker paper harms the trees. And it seems volunteers were either unaware of that or too engaged in the purpose of their act to notice.

*Meeting one of the followers of my blog: yay, Trui! And welcome to Yerevan (I don’t think I offered a proper greeting upon meeting you, so here it is, in my blog, where you could say, we first met :)

*Meeting a fellow queer Armenian woman who’s been trying to get in contact with those of us behind the Queering Yerevan blog for some time. I love happenstance encounters!

*Meeting another fellow queer Armenian who’s had quite the presence in the blogosphere as of late, but seeing as we didn’t have too much of a chance to talk (and not knowing how much he would like to be outed here in this blog), I won’t go into too much detail other than to be glad that I had a chance to meet him in person today.

All in all, I feel quite energized from these encounters and from this, albeit solemn, affair. I commend the organizers of the march for a well-organized event.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Why don't I know this woman?

There are amazing people around the world doing amazing things, and today, this thought fills me with joy. I came across this Facebook post and felt the need to re-post the information on this blog.

Zaruhi Shushanyan is an LGBT activist in Armenia and, I'm sad to say, I don't know her. But I do know another Armenian LGBT activist, Lilit Poghosyan, who is the Programmes and Policy Officer at ILGA-Europe. Originally from Armenia, she's now based in Brussels. I was lucky and happy to have met her during her recent visit back home in Yerevan.

More about Zaruhi Shushanyan:

A little bit about Lilit Poghosyan (also re-posted here from Art Mika's blog):

Two amazing woman I'm very proud of, and today, they have inspired me. Thank you.