Monday, October 25, 2010

Hatred and Xenophobia is Alive and Well

Poster for the event

A Facebook event page on a film festival in Yerevan has sparked hateful and nationalist comments since it was created a few days ago. Why? Simply because the festival will showcase films by Azerbaijani filmmakers.

Though the event page on Facebook seemed to have been created by Armenian writer and LGBT activist Lusine Vayachyan, the actual event is organized by the Yerevan-based Caucasus Center for Peace-Making Initiatives NGO, with the support of the US Embassy in Armenia. As of this writing, the event FB page shows that it was created by Georgi Vanyan, the president of CCPI.

In fact, Vanyan has since added a note to the event, which also appears on Vayachyan’s wall as well as his own wall, asking individuals who have concerns or complaints regarding the festival to direct them to him: “Each individual concerned about the festival, please leave writer Lusine Vayachyan alone. Lusine simply spread the news about the festival.”

“The festival is organized by Caucasus Center for Peace-Making Initiatives NGO, of which I am the president, and naturally, the person responsible for the festival. Please,,” he adds, leaving the email address where to send queries and comments.

Though of course that hasn’t stopped FB users from only adding hateful, discriminatory, nationalist and xenophobic comments on the page — though now not directed at Lusine, but focusing on the nature of the event itself.

As of this writing, one FB user by the name of Sasun Sasunian has added a photograph showing the Armenian flag being burned, as well as a couple of illustrations with the words “I love Azerbaijan” and “F*** you Armenia.” In one image, a child wearing the Azerbaijani flag is shown peeing on the Armenian flag, apparently equating the organizing of a festival to expressing anti-Armenian sentiments.

Of course, he’s not the only one. There’s HoVo Aghajanyan (and really, how do we know these are their real names?) who has posted the link of another FB event on this event page: this time for a protest to take place on the same time and place as the festival of Azerbaijani films. The counter-event seems to have been created by Hrachya Barkhudaryan and already has 178 people attending.

The comments are almost exclusively in Armenian, and of course there are some people thankfully who have other views. These comments mainly seem to try to reach out to people through "Christian values" and humanity, asking users to stop spreading hate. Some comments state that organizing a festival screening of Azerbaijani films or comments which support such an event shouldn't be equated with being "anti-Armenian" or being a "traitor."

Responses to such comments have included accusations of being Azerbaijani, being traitors to the Armenian people and so on, with each additional comment receiving support by another commenter, inciting more hatred and almost camaraderie by fellow racists.

I don’t know what else to say at this point except “disgusting.” Absolutely, wholly, almost-to-the-point-of-ridiculous-if-these-views-weren’t-so-very-deeply-and-unfortunately-sincerely-held-by-these-young-Armenian-nationalist-men-and-women disgusting.

For those who are interested in reading and perhaps responding to the comments (in Armenian), the Facebook event page can be found here:

Saturday, October 9, 2010

On Beauty Contests and Violence Against Women

Armenia’s Ministry of Diaspora organizes a beauty contest for local and Diasporan Armenian women, while another woman suffers abuse at the hands of her husband and mother-in-law.

"As you are already informed, on October 1, 2010 in Masis town a shocking murder was committed. A 20 year old Zaruhi Petrosyan was killed by her husband and mother in law as a result of torture and physical violence,” reads an open letter by local NGO Society Without Violence.

The case, covered by local news agency, is getting little attention in other media. The latest news is that Zaruhi’s husband, Yanis Sarkisovi, has been detained and charged with “causing severe bodily harm.” This is as much as has been reported so far. A video on YouTube (in Armenian with English subtitled) in which two women close to Zaruhi talk candidly on camera about the incidents before her death can be viewed here.

"Petrosyan’s case, while unique by the fact that her family has spoken publicly about her ordeal, is common.  Over a quarter of women in Armenia are said to have been hit by a family member, yet authorities failed to prevent, investigate and punish violence against women, according to a 2009 Amnesty International Report,” writes Liana Aghajanian in an article on domestic violence in Armenia Ianyan.

Meanwhile, the country’s diaspora ministry organizes a beauty contest in which contestants are expected to have 'mastered' the Armenian language, to be familiar with Armenian cuisine (including how to cook Armenian food), and to top it off, to "preserve the image of an Armenian woman."

When asked what exactly defines “the image of an Armenian woman,” the minister responded by saying, "To tell you the truth, I don't accept filthy, ill-mannered girls." According to her, a woman must be "modest." (, Oct. 8, 2010)

Furthermore, she goes on to say that though she understands there are other many other examples of women around the world, the “traditional Armenian woman” is different: she is a good mother, a good daughter, a good wife (apparently in that order).

And then we wonder why gender stereotypes prevail in our country and why women continue to be abused at the hands of men. When notions of “man” and “woman” get defined and confirmed by government officials, why are we surprised when violence — physical, emotional, financial — prevails in society?

When are we going to say enough is enough?