Sunday, May 13, 2012

Queer-Friendly Yerevan Bar Bombed: What Happens Next?

For the first time since moving to Armenia, I am afraid. Queer women are in the spotlight — an unfamiliar and not at all good place to be in. We perhaps have become used to being invisible here: we can hold hands in public and generally be more affectionate than men without experiencing stares and suspicious glances from passers-by. But now more than ever, it seems, we elicit the same contempt that has traditionally been reserved for gay men (see earlier post).

For those who don’t know, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into a local Yerevan bar early morning on May 8. Luckily the bar, DIY, was closed and there was no one inside at the time. Two Iranian-Armenian brothers, 19 and 20 years of age, have since confessed to committing the crime. The word around town is that these two men are part of a larger network of fascist groups who have been hostile and entered into confrontations with staff and owners of other bars perceived to be gay friendly and “alternative” and this (combined with the knowledge that one of the bar’s owners had performed at gay pride festivities in Istanbul, Turkey, last year) was their motive for bombing the bar.

(CCTV footage of attack)

In actual fact, a lot is unclear, but one thing is for certain: hate crime is on the rise.

DIY — that was our safe space. And now we don’t even have that anymore.

What we have instead is a culture of fear. While there has been an outpouring of support for the DIY team and a call to stand up against the neo-nazis and fascists in the country (with slogans such as “No to Fascism” and “Your bombs do not affect us”), I am concerned for those of us who are not as vocal but visible. Good friends of mine, LGBT-identified activists, are afraid — for themselves, but also for their family members and loved ones.

And, I hate myself for thinking this, but at times like these I can’t help but wonder why some of the more outspoken LGBT activists and queer allies had to raise their voices, draw attention to themselves/ourselves, wishing now that they lay low and not provoke other possible acts of violence. And I know I’m not the only one thinking this. Because now we’re in the spotlight and the wayward glances I get every day any way have taken on a whole new meaning.

However, another part of me says “No! We should not stay silent.” In fact, now more than ever, we should stand up and say you will not silence us, your acts of violence do not scare us. Is there a way to do this without endangering our queer brothers and sisters and possibly their families too? Is now the time to be “loud and proud” or to step back (if only momentarily) in consideration of the safety of others?

More information (including photos and other video footage) here:

5 comments:

  1. adrineh jan, your words reflect all of my feelings, questions and concerns. be safe. i am sending you and all of my friends love and light.

    -milena

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  2. the world is changing... sllower in some places than others... i don't think we need to live in fear, but just be patient. The revolution will take place whether or not be speak up. Let's not fight violene with our own lack of empathy and understanding. These people really fear the idea of homosexuality more than we fear their scorn. Just be you and stay strong. And mosty importantly continue to love yourself and the world will change around you. Much love and light.

    -Gurgen

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    1. Thanks, Gurgen jan, for such a lovely and insightful comment. Much love and light to you as well :)

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