Attacks on DIY: Situation around Yerevan rock bar stirs debate over LGBT "rights and wrongs"

The recent blast in the DIY Rock Pub in downtown Yerevan owned by a lesbian has stirred public clamor with one group of people criticizing those indulging in homosexuality, justifying those responsible for the arson, while others condemn such intolerance qualifying it as fascism.

On Tuesday evening, the pub was again attacked, when a group of unidentified people spat on and threw dog-ends in the direction of the pub and tore out the pub’s poster with ‘No to Fascism’ words.

Early on the morning of May 8, a group of youngsters allegedly committed an arson the DIY Rock Pub located in Parpetsi Street, which is known by many as a gathering spot for the Armenian LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community.

The investigation showed that two brothers - 20-year-old Arame and 19-year-old Hambik broke the glass of the pub’s window, threw in a container with gasoline to explode the pub. The fire gutted the whole pub, including its refrigerator, the beverages, etc. A few hours after the incident the brothers were detained, however, under the court’s decision they were set free – one of them was released under a written pledge not to leave the country and the other brother was bailed out.

On Tuesday, at a press conference, DIY Pub director Armine (Tsomak) Oganezova stated that “the arson attack on the pub had been committed by members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation [ARF, Dashnaktsutyun].”

“Yesterday, at the closed-door trial Arame’s attorney, who is a Dashnaktsutyun member, stated that his client’s one million drams [more than $2,500] bail was paid by ARF members Artsvik Minasyan and Hrayr Karapetyan,” Oganezova said, attributing the hostile attitude against her to the ARF. “Everything started the day when Yerkir Media TV channel [which is affiliated with the ARF] interviewed me, because I had participated in a gay parade in Turkey.”

(Yerkir Media, meanwhile, called the accusations absurd, standing by every word in its report based on an interview with Oganezova and saying that it could not have provoked any violence against DIY. The TV company for now has not sued either Oganezova or her enterprise, but its representatives have not ruled out such a possibility).

ARF lawmaker Minasyan made a statement on Tuesday, confirming that he had paid the bail; however, he condemned “the irrelevant politicization of the phenomenon by the owners of the pub and their supporters, as well as the speculations over the ARF’s reputation.”

“As a lawmaker I have repeatedly stated that in Armenia detention as a restraint must be applied in extremely rare cases, and it must in no way be turned into a frequently applied practice. This personal assumption of mine made me propose bail as an alternative measure of restraint at the National Assembly and apply it in particular cases,” says Minasyan’s statement, which is supported by another ARF lawmaker Artur Aghabekyan.