Against Hate Crime: Armenian civil society organizations denounce recent attack on LGBT activists

A number of civil society organizations have again condemned discrimination against sexual minorities in the wake of the latest incident in which a group of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) activists were attacked in Yerevan and later one of them was allegedly ridiculed by medical staff.

On February 15, unknown persons attacked and beat five activists in what was an apparent hate crime in the Armenian capital, as two of the victims were workers of the Public Information and Need of Knowledge (PINK) Armenia NGO, which promotes the rights of LGBT people. A criminal case has been launched in connection with the attack and investigation is underway.

New Generation humanitarian NGO lawyer Artur Markaryan says a law that would deal with discrimination is needed in Armenia in order to address hate crimes targeting homosexuals.

According to PINK Armenia executive director Mamikon Hovsepyan, the attackers particularly targeted one person in the group, singling him out as gay. Based on the homophobic hate slurs used during the attack, PINK Armenia considers the case to be a hate crime.

“The next day when that person was at our office we suggested that he turn to a medical establishment. But there he got discriminatory treatment as medical staff began to ridicule and humiliate him. They did not let our worker to accompany him either,” Hovsepyan told reporters on Wednesday, adding that at the clinic the victim was asked, mockingly, to pass a blood test so that they could “treat his deviations.”

Sona Harutyunyan, professor at the medical psychology department of the Yerevan State Medical University after Mkhitar Heratsi, said, however, that one should not make conclusions based on an isolated case regarding the level of tolerance in society.

“Let’s be honest, there is a positive change, but the society needs a certain period of time in order to accept it. I myself haven’t seen such prejudiced attitudes in the healthcare sector, as doctors are trained in medical psychology and discuss medical approaches that do not discriminate between patients. One should not generalize things based on a separate case,” she said.

Hate crimes targeting LGBT people and activists have also happened in Armenia before. In one such case an arson attack was committed in 2012 against a bar in downtown Yerevan considered to be a favorite hangout place for the local LGBT community.

Officials then effectively refused to denounce the attack and some members of the ruling party even justified it. The two alleged arsonists were, meanwhile, bailed out of jail by a nationalist party member. The owner of that bar later emigrated from the country.