In May 2014 the Armenian newspaper Iravunk published a ‘blacklist’ of Armenians connected to the LGBT community that it claimed to be enemies of the nation. The article, entitled “they serve the interests of international homosexual lobbying”, contained the names and social media details of 60 individuals as well as a call to action for people to boycott the individuals.
Among Iravunk’s incitement to homophobia were the demands to bar all individuals mentioned from public office, teaching rolls and any other employment in which they may “participate in the upbringing of younger generations”.
In response to the homophobic article several members of Armenia’s LGBT community took action sending letters demanding a retraction to editor-in-chief Hovhannes Galajyan and head of editoral board Haik Babukhanyan. Further action also took the form of several court cases against the paper undertaken by some of the individuals named.
In response to the LGBT community’s backlash Iravunk published a follow up article, “ And they still dare to request a denial?”, in which the paper continued to insult and slander individuals who had attempted to defend themselves.
This follow-up article and the resulting defence from the LGBT community has led to a continuing assault on individual Armenians that has included several articles profiling the personal lives of LGBT individuals. The latest article of which was published earlier this week.
Included among Iravunk’s ‘blacklist’ were staff and volunteers of Pink Armenia, an NGO that campaigns for LGBT+ equality that are providing support to some of the individuals named. Although the attacks brought about by Iravunk have yet to turn violent those targeted by homophobia have faced difficult situations in their personal and professional lives with families, friends and employers all becoming subsequent targets of hate.
One victim of Iravunk’s attacks, an NGO worker and citizen of Iran, is now under particular danger after being profiled by the paper. Romik Danial, whose work with charity New Generation had him labelled a “grantsucker” by Iravunk, now finds himself unable to return to his home country. Under Iranian law suspected homosexuals can be subject to arrest and prosecution, in some cases resulting in the death penalty.
Currently there is no sign of Iravunk’s intentions to cease it’s homophobic and highly damaging articles and several articles have since been published profiling individuals who have taken action against the paper.
In a public statement made on their website Pink Armenia expressed concern at the newspaper’s actions, calling the articles “ethically unacceptable”. Although Iravunk’s behaviour has been seen as immoral and hurtful by some Armenians it is likely that the editorial staff will not be prosecuted under Armenian law.
Although it is likely that Iravunk will be somewhat damaged by the legal proceedings brought against them it is unlikely that any retraction or apology will occur. The Republic of Armenia has no anti-discrimination laws in place that would define Iravunk’s articles as a hate crime and it is feared that the paper will be free to publish more articles of the same manner that may lead to further homophobic action.