Appeal to the participants of the Council of Europe conference

Photo by Narek Aleksanyan, "Hetq"
Photo by Narek Aleksanyan, “Hetq”

A group of peaceful activists staged a protest in Yerevan today during a “High Level Conference on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance in Europe” organized by the Council of Europe. Appeal to the participants of the conference was about the growth of nationalism, racism and intolerance in Armenia.

In the name of the independent civil society of the Republic of Armenia, we want to share with you our concerns regarding the rise of nationalism, racism and intolerance under the rule and with the sponsorship of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia and its leader Serge Sargsyan.

While the Government of Armenia, assuring the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe until November 2013, is organizing a high profile conference on combating racism and xenophobia in Europe, the ruling party is sponsoring racist ideologies and spreading hate and xenophobia within their own country. The same government, while publicly advocating for European values, is actually supporting acts to violate human rights and democratic freedoms of its citizens.

The ideology of the ruling Republican party of Armenia is very clearly presented in publications and statements on its official website, spreading the Aryan ideology and the importance of Armenian’s supremacy over others.

Publication “Armenian Family” (2002) states the importance of preserving the “pure Armenian blood” in the Nation and discourages mixed marriages, specially with “negroes”, to protect the blood purity.

The same publication prescribes that “female human beings are first of all mothers, then women, only after that they can become scientists, public actors, politicians.” It states that “women’s movement for equality in Armenia is a fake movement imposed by foreign forces and countries to destroy the Armenian nation and it is viewed as a virus or HIV infecting the nation.”

Additionally, the ruling party ideology acknowledges the Armenian Apostolic Church as the only “Armenian” church to be followed and protected, implying that all other religions/beliefs are sects and the believers – “non-Armenian,” hence creating an open space for various groups and the media to launch a hate campaign against such people for the sake of national values protection.

The following are clear evidences of racist and xenophobic ideology of the ruling party:

  1. In October 2013, following the return of MP Zaruhi Postanjyan from recent PACE session where she expressed her views against the President, the Deputy Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs and member of the ruling party Khachik Asryan publicly called on burning the mentioned MP on fire. This person is also the leader of the NGO “Armenian Eagles” that spreads the ideology of the ruling party and recruits youth from different communities across the country. The most recent action conducted by this organization as part of its mission was distribution of 300 practice guns to schools for strategic military education classes.
  2. In August 2013 MP Hayk Babukhanyan representing the parliament faction of the Republican Party of Armenia made a public call to shut down women’s organizations and calling back the gender equality law because it is destroying the Armenian family and propagating homosexuality. Following this, death threats were sent to local women NGOs and activists and hate speech spread in social media.
  3. In May 2012, a gay-friendly bar was firebombed in Yerevan as its owner was lesbian and hate messages were written on the walls with neo-Nazi slogans and symbols by 2 young men. The Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, the spokesman of the Republican Party Eduard Sharmazanov stated that “the act of the boys was patriotic and made to preserve the national identity and should not be seen as a crime”. The criminals were bailed out, while the owner of the bar had to seek asylum in Sweden because of continued threats and homophobic persecution.

None of the above-mentioned as well as other cases of spreading hate and violence were adequately investigated, prosecuted and brought to justice by law enforcement bodies.

We urge you to raise the mentioned issues during the conference on combating racism and xenophobia and hold the ruling Republican Party of Armenia and its leaders accountable. We are concerned with the spread of racism and xenophobia in Armenia, impunity and lack of protection for Armenian citizens. European values of human rights and democracy are jeopardized and threaten the security of the whole region.

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