Mob of 30 people attacks LGBT activists in Armenia
A group of LGBT activists were attacked by a mob in a village in Armenia on Friday.
A press release by the LGBT+ rights organisation Pink Armenia reported that two of its staff members were among those attacked by a group of about 30 people. Seven on the nine activists reported injuries, and two had to be treated at the hospital for severe wounds.
The activists had met at the house of Hayk Hakobyan in the village of Shantukh, in Armenia’s southernmost Syunik province, on Thursday to discuss LGBT+ issues.
The group had already been targeted that night, when two teenagers bothered the group with firecrackers and throwing stones at the house. But on Friday, a group of a few dozen people, including women and children, gathered outside Hakobyan’s house.
“They told us ‘Faggots, get out of the village,'” Hakobyan told PinkNews.
He said that he and his friends gathered their belongings and called the police but, once they were outside the house, the mob assaulted them.
The men did the beating, while the women and children threw stones. They were also shouting homophobic slurs and calling them “Turks,” which is considered an insult in the country as Ottoman Turkey perpetrated the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians in the early 20th century.
Hakobyan said they ran towards a nearby highway, chased by the mob. “They followed us, they chased us for about one kilometre, they were saying they needed to catch me and kill me.”
The police eventually arrived more than an hour after the call—according to Hakobyan, the distance between his house and the nearest police station, situated in a different village, could have been covered in about 30 minutes. “If they had arrived earlier, this would not have happened,” he said.
One of the Pink Armenia staffers who survived the attack told OC Media he had stitches on this head, a swollen ankle, scratches, and bruises.
“The police didn’t even bring enough cars to transport nine people like we asked them to. We had to stop a tourist bus for a ride. On the road back, we came across an ambulance, so two injured people, including myself, were transported straight to the hospital,” the activist, identified by the name Robert, said.
Hakobyan said they are all doing ok now, even though he cannot go back to the village. “I’ll get killed if I go back,” he said.
According to him, the attack wasn’t just motivated by homophobia, but it was orchestrated by the village’s former mayor, against whom Hakobyan’s family has filed a report for corruption. On Friday, Hakobyan said, he had deposited evidence of corruption and he believed the attack was in retaliation.
He said villagers know he’s an LBGT+ activist and he’s never had problems before—in fact, he believed most of his attackers were from the nearby town of Goris rather than locals.
“There was homophobia, but they wanted to attack [me] because of the report,” he said, adding: “It’s a common practice in Armenia to use people’s sexual orientation to cover other political motives.”
The office of the Human Rights Defender of Armenia was informed of the attack. In a post published on his Facebook account, the ombudsman said he was in touch with the authorities on the matter.
According to Armenian investigative news outlet Hetq Online, the police has launched an investigation into the attack and has detained several suspects for questioning. But Hakobyan said that no criminal case has been open yet and no one had been arrested.
“We are getting quite a lot of support but we’re also getting homophobia from other human rights defenders who told us we should not have gone to that village,” he said. “We need to mobilise over this issue and demand justice,” he added.
Armenia regularly ranks as a hostile place for LGBT+ people. Human rights organisation Amnesty International noted in a report published in December an increase in discrimination against LGBT+ people in former Soviet countries such as Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan fuelled by Russia‘s campaign against “nontraditional sexual relationships.”