Archive for February, 2009

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artushzaurAlekper Aliyev, editor-in-chief of kultura.az, has published, as he put it, his “most scandalous” novel “Artush and Zaur” in Baku. It’s a gay love story between an Azeri and Armenian, a sort of partial deconstruction of Ali and Nino (a heterosexual love story of Azeri Ali and Georgian Nino) having instead Azeri and Armenian male lovers against the backdrop of the emerging Karabakh conflict.

The main characters, Artush and Zaur were born and raised in Baku, went to the same school, shared desks in the classroom. At some point boys became sexually attracted to each other… These were the early years of the Karabakh conflict.

The war separates them. Artush moved to Armenia, Zaur remained in Baku. Already adults they meet again – in Tbilisi. They indulge in memories, fall in love and even get married with the help of a Dutch pastor, a confidant of the wife of Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili.

In his interview, the author argues that Azeris and Armenians share similar kitchen, music and mentality. “Armenians are closer to us than, say, Georgians” due to the influence of the Persian culture.

Alekper says that one of the reasons of writing this novel was to expose the absurdity of all wars in the South Caucasus a la Kusturica. He believes he has the full right to do so as he lost his older brother during the Karabakh war in 1994.

“We are now engaged in information wars with Armenians over the dolma and balaban, even though all our efforts should be aimed at addressing global challenges. Our people must find the wisdom, courage and determination to put an end once and for all of the frozen conflict. We need joint efforts to create all necessary conditions for peaceful coexistence between the two neighbours on this small plot of land, in this God-cursed region called “The South Caucasus”. Frankly, it’s a bit hard to believe that this would happen”.

“During the World War II in Moscow there were concerts of German classical music; works of German composers were heard on the radio; even studies on German philosophers were carried out… Can you imagine for Kara Karaev to be performed in Armenia, or Khachatryan – in Azerbaijan? This is completely impossible! And this has a simple explanation – the more primitive the man, the more aggressive he is.”

Predictably, this book caused a stir and shock in Azeri forums and blogs, with plenty of hateful and homophobic comments. Some accused the author in treason and betrayal of national interests. Others claimed (with irony) that Azerbaijan now has its very own Salman Rushdie and Orhan Pamuk.

“Who f**ked who?” – this is one of the first and apparently principal questions being discussed in forums and blogs (both Azeri and Armenian), each side wishing for ‘his guy’ to f**k ‘the enemy’. I got an impression that this question worried them more than even the fact of the main characters being gay. They are kind of ready to ‘forgive’ and ‘forget’ gay part of the story, as long as ‘their guy’ is ‘the man’ meaning he is ‘doing the enemy’. For them, it’s only black or white. What if they are “versatile” (which allegedly the case in the novel)? This would crush the ‘hopes’ from both sides. Anyways…

There is only one bookstore in Baku which sells this book. Guess, what the name of that bookstore?.. “Ali and Nino”. Some in Azeri forums even suggested buying all the copies of the book and burning it in front of the bookstore. There were even rare voices advocating for the application of the “Shariat law” towards the author.

The topic itself proved to be so controversial that quite a few discussion forums and reports about the book got removed or self-censored from some Azeri forums and web sites, including day.az and kultura.az.

If you discount the nationalities and sexuality of the main characters, the plot may seem pretty routine and unremarkable. However, against the backdrop of nationalism and intolerance in the region, the very fact of the novel that tells about the love story between an Armenian and Azeri, a gay love story between an Armenian and Azeri, makes it a double taboo breaking.

Look forward to reading the book in Russian when it gets published there (as far as I understand, it’s being negotiated with the Russian publishers). Only then I would be able to properly review it. Till then… Hopefully, these displays of hate and intolerance won’t evolve into something more dangerous and physical towards the author. Only the bravest among us are ready to break taboos. Alekper Aliyev is one of them.

By Mika Artyan (from Unzipped: Gay Armenia)

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Pegah, the Iranian lesbian, has finally been granted permanent asylum in the United Kingdom.

By EveryOne Group

EveryOne Group and Friends of Pegah: “A historical victory for refugees’ rights, but now we have to block the illegitimate deportation of people persecuted because of their sexual leaning, race or ethnic group”.

EveryOne Group, Assist and the Friends of Pegah Campaign association have finally received some long-awaited news where the rights of refugees are concerned: Mrs Pegah Emambakhsh, who took refuge in Sheffield (England) in 2005 after fleeing from Iran to escape stoning due to her homosexuality, has finally been granted refugee status in the United Kingdom. “This is extremely important news”, comment the activists of EveryOne, “because when we took on the responsibility of initiating the “flowers campaign” Pegah’s fate seemed decided. In the summer of 2007 the campaign for Pegah’s life promoted by EveryOne saw the participation of thousands of people, who sent flowers and letters of support from all over the world to the Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, where Pegah was awaiting her transfer to the airport from where she was to fly back to Teheran, and the executioner.

“Twice we were able to stop the flight to death, while the movement to save Pegah’s life grew day by day. The campaigners were joined by GLBT associations, the Radical Party, European political parties and intellectuals – but most of all by a multitude of citizens from all five continents who appealed to the United Kingdom to save Pegah, and to Iran to interrupt its persecution of homosexuals, dissidents and minorities”. Pegah’s case, and that of Mehdi Kazemi (another case taken up by EveryOne), was at the base of a resolution by the European Parliament which led to a significant change in the UK’s asylum laws.

“The flowers campaign for Pegah’s life and later campaigns which allowed us to block some deportations,” say the activists, “were made possible thanks to the receptiveness of the British institutions, who always pay great attention to the cases put to them by human rights groups. In each case the British Embassy in Rome acted as mediator with the British Government and facilitated the successful outcome of cases where the requests for asylum had been turned down by the immigration office. Pegah’s case has not only changed the destinies of homosexual refugees, it has also helped people who have fled from countries where horrific humanitarian tragedies are underway, like Annociate Ningaparitse and Alvin Gahimbaze from Burundi. Our group was not only able to block their deportation, it was also able to show the British Government the dramatic humanitarian situation in Burundi, which led to the consequent extension of humanitarian protection rights”.

And now the British Government has officially granted Pegah permanent asylum on British soil: a ruling that marks an important step forward in the field of refugees’ rights.

“We share this success with EveryOne, the associations, the politicians and the Friends of Pegah who have made this fantastic result possible,” comments Leslie Boulton, the president of the Friend of Pegah Campaign association, with enthusiasm and emotion. “It is a really wonderful event and a reward for the hard work we carried out, side by side, to prevent Pegah being deported back to Iran”.

EveryOne Group is at present in contact with the British Embassy in Rome, with the British Border Agency and with the government authorities appealing for humanitarian protection for G.B., a young homosexual who fled to the UK from Iraq where, since 2001, homosexuality has been punished by execution. G.B. is being helped in the United Kingdom by the Iraqi LGBT association. “The reason given by the Immigration Office for turning down his appeal is paradoxical,” say Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro and Dario Picciau, leaders of EveryOne. The authorities, in fact, have explained their decision by stating that a homosexual person can avoid becoming the victim of Iraq’s discriminatory laws and the death sentence simply by “being discreet about his or her sexual conduct’”.

“Even if we ignore the fact that people should be free to manifest their lifestyle as they see fit without having to fear repressive actions due to the discriminatory laws in force in their own country, the decision of the British Government (if carried out) would still put the Iraqi’s boy’s life in danger as he is already known to be a homosexual by the Iraqi authorities. And is it right to expose a homosexual refugee to the death penalty if his sexual preferences happened to be discovered?”

In the next few days EveryOne will be sending the UK Government a dossier testifying to the conditions of discrimination and persecution that homosexuals are subjected to in Iraq.

Gruppo EveryOne

Tel: (+ 39) 334-8429527 (+ 39) 331-3585406

www.everyonegroup.com :: info@everyonegroup.com

See also:

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Tin Joins Activists at UN to Press for Gay Rights in Russia, Belarus.

Letter is sent to the UN General Secretary after public protest.

http://www.gayrussia.ru/

Louis-Georges Tin, the president of the International Day Against Homophobia committee, joined gay activists from Russia and Belarus on Monday at the United Nations to press for gay human rights in the two countries.

“I salute the determination of the LGBT activists from Russia and Belarus,” Mr. Tin told UK Gay News last evening.

“But,” he pointed out, “I regret that the UN Human Rights Commission has not given any firm commitment to solve the matter of Freedom of Assembly in their respective countries.”

On Sunday, the activists and Mr. Tin, who two years ago originated the concept of a United Nations declaration which came to fruition last December in New York, took part in a symbolic protest in front of the United Nations in Geneva.

“We came here to show that such event cannot be organized in our country,” said Nikolai Baev.

With banners reading “Russia and Belarus banned all gay manifestation. UN must act” and “Everyone has the right to freedom of assembly”, the activists handed-in a letter to the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon.

“The universal declaration for Human Rights says that anyone has the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of association. Since 2006 no action has been taken by the UN to guaranty Freedom of Assembly for LGBT in Russia and Belarus,” the letter reads.

Yesterday, the Russian-Belarusian delegation of gay activists, again accompanied by Mr. Tin, with the UN Human Rights High Commissioner office.

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“One of the conclusions we made after our meeting with this institution is that there is a gap between what we, as activists, face in our countries and what they usually know,” said Mr. Baev.

“We will keep putting pressure on all these human rights institutions,” Nikolai Alekseev added.

The meeting concluded five days of visits to the European institutions and the UN.

throwncliffBy Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk • February 17, 2009

New plans to widen the definition of who is an extremist in the eyes of the British government could include Muslims who object to homosexuality.

A revised counter-terrorism strategy is to be published next month.

The Guardian reports that a range of beliefs held by many Muslims could be classed as extreme under the new definition, among them the promotion of Sharia law, which punishes homosexuality with the death penalty, advocating a pan-Islamic state or supporting jihad.

The new strategy “would widen the definition of extremists to those who hold views that clash with what the government defines as shared British values,” the paper reports.

“Those who advocate the wider definition say hardline Islamist interpretation of the Qur’an leads to views that are the root cause of the terrorism threat Britain faces.”

An in-depth survey in 2007 into the attitudes of Muslims living in London revealed that less than 5% thought homosexual acts are “acceptable,” compared with more than 65% of the general population.

The previous year Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, was investigated by police over comments he made on BBC radio.

He called homosexuality, “a practice that in terms of health, in terms of the moral issues that comes along in a society, it is not acceptable.

“Each of our faiths tells us that it is harmful and, I think, if you look into the scientific evidence that has been available in terms of the forms of various illnesses and diseases that are there, surely it points out that where homosexuality is practised there is a greater concern in that area.”

In September Channel 4 screened Dispatches documentary Undercover Mosque: The Return.

It features a female reporter attending prayer meetings at an important British mosque which claims to be dedicated to moderation and dialogue with other faiths.

She secretly filmed sermons given to the women-only congregation in which female preachers recited extremist and intolerant beliefs.

One preacher called for adulterers, homosexuals, women who act like men and Muslim converts to other faiths to be killed, saying: “Kill him, kill him. You have to kill him, you understand. This is Islam.””

The original January 2007 Undercover Mosque documentary showed preacher Abu Usamah at Green Lane Mosque in Birmingham calling for gay people to be executed.

“If I were to call homosexuals perverted, dirty, filthy dogs who should be murdered, that’s my freedom of speech, isn’t it?” he told followers.

A scene also showed a preacher calling for people to “take that homosexual and throw him off a mountain.”

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Protests this weekend will call for an end to the Vatican’s privileges and its undermining of human rights

guardian.co.uk, Friday 13 February 2009 19.30 GMT

The Vatican should stop meddling in politics and misusing its power to oppose human rights. Just as importantly, it is time the Italian government ceased kow-towing to the pope’s theocratic agenda. All of Europe should be secular, where people are free to practise their faith but where no religion has privileged legal status and unique access to political power and influence.

These are the demands of protesters, backed by the British Humanist Association, who will assemble in London this Saturday afternoon in support of a simultaneous protest taking place in Rome against the Vatican’s manipulation of Italian, European and worldwide politics.

In celebration of Charles Darwin’s debunking of the Biblical idea that the world was made by God in six days, the protesters will meet at the Natural History Museum. It is hosting the biggest-ever Charles Darwin exhibition to commemorate the 200th anniversary of his birth and the 150th anniversary of his book, On the Origin of Species. His theory of evolution was long rejected and denounced by successive popes.

Undeterred by church hostility, Darwin made his view of religion very clear: “Man in his arrogance thinks himself a great work, worthy the interposition of a deity … it is more humble and I believe truer to consider him created from animals.”

From the Natural History Museum, the marchers will go to the Italian Embassy to demand that the Italian government curb its favouritism and appeasement of the Vatican. The Italian parliament too often allows itself to be bullied by the Vatican, resulting in it dumping legislation for same-sex civil unions and sex education in schools.

The Catholic church in Italy is a huge corporate business empire. It owns hotels, restaurants, shops and private schools but it does not pay tax. On the contrary, it is subsidised by the Italian taxpayer, with about four billion euros in public money being given to the Vatican every year.

Saturday’s protest organisers, Marco Tranchino and Serena Bassi, describe the Vatican as a “tiny statelet inhabited almost entirely by priests, with a disproportionate and malign influence on Italian and global politics”.

Officially part of the United Nations, the Vatican’s observer state status means it intervenes in UN debates on a variety of issues, including old-time favourites, such as birth control, abortion and homosexuality. No other faith has this privileged status, access and influence at the UN.

The Vatican maintains diplomatic relationships with nearly every nation in the world. In most EU countries it benefits from the support of Catholic politicians and in many cases its policies are advocated by political parties like the Christian Democrats and their successors and allies. The Vatican does not shrink from using threats and intimidation to enforce its will. To keep Catholic MPs in line with papal policy opposing gay equality, for example, the Vatican has threatened to excommunicate any Catholic legislator who votes for same-sex civil unions.

Of the 27 countries in the European Union, 14 are bound to the Vatican by at least one treaty. No other religion has such state-level power and connections, either in Europe or the wider world.

The pope has made sure that the proposed EU Constitution – and now the Lisbon Treaty (article 16c) – commits the European Union to “an open, transparent and regular dialogue with churches and religious organisations”. No other non-governmental organisation is afforded such dialogue – not trade unions, not human rights groups and not bodies representing the rights and welfare of women, black or disabled people.

Within Britain, the Catholic church has lobbied hard to restrict women’s reproductive rights, in particular access to contraception, abortion and fertility treatment. It has led the opposition to medical advance by means of embryo and stem cell research. With increasing numbers of state-funded faith schools (1 in 3 of all schools in the UK are either Catholic or Church of England), the Vatican continues to exercise a strong and biased influence on hundreds of thousands of young people.

The pope encourages us to view women as inferior to men by barring them from the priesthood and by consistently stating that the two genders are naturally different and that women are biologically inclined for a more mothering and domestic role in life. In many Catholic countries, women who have had a divorce or abortion, and women who are living as single parents, suffer religious-inspired stigma and discrimination. In some Catholic countries, like Ireland and Poland, abortion is illegal. In others, like Italy, abortion rights are under constant threat from the Vatican’s pressure on the government.

To the delight of homophobes everywhere, the pope propagandises that being gay is an “objective disorder”, “grave depravity” and a “tendency towards an intrinsic moral evil”. In 1992, the Vatican officially rejected the concept of lesbian and gay “human rights”, asserting that there is “no right” to homosexuality. It added that the civil liberties of homosexuals can be “legitimately limited”. While condemning “unjust” discrimination, the Catholic leadership declared that some forms of anti-gay discrimination are “not unjust” and may even be “obligatory”.

In around 80 countries male homosexuality is still illegal, with penalties ranging up to life imprisonment and even death by execution. Last December, a proposal to decriminalise homosexuality and protect gay people against discrimination was opposed by the Vatican in the UN and by fellow religious bigots in the Organisation of Islamic States.

In contrast, if Catholics suffer discrimination I will be the first to defend them. Equally, when the pope supports discrimination against women and gay people I will be the first to oppose him. That is the difference between me and the pope. I reject all discrimination, including against Catholics. He supports sexist and homophobic discrimination whenever it suits his intolerant interpretation of the Christian faith. That is why the Vatican must be opposed and why I will be joining Saturday’s march in London.

No to Vatican. Protest Saturday 14 February 2009. Assemble at 2pm outside the Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD (near the corner with Exhibition Road).

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London Protest for a Secular Europe

No Vatican interference in politics

Stop the Pope’s crusade against women’s and gay rights

London, UK

Protest
Saturday 14 February 2009
Meet @ 2 PM outside the Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD (near the corner with Exhibition Road)

March to the Italian Embassy in Grosvenor Square for a rally.

Saturday’s protest in London is in support of a simultaneous protest taking place in Rome, which is demanding that the Vatican end its interference in Italian politics.

“This demonstration is demanding that the Vatican stop meddling in politics and abusing its power to oppose human rights. We also want the Italian government to cease kow-towing to the Pope’s theocratic agenda,” said Peter Tatchell of the LGBT human rights organisation OutRage!, who is scheduled as a keynote speaker at the rally outside the Italian Embassy.

“Our aim is a secular Europe, where people are free to practice their faith but where no religion has privileged legal status and unique access to political power and influence.

“We are appalled by the Pope’s repeated attacks on the rights of women and gay people and by his wilful opposition to life-saving condom provision. The Italian government too often allows itself to be bullied by the Vatican, on issues such as same-sex civil marriage and sex education in schools.

“If Catholics suffer discrimination I will be the first to defend them. Equally, when the Pope supports discrimination against women and gay people I will be the first to oppose him. That is the difference between me and the Pope. I oppose all discrimination, including against Catholics. He supports sexist and homophobic discrimination whenever it suits his intolerant interpretation of the Christian faith,” said Mr Tatchell

Saturday’s protest is endorsed by the British Humanist Association, OutRage!, the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association and many others.

This demo will be in solidarity with the demonstration happening at the same time in Rome against the Vatican’s manipulation of Italian, European and world-wide politics.
http://www.facciamobreccia.org/london
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=45329993350

Organiser’s contact info:
Marco Tranchino – 07806647903
Serena Bassi – 07796891091

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE VATICAN

By Marco Tranchino and Serena Bassi

This tiny State inhabited mainly by priests is extremely powerful and its “moral” crusades adversely affect the lives of millions of people in Europe and in the world.

Officially part of the UN, its “observer-state” status means it engages in UN debates on a variety of issues ranging from favourites, such as birth control, abortion and homosexuality, to the environment, war and global trade.

The Vatican has diplomatic relationships with almost all the Countries in the world (174 when John Paul II died) and in many EU countries they benefit from the support of Catholic politicians or in many cases of Christian political parties. Of the 27 countries of the European Union, 14 are bound to the Vatican by at least one treaty. No other religion has such a power in Europe and in the World, thus prompting the Economist to publish an investigation about the diplomatic service of the Vatican, questioning whether it deserves its special status in the UN (21/07/2007)

The Catholic Church is an extremely profitable business. They own businesses such as hotels, restaurants, shops and private schools and they DON’T pay any tax! On top of this, the Vatican receives public money in many countries: in Italy about 1000 million Euros from taxes is destined to the Vatican every year (930 millions € in 2006).

The Vatican wields considerable political and economic power. It uses its influence and privilege to impose an agenda on a variety of issues that affect our lives as European citizens, and limit our civil rights and our civil liberties.

THE POPE’S VIEWS ON WOMEN AND LGBT PEOPLE

The issue of women’s rights and the Catholic Church goes way beyond the hierarchy of the church, where women are unable to ascend to priesthood as a result of their gender. Women who have had a divorce, women who want to have an abortion and women who are living as single parents in catholic countries are often victims of intimidation and discrimination. The Pope encourages us to view women as unequal to men, by consistently and publicly stating that the two genders are naturally different and that women are naturally inclined for domestic living. In some catholic countries, like Ireland and Poland, abortion is illegal. In others, like Italy, the right to an abortion is constantly under threat from the Vatican’s pressure on the Government.
The Pope thinks being gay is an “objective disorder” and a “moral evil”. In many countries in the world you can still get the death penalty for being gay. Recently, a proposal to de-criminalise homosexuality was opposed by the Vatican in the UN because it would mean that States where same-sex unions are not recognized would be discriminated against and unfairly subjected to international pressure.

WHY SHOULD IT MATTER TO PEOPLE IN THE UK

This is certainly a global issue, but it also directly affects people living in the UK. This country is regarded by many as fairly “secular” but in reality Christianity remains strongly embedded in many British institutions and continues to enjoy unfair religious privilege.

Although a limited right to abortion has been granted to women living in England, Scotland and Wales since 1967, in Northern Ireland it remains illegal. This anomaly is significantly due to religious influence. Christian lobbies are engaged in continual efforts to restrict a woman’s right to abortion and have succeeded in reducing the time limit for an abortion in Great Britain from 28 to 24 weeks.

Religion retains undue influence and power in various ways. With increasing numbers of state funded faith schools (1 in 3 of all schools in the UK is either Catholic or Church of England), they continue to exercise a strong influence on young people.

With public opinion distracted over the proposal to refer to the Christian roots of Europe they made sure that the proposed EU Constitution – and now the Lisbon Treaty (article 16C) – dangerously commits the European Union to “an open, transparent and regular dialogue with Churches and religious organisations”.

We need to protect democracy and to champion human rights against those who wish to retain undemocratic influence and privilege.

The Vatican has done this for years in the European Union, the United Nations and even in the UK parliament without anyone paying attention. Why?
“Man in his arrogance thinks himself a great work, worthy the interposition of a deity…it is more humble and I believe truer to consider him created from animals” (Charles Darwin)

We will meet at 2pm outside the Natural History Museum, where the biggest ever Charles Darwin exhibition commemorates his bicentenary.
We will then walk through Hyde Park, to the ITALIAN EMBASSY in Grosvenor Square.

Organisations can express their support at adesioni@facciamobreccia.org

Protest organiser’s contact info:

Marco Tranchino – 07806647903
Serena Bassi – 07796891091

ENDS