“Now we fight openly because of the statements police made”

armenianpolice-05An event which occurred earlier this year where a female activist participating in a demonstration in Yerevan was involuntarily kissed by a serving officer was recently addressed at a meeting about the safety of human rights defenders in Armenia. A higher ranked police officer attending the meeting upset activists when he stated there was no way of telling whether the woman liked the kiss or not.
In the photage from the event you can see the activist being drawn away from the action and, while restrained from behind by the unknown police officer, she gets kissed in the neck.  Something which Shushan Petrosyan, a member of parliament at the time commented by asking if there is anything bad in kissing?

This can also be seen in the light of a victim blaming statement about women’s safety in public recently announced by the Armenian Police. Among the recommendations of how to act and dress in order to avoid violence in public is the advice to not walk alone and only make dates in crowded illuminated places wearing clothes that wouldn’t limit you movements or “attract wild fanatic’s attention”. The police even go into details concerning hair styles and jewellery and tell women to distrust unknown men. Talk about using a rhetoric which both risk scaring women to stay at home and which tells society that how women dress and behave is the explanation behind violence and harassment towards them.

Elvira Melisetyan from Women’s Resource centre comments on the event both stating that it is in line with what women have faced when reporting sexual violations to the police before and that it gives activist a position where they can openly target the victim-blaiming culture within the Armenian police: “I will dare to say we were not surprised finding the statement of police, because we face the consequences of their main way of thinking in our daily work regarding Sexual violence prevention in our community. Several women have reported the main approach of police there in the police station. Police has just legitimized their approach towards these kind of situations. If previously we were fighting against this on a grass-root level, trying to raise awareness on the particular cases where police used victim-blaming while investigating, now we fight openly because of the statements police made officially. This is a good sign for us on the way to strategy planning for fighting against sexual violence, now we can face police openly with our statements and demands. No doubt that this statement enlarges the risk of having more cases of SV, as now the abuser has some more ”approved explanations” for their actions. This makes us be more attentive and more proactive according to elimination of sexual violence in our community because Police officially showed they are not for a victim and not with a victim in this ”fight”.

Directly after the statement was made official independent activist posted images of them self with texts like “Don’t tell me what to wear. Tell them not to rape.”
ArtAct group decided to dedicate an entire album of posters to addressing the stupidity of the police using a mixture of humour, facts and attack.

The messages exist in both an English and Armenian version if you visit the Art<3Activism Facebook page.

Att överkomma detta hat

Lara Aharonian en av ledarna av Women's Resource Centre i Jerevan. Foto: Kvinna till Kvinna/Julia Lapitskii

Lara Aharonian en av ledarna av Women’s Resource Centre i Jerevan. Foto: Kvinna till Kvinna/Julia Lapitskii

“Du är armenier, jag ser det i dina ögon”, säger min kompis till en spinkig man som sätter sig mittemot oss på Stockholms tunnelbana och försöker inleda ett samtal. Sabina försöker inte ens att dölja sin avsky mot honom. Han spänner ögonen i henne, tittar genomträngande och intensivt. ”Aha, och du är en azeri”. En obekväm tystnad infinner sig, jag blir mållös, kommer inte riktigt på något att säga. Mannen reser sig och går.

”Jag hatar armenier”, säger hon. ”De är inga bra människor”. Alla kan ju inte vara hemska människor, hur kan du säga så, försöker jag försiktigt, men inser snabbt att det inte lönar sig. Sabina och jag träffades på en kurs i statsvetenskap på en av Sveriges högskolor. Vi har precis haft en kurs i nationalism tillsammans, läst Benedikt Anderssons berömda verk om nationalismen ”Imagined Communities”, och skrev våra tentor just om det.

Det var för snart 10 år sedan som jag fick upp ögonen för det hat som finns mellan Armenien och Azerbajdzjan efter konflikten kring Nagorno-Karabach, och trots alla år som gått, har det inte förändrats så mycket. Fast nu blev det fel, UNDER den pågående konflikten, menade jag väl. Det pågår inga strider mellan länderna, vapenstillestånd tecknades för mer än 20 sedan, konflikten kallas numera för ”frusen”, vilket innebär att den fortfarande inte är löst. Men konflikt är fortfarande konflikt: gränserna är stängda, länderna har inga förbindelser, det går inte ens att ringa till varandra, och de som ändå kommunicerar med den andra sidan räknas som förrädare. I Armenien såväl som i Azerbajdzjan.

När jag tänker på Sabina, inser jag att nationalistiska känslor sitter så djupt i en, att det inte går att tackla dem på en intellektuell nivå. Det går knappt att resonera fram eller försöka förklara, teorier om ”imagined communities” funkade i klassrummet, men inte riktigt i verkligheten, när det kommer till hennes egen världsbild…

”Vi är alla produkter av nationalism, det kräver mycket mod att komma ifrån det så som vi har gjort, det är inte många som kan göra det”, säger Lara Aharonian, från Kvinna till Kvinnas armeniska samarbetsorganisation Women’s Resource Centre.

Med ”vi” menar hon deltagarna vid ett möte i Uppsala, där Kvinna till Kvinnas armeniska och azeriska partners diskuterar nationalism och fredsarbete. Hur kan vi överkomma detta hat, motstå medier som odlar fiendebilder och politiker som plockar politiska poäng på att lägga skuld för ekonomiska problem på den andra sidan av konflikten? De har jobbat tillsammans sedan 2007, i ett projekt där de försöker bygga broar mellan tjejer och unga kvinnor från andra sidan konflikten, samt skapa ett fredsorienterat samtal i sina länder

Dessa kvinnor har säkert olika uppfattningar om hur konflikten ska lösas, men själva känner de inte längre något hat, trots att många av dem är direkt drabbade av konflikten: de har förlorat sina hem, nära och kära. Men det är ingen lätt uppgift de har att överbrygga hatet i sina samhällen, ibland känns det som en omöjlig uppgift, men de kämpar på och det är oerhört stort att få vara med i deras arbete.

Women’s month in Armenia

March has been a hectic month at Women’s Resource Center in Armenia,
8 March is not the only date here devoted to women, also 7th of April has a similar content, so the entire month is seen as women’s month.

 

International women’s day is celebrated in the country since the 20′s after being introduced by Soviet as a result of the demonstrations in St Petersburg 1917. Women’s day, or Working Women’s day as it was originally called, was during the time an utterly political day with slogans such as “8th of March is the day of rebellion of working women against kitchen slavery” or “Say NO to the oppression and vacuity of household work!”.

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Presenting Armenian civil society 1325 report in New York

With the mission of presenting the first ever civil society monitoring report on UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the organisations Society Without Violence and Women’s Resource Centre were selected to represent Armenian civil society in New York last week.

Anna Arutshyan, Society Without Violence and Emmicki Roos, Operation 1325, outside the office of the Armenian mission to the UN. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Christina Hagner.

Anna Arutshyan, Society Without Violence and Emmicki Roos, Operation 1325, outside the office of the Armenian mission to the UN. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Christina Hagner.

The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh started in 1988. In 1994, with the involvement of the Minsk Group, a ceasefire was achieved. Since then the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is defined as a frozen conflict.

Armenia being a very patriarchal society and experiencing several hardships at this time (the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of Armenia, blockade and an earthquake) totally neglected the issue of sexual and gender-based violence during the conflict and post-conflict period. But the war seriously affected women living in the southern part of Armenia, who were directly involved in the conflict.

In 2013 a monitoring group for UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (mainly consisting of women’s groups) was established in Armenia. Thanks to the involvement of the expert Emmicki Roos from Operation 1325, and with support of Kvinna till Kvinna, it was possible for this group to launch the first ever civil society monitoring report in Armenia. I would say, that quite a few challenges arose when trying to produce this report, since Armenia does not have a National Action Plan (NAP) under the UNSCR 1325, which made the collection of necessary data quite hard.

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