Mamikon Hovsepyan’s goal is “a society where the human rights of all Armenians are protected and everyone is accepted regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.” It’s that simple. After the successful “Love and Solidarity Revolution” this past May which peacefully removed the corrupt government of Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan in favor of the liberal reformer Nikol Pashinyan, Mamikon’s goal could now be easier to achieve.
But, while hope for LGBTI progress remains high in Yerevan – Armenia’s capital – reports of vigilante attacks on activists in the rural town of Shurnukh on August 3 could signal a sudden backlash.
In 2007 Mamikon founded Pink Armenia to further the “empowerment and human rights protections of LGBTI people in Armenia.” Maminkon notes that In the following decade Pink Armenia has “become an internationally recognized and trusted organization with solid partnerships with local and international organizations working in the fields of sexual health, human rights protection, fight against discrimination, and gender issues.”
This growth allowed Pink Armenia to mobilize its members and activists to play a visible role in the May protests. “LGBTI people were among the most active participants of the protests. We joined the others in the streets to fight for the dignity and freedom for all Armenians. LGBTI people always express their solidarity toward other human rights, civic and other movements. This revolution was not an exception and many LGBTI people went to the streets,” says Mamikon.
Mamikon has learned to overcome his fear of the threats he regularly receives as a leading public figure on LGBTI rights. “This helps me to think about any situation the community faces and help others or take care of their safety if needed. It was a long personal journey to demand people accept me as I am or leave me alone.”
Now, as a new phase in the struggle for equality emerges in a hopeful political environment, Mamikon and Pink Armenia are preparing to confront “the aggression of nationalist and extremist groups that celebrate violence and organize parties to attack LGBTI people. The victims in Shurnukh and our organization receive hate messages and threats very often. Many people who come to Yerevan seeking safety cannot go back home as they are targeted by their neighbors and relatives.”
Mamikon remains dedicated to the mission of Pink Armenia despite the cultural hostility he and other LGBTI people face. “Sometimes it feels hopeless to live in this hostile environment, knowing that the majority of people hate you. But it always helps to realize there are others around you to help change the future. Being an optimist helps to see slow progress and hope that one day we will have a society where people respect each other and human dignity is valued as it should be.”
Watch a day in the life of Mamikon Hovsepyan.
Read the stories of Pink Armenia members who took part in the Peace and Solidarity Revolution.