Horrifying news out of Armenia this Friday. In the tiny town of Shurnukh, several dozen people attacked nine LGBTQ activists. The Armenian lynch mob sent two of them to the hospital for their injuries. Though police are investigating, none of the victims have been contacted by the Public Defender’s office. Similarly, the police treated the victims poorly and the Armenian lynch mob even included the village’s former mayor.
The attack took place at the home of Hayk Oprah Hakobyan, a local queer activist. Several activists had gotten together for a meeting. Before the attack, two men arrived at the house to shout homophobic slurs and threaten violence. Though the activists reported the threats to the police, the men weren’t found.
The activists packed and were ready to leave, but it was too late. At around 8 p.m. on the evening of Friday, Aug. 3, over 30 people called the activists outside, shouting that Shurnukh wasn’t a place for LGBTQ people. Things quickly turned violent, with the mob beating the activists up and throwing rocks at them. All of the activists were hurt, but two were seriously injured and sent to the hospital immediately. The next day, the other seven activists went to the hospital for examination.
The large size of the mob is even more shocking considering the size of Shurnukh. As of 2011, the village’s population was only 207 people — meaning approximately 15% of citizens took part in the Armenian lynch mob. Given the small size of the village, the activists recognized many of their attackers, including Hakob Arshakyan, the former mayor. The activists took video of the attack in hopes the footage could be used to arrest their attackers.
Hakobyan says his father recently filed a corruption complaint against Arshakyan. He believes this may have been the direct motive for the attack.
Though the police were called, it took over 90 minutes for them to get involved. Even then, that was only when the activists found a police car when running from their attackers.
One of the victims, Robert, told OC Media, “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.”
Robert also said the police behaved unprofessionally, asking if the victims were really gay — only using the Armenian slur hamaseramol. Though police said they were investigating, none of the victims have reported being contacted by investigators.
Homosexuality has been legal in Armenia since 2003, but many citizens remain homophobic. According to a 2012 study, 55% would cut off a friend or relative if they came out as gay. There are no legal protections for LGBT Armenians, and Armenia is ranked 47 out of 49 European countries when it comes to LGBTQ rights, only beating out Russia and Azerbaijan. Though marriage equality is not legal in Armenia, the country does recognize same-sex marriages performed abroad.