Search This Blog

Friday, November 29, 2013

Human Rights Project in Armenia

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               By Lucy Turner

In October GHRD was a partner in an exciting human rights project in Armenia, and I was sent to represent them. The project was organized by the European Intercultural Forum for 27 participants from youth and human rights organizations Armenia, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Georgia, Russia, Poland, and Belarus. The aim was to raise awareness of human rights issues in Europe and in Armenia, and to build connections between civil society organizations in these countries. The training itself was based on non-formal education methodology which includes discussions, debates, workshops, role plays etc. The trip had three main components; workshops and presentations, visits to organizations, and field research.
As many of us were not familiar with the human rights situation in Armenia, the first two days were exegetical, providing ground knowledge of the geopolitical history of Armenia. We also spent some time identifying the human rights situations in our own countries, and then comparing and contrasting our findings, and listened to a speaker from the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Vanadzor outline the human rights violations in Armenia.

The main human rights issues in Armenia were identified as follows:

•             The Military – 2 years military service is mandatory in Armenia for males 18-27 years. There is a history of institutionalized bullying and non-combat deaths and disappearances.
•             LGBTQIA – although decriminalized in 2003 LGBTQIA people do not benefit from any protection if their rights are systematically or institutionally violated. They experience a lack of sexual health care, threats of violence, employment discrimination, and a lack of legal protection.
•             Women’s Rights – domestic violence and honour killings are a major problem in the country, alongside a lack of legal protection of women’s rights and inequality in education and healthcare.
•             Freedom of expression and the media – The media is criticized for its partisan disposition on governmental issues. Attacks of journalists from non-state sponsored media sources are frequent.
•             Electoral system – many people we spoke to expressed dissatisfaction and concerns about the validity of elections.

Using questions and methodology that had been decided in previous workshops, in each of the cities the participants interviewed members of the public about their perceptions of human rights in Armenia. We found that typically members of the public had a negative view either of the situation of human rights in Armenia or the organizations that seek to protect and promote human rights in Armenia. Where interviewees felt human rights were respected in Armenia, anti-EU and Human Rights sentiment was high; there seemed to be suspicion and mistrust of human rights organizations and human rights as a concept. Very few people had an understanding of what human rights are, and there was much confusion about social and political rights. People were often preoccupied by the social and economic disadvantages affecting the country in a post-Soviet Union climate, like an aging population, high unemployment and mass-emigration. 

The main focus of the trip was the visits to human rights organizations in Gyumri, Vanadzor and Yerevan in Armenia. We met the main managers of each of these organizations and attending presentations on their work, the obstacles they face and their opportunities for the future. The meetings were very interesting for GHRD, and it was interesting to hear the experiences of these organizations. Pink Armenia, Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Vanadzor and Peace Dialogue were among the organisations visited. Many of the people working for these civil society organizations had faced personal adversity and difficulties from their work, and their motivation and commitment was inspiring.

For more information about our upcoming projects and training check our website or contact our education department. 

Disclaimer: Blog posts do not necessarily reflect the views of Global Human Rights Defence.