YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s alliance and the main opposition Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) on Tuesday, April 9, continued to blame each other for a transgender activist’s unprecedented speech in the Armenian parliament which caused a stir in the socially conservative country.
Pashinyan also hit out at former President Serzh Sargsyan’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), saying that some of its senior members are “gay activists.”
The scandal broke out during last week’s parliamentary hearings in Yerevan chaired by Naira Zohrabyan, the BHK-affiliated chairperson of a parliament committee on human rights. They were attended by lawmakers, government officials as well as representatives of local non-governmental organizations.
One of those groups, Right Side, champions LGBT rights. Its transgender leader, Lilit Martirosyan, also spoke at the hearings, complaining about widespread hostility and discrimination against sexual minorities in Armenia.
The presence of an LGBT activist on the Armenian parliament floor visibly surprised and angered Zohrabyan. She berated Martirosyan for bringing up issues which she said are not on the agenda of the hearings.
Zohrabyan claimed afterwards that the hitherto little-known activist was invited, without her knowledge, to the hearings by Maria Karapetyan, a parliament deputy from Pashinyan’s My Step alliance. Karapetyan and other pro-government lawmakers denied that, saying that all participants of the discussion received written invitations from Zohrabyan. The BHK parliamentarian rejected those claims as “blatant lies.”