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Open Letter to Orange Armenia Protests Jury Selection of Homophobic Entry in Book Contest

A group of concerned individuals and organizations in Armenia have sent an open letter to Orange Armenia, expressing their discontent that a short story containing homophobic content selected by the 2011 Orange Book Prize jury. Signatories are asking the company to issue a statement in support of its LGBT customers and employees, as well as removing the entry from the competition.

The open letter reads as follows:

“Dear Orange Armenia,

“We wish to express our concern with one of the entries of the Orange Book Prize.

“For the 2011 Orange Book Prize, as noted on Orange Armenia’s official website, 130 creative works were submitted to the contest, 79 of which were in the short story category. The jury of “professional readers,” according to Orange Armenia’s description, selected 11 out of the 130 entries submitted, one of which — Paruyr Santrosyan‘s “Hours Before [Being Given] the Death Penalty” — contains hatred toward homosexual people. The author in his work, in particular, complains that the Republic of Armenia guarantees equality for all, including homosexual people, adding that if he were talk about homosexual people, he would be forced to do so using profanities.

“We would like to express our concern to the aforementioned. Orange Armenia is one of those reputable companies in Armenia that embraces Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), acknowledging that it has a responsibility to the public, and always tries to uphold its reputation at the pan-Armenian and international level, which France Telecom also attempts to do on local, national and international platforms. Expressing a malevolent attitude toward marginalized groups and minorities through Orange Armenia, we believe, is first and foremost detrimental to the company itself. Apart from the fact that Orange Armenia might lose the trust of many of its customers and sustain losses on a PR level, this is also dangerous for Orange Armenia’s LGBT customers and employees, because the author of this work affronts LGBT people and tramples their dignity. According to its website, France Telecom–Orange is “committed to ensuring transparency, quality and security for all its customers,” while promoting diversity and equal opportunity for its employees: “France Telecom-Orange has a duty to set an example by promoting equal opportunity and combating all forms of discrimination.”

“It is incomprehensible how Orange Armenia allowed a story to participate in the contest and to be selected out of 79 entries in this category by a jury of “professional readers” which spreads hate toward a marginalized group — in this case, homosexual people. Would it be permissible, perhaps, for a story to be included in the contest that spread the same message of hate towards, for example, Jewish people or people of a different skin color or any number of other marginalized communities?

“Considering the aforementioned, we would like to suggest that Orange Armenia issue a statement reaffirming its unbiased and impartial approach toward its LGBT customers (also potential LGBT customers, which it might lose due to homophobia) and toward marginalized groups, in line with the company’s own policies and Article 14.1 of Armenia’s Constitution which guarantees equality for all, irrespective of personal or social circumstances (in this case, irrespective of an individual’s sexual orientation). In particular, we ask that the aforementioned short story entry be removed from the competition.

“We look forward to receiving your response.

“Respectfully Yours,

Public Information and Need of Knowledge NGO (PINK Armenia)
Mika, author of the blog “Unzipped: Gay Armenia”
Women’s Resource Center of Armenia
Sexual Assault Crisis Center, Yerevan
New Generation NGO
Guarantee Center for Civil Society NGO
World Independent Youth Union NGO
Society Without Violence NGO
Haykuhi Margaryan
Hamo Sargsyan
Narek Harutyunyan
Anna Grigorian
Armen Ohanyan
Tufenkian Foundation Women’s Support Center
Diana Muradova
Young Professionals Caucasus
Ginosi Corporation
Hovhannes Madoyan
Real World, Real People NGO”