Statement of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor office (HCAV) on recent Facebook insults received by HCAV employee Vardine Grigoryan:
– The staff of HCA Vanadzor and the Board of the Organization are concerned by the fact of the insults directed at employee of the Organization Vardine Grigoryan by the supporters of “Sasna Tsrer” group through the social networking website Facebook. Our colleague has been fighting for political and civil rights for many years, presenting public sentiments and demands in Armenia at international institutions as well as protecting the interests of political prisoners.
She and HCA Vanadzor have repeatedly been discredited for such activities by abusers of power, corrupters and those committing murders and acts of violence to serve the benefits of the political elite.
We find it outrageous that prominent advocates of the establishment of people power in Armenia join this vicious list, trying to obstruct the exercise of human rights and freedoms like non-democratic authorities do.
In this case the exercise of Vardine Grigoryan’s right to freedom of opinion and expression was aimed at criticizing Arayik Khandoyan’s (member of “Sasna Tsrer” group) expressions degrading women and discriminating against them as well as the welcoming of those expressions. We would like to stress that referring to a man as a member of the female gender with the aim of insulting that man is discriminatory, degrading and disrespectful to all women and should be condemned regardless of who it is voiced by and who it is directed to. The essence of human rights defense lies in speaking up against such violations.
HCA Vanadzor is committed to the principles of the right to freedom of expression, even by presenting the harshest assessments; at the same time, we are of the belief that it should not turn into hate speech. Targeting persons involved in human rights defense, the negative attitude towards them and hate speech do not only make those persons vulnerable but also diminish the opportunities of human rights defense and respect for those rights.
Vardine Grigoryan and our organization received many words of support and encouragement. We urge everyone to refrain from mocking those who insulted Vardine, from forming judgments about their physical and mental qualities and from evaluating their education and upbringing.
We have seen time and again that Vardine Grigoryan is able to defend her and others’ rights (the rights of those criticizing and labeling her should specifically be indicated) in more troublesome circumstances. However, we consider it necessary to mention that we support her unconditionally.