Human-rights activists from 40 countries learn online safety in Montreal

On May 21, 2012, a march celebrating the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development in Yerevan, Armenia, was violently infiltrated by nationalists, who believed it was a gay pride gathering.

Nikolay Hovhannisyan — who works for PINK Armenia, an NGO that works with youth, sex workers, people with HIV, drug users, and LGBT people — was present at the march it helped plan.

The event had been organized in a closed Facebook group, but word spread and some nationalists, thinking the march was a gay pride event, decided to infiltrate it, Hovhannisyan told the Montreal Gazette this week at a human-rights training program being held at John Abbott College.

The participants fled the event unharmed, but no one returned to PINK Armenia’s offices for 10 days after the attack out of fear for their safety, Hovhannisyan recounted. Only a few weeks earlier, a gay-friendly pub in the area had been firebombed.

“That was when we started to really think about our security, both online and off-line,” Hovhannisyan said. “You have to secure yourself to also be able to secure the beneficiaries that you work with. We have to be able to protect the ones for whom we work.” 

Camilla Wood

UK based Legal Aid Lawyer

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