Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has thrown his political weight behind his cabinet minister in an ongoing debate about government funding for a documentary telling about an Armenian athlete who changed her gender becoming a man.
Different conservative groups, including the Armenian Revolutionary Federation party, have criticized the Armenian Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports for financing the documentary, accusing the Armenian authorities of propagandizing “nontraditional” sexual orientations and undermining traditional family values.
Pashinian today dismissed such criticism as “cheap propaganda.”
Meline Duluzian, 31, for years was a member of Armenia’s women’s weightlifting team, performing at various international competitions and earning European titles under the nation’s flag. As a transgender Meline was granted asylum in the Netherlands, becoming known as Mel Duluzian.
Earlier this year the Armenian Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports co-financed a documentary entitled “Mel” telling about the athlete. It allocated about $42,000, which is less than 15 percent of the total film production cost.
In an earlier documentary telling about the LGBT community in Armenia Duluzian spoke about numerous difficulties that she experienced in Armenia because of his sexual orientation.
During a question-and-answer session in parliament on Wednesday Prime Minister Pashinian strongly defended the ministry’s decision to provide funding for the documentary about Duluzian, saying that he was pleased with it.
He said that Daluzian’s emigration to Amsterdam and even “appearing on the verge of suicide” was the result of public attitude.
Earlier, in another documentary telling about the LGBT community in Armenia Daluzian spoke about her ordeal because of her sexual orientation.
“The film is about a person who is a triple champion of Europe, a holder of a record that hasn’t been broken yet, a person in honor of whose victories the Armenian flag was raised and the Armenian national anthem was played three times,” Pashinian said. “This person had a problem that is not new to our reality, and in our folklore and vocabulary that problem has specific medical parameters. First teammates and then coaches learned about this problem and it was followed by a public reaction and attitudes… that drove this person to the brink of suicide. Then she realized that the only way to solve the problem was to leave Armenia. This is a medical problem. The modern world allows this problem to be solved, even though people say that if God created her like this... I’m sorry, but we have children born with a heart defect. [Should we say]: God has created them like this, let’s not treat them? There are children who are born blind. Should we leave them as they are?” the premier said.
Pashinian said that if the ministry had not financed the production of the film, as a citizen of Armenia he would have thought his government was ungrateful. “Because this person has a merit in our history,” he said.
“Is it that if a person with some merits corresponds to our views we will accept him or her…, will have pictures of us standing next to the champion, but if this person has a problem that makes him or her suffer and eventually leave the country we will say we have nothing in common with him or her,” said the prime minister.
“This person [Mel Duluzian] is under my personal protection,” Pashinian added.