Mon, 16 Dec 2019

YEREVAN -- Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has thrown his support behind one of his ministers in an ongoing debate about government funding for a documentary telling the story of an Armenian athlete who changed her gender to become 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 relations and undermining traditional family values.

Pashinian, during a parliament session on November 13, dismissed such criticism as 'cheap propaganda,' and expressed his support for the athlete and the documentary.

'This person is under my personal protection,' Pashinian said.

Meline Duluzian, 31, was a member of Armenia's women's weightlifting team for years, performing at various international competitions and earning European titles.

Duluzian is currently living as a transgender man under the name Mel Duluzian in the Netherlands, where the athlete obtained asylum.

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 toward Duluzian. '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?' Pashinian asked, rhetorically.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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