The full title of my presentation is Off the PACE and not NICE: Challenges with Evidence in ME/CFS.
(I tweaked that subtitle a couple of times. For reasons.)
I plan to look at the nature of research error as it affects medical and healthcare research more broadly, and — of course — research into ME/chronic fatigue syndrome more specifically. Let’s just say that there is plenty of material to discuss.
Other speakers at the event include Caroline Kingdon of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and David Systrom of Brigham & Womens Hospital, Boston, and Harvard Medical School, who is the keynote.
Lilit Martirosyan’s speech in the Armenian parliament has gone viral.
Addressing a panel on human rights, Martirosyan described the plight of the trans community in Armenia. She explained how her own experience of threats and violence reflect the challenges that she and other trans people face in the country:
I encompass in myself — tortured, raped, kidnapped, subjected to physical violence, burned, immolated, knifed, subjected to murder attempt, killed, emigrated, robbed, subjected to stigma and discrimination in social, medical, legal, economic areas and in every aspect of a dignified life, unemployed, poor, and morally abandoned — the Armenian Transgender’s image.
Therefore, perhaps it was no surprise when Martirosyan’s truly historic and brave speech sparked an immediate backlash from Armenian conservatives. It started even before she left the podium. Panel chair, Naira Zohrabyan, decried Martirosyan’s speech for having (allegedly) deviated from the official debate schedule and ordered her to leave the chamber, shouting “You have violated the agenda!” at her as she walked away. Some of the MPs applauded this verdict, shouting “Bravo, Ms Zohrabyan!“
The speech, two weeks ago, has since sparked a backlash in Armenia, where homosexuality has been decriminalised but discrimination against LGBTI people is rife. There have been anti-LGBTI protests in front of the national assembly and verbal attacks made by some parliamentarians have included calls for her to be burned alive…
Martirosyan said the home addresses of several people who work for Right Side, the transgender rights organisation she created in 2016, have been leaked and that her own home address has been spread across the internet by extremist groups who have threatened to “kill them if we find them”. Nationalists, she said, have gathered outside her house, raising Armenian flags…
They fail to even refer to the fact that the protests are spearheaded by Armenian church figures and clerics, and that much of the inflammatory language used in the protests is infused with religious diatribes.
The leader of the Prosperous Armenia party, Gagik Tsarukyan, invoked “Armenian traditions and faith” to declare Martirosyan’s address a “vice,” adding that “we must hide the vice as it was before.”
In Armenia, religious attacks on the LGBT community go right to the top. Last year, the supreme leader of the Armenian Church decried “the phenomenon of homosexuality” as “unacceptable to the way of human nature” and, literally, “a threat to our nation’s survival.”
The fact that The Guardian can report on these protests without even mentioning their religious underpinnings — in a country such as Armenia, where church-led conservatism has long been a source of concern — is, frankly, nothing less than bizarre.
The obvious question to raise is: would The Guardian have mentioned religion had these protests taken place in a Muslim country?
Well, when The Guardian reports on transphobia and homophobia in places like Brunei, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Iran, for example, it seems to me that they are quite quick to refer to sharia law, clerics, and other religious frames of reference by way of context. The fact they avoid doing so when describing Christian protests in Armenia certainly stands out.