Gay Bosnia-Herzegovina News & Reports

1 Bosnian gay movie wins hearts at Sarajevo film fest 8/05

2 Gay festival during Ramadan angers Bosnia Muslims 8/08

3 Bosnia police brace for Gay Pride violence 9/08

4 Media supporting Bosnia’s first gay festival threatened 9/08

5 Eight injured in attack on gay festival in Sarajevo 9/08

6 Serbian official praises police response to gay festival violence 9/08

7 Bosnia must respect gay rights say MEPs 9/08

8 Report exploring the link between MSM, homophobia and HIV/AIDS 4/11

23 August 2005 –

Bosnian gay movie wins hearts at Sarajevo film fest

Sarajevo – “The worst thing in the Balkans is to be a gay,” says Kenan Dizdar, a character in Bosnian war film ‘Go West’ which has sparked angry debate about one of the great taboos of Bosnian society. Hatred of gays will persist even after Serbs, Muslims and Croats stop fighting, he says: “They will lay down their weapons, but they will continue to hate homosexuals.”

‘Go West’ was controversial long before it was even made. The film follows two gay men, a Moslem and a Serb, who flee the besieged Bosnian capital at the start of the war and try to preserve their love.

Conservative and religious groups attacked director Ahmed Imamovic and co-writer Enver Puska, saying they were exploiting the sufferings of Muslims during the 1992-95 war in order to find a wider audience for their movie in the West. ” You are identifying the Bosnian tragedy and 250,000 dead with the story about two gays,” Moslem publicist Fatmir Alispahic said on television last year when the film was still being edited. ” If we are talking about some so-called gay love during the war, then we give a totally wrong image of what happened here.”

On Saturday, ‘Go West’ was shown in public for the first time at the Sarajevo Film Festival, although it is not in the main competition lineup. It gets its international premiere in Montreal later this month.

An audience of around 2,500 gave the film a long standing ovation in the central open-air cinema. ” These people were attacking a film they had not seen, and there was no chance of dialogue then,” Puska told Reuters in an interview. “But now we can talk.”

The 11th Sarajevo Film Festival, which began as an act of defiance while the city was being shelled by Serbs from the surrounding hills, has become the most important gathering of film professionals and fans in the Balkans.

August 29, 2008 – Reuters

Gay festival during Ramadan angers Bosnia Muslims

by Maja Zuvela
Sarajevo (Reuters) – Plans to hold Bosnia’s first gay festival during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan were denounced by the Muslim community on Thursday as an affront to religious feelings. As in most of the Balkans, there is little tolerance for homosexuality in Bosnia, where for many it remains a taboo. “Such an event dangerously threatens our religious feelings. It is not appropriate to hold it during the Ramadan,” said Ezher Beganovic, a journalist with the Islamic magazine Saff.

Beganovic has spearheaded a debate about next month’s four-day festival. He said in an article this week that the “festival of homosexuality”, which is regarded as a sin and disease in Islam, could cloud the holy month of Ramadan and promt angry reactions from believers. Organisers said the festival was planned a year ago without aiming to provoke.

“This is the festival of arts and culture and there are many believers in our population as well,” said Svetlana Djurkovic, who heads the “Q Association” promoting the rights of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual population. “It coincided with Ramadan unintentionally.” Sarajevo, a symbol of multi-ethnic co-existence and tolerance before the 1992-95 Bosnian war, is now predominantly Muslim. One academic argued that the lack of sexual tolerance has contributed to the region’s violent past. “The lack of sexual freedom has made people in the region very prone to war mongering and crimes,” philosophy professor Ugo Vlaisavljevic told a weekly newspaper.

Djurkovic said the reaction to a gay festival would have been the same, not matter when it was held. “This is a traditional society in which most people still do not accept the existence of different sexualities or identities,” she added. Slovenia is the only former Yugoslave republic to legalise registered same-sex partnerships, while no other allows gay marriages and most have no laws protecting sexual minorities from discrimination.

September 10, 2008 –

Bosnia police brace for Gay Pride violence

by 365gay Newscenter Staff
(Sarajevo, Bosnia) Two weeks before Bosnia holds its first LGBT Pride festival, police in Sarajevo say they are preparing for potential violence Posters calling for death to gays have been appearing in Sarajevo ahead of the Queer Sarajevo Festival, scheduled for Sept. 24 to 27. Police have been removing the posters as soon as they receive reports about them, but so far have been unable to catch the people behind them. The timing of the festival has irked Bosnian Muslims. The event will take place during the holy month of Ramadan.

Sarajevo, once a beacon of multiculturalism and tolerance with a mix of Christians and Muslims, became predominantly Islamic after the 1992-95 Bosnian war. Two prominent imams have publicly condemned the festival, although have refrained from endorsing violence. “We will not grab them by the neck on the street, but we have to say: This is immoral,” Imam Seid Smajkic told the daily newspaper Dnevni Avaz. On Bosnian television, another imam, Sulejman Bulgari, said that the Quran forbids homosexuality and that the holy book is clear about it.

Pride organizers say they did not intend to offend Muslims, and that the date was set a year ago. “It coincided with Ramadan unintentionally,” Q Association leader Svetlana Djurkovic said, adding that conservative Muslims would have been offended no matter when the festival was held. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said it was concerned that politicians have not done enough to reminded the public discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal.

“The mission strongly condemns attempts to incite violence against any group within Bosnia and Herzegovina,” the OSCE said in a statement, adding that the anti-gay posters “are intended to do just that.” Throughout the countries of the former Yugoslavia, LGBT people have few rights and discrimination is rampant. Slovenia is the only republic that has a registry for same-sex couples, although it provides few benefits.

September 22, 2008 –

Media supporting Bosnia’s first gay festival threatened

Sarajevo (AFP) — Bosnia’s journalists’ association warned Monday that local media supporting organisers of the country’s first-ever gay festival were being threatened and called on police to investigate the cases. Three radio stations and an independent weekly magazine were receiving threat letters for offering “unbiased and ethical” reports about the four-day Sarajevo Queer festival which is to open on Wednesday, an association statement said.

“Letters containing open and very serious threats are an attack on personal safety of the employees of these media outlets as well as safety of their family members and their property,” it said. The association requested that police identify the persons behind letters sent to IFM Student Radio, BH Radio 1, Radio Sarajevo and the Dani magazine and publish their names. Announcement by gay and lesbian rights group Association Q that it was organising the Queer Festival has run into a storm of criticism, particularly upsetting the Muslim majority as it will fall during the holy month of Ramadan.

Many others, including members of various ethnic political parties, have gone as far as declaring homosexuality an illness and its behaviour deviant. Such statements have been accompanied by a broader hate campaign, with posters declaring “Death to Homos” appearing in the capital and a torrent of abuse on Internet forums. They have been met by condemnation and calls for tolerance from rights groups like Amnesty International and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The police were preparing special security measures for the festival labeled a “high risk” event.

September 25, 2008 – PinkNews

Eight injured in attack on gay festival in Sarajevo

by Tony Grew
A homophobic mob has attacked participants in a gay festival in Bosnia. People were dragged from cars and others were beaten in the streets of Sarajevo last night by hooded youths chanting Allahu akbar (God is Greatest), reports Reuters. A much larger group of fascist protesters threw stones at people arriving at the opening event of the festival at Sarajevo’s Art Academy. The police said one of their officers and two local journalists were among at least eight people injured. Three of the mob were arrested.

Police had dispersed large crowds of protesters but they reportedly hid in side streets and attacked people as they left the event. Reuters reported that a Danish national was seriously injured. The Sarajevo Queer Festival has angered some Muslims in the country as it coincides with Ramadan, a month-long religious observance. Croat and Serb leaders also expressed their displeasure at gay people holding such an event.

The Festival, the first of its kind in the country, began yesterday and ends on September 27th. Posters appeared on the streets of Sarajevo earlier this month proclaiming “Death To Gays” and imams have spoken out, claiming that homosexuality is immoral and contrary to the Koran. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a potential candidate country for EU membership. If admitted it would have the largest Muslim community of any member state.

The adherents of the Wahhabi sect make up a small section of Muslims in Bosnia. Recent figures indicate that 40% of the population are Muslims, 31% are Orthodox Christians and 15% are Roman Catholics. There is an equal age of consent but discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is “widespread” according to the EU.

Click here to watch a BBC News report on the violence

September 25, 2008 – PinkNews

Serbian official praises police response to gay festival violence

by Tony Grew
An independent ombudsman that protects the rights of citizens and controls the work of government agencies in Serbia has defended the rights of gay people to hold public gatherings. The Citizens’ Protector, Sasa Jankovic, also said he was pleased with the police response to violence at the Belgrade Queer Festival earlier this month. A group of 25 people were the victims of an “organised attack by fascists” after attending the 5th Queerbeograd.

Mr Jankovic said he was “content with prompt and efficient police reaction in protecting participants … which has proven determination of the state authorities to protect the safety of all citizens, without discrimination. “The fact that the state authorities are more engaged in suppressing violence in all life areas more efficiently, needs to be welcome as well.” The Ombudsman, who is independent from government, also defended the purpose of gay marches and public gatherings, saying they have “no aim to promote any sexual orientation, but rather to bring public attention on discrimination of citizens who belong to one of these groups.”

Mr Jankovic expressed regret that two Serbians, an American and a Russian were attacked. “Violence is neither a way of changing others opinions nor a mean of promoting one’s own, but first and foremost, a criminal act. The Citizens’ Protector is assured that the mandated authorities of the Republic of Serbia will continue efficiently to protect constitutional right to a peaceful public gathering and to process both, the perpetrators and those who call on violence. He strongly hopes at the same time that such cases will be significantly reduced.”

Before the festival began one of the organisers told “Serbia has seen some changes in the last year, a referendum, the ‘passing’ of the so called constitution, the fall of government, the independence of Kosovo, yet another election. All the time the political climate moves increasingly to the far right neo fascist identity. It is from this position that we place the agenda for our festival as direct action and anti-fascism – because we always want to take the most concrete steps to build bridges to smash borders, to see our liberation linked with everyone’s.”

The festival website refers to the first planned Pride Parade in Belgrade in 2001, which was blocked “by large group of violent homophobes. A group called the Queer Belgrade Collective called for an amendment to the current Serbian Criminal Code for a hate crime provision and praised the “proper reaction of the police and support them to keep protecting all citizens from violence.” Serbia is not a member of the EU but the government has declared European integration to be one of the strategic priorities for the Republic and it has been a potential candidate country for the EU accession since 2003.

September 25, 2008 – PinkNews

Bosnia must respect gay rights say MEPs

by Tony Grew
The European Parliament’s Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights has condemned the violence at the Sarajevo Queer Festival yesterday as “cowardly behaviour.” Michael Cashman Labour MEP for the West Midlands, said that Bosnia-Herzegovina must prove that it respects the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people if it is to stand a chance of becoming a member of the EU. Ten people were injured when a mob shouting homophobic slogans threw stones at the launch of the festival yesterday evening.
People leaving the event in an art gallery in Sarajevo were set upon by gangs, among them Muslims angry that the gay event, the first of its kind in the country, is being held at the same time as Ramadan.

“Young men, with hoods hiding their faces and some with long beards, yelled offensive words and also Allahu akbar (God is Greatest),” reported Reuters. ” Police said one attacker was detained.”

“We strongly condemn the attacks against the Sarajevo Queer Festival. It is a cowardly behaviour to challenge the views one disagrees with by violence”‘, said Mr Cashman, President of the Intergroup and one of two out gay MEPs. I also need to point out that Bosnia-Herzegovina wants to become a member of the European Union and the country should clearly show that it is ready for membership. Authorities and society at large must show that they can respect the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people not just in law, but also in practice. Respect for human rights is at the heart of EU membership.”

Sirpa Pietikäinen, Vice-President of the Intergroup, said: “Religious and political leaders should be aware that the violence of yesterday is a result of their homophobic speeches. They must understand that is not acceptable. Politicians should have the courage to stand up against any kind of violence and protect the human rights of every citizen.”

The Queer Sarajevo Festival began yesterday. The Dutch, Canadian and Swiss embassies are among those supporting it. In the weeks before the event a Muslim politician in Bosnia criticised the country’s gay community for holding it at Ramadan. Posters appeared on the streets of Sarajevo proclaiming “Death To Gays” and imams spoke out, claiming that homosexuality is immoral and contrary to the Koran. Extremist groups and politicians openly called for violence against homosexual and transgender people. There is an equal age of consent in the country but discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is “widespread” according to the EU.

Bosnia and Herzegovina signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU in June. The SAA represents, if properly implemented, a “gateway” to candidate status. Agreements on visa facilitation and readmission between the EU and Bosnia and Herzegovina were signed in September 2007 and they entered into force on 1 January 2008. In June 2008, the EU agreed on a country-specific “road map” for visa liberalisation for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The EU continues to deploy considerable resources in Bosnia and Herzegovina within the framework of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). Following the improved security situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the EU Defence Ministers decided in December 2006 on a force reduction of EUFOR/Althea from some 6,000 to 2,500 troops. The mandate of the EU Police Mission has been extended with two additional years until the end of 2009.

29 Apr, 2011 – MSM Global Forum

Report exploring the link between MSM, homophobia and HIV/AIDS in countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia

Executive Summary
The term ‘Men who have sex with men’, frequently shortened to MSM – describes a behaviour rather than a specific group of people. It includes self-identified gay, bisexual, or heterosexual men, many of whom may not consider them- selves gay or bisexual including transgender populations.

MSM presents a topic that many governments and certain individuals would prefer not to talk about and choose to be silent on these issues, failing to acknowledge these behaviours and address them, which unfortunately helps the HIV and AIDS epidemic to grow. Therefore, the prevention programs addressing MSM are vitally important. However, this population is often seriously neglected because of official denial by governments, the relative invisibility of MSM, stigmatization of male-to-male sex, ignorance and/or lack of adequate information.

All four countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia) experience low level HIV/AIDS epidemics. The dominant way of HIV transmission in these countries is through sexual intercourse. Though a much lower proportion among all HIV cases are officially attributable to homosexual transmission, the problem of under-reporting of homosexual transmission among those diagnosed with HIV is often mentioned in the country reports. Many people feel uncomfortable to name MSM as a way of HIV transmission in their individual case when talking to doctors

Since the year 2003 and the beginning of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFTAM) donations to the countries in the sub-region, a significant amount of financial resources and technical assistance was poured into scaling up treatment and prevention activities. The prevention activities were also improved in both the coverage of users as well as in the number and density of service delivery points.
There are still negative practices in place such as:
-National legislation and policies that hinder a creation enabling environment to prevent HIV among MSM;
-Lack of relevant data on stigma and discrimination (from quantitative surveys or qualitative research);
-Social, cultural and political circumstances that influence the level of stigma and discrimination towards MSM; -Evidence of unlawful practices (e.g. in health services, workplace, etc).

Therefore, we prepared a report that would enable national authorities for better understanding of social and political context that would lead to comprehensive planning of prevention activities among MSM and other sexual minorities, even lead to a development of a larger scale sub-regional project.

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