(See personal account of attack by Jasmina Tesanovic:
9 Fed by Anger, Undercurrent of Nationalism Flows in Serbia 2/04 (Non-gay story; good social background)
February 10, 1997 – The New York Times, New York
Queen of Serbia’s Soothsayer: His Highness, Kleo Patra
by Chris Hedges
Belgrade, Yugoslavia – Kleo Patra, the Balkan Prophet, addressed by followers as her highness, her excellency, her holiness, swept into the television studio wearing a fake leopard-skin cape, tossed it aside and called on a makeup artist to begin work as he sat in a self-styled throne. War and political upheaval are nothing new to the Balkans, and neither are flamboyant fortune-tellers. "They are all over the country," said Snezana Stojilovic, a lawyer. "And the worse the situation gets, the more we have. The papers are filled with ads for these fortune-tellers. I am amazed at how many people, even those who are educated, go to them."
Kleo Patra, a 36-year-old transvestite who says that in a previous life he was the ancient Egyptian queen, is Serbia’s pre-eminent soothsayer. His clients pay $80, the equivalent of a month’s salary, for a session and they include Mirjana Markovic, the wife of President Slobodan Milosevic. With long-flowing red locks and wearing diaphanous outfits, he is a regular on the celebrity social circuit. And the Balkan Prophet, despite being well over 200 pounds, does a brisk business selling diet teas, something called Kleo tablets, which he says make users more vital, beauty creams and books on astrology.
Kleo Patra, who often talks about himself in the third person and litters his speech with ripe street slang, has a weekly half-hour television program on Sundays called "Meet Your Destiny." It is broadcast on the government-run Pink entertainment network. For personal problems, he dispenses advice that would make most Western therapists wince. He also makes political predictions, and is a firm supporter of Milosevic, calling him "a man sent to the Serbs by God." He warns viewers that "Serbs are a doomed people destined to slaughter themselves in catastrophic wars in the next century," but he had more reassuring words for a foreign visitor. "Don’t worry about America," he said. "In your country I just see lots of floods."
Kleo Patra — the name is on his passport — has little time for the demonstrators who have filled the streets of Belgrade for over 80 days calling for the president to reinstate opposition election victories in 14 cities, something Milosevic says he will do this week. The fortune-teller said he worried that many of the protesters had become mixed up with "black magic." People turn to him primarily for personal advice. In a large stack of letters were several from women pursuing much younger men, including one who had a crush on the high-school classmate of her son. Other letters talked of marriages that had gone sour. "I tell couples who have trouble that they each have to go out and find new sexual partners," he said. "Usually one of them loves the idea and the other has to be persuaded.
But, as I always say on my show, if you love someone you have to be able to give them up for others to love. For Kleo Patra, physical betrayal does not exist." His celebrity status, he said, had led some clients to pursue him. "One boy thought I was the Virgin Mary," he said, lowering his head as if embarrassed and putting his hand to his cheek. "Imagine. I just got up and locked the door and told him he could come anytime for free. He could always go right to the front of the line." To those who are struggling to live with unemployment, who lost family members in the Balkan war or who have become refugees, Kleo Patra usually offers a brighter future. In two letters read on a recent program, women who lost their homes in the war spoke of suicide. In both cases Kleo Patra told them it would be a huge mistake because "your future is happy and successful."
"I see that all the Serbs who were driven out of Croatia and Bosnia and lost their homes in the war will get them back, or at least get money back," he said. "Anyway, I read somewhere that this is international law." But while describing himself as a "cosmopolitan humanitarian," the fortune-teller acknowledged that he did not take kindly to criticism. Angered by a recent report in the local press that accused him of being a sham, he said he was arranging "to beat that so-called reporter like a cat." When asked if a lawsuit might not be more appropriate he slammed his huge, beefy palm on the desk-top. "In this country the only law is the iron bar," he said. He abruptly switched to his trademark soft television voice.
"Kleo Patra carries a Colt automatic pistol," he said delicately. "It was given to her by a minister in the government." As he spoke the phone rang and a distraught husband, a regular client, came on the line. Kleo Patra switched on the speaker phone. The man was calling from the Bosnian Serb city of Banja Luka, and wanted to talk about his mistress. Kleo Patra has warned that she is out to get his money. "I want to sleep with her," the caller said, "even if it means I will die as soon as I am finished."
"Well," said the Balkan Prophet, "this is about sex." "No," said the man. "Yes, Kleo Patra," the wife said, grabbing the phone. "He won’t tell you, but that’s what he wants." Sometimes to keep the program moving along the Balkan Prophet will ask himself questions — and answer them. "Kleo Patra," he said in a stern voice, "how is it that people pay you so much money, that you have a villa in the best part of town, that you vacation in Miami and drive a Mercedes, while most people in Serbia can barely find enough money to eat?"
"Thank you for your question," he said, switching again into his soft, high-pitched monotone. "You see, people believe in me more than God."
October 1999 – Outcast, No
Homophobia as a Weapon of War
Peter Tatchell looks at the effect of the Balkan bloodbath on the lives of gay people in Serbia and Kosovo.
The military war against Slobodan Milosevic may be over, but the cultural war against queers – and between queers – continues. In the nations of the former Yugoslavia, peace for lesbian and gay people remains, at best, ambiguous and uncertain, both politically and personally. Sex, love and friendship between Serbs, Kosovars, Bosnians and Croats is, to say the least, difficult – even dangerous. Ethnic hatred still runs deep and the memory of recent genocide lingers vividly.Gay life in the Balkans is not as we, in Britain, know it. Guns are more common than condoms. Lovers may be military torturers. Cruising is a minefield of ethnic animosity and violence, When Kosovar and Bosnian Muslims are circumcised and Serbs are not, picking up the wrong man can have frightening consequences.
In his book, Serbian Diaries (GMP, 1996), a gay Belgrade university lecturer, writing under the pseudonym Boris Davidovich, tells the tale of a friend, Branko, who was nearly murdered by a member of the Serb special forces. During the conflict in Bosnia, Branko met the soldier while visiting his brother at the Belgrade Army Hospital. After wild, passionate sex, the Serb special forces agent suddenly noticed Branko was circumcised and went beserk. Grabbing a gun from under the pillow, he put it to Branko’s head and threatened to blow out his brains, accusing him of being "Muslim scum". It was only Branko’s quick-witted ability to convince him otherwise that saved his life – such are the perils of gay sex in the fratricidal strife of the ex-Yugoslavia.As we saw on the battlefields of Kosovo – and previously Bosnia – the jingoistic, hysterical patriotism of wartime can turn routine homophobia into something even more sinister and evil. The Balkan bloodbath was no exception. Home-sadism became a weapon of war. While the rape of women was widely reported in the press, the rape of male prisoners passed almost without mention. Why?
The widespread sex abuse of men has been publicly acknowledged by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson. What motivated journalists to suppress information about these monstrous sex crimes? The media did, after all, report every other inhumanity with a reasonable degree of honesty and impartiality.
Accounts collected by UN observers from ethnic Albanian refugees and former detainees confirm that many male prisoners were raped at gun-point and sexually tortured under interrogation by Serb forces in Kosovo. In some conquered villages, Serb soldiers rounded up the men and boys, stripped them naked, and forced the boys to fellate their fathers, and the fathers to sodomise their sons. These are the rarley reported homophobic humiliations of the terror in the Balkans.The Belgrade-based gay rights movements, Arcadia and the Campaign Against Homophobia, say the Nato bombing strengthened Serbian nationalism, which is notorious for its strong streak of anti-gay machismo.
There is no place for queers in the nationalist vision. Homosexuals are dismissed from the Yugoslav armed forces on the grounds of "abnormality". Serbia’s patriotic hero is the virile, masculine soldier defending his family and homeland. Those perceived to be weak, effeminate and unmanly are vilified as traitors and fifth columnists. During the war, some Serb television stations denounced homosexuality as a "perversion" and "disorder" that is alien to Serbian culture, accusing gays of subverting national defence. Western governments, such as the British, were condemned by sections of the state-controlled press as "homosexual", and homosexuality was caricatured as a "western disease".
This manipulation of anti-gay sentiment for propaganda purposes led to a sharp rise in homophobic violence and police harassment. " Anyone who does not fit the standard model of the strong man defending his native land until the last drop of blood, is a possible victim of discrimination, ranging from verbal insults to physical violence and even murder", according to Dusan Maljkovic, a 23 year old gay activist in Belgrade. He reports police raids on gay venues and cruising places, and the compilation of police files on known or suspected homosexuals. Even worse, the Serbian version of skinhead gangs – the dizelasi – are targeting gays in their violent attacks on "social decadence".
Homophobia is also a political weapon. The Civic Alliance of Serbia is the only movement that has spoken out in support of lesbian and gay human rights. Most other parties and factions use allegations of homosexuality to discredit their opponents.
Anti-war students have denounced President Slobodan Milosevic with the chant "Slobo is a faggot". The rightist deputy prime minister, Vojislav Seselj, is pilloried by left- wingers as the "Serbian Ernst Rohm" (a reference to the gay Nazi chief). Extreme nationalist-fascist parties advocate the "extermination" of gays to cure the "homosexual sickness". During the western bombing raids, anti-Nato demonstrators in Belgrade carried placards with the slogans: "Clinton, Blair & Schroeder = Fags". Not surprisingly, many lesbians and gays felt threatened.
Early in the war, western donations to the Campaign Against Homophobia were frozen, and the group’s offices closed. Some prominent organisations and activists went undergound or fled abroad, fearing for their safety.These fears were not unfounded. President Milosevic manipulated Nato intervention as justification for wartime emergency measures, including a crackdown on all dissent in the name of "national security". Critical voices on any issue were, and still are, denounced as unpatriotic, and risk vigilante violence from ultra-nationalists.
The war and its aftermath remains the number one issue of public debate in Serbia. Human rights for gays – and for everyone else – are dismissed as an irrelevant distraction.
Another version of this article was published as "Queer Serbia! Queer Kosovo!", QX. 231, 26 May 1999
July 2000 – From:womenngo.org.yu
The LGBT situation in Belgrade Today
by Vedrana V., Labris- lesbian human rights group,
Belgrade, Yugoslavia/Serbia – Gay and lesbian activism in FR Yugoslavia officially began in the early nineties when Arkadija, a gay and lesbian organization, was formed. By the mid nineties Labris, an exclusively lesbian group, established itself apart from Arkadija.
Labris-lesbian human rights group from Belgrade
Labris is a group working on the promotion of lesbian human rights since 1995.
At that time Labris organized its activities from the spaces of various women’s groups. Labris has had its own space only since February of 2001 and having that space has been a tremendous help regarding the quality and realization of projects and activities. Our work is based on feminist ethical principles (no hierarchy, solidarity, no discrimination, transparency, non-violent communication…)
We chiefly empower lesbians to accept their identity and leave situations of discrimination and violence. Through organizing psychological and creative workshops, trainings, seminars, and cultural and educational programs: evenings of poetry, music, film, concerts and a theatre performance, Labris is for most lesbians the only contact with their community. We also organize educational lectures about lesbian/gay and women’s rights. Our video collection contains about 50 movies and documentaries and our library contains more than 500 books and magazines in Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian, English, Italian, French, and Spanish…
In 2001 we had two exhibitions of lesbian paintings and photographs (one of them was Lesbian Conexxions exhibition, as a part of our Pride celebration, in the Students Cultural Center which lasted five days). By means of our information center, printed materials (Labris has its own newspaper, the only one which deals with lesbian issues in Serbia), we support lesbians who live outside Belgrade as well.
This year our activists were in Croatia and Slovenia to support their first pride parades. This year also, in Cologne, the Christopher Street Day organizers gave the Euro Pride Award to the organizers of Belgrade’s first pride parade. Representatives of Gayten – LGBT and Labris, the two groups that organized the Pride parade, received the award and gave a short speech, which was greeted by a cheering crowd. The mass of about 300,000 whistled to condemn the violence that took place last year in Belgrade.
To remind, in 2001 Labris, in cooperation with Gayten-LGBT and with the support of some gay and lesbian groups, organized the FIRST gay and lesbian PRIDE PARADE in Serbia, titled “THERE IS SPACE FOR ALL OF US”. What was supposed to be a celebration of diversity on the main square in Belgrade on June 30th, 2001, became a field of violence. Participants of our parade, NGO representatives, individuals and passers-by were attacked and beaten by a thousand members of nationalist or religious pro-fascistic groups. With that the parade was violently broken up and 40 civilians were injured. Most of the media in FR Yugoslavia declared this to be the most drastic example of human rights violation in the country during that year, as did Amnesty International in its yearly report on Yugoslavia.
Our website has been created recently and for more information visit www.womenngo.org.yu/labris
For LGBT organizations and movement, 2001 was by all means very significant.
During the years of Slobodan Milosevic’s totalitarian regime, the pressure on civil society was considerable. And all of the NGO’s were seen as pro-western, anti-Serbian, anti-patriotic and therefore as traitors. For that reason gay and lesbian groups were not allowed to register. Hate speech and homophobia were present in the pro-regime media.
The political changes that took place still don’t allow much space for lgbt human rights. During this year nationalist and religious groups and individuals continued to publicly threaten LGBT individuals, while using hate speech in the media and giving homophobic statements. There have also been several physical attacks on LGBT people. Political parties, the government of FR Yugoslavia and of the Republic of Serbia have not taken an official stance regarding the violation of the basic human rights of LGBT people.
Considering the current political and social situation in FR Yugoslavia, Labris believes it is best that we find our strengths in intensifying cooperation with regional like-minded groups, in order to strengthen LGBT identities, allow for the formation of new LGBT rights groups, promote LGBT rights and identify discrimination and violence against LGBT people, by conducting the “Education of Women’s Groups” and “Gay and Lesbian Media Campaign” projects. This campaign begins in November.
Everyday life of gays and lesbians in Serbia
Gay and lesbian existence in Serbia is mostly based on leading a double-life. Gays and lesbians live in complete isolation and silence. There are only few activists who are brave to speak openly in public or on television. Being an out lesbian or gay is a social phenomenon in Serbia. There are people who even think that being gay or lesbian is something imported from the West, something that spoils Serbian youth.
During Slobodan Milosevic’s totalitarian regime gays were explicitly on the list of so-called enemies of the state and that some homosexual lobbies “collaborate” against the government. Lesbian and gay groups were not allowed to register, without any explanation, though the law didn’t ban it.
When we finally elected democratic government, we hoped that our rights would be taken into consideration. What we got after violently stopped parade was the silence of state officials. “There were politicians who had said that our society was still not used to put up with “that kind of deviance”. Some politicians are afraid that they’d be branded as gay if they were in favor of lgbt rights. What they don’t understand is that this is our only life. In Serbia, everything that is marked as gay or lesbian loses its value. Politicians are afraid that they would not be taken seriously if they promote lgbt rights. There is no space in which gays and lesbians could see themselves as positive persons.
The situation is even more difficult in smaller towns where lesbians/gays cannot openly say who they really are. There is no political language that would give space for lgbt rights or civil society to reopen these questions. Therefore we work on anti-discriminative law that would secure the rights of people with different sexual orientation in one of its articles.”- explains Lepa Mladjenovic, one of co-founders of Labris, a radical feminist lesbian and the first open lesbian who discussed gay/lesbian issues on several Serbian televisions. “The nationalists say- we don’t care what you do in your bedrooms, just don’t come out in the streets. The point is that we don’t exist only in our bedrooms.”
For her work in Serbia on behalf of gay and lesbian rights and in the women’s and peace movements, Lepa received the Felipe de Souza award from the IGLHRC in 1994.
“ The problem in the treatment of homosexuality is the very fact that they don’t want to be normal.”-says Jovo Tosevski, an influential Serbian sexologist in one of nationalist Serbian newspaper.
“ Heterosexual doctors claim that the solution for the discrimination of lgbt population is to place them within the sphere of privacy, invisibility, violence, hatred, lynch and isolation. It is incredible with how much self-assurance they claim that lesbian and gay existence “belongs to private life by nature”. I believe that there are more people of the same opinion, especially those who have beaten up the citizens who, according to them, looked like lesbians or gays on 30th June in Belgrade”. – Explains Lepa.
Apart from leading double-lives gays and lesbians in Serbia do not have the benefits of marriage, are not safe at their workplace, and live in constant fear and pressure. If their sexual orientation becomes known, they’re usually harassed by their families or at work or may even get fired. Yugoslavia has two gay clubs, one in the capital Belgrade and one in Novi Sad, in the more liberal Vojvodina province. Recently, in Novi Sad, some members of Obraz (ultra-nationalist group that openly promotes violence against lgbt people) or skinheads (you cannot tell them apart anymore) have broken into the club and severely beaten up all who found themselves there. In the one in Belgrade, from time to time a group of skinheads circles around and watches who comes out of the club. One night, some gay friends of mine just went out to buy cigarettes and ended up in hospital. The police car just passed them by.
The recent news is that that the president of Yugoslavia and a candidate for president of Serbia, Vojislav Kostunica has begun his campaign for the second turn of presidential elections. He didn’t make any statements regarding the violence of June 30th and recently while visiting Columbia university and asked to give his opinion about lgbt rights and being reminded that Belgrade was the only town in the world where people got beaten up during pride parades, he exclaimed that he had more important things to deal with. Celebrities’ are calling the citizens to vote for Kostunica and one of them is Nikola Hadzi Nikolic singer of rock group 357. He was one of the homophobic hooligans who has beaten and insulted gays and lesbians on the first Belgrade gay parade on June 30 2001. Will the harassment of lgbt continue or are we to face something worse?
In general spirit and dedication to accepting the European democratic values and institutions, our society must re-define its position when it comes to LGBT rights and identities. We are facing an enormous and difficult task in the atmosphere of strong homophobia and prejudice, to work and act on affirmation and articulation of LGBT identities and facilitate its wider social expression, without discrimination and direct violence, which we all unfortunately witnessed; and every kind of support would be by all means significant for us.
A personal view from the inside as to what it’s like to be a lesbian is offered by Jasmine’s personal story of growing up with a society, church and family hostile to homosexuality.See #8 on this page.
LGBT Serbian sites:
June 30, 2001 – Associated Press
Yugoslavia Gay Activists Beaten
Belgrade, Yugoslavia (AP) – Roving bands of young men attacked activists staging what was believed to be the first gay rights march in Yugoslavia’s capital, circling them one by one Saturday and kicking them until police intervened. Dozens of people were reportedly injured, including a half dozen police officers deployed to the capital’s main square. Hospital officials said none of the injuries was life-threatening. The melee began even before the scheduled start of the gay gathering, as dozens of soccer hooligans and members of a nationalist group appeared at the Republic Square to prevent the march from taking place. One of the attackers told B-92 radio that "we are here to prevent immorality in Serbia,” while others shouted "Serbia is not a gay country.” Later the hooligans smashed the front door window of the offices of a moderate political party supporting gay rights.
Belgrade police chief Bosko Buha said in a statement to B-92 radio he had not expected so many and so aggressive anti-gay hooligans to appear at the march, and therefore had deployed only 50 policemen without riot gear. Some of the police were forced to fire shots in the air to disperse the crowd, witnesses said. Buha said about one dozen attackers were detained by mid-afternoon. Police were chasing them throughout Belgrade and were expecting more arrests.
The gay pride event was just one of several marches being held throughout Europe this month to draw attention to discrimination against homosexuals and to urge political leaders to grant them equal rights. An unidentified female activist told B-92, "We will not give up our rights and our struggle to introduce democracy in Serbia. I am sorry that there are still people who promote hatred.” The attacks appeared to be organized, with soccer hooligans and ultra-nationalists among the culprits.
Violence as Serbian homosexuals hold first Gay Pride march
Police fired in the air in a bid to disperse several hundred anti-gay nationalists who stoned and beat homosexual activists taking part in the first-ever Gay Pride parade in Yugoslavia on Saturday. At least four activists and one policeman were injured when groups mainly made up of young skinheads and Serbian nationalists attacked several dozen gay activists on Belgrade’s central square. Radio B92 reported that at least 10 attackers were detained, while six policemen suffered head injuries. The radio said members of the right-wing conservative group "Obraz" (Cheek) was organising the protest against the gay activists. They also beat to the ground four women from the lesbian association Labris.
Lepa Mladjenovic of the Labris group told AFP that the anti-gay forces were waiting on the square where the activists had scheduled their gathering, immediately attacking and beating them as they arrived. The Gay Pride march was planned months ago and came a day after thousands of die-hard nationalist supporters of ousted leader Slobodan Milosevic took to the streets of the capital in anger at his extradition to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.
Several dozen policemen managed to push back the groups, who shouted "We do not want gays in Serbia!" "Long Live the Serbian Kingdom" and waved WWII nationalist flags with the insignia "With faith in God, For King and Kingdom." The nationalists later marched through central Belgrade, beating and stoning small groups of gay activists gathered in a nearby students cultural center.
Police again fired in the air, but failed to prevent further clashes. One of the skinheads among the attacker’s wore a T-shirt with a Dutch flag and the initials ICTY, with the date of Milosevic’s extradition, June 28 on his back. They shouted "Serbia for the Serbs and not for gays" and "This is an Orthodox country where there will be no immorality." Some groups stoned the office of the the Social Democratic Union, the party of Serbian deputy prime minister Zarko Korac, which had already come under attack in March when six men stormed its premises, injuring four people. The party has openly supported homosexual movements.
The Gay Pride demonstration was called by several groups of gay activists, who have tried to publicize their presence in Serbia in the past two years, to mark international gay day on June 27. " After years of silence, we join the world celebration of the Gay pride of homosexuals determined to break the fears and taboos, encourage each other and decrease hostilities," its statement said.
Although the gay community in Serbia has reportedly been increasing, many conservative traditionalists remain hostile towards it. Soon after the demonstration was publicized placards appeared in central Belgrade calling "the Orthodox to gather for a spiritually healthy Serbia" at the same time as the Gay Pride. " Let us prevent anti-Christian, homosexual immorality and perverse orgies," the posters said.
More reports about attack on gay march:
30 June 2001 – BBC Online News
Belgrade gay march clashes
Hundreds of Serbian nationalists have attacked gay and lesbian rights activists who were holding their first ever march in the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade. Reports say police fired warning shots in an attempt to stop the scuffling in the city’s central square. At least five people, one of them a policeman, were reportedly injured. Some went on to stone the offices of a political party that backed the extradition of Slobodan Milosevic.
5 November 2001 – Agence France-Presse
Yugoslavia’s first gay magazine hits newsstands
Belgrade – Yugoslavia’s first gay magazine, "Decko", which means boyfriend in Serbian, appeared on newsstands in Yugoslavia on Monday. Decko’s editors said in a statement that the magazine was not "exclusively aimed at homosexuals but at all those who are interested in issues related to sexual minorities."
The magazine is also available on the web at www.gay.org.yu
December 8, 2002 – Agence France-Presse
Serbia’s "Gayrillas" fight for their rights
Belgrade – Serbian gay rights activists have launched their own campaign for president in Sunday’s election, calling on people to vote for a candidate called "Gayrilla". Gayrilla is the name of an underground gay rights group which is hoping to raise awareness of gay issues during an election in which two radical nationalists and a moderate conservative are the official candidates. "By marking your ballot with the Gayrilla sign, you will give a clear message that Serbia has a huge number of citizens who are aware of their sexual identity but are afraid to come out with it," the Gayrillas said in a statement. Gayrilla graffiti proclaiming slogans such as "Gay is okay!" has appeared everywhere in Belgrade in recent months, competing for attention with messages from football fans and die-hard supporters of various political parties. "The aim of our campaign is to make the presence of the gay and lesbian population visible in this election," said a Gayrilla activist who did not want to be named. "We don’t think any of the three presidential candidates will represent gay and lesbian interests during his mandate or defend our rights."
Like other gay activists in Belgrade, he insisted that despite political and economic reforms in Serbia since the fall of Slobodan Milosevic’s repressive regime in October 2000, nothing had been done to improve homosexuals’ rights. "On the contrary, we are witnessing fascist movements which wage continuous violence against us," he said. The first attempt to organise a gay pride parade in Belgrade last year ended with brutal attacks against activists by angry young football thugs and right-wingers, as police and indifferent citizens looked on. "At least five of our friends were seriously injured by football fans or radical nationalists and no-one was imprisoned for that," another activist complained. Although several groups fighting for gay rights in Serbia have tried for years to bring more attention to the community, media and public awareness is still "lower than for stray dogs", said 24-year-old Ivan, who has decided to openly "live his sexuality". "We have a monthly magazine, ‘Decko’ (Boy), several websites and that’s it. But if you go to clubs and parties, you will see there are so many people who want to live their life openly but are still bounded by the medieval attitudes of society," he said.
There is no official figures on the number of homosexuals in Serbia but activists believe it to be around 10 percent of the population. "This means that there are about 600,000 gay voters in Serbia. The anonymity of the vote gives them a possibility to send this message," said another Gayrilla activist. Heated debates on Serbia’s main gay website (www.gay-serbia.com) indicate Gayrilla’s tactics are having some effect. "I changed my plan to boycott the polls after I saw Gayrilla’s statement… I will come out to vote and I hope, although it sounds impossible, that Gayrilla will win," one of the visitors to the site wrote. "Gayrilla started a tiny gay revolution… And I admire them for their courage and creativity," wrote another. But some activists are still afraid their efforts will come to nothing. "Do you think the electoral officials will tell us how many ballots were marked with gay insignia?" asked one.
December 29, 2002 – Reuters
Navratilova Hits Out at Dokic’s Dad
By Reuters Gold Coast, Australia (Reuters) – Former world No. 1 Martina Navratilova attacked Damir Dokic Sunday over the Yugoslav’s homophobic comments about lesbian players. Navratilova, 46, is playing doubles this week at the Australian Hardcourt Women’s Championships as a warm-up to next month’s Australian Open. She took time out from her preparations Sunday to respond to a threat Dokic had made earlier this month to commit suicide if he found out his tennis player daughter, Jelena, was a lesbian. "It’s a good thing that I am not his daughter then," Navratilova said. "Maybe it’s too bad I’m not." Dokic also told a Serbian newspaper more than 40 percent of women on the world tour were lesbians. "That’s a pretty stupid comment to make obviously if his sense of worth as a father is whether your daughter is a lesbian or not," said Navratilova.
"If that’s the most important thing to him then I really feel sorry for him." Navratilova, winner of 167 singles titles and 56 grand slams, is beginning the final year of a three-year comeback campaign in Australia. She last played here in the 1989 Summer circuit but came out of retirement in 2000 to play doubles. She became the oldest player to win a WTA tour title earlier this year in Madrid and wants to add a few more to her 166 doubles victories before hanging up her racket at the end of 2003. She will pair with 17-year-old former world junior champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia at the Hardcourts and at the Australian Open next month.
Labris -Group for Lesbian Human Rights
My name is Jasmina(49), and I live in Beograd, ex-Yugoslavia. I work for Labris, group for the promotion of lesbian human rights. Being a lesbian and at the same time an ortodox Christian is a little bit abstractive. The Orthodox church does not accept the homosexuality as a normal appearance, but classifies it as sodomy, immorality, lewd act, in fact as one of the human greatest sins of all. Since church dogmas are very strict and unchangeable, I as a lesbian ortodox Christian often find myself crucified between church teaching and myself. The most obvious question from this connotation is “Why I still believe in God when his teaching tells as that homosexuality is a sin?” The answer on this question is easy. Love towards God and believing in him comes out of it. The same love teached me to forgive, to do good things, to help people in trouble, to comfort everyone and most of all to love everyone and everything that surrounds me. Ortodox teaching says that we are all equal in front of God.
If that is so, why are homosexuals different and why most of the priests speak about them with hate and with no tolerance. Our highest Priest His Holiness Patriarch Pavle in his Easter message, explicitly said, that he does not approve any kind of violence against the homosexuals and that we have to be tolerant to those who are different and not to hate them because of their sex orientation. What I don’t like about our preachers is the fact that they speak about homosexuals the worst possible things, but a great number of priests and even monks are gay. This hypocrisy in our church is present in everyday life. We live in a primitive society, and that is why we lesbians have to find places where we can talk about being lesbians. It would be normal if we believe in God and we go to the church that we can freely talk about it with our priest, when we make a confession. But most of them think that this kind of lifestyle is not acceptable, that the sin is so great and they are not prepared to listen, and even if they do listen, they want to change our life to be “normal”. I can say for myself, that I believe in God, I love God, I honoree God, I respect God, but I do not feel any fear of him.
When I go to church and pray, I feel happy, full field and peaceful. God is not only in the church and in the priest’s words, but he is everywhere around us and inside us. He is part of our life. I am a lesbian and I have steady and happy relationship with my girlfriend for last six years. We live together and share everything. She is good and honest person, willing to help me, and the others. She also goes to church and she is very religious like myself. I go to church regularly and I live religious life whenever I can. But I was not religious for all my life. I am the only child in my family. I can say, that my childhood, was very happy and careless. My mother is a catholic and she is religious person.
When I was a child, she often took me to the church. I liked that very much especially on Christmas, Easter and similar holydays. I liked to listen the organs and to sing in the church. I also liked little girls dressed in white , like brides, when they came to get blessing from the priest, on Sundays. My father worked for the army and because of the system in our country, he was not supposed to be religious. In fact it was forbidden to go to church. I was baptizing secretly when I was only two months old. My father was an orthodox, so I was baptized in the orthodox church. When I grew up, I went to the church both to the catholic and to the orthodox, but it was like I went to the museum. I liked paintings and sculptures in the church and architecture of the building. This state of my thinking about the church lasted until my father died. Few years before he died, he wrote his last wish. He wrote that he wants to be buried on the ortodox customs.
Of course, I respected his last wish and everything was like he wanted to. My grief was enormous and after that I continued to go to the church, because in these moments I felt closer to my father, whom I loved very much. I missed him a lot, suddenly I felt emptiness in my heart and in my soul. I wanted to believe that my father is not dead, but that he only went to the other, better place, to the heaven. In the silence of the church I felt peaceful and I could cry in the darkness by my own. After that everything changed in my life. I become religious, I was not alone anymore, God was with me. I wrote before, that I was not religious in my childhood. The same is with my lesbian orientation. When I was a young girl my parents wanted me to have my own family, to get married and to have children of my own. This is probably the usual wish of every parent. But I always felt that I am not ready for the family life. In fact I didn’t feel any physical attraction of the male body, and on the other side, female body excited me. All my friends were involved in the relationships with the opposite sex.
Only I was alone. I was 25 years old and I was still a virgin. So when I met one of my colleges on the university, after a while we began to go out. After eight months, I got married. But then everything went wrong. He was alcoholic and we began to quarrel and to fight. Lucky me, he was in the army for one year so we haven’t seen each other much. Two months after he returned from the army we divorced. My marriage was a disaster from the beginning. After I got the divorce, I said to myself that I am not going to do the same mistake twice. I returned to my parents, finished the studies and began to travel all around the world. After some time I find job in the bank with good salary and the life went on. But life is sometimes very strange. From one short relationship I stayed pregnant. I was alone at the time so I didn’t want this child. I was not ready to be both, the mother and the father, and to raise my child by my own. It was to heavy weight for me. I just wasn’t ready.
A few years after that, when I wanted to give birth to the child, I lost my baby. At that time I thought that this was God’s punishment. I didn’t know that this was my destiny. Probably, if this child was born , everything in my life would be different. Years have passed away, I lived an interesting life full of adventures and traveling. But I was alone and emotionally empty. One weekend I spent with my friends in Zagreb and there I met one beautiful young girl. She was the first lesbian that I met in my life. She was absolutely perfect, young, good looking, smart and educated. She had the smooth skin, long black hair and sea blue eyes. Her name was Ester. One night we drank too much and after that we had some very tender moments together. When I returned to Beograd I wanted to see her again, but she went back to America to continue her studies. I have never seen her again, but I have never forgotten her.
After this little adventure, I thought, I will never look any man ever. But life is not so simple as I thought. I married again in spite to everybody. I didn’t know what I wanted to prove, but this was my second mistake. My second marriage lasted for less than three years. My second husband was a good man and I looked at him like he was my brother or a friend. We separated, but we stayed friends. He is married and has two children now, but we are still in touch. He knows that I am a lesbian now.
My girlfriend Vesna, with whom I live together for six years now, I met in Greece. We both went from Beograd to Thessalonica to see the exhibition from the orthodox monasteries of Holy Mountain Athos. When we returned to Beograd we continued to be together from the morning, because we found out that we work in the same street, in the buildings just opposite each other. This was love at first sight. God helped us to find each other. We went to the exhibition because we are both religious and at the same time we wanted to see the same thing, at the same place. I believe that we are going to stay together for the rest of our lives. I was never happier, then these last six years. My “third” marriage is for sure, the best one, and I sincerely hope, the last one.
For more than one year I have worked for Labris and I try to help other girls to find their lesbian identity, like I found mine. Now I have lots of new lesbian friends all over the country. At last, my personal and my professional life are both going well and I feel full field and emotionally complete.
February 15, 2004 – New York Timesk
Fed by Anger, Undercurrent of Nationalism Flows in Serbia (Non-gay story; good social background)
by Nicholas Wood Belgrade, Serbia
Alexander Eror, a soft-spoken, 27-year-old elementary school teacher, does not like to think of himself as a nationalist. So, he explained, when he voted in December for the most virulently nationalist group in Parliament, the Serbian Radical Party, it was not for its long support of a Greater Serbia or for its leader, Vojislav Sesejl, who is facing war crimes charges in The Hague.
Instead, he said, he made his decision because of the sight of his neighbor’s top-of-the-line sports car. His neighbor, Mr. Eror is convinced, is part of a criminal elite that emerged in the 1990’s while the former president, Slobodan Milosevic, was still in power, and continued to prosper even under an elected government dominated by reformers. "I expected crime to be uprooted," he said.
"Nothing has changed."
The anger and disillusionment of Serbs like Mr. Eror goes some way in explaining how the Serbian Radical Party became the election’s big winner, with 28 percent of the vote, and is now the largest party in the 250-seat Parliament. The victory has thrown pro-reform parties into disarray, stalled formation of a coalition government and sent chills through the ranks of Western analysts who are fearful that nationalism may again be on the rise in Serbia.
Political analysts here acknowledge that nationalism remains a powerful undercurrent in Serbian politics. Certainly, Mr. Eror’s decision was made easier by the fact that Serbs generally have yet fully to face their role in the wars of the 1990’s that left their country isolated and economically shattered.
At the same time, opinion polls showed that Mr. Eror’s concerns – unemployment, low living standards, economic decline, and not least, corruption and crime – were shared by a majority of voters. As much as anything, analysts here say, the vote’s outcome reflected disappointment with an elected government that failed to live up to its promises to bring about economic and political change, and to crack down on rampant cronyism and racketeering.
Each morning, Mr. Eror said, he had left his parents’ home in Belgrade with a sense of anger. He watched his neighbor, also in his 20’s, grow richer, while his own salary stagnated at $200 a month. At school, too, he said, a small group of rich children emerged, while a majority stayed poor. Like more than half the Serbian electorate, Mr. Eror voted to remove Mr. Milosevic from office. His removal as Yugoslavia’s federal president was followed by the election of an unwieldy 18-party coalition government in Serbia’s state Parliament.
Three years later, Mr. Eror said, his neighbor’s car reminded him how little that government achieved. Vojislav Kostunica, the former president who defeated Mr. Milosevic in elections three years ago, said in a recent interview that the new government was under huge pressure to perform. After 10 years of war and international sanctions, he said, Serbs "expected and looked forward to some quick change, improvement of their situation." The expectations of the government, he said, "were even larger than in other post-Communist countries," where people also returned to voting for Communist parties after an initial round of disappointment in elected reformers.
He maintained that Serbia had seen some change for the better. Growth in 2003 was estimated by the World Bank to be 4 percent. The hyperinflation of the 1990’s is over. The dinar is stable. Many indicators suggest that living standards have improved in the past three years. But those advances were overshadowed, political analysts say, by deep divisions in the coalition government, political paralysis and allegations of corruption.
"These guys have discredited democracy, it’s covered with mud," said Ljiljana Smajlovic, a journalist and political commentator with the weekly magazine Nin. In 2002, two important groups in the coalition fell out. Mr. Kostunica withdrew his Serbian Democratic Party from the coalition, accusing the prime minister, Zoran Djindjic, of abusing the law in his pursuit of reforms and failing to crack down on criminals, some of whom the president claimed were closely linked to Mr. Djindjic. Two senior aides to Mr. Djindjic, who was assassinated last March by a member of an elite police squad that prosecutors say has links to organized crime, were forced to resign last summer after it was revealed that they carried out a series of deals with offshore companies.
Most recently, Miodrag Kostic, a donor to Mr. Djindjic’s Democratic Party, and a close friend of the former prime minister, was implicated in a sugar-trading scandal uncovered by the European Commission. His factories were accused of importing sugar from outside Europe that was then repackaged and sold to the European Union, thereby receiving a substantial tax break. Such stories have dominated the news media, while the more visible symbols of the Serbian economy appear to be in decline.
In cities like Kraljevo in central Serbia, the region’s three biggest state conglomerates have laid off hundreds of workers. Most recently, Fabrika Wagona, which makes railroad cars and industrial boilers, laid off 800 employees. The official unemployment rate, like in the rest of Serbia, stands at close to 30 percent. The city’s mayor, Radoslav Jovic, said in an interview that people believed that Serbia’s improved cooperation with the outside world after the fall of Mr. Milosevic would yield greater benefits. While the economy is people’s overriding concern, he and other Serbs say that leftover issues from the wars that tore Yugoslavia apart have created a lingering sense of uncertainty about Serbia’s future, encouraging nationalist strains.
The mayor said people were frustrated by the presence in the area of at least 17,000 refugees, some of the more than 200,000 Serbs, Gypsies and Serbian-speaking Muslims who fled Kosovo as NATO troops seized control of the province in the summer of 1999. Almost five years later, they appear no closer to going home. Kosovo’s final status has yet to be determined. It is run now by the United Nations, but legally still a part of Serbia and Montenegro, the federation that replaced Yugoslavia.
Montenegro itself, which throughout the 1990’s threatened to break away, is expected hold a referendum on independence next year. Above all, though, it is Serbia’s fraught relationship with the international criminal tribunal in The Hague, which politicians blame most for bolstering the nationalists. Opinion polls show that the tribunal was not a major concern for voters during the last elections, but it remains a constant source of friction between Serbia and the West. Most of the indictments issued by the court have been against Serbs, adding to the impression that the tribunal is biased against them, Serbs say.
Western officials say the Serbs have not turned over two of the top suspects from the war, the onetime leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, and the former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic. Serbian politicians dispute their presence in the country. American aid, worth up to $100 million, is conditional on full Serbian cooperation. "The indictments of The Hague tribunal have been a sort of national humiliation," said Mr. Kostunica, the former president. He urged Western governments to ease the pressure on Serbia over the tribunal if they wanted to secure the reform process, which at this point, analysts agree, is in jeopardy.
Open Letter to the Gov’t demanding a Public Statement against Homophobic Political Parties
Expecting your reaction regarding the action conducted by the Fatherland (nationalistic) Movement Obraz, which has not been expressed again, we turn to you publicly, for it is important not to stay silent about any kind of discrimination, including discrimination against homosexual citizens.
Obraz has put up posters all over the cities in Serbia which indirectly, but undoubtedly, are a call for the lynching of homosexual citizens. According to this campaign, gay men and lesbians are proclaimed sick, which is against all European and international human rights conventions and the regulations of the International Health Organization. We consider this action as a violation of the basic human right to the free choice of a sexual partner. This action represents a symptom of intense oppression of the public space which opens up possibilities for further discriminatory acts, not only against homosexual persons but also against all other minorities which could be recognized by Obraz as inadequate for the idea and spirit of the “Nationhood” (“Srbstva”).
Considering that you are advocating for the integration of Serbia into the European Union, we expect your condemnation of homophobia, which is forbidden by the crucial documents of the EU, and by the new anti-discriminatory law of the Republic of Serbia as well.
We demand from you, the representatives of all citizens, to clearly and publicly condemn the action by the Fatherland Movement Obraz and every act of homophobia in general, in accordance with the Constitution which guaranties equal rights for all individuals. By doing so, you will provide safety and security guaranties for all people in Serbia.
We – the undersigned – will encourage you and keep insisting on your public statements and reactions in regard to the human rights of gay men and lesbians, as long as you try to hide behind the silence which denies existence of 5% of the population in Serbia and which directly endangers democracy.
Signed – gay and lesbian organizations:
LABRIS – Lesbian Rights Group
Direct action GLBT, Beograd
Milan Djuri and Duan Maljkovi
GAYTEN LGBT – Center for Promotion of LGBT Human Rights Boris Milievi
PRIDE- Pride Association
NEW AGE – Organizations New Age – Rainbow, Novi Sad
LAMBDA, Center for Promotion of LGBT Human Rights and Queer Culture – Nis
QUEERIA – LGBT Working Group
Queer Studies Programme, Beograd
The letter has been sent to the following addresses:
President of the Republic of Serbia Boris Tadi
Prime minister of the Republic of Serbia Vojislav Kotunica
Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Serbia Zoran Stojkovi
Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Dragan Joci
President of the Parliament of the Republic of Serbia Predrag Markovi
Ministry of Human and Minorities Rights of Serbia and Montenegro Rasim Ljaji
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia and Montenegro Vuk Drakovi
Belgrade City Mayor Radmila Hrustanovi
– UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, Geneve
– European Commissioner for Justice Antonio Vitorino, Bruxelles
– Amnesty International, London
– Human Rights Watch, New York
– IGLHRC, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, San Francisco
– ILGA, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Brussels
Belgrade, 25th of July 2004
Gayten LGBT and a number of Serbian Orgs.
My first experience of gay Serbia
by Richard Ammon, Owner GlobalGayz.com
My first visual experience of gay Serbia came at a recent ILGA conference in Manila 2003 when Jasmina, a lesbian activist from Belgrade, showed a video taken at the first Pride march in Belgrade 2001. About 100 Pride marchers started out toward a downtown park where they intended to hold a small rally. Before they could start their walk, holding placards and banners to identify their peaceful purpose, the marchers were attacked by a crowd, estimated about a thousand in number, of anti-gay hooligans, slinheads, football rowdies and neo-fascists bullies as well as some women. Using sticks, fists and boots the marchers were set upon with such violence that the police who had been assigned to monitor the march were themselves beaten back and bloodied. Some had to be sent to hospital with gashes in their heads.
Both lesbians and gays were attacked with equal force. The film captures one woman as she was being kicked in the stomach, until her attackers realized she was a woman and backed off. The mob scene was chaotic and ruthless until more police arrived to break up the melee and arrest some of the assailants. The video maker on the scene was able to film a few short interviews with bystanders and attackers. The overwhelming sentiment was outrage and scorn that such ‘perverts’ would try to claim they were normal; “there is no place for them in our society,” shouted one woman. Only one person, a middle-aged man, said, gay people should be left alone “to live and let live”.
Needless to say, the marchers were terrified and several received cuts, bruises and some were hospitalized with major injuries—luckily no one was killed.
Why did this happen? Why was the attack against the LGBT marchers so virulent and fierce?
The film left viewers in shocked awe of the event as Jasmina offered a broader perspective to the situation. During the many communist years under strongman Tito, all of Yugoslavia’s disparate provinces were bound together under the force of the militaristic central government in Belgrade. The political communist myths and rigid socialistic programs imposed on the various ethnic populations demanded fearful compliance and a semblance of order in daily affairs, from selling cooperative potatoes to systematic regulated housing. People were poor but not impoverished, religion was suppressed but beliefs ran deep, ancient ethnic feuds were quieted but seethed in silence.
Then came the dramatic breakdown of monolithic communism and the coerced order of things. Nations split off from one another as old tribal borders were redrawn and more than a dozen separate countries re-emerged from the ashes of the Soviet Union. Extremism in the defense of one’s ethnic and religious identity became the battle cry in the Balkans as tribes went to war with one another: Croats, Montenegrans, Albanians, Bosnian Serbs (Orthodox Christians), Bosnian Muslims, Serbs and Kosovars.
War ravaged the lands and once beautiful Sarajevo, among other cities, was laid waste. Poverty mushroomed along with it dark companions of unemployment and hunger. Religion became a fiercely divisive force, with Russian Orthodoxy in conflict with Greek Orthodoxy in conflict with Roman Catholicism in conflict with Islam. Political anarchy reigned as the country with the most guns and most ruthless army won footholds of control under the direction of hateful tyrants like Milosovic and Radjik.
Fledgling humanistic organizations such the pro-peace movement, health care NGOs, women’s rights groups and even a tentative LBGT association in Serbia were all crushed and swept over by the brutal boots of marching armies. Ethnic cleansing by Croats in Croatia and Serbs in Kosovo finally forced a NATO intervention as yet more countless people, infrastructure and military operations were bombarded into submission. Needless to say any plans for LGBT social or political activism were also in ruins in the late 1990s. Even with the reorganization of Serbia under a more democratic form of government old scores were settled with outbursts of violence against opposition political parties and Muslims continued even as they became more restrained. The extensive and violent carnage in Serbia would not heal for many years. Violence is still the preferred manner of settling differences. In 2002 the Prime Minister was assassinated and numerous other officials have lost their lives.
So it should have been no surprise that as Belgrade’s LGBT activists again attempted to express their presence and advocate for human rights that a mob would set upon them. It was a mob scarred by the talons of war, a mob fed by the virulent homophobia of the Orthodox church, a mob instilled with unbending traditions of hetero male and female social roles–men inflamed with revengeful warrior machismo. “Serbia is less enlightened than any Balkan country,” claimed Jasmina. “Women have fixed roles, gay are despised and sick, the church has regained its power with its old homophobic arrogance, and men are stupid in their macho mentality.”
Nevertheless, LABRIS, a LGBT organization pushes up again through the cracks since 2001 and now claims they will stage another Pride march in 2004. "Everyone from everywhere is invited," said Jasmina. She noted that lesbian activism was in the lead of this renewed push for gay rights despite the dangers, although gay men are clearly involved as well
May 13, 2007 – Eurovision
Marija Serifovic Wins 2007 Eurovision Song Contest
by Sarah Warn
In a televised event watched by 100 million people around the world this weekend, 23-year-old Serbian contestant Marija Serifovic beat out participants from 42 European countries to win the 52nd annual Eurovision Song Contest, hosted in Helsinki, Finland. Serifovic, who has not commented publicly on her sexual orientation but whose dress and performance style has led many to conclude she is a lesbian, won with her performance of a power ballad about lost love called "Molitva" ("Prayer"), which included female back-up singers wearing black Dolce & Gabbana pantsuits and holding hands. The winner was selected in each country based on telephone votes and text messages. Serifovic received the most votes overall, defeating the second-place contestant, drag queen Verka Serduchka from Ukraine.
Serifovic’s win was widely celebrated across her country as thousands of Serbians took to the streets after her win, cheering, honking horns and waving the Serbian flag. A crowd of 25,000 amassed in Belgrade to welcome Serifovic home. "Congratulations, Marija! Serbia is very proud tonight and celebrates your success," Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said in a statement.
A government spokeswoman for the Republika Srpska — which along with the Muslim-Croat federation, now makes up the Bosnian nation — congratulated Serifovic for "for succeeding in bringing Serbia closer to the European Union." The celebration may have more to do with national pride than anything else, as the win was seen by many Serbians as a rare sign of support from other European countries, as well as a bright moment for a country that has been consumed by war and its aftermath for almost 15 years. This was also Serbia’s first appearance in the Eurovision competition as an independent nation, after Serbia and Montenegro split last year.
Serifovic’s countrymen have not always been so supportive of her. Throughout the semifinals, Serifovic was widely criticized by Serbian tabloids for her appearance and her perceived sexual orientation, but she remained undeterred. "I’m different. My song is different. Serbia is different," she told Reuters Television in the days leading up to the finals, "so I hope we will make something out of it." Serifovic’s win has bolstered not just Serbian pride, but "Serbia’s tiny and harassed gay community," according to Reuters, "who celebrated the lesbian chic-tinged performance as a rare sight in the conservative Christian Orthodox country." Following her win, Serifovic told reporters that "a new chapter has opened for Serbia and not only in music."
The massive nationwide celebration is also a small sign of progress for women, according to Britain’s Independent, which
notes: "Such outpourings are typical when the country’s basketball or water polo teams are victorious. But this was different, for it was the first time the proverbially macho Serbs had done the same honours for a young female singer — let alone one with Serifovic’s unusual fashion sense." Serifovic will travel to six European countries on the Winner’s Tour.
May 25, 2007 – gaywired.com
Kosovo: Gay, Lesbian Youth Leaders Under Serious Death Threats
The leader of a gay and lesbian youth advocacy group and his staff have today received death threats which the police initially refused to take seriously. The threat email was sent to the leader of Centre for Social Emancipation (QESh), Mr. ‘K.Z’. Starting “In the name of Allah”, the email condemns ‘Mr. Z’ for his activities with the youth group and says he will end up in hell. The email continues, in translation: “We will fu** you mother, burn you with all your belongings, amd will make you carry your intestines in your own hands, you lewd man”.
Mr. Z and his group are accused of “smearing the pure and freedom-seeking nation”, and that members of the group “will have their heads cut off”. The email is said to have come from an email address that begins (in translation) “sharpknife”. QESh is taking the email very seriously, especially as it says that Mr. K’s family should “prepare his funeral within two weeks”.
The group, who was joined by the Youth Initiative for Human Rights demanded that the Kosovo Police Service conduct a thorough investigation and bring the perpetrators in front of the justice. But the police initially refused to open a case – they were said to have considered the case not serious enough. The chief of the shift said that such threats are not considered serious and that he should initiate a private lawsuit.
“We believe that Mr. Z’s right to use all the possible legal remedies has been violated by the police officers,” said a spokesperson for the Centre for Social Emancipation of Kosovo tonight. His privacy was not respected as he was being interviewed in the reception room and at least seven different police officers and random citizens walked into the room, thus stopping the interview process and finding out what had happened.”
Act to Protect LGBT Activist Threatened in Kosovo
A man known as K.Z., the head of a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights organization in Kosovo, has received a death threat linked to his work. Though K.Z. has reported this threat to the police, he has not received any protection, and his life may be in danger.
On 24 May, K.Z., leader of LGBT rights organization, the Centre for Social Emancipation (QESh), received a death threat via email from an unidentified person calling himself "Sharp Knife." The email said the sender would "fuck your mother, burn you with all your belongings, and will make you carry your intestines with your own hands." It also said that K.Z.’s family should prepare his funeral within two weeks, and that K.Z. would "end up in hell "as a result of his work for LGBT rights.
On the day he received the threat, K.Z reported it to the police, who initially refused to investigate it. The officer in charge of the police station at the time said that such threats are not considered serious and that K.Z. should initiate a private lawsuit. Despite the fact that his life was threatened, he was interviewed in a public area of the police station, and at least seven different police officers and several members of the public passed through the area during the interview. Eventually police agreed to investigate the threat but refused to provide K.Z with protection. According to reports, the leaders of the Centre for Social Emancipation have received five previous death threats in recent months.
Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:
expressing concern for the safety of K.Z., head of the Centre for Social Emancipation (QESh); calling on the authorities to take immediate measures to ensure the safety of K.Z. in accordance with his own wishes; expressing concern at the failure of the police to protect K.Z.; calling for a thorough, prompt and impartial investigation into the death threat against K.Z., and into the conduct of the police to whom K.Z. reported the threat, for the results to be made public and for those responsible to be brought to justice; reminding the Chief of Police that the UN Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders and their right to carry out their activities without any restrictions or fear of reprisals; additionally reminding the Chief of Police that it is his duty to ensure that all officers under his command are informed of their duty to protect the life of all individuals, irrespective of the political, sexual or other affiliation, as set out in the European Convention of Human Rights, and that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is prohibited under Kosovo Assembly Law No. 2004/3 on Anti-Discrimination; urging the authorities to take immediate measures to end the intimidation of LGBT people.
Head of the Kosovo Police Service:
Colonel Sheremet Ahmeti
UNMIK Police Headquarters
Fax: 011 381 38 504 604 ext 2201
Salutation: Dear Colonel Ahmeti
Minister of Interior:
Government Building 9th Floor
Mother Theresa Street
Human Rights Coordinator of the Government in Kosovo:
Mother Theresa Street
Fax. 011 381 38 200 146 43
UNMIK Police Commissioner:
UNMIK Police Headquarters
Fax: 011 381 38 504 604 ext 5114
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Please Send Appeals Immediately. Check with the AIUSA Urgent Action Office if sending appeals after 6 July 2007.
July 10, 2007 – The Washington Post
Persecuted Gays Seek Refuge in U.S. – Foreigners’ Abuse Increasingly Seen as Grounds for Asylum
by Pamela Constable, Washington Post Staff Writer
One night in 2003, on the wintry streets of Kosovo, a group of thugs stalked and beat Gramoz Prestreshi almost to death. Police in the war-scarred Balkan province laughed and called him names. The emergency room workers made him mop up his own blood. It was a sordid but hardly unusual episode in the hostile environment homosexuals encounter in societies of all kinds. Unlike many such victims, though, Prestreshi kept his wits about him. He had photographs taken of his injuries. He complained to the press and clipped every article. When his family disowned him, he joined a gay rights organization and slept in its office. This spring, his determination bore unexpected fruit, and Prestreshi was accepted as a legal refugee in the United States. He now lives in the District.
"I am happy because I don’t have to live like a prisoner anymore in a society where no one is allowed to be different," said Prestreshi, a slight, nervous man of 22, who won his asylum case with help from Whitman-Walker Clinic in the District. "But I can never forget what happened. It hurt when the police called us ‘faggots.’ It hurt when my parents screamed and beat me after they found out. It still hurts." Harassment and abuse of gay men and lesbians is becoming increasingly accepted as grounds for legal asylum in the United States, even at a time of conservative judicial activism, fear about HIV/AIDS transmission and increased scrutiny of asylum seekers. The government does not disclose a breakdown of reasons for granting asylum petitions, but legal advocacy groups in several major U.S. cities said they have won dozens of cases.
Homosexuality, once a de facto condition for barring foreigners from entering the country, is now officially recognized by the U.S. government as a category that might subject individuals to persecution in their homeland, just as if they were political dissidents in a dictatorship or religious minority members in a theocracy. But although petitioning for asylum on the basis of sexual orientation has become far easier since 1994, when then-Attorney General Janet Reno ordered that a groundbreaking case involving a gay Cuban refugee be viewed as a legal precedent, such asylum cases are still extremely difficult to win, according to lawyers in Washington and elsewhere. One reason is that applicants face multiple burdens of proof. They must demonstrate that they were abused or harassed by authorities, not merely by angry relatives or drunken hooligans, or that the authorities failed to protect them. They must also prove that they were abused because they are homosexual — and thus prove that they are, in fact, gay.
Raul Calderon, 40, the ex-soldier from Colombia, said he was raped as a recruit of 15 but commanded by officers who constantly exhorted the troops "not to act like women." In an atmosphere of civil war militarism, he said, he felt equally threatened by the guerrillas, the armed forces and members of the right-wing squads who called themselves social cleansing committees. "To them, people like me were filth," he said. Often, Pilcher and others said, foreigners living in the United States who have possible grounds for asylum on the basis of sexual orientation are afraid to come forward or unaware that there is a one-year deadline to apply. Even in societies with freewheeling, tolerant urban cultures, homosexuals can be harassed to the point of seeking refuge abroad. Brazil, for example, has a huge population of gays and transvestites, and last month’s annual gay pride festival in Sao Paolo drew 3 million people, according to Gay Life, a Baltimore newspaper.
Yet J.C., a District man from Rio de Janeiro who spoke on condition he not be further identified, won his asylum petition in 2001 after proving that he had been repeatedly beaten and abused by powerful, armed street gangs in his hillside slum, known as a favela, and that the local police force had failed to protect him. Fear of AIDS is another frequent factor in public and private harassment of homosexuals abroad. A doctor from Venezuela, who treated people with HIV and AIDS there and championed their cause within his profession, was granted asylum this year after being kidnapped, beaten and sexually humiliated by a police squad. "I was lucky because I could prove my case, because I speak good English and have a useful profession," said the man, a D.C. resident who spoke on condition he not be identified because he does not want to jeopardize his job as a U.S. government medical researcher. "A lot of people don’t have winnable cases, but they are living desperate lives."
Ironically, experts said, it might be harder for homosexuals to win asylum claims on grounds of sexual orientation if they come from countries with dictatorial governments that repress a variety of people. Victoria Neilson, legal director of a private New York agency called Immigration Equality, said that seeking asylum from a country with a great deal of violence might work against a gay applicant. "We have cases from all over the world, but sometimes people who come from the scariest countries have the hardest time proving their case," said Neilson, whose office currently represents asylum seekers from 26 countries including Albania, Indonesia, Jamaica, Turkmenistan and Zimbabwe. "If you come from Iraq, where nobody feels safe, it is hard to show why you would be singled out," she said.
In one recent groundbreaking case, a lesbian from Uganda won U.S. asylum after her family had a stranger rape her as a "cure" for being gay. Neilson said the woman’s petition was rejected initially because the abuse had been carried out in private, but an appeals court in Minnesota reversed that decision and approved her claim, noting that conditions in Uganda were so hostile that she could not seek protection from the state. Often, even in countries where legal help is available theoretically, social hostility to homosexuals can overshadow their formal rights. Kosovo, for example, is governed under a postwar U.N. mandate. It has laws banning discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation and has an active, liberal press. None of that, however, was enough to protect Prestreshi or his friend Korab Zuka, 23, who fled to the United States this spring and is awaiting an asylum hearing. Zuka was a leader of the fledgling gay rights movement in Pristina, and he was featured last year in a British gay magazine article called "Europe’s Hidden Homos."
Zuka said his public profile led to unbearable pressure and a series of threats. He said he repeatedly called the Kosovo police, who shrugged off his complaints. "It was very frightening to live there as a gay person," Zuka said during a recent interview at Whitman-Walker. "You always had the fear that someone would come up and kill you. At least here I can walk down the street without looking around to see who is behind me."
25th February 2008 – PinkNews
Catholics unhappy at rights for gay Kosovans
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
Catholics unhappy at rights for gay Kosovans The draft constitution of Europe’s newest nation is under attack from Roman Catholic political organisations because it seeks to protect gay people from discrimination. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia earlier this month, backed by the US, the UK and other leading nations. Its draft constitution contains specific provisions to protect Kosovans from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and enshrines the right to marry but does not limit that right to a man and a woman. It also states that interpretation of the rights contained in the documents will rely on "the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and other international bodies that oversee the implementation of internationally guaranteed human rights."
Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute has raised objections to the draft document, which must be adopted within four months. The group says its mission is "educating the public at large about the pressing issues debated at the UN and at other international institutions." It claims the new constitution "would transform the traditional Muslim and Orthodox Christian society by removing all legal protection from unborn children and granting special rights on the basis of sexual orientation. "Article 25 of the draft document on the "Right to Life" removes protection from the unborn stating that, "every individual enjoys the right to life from birth," and Article 26 grants "the right to make decisions in relation to reproduction in accordance with the rules and procedures set forth by law," further giving each Kosovar "the right to have control over his/her body in accordance with law.""
In December 2007 LGBT rights organisation ILGA-Europe reported: "Minorities and other vulnerable groups face restrictions in exercising their right to freedom of assembly and association across Kosovo. There is a need to promote more actively the rights of groups such as homosexuals to fight prejudice and verbal and physical violence."
The UK government has given strong backing to Kosovan independence, despite objections from Russia and Serbia. The country has been under the interim control of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) since the 1999 Kosovo war. 16,000 troops from 34 countries, 1,500 of them from the UK, are stationed in the country, forming a NATO-led peacekeeping force.
14th April 2008 – PinkNews
Serb President guarantees Eurovision safety
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
An official at the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has revealed that they have been given "aguarantee for the safety of delegations, press and fans issued by the President of Serbia," covering this year’s Eurovision contest in Belgrade. Human rights activists have raised concerns that Western fans visiting Serbia will be targeted by fascist elements in the country. Gay men are a particular target, according to the president of the fascist organisation Obraz, who announced his violent intentions in the pages of daily newspaper ALO! last week. The newspaper ran a story on April 7th, calling Eurovision "gay youth day."
The European Pride Organisers Association (EPOA) has written to the EBU, which is responsible for overseeing the hosting of the song contest. Serbia won the right to host the 53rd Eurovision Song Contest after their entry to last year’s competition in Finland won. Semi-finals will be held in Belgrade on 20th and 22nd May and the final on 24th May. "We are sure you are aware of the poor record of human rights in Serbia in general and regarding the human rights of lesbian, gay men, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people in particular," wrote the EPOA’s Human Rights Co-ordinator Kurt Krickler. In June 2001, the first gay pride march in Belgrade was brutally attacked by a huge violent crowd of nationalist extremists and hooligans. Dozens of people were left massively hurt and injured in the streets while the police failed to provide adequate protection. The Serbian LGBT movement has not recovered from these incidents. Many gay people will want to go to Belgrade to attend this year’s Song Contest. We demand from the European Broadcasting Union and the Serbian authorities to give public assurances that the safety and security not only of the foreign visitors, especially those who are LGBT, but also of the local LGBT people AFTER the event (when the foreign guests will have left) will be guaranteed. If such assurances cannot be given, we expect the EBU to issue an official warning to LGBT people against travelling to Belgrade."
Click here to watch footage of the 2001 attacks on gay Pride.
Several Serbian media outlets have reported that "thousands" of gay and lesbian people are coming to Belgrade for the contest. Serbia, which is not in the EU, is one of the least accepting countries for gay people in Europe. The reaction of the Serbian authorities in charge of the event to the fascist threats has alarmed lesbian and gay activists in the country. "We are not organising their arrival, therefore we can not take care of their security," Aleksandar Rados, the Eurovision organiser’s PR, said of gay visitors.
Queeria, Belgrade’s centre for "promoting a culture of non-violence and equality," has requested the police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office respond to the threats of homophobic violence. "We are asking you to pressure the organisers of the Eurovision in Belgrade to pay more attention to security of the participants and the guests from other countries," said spokesperson Predrag M. Azdejkovic.
Svante Stockselius, The Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest at the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), wrote in response to EPOA: "The EBU does not separate our fans into groups based on their religion, colour, sexual preferences or others . We have a guarantee for the safety of delegations, press and fans issued by the President of Serbia, This guarantee includes all." People from the UK, US and other countries that supported Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia earlier this year at already at risk. The US embassy in Belgrade remains evacuated after rioting Serbs attacked the building and tried to set it alight.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s advice to British travellers to the country states: "The overall security situation in Serbia remains calm, but you are advised to exercise extreme caution when travelling around. You should keep a low profile and stay alert at all times and take particular care to avoid public gatherings, political rallies, protests and polling stations, and pay close attention to local media reports at the present time."
May 13, 2008 – PinkNews
Eurovision’s gay fans advised to be discreet while in Serbia
by Tony Grew
Use common sense and appropriate discretion in public. That is the advice from gay groups and the British Embassy in Belgrade to gay people planning to visit the city for the Eurovision Song Contest. A leaflet entitled A Short Guide Through LGBT Belgrade has been produced by the the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) of Belgrade and paid for by the embassy. It reveals while Serbia has an equal age of consent, 14, "the general public consider homosexuality to be acceptable only when it is not displayed in public." Two-thirds of Serbs consider homosexuality an illness and half want their government to work to prevent it.
An estimated 70% of gay people have been physically assaulted or know another gay person who has. However, GSA also stress that the people are kind, pleasant, outgoing and helpful to visitors. "Our main advice and message to all LGBT people who are coming to the Eurovision Song Contest 2008 is to use common sense and appropriate discretion in public and to enjoy what should be a fantastic celebration," the leaflet says.
It recommends two venues in Belgrade and lists embassies and emergency numbers. There has been concern for the large number of gay people who normally attend the Eurovision Song Contest. Last month representatives of GSA, Eurovision and the Serbian police officials met to discuss the possibility of homophobic violence at this years event. The meeting sought assurances that the police will adequately protect visitors from homophobic attack. Human rights activists have raised concerns that LGBT fans visiting Serbia will be targeted by fascist elements in the country. Gay men are a particular target, according to the president of the fascist organisation Obraz, who announced his violent intentions in the pages of daily newspaper ALO! last month.
The newspaper ran a story on April 7th, calling Eurovision "gay youth day." Obraz, which has links with other far-right groups, is classified as an ‘Orthodox clero-fascist’ organisation. It is notorious for its extreme homophobic views and taste for attacking gay people. Their threats have led some to question whether Serbia, which is not in the EU, is a suitable location for a contest that is both a gay favourite and a powerful symbol of European unity. Serbia won the right to host the 53rd Eurovision Song Contest after their entry at last year’s competition won. Semi-finals will be held in Belgrade on 20th and 22nd May and the final on 24th May.
The European Pride Organisers Association (EPOA) wrote to the European Broadcasting Union, which is responsible for overseeing the hosting of the song contest. "We are sure you are aware of the poor record of human rights in Serbia in general and regarding the human rights of lesbian, gay men, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people in particular," wrote the EPOA’s Human Rights Co-ordinator Kurt Krickler. In June 2001, the first gay pride march in Belgrade was brutally attacked by a huge violent crowd of nationalist extremists and hooligans. Dozens of people were left massively hurt and injured in the streets while the police failed to provide adequate protection. The Serbian LGBT movement has not recovered from these incidents."
Police representatives have assured Eurovision organisers that there will be increased security for the event and an increased police presence near all tourist attractions. "The police want to know the "hot spots" in Belgrade where especially large crowds of LGBT people will be meeting," said GSA. "Larger groups of LGBT fans booked on a package tour or for example residing in a specific hotel, therefore, should contact GSA at firstname.lastname@example.org and inform them about this.
"They would pass on the information to the police so that extra police men can be placed at such hotels to secure the safety of people. People travelling to Belgrade should make sure to procure, upon arrival, one of these flyers." People from the UK, US and other countries that supported Kosovo’s declaration of indepdence from Serbia earlier this year are already at risk. The US embassy in Belgrade remains evacuated after rioting Serbs attacked the building and tried to set it alight.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s advice to British travellers to the country states: "The overall security situation in Serbia remains calm, but you are advised to exercise extreme caution when travelling around. You should keep a low profile and stay alert at all times and take particular care to avoid public gatherings, political rallies, protests and polling stations,and pay close attention to local media reports at the present time."
May 28, 20087 – PinkNews
Comment: Nul points for Eurovision 2008
by Tony Grew
While relieved that the feared homophobic violence on the streets of Belgrade did not materialise, the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest failed to impress. And not just because our entry came last. The fact that Russia won means that for the second year running a government which is exceedingly hostile to gay rights will be hosting the campest show on earth. Many are openly questioning the UK’s future in the contest, which is more than 50 years old. Veteran Eurovision presenter and national treasure Sir Terry Wogan was unusually forthright when he said during the event: "Russia were going to be the political winners from the beginning."
It is clear that Russia was keen to win, and the fact that nearly every one of their neighbours awarded them the maximum 12 points has raised doubts. Russia wanted to win to show off their "European" credentials, another feather in the cap of a viciously nationalistic governing clique. It marks another chapter in the fraught relationships between old Europe, but which we mean the established democracies, and the newer members of the club, many of whom have trouble understanding that human rights does not just mean the rights of the majority.
Sir Terry said it was "no longer a music contest" and many agree with him. Now there is even talk of the UK losing its special status as one of the "Big Four." As a major contributor to the European Broadcasting Union, the UK automatically gets a place in the final. A Western European nation has not won the contest since 2000. In the last decade the UK has finished in the top 10 once and outside the top 20 four times. The nation that has by far the most successful music scene on the Continent cannot get a look in. Russia finally won last night, after years of trying, and while no-one doubts the song was worthy, gay rights activists are worried that the increasingly undemocratic administration in Moscow will use the event for nationalistic purposes. Gay Pride events are regularly banned in Russia, gay people are vilified by the Church and politicians alike.
Pride London was one of the first to express concern: "I don’t want to detract from Dima Bilan’s victory; it’s a great song," said Colm Howard-Lloyd, a director of Pride London. But how can you let a city that denies some of the most basic human rights to LGBT people host the content next year? I know thousands of people, and many bars and clubs, hosted Eurovision parties to celebrate the event. I’m not sure how comfortable it will be, next year, to get as excited about Eurovision when we know the host city beats up and detains people because of their sexuality. Even Sir Terry Wogan has now talked about quitting the show."
While the idea of Eurovision without Sir Terry’s caustic commentary seems unthinkable, we may well see a UK-free Eurovision sooner than we think. The contest is supposed to be about shared values, among them a belief in human rights and democracy. If that ideal is lost, then it really is nothing more than a nationalistic bunfight.
June 27, 2008 – Council of Europe
No Pride in Serbia -Gay Community asks for protection of their rights
There are no conditions in Serbia to hold Pride Day marked by LGTB community on June 27, representatives of NGO’s “Labris“ and “Gay Straight Alliance“ said. At a news conference held a day before Pride, Labris representative Dragana Vuckovic said political elites in Serbia are still unaware that sexual orientation is a basic human right, emphasising the importance of the state allowing gatherings such is Pride to take place without any violence staring next year. There have been no attempts in Serbia for seven years to hold Pride, Vuckovic said, adding that police did not stop the participants of the first Pride in 2001 from getting severely beaten on the streets of the Serbian capital.
“In a homophobic environment such is Serbia, this is a political protest that sends a clear message to the state and society that we all should have equal rights and be equally protected without any kind of discrimination or violence”, she said. Vuckovic announced that “Labris“ and several other organisations will start holding meetings and negotiations in order to hold a gay parade next year in Belgrade. Boris Milicevic of the Gay Straight Alliance emphasised that the new Government „must show that being pro-European also means stopping the violation of homosexual rights because of their sexuality“, adding that it would be important to adopt an anti-discriminatory law.
Milicevic stressed that there have been some positive examples of police protecting citizens whose rights have been violated due to their sexual orientation, but added that there are many homosexuals who are receiving threats and being harassed in various ways. “I am not talking about our sexuality, but our political and human rights which are violated because of that sexuality“, Milicevic emphasised. Milicevic said he hopes the future Serbian Interior Minister, President and the Prime Minister respectively will conduct their constitutional duty and grant everyone the freedom to gather.
“It is sad that Serbian citizens have to go to Zagreb to have their constitutional right respected and fulfilled“, he said. „I hope that already next year in Serbia we will gave a safe event for all those who respect gender and sexual differences“, Milicevic said adding that Pride is safely celebrated in Croatia. Press Officer of the Council of Europe Office in Belgrade Monika Lajhner said gay and lesbian population makes about 10 percent of the population which is a significant minority „left alone to defend itself“, adding that those who discriminate against them break the law.
She emphasised that the European Convention on Human Rights bans discrimination on any basis. „If individuals are allowed to promote intolerance, then the human rights of all citizens, not only homosexuals are questioned”, Lajhner said. „Croatian President Stjepan Mesic supported the gay parade in Zagreb several days ago and I hope Serbia will do the same next year“, she said. All countries in the region, apart from Croatia and Slovenia, are states with very strong violence and disrespect of persons with different sexual orientation, the participants added.
10 July 2008 – b92.net
Lesbians assaulted in central Belgrade
Belgrade – The Gay Straight Alliance has filed charges against a group of thugs that attacked a lesbian couple and their friend. The three suffered severe injuries in the attack. The couple and their friend, a foreign national, were attacked in the park next to the parliament building on the night of June 28. In a statement, the Gay Straight Alliance says that the attack was a clear example of the violence that members of the lesbian, homosexual, bisexual and transgender community face in Serbia on a daily basis. The organization says that the three were initially verbally abused, before being physically attacked.
The assailant hit R.B. on the right side of the face. After hitting him once more, B.O. jumped in to try and protect her friend. The attacker then punched B.O. and pushed her away, causing her to fall to the ground and lose consciousness. She suffered concussion and a cut to the head. As the attack continued, another individual approached R.B. and hit him repeatedly in the head. According to the Gay Straight Alliance, the thugs then approached T.B. who was sitting on a bench, and started shouting at her: “You Lesbos, you came here to f**k!” “Don’t you know it’s Vidovdan!”, “You’re sick!”
The organization is calling for the new government, particularly new Justice Minister Sne