Serbia’s Rocky History With Pride
Serbian gay rights activists hit the street this year after the government banned the pride parade.
Serbia’s government has banned a gay pride parade for the third consecutive year, saying they do not have the resources necessary to protect those in the parade from right-wing activists, according to The Associated Press.
Since 2001, when Serbia had its first Pride Parade, they have had to deal with threats from conservative members of the community who want to fight to protect Serbian “family values.” These groups, such as 1381 and Obraz, have resorted to violence to protect these values. First in 2001 when approximately 2,000 “football hooligans, ultra-nationalists and religious extremists attacked the parade,” both physically and verbally, according to Time Magazine.
Much of this Serbian homophobia stems from a large contingent of Christian Orthodoxy in the country. Serbia’s main website says the religion “has played an important role in the development and preservation of the Serbian national identity.” Which means when the Serbian Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, Irinej, says the Pride Parades would be “tragicomic parade of shame” and would “casts a heavy moral shadow on Belgrade, on Serbia’s longstanding Christian culture and the dignity of the family, as the basic unit of humanity,” the Serbian people will tend to listen.
After the events in 2001 the country did not attempt to hold a Pride Parade until 2009. This time around they were more prepared in the days leading up to the event, saying they planned to have a “few thousand” officers present to protect the parade. However the event was cancelled at last minute. Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic said, “We’re not talking about a handful of hooligans — there were several thousand people ready to attack the participants and the police with everything from Molotov cocktails to knives, iron bars and steel-ball slingshots.”
Then in 2010, Serbia decided to ignore the threats of violence and allow the pride parade to march in streets of Belgrade, according to The Guardian. Thousands of police officers were out in full riot gear to protect the rights of the minority LGBT activists. People were hopeful. But 57 injuries resulting in hospitalization later, hope had diminished (47 of these injuries were against police who were successful in protecting the parade from rioters). Rioters clashed with police, burned cars, threw Molotov cocktails at government buildings, and chanted “death to homosexuals.”
Serbian police at 2010 Pride riots
After the 2010 riots, Jelena Trivan, spokeswoman for the Serbian Democratic party argued, “these riots obviously have nothing to do with the gay parade or any moral values. These are hooligan gangs which must be punished severely.”
Ever since the 2010 riots the Serbian government has banned the Pride Parade. In 2011 Ivica Dacic said, “The ban was issued in line with the law on public gatherings which prescribes such a measure in cases of probable disruption of public transport, threats to public health or safety of people and property,” according to Reuters.
After the 2011 ban the organizer of the parade, Goran Miletic noted “…a democratic state should be able to guarantee two hours of security to its citizens.”
This is similar to what journalist Rob Miller argued in The Guardian after the 2010 attacks. “The 2010 parade, though imperfect, provides an illustration of the progress Serbia has made. The police were out in force and prominent political figures, high-ranking police officers and foreign embassies had announced their support for the parade. One thousand people attended the parade. Police tactics were successful, sealing the parade from its attackers and ensuring, while the show of pride hardly had the audience of ordinary Serbians, its participants were protected.”
2010 Serbian Pride Parade
Serbia making progress towards equality and safety in 2010 makes the recent regressions that much more confusing, especially to the European Union (EU). Serbia has currently seeking membership to the EU, but the EU has criticized Serbia’s decision to ban these parades saying Serbia “missed [an] opportunity to show respect for fundamental human rights.”
This year, after the government placed a ban on the parade, a small group of activists decided to march without permission. According to Reuters, “200 gay activists waving rainbow flags and banners that read “This is Pride” gathered outside Dacic’s government office before walking to parliament flanked by riot police.”
Before this march, Miletic said, “Everyone’s a loser here, except the hooligans who for the third consecutive year proved they can tell that state what it can and cannot do.”
“Tonight we exercised our right to gather peacefully, and I don’t believe we bothered anyone in Serbia,” said Miletic after the unofficial parade.
I am originally from a small town in North Carolina and have recently moved to Richmond. Meaning I am a novice to the ways of Richmond life, but from what I have seen it is a culturally rich environment that I look forward to diving into. My daily hustle consists of playing bass, reading, and hunting for new music. This summer I will be interning with RVA Magazine and GayRVA.com. In the fall I will be transferring to Virginia Commonwealth University where I will major in journalism.
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