On the heels of an interrupted Kosovo 2.0 magazine launch on Friday night, violence escalated, culminating in attacks on Libertas, a LGBT NGO’s offices and staff members
On Sunday night in the country’s capital city, Prishtina, a group of about seven men attacked members of Kosovo’s LGBT community. The attack occurred at the office of Libertas, a LGBT organization that opened this summer. Twenty or so employees and friends of Libertas had gathered at the office for a party. According to a source who was there, two people briefly left the party to go to a grocery store nearby. As they returned, several men beat and injured one of the pair, a young woman. The second partygoer ran into the office to warn the others, at which point the group of men attempted to follow him inside. Some of the partygoers tried to prevent them from entering, but the men still managed to throw some sort of gas that spread through the office.
A press release from Libertas and another LGBT organization, Qesh, said the police were contacted and came to the scene, where they evacuated the partygoers. The young woman who had been beaten was taken to a police station to issue a statement. The police, reportedly, said they would pursue charges against the attackers, though the men have not been identified. A source who is acquainted with Libertas said he knew of no arrests that may have been made since last night.
Libertas and Qesh said in a statement today, “Libertas was a safe place for our community members where could express themselves, be themselves and feel secure. That is not the case today.”
The attack was the third of the weekend, following two incidents on Friday night during which the magazine Kosovo 2.0 was targeted. The magazine was hosting two launch events for its “sexuality” issue, which includes several articles on LGBT life in the Balkans, including one written by this journalist. In the first incident, which occurred in the evening, a group of men with clubs destroyed equipment the magazine was using for a reading and screening event. They also beat an employee. Later in the night, roughly 100 protesters gathered at the site of a party the magazine was hosting, forcing some attendees to flee and others to be escorted away by the police. These attacks came on the heels of inflammatory, anti-LGBT rhetoric, as well as condemnation of Kosovo 2.0, by members of Plisat, a football fan group, and imams in some Prishtina mosques.
Kosovo’s Ministry of European Integration prepared a statement after Friday night’s incidents saying, “[W]e encourage more work on stopping the discrimination on basis of ethnicity, religion, [and] sexual orientation,” and pledging financial support for protecting human rights in 2013. One Kosovar government official has said an investigation into the weekend’s events is “ongoing.” The U.S. Embassy in Prishtina, meanwhile, issued a statement condemning the attacks on Friday and Sunday; it stated, “[T]he rights of LGBT community members are human rights like any other, and must be protected and never forgotten or ignored. Regardless of one’s personal opinions or beliefs, no practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.” The European Centre for Minority Issues- Kosovo, as well as the editors of Kosovo 2.0, have also released statements.
Violence against LGBT people or those perceived to be part of the community are nothing new in Kosovo. About a year ago, a local club called “Pure Pure” was forced to shut down and reopen under a new name after it was targeted for hosting parties for the LGBT community. One employee, who is gay, had to leave the country as a result.
Seyward Darby worked in Kosovo l for a local human rights group on LGBT and freedom of expression projects with support from the Coca-Cola World Fund and Kirby-Simon Fellowship Program at Yale University. Her organization receives some funding from the U.S. government.
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