Last night in Pristina, Kosovo, an organized group of thugs, two times in one evening, violently disrupted the launch of a magazine edition dedicated to examining heterosexual and same sex sexuality in the Western Balkans
UPDATE: Kosovo 2.0 has issued a letter to the public about Friday evening’s events that confirm that the organized violence was predicated on the mob’s intolerance for the LGBT community. We urge the appropriate human rights organizations and freedom of media organizations to investigate this gross breach of justice as soon as possible.
In great anticipation, the KOSOVO 2.0‘s magazine staff in Pristina, Kosovo had planned the launch of a ground breaking edition that set out to examine heterosexual and homosexual sexuality and the lives of how people experience the most intimate aspect of their lives in the Western Balkans.
But throughout the day on Thursday and Friday, the magazine received a number of threats from a group of extremist Muslim men, referred to as “Lumpy”, according to a Kosovo News report. The magazine notified the police, who sent over two police to the Youth Center, known as “Red Hall” where the magazine planned its launch with readings by contributing writers.
Around 6 p.m. CET, according to Besa Luci, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, a group of approximately 20 men, brandishing clubs, entered the Center in Pristina and destroyed the set, breaking television monitors, projectors and DVD players. The mob also beat up a male magazine staff member. His condition is unknown at press time.
“I saw him being beaten,” said Luci. “But we were running for safety, while the thugs were screaming and breaking up the televisions and projectors.”
This launch, planned since mid-summer was the culmination of considerable work led by Luci and her staff, along with a slew of guest editors, copy editors and freelance writers who joined in the effort. Indeed, this reporter was the guest editor for the LGBT portion of the magazine.
Although there were about three to four police officers on the scene, they were outmanned, as the mob was able to destroy most of the set. A video capturing the mob in action was shown on Kosovo television news last night. View the video below which shows the mob entering the Youth Center and destroying property as an unidentified brave woman who confronts them by continually screaming “stop”. They fortunately did not physically attack her.
According to Luci, the police were very supportive through most of the day. Luci said the police used a crowd control agent to disperse the men. She did not know if there were any arrests.
Despite the violence, Luci and her team continued with the planned readings, amid the destroyed set, attended by about 200 people, who bravely stood witness. Among the luminaries attending were Sami Kurteshi, the director of the Kosovo Ombudsman Office, as well as an unnamed U.S. Embassy official.
“This is about freedom of expression. We are not going to stop and we are going to keep pushing on discussing sexuality and LGBT issues, ” Luci said. “We are more committed than ever before.”
The readings featured an exchange of letters between internationally renowned lesbian feminist peace activists Igballe Rogova, founder and director of the Kosovo Women’s Network, based in Prishtina and Lepa Mladjenovic, a founder of Belgrade’s Women in Black and the Autonomous Women’s Center, based in Belgrade. Rogova read her personal letter, “Love beyond borders: A letter to Lepa, my feminist mentor” and Mladjenovic read her letter to Igballe, “Notes about lesbian bodies in our different hetero nation states.” Both essays were published in the LGBT section of the magazine, which will be cross-posted here later in an agreement between Kosovo 2.0 and The New Civil Rights Movement.
Following the readings, the magazine planned a dance party that was scheduled to begin at 11 p.m. But it never took place. A Kosovo 2.0 staff member informed this reporter late last night that “our extremist friends had promised to return at 10:45 p.m. to prevent the party from happening. Special police forces came to the venue to protect us. At 10: 30, over 100 angry men came to protest, and there was only [the special forces], and a small group of us [were present] at the venue. We ultimately ended up cancelling the party and the police evacuated us in groups of four and six [persons]. Now we’re all safe and home, and completely exhausted”.
The region has been wracked by anti-gay violence during the past 12 years, which began in Belgrade in 2000 when the first attempts to hold a gay pride parade there was disrupted in violence. The 2010 Belgrade gay pride parade has been the only pride march held without violence in Serbia in the past decade. Violence has erupted against the LGBT community from Split, Croatia to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina in the past few years. Just recently in Skopje, Macedonia, a leader of the advocacy organization LGBT United Macedonia was badly beaten, requiring hospital treatment.
Images courtesy of Kosovo 2.0
Tanya L. Domi is the Deputy Editor of the New Civil Rights Movement blog. She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and teaches human rights in East Central Europe and former Yugoslavia. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi was a nationally recognized LGBT civil rights activist who worked for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force during the campaign to lift the military ban in the early 1990s. Domi has also worked internationally in a dozen countries on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights and gender issues. She is chair of the board of directors for GetEQUAL. Domi is currently writing a book about the emerging LGBT human rights movement in the Western Balkans.
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