Herzegovina's first gay pride festival, which took place
Wednesday in the capital city of Sarajevo, was marred
when eight participants and journalists were attacked.
Police told reporters that dozens of homophobic
vandals came to the festival's opening ceremony in
front of the city's Academy of Fine Arts, according to the
BBC News. Demonstrators chanted "Kill the Gays" and
"Allahu Akbar" ("God Is Great").
"When I was
getting out of the academy, I was suddenly struck in the
back," festival participant Pedja Kojovic told Agence
France-Presse. "Three other people then came running
and beat me up." A journalist trying to help Kojovic
was also severely beaten.
About 50 people
participated in the opening ceremony.
organizers say they had been receiving death threats leading
up to the event. Sarajevo is a predominantly Muslim
city, and religious leaders said the timing of the
festival and the holy month of Ramadan was
provocative, the BBC reports. Officials with several of the
country's political parties have declared
homosexuality deviant and an illness.
Amnesty International, local publications like
Dnevni AvazSAFF have used derogatory language to bash the
festival, which ends September 28. Some websites have
called for festival organizers to be lynched, stoned,
doused with gasoline, or kicked out of the country.
An activist with
the gay rights organization Udruzenje Q told Amnesty
International before the festival that his group did
not feel safe.
"Some of us had
to find new accommodations because our names and
addresses were made publicly known," he said. "We are afraid
to use public transport or go out alone. Our dogs are
our best protection at the moment. We feel isolated."
protesters, though violence still spread to nearby
streets. (Michelle Garcia, The Advocate)