The Sisyphean Task of Belgrade’s Gay Pride March


Last year, writing for the Serbian news website Vreme, Predrag Azdejković compared the organizers of Belgrade’s gay pride parade to Sisyphus.

“They have been trying to organize the parade since 2001, but its stone rolls downhill every time. The organizers, like Sisyphus, cannot give up so they return to the bottom of the hill and start rolling the stone back to the top, hoping to succeed every time. Unlike Sisyphus, who was punished by gods to roll it uphill, the gay parade’s organizers chose the punishment willingly, and, believe me, organizing a gay parade in Serbia is a punishment indeed.”

The 2010 parade attacked 600 people – and 20,000 opponents, who rioted, resulting in many arrests and injuries. Numerous Facebook groups were set up with memberships in the tens of thousands which threatened to murder gays and their supporters. The leader of the nationalist organization Obraz, Mladen Obradovic, received a prison sentence for organizing the violent counter demonstrations

The 2010 parade followed the cancellation the previous year, which was seen as the State giving in to threats. It had the support of Interior Minister Ivica Dačić and Human and Minority Rights Minister Svetozar Čiplić, as well as by the majority of parliamentary parties in Serbia.

The first Belgrade Pride parade, in 2001, ended with dozens of marchers injured by marauding nationalists, skinheads and football fans.

Organizing committee member Goran Miletić said:

“I believe that police can secure the gathering [this year] so everything would go well. The state has showed that it can protect all the citizens, which is visible in matches. The parade is not a threat to security.”

Police have discovered that one right-wing group is using the codename “Belgrade in flames” for their operation against Gay Pride.

Politicians including the Belgrade Mayor have tried to get the 2011 parade called off because they know the same opponents will be out in force. But Serbia as well as Croatia — where a pride march suffered a vicious attack in Split June 11 —  are candidates for the expansion of the European Union, and politicians know that their treatment of LGBT people and facilitating a safe gay pride parade is a crucial factor in whether they will be admitted.

One exception is United Serbia (JS) leader Dragan Marković Palma, who was forced to clarify that his party had never called for violence and bloodshed but that they will never support Gay Pride because “Serbia has more important things to do.”

This was Marković’s response to Gay-Straight Alliance NGO’s announcement that they will file a lawsuit against him “for homophobia, discrimination and violation of equality.”

Marković said that:

“[H]omosexuality was considered a disease 20 years ago, not according to Dragan Marković Palma, but according to the World Health Organization, but it was taken off the disease list under pressure from powerful lobbies.”

Another exception is the Police Union — more than 100 of their members were injured last year, some seriously.

The government’s strengthening support for sexual minorities was marked on June 27, International Gay Pride Day, by a rainbow flag hung from the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights, Public Administration and Local Self-Government.

Writing in the Serbian newspaper Blic on June 27, the US Ambassador Mary Warlick said that she was extremely encouraged by the government’s attitude but LGBT people remain at very high risk of violence.

Warnick attended the 2010 Pride March in Belgrade.

She wrote:

“In last year’s poll 14 percent of interviewed people said that violence and beating were legitimate ways for elimination of homosexuality. Many members of the LGBT populations who were victims of crime are not going to the police in fear of making the matter even worse. A lot more has to be done so that members of the LGBT population feel safe at their homes and in the streets.”

“In the name of the USA Government and on the occasion of the Month of the LGBT Pride, I hope that the year of 2011 shall be the year which shall bring more equality, justice and hope to all people in Serbia.”

Amnesty International said that holding the Pride this year is “an extremely important step forward for Serbia”: “Despite the events of last year, when more than 5,000 members of right wing and nationalist groups attempted to attack the Pride, caused more than a million euros of damage and injuring 100 police officers, the government has not bowed to threats, but has taken measures to uphold the human rights of Serbian citizens.”

Belgrade Pride is this Sunday, October 2. Details of the route are being kept secret, for obvious reasons.

Pride organizers the Gay Lesbian Info Center (GLIC) said that the statements of right-wing movements like Srpski Sabor Dveri “contribute to LGBT persons’ wish to leave Serbia and look for personal happiness in the countries of the developed West, which is directly contrary to Srpski Sabor Dveri movement’s goals to increase the population and fight against low birth rate.”

Serbia continues to be a source of a ‘flood’ of asylum seekers to the European Union, an unknown number of which would be LGBT. The numbers have led to threats that visa-travel between Serbia and the EU could be reinstated.


Related Stories:

Violence at Serbian Gay Pride Prompts Investigation

Rights Group Urges Serbia to Stay Committed to Pride Event

Serbian Teacher Who Saved 500 Dogs is FALSE

Photo credit: Jonathan Davis


marc horton
marc horton5 years ago

geesh dawid ass####,your comment is quite obcene and hateful, like you are soo much different than anyone else!you stink homophobe,do not comment on things you obviously do not comprehend!!

Annmari Lundin
Annmari L6 years ago

Sorry, forgot kenny s. Let the stars rain! To all the homophobes on Care2 and elsewhere: I wonder what upsets you so much that you see the need to write these hateful postings? Is it the knowledge that you once had a same gender love experience or the mere notion that it may be possible? I have a strong feeling that is your reasons, but I don't accept hate towards people you are afraid of. Come back when you have a logical reason to oppose human rights for LGBT!

Annmari Lundin
Annmari L6 years ago

alex l.,Mary L.,Sam T.: wish I could give you thousands of Green Stars! You all rule!

Glen P.
Glen P6 years ago

As one might expect these are nations that are still STEEPED in religion.

Where do you think their homophobic attitudes took root.

Chris M.
Chris M6 years ago

Eastern European countries have a very long way to go to reach humane and civilized status.

alex l.
alex l6 years ago

david b
yet i think you would be front and center at a parade that had ladies wearing almost nothing and wiggling to music, while not thinking it "obscene" at all.

i am not sure what this terror of gays is. seriously, why the fear? if your sexuality is so unstable that seeing a man in eyeshadow might throw you into a frenzy of lust for people of your own sex, you weren't very straight to start with, were you?

Jenn C
if you are an example of heterosexuality, then i fear there is little to be proud of there either. i did not chose to be straight - did you? because if you did, it means you are both gay and straight, because choice implies at least two things to choose between. if you didn't, what makes you think they did? crowds used to burn left handed people. it's just the same - lefties used to be considered evil because they weren't like the rest of the population, while doing nothing to hurt anyone. not a flattering connotation, is it?

Dawid Blyth
David B6 years ago

I hope they stick to their principles and that the obscene homosexual show is prevented.
Even better, the homosexuals come to their senses!

LAV M6 years ago

In many of the countries that evolved from the former Yugoslavia, homosexuality is actually illegal still (sodomy laws). At least in Serbia and Croatia there are nascent gay pride movements: yes, they face huge prejudice and harassment, but in some other countries in the region there is still no hope of organising such a parade, regardless of to social opposition to it.

May they all persevere and eventually conquer social prejudice (but it won't be easy in that society).

Winn Adams
Winn A6 years ago

It's unfair and wrong to not allow this parade.

Sam T.
Samantha Trosky6 years ago

Jenn, you better be careful! Karma can be a bitch! (I personally like Karma, as we are friends! LOL) The only person I know that gay bashed like you found out her only child was not only gay, but became Pagan and I consider her child to be a very kind, loving, responsible and intelligent person. I feel the awful "mother" got just what she needed! I still feel sorry for her child!