NGOs in protest at gay festival violence

BELGRADE -- Human rights NGOs are up in arms over the attacks on participants at the Queer Festival in Belgrade.

A group of 20 or so youths, wearing surgical masks and hooded tops attacked festival participants on September 19, seriously injuring one U.S. national, who suffered a broken arm and concussion, while several participants from Serbia also received minor injuries.

The police, it is added, reacted quickly, one attacker was arrested, and a number of others taken in for questioning.

The NGOs point out that threats to attack the festival participants had been posted on the websites of a number of nationalistic organizations a few days prior to the festival, but, they state, no official reaction was forthcoming.

“The ever more frequent homophobic attacks, disruptions to public rallies and cultural manifestations that take place in the name of national dignity, are actually a resumption of the repressive regime of the Nineties, whose reaffirmation was made possible by the policies of Vojislav Koštunica,“ say the NGOs.

Intolerance that was earlier directed to external has now been redirected towards internal “enemies”, among whom people of a different sexual orientation undoubtedly figure, reads a statement from the NGOs.

“We want the new government and its institutions to show through their actions that they support democracy, a legal state and human rights,” the statement continues. The NGOs have called on the police to take all the necessary measures to bring the perpetrators to justice, and to demonstrate that the human rights of sexual minorities are respected by society’s institutions.

The statement is signed by the Queeria Center, Women in Black, the Center for Cultural Decontamination, the Humanitarian Law Center, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights and the YUCOM Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights.

The main theme of this year’s Queer Festival running from September 18-21 at the Rex cinema is “Direct Action + Anti-Fascism”.