last year, i happened to be in belgrade when the gay pride march was to be held; it was the first attempt to hold a pride march in that city since 2001, when it had ended in bloodshed as homophobic thugs attacked the marchers. there was a lot of nervous apprehension during the build-up to the 2009 march, as hateful graffiti appeared around the city and rumours spread of busloads of thugs arriving from other places. in the end, at the 11th hour the city cancelled the event because the police said that they could not guarantee the safety of the marchers.
this year, the march was planned again; again there was nervousness, again tensions rising, again threats of violence. but this year, the police responded proactively and the march was able to go ahead - however not without significant violence around the city, as the thugs vented their hate and anger on the police instead of the marchers. below is an account of the day written by my friend zoe, and there are images here.
In what quantity are human rights consumed?
The PRIDE PARADE took place. This is roughly the fourth time that there was an attempt to organize it, gather the people, stroll down the streets, so that we can show that lesbians, gays, trans and queer people exist in Serbia. However you classify yourself, whichever group you belong to, you either think you have freedom or you know that you don’t have it.
After the 2001 Pride Parade and its bloody epilogue when we counted the wounded members of the LGBT community, but also of the police; after 2004 when the Parade was canceled because of the threats; after 2009 when the state canceled the Parade – after all of this it wasn’t certain either that 2010 will be OUR year of Pride.
In the meantime, clero-fascist used every opportunity when the queer community would come together for some event to either attack and hurt people (like they did during the Queer Belgrade Festival in 2008), or they would threaten that bombs will be placed at the venue the event would take place.
After all the fights, blood spilled, all the violence, yesterday finally we walked the streets of Belgrade.
Yesterday Belgrade was an open front line in a war zone. At certain times I had flash backs. I would think “that’s it, it’s over. They’ll break through the police cordons and the crazed and hungry masses will come to get what they’re after. Am I prey, some blood that needs to be spilled, am I a target which bothers everyone? Who and what am I?
During the bloodshed that happened in 2001 I somehow remained calm and together with my friend Sale took people to the Emergency Room – I took three women who had serious bodily injuries. After the 2008 attack on participants of the Queer Belgrade Festival I again found myself in the ambulance with those injured. Again, as in 2001, in the ER I told the doctors that they were attacked by fascists while the doctors smiled cynically and said “There are no fascists in Serbia!” It’s a three ring circus with the police, the doctors, the police investigation, the judiciary when you try to prove that fascists attacked you. These circuses are not that fun to visit unless you’re seriously into SM.
I was not sure whether to come to this Pride Parade or not. I had many dilemmas to deal with - none of which were regarding whether it’s the right time or not, since the right time would have been back in 2002 as well, but more of a political character. Namely, there were no lesbians or people from the trans community. I am not one of those lesbians who find Jelena Karleusa(turbo folk singer) inspiring, nor do I find turbo esthetics interesting.
I made various compromises with myself and then decided – I AM GOING TO THE PARADE!
I love the city of Belgrade. That Sunday it was sunny and so beautiful. I thought that this could just as well be a staged picture courtesy of the Hydrometeorological Institute or that the Sun was cheering us on. Police forces armed from head to foot were everywhere around the place the Parade was to take place.
My friends and I went to Manjez Park and were greeted by smiling faces. Everyone would hug each other in greeting and people were smiling. There were many of us who are involved in human rights work, striving for justice and a better life in one way or another, but my greatest joy was when I saw many friendly straight friends, older people, some brave people even brought their kids. Everything was magical. Several people, both from Serbia and abroad, held speeches and then the march began.
At the moment I heard the march was starting a creepy feeling overwhelmed me and then I thought: everything will be ok! Of it was – surrounded by 5400 policemen we were far away from the world and reality. I had a feeling of holocaust, but without any fatalities. All the while I was receiving information from friends who stayed home. They told me that the city was being wrecked, that headquarters of some political parties were set afire, that the bus containing a mammograph was attacked with a barrage of rocks while the doctor and patients were inside.
They are tearing this city apart again, setting fire to it. They are again justifying the rampage the fascists were on by saying that lesbians and gays are offensive to them. So then they attack state property for which we lesbians also pay. HOW MUCH LONGER!
After the party, which felt more like a wake (how can I be enjoying myself when I’m getting all this information about what’s happening outside) caged up like a wild beast, there was a feeling of panic about how the evacuation will proceed. They put us inside the police van – where solidarity was at top level since we stood on top of each other, but we also had a lot of fun and felt that beauty of each one of our existence as part of a system. Roma men and women, straight people, lesbians and fags – all on two millimeters of each other in the van.
When we got home we started watching the news – I couldn’t figure out which information was worse from what I was seeing. We heard how expensive was the damage made, how much was stolen, what was destroyed…
The politician’s statements were ok and I thought along the lines of: Are we finally starting to wake up or are we trying, something must be done???
Of course, our mayor has his well known attitude regarding the Parade, but to me it was more important that he thinks the LGBTQ community will face even worse days and more homophobia on all sides. So, this is the message that I’m supposed to get. Ah well, no thank you – Djilas you can go back home and someone else should come in your place, with more courage, awareness and smart enough to change things.
On all sides I could also hear on the news that those who assembled against the Parade were CHILDREN! Children! Children! Which children? Whose children? Of Obraz and Srpske Dveri, Nashi and then like. Total confusion, how can children be fascists!
THE PRIDE PARADE WAS HELD.
We owe a great deal of gratitude to the police forces which had a lot of work! If they had not done their job, if they had not been there on this day that is important for all of us, not just gays and lesbians, I am certain that I would not be writing this now. I would not even be beaten and broken, but ripped limb from limb and eaten. Vandalism in this instance was stopped so that it wouldn’t escalate to cannibalism.
Ah Serbia, how much more do we have to go – and we keep running late, but we still move.
today i took the compost out & realised that it's the first time i've gone out of the apartment since last saturday. today is thursday. i came down with a cold on monday & have been lying low ever since. 5 days is not really that long (some people don't come out of their apartments for years) but the season is changing pretty fast right now - the sun has rolled much further to the south & the leaves are increasingly colouring the ground instead of the trees. soon all the buildings will be revealed in their nakedness once again.
autumn view from the balcony
anyway i took the compost down to the rubbish collecting place, remembering to take the key. it's unnerving when the metal grille door closes behind you, locking you in with all the rubbish. you have to unlock it again to get out. there are two large blue wheelibins for recycling paper, which are nearly always overflowing, but must have been emptied recently. whoever empties it doesn't pick up what spills out - i don't know who does that but it does get done eventually. there are about 8 large black wheelibins for household rubbish, also usually brim-full (this rubbish collecting place serves two apartment buildings with a total of 90 apartments). then, at the end, there is one little brown wheelibin for compost - at least, there used to be! today it's disappeared!!! i hope it's only a temporary absence - andy & i have just got our system sorted out, using compostable paper bags, because usually you take the rubbish out when you're going somewhere, so taking it out in a container isn't so convenient. anyway, i had to put the compost in with the household rubbish; it felt very wrong.
the apartments in this area are all nicely spaced out from each other, with large areas of grass & playgrounds for the kids. i don't know why they don't offer some of the grassy areas as allotments for the residents - then we could have a proper compost. it's a perfect location for a community garden - there could be a big garden & still heaps of room for the kids to play football & ride their bikes. but who am i to suggest something like this - a foreigner who's not even here half the time; a foreigner who gets fascinated by cultural differences in rubbish collection; a foreigner whose grasp of the local language has barely improved after 6 months of being here.
i have been "here", as in europe, for just over 6 months now, so i feel like i should do some kind of report. but i'm too busy with the UpStage festival, & still getting on top of this cold, plus trying to organise travel for my uk trip that starts next week ... let me just say that "here" has included munich, brussels, bozen, madrid, london, hamburg, odense, copenhagen, uddevalla, graz - plus day-trips to salzburg & innsbruck; next on the itinerary is exeter, edinburgh, belgrade, turin and frankfurt - and that's just this year. most of these trips have been work, but there have been a few holidays in there as well. you can read back in the archive of this blog if you want more detail than this - i've got a festival to organise!