InterPride observer followed on Sunday evening
BELGRADE, September 21, 2009 – The chairperson of InterPride’s committee on International LGBTI Human and Civil Rights spoke today of how he was followed on the streets of central Belgrade yesterday evening and how it brought home to him just how Serbian society had to live “in a constant state of fear of thugs”.
Openly gay William Urich, who was attending Belgrade Pride as an official “observer” for InterPride, told UK Gay News that, after returning to his hotel from the reception given by the Swedish Ambassador, he decided to go out and explore the downtown area around 6pm.
“I was less than a block from a main street, walking around and soaking up the atmosphere, he recalled.
“As I was walking along, I noticed in the reflections in shop windows that I was probably being followed.
“I crossed the street twice, and the group of three young men clearly continued to follow me. They just looked like normal kids.
“When they were still following me after crossing the street twice, I became concerned,” Mr. Urich admitted, insisting that he was possibly targeted as a foreigner and not as a gay man.
“We were warned by Pride organisers that this sort of thing might happen to us – a small group would follow and then when they had a target they would call more thugs on their mobile phones,” he said.
“There was a group of police officers in riot gear standing on a corner, so I walked over and stood by them. One of them looked at me and I just signalled to the three young guys who were following.
“The police looked over and the three men disappeared down a side street.
“They were hunting in packs – like wild dogs – it was a weird feeling I’ve never experienced before. I travel across the world and nothing like this has happened before.
“People who live here must have to go through this on a regular basis – living in a constant state of fear of thugs. It’s really scary.”
Mr. Urich could well have been lucky. On Saturday evening an Australian tourist was beaten by thugs in the city-centre park.
And it was gay Greeks from Athens who witnessed the attack and raised the alarm.
“Local people did nothing to help the victim because they were afraid,” one of the Greeks said yesterday.
Not knowing exactly how to contact the police and ambulance and fearful of language difficulties, the Greeks called the “emergency Gay Pride line”, who in turn called the police.
Last week, three French football fans from Toulouse were attacked while having a drink in an Irish pub in the centre of Belgrade. One of the fans remains in critical condition in hospital.
Then on Thursday evening, a British citizen was attacked by thugs, again in the city centre.
On Saturday at a meeting of gay men and women who had planned to be at Belgrade Pride, the dangers that were common on the streets of Belgrade were explained to visitors from other countries.
They were told not to anything that made them look “gay”, and to be alert at all times. “Foreigners are especially targeted,” an official said.
And to bring the point home, a Serbian gay woman, saying that she totally supported the cancelling of the Pride parade because of security concerns, uttered what certainly summed up the ,lack of security from thugs on the Belgrade street.
“I am not ready to die,” she said.
Belgrade Gay Pride Off, But Sweden Hosts ‘Mini-Pride’ at Ambassador’s Residence. There was not a gay person, let alone a banner, in sight in the square in front of the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade city centre at lunchtime on Sunday. The Gay Pride Parade had been banned by officialdom, or cancelled by the organisers, depending on which ‘spin’ one subscribes to. (UK Gay News, September 21, 2009)
Belgrade Gay Pride Cancelled 24 Hours Before Event Because of “Security Concerns”. Nikolai Baev, a co-organiser of Moscow Pride, arrived in Belgrade at lunchtime looking forward to taking part in his very first Pride march. But when he got to his hotel his excitement turned to sorrow when he learned that tomorrow’s Belgrade Pride march had been suddenly cancelled by the organisers when the Serbian Government announced this morning that the parade in the city centre could not go ahead but offered an alternative location in the suburbs. (UK Gay News, September 19, 2009)
European Union Presidency Expresses Support for Belgrade Gay Pride. Sweden, which currently holds the presidency of the European Union, has today expressed its support for Belgrade’s Gay Pride, due to be held on Sunday (September 20). (UK Gay News, September 17, 2009)
Serbian Football Authorities Have Change of Heart on Anti-Gay Graffiti in Belgrade. The football ‘fans’ whose signatures appeared on gay-hate graffiti in the city over the past two weeks have now been condemned by the two clubs concerned, Red Star Belgrade and Partizan. (UK Gay News, August 12, 2009). Football fans’ graffiti calls for murder of gays. The failure of the Football Association of Serbia and two clubs in Belgrade to distance themselves from homophobic messages and calls to murder gay persons which appear in graffiti across the city, bearing the ‘signature’ of fans from the Partizan and Red Star Belgrade has so outraged gays that they have written to the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the world governing body for football, demanding action. (UK Gay News, August 10, 2009)
European Union Presidency Expresses Support for Belgrade Gay Pride. Sweden, which currently holds the presidency of the European Union, has today expressed its support for Belgrade’s Gay Pride, due to be held on Sunday (September 20). (UK Gay News, September 13, 2009)
Anti-discrimination Legislation Is Essential for the Democratic Future of Serbia – Bishop. Calls have been made today for the Serbian government to put back on its agenda the proposed anti-discrimination legislation. The draft legislation is said to have been withdrawn before the vote in the Serbian Parliament following pressure from the Serbian Orthodox Church. (UK Gay News, March 9, 2009)
Transsexual Murdered in Belgrade. A transsexual person was found dead in her flat in Belgrade at the weekend, the Serbian LGBT group Queeria told UK Gay News last night. (UK Gay News, January 20, 2009)
Two Anti Gay Hate Groups in Serbia Zapped by Facebook. Two Serbian “gay hate groups” have been removed by Facebook. Two days ago, UK Gay News revealed that the two Facebook groups, “Queeria, Pederi Marš iz Srbije” and “СТОП ПЕДЕРИМА - КВИРИЈИ!” were posting death threats on Serbian gay men and women – and calling for other criminal activity. (UK Gay News, December 27, 2008)
Please Protect Us, Serbian Gays Plead: Death Threats, Attacks Faced as Facebook Fails to Remove Two Hate Groups. Please protect us. That is the plea from gays and lesbian in Serbia to their government, the police and the wider world this holiday season. (UK Gay News, December 26, 2008)