LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey

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Pride is not (just) a party!

08 Sep

We, the members of ERA – LGBTI Equal Rights Association for the Western Balkans and Turkey, a network of 80 LGBTIQ+ organizations, as well as our partners, friends and allies from all over Europe and the world, condemn in the strongest terms the recent statements given by the leadership of Serbia regarding the EuroPride, which is planned to take place on 12-18 September in Belgrade. 
We have followed with great concern the statements made by state leaders as well as the accompanying anti-LGBTIQ+ demonstrations, ironically organized by groups who want to enjoy their freedoms of expression and assembly while completely denying it to others. The statements of President Aleksandar Vučić, quickly evolved from “it is still not confirmed if the Pride will take place” last week, to “the pride is canceled” over the weekend, to a point that “the pride is banned.” earlier this week. None of these media statements are supported by an official decision letter or any information submitted via the official channels of Serbian institutions.
We understand that the Government of Serbia cannot cancel the Pride, but that they can ban it, as it was done in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Such a ban, however, would be considered unconstitutional as it would violate, among other things, the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. A ban would also contravene the international treaties and commitments signed by Serbia. The European Court of Human Rights considers the right to hold a Pride “a basic human right” and any attempts to ban such events constitutes a violation of Articles 11, 13 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which Serbia has also ratified as a member of the Council of Europe. 
It is important to remember that the Government of Serbia made a commitment to successfully host EuroPride when they presented their bid to the European Pride Organizers Association (EPOA) in 2019. The organizing of the EuroPride is not a small event, but an international one, which gathers tens of thousands of delegates from all over Europe and the world, and takes the work, energy and efforts of hundreds of people in the host country and those coming from abroad. Canceling or postponing an event of such proportions, while citing domestic political or economic reasons is absolutely unacceptable and a violation of the basic human rights of LGBTIQ+ persons in Serbia and the country’s relations with the rest of Europe.
We are greatly concerned about the accompanying developments taking place in Serbia, the high level of hate speech, increased calls for violence and the anti-LGBTIQ+ demonstrations occupying the streets of Belgrade. We are worried of the impact that all these have on the everyday lives of the LGBTIQ+ people in the country and particularly to those who live in smaller places or come from a background of intersected identities. 
The violent narratives present these days in the public discourse in Serbia (as a domino effect in the Western Balkans region as well) are taking the country backwards. Many of those who survived the LGBTIQ+phobic violence during Belgrade Pride in 2001 are still being triggered by the calls for violence. The context may be different now. A lot has been achieved since then, many peaceful Pride walks, events and developments took place in Serbia. But, the intentions of the actions we witness today are the same as in 2001, and that is to silence those fighting for human rights and liberties, and to erase them from public space and to give those spaces only to bullies, to those who preserve and strengthen the heteropatriarchal hegemonic matrix in the Serbian society (and wider). The shameful and pitiful anti-pride protests seen in Belgrade these past days are a reminder of the narrowmindedness, selfishness and short sightedness of people who have never bothered to look beyond their own privileges, who feel entitled to not only enjoy the rights and freedoms of being in loving, nurturing and accepting family environments, but feel the right to define those basic human rights and needs as exclusive to their own communities, vocally and staunchly excluding LGBTIQ+ people.
This is why, for us, Pride is not (just) a party! It is a response to a long history of criminalisation, persecution and brutalization of LGBTIQ+ bodies in our region and all over the world. It is a fight for a better tomorrow for us and those coming after us. And finally, it is a celebration of our lives, our beautiful diversity, our achievements and our dreams. 
We will not succumb to these oppressions and we will continue fighting for our hard obtained rights in our own homes and on the streets. We are not going back into our four walls and our closets. We will not stop sharing our stories and demand to be equal in everything, excluding nothing and no one. 
Our rights are not reversible. Any attempt to do so will only embolden us even more. Centuries of oppression, criminalisation and murder, almost always under the blessings and instigation of the clergy, serve us as a reminder that to fight for our rights and protect them is the only way we can survive.
We stand in firm solidarity with the LGBTIQ+ community and our allies in Serbia, as well as all the other Serbian citizens who are under the same systems of oppression that we are.
We stand together, we march together, we love together.  
We will not be stopped, not now, not ever!  Until full equality is achieved! 
Finally, we invite everyone to also sign this petition, organized by the EurPride committee and to share it widely.
In solidarity!

Topic - Freedom of Assembly
Country - All Countries
Tags - Belgrade Pride / EuroPride / Freedom of Assembly / Freedom of Expression / Pride / Serbia / Western Balkans /