In September the first Queer festival in Sarajevo was supposed to take place, but it was not possible to realize the planed festival, because the opening was disturbed/interrupted by violent excesses against participants of the festival. Afterwards media published names of the Sarajevan activists and at the end it was not even possible to realize some actions in a private circle, because activists, artists and participants were attacked by opposers. The following short interview should give you an overview about the situation for the activists after the festival and on the impacts of it.
How you would describe the attitude towards queers or homosexuals in the Bosnian society before, the antipathy of hooligans and conservative religious circles was shown that open?
It was never easy – homophobia existed before the Festival as well, just few weeks before the opening two of our friends were attacked in one night club because they were ‘visible’ , meaning kissing each other. But, the Festival was the first huge public event that we have organized, and it was expected that it won’t go so easy. But, we did not expect it to be so violent. Religious circles sure have had huge impact, since they often serve as ‘coverage’ for many nationalistic, populist, and violent acts in these countries.
Do you feel a change in the attitude? How is it expressed?
Positive and negative – although the Festival attracted negative vibes, it also showed us how much people there is in Sarajevo who do recognize the genuine meaning of freedom, human rights and equality. Many of them stood up, not only in supporting queer community in BiH, but they also recognized that we had to defend secular principles in this state. That, I think, is the biggest value of the first QSF.
What influence, do you think, this happenings have at the attitude of the politicians?
The politicians simply demonstrated complete ignorance and the best of their own stupidity through their homophobic, xenophobic, nationalistic statements. But, all of these are kept in our archive, transcribed and translated to English, so that the whole Europe and international organizations might hear what their colleagues actually think and do in Bosnia.
What consequences all this had for your work concerning international attention but also acknowledgment? Shortly after the attack and demonstration a lot of international organizations and also newspapers watched Sarajevo and how things develop. Did this situation last longer than for the first amazement?
The attention was there, Council of Europe stated condemnation of the violence, and urged BH to stop discrimination against LGBTIQ persons. But, we expect much more of their support for the next Festival, primarily pressures on the local politicians in order for them to do everything to prevent violence.
Shortly after the opening of the festival, some of your group were threatened. How the situation is now, what changed in your practical work, are you confronted with more openly threats by the groups, named before now?
Yes and no – since the Festival, we did not organize anything public, so we will see what will happen when we do
How the attitude in the group of activists change because of this big backlash?
We got support and even one new anarchy activist group was formed, partially inspired by the QSF – that’s a huge compliment for us. As for the community, we managed to re-establish the forum as our main channel for communication and now we’re in the process of gathering people, developing strategies for the future.
What would be needed to realize a new volume of the festival, maybe next year?
We’re not giving up – the next Festival will be organized at the same time, same place. We’ll work more on our pr strategy this time, and definitely learn a lot from the first one. At this moment, we’re thinking about the new organizational structure and program. See you there!