Hate Attack Against Queer Festival in Sarajevo Left Three People Injured

1 February the Queer film festival Merlinka in Sarajevo was exposed to hate attacks by masked intruders. It was an attack that left three persons injured and 20 persons forced to evacuate from the scene. Civil Rights Defenders strongly condemns these insidious attacks and insists that the authorities capture and prosecute the attackers. Regardless of sexual orientation, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly must be enforced for all citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“We expect the police to identify and capture the attackers, the prosecutor’s office to charge them and the courts to reach appropriate verdicts,” said Sumeja Tulic, Programme Officer for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia at Civil Rights Defenders.

It was during one of the festivals discussions that at least 12 masked attackers stormed the Art House Cinema Kriterion shouting; “Where are you faggots?”, ”There will be no pride parade in Sarajevo, there will be no faggots in Sarajevo”. Previous to the attack the festival also received numerous hate posts on their Facebook page such as; “Let’s stop the parade of faggots on May the First 2014”, with another calling on citizens of Sarajevo to attack members of the LGBT community during the Merlinka festival. Before the festival Civil Rights Defenders partners in Sarajevo had made an agreement with the police that they should provide security for the event, but the police failed to do so.

“The police ignored this agreement and are responsible for the incident. State institutions must work together with civil society in Bosnia and Herzegovina to protect everyone’s rights, regardless of personal attributes,” said Sumeja Tulic, Programme Officer for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia at Civil Rights Defenders.

Queer Festival Merlinka is an alternative event organised by the Sarajevo Open Centre, aimed at promoting LGBT rights through cinema. During the event, more than 30 short and three featured – length movies are scheduled to screen at Art Cinema Kriterion.

According to latest research 42 % of the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina found it unacceptable to have a member of the LGBT community as a friend, colleague, boss or a neighbour. 57 % believed that homosexuality is a condition that requires medical treatment, with a further 32 % reviewing Pride Parades as provocative.

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