Albania and Kosovo LGBT Celebrations Hit New Highs

The International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, 17 May, was celebrated in both Kosovo and in Albania. In Tirana supporters took to their bikes in a “Ride against Homophobia” and, for the first time ever, a march was held in support of LGBT rights in Kosovo.

In Kosovo the IDAHOT was a week long celebration and marked by a series of landmark activities many a first for this tiny Balkan nation. On 15 May, the EU twinning project “Fight against homophobia and transphobia” was officially launched and marked the main event on IDAHOT day. For the first time ever in what was seen as a momentous act of symbolism, the government of Kosovo raised the rainbow flag inside Government buildings while on the 17 May, embassies and international organisations followed their lead.

The celebrations culminated with the first ever march held in support for LGBT rights in Kosovo ending in the rainbow flag being illuminated on Government buildings a major step in this predominantly conservative country.

“The message from these courageous and brave LGBT people who organised this small but very important first pride walk in Kosovo was clear: We are equal and we are fighting for our rights!” says Sarah Maliqi, Programme Officer at Civil Rights Defenders for Kosovo.

In neighboring Albania LGBT activists and their supporters took to their bikes for the third consecutive year in what has become known as the ”Ride against Homophobia”.

The principle aim of the event was to challenge prejudice in a traditionally conservative society. In the weeks leading up to it groups opposed to the gathering had vented hated speech on social media calling for violence towards the participants.

While the ride was accompanied by scores of state police ”Ride against Homophobia” took place without any major incidents. It was the first time that an LGBT event of this scale has taken place on the streets of the capital city. Civil Rights Defenders and their Albanian Partners Aleanca and ProLGBT invested a lot of time and effort into arranging the event.

The activities continued throughout the evening, with a documentary premiere entitled SkaNdal showcasing the history of the LGBT movement in Albania. The documentary screened at the cinema Agimi was attended by Minister of Social Welfare Mr. Erion Veliaj, the Ambassador of United States Mr. Alexander Arvizu and EU representative to Albania Mr. Clive Rembo.

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