SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (AP) — Rights activists in the Serb-ruled part of Bosnia were attacked late Saturday, hours after police banned an LGBT event planned there over the weekend, citing security concerns.
The attack happened when the activists were leaving a meeting in the offices of the Bosnian branch of the global anti-corruption group Transparency International in Banja Luka. The meeting was organized after local police banned an event they had hoped to organize in the northwestern city on Sunday to promote LGBT rights.
Activists said several dozen men chased them through the streets, insulting and hitting them. Before the police arrived at the scene, several activists were injured, including one who required medical attention.
The Banja Luka police announced that the police escorted the activists to the police station to take statements and that the perpetrators are still being searched for.
The canceled LGBT event, which was organized and supported by several human rights groups from across Bosnia, was supposed to include a film screening followed by a panel discussion. His announcement sparked a strong homophobic backlash last week, including from Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik, who said LGBT people were “harassers” and hoped “official authorities will prevent them from gathering both indoors and outdoors.” . ”
Banjaluka Mayor Draško Stanivuković also condemned this event, saying that the LGBT community should be limited to Bosnia’s multi-ethnic capital, Sarajevo, because Bosnian Serbs cherish “patriarchal, traditional families and speak clearly about our religion and our identity.”
Bosnia is still very conservative and torn by divisions that arose from the 1992-95 ethnic war between Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks during the breakup of Yugoslavia. Homophobia remains deeply rooted despite some progress over the years in reducing discrimination.
Since 2019, an annual pride parade has been regularly organized in Sarajevo without significant riots, but with a large police presence.
The violence in Banja Luka drew condemnation from European Union officials, several Western embassies and international organizations.
“Words have consequences,” the EU mission in BiH tweeted, adding that regular verbal attacks by Bosnian Serb politicians on civil society activists and journalists create “a climate in which physical attacks can follow.”
The British ambassador to Bosnia, Julian Reilly, agreed in a tweet that the “shocking attack on civil activists… showed the true impact of hate speech.”
The American Embassy in Sarajevo announced on Twitter that the Bosnian Serb authorities “must identify and prosecute those who committed this heinous act.”