By Madeline Schiesser
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
BELGRADE, Serbia – Citing security concerns and called upon to do so by Patriarch Irinej, head of Serbia’s Orthodox Christian Church, Serbia’s Interior Ministry has banned the Belgrade Gay Pride Parade planned for Saturday to cap off Pride Week.
Along with the parade, all other public events scheduled for Saturday have been banned in order to preserve the peace and security of citizens, according to the government.
“Conflicts and victims are the last thing Serbia needs at the moment. All conditions to ban public meetings scheduled for October 6 are in place, including the rally which is part of the so-called Pride Parade, as well as all rallies against the parade,” said Ivica Dacic, the Serbian Prime Minister and Minister of Interior.
Tensions were heightened on Wednesday afternoon, as 2,000 police in riot gear were deployed to the Center for Cultural Decontamination where a controversial exhibit opened: “Ecce Homo.” the same evening. The art exhibit received threats from right-wing groups, angry at the exhibit’s portrayal of Jesus Christ.
Serbia has a strong orthodox Christian tradition. Acceptance of homosexuality has been slow, and many gay rights events have ended in violence.
Patriarch Irinej, called Saturday’s planed parade a “parade of shame” that would cast a “moral shadow” on Serbia. He characterized it as a threat to Serbia’s centuries-old Christian culture and the model of the heterosexual family as the foundation of humankind.
The LGBT community in Serbia has attempted pride rallies in the past, but has been met with violence, when the rallies were not banned outright. In 2001, a small gathering was broken up by ultranationalists. In 2009, gay activists wanted to hold a pride parade, but authorities canceled at the last minute due to safety concerns.
In October 2010, the Pride Parade went forward. 5,000 police in riot gear were deployed to protect a fraction of as many marchers. They were met with violent right-wing, anti-gay protestors. About 100 police were injured; dozens of right-wing protestors were arrested. There was also extensive property damage across the capital Belgrade.
Officials banned the Pride Parade last year, fearing a repeat of violence.
There is concern that the government should be doing more, or is even obstructing reform. “The state isn’t doing enough to educate, to take a stand,” Aleksandar Skundric, a 28-year-old gay Belgrade native says. “A lot of politicians said they were eager to take the ‘blame’ for canceling the  pride parade.”
Part of Serbia’s application for European Union membership is a pledge to respect human rights. However, there is concern by activists that the government, headed by former nationalists, has little interest in protecting the LGBT community.
Goran Miletić, program director of the Civil Rights Defenders and an organizer of the Pride Parade, has condemned the government’s failure to carry out the parade. “If last year [the decision to ban the pride] represented the capitulation of the state, today it shows an open coalition [of the state] with hooligans because the authorities have fully adopted the arguments of the extremist organizations, as well as their demands,” Miletic said.
Before the parade ban was announced, Miletić had said that the LGBT community “will not just sit” this year, and planned to take certain steps if the parade was banned.
For more information, please see:
B92 – “All Eyes on Serbia Ahead of Gay Pride Parade” –3 October 2012
B92 – Serbian Authorities Decide to Ban Gay Parade – 3 October 2012
Balkan Insight – Serbia Bans Gay Pride Amid Security Concerns – 3 October 2012
Global Post – Serbia Bans Gay Pride Parade – 3 October 2012
The Independent – Gay Pride March Banned in Serbi – 3 October 2012
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty – Belgrade Braces Itself for Gay-Pride Parade – 3 October 2012
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty – Serbian Officials Ban Gay-Pride Parade – 3 October 2012
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty – Serbia Bans Gay Parade, Other Gatherings – 20 September 2011
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty – In Serbia, Gay Activists Prepare For the Worst – 10 October 2010