The honour of hosting the Eurovision Song Contest has fallen to Serbia this year, and fascist groups in the country are already promising violence against people attending the festivities.
Gay men are a particular target, according to the president of the fascist organisation Obraz, who announced his violent intentions in the pages of daily newspaper ALO! earlier this week.
The newspaper ran a story on April 7th, calling Eurovision “gay youth day.”
Obraz, which has links with other far-right groups, is classified as an ‘Orthodox clero-fascist’ organisation.
It is notorious for its extreme homophobic views and taste for attacking gay people.
Their threats have led some to question whether Belgrade is a suitable location for a contest that is both a gay favourite and a powerful symbol of European unity.
Several Serbian media outlets have reported that “thousands” of gay and lesbian people are coming to Belgrade for the contest.
Serbia, which is not in the EU, is one of the least accepting countries for gay people in Europe.
A European Commission report on human rights in the country published last year said:
“In practice, discrimination is widespread, affecting in particular the Roma community, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities and persons of different sexual orientation.
“There have been incidents and attacks against organisations active in the promotion of peace, the fight against impunity or those defending the right to a different sexual orientation with insufficient follow-up by the law enforcement authorities. “
The reaction of the Serbian authorities in charge of the event to the fascist threats has alarmed lesbian and gay activists in the country.
“We are not organising their arrival, therefore we can not take care of their security,” Aleksandar Rados, the Eurovision organiser’s PR, said of gay visitors.
People from the UK, US and other countries that supported Kosovo’s declaration of indepdence from Serbia earlier this year at already at risk.
The US embassy in Belgrade remains evacuated after rioting Serbs attacked the building and tried to set it alight.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s advice to British travellers to the country states:
“The overall security situation in Serbia remains calm, but you are advised to exercise extreme caution when travelling around.
“You should keep a low profile and stay alert at all times and take particular care to avoid public gatherings, political rallies, protests and polling stations,and pay close attention to local media reports at the present time.”
Queeria, Belgrade’s centre for promoting a culture of nonviolence and equality, has requested the police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office respond to the threats of homophobic violence.
“We are asking you to pressure the organisers of the Eurovision in Belgrade to pay more attention to security of the participants and the guests from other countries,” said spokesperson Predrag M. Azdejkovic.
Serbia won the right to host the 53rd Eurovision Song Contest after their entry to last year’s competition in Finland won.
Semi-finals will be held in Belgrade on 20th and 22nd May and the final on 24th May.
An estimated global audience of at least 100 million people watched the contest in 2007.