Publication of the Annual Review has become an important date in Europe’s LGBTI calendar, largely thanks to the expertise and information from activists and experts on the ground in each country whose contributions make up the majority of the content. And whilst Pride can sometimes appear sidelined by civil society organisations, we are pleased to see several mentions of Pride events throughout this year’s edition.
Sadly, the reason for so many mentions is not so pleasing. Across many European countries, 2019 saw increasing violence and attacks on Pride marches and events, LGBTI community centres and Pride houses, and several attempts by politicians to ban Pride events altogether.
Key findings include:
- An increase in hate speech following the announcement of the first BiH Pride in Bosnia & Herzegovina
- Bulgaria’s deputy prime minister published a hateful statement ahead of Sofia Pride, and several candidates in Sofia’s local elections promised to ban the Pride if they were elected
- At Prague Pride, fireworks were fired into the event and a rainbow flag was set alight close to the Pride park
- Several threats – including three death threats – were made to organisers of the first Tbilisi Pride in Georgia, and government said that they were unable to protect the event; several arrests were made of counter-protestors
- In Hungary, senior political leaders called for Budapest Pride to be banned; extremists attacked the Pride house including at a pansexual dating event, and a participant was spat on and kicked after the main Pride event
- After Skopje Pride, seven activists were attacked by a mob of more than 20 who threatened them with death and rape threats
- In Poland, authorities attempted to ban equality marches in Lublin, Nowy Sącz, Gorzów Wielkopolski, Kielce and Gniezno, but all were overturned; violence erupted at Bialystok as more than 4,000 counter-protestors gathered
- A number of activists were detained during a Pride in St Petersburg, Russia
- Belgrade Pride’s information centre was attacked several times during the year
- Spain’s far-right ‘Vox’ party said during national elections that it would ban Pride marches, and compared homosexuality to bestiality
- Police in Turkey used tear gas and rubber bullets against students taking place in Pride at the Middle Eastern Technical University in Ankara; a criminal trial against 17 of them is ongoing
- Pride and other LGBTI events were also banned in the Turkish cities of Istanbul, Izmir, Antalya, Mersin and Tunceli
- The mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine, said he would ban the city’s first Pride march, but he relented and more than 3,000 people attended
During 2019 and as the review highlights, several of the European institutions including the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and OSCE passed motions or published statements challenging bans on Pride and freedom of assembly.
The Review also highlights some progress and successes in 2019:
- Hundreds of Pride marches took place for the first time in towns and cities across Europe
- The first Dyke March in Tirana, Albania
- In Belgium, the first Trans* Pride took place in Brussels, and the first POC* Pride in Antwerp
- Despite challenges, the first BiH Pride in Sarajevo attracted more than 3,000 participants
- The first Balkan Trans & Intersex March took place in Zagreb, Croatia
- The Finnish prime minister attended Helsinki Pride for the first time
- The opening event of the third Kosovo Pride was held in the President’s government building
- The first Pride took place in Skopje, North Macedonia
- ‘The Pride Caravan’ took ‘flash mob’ Pride marches to ten towns and cities across Serbia
- A Pride was successfully held at Boğaziçi University, the only Pride not banned in Turkey in 2019
- Although not mentioned in the Review, in September, Belgrade Pride was awarded the right to host EuroPride in 2022
It’s clear from this report that the rise in far-right, nationalist and populist ideologies across Europe is leading to a corresponding increase in hatred towards the LGBTI community. Pride is an obvious target for our opponents, being as it is the biggest public manifestation of our movement. In 2020, we need everyone – politicians, civil society, progressive media, the LGBTI community and allies – to step up and march with us.
The Annual Review will be launched at the European Parliament later this morning. EPOA’s Secretary, Lilly Dragoeva of Bilitis and Sofia Pride, will be speaking at the launch, and board colleagues Juan Carlos Alonso Reguero and Steve Taylor will also be attending.
You can access the Annual Review on ILGA Europe’s website here.