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Macedonia Comes Under Fire Over Gay Rights

No one has yet been apprehended for a violent attack on a Macedonian LGBT center late last month.
No one has yet been apprehended for a violent attack on a Macedonian LGBT center late last month.
Rights groups have been taking Macedonian authorities to task for their apparent dilatory response to violence that marred the country's first-ever Gay Pride Week last month.

The landmark event, which was meant to raise awareness about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues, was severely disrupted by an audacious attack on an LGBT center in the capital, Skopje.

As the center was screening some gay-themed short films on June 22, a rabble of around 30 youths launched an assault on the building. They began by shouting homophobic chants and slogans before throwing rocks, bottles, and bricks, causing substantial damage and injuring one policeman who was hit by an object while trying to disperse the mob.

Despite the fact that the attack took place in broad daylight and was recorded on CCTV, the police have failed to apprehend any perpetrators even though more than a month has elapsed since the incident. This has prompted some activists to suggest that they may not be looking too hard to find the culprits.

"This attitude of the police leaves an impression that violence is being legitimized and that anyone who opts for LGBT rights can be attacked," the head of the Macedonian Helsinki Committee, Uranija Pirovska, told Balkan Insight.

"How can the police not find them when there is footage in existence?” she asked.

WATCH: A mob attacks an LGBT center in Skopje.

The Helsinki Committee has now published a video of the incident on YouTube as well as footage of a subsequent attack on the center, which took place when it was closed, in the hope that it might help catch the culprits.

Human Rights Watch has also criticized the Macedonian government's response to homophobic incidents, saying that the authorities have been turning "a blind eye" to several anti-LGBT attacks in recent months.

"Of great concern to Human Rights Watch is the fact that neither you nor anyone else from your government condemned these attacks publicly or urged Macedonian society to refrain from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity," the organization said in a letter to Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski earlier this month.

The letter goes on to say that the "lack of a government response adds to the vulnerability of [LGBT] people in Macedonia and brings into question your government’s commitment to the principles of nondiscrimination and equality."

In 2011, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association rated Macedonia as the worst country for gay rights in the Balkans, a region widely seen as a hotbed of homophobic activity.

Neighboring Montenegro's own inaugural pride parade was rocked by violence on July 24 when police clashed with antigay protesters trying to disrupt the procession.

Late last year, a scheduled gay-pride march in Belgrade was banned by the Serbian authorities to prevent possible violence and public disorder.

-- Coilin O'Connor

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