Gay rights advocates from LGBT United and the Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities Coalition groups were brutally attacked in Bitola, Macedonia.
The assault happened on Saturday (20 April) and came shortly after members of the groups marched through Sirok Sokak Street carrying banners and posting posters displaying messages about the human rights of LGBT people as well a rainbow flag.
When the groups left the street right in front of Hostel Diamond, activists were attacked by four people while three other later arrived to assist them in the assault.
During the assault three activists were verbally abused, shoved and spat on while their banners and posters were ripped out of their hands only to be used as weapons to hit them on their head and faces.
After one of the activists tried to protect another shouting ‘don’t hit him’, she was threatened and verbally abused and told: ‘You should put gay posters in Skopje, not in Bitola - I will beat you, tell that to everyone!’
Another activist who attempted to use his phone to ask for help had it snatched away and threatened by an attacker who said: ‘I will kill you.’
The attackers then left after having confiscated the posters throwing the activist’s mobile to the ground
Activists immediately filed a report in Bitola police station.
Folowing the incident, LGBT United group received threats on its Facebook page: ‘Death to all fags’, ‘If you feel nice about being gay then go fuck at home with your fathers, brothers and children... next time you will be beaten. Kill and slaughter the fags,’ read some of the many messages.
Another message read: ‘Let's make one thing clear, what happened today was just a warning, if you are stupid enough to come to Bitola again and to do something like this, be sure that you will end up in a hospital with your bones broken, and some might end up in a graveyard.
‘Fuck off fags, go fuck with your parents if you want you want to parade openly... God is all mighty but even he doesn’t want you... you deserve to die.’
On Sunday (21 April) a photo of the activists was posted on the official Facebook page of the Macedonian Sport Fans' group, carrying a message that read: ‘Never again will gays step foot in Bitola.’
In a joint press statement, LGBT United and the Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities Coalition strongly condemn the violent attack in Bitola and demanded that Macedonia’s ministry of internal affairs take immediate action to detect and punish the attackers.
Bekim Asani of LGBT United told Gay Star News: ‘Our group is increasingly visible and active not just in the capital Skopje, but in other cities and small towns.
‘I guess this somehow is related to the incident which was totally unprovoked by our peaceful actions.
‘We’re just scared, I personally really feel bad after the assault.’
LGBT United and the Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities Coalition said they ‘demand from the government to publicly condemn the violence and the hate speech directed towards LGBT persons and to stop with the discriminatory campaigns which promote hate, intolerance, social exclusion and violence towards LGBT persons’.
Earlier this year Macedonian politicians whipped up anti-gay hate in the media in order to attract voters in the country’s local elections.
In its annual report, ‘Rainbow Europe Index 2011’, by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, (ILGA–Europe), Macedonia was rated as the worst country in the Balkans in terms of legal protection for LGBT people, and one of the worst in Europe as a whole.