Home Institution

Oberlin College

Publication Date

Spring 2010

Program Name

Balkans: Post-Conflict Transformation in Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia


The 2008 Queer Sarajevo Festival was an effort by LGBTIQ activists to raise visibility and educate the public through a series of artistic and cultural exhibitions over the course of five days. However, the Festival was preceded by a month-long media campaign in widely distributed right-wing newspapers, which declared the immorality of the Festival—particularly because of its timing during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan—and a crowd gathered outside the opening exhibition, throwing stones and violently assaulting at least eight Festival attendees. The remaining events of the Festival were cancelled. Government officials, political parties, and religious leaders’ responses to the violence were minimal, and no prosecutions were made against those who had incited or committed violence. The Festival’s impact, however, on LGBTIQ activism and visibility was significant. After the Festival organizers received multiple death threats, the primary LGBTIQ activist organization in Bosnia and Herzegovina retreated into hiding, and many others felt that the Festival demonstrated the impossibility of being “out” in Bosnian society. This paper examining the violence and hate speech surrounding the Festival, the reactions of governmental, religious, activist and political leadership, and the impact of the Festival on LGBTIQ life. Through conducting interviews with LGBTIQ people, activists, politicians, professors and students in Sarajevo, this paper uses the events surrounding the Queer Sarajevo Festival as opportunities for analyzing issues of human rights, cultural values, tolerance, discrimination, queer visibility and the politics of difference in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Though LGBTIQ people and activist efforts face enormous political, institutional, financial, cultural and social obstacles, strategies developed by LGBTIQ activists include a variety of potential methods to achieve eventual LGBTIQ empowerment.


Gender and Sexuality | Inequality and Stratification | Politics and Social Change


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