Monographs | LGBTI Rights | LGBTI

The people pushing LGBTI rights

A look back over the last five years.

By - 10.10.2017

Over the past few years, a number of diverse political, cultural and artistic initiatives have investigated, pushed and explored LGBTI rights in Kosovo. The following photo essay offers a look at some of them.

On Dec. 12, 2014, a group of organized thugs attacked the launch of the Kosovo 2.0 magazine issue on Sex, which featured a look at LGBTI rights across the Western Balkans. The attack led to wide condemnations from across civil society, the international community and a few institutional representatives. A year later, three individuals were convicted, but released on probation. Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0

On Dec. 12, 2012, LGBT rights organization Libertas launched a public awareness campaign through billboards across the city of Prishtina, with messages including: “My friend is gay. His rights are our pride,” held here by film producer, editor and TV show host, Keka Berisha. Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.

“The LGBTI+ community are almost totally invisible in Kosovo and although it makes sense, living in the most homophobic country in Europe, it is still totally unacceptable. This is why it is the responsibility of everybody that thinks differently to make them feel they are not totally forgotten, and that there is some hope of change sooner rather than later.” — Keka Berisha

The Haveit collective, comprised of two pairs of sisters, Hana and Vesa Qena, and Alketa and Lola Sylaj, are well-known for using public artistic performances as a tool for their activism. In February 2014, for Valentine's Day they kissed in Mother Teresa Square, in support of same sex relationships. Photo courtesy of Haveit.

“This society still doesn’t accept and stops same sex love for ‘moral’ reasons. Let love prevail!” — Haveit on their performance.
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Kosovar contemporary artist, Petrit Halilaj, is one of Kosovo’s more prominent art representatives abroad, becoming the first to represent Kosovo at the Venice Biennale in 2014. His work usually tends to play with the concept of home. Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.

By - 10.10.2017

Since 2012, Halilaj has produced two fanzines together with his boyfriend Alvaro Urbano. Its title plays on the word constitution from Albanian (Kushtetuta), Kush-te-tut-a? (who scares you), and it offers a collection of images and texts dealing with gender. Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.

“‘Kushtetuta?’ arrives as a consequence of the everyday life I shared with Alvaro for some years in Berlin, and the wish to think and feel the same in Kosovo too. It was also important from the beginning to have a light and accessible way of communicating these thoughts through a zine based on a collage of ideas.” — Petrit Halilaj

In October 2013, Liridon Veliu was part of a group of young activists, who on a voluntary basis decided to write a number of slogans across the city center, including: “No Homophobia,” “Gay is OK,” and “Lesbian is OK.” Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.

“The idea behind this graffiti was to show the citizens of Prishtina that the LGBT community is a part of Kosovar society. This was one of the first instances in which the LGBT community raised their voice and became more visible in active life.” — Liridon Veliu

Kaltrina Krasniqi is an award-winning Kosovar director, who mostly works in feature film but was driven to make a documentary following the events of 2012. Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.

Her 45-minute documentary looked at the clash between secularism and extremist religious beliefs using the attack on Kosovo 2.0 as its starting point. Photo still from the "Sex" documentary.

“The attacks on Kosovo 2.0 and the LGBTQ community in 2012 instilled fear among the general public — mostly because these events displayed the fact that the police was bias in protecting its citizens. Their lack of action empowered the radical groups, who acted as if they had the mandate to bring societal order on their own terms. This realization became a source of anger that drove me to tell the story of Sex.” — Kaltrina Krasniqi

In 2016, President Hashim Thaci marched alongside LGBTI persons, activists and citizens on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. “Everyone can love as they wish,” Thaci said in a brief statement in front of reporters. Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.

Also notable at 2016’s march was former President Atifete Jahjaga, here pictured with a banner proclaiming that homophobia is a choice. Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.

Kosovo’s government building has also marked IDAHOT, being lit up twice — in 2015 and 2016 — with the colors of the rainbow flag. Photo courtesy of Finish Embassy.

Last year, Kosovo hosted a regional conference on LGBTI rights for the first time. Themed “Why laws are not enough!,” the conference aimed to increase debate on the lack of social inclusion and equality of LGBTI people in the Western Balkans and Turkey. Photo courtesy of CEL.

On March 8, 2017, International Women’s Day activities in Kosovo witnessed calls against homophobia and transphobia for the first time. “Stop homophobia,” “My sexual orientation isn’t related to my job,” and “Employment regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity,” were some of the slogans that appeared. Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.

Young poet Lindon Krasniqi won first prize in the second edition of the Slam Poetry Festival held last year in December. His poem “A mostly one-sided dialogue between homophobia and young queer kids,” is an honest look into queerness and mental health. Photo: Chester Eng.

“George Orwell said that all writing should be political if the author is to avoid falling into 'purple passages' — paragraphs that use exquisite language, but nothing more. Storytelling and worldbuilding aren't limited to fiction. In my poetry, the rain's a little softer, the love's a little louder, and my statistical infrequency of a body is beautiful. Queer art is not 'alternative.' This is how I know love, pain, injustice, and healing. It's not a purple passage if the beauty it describes combats stereotypes and normalizes taboos. Art is activism.” — Lindon Krasniqi

Award-winning playwright and writer Jeton Neziraj is the author of over 15 plays and the director of the Qendra Multimedia theater company. His plays are usually satirical reactions towards social, political and cultural topics in Kosovo. Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.

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On Sept. 8, 2017, Neziraj’s “55 shades of gay” premiered at the National Theatre of Kosovo. Addressing the struggles of a gay couple’s attempts to get married. Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.

By - 10.10.2017
“In the Kosovar context, in the circumstances of a homophobic environment, just approaching LGBTI issues in the theater is important and useful. First of all, because that taboo issue is brought in from the margins, shadows, and 'non-existence' and it becomes visible, accessible, and existing. Often this alone is enough.” — Jeton Neziraj

Award-winning Kosovar director Blerta Zeqiri has tackled LGBT issues twice through her films. Using a short documentary "Stigma," made in 2013 on LGBT individuals in Kosovo as part of her research, Zeqiri has recently directed a feature film, “Martesa,” which is set to premiere at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival later this year. Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.

“Martesa” is Zeqiri’s 100-minute debut feature, which centers on two friends who were separated after the 1999 Kosovo war and are reunited as one of them is about to marry. Events and revelations take an unexpected turn that threatens to alter the triangle’s current state of affairs. Photo still from the movie.

“Film is the most popular art after music. But unlike music, which often only conveys feelings, film has the ability to also convey ideas, and in this way it can open the minds of the masses and the politicians that make laws and implement changes in society. Love is the most beautiful feeling a human can feel, and for me it has always been absurd how someone could be bothered by two people loving each other, to the point of actively fighting against them.” — Blerta Zeqiri

Leonida Molliqaj is a reporter for Preportr, an online news source that publishes in-depth investigations into issues affecting Kosovo’s state-building. Molliqaj predominantly focuses on vulnerable groups in society or issues aiming to break traditional or conservative viewpoints. Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.

“Media must not only be a reflection of social reality — in this case, by giving a voice to homophobia — rather it should also have an emancipatory and educative role, so as to influence and enrich the debate about human rights and freedoms. Knowing that state institutions have not even done the bare minimum for protecting human rights and freedoms, I think it is necessary to utilize the space that we have as journalists for pushing forward emancipatory themes.” — Leonida Molliqaj

Artan Haraqija is an investigative journalist for the Zona Express TV program. He recently worked on a 45-minute TV documentary “The LGBT curse” that looked into the life of the first transgender man coming out in Kosovo. Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.

“Over the course of my nearly 18 years as a journalist, I have never felt a heavier burden as I did while working on a documentary about the LGBTI community in Kosovo. I never felt such a thin line between ruining people’s life, all while attempting to clarify a long list of misconceptions about the most discriminated community in the country, hence the title of the documentary: 'The LGBTI curse.'” — Artan Haraqija

Kosovar performance artist Astrit Ismaili regularly embraces his body in his work as a way to fight and offer critique to uniformity and social expectations, including embracing gender fluidity. Photo: Majlinda Hoxha / K2.0.

In “Unikat,” an audio-visual performance, Ismaili constructs three figures with “futuristic and alien characteristics,” including a pregnant boy. Photo by Matevz Paternoster / courtesy of Astrit Ismaili.

“A person must be free to implement any idea that comes to their mind in order to find comfort in their body. Acknowledging that every day is a possibility to change allows our identities to be in constant transition. Sometimes we need to make remarkable choices like changing gender or getting butt implants or adding an extra eye or hand in the body. We should definitely go for it, making sure it is not coming from social pressure.” — Astrit Ismaili