The streets of Prishtina were adorned with a banner reading “T’DU QASHTU QYSH JE” (I love you as you are) on Saturday, June 10, setting the stage for the seventh and one of the most vibrant Pride Parades in Kosovo. Hundreds of marchers came together to transform the streets into a party celebrating the queer community.
Attendees painted their faces with glitter and proudly displayed rainbow colors. Invigorated by drag queen Adelina Rose, who was leading the crowd on an open truck equipped with powerful speakers, the procession also showcased Kosovo’s burgeoning drag culture.
One surprising participant in the Parade was Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti who joined the event for the first time. Kurti has been criticized in the past for not supporting the LGBTQ+ community in Kosovo more vocally. Some members of Kurti’s party Vetëvendosje (VV) recently blocked a comprehensive Civil Code law out of the belief that it would have created a path for legalizing same-sex civil unions.
The Pride Parade marked the climax of a Pride Week full of activities, including discussions on mental health in the queer community, empowering the LGBTQ+ movement and the inclusion of queer women in feminist activism. Afterwards, the atmosphere each night transformed into lively events, music and drag shows.
Hundreds turned out for Prishtina’s 7th Pride Parade. Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.
The events of the week sought to shine a spotlight on the mental health challenges of queer people who face systemic discrimination and, frequently, rejection from their families. Prishtina Pride underscored the need for unwavering support for LGBTQ+ individuals in Kosovo.
K2.0 spoke with participants of the Parade. These are their messages:
Arlinda Morina, artist
I have been open since the 2000s, and there have been so many big changes since then. It was our dream, and we wished we could achieve a Pride Parade like this, which today is a reality. During the time when I was making videos and meeting many people, I remember that we used to live in basements and small cafes. But today, we are coming out openly, with pride in ourselves, without feeling any shame. We used to feel ashamed of who we are, but that has changed, and now we are proud of who we are. Looking back, it fascinates me.
If there had been Pride and such a big movement when I came out openly, I would certainly have been an artist with a much bigger voice than I have now. In the 2000s, I felt very oppressed artistically and as a person. At the moment when I came out openly, many people told me it would have been better if I hadn’t come out because I would have made more progress. But I didn’t feel like myself if I didn’t acknowledge who I am. So the time has come for this slogan, “I love you as you are,” and I really liked it because it carries the message I have wanted all my life: love me just the way I am and support me just the way I am.
Prime Minister Albin Kurti marched in the Parade for the first time. Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.
I am observing that as the community evolves, we become braver. Every year, the march route gets longer, leading to the final destination. In the past, queer people used to hide their flags immediately after the march, but now I see everyone still dancing with flags in their hands, even late in the afternoon. It warms my heart to witness the unity within the community.
It is a special day to tell people that we are here, even those who don’t dare to come out. We are here for you, no matter what happens. It is important to see people proudly waving non-binary flags and show others that there are people like them. When I discovered my own identity, I didn’t know that there were non-binary people in Kosovo. Now when I meet individuals who identify similarly, it holds great significance because I realize that I am part of a community and I am not alone.
Ardita Maçastena, law student
The reason we have gathered here is, among other things, to celebrate the presence of the LGBTQ+ community in the Republic of Kosovo and as lawyers, to ensure the protection of basic human rights, especially for communities in vulnerable positions. From both a professional and personal standpoint, it is crucial for me to reside in a just state that upholds democratic and fundamental values.
The crowds were festive and free at what was probably Prishtina’s most vibrant Pride Parade so far. Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.
Participating in the parade and coming out is significant because we all have families and are surrounded by queer individuals in society. This issue transcends human rights, and it is important for even non-queer individuals to come out as allies. This act contributes to the overall respect for everyone’s human rights.
It’s my first time attending a parade, and I find it quite exciting. I still haven’t come out (as a woman), and I’m living in the closet because of my difficult family situation.
For me, it’s not obligatory to join the parade solely because you’re a queer person; everybody should be involved. It is crucial for all of us to be present and participate in the parade.
Whenever the time comes and someone feels ready to join the parade, they can come. Others should also participate because we need support not only from the LGBTQ+ community but also from other spheres. It is our peaceful way of increasing visibility, walking and fighting for our rights.
The Parade capped off Pride Week, which focused on providing support, love and power to Kosovo’s LGBTQ+ community. Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.
My brother came out as gay, and I started marching at Pride two years ago when I realized how crucial it was for him to have my support. I hadn’t participated in the Parade before because I didn’t fully understand the significance of events like Pride for queer individuals.
We reside in a highly conservative country, and, for instance, one parent still refuses to accept my brother’s non-heterosexuality. Not to mention the wider family, the majority of whom are unaware, and it’s challenging to reveal the truth to them due to their constant use of homophobic language. Therefore, it is vital for us, as family members and friends within the community who support LGBTQ+ rights, to come out and provide some hope to our loved ones, assuring them that they are not alone in this country.
Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.
Feature image: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.