In-depth | LGBTQ+

‘We were here and we will always be here’

By - 05.06.2024

Prishtina’s 8th Pride Parade.

Prishtina’s gray streets will come alive with rainbow colors from June 3 to 8, 2024, for the annual Pride Week. This colorful week, culminating with the pride parade on June 8, is filled with events that include musical evenings, discussions, conferences and theatrical performances. Pride Week is a powerful rejection of silence and emphasizes the historic presence of LGBTQ+ people, highlighting their past and its interaction with the present, and their power. Despite challenges, LGBTQ+ individuals “keep spirits strong,” as noted on the parade’s website.

In Kosovo, the LGBTQ+ movement faces significant structural challenges. Institutions often fail to guarantee welfare and legal protection, marginalizing these citizens. A major issue in public discourse is the draft Civil Code, which would provide a legal framework for same-sex civil unions.

The discussion of the draft Civil Code in the Assembly in March 2022 revealed homophobia both within and outside the institution. The draft code was ultimately not voted on, as Prime Minister Albin Kurti, despite attending the pride parade in 2023 after several years in office, has not managed to convince his party members to advance the law. In April 2024, Kurti said that the draft code was expected to go to a vote in May 2024. However, June has begun and the law has yet to be put to a vote.

Meanwhile, the widespread homophobia from 2022 persists today. LGBTQ+ people continue to face a lack of shelter, fall victim to hate crimes and live without proper legal protection.

“[…] We will be here. Despite everything,” states this year’s pride declaration, organized by several civil society organizations dedicated to protecting LGBTQ+ rights in Kosovo. This year’s slogan invites us to reflect on the long history of LGBTQ+ presence. An initiative by The Center for Equality and Liberty (CEL), an LGBTQ+ rights organization, provides access to the Archive of the LGBTQ+ Movement. According to CEL, this archive aims to honor, remember and share the history of the movement. The archive includes collections of press articles, art, documents, photographs and manuscripts, enriched by contributions from individuals.

As a magazine dedicated to documenting LGBTQ+ experiences since its inception, K2.0 has selected six pieces of archived content for Pride Week. These pieces are part of the extensive and ongoing journey of Kosovo’s LGBTQ+ movement.


Category: Daily press
"He became her — without crossing the rainbow"

The earliest content in the archive, the “Press” category, consists of the nine-part Rilindja newspaper coverage of Misin Krasnić’s transition in 1978. “The phenomenon is neither rare nor new,” writes Sadri Morina, the author of the series. The story from 1978 gained renewed attention through the publication of “Trans in Kosovo: An unfinished story” by editor, researcher and activist, Lura Limani. The introduction to this publication describes it as an attempt “to correct an epistemic injustice of non-recognition, presenting an intervention in the historiography of LGBTIQ+ persons in Kosovo and in general, in the region and beyond.”

The text was originally published in English in the book “Transgender in the Post-Yugoslav Space: Lives, Activisms, Culture,” published in 2022. The book was edited by Bojan Bilić, Iwo Nord and Aleksa Milanović. In an overview for K2.0, Bilić wrote that its content “challenge[s] the silence that envelops socialist gender trajectories so that dissident gender practices of the past start living new lives.”

The Archive of the LGBTQ+/CEL Movement.

In her research, Limani goes back to the 1970s and examines the media coverage of Krasnić’s transition. She contrasts it with the media coverage surrounding activists Lend Mustafa and Blert Morina coming out as members of the LGBTQ+ community in 2016-2017.

The fairytale of crossing the rainbow, which is the title of the 46-year-old series, has been later  exploited by the media, mainly to sensationalize news about transitions and LGBTQ+ lives. In Kosovo, media outlets still, consciously or unconsciously, spread misunderstandings, misconceptions and discriminatory language towards LGBTQ+ people. LGBTQ+ identities remain underrepresented or inaccurately represented, ultimately contributing to the exclusionary attitude toward LGBTQ+ people.

In 2022, on the K2.0 podcast Other Talking Points, Milanović spoke to K2.0’s editor-in-chief, Besa Luci and Limani about the book and the political context in which it was published.

1998 - 2010

Category: Photo gallery
The photo album of Qerkica and Mustafa

Qerkica and Mustafa are two important and celebrated figures in the LGBTQ+ movement. Qerkica, a transgender woman from the Ashkali community, and Mustafa, a gay man who is blind, found each other amidst multi-layered oppression — whether due to gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability — or all these combined. In 1995, they began living together, in different houses and amid difficulties — financial challenges, homophobia, transphobia and exclusion — that they faced side by side. In addition to the solidarity between them, Qerkica and Mustafa opened the doors of their shelter to other LGBTQ+ people, who, in the absence of state-run shelters, often find themselves without a place to lay their heads.

Qerkica and Mustafa, embraced as an emblematic part of Kosovo’s LGBTQ+ movement, have become integral to Prishtina’s image. In 2022, the Sekhmet Institute and artist Ermira Murati created a mural titled “LOVE is LOVE is LOVE,” on the University of Prishtina campus. The mural depicts the faces of Qerkica and Mustafa painted on a bright orange background. It serves as an effort to publicly challenge the “marginalization and erasure of gender, sexual and ethnic minorities in Kosovo and elsewhere.”

Qerkica and Mustafa, photograph given by Qerkica for the archive.

Category: Press, Magazines & Zines
A letter from the editor-in-chief

A piece featured both in the archive and the K2.0 magazine is the letter from K2.0’s editor-in-chief, Besa Luci, published on December 14, 2012, just hours before the launch of the K2.0 magazine issue titled “Sex.” In her letter, Luci writes, “Sex in our society is talked about by not talking about it,” succinctly capturing the societal and media silence surrounding sex and sexualization — a silence K2.0 aimed to disrupt with this issue.

Through “Sex,” K2.0 sought to initiate an open, meaningful and political discussion about one of the most taboo subjects. The magazine also addressed topics such as gender identity, satisfaction, queerness and the numerous cultural and legal constraints that limit Kosovars’ freedom to love and exist freely.

Cover of the "Sex" magazine. Photo/ K2.0.
After the attack on K2.0. Photo: Atdhe Mulla/ K2.0.

The launch event, held in the Red Hall of the Palace of Youth and Sports, upset those who benefit from the suppression of freedom. A crowd of men, chanting homophobic insults, verbally and physically attacked the participants and the K2.0 team. This assault on freedom of speech, the freedom to use public space and ultimately the freedom to exist, especially for LGBTQ+ individuals, highlighted a serious human rights issue.

In response to the attack, various entities mobilized, including institutions, local organizations, and embassies. This initiated a substantial discussion about the challenges facing the newly independent four-year-old state and the measures needed to ensure it becomes a safe haven for all its citizens.

After 10 years, in 2022, K2.0 returned to the Red Hall with the event “10 Years Later: We’ve always been here!” to reclaim the space that was taken from it in 2012. Over the past decade, K2.0 has remained dedicated to LGBTQ+ narratives, exposing systemic injustices and using journalism as a tool to foster radical and well-informed discussions about human rights.


Category: Queer Art, Mixed Media Art
"The Kiss"

The Haveit collective, consisting of Alketa and Lola Sylaj, and Vesa and Hana Qena, has used artistic performances in public spaces to challenge oppressive systems like patriarchy and homophobia. On Valentine’s Day in 2014, members of Haveit performed “The Kiss”’ in the center of Prishtina. In this performance, they paired up and kissed each other on the lips. “The purpose of ‘The Kiss’ was that on this so-called ‘Day of Love,’ our society still refuses and forbids same-sex love for reasons of ‘morality,’” Vesa Qena told K2.0 in 2017.

Following the performance, they released a photo that exposed rampant hatred and homophobia. “It is a society that is irritated if a woman goes out in the square and does something [audacious],” said Hana Qena. The collective faced numerous threats after the performance.

Photo from "The Kiss". Photo from Haveit.

The collective, which began its activism before 2014, had no intention of stopping. One of their most notable performances was “Examination” in 2013, aimed at supporting survivors of sexual violence during the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo. This performance challenged the prevailing rhetoric about survivors, particularly in response to a deputy’s suggestion that women claiming to have been raped undergo medical examinations to validate their claims.

In 2017, the collective, in collaboration with photographer Majlinda Hoxha, created “Tomorrow’s Pill.” This video addressed the lack of sexual education and the stigma surrounding abortion in Kosovo. More recently, their 2018 performance “How Many Missed Calls?” gained traction. Inspired by the film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which addresses femicide, the collective placed billboards around Prishtina asking, “How many missed calls?” to protest femicide and institutional silence. This question has become a rallying cry at marches for gender justice, showcasing the lasting impact of Haveit’s work.


Category: Daily press
The first Pride Parade

LGBTQ+ rights activists have made significant strides to get to the point of organizing the eighth Pride Parade. The next of our archive content traces this journey, including press announcements from these parades. The first parade, held on October 10, 2017, carried the slogan “In the Name of Love.” This event followed three marches in 2014, 2015 and 2016, held on May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

In 2017, the then-Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, stated that Pride Week demonstrated civic, social and institutional courage. However, he did not participate in the march, unlike then-President Hashim Thaçi, who did. Pride parades continued in the following years, focusing on various issues important to LGBTQ+ citizens.

The first Pride Parade, 2017. Photos: Majlinda Hoxha/ K2.0

In 2018, the parade adopted the slogan “In the name of freedom,” expressing the demand for freedom and safety for LBGTQ+ communities. In 2019, the slogan was “For whom your heart beats,” calling for acceptance and understanding of love. In 2020, through the “I do” Parade, equal rights were demanded — in light of discussions about the Civil Code. In 2021 with “Together and proud,” activists called for solidarity, justice and social change. The 2022 parade slogan was “In the state and in the family,” addressing the denial of the presence and existence of LGBTQ+ people in the state and family. Last year, in 2023, the streets of Prishtina chanted “I love you as you are,” drawing attention to the importance of mental health for LGBTQ+ people.


Category: Documents
Blert Morina’s journey to change his name and sex marker

A mountain of documents, given to the archive by the human rights lawyer Rina Kika, reveal Blert Morina’s long and tiring journey to change his name and sex marker. Morina started his journey in April 2018 when he submitted a request to the Civil Registration Office in his hometown of Gjakova to change his name from “Blerta” to “Blert” and his sex marker from “F” to “M.” In his request, Morina and lawyer Rina Kika, referred to the Administrative Instruction on Conditions and Personal Name Change and Correction, citing the provision for when a “Personal name hinders the integration of the person in society.”

Their request was rejected in May 2018 on the grounds that it was unreasonable and did not hinder Blert from integrating into society. “I consider the decision discriminatory and we will use all legal measures at our disposal to ensure Blert enjoys the rights he is entitled to,” Kika told K2.0.

The request to change name and gender marker. Retrieved from the CEL archive.

And so their journey continued. In 2019, after extensive efforts by Morina and Kika, navigating Kosovo’s complex legal infrastructure, the Basic Court in Prishtina annulled the decision made by the Directorate for General Administrative Works in Gjakova. The court ordered the relevant institutions to officially update Blert’s name and sex marker within 15 days of receiving the verdict.

“And the most important thing is that other people who have the same request will not be forced to go through this whole process,” Morina told K2.0 after the verdict. His words underscore not only the inspiring nature of his journey but also provide a little bit of clarity for LGBTQ+ persons in the legal and social contexts that are often unfavorable to them.

The archive also collects theatrical performances, documentaries, films and audiovisual material. Each of these pieces speak to initiatives and efforts everywhere, across disciplines and mediums, cities and villages, undertaken both collectively or alone. They all show solidarity and confront the erasure of LGBTQ+ experiences. The archive remains open to anyone who has something to share. LGBTQ+ people certainly do.

Editor’s note (June 7, 2024): The original version of the article said that the Basic Court in Prishtina annulled the decision made by the Directorate for General Administrative Works in Gjakova in 2018. In fact, this happened in 2019.

Feature Image: Atdhe Mulla /K2.0

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