„Pride in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria can be a dangerous thing“

Neo-Nazis throwing Molotow cocktails at peaceful gay pride marchers in 2008

On 18 June, following the Sofia Pride march, five Pride volunteers were attacked by a group of unknown perpetrators. Three of them suffered minor injuries. The LGBT rights activists suspect that the attackers followed them as they were leaving the Pride.

“This was obviously a hate crime, but the police is not able address it as such. This is the biggest problem,” one of the activists, Kaloyan Stanev told Amnesty International.

As the Bulgarian Criminal Code does not recognize sexual orientation as one of the grounds motivating a crime, the five Pride volunteers are concerned that the hate motivation may not be adequately addressed.

Hate crimes represent a particular affront to human dignity and need to be promptly, independently, impartially and thoroughly investigated and those responsible must be brought to justice.

Amnesty International urges the authorities to publicly condemn the attack and to express their support to the LGBT rights activists.

“Do we have to wait for someone to get killed to realize that there is a problem? We got out easily, but the next time, there might be somebody who would not be so lucky,” one of the activists, Svetoslav Pashov told Amnesty International.

The assault took place in the centre of Sofia after the five Pride volunteers had walked for approximate 45 minutes and had left the secured, by the police, area of the Pride.

One of the activists called the police who arrived immediately at the location. The activists then went to the police to report the assault. They stated that they were attacked because they were LGBT rights activists and that the assault was a hate crime. They told Amnesty International that the police will investigate the crime. However, they said that they were not offered any form of victim support or to be escorted back to their homes.

“This is not an isolated incident. During the past four years, gangs in central areas of Sofia have been beating up people who “looked gay”. However, this has not led to any measures by the authorities to ensure the protection of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people in Bulgaria, and to prevent similar hate crimes,” said one of the attacked LGBT rights activists, Dimitar Dimitrov.

More than 1,000 participants attended the fourth Sofia Pride march on 18 June. The march was adequately protected by the police and organizers were satisfied with the police cooperation and safety provided for the celebration of the rights of LGBT individuals in Bulgaria.

The organizers of Sofia Pride urged the authorities to provide effective and adequate protection to LGBT individuals in Bulgaria as a matter of urgency.

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Same-sex Marriage In Denmark

23 years ago, Axel and Eigil Axgil were the first in line to apply for a Danish civil union. Yesterday, Parliament voted for FULL marriage equality.

Denmark has become the latest country to approve same-sex marriage.
The law was passed with an overwhelming majority in parliament, and also covers weddings in the Church of Denmark.

Denmark was the first country in the world to recognise civil partnerships for same-sex couples in 1989.
However, no further steps were taken under the previous centre-right government, while other countries have passed laws extending marriage to same-sex couples. The bill put forward by Denmark’s centre-left government was passed in an 85-24 vote on Thursday.

„This is equality between couples of the same gender and couples of different genders. A major step forward,“ Danish Minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs Manu Sareen said after the vote.

The legislation takes effect on 15 June.

Tahrir Square Again: Violence And Sexual Assaults Against Female Demonstrators

Violence against women demonstrators in Egypt erupted again on Tuesday when a frenzied mob of 200 men sexually assaulted a female protester in Tahrir Square. Then, during a rally on Friday to protest the incident, about 50 women and their male allies were themselves brutalized and chased away by another mob.

Journalist Ghazala Irshad, who was on the scene Friday, says that just as the small anti-harassment protest was gathering steam, the atmosphere shifted. “A few guys were like, ‘Why are you talking about this, there are more important issues to talk about?’ [Then] some guys started saying the women protesting were whores.”

Next, a phalanx of outside men overwhelmed the protective circle of male allies and cornered and groped the women. Rally organizer Sally Zohney says, “[The violence] started with individual cases of assaults against women in the march [and] then turned into beating and chasing everyone involved. Even men were badly beaten and attacked. It was very brutal.”

Participants were forced to flee for their safety.

Sadly, the violent scene is just the latest of many. Since the military took power last February, countless women–including journalists Lara Logan, Mona Eltahawy and Caroline Sinz, Egyptian actor Sherihan and the “woman in the blue bra“–have been groped and sexually assaulted by men in Tahrir Square. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other women have experienced verbal sexual harassment in a place that is supposed to symbolize freedom.

The lack of safety for women in the square symbolizes, instead, just how little women have benefited from the revolution they helped create. While pre-revolutionary Egypt was notorious for street harassment–a 2008 study by the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights (ECWR) found that over 80 percent of Egyptian women had experienced it–the 18-day uprising in January and February 2011 was an unprecedented moment in which women could move freely in public space. Women seized the chance to become key players in the protests. “In 3 weeks of revolution we experienced no sexual harassment by men,” one woman told the Israeli paper Haaretz. “What civilization emerged! What culture!”

But that swiftly changed. Marchers in an International International Women’s Day 2011 demonstration in Tahrir Square were violently attacked. Months of assaults on women protesters followed. Some of the perpetrators have worn civilian clothes; others have been uniformed military police. During the violent government crackdown on pro-democracy protests this fall, which claimed more than 80 lives, over 100 women report being subjected to invasive “virginity tests” by the military.

Zohney believes that the attacks are systematic and fueled by unknown organized groups–whether by the military regime or others, she isn’t certain. She sees them as an attempt to discourage protests by intimidating revolutionaries and painting them in a bad light. Many of her friends have been attacked. Yet, she says, no serious security measures have been taken to stop the assaults. As a result, many women have avoided Tahrir Square, losing the opportunity to be full participants in the political process.

On the other hand, some women have spoken out against the violence. Logan, Eltahawy and others told their stories to the media. Women regularly share their harassment stories online. But, unfortunately, as on Friday, they, too, experience backlash and harassment.

If broad attempts to curb harassment in Egypt succeed, Tahrir Square may become safer for women protesters. Rebecca Ciao, a co-founder of Egyptian safe-streets organization HarassMap, says her group plans to continue conducting community outreach, spotlighting stories of harassment and allowing people to easily report incidents on an online map. Groups such as HarassMap, ECWR and the United Nations’ Safe Cities Programme have long spearheaded anti-harassment actions such as online story sharing, community safety audits, meetings, rallies, radio ads and, last month, a human chain against street harassment.

The attacks on women are also sparking anger among regular citizens. The “woman in the blue bra” became a national martyr, drawing thousands to march in solidarity in December.

No matter how many attacks they face, these brave women and men plan to speak out. Zohney and others are planning a multipronged response to Friday’s attacks that will include a larger, more organized march, as well as online testimonials by Friday’s victims and calls for more security in Tahrir Square. Activist Leil Zahra Mortada wrote in a Facebook post accompanying a photo album from the Friday march:

No matter how deep the wounds are, no matter how many times we get attacked or will be attacked, this will not stop nor silence us. More actions are planned, more noise will be made, and more proactive steps will be taken. We will see the end of sexual harassment and assault, both state-organized and individual! We will take down patriarchy, sexism and every form of violence based on gender or sexuality!

Brava. It is clear Egypt’s revolution will be incomplete until women win the streets.


The Woman In The Red Shirt: Assaulted By 200 Men in Tahrir Square

CAIRO — Her screams were not drowned out by the clamor of the crazed mob of nearly 200 men around her. An endless number of hands reached toward the woman in the red shirt in an assault scene that lasted less than 15 minutes but felt more like an hour.

She was pushed by the sea of men for about a block into a side street from Tahrir Square. Many of the men were trying to break up the frenzy, but it was impossible to tell who was helping and who was assaulting. Pushed against the wall, the unknown woman’s head finally disappeared. Her screams grew fainter, then stopped. Her slender tall frame had clearly given way. She apparently had passed out.

The helping hands finally splashed the attackers with bottles of water to chase them away.

The assault late Tuesday was witnessed by an Associated Press reporter who was almost overwhelmed by the crowd herself and had to be pulled to safety by men who ferried her out of the melee in an open Jeep.

Reports of assaults on women in Tahrir, the epicenter of the uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak to step down last year, have been on the rise with a new round of mass protests to denounce a mixed verdict against the ousted leader and his sons in a trial last week.

The late Tuesday assault was the last straw for many. Protesters and activists met Wednesday to organize a campaign to prevent sexual harassment in the square. They recognize it is part of a bigger social problem that has largely gone unpunished in Egypt. But the phenomenon is trampling on their dream of creating in Tahrir a micro-model of a state that respects civil liberties and civic responsibility, which they had hoped would emerge after Mubarak’s ouster.

„Enough is enough,“ said Abdel-Fatah Mahmoud, a 22-year-old engineering student, who met Wednesday with friends to organize patrols of the square in an effort to deter attacks against women. „It has gone overboard. No matter what is behind this, it is unacceptable. It shouldn’t be happening on our streets let alone Tahrir.“

No official numbers exist for attacks on women in the square because police do not go near the area, and women rarely report such incidents. But activists and protesters have reported a number of particularly violent assaults on women in the past week. Many suspect such assaults are organized by opponents of the protests to weaken the spirit of the protesters and drive people away.

Mahmoud said two of his female friends were cornered Monday and pushed into a small passageway by a group of men in the same area where the woman in the red shirt was assaulted. One was groped while the other was seriously assaulted, Mahmoud said, refusing to divulge specifics other than to insist she wasn’t raped.

Mona Seif, a well-known activist who has been trying to promote awareness about the problem, said Wednesday she was told about three different incidents in the past five days, including two that were violent. In one incident, the attackers ripped the woman’s clothes off and trampled on her companions, she said.

Women, who participated in the 18-day uprising that ended with Mubarak’s Feb. 11, 2011 ouster as leading activists, protesters, medics and even fighters to ward off attacks by security agents or affiliated thugs on Tahrir, have found themselves facing the same groping and assaults that have long plagued Egypt’s streets during subsequent protests in the square.

Women also have been targeted in recent crackdowns on protesters by military and security troops, a practice commonly used by Mubarak security that grew even more aggressive in the days following his ouster. In a defining image of the post-Mubarak state violence against women, troops were captured on video stomping with their boots on the bare chest of a woman, with only her blue bra showing, as other troops pulled her by the arms across the ground.

A 2008 report by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights says two-thirds of women in Egypt experienced sexual harassment on a daily basis. A string of mass assaults on women in 2006 during the Muslim feast following the holy month of Ramadan prompted police to increase the number of patrols to combat it but legislation providing punishment was never passed.

„If you know you can get away with sexual harassment and assault, then there is an overall impunity,“ Human Rights Watch researcher Heba Morayef said.

The case is more paradoxical in Tahrir, which has come to symbolize the revolution, but has lost its original luster among Egyptians weary of more than a year of turmoil.

Women say they briefly experienced a „new Egypt,“ with strict social customs casually cast aside during the initial 18-day uprising – at least among the protesters who turned the square into a protected zone. But that image was marred when Lara Logan, a U.S. correspondent for CBS television, was sexually assaulted by a frenzied mob in Tahrir on the day Mubarak stepped down, when hundreds of thousands of Egyptians came to the square to celebrate.

The post-Mubarak political reality for women also has deteriorated. They have lost political ground in the 16 months since Mubarak’s ouster – even winning fewer seats in parliament in the first free and fair elections in decades. The 508-member parliament has only eight female legislators, a sharp drop from the more than 60 in the 2010 parliament thanks to a Mubarak-era quota. Women’s rights groups also fear the growing power of Islamist groups will lead to new restrictions.

Activists have no idea what finally happened to the woman in the red shirt. But they have been alarmed by the rise in violent attacks on women, which has chipped away at efforts to project the square as a utopia free of discrimination and violence.

Seif said there is a responsibility inside the square.

„I think it is getting worse because people don’t want to acknowledge it is happening or do something to reduce it,“ said Seif. „It is our job to put an end to it, at least in Tahrir.“


Vorrundenaus 2012!

Die EM beginnt und mit ihr die Beleidung von Auge, Ohr und des guten Geschmacks durch ubiquitäre Deutschlandfahnen, Public Viewing, Autokorsos und grölende Fans.

Damit der Spuk bald vorbei ist, wünschen wir allen Gegnern der Deutschen Fußballnationalmannschaft viel Erfolg und hoffen auf ein Vorrundenaus 2012!

In diesem Sinne:

Pro Homo! Gegen Deutschland!