Statement regarding threats directed at activists of the CSO Impuls,

upon the appearance of our photo with the rainbow flag

During the sixth Festival of Women’s Friendship organized by the civil society organization (CSO) Impuls from Tutin, the safety of the participants of the Festival was compromised, and their human rights were seriously threatened.

Namely, for the second day of the Festival, August 3rd, 2019, the public performance of activities opposing violence against women had been planned. As in previous years, the performance was duly reported to the police, and the organizers made all the necessary logistical preparations for the planned action to proceed in the best possible way. However, earlier in the day, there was an organized social media campaign that threatened the safety of the participants of the action. According to the organizers, activists of several political parties, as well as religious activists, wanted to prevent a concerted action against the holding of a performance opposing violence against women, which was publicly described as a “gay parade in Tutin”. The organizers of this crackdown on the Festival of Women’s Friendship arrived to this interpretation by equalizing the peace flag and the flag of the LGBT movement. Both flags have rainbow colors, but the Peace flag has the word PEACE on it. In one of the photos from last year’s performance, CSO Impuls’ director, Dzeneta Agovic, is holding the very same flag, with two other activists standing beside her. This photo was taken from Impulse Facebook page and shared on social networks with the following comment: On behalf of all the citizens of Tutin, I dissociate myself from these disgraceful things and curse them all for bringing this shame upon us. There will be no such disgrace, Allah forbid, not in my city! Tutin will rather see a bloodbath than a gay parade, followed by other slogans. Despite the threats, the performance was held and the police presence was evident. After the performance was completed, one of the observers was noticed watching and filming the participants of the Festival, and calling them shameless women. An Impuls’ activist alerted the police, but the video was nonetheless posted on social media. On the same occasion, the owner of the Ras restaurant in Pazarište (near Novi Pazar) forbade Festival participants to attend a pre-arranged dinner by saying that “LGBT people are denied entrance to the Ras restaurant”.

The organizers and participants of the Women’s Friendship Festival see such attacks as a flagrant violation of the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Serbia, but also as another act of intimidation of human rights activists in Serbia. We expect the relevant institutions, especially the High-Tech Crime Division, to take all the necessary measures to identify and process the individuals who launched those threats, in accordance with the existing legislation.

In Tutin, 5th August 2

Signatories of the Announcement:

ŽMIG (Women’ Peace Group) Pančevo
SOS Hotline Vlasotince
Independent Women’s Center, Dimitrovgrad
Single Parents’ Association Together, Novi Pazar
Women’s Center Užice
Autonomous Women’s Center, Belgrade
Women in Black Belgrade
Phenomena Kraljevo
The right to Water, Belgrade
Citizen’s Association, Pirot
SOS Hotline Women’s Center, Novi Sad
Oasis of Safety, Kragujevac
Women for Peace, Leskovac
BEFEM, Belgrade
Pescanik (Sundglass), Krusevac
ROZA, Association for Women’s Labour Rights, Zrenjanin
Lužani Handcraft – Women’s Etno Center, Babušnica
Foundation Cure, Sarajevo
Anima, Kotor
Bona Fide, Pljevlja
Women’s Association Jadar, Konjević Polje
Festival Prvo pa Žensko (First Born Girl), Skoplje
Women of Kruščica, Kruščica
Center for Support to Women, Kikinda
Women Studies and Research, Novi Sad
Women Research Center Niš
Women’s Organization for Development, Podgorica
Pandora, Herceg Novi
SOS Hotline for Women and Children Victims of Violence, Nikšić
Center for Women’s Rights, Podgorica
NGO Prima , Podgorica
Montenegrin Lobby Podgorica

This letter was sent to the following state and international institutions:

The Office of the President of the Republic of Serbia
The Office of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia
The Speaker of the Serbian Parliament
The Office of the Minister of the Interior
The Ombudsman’s Office
The Commissioner for the Protection of Equality
The OSCE Mission to Serbia
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights defenders