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Activists with the Centre for Equality and Liberty, a LGBTQI rights NGO, Lendi Mustafa and Liridon Veliu, in their office preparing for Pristina’s first ever gay pride parade. On February 17, Kosovo celebrated its tenth birthday.Europe’s youngest nation was forged into being following the 1999 war of independence against the security forces of the Serbian government, which for years had ruthlessly oppressed the ethnic Albanian population of its south-western province.One time he and a friend had wanted to visit a now-closed bar and the security staff made it clear their sexual orientation meant they were not welcome.“We went to a police station and they laughed at us, they made jokes about us, asking us how we have sex, etcetera,” he says. “Until today there is not even a single case that has gone to the courts, that’s the biggest problem” In 2011, for the first time, Pristina had a gay bar. Nestled under Pristina’s football stadium, Pure Pure Bar quietly let it be known that LGBTQI customers were welcome.“I call this a half pride, because pride is when you celebrate and we’re not free to celebrate yet.” He had good reason to be cautious.On Valentine’s Day 2014, a four-woman artistic collective called Haveit staged a piece of performance art in the heart of Pristina that had far greater repercussions than any of them anticipated.Speaking late last year outside a Pristina art gallery that in a past life housed the city’s boxing club, Haveit member Lola Syla recalled the origin of the piece.
Blerim said it is one of three places in Kosovo he feels completely at ease.However, there is a mantra among those that follow developments in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital: “Legislation is one thing, implementation is another.” Freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation has been enshrined in the constitution since June 2008.And yet, the number of LGBTQI Kosovars that are willing to publicly identify themselves as such could be counted on two hands.One enterprising staff member put out an advert on Gay Romeo, a dating site.For his troubles, a local newspaper produced an article that resulted in threats and abuse being directed at staff and patrons, according to multiple members of the LGBTQI community.
Equal Times attempted to make contact with the former owner of Pure Pure, but was told by multiple intermediaries that he was unwilling to speak with the press, keen not to see a repeat of his experience in 2011.