Toronto
2 min

Dead man used to attack Yugoslav gays

The government of Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic is using the murder of a prominent gay rights activist to attack that country’s queer community.



“It’s being used [by the] regime to show that members of the homosexual and gay and non-governmental organizations are dangerous, that they’re drug addicts, that they have lots of money and are dangerous to the state,” says Lepa Mladjenovic, a friend of Dejan Nebrigic and a member of the gay rights group Arkadija.



Nebrigic was found strangled to death in his Belgrade area apartment on his 29th birthday, Dec 29. Police have arrested his ex-lover for the crime.



Mladjenovic does not suspect that Milosevic’s regime is behind the killing.



But the government’s use of Nebrigic’s murder for its own purposes is nothing new.



“They use every opportunity to say that all the activists, that all the NGO’s are negative and dangerous as well as opposition members,” says Mladjenovic.



“The rhetoric lately is that also the opposition is only following what the CIA has told them to do.”



According to Reuters, a high ranking government official, Judge Nedeljko Martinovic, is quoted in Yugolavia’s pro-governement tabloid, Politika Express as saying: “Our information is that Nebrigic founded a movement of homosexuals who had access to various funds from abroad.”



He goes on to explain the perceived risks: “That movement was, in effect, a gateway for all kinds of sects conducting a special war against our country.”



The government’s actions have raised the ire of the international community.



In a press release, the International Gay And Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) states: “We insist that the full force of the investigation be focused on the criminal offence, not the political activities and identity of the victim.



“IGLHRC stands in solidarity with civil society in Serbia, and in particular with all democratic forces which continue to combat jingoism and which struggle against overwhelming odds for a tolerant and free culture.”



IGLHRC is US-based, does not receive government cash and is dependent on donations. The group had provided information and worked on projects with Arkadija in the past but gave them no money.



Nebrigic was a peace activist, journalist and draft resister. He was active in a group called Campaign Against Homophobia and co-founded Arkadija in 1990. He was against Serbia’s military actions in Kosovo but had come out publicly against NATO’s March to June ’99 bombing of Yugoslavia.



In an interview with Xtra during the air attacks, he said he feared being killed by the bombs – but was too frightened to take cover in bomb shelters. He believed neighbours might attack him.



The intolerance and harassment of homosexuals continues. Homos have been the target of police attacks and are often scapegoats in the press.



Poverty is endemic. Mladjenovic says the average wage is around $50 a month.



Despite the conditions, Mladjenovic sees opposition groups gaining momentum and members of the queer community are continuing their fight for equality. “We have a gay and lesbian meeting in two days.”



Serbian laws against homosexuality were repealed in 1994.



The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission can be reached at (415) 255-8680. The web address is www.iglhrc.org.