Sarajevo Banners Highlights New Hate in Emblematic City

As people around the world took part in the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), football supporters at the Sarajevo derby demonstrated exactly why human rights groups have raised concerns about attacks on the LGBT community in Bosnia-Herzegovina. A report from the Fare Network.

One half of a curve of Sarajevo’s Kosevo stadium, also known as the Olympic Stadium Asim Ferhatovic-Hase, was dominated by a banner on May 16 which read, “May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and in honor of your holiday tomorrow we want you to suck our dicks”.

Images of the match show a large presence of stewards and police, none of whom appeared to challenge the display.

“Love for a team through hate”

Local news portal described the scene: “Streets across the city were filled with singing fans alongside tourists from around the world, bars and restaurants were teeming. Sarajevo presented an ideal spring picture, a time for everyone to celebrate.

“This image was cut short by the appearance of a huge banner in the stands of Kosevo stadium with homophobic insults towards the gay population. The banner was enormous and required several hundred fans to hold it up. Their love for their team was expressed through messages of hate and intolerance.”

The Sarajevo derby is played between FK Zeljeznicar and FK Sarajevo and is considered one of the most impassioned sporting events in the Balkans. The city of Sarajevo has become a symbol of renaissance in a troubled region as it overcomes ethnic division and conflict, highlighted by the Siege of Sarajevo between 1992 and 1996 during the Bosnian War.

“Worst act of homophobia”

Piara Powar, Executive Director of the Fare network, commented on the incident: “This choreography was one of the worst displays of homophobia we have seen this season, which may be a source of pride for the people responsible for it, but it may also mark a watershed moment.

“The rules of football are clear, acts of discrimination are to be challenged and sanctioned; we will be contacting the Bosnian FA and the Bosnian government asking them to do just that.

“National sporting events cannot be a means of spreading hate; the people of Sarajevo know that better than most others.

“In the meantime, we stand alongside the victims of this act, the LGBT community in Bosnia, in defying hatred and calling for tolerance and inclusion.”

Homophobia in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Several reports have called for greater action to tackle homophobia in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In 2013, ILGA (International Lesbian and Gay Association) said that “experiences of homophobia and transphobia remain very common in Bosnia-Herzegovina, with limited or no action taken by authorities to address such discrimination, harassment or violence.”

In 2014 and 2015, members of the LGBT community were subject to physical attacks and outed in a series of unchallenged acts of hate. The US embassy and Human Rights Watch expressed their concerns about these crimes and urged the government to take action.

The US embassy acknowledged IDAHOT by lighting up its building in the colours of the rainbow flag for the third year in a row. Embassy officials have previously said that “the LGBT community in BiH continues to be a marginalised and almost invisible group.” summed up its article and the sentiments of many when it said, “we are aware of the power of football when it comes to sending positive messages, creating powerful gatherings or creating disharmony; for that reason the appearance of hateful messages on football stands has major significance.”


This article was originally published on the FARE network. FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) has generously given us permission to republish it here.

Liked it? Take a second to support Balkanist on Patreon!

Balkanist is an experimental, occasionally bilingual platform featuring politics, analysis, culture, and criticism for a smart international audience underwhelmed by what is currently on offer. Our aim is to provide bold, uncompromising coverage of the Balkan region and everything to its East.