Recent attacks by the far-right on Pride events in Croatia, Georgia and Israel signal their increasing willingness to target the LGBTQ community as part of wider political intimidation tactics, according to activists who spoke with VICE World News.
While violence was avoided after police made arrests, Israeli officials said that on Sunday they had intercepted at least two violent plots – one by hard-right wing Israelis and the other by knife-wielding Palestinians – to target Tel Aviv’s pride event.
“We were concerned because of the amount of political violence and rhetoric in Israel after the fall of [former PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s] government and the right strongly believing that the left conspired to take him down that some elements would target Pride, which is usually associated with the Israeli left,” said a Shin Bet official who works on domestic security issues and cannot be named.
“We prevented a tragedy but it seems like we will see more and more terrorist style targeting of Pride events around the world as they seem to be associated with the elements of the left that make the right very angry and potentially violent.”
“These aren’t just homophobic attacks by the reactionary right,” said Giorgi, an LGBTQ activist in Tbilisi about the attacks on Pride organisers and offices Monday that forced the cancelation of Georgia’s main Pride event for the first time in over a decade.
The attackers, said Giorgi, who asked that their last name not be used in the current climate of political violence, targeted the Pride event as an act of political intimidation against Georgia’s political opposition to the government of Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, who previously described the planned march as unreasonable and part of a political attack on his government.
“There has been no problem with Georgia pride for over a decade but this year was the first we had Garibashvili warn that most Georgians opposed Pride and the march would be seen as a political attack on him,” said Giorgi. “Then the Interior Ministry warned they could not protect us or the journalists from the attackers.”
With police standing down and the prime minister claiming Pride was an attack on his party, right-wing attackers began to focus on the offices and march organisers on Monday, forcing the cancelation of the march as attacks on offices and activists spread around the city.
“The ongoing actions of the government have shown yet again that they are not willing to fulfil their direct responsibilities. Inaction by the government has placed the health and lives of the citizens of Georgia under real danger,” Tbilisi Pride said in a statement.
With homosexuality having been legal in Georgia since 2012 despite opposition from the conservative Orthodox church – organisers said that the attackers appeared focused on Pride’s political opposition to Garibashvili and not about the issue of LGBTQ rights.
“Then attackers work for the ruling party and they weren’t yelling about gay rights they were yelling about support for the prime minister’s party,” said Giorgi. “It was a case of political intimidation.”
Those same charges were levelled in Croatia – where as a European Union and NATO member, the Balkan country saw more than a decade of peaceful Pride events end this week as supporters of right wing parties targeted Pride events in Zagreb on Sunday.
According to the organisers of Zagreb Pride, Sunday’s march was interrupted by attacks of slapping, spitting and the burning of rainbow flags by right wing activists, sent by parties looking to weaken the conservative Catholic country's civil society progress over the last 20 years as the country has moved to decriminalise homosexuality.
"We expect the police to conduct a thorough investigation and treat all the incidents as hate crimes over sexual orientation, and not as violations of public orders,'' Zagreb Pride's Franko Dota told state broadcaster HRT, before naming right wing politicians Nikola Grmoja and Bozo Petrov from the Bridge party, of inciting the attacks.
For his part, Grmoja claims to have been targeted by activists.
"It's about the obvious effort to introduce censorship in a way to equate any criticism of LGBT policies and activist goals with hate and calling for violence," Grmoja said on Facebook.