A gay couple from Serbia has been violently assaulted in a German refugee camp.
The attack occurred last week and left the two asylum-seekers hospitalized. LGBT rights activist Javid Nabiyev drew attention to the assault with a video on Facebook, which detailed the horrific ordeal.
According to Nabiyev, the pair fled Serbia because they faced persecution from their families, who vowed to incite violence against them if they stayed together.
Once they arrived in Germany, they were advised by social workers to keep their relationship a secret in order to prevent harassment in the refugee camps.
Nabiyev said he tried to help the couple move to a safer location, but that his request was denied because they didn’t have a good enough reason to transfer.
“To make officials believe them and to prove the urgency of the situation, they needed to face attack,” he explained. “They don’t want to believe when they complain about the situation in a verbal way.”
After they’re finished being treated for their injuries in hospital, they’ll be sent back to the same place where the attack occurred. Their assailant, whose only punishment was to give a statement, is still at the camp.
“How many people should face this kind of attack, to make all of you believe, to convince you, our situation is urgent?” Nabiyev concluded. “If this person was a German citizen would police react the same way?”
Anti-gay rhetoric—and violence—is common in Serbia: Homosexuality was officially labeled a mental illness until 2009, and nearly 70% of Serbians still believe it is. (More than half feel the government should “actively suppress homosexuality.”)
Despite this rampant bigotry, the Serbian government officially declared out lesbian Ana Brnabić as the nation’s Prime Minister this past June. While the move could signal a change in how the former communist country’s LGBT community is treated, activists aren’t so optimistic.
“Even though a lesbian… holds a top position in Serbia’s government, and despite existing laws that prohibit discrimination and violence, there are still many cases of violence and human rights violations that are not investigated,” said said Jelena Vasiljevic of Labris, a gay rights organization in Belgrade.
“There have been some positive changes, but people have failed to recognize the fact that the LGBTQ community does not live on an island, but instead, in the middle of society,” added activist Emina Bosnjak. “It not only requires protection from discrimination and violence; it also has needs in education, health care and in the workplace.”