BALKAN TROLL OF THE MONTH: Stav.ba

The Balkan Troll of the Month is an individual, a group of individuals or a media outlet that spreads hate on the internet based on gender, ethnicity, religion, or other diversity categories. The Balkan Troll is selected based on hate speech incidents identified across the Western Balkans region.

Our August Troll of the Month is the magazine Stav.ba which displayed strong anti-LGBTQ+ narratives and homophobia within their article, further promoting hate speech within the community.

Stav is a political magazine located in Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital. Recently the magazine published an article in relation to an event taking place during the Pride in Sarajevo. The Parade itself, which was held on August 14th at noon with the slogan of “Resistance from the Margins” was indeed Sarajevo’s second-ever Pride whereby members of the public, people from the Balkans and across Europe attended in solidarity.  In fact, Bosnia itself was the only country from former Yugoslavia that had not hosted a Pride parade until 2019 due to the large number of hate speech and violence targeting the LGBTQ+ community.

During this year’s Pride, members of the LGBTQ+ community sang the verses of the famous Sevdalinka “Snow has fallen on blossoms and fruits” which led to Stav.ba publishing an article criticising the LGBTQ+ community for wrongly using the verses within the song to promote LGBTQ+ rights.

Sevdalinka is a traditional folk music genre from Bosnia and Herzegovina which is both an important aspect of their culture and tradition. These songs date all the way back to the medieval times within the region and have filtered through to the surrounding ex-Yugoslav countries over the centuries.

The article itself was titled “Sarajevo has never been an LGBTQ commune: They falsified the verses of the Sevdalinka “Snow has fallen on blossoms and fruits”. The title itself was a clear and direct indication of the lack of support for both the LGBTQ+ community and attitude towards the march itself.

During the Pride march, many individuals were carrying the verses of the Sevdalinka on various banners including the verse which caused much controversary within the article – “let anyone love who he/she wants”.

During the first Pride parade, Damir Imamovic, a Bosnian musician, sang those exact verses which seem to promote open love with no boundaries. Nevertheless, according to the article, this verse was different from that of the original. The article goes on to note that in the original version, the verse is “God, give everyone what they want”, however, due to the fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of Yugoslavia and therefore, a communist country at the time, many people protested against the use of ‘God’ within the song. This led to the verse being changed to “let anyone love who he/she wants” which according to the article, had become so common that many individuals to this day don’t remember or respect the return to the original.

The author continues to place an emphasis on the fact that the verse is incorrect and cannot imply that anyone can love who they want – they even go as far as to mention that it especially cannot apply to “the variation of women with women, men with men, but rather a Bosniak girl to a Bosniak boy”. This is an extremely homophobic narrative and statement which creates a judgement of what is ‘acceptable’ love and what is not – further promoting homophobia and anti-LGBTQ+ narratives.

According to the author of the article, they were not only surprised and confused by the use of this Sevdalinka as a way of promoting LGBTQ+ rights but also by the “repeated use of the composition, which the LGBTQ population in Bosnia and Herzegovina obviously takes as its anthem”. It is clear how within traditional societies the adaptation of tradition by those deemed to be “the other”, marginalised groups within society is met with such resistance.

Damir Imamovic himself composes and sings songs which promote love without borders in his Sevdalinkas. In the Sevdalinka “Lijepi Meho” translated as “Handsome Meho” one verse reads “Dear mother, do not call it a sin that my soul burns for Meho” thereby, promoting the love of one man who is in love with another.

Thereby, the adaptation of Sevdalinka, has led to backlash from the traditional society. Society that thinks that tradition is only for straight people.

Stav has around 27,239 followers having a widespread reach to various individuals within both Bosnia and Herzegovina  and elsewhere. This article is extremely negative as it further promotes hate towards the LGBTQ+ community and upholds homophobia within the community. By creating a clear statement of Sarajevo’s lack of support for the LGBTQ+ community throughout history, this article creates a clear divide within society and almost removes any possibility of hope for further inclusivity and openness towards equal rights.

By publishing such articles and posting them on various social media platforms, these negative narratives and anti-LGBTQ+ statements are further spread within society leading to further animosity and hatred towards individuals within the LGBTQ+ community.

Being a private political magazine and a media organisation, Stav has both a duty and responsibility to publish articles and extracts which further promote equality and inclusivity within society. Rather than being a narrative of division, Stav and other media organisations alike, should censor their articles to further encourage equality and stand in support of equal rights and treatment of all members of society. Rather than further encouraging hate speech and intolerance towards various groups within society including the LGBTQ+ community, media organisations should promote diversity and tolerance.