“This can happen to any of us”: Bratislava murders rock Czech LGBT community

The shooting dead last week of two young gay men in the Slovak capital Bratislava has also rocked the LGBT community in Czechia, with many drawing a link between negative portrayals of sexual minorities and acts of violence. I discussed that issue with Czech marriage equality campaigner Adéla Horáková – but first asked her about the mood among her community.

Adéla Horáková | Photo: Jana Plavec

“First of all it’s sadness – sadness for the victims, for their families, for all the LGBT people in Slovakia and in the region.

“And I think the second most frequent reaction, or emotion, I have seen at vigils, on social media, among my friends, is anger.

“People are angry at the people who let this happen, who enabled this to happen, and who continue to enable this to happen”.

On Thursday, the day after the murders, there was an interview with the presidential candidate Pavel Fischer, who suggested marriage equality could lead to child trafficking. That seemed to spark a debate about whether such views can lead to violence. What would you say to those people who would argue that this view is perhaps exaggerated, and that what happened in Bratislava was an isolated incident involving one disturbed individual?

Pavel Fischer | Photo: Ondřej Tomšů,  Radio Prague International

“I would say words do kill.

“I believe people like Mr. Fischer – I hope – do not wish for such violence to happen.

“But they do not see the link between their words and the actions of an indeed deranged individual. And the link is there.

“Mr. Fischer and other people who spread lies and try to stigmatise us, they do not pull the trigger, they did not pull the trigger.

“But they put thoughts into the head of someone who did.

“Therefore, in my mind, they do bear responsibility, although indirect and partial.”

The Slovak president, Zuzana Čaputová, showed great empathy at the vigils after the terrible shootings in Bratislava. What do you make of the response of politicians here in Czechia?

“I have not done an exhaustive review of all the expressions of grief or comments from Czech politicians.

“But from what I have seen, we have seen some very supporting, comforting and empathetic reactions from some of our Czech politicians: the one by the minister of foreign affairs, the one by the Pirate Party, many people from the Mayors party – but many others, I don’t want to just say only one party.

“But we have also seen some at best clumsy and not well-informed statements.

“And then we have also heard a deafening silence from people who very often jump to Twitter; as soon as there is a new article about trans people in the UK, they’re there – usually commenting in a very misinformed and misleading way.

“But now they’re very silent. And I think the silence speaks for itself.”

On Friday CNN Prima News had a kind of poll on their social media asking people if they minded the LGBT community, yes or no. Later they apologised for that. But what’s your reaction when you see something like that on social media, or anywhere?

“Well, it’s absolutely horrific.

“I believe this poll was on TikTok, which is where young people are.

“What does it say to a young gay boy who has just heard about other young gay men being murdered for who they are?

“And the first thing that this supposedly serious TV station asks is whether people mind the ‘existence’ of LGBT people.

“Would they put up a poll like this after the Holocaust, asking people if they minded Jews?

“It’s absolutely mind-boggling, the amount of hidden homophobia and the lack of empathy in the conduct of CNN Prima.

“I do not understand how CNN can lend their name to this.

“They did apologise for it, that is true.

“But they did not apologise for example for inviting an openly homophobic person to their supposed debate right after the shootings.

“She basically said that gay bars are strange places, somehow implying that these two men who were murdered were maybe a little bit to blame for being at these supposed strange places.

“Just horrific.”

Do you feel like people in the Czech LGBT community are more concerned now about their security, after what happened in Bratislava?

“Absolutely. Absolutely – every single person I met are worried about their security.

“This can happen at a gay club. This can happen at a gay rally. This can happen anywhere in the street to any one of us.

“We have not been very safe and we’re less safe right now.

“People with children are worried, what is that going to do to them – if their children might be affected.

“Yes, we are scared.

“And we’re waiting for the state, for the politicians, to protect us.

“We’re waiting for concrete steps and an action plan on how to eradicate homophobia and how to end transphobia and how to protect us.

“Tweets are not enough.”