Albania’s Gay Flight, 5 December 2007
Homosexuals face little choice but to leave Albania or put up with deep-rooted homophobia.

By Ben Andoni in Tirana

“Could I tell my mother that I am gay? She is nearly eighty-years-old now. I would never want to cause her such trauma at this stage in her life. My father – when he was alive – asked me, but I could not admit it to him either,” recalls the man in his forties, too afraid to give his name, too self-conscious, constantly looking over his shoulder.

Getting in touch with Gjerji, as he wants to be called, was not an easy task. A form of underground credibility must be established through a network of intermediaries. Repeated cases in the past have taught the homosexual community that, in a traditional society like Albania, going public with their sexual orientation means losing their jobs, risking threats and possible rejection by their families.

“From what we know, the data that we have, there is a community of nearly 3,500 in Tirana alone,” says Genci Terpo, a lawyer with the Albanian Human Rights Group, AHRG.

Though the Albanian Parliament legalized homosexual relationships in 1995, more than a decade later, gays and lesbians are still heavily stigmatized, and a majority of them are choosing to leave, amidst fears that if their sexual orientation is discovered, their safety will be endangered.

“The attitudes toward homosexuality have not changed much, and they have to protect themselves,” says Terpo. “It’s not that now, in 2007, there is any real difference to what we have seen before. They continue to be subjected to discrimination in all walks of life, and that includes state institutions,” he adds.

In the past the majority of homosexuals leaving the country tended to pass through the illegal smuggling routes that were such a familiar feature of the Balkans during the 1990s. Now a growing number is turning to human rights organizations, like AHRG.

“Our biggest problem is identifying ourselves and the possibility of having a shared space where we can meet without fear. There are gay and lesbian clubs all over the world, even in Arab countries which are historically more traditional than ours, and yet here we live in fear” says S.L., a member of the Albanian Gay and Lesbian Association, ALGA.

S.L. says he has good reason for such fear. “We were sitting in a park when two police vans pulled over. The officers got out of the van and dragged us away. One of the drivers came over to me and kicked me repeatedly, his boot hitting my stomach. When I begged him to stop, he just shouted ‘Shut up you faggot’, and continued kicking me”, adds S.L., recalling the incident.

ALGA and AHGR have been trying to bring to the public’s attention the treatment of homosexuals in Albania. In addition to its publicity work, AHGR also provides legal representation, free of charge, for ALGA members in case of arrest or mistreatment.

According to S.L. a number of members from the organization are currently applying for asylum in EU countries due to the discrimination they face, and a few of them have already left.

The first case registered by ALGA was in 2002, when one of its members was granted asylum in the Netherlands through the assistance of AHRG, after being subjected to repeated psychological and physical violence from police officers.

Human rights reports on Albania concede that ingrained attitudes among the public leave Albanian gays and lesbians on the fringes of society. According to AHRG, Albanian homosexuals face “intolerance, physical and psychological violence – often from the police – and discrimination in the workplace.”

A.A., another member of ALGA, has been granted asylum in Sweden. After being repeatedly harassed by police, he turned to AHRG to seek a way to leave the country.

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  1. Mark

    The Albanian government is run by a sort of Mafia from what I’ve heard. The Europeon Union should denounce the persecution of sexual minorities in Albania if they have’nt already done so. It seems apparant that Albania is still suffering from the effects of decades of ultra-Stalinist rule. Now that the Stalinists are out of power ordinary gangsters control the government and daily life. I would not consider Albania to be a European nation in any significant way and what exists there now is little better than life under the Communists. People have been mudered in broad daylight in government buildings. Homosexuals are living in a society that does not respect the rule of law. I can see why one would hide one’s true identity in such a society.

  2. I agree with you Mark, I come from Tirana and I have left my home country 7 years a go since I was 15 years of age.

    The local community police officers do not support LGBT any any way nor in court. Instead they beat them up and if they are out the will not be able to work, nor have friends nor be able to go to the shop without being through a stone or called and pushed aside. When I was 15 one of the guys who I can not name he found out that I was gay and he tried to raped my twice with another guy. I do not know but I have been very lucky to get out of Tirana. If my family know that I am gay first my brothers would try and kill me and I know I will no longer have a family . I would loose my beautiful sisters and my mum due to my brothers. I get so tiered and I feel so hopeless that there absolutely nothing to support us.

  3. Andreas

    Hello there!My name is Andreas and i live in United States.It is sad and hard to hear that still after 20 years OF FREEDOM(SO THEY CALL IT)no one can live and be who they really are.I was born in Albania ,im gay and now im going to school in the states but my mind and my heart is always gonna be in Albania.We have to be strong and fight for our rights.


  4. skender

    i was born in kosova and i have finally came out with my true feelings about what i am into which is men i now live in NY and have found my true partner in life and we are both happy which he was born in albania.

  5. Benny

    True, I can not even imagine how bad it would be beeing gay in Albania. I am Albanian but I am not gay. I don’t think people should be viewed down upon just because they are gay, but I beleive that slowly it will change. As Albanians open up their mentallity when traveling abroad, things will get better for gay people in Albania.

  6. Ani

    I’m 16 years old and gay. It’s difficult to be openly gay in Albania, in Tirana it’s a paradise being gay compared to the other cities of the country. This closeness makes me feel bad and lonely and I’ve just come out to my family but I want to be open about my sexuality even with other people…

  7. Lily

    This really upsets me. I have a number of gay friends, and each time I visit my country Kosova, all of my friends think it is strange to associate with gays and lesbians. My fiancee, he is also Albanian, and after a year I have convinced him that no one can choose who they love. In my opinion, as an Albanian, I think the only way these countries can even move forward is by accepting the new world, modernity, and others, otherwise we will be stuck behind. I also blame the old generations for not accepting their own children, whereas the new continues the pattern with maybe a small percentage that can really be considered a group of individuals who embrace modernity and inter link it with tradition. I hope it all changes one day.

  8. Emir


    I, too, was bor in Kosovo and lived in Albania for a while. I left Kosovo after police in Kosova beat and tortured me calling all names. Fearing that they, police, would kill me, I moved to Albania, where I tried to hid my orientation for a while. In 2006, Albanian secret polce arrested me in Durres and took me to their office. There they beat me and told me to leave Albania or they were going to kill me because to them I was immoral and dagerous to their Muslim faith. In Islam, according to them, homos must be executed. They were so vicious in beating me that I have been suffering since and I cannot see myself getting beck to normal again. People in Albania are so backword that when my neighbors found out I was gay, then attemted to burn me and when the police came, they arrested me instead of them who were trying to kill me. But I tell you that even here in the USA where I live, is no better. I still stay away from the Albanisn communites and non of my relatives speak with me. It is a lonely life for us, but we must be strong

    Happy New Year to all of you!

  1. 1 Gay Albania News & Reports

    […] 5 December 2007 – Gays Without Borders […]

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