Italy: Racist Protests at Pride? Let’s Keep R-Existing!

contestazioni razziste pride resistere
Attivisti di Il Grande Colibrì sul palco del Bologna Pride

Attending the Gay Pride – for a gay immigrant from the Middle East – is a miracle that repeats itself every 365 days! For the past ten years I have not missed the Pride at my favorite city: Bologna.

An immigrant who speaks of immigrants

When two members of my association, Il Grande Colibrì, invited me to be part of the Bologna Pride Committee 2018 to present the requests of the LGBTQIA migrant community, I immediately accepted. During a meeting in preparation of the event, I found out this was another important moment of the Pride: a Pride within the Pride!

I was struck by the sensitivity, warmth and joyous reception of the people present at the table when they became aware that I am a gay immigrant: finally an immigrant talking about immigrant issues! I was asked to prepare a speech. Immigrants usually passively attend to political and social life. I felt “under scrutiny.” I wrote the speech and shared it with some members of Il Grande Colibrì, who helped me to summarize some concepts and improve others. It was a good team collaboration.

We have involved the Migrabo’ association and we got on the stage at the Pride in-arms. Once on the stage, I realized how big the audience was and for a moment, I panicked. Some people extended their applause as if they understood my strain. I spoke to the crowd about my wounded Syria. People listened and applauded. People’s faces were bright with joy and amazement before this immigrant who, all things considered, knows the Italian language well and has enough courage to touch upon certain topics.

“Go back to Syria, Italians first!”

Unfortunately, someone in the crowd told me to: “Go back to Syria!” At first, I thought I had misunderstood. I carried on with my speech and the crowd seemed overall enthusiastic. However, the insults kept coming, especially from a woman dressed in black who was standing near the stage, but she was not the only one. I heard statements like: Go back home!“, “Us (Italians) first! and while discussing how the 35 euros per diem is used by projects dedicated to asylum seekers, the tones became even more insistent: “It’s 45 euros!“, “It’s 100 euros!“, “Italians first!“, “Fuck off!

At some point I felt confounded and lost my voice. I tried to evade the situation by looking away, far beyond the crowd and thanks to the waving flags, I’ve recognized a group of people with whom I share a long history of activism, which helped me to collect myself and to resume my speech. I then talked about asylum seekers who engage in socially useful jobs at ZERO euro, contrary to some politicians claim of asylum seekers getting paid 1,000 euro a month to sweep the street, helping in cafeterias or retirement homes.

Jasmine, president of the Migrabo’ association, spoke after me. The audience was very receptive to her speech. At the end, the event host delivered a firm and direct message to those who challenged us, inviting them – using a quite colorful language – to leave.

To say I am very appreciative to the organizers of the Pride is pure rhetoric. So I will say that Saturday, July 7, 2018 I was at the utmost height of my pride as a gay man belonging to the LGBTQIA community in Bologna. Despite the chilling and gloomy political times and the soul eaters that are surfacing to the light, we are and remain a solid, warm and welcoming nursery for flowers of all colors and spice. We all exist and resist! Long live the Pride Wave !

Paolo Ayoubi
translation by Barbara Burgio
©2018 Il Grande Colibrì
photo: Il Grande Colibrì

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