August 7, 2023 | Monday

Arber Nuhiu: A Champion of Human Rights and LGBTQ+ Activism in Kosovo

Arber Nuhiu stands as a pillar of human rights and LGBTQ+ activism in Kosovo, having steered the Center for Social Group Development (CSGD) for an impressive two decades. Founded in 2003, CSGD has emerged as a pivotal LGBTQ+ rights organization in the country, proudly celebrating two decades of tireless work this year.

Despite having a background in electronic engineering, Arber’s life took an unexpected turn after the war, leading him to a Roma camp in Plemetin village, within Obiliq’s municipality. His work with vulnerable and displaced Roma people introduced him to the concept of human rights and the transformative power of rights organizations in society. It was here that he emotionally connected with the cause.

In 2003, with a small group of activists, Arber started addressing LGBTQ+ issues through modest grants and small-scale activities, which eventually blossomed into a leading LGBTQ+ rights organization in Kosovo. In the initial stages, the organization was run by activists who juggled different jobs while volunteering their time. As the organization stabilized around 2010, Arber assumed the role of executive director.

One significant moment for the LGBTQ+ movement worldwide was the inauguration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOT) on May 17, 2005. Two years later, in commemoration of IDAHOT, Arber and CSGD activists orchestrated the first-ever public debate on LGBTQ+ issues at Prishtina’s Theatre Oda. The event showcased a panel of speakers, a drag show, and a vibrant after-party, marking a pioneering milestone in Kosovo’s LGBTQ+ advocacy.

The organization also takes immense pride in its extensive program dedicated to LGBTQ+ persons’ health, particularly in HIV prevention, which involves working closely with Kosovar queer individuals on the ground.

Arber and CSGD’s efforts were also instrumental in including sexual orientation as a protected category in the first law against discrimination in 2007. This achievement paved the way for the recognition of sexual orientation and gender identity in the Constitution and the updated law in 2015.

From 2014 to 2016, CSGD and other LGBTQ+ organizations organized the first public marches, laying the groundwork for the eventual Pride Parade. These events not only raised awareness but also served as litmus tests for public sentiment and safety, especially regarding larger events like Pride.

Since those initial milestones in 2007 and 2014, the LGBTQ+ movement in Kosovo has made significant strides. Visibility of queer people has increased, and Pride celebrations have grown larger with each passing year. Queer cafes’ drag shows have become popular social hotspots in the city. However, Arber knows that true inclusivity for LGBTQ+ individuals is still a distant goal. According to him, there is an urgent need to address mental health concerns among LGBTQ+ individuals, ensure safe and regulated access to hormonal therapy for transgender individuals, and provide shelters for those experiencing violence.

Looking ahead, Arber and CSGD are gearing up to mark two decades of unwavering commitment to LGBTQ+ activism with a celebratory party by the end of the year. The journey has been arduous, but their dedication has been a beacon of hope and progress for the LGBTQ+ community in Kosovo.