This might be the first pride parade in history marching on official UN territory.
At the heart of the final celebration, under the eyes of 1,000 participants, local press, and UN soldiers, leaders of two communities stitched together one huge rainbow flag. Meanwhile, hundreds of participants shouted: “United by pride across the divide”.
Following the event, some Greek, English, and Turkish speeches were delivered to smaller crowds and a couple of after-parties were launched in different venues.
On the island of Cyprus, there are a few different queer organizations, focusing their activity on different parts of the country. The newest organization “Queer Collective CY” was established in May 2022 and was the one to push this event to take place, after a few years of no queer event taking place on Pride Month.
The first time that a queer community marched in Cyprus was in 2014, on the Greek side only. Activists say they were surprised by the large attendance, but also by protests and even one smoke bomb.
It was easy to notice that a clear majority of the participants in pride 2022 were under the age of 25, making it a unique young pride parade. Gender-wise, the crowd was much more diverse than many other parades dominated by men. One of the few gray-haired men seen in the crowd shared: “When we grew up if your son was a faggot they would say to the father to shoot him in the backyard. There’s still homophobia in Cyprus, but things have changed a lot. So many young people here, it gives me hope.”
Not only local Cypriots took part in the event but also a delegation of American and Australian diplomats, as well as representatives of the LGBT Africa and LGBT Philippines organizations.
Younger participants were talking about Cyprus as a relatively safe place, where only some cases of staring once in a while. “If you walk hand in hand, hug or kiss in public you might get some looks but that’s it. It’s safe here, if someone will say something it’s on them,” said a Greek-speaking Cypriot.
“We are on such a small island that is somehow divided into so many factions. We do hope that this event can attract queer tourists in the future but it is important to remember that Pride is still a riot, it’s a protest for human rights,” said Angelica Ourri from the Queer Collective.
The large part of the community hosted around 900 people, marching on the main streets of the Greek southern city, clapping hands and shouting queer slogans. A few policemen and women were escorting the group, all seemingly quite okay with the situation. The patient drivers weren’t stopped by the authorities but by marching people.
Participants from the Turkish side said the atmosphere was a bit less friendly over there. “People were staring all the way, I expected it to be worse but I’m happy the police were escorting us,” said a tourist from the UK. A Canadian participant living in Limassol in the past decade said: “They won’t admit it, but putting four men aside, actually, all men in Cyprus are gay or bisexual.”
Unlike many pride events around Europe, the Cypriot event was mixing politics with Pride. Many signs held up dealt with the peace and unity of Cyprus. “Shoulder to shoulder against fascism” and “Queer united will never be defeated” are some of the slogans that were repeated by the crowd.
Other participants held signs that have to do with environmental issues like their struggle to save the Akamas forest of Cyprus from industrial development. A local photographer documenting the event asked: “Can you imagine two parades of Israelis and Palestines uniting together in Jerusalem?”
Combining peace and equality as the main topics, the first united pride in Cyprus felt like an important piece of queer history.