Pride Parades in Bulgaria and the region: The same goals and similar problems

Written by on June 6, 2017 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Pride Parades in Bulgaria and the region: The same goals and similar problems

In many cities across the world, Pride Parades and Christopher Street Days are being organised. In some cities and towns, the event is scheduled for June 10, 2017, like in Sofia. Some picked other dates. In many cases, local Pride Parades are part of an entire week, or even a month of events.

Most LGBT communities in Eastern Europe are facing discrimination and some reported recent hate crimes. With their Pride Parades, all of them demand equal rights for lesbians, gays, bi-sexual and trans-gender people, the same rights everyone else enjoys, and an end to discrimination and hate.

In Kiev, the so-called “KyyivPrayd2017” consists of a full cultural programme, discussions and a march through the city on June 18. The festivities start with a short film presentation on June 9. But the excitement about the big events turned to anger about an incident in Kharkov, during the International Day Against Homophobia on May 17, when a mob of some 30 men attacked participants of an event. Three people were injured.

In Croatia, the Zagreb Pride organisation just took legal action, after a gay man from Brazil was beaten badly and thrown out of the club “Hangar” on Saturday. Just like the Sofia Pride Parade, the Zagreb Pride Parade will take place on June 10, 2017.

The Belgrade Pride Week has been taking place in September of each year, since 2011. And Skopje has a Pride Parade Weekend, later this month. The LGBT communities in both Serbia and Macedonia are facing hatred as well.

In Romania, the Bucharest Pride Parade took place on May 20. The situation for the Romanian LGBT community is comparable to the Bulgarian one, meaning there are hatred and discrimination. The difference is the fact that one leading politician, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, does care about minority rights. Recently, he defended the LGBT community against parts of the Christian Orthodox Church of Romania, by criticising the religious organisation harshly, and accusing it of fanaticism.

In Bulgaria, there are very few politicians who would support the LGBT community, but there are quite a few homophobic ones.

When the leader of the Bulgarian Volya party, Vesselin Mareshki, said members of parliament should declare “homosexual conflicts of interest” last Wednesday, he caused outrage on the part of NGOs . The organisers of the Sofia Pride Parade said in an open letter, Mareshki’s remarks amounted to “direct discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, as described in the Protection Against Discrimination Act.”

It might be hard to believe, but it gets even worse: Ataka, an ultra-nationalist party, which is part of the “United Patriots”, the junior coalition partner of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s party GERB, actually said it wanted to criminalise the Pride Parade and any participation in the event.

“The Ataka party is categorically against holding a gay parade in the streets of Sofia”, is says on the Ataka website. The party of Volen Siderov calls homosexuality an “ugly phenomenon” which was “alien to our national traditions”. That website states, the Pride Parade would “demonstrate unabashed debauchery, sexual perversion and moral laxity” in the streets.

Another radical right party, VMRO, which is also part of Borissov’s government, also delivered hat speech: The Sofia Pride Parade had intolerable morals. “It is a political rally with political demands and its implementation is an assault on traditional Bulgarian values, morality and decency”, Carlos Contrera, VMRO’s Sofia Municipal Council member, said. VMRO’s party chairmain, Krassimir Karakachanov, is also Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister of Bulgaria.

Here, Ataka and VMRO are reminiscent of Nazi Germany of the 1930s, the Daesh group that calls itself the “Islamic State” and other bodies holding such beliefs, in decades past and today. In Bulgaria, as numerous organisations have noted, a country hardly cleansed of such opinions, Sofia Pride stands out as bearing a message that is not only necessary but essential, arguably more so than in other European countries.

A Bulgarian organisation called “National Resistance”, which sounds like Ataka, is trying to stage a counter protest. They want to take over the Monument of the Soviet Army ahead of time and “clean the garbage in Sofia”. They are saying the LGBT community was “the enemy of God, Bulgaria and the people”, who, along with “liberals and illegal immigrants”, were “fighting us, the Bulgarians”.

Not only the organisers of the Sofia Pride Parade are alarmed, but also international NGOs such as Human Rights Watch. In a statement, the organisation said, the parade was an opportunity for the country to showcase diversity and tolerance. “Authorities can start by pledging up front to protect marchers” from counter-demonstrators like the “National Resistance”. Human Rights Watch said, “Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova should publicly reaffirm authorities’ commitment to protecting marchers in advance of Saturday’s event.”

The Sofia Pride Parade takes place on Saturday, June 10, 2017, at 6:00 pm. Meeting point: Monument of the Soviet Army. The organisers have an SMS number for donations: 17 777 (send “DMS SOFIAPRIDE”). The number works in Bulgaria. Subscribers of Telenor, Mtel and Vivacom donate 1 Lev per SMS. Users of prepaid phone services donate 1.20 Leva per SMS.

 

 

 

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About the Author

Imanuel Marcus, the founder of foreignersandfriends.com, is Associate Editor of The Sofia Globe.