Human Rights Watch asks Bulgaria to denounce calls to stone gays

Human Rights Watch asked Bulgaria’s Justice Minister Diana Kovacheva to denounce an orthodox priest’s calls that anyone participating in the fifth annual Pride Parade in Sofia on June 30 be stoned.

“The call to stone gay people is a heinous threat to the security of peaceful people who want to use their freedom of assembly,” the advocacy director of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights programme at Human Rights Watch, Boris Dittrich, said in a statement.

“It is incitement to hatred and violence and should be condemned by the justice minister in the clearest terms and in the most public way possible.”

Earlier in June, Father Evgeni Yanakiev of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church gave an interview to Bulgarian newspaper Standart, saying that throwing stones at the participants in the pride parade was an “appropriate” way to show opposition to the planned event.

Two weeks later, he appeared on a breakfast TV show where he failed to recant his position, but said he would not be participating in any stoning himself. He also said that homosexuality was a “contagious psychological condition” that was a precursor to paedophilia.

The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has taken no action to discipline Yanakiev. Instead, in a statement on June 13, the Holy Synod said that it was “categorically opposed to the organisation of such an immoral manifestation,” underlining its belief that homosexuality was “an unnatural passion that unconditionally damages personality, family and society.”

“The response of the Holy Synod effectively leaves LGBT people who will participate in the LGBT pride parade in Sofia out in the cold,” Dittrich said. “This makes it all the more imperative for state authorities to support unequivocally the right of the LGBT community to freely and safely exercise their rights to assembly and expression.”

In its letter to Kovacheva, Human Rights Watch wrote that it was the responsibility of the Bulgarian government to protect LGBT people from violence and from hate speech that might lead to violence. There is no doubt that Father Yanakiev’s call for stoning LGBT people falls under the category of hate speech that Council of Europe member states want to prohibit, Human Rights Watch said.

“Minister Kovacheva should publicly disavow this call for violence and investigate whether Father Yanakiev’s statements can be prosecuted under Bulgaria’s Penal Code,” Dittrich said.

(Photo: Guillaume Paumier/



The Sofia Globe staff

The Sofia Globe - the Sofia-based fully independent English-language news and features website, covering Bulgaria, the Balkans and the EU. Sign up to subscribe to's daily bulletin through the form on our homepage.