After facing considerable opposition in their attempts to hold a Pride March in Sofia over the past two years, LGBT activists exercised their human rights for a third time at this year's 2010 Pride March, themed "Love Equality, Embrace Diversity." Months before Pride, on March 20 2010, skinheads attacked a peaceful protest by six LGBT activists in Pazardzhik, Bulgaria. While police prevented them from severely harming the activists, several were injured, and the skinheads continued to yell offensive slogans such as "Out of Pazardzhik" and "Go to Uganda, freaks." In addition to attacks against LGBT citizens, neo-Nazis and far-right groups are reported to have attacked other peaceful protesters and individuals at three separate instances in the month of June alone.
Despite the threat of organized violence, intimidation, and discrimination in the lead up to the event, the March was attended by approximately 800 people and protected by 300 police officers. Six or seven anti-LGBT protesters were arrested during the event, and no other incidents occurred.
Bulgaria saw its first Pride March in 2008, but a week before the first LGBT march, the Bulgarian National Alliance (BNA) called for a "Week of Intolerance," with the slogan "be normal, be intolerant." The BNA encouraged other nationalist groups to organize against the right of LGBT Bulgarians and their supporters to march peacefully. This resulted in violence during the march: BNA members and other neo-Nazis threw rocks, Molotov cocktails, and small explosives at the marchers. Many of the attackers, including the head of the BNA, Boyan Rasate, were arrested for the violence surrounding the march.
In 2009 neo-Nazi groups once again organized against the march. This intolerance and potential violence was publicly encouraged by parties in Parliament, such as the Veliko Makedonska Revolucionna Organizacia (VMRO). VMRO characterized LGBT marches as "blackmail" and "strongly oppose[d]" them in an official statement, and Ataka, (another political party) called upon Bulgarian men to "beat up the gays." Fortunately, at the "Rainbow Friendship Rally," itself, police protection prevented any attacks from occurring.
IGLHRC congratulates the Bulgarian LGBT activists and supporters who planned and participated in this most recent successful demonstration of LGBT pride and bravery, and calls on the Bulgarian government to continue to support their work and the rights of all people in Bulgaria, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Read IGLHRC's letter to Bulgarian officials (PDF) calling for the rights to freedom of expression of the participants in the 2010 Sofia Pride March to be respected and protected.
Published on June 29, 2010 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization