- Title: Bosnians to march for Gay Pride - under heavy police protection
- Date: 6th September 2019
- Summary: VARIOUS OF PEOPLE LOOKING AT PHOTOS AT EXHIBITION
- Embargoed: 20th September 2019 15:28
- Keywords: gay rights LGBT rights gay pride parade Bosnia-Herzegovina
- Location: SARAJEVO, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA
- City: SARAJEVO, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA
- Country: Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Topics: Fundamental Rights/Civil Liberties,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA004AVISQPL
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Bosnia's first Gay Pride march on Sunday (September 8) will be protected by a major security operation after some conservative Muslim groups had attempted to prevent the event and others organised counter-rallies.
Although opponents of the march in capital Sarajevo have called for peaceful protests, the authorities are nervous that fringe groups or youths could engage in violence in a country where anti-gay sentiment can often be heard in public.
Homosexuality is legal in Bosnia, but queer festivals held in 2008 and 2014 in Sarajevo were attacked by Islamist radicals and hooligans and the LGBTI community has largely been in hiding since then.
"LGBT people in Bosnia are much more hidden when compared to other countries of the region and fear more to go out in public" said Ena Bavcic, one of the organisers of the parade.
Ethnically-divided Bosnia went through a devastating war in the 1990s, but organisers say people from across the divides have joined forces to protest against the homophobia and discrimination which is widespread in the Balkans, and often fuelled by religious leaders and right-wing political parties.
Bosnia is the last Balkan country to hold a Pride parade, seen as a test of tolerance of minority rights as it seeks to join the European Union. After North Macedonia held its first Pride in June, it is now Bosnia's turn, organisers say.
Before the war in which 100,000 died, Sarajevo was known as a multi-ethnic city in which four religious communities - Orthodox and Catholic Christians, Muslims and Jews - had lived together for centuries.
But after the 1992-95 siege by Bosnian Serb forces, its population became predominantly Muslim Bosniak.
Sarajevo cantonal Prime Minister Edin Forto supports the event but security is tight after some conservative Bosniak parties had criticised the parade and called for its cancellation. The Orthodox and Catholic churches are also strongly opposed.
A group of conservative non-government organisations have announced a separate march on Saturday (September 7) promoting "traditional family values". Another group, led by an Islamic scholar, said it would gather for a counter-rally on Sunday.
"We advocate a diametrically opposite attitude," Ahmed Kulanic, spokesman for an initiative which says it seeks to preserve the traditional family, said of the Pride march. Both groups dismissed the possibility of violence.
More than 1,000 police officers will secure the event which will be attended by the U.S. ambassador to Bosnia, who is gay, and his partner. Anti-sniper units will be placed on the roofs of buildings along the main route in the city center.
An additional 150 security guards will also be deployed, the organisers said.
(Production: Zeljko Debelnogic, Suzana Sabljic, Lewis Macdonald)
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