Plans for Bosnia's first Pride parade prompt backlash

Activists protest in 2017 after authorities rejected their application for pride march Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Activists protesting in 2017 after the authorities rejected their application for a Pride march

An announcement by activists in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BH) that the first official LGBT parade will take place in the capital Sarajevo on 8 September has attracted mixed response on social media but very little official comment.

Vladana Vasic, one of the organisers, announced the Coming Out Now parade at a midday news conference on 1 April because "it is High Noon in this country when it comes to LGBTIQ people's rights".

Another organiser, Lejla Huremovic, said Pride parades were a powerful political tool to achieve quick changes in the fight for "freedom of all individuals and groups which face discrimination and violence and which are excluded from society in any way", Radio Sarajevo news portal reported.

Sarajevo authorities have denied permission for similar marches and protests on several occasions.

The government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the two entities which make up the country, in October 2018 endorsed the legalisation of same-sex marriages. According to Bosnian Federation Prime Minister Fadil Novalic, the decision was part of BH's EU accession process.

Local media have noted that politicians for the most part failed to comment on the parade announcement.

Samra Cosovic-Hajdarevic, a deputy of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) in Sarajevo Canton, drew criticism when she described the march as a "terrible" idea aimed at "destroying the state and its people" on her Facebook page.

In a post which was subsequently removed, she said she wanted "such people to be isolated and moved as far as possible from our children and society".

The SDA branch of Sarajevo Canton issued a statement urging organisers and Sarajevo Canton authorities to abandon plans for the parade.

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Sarajevo Canton Assembly Chairman Elmedin Konakovic commented that he personally did not support the parade as he "was brought up in a traditional way, in the spirit of faith", but that he was "against violence or calls for a lynch".

Calls for violence

Reaction on social media has ranged from Facebook posts attracting hundreds of responses to polls in the local media.

One of the first to tweet his support for the parade was UK Ambassador to BH, Matt Field, who promised "we shall proudly march with you". Similar support came from other embassies in BH as well as LGBT organisations in the region.

Several social media posts by those opposed to the parade attracted hundreds of comments. The Facebook page of Crna Hronika-Info news portal had over 650 comments within a day, with the most popular urging football supporters to "drive this trash out of the city". On Bosanski Patriota Facebook page, most of nearly 200 comments also called for violence - such as using tear gas - against participants.

The BH Police Academy - a Facebook page not linked to the Interior Ministry but describing itself as providing information to "cadets, policemen and uniformed personnel in Bosnia and Herzegovina" - created a poll asking if the police should provide security at the parade or detain its participants. As of 3 April, 42 per cent of respondents voted for providing security and 58 per cent for detention.

A considerable number of comments under the poll condemned it as a "morbid" idea and said the police should protect everyone's constitutional rights.

A poll on the regional N1 TV website asks: "Do you support the pride parade in Sarajevo", and so far 61.8 per cent voted "no", 29.9 per cent voted "yes", and 8.3 per cent said "it is all the same to me".

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