1,000 police officers protect Bosnia’s first ever Pride from anti-gay violence

Bosnia pride march

More than 1,000 police officers lined up to protect LGBT+ activists from violence during Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first-ever Pride march.

According to Reuters, law enforcement in the country’s capital, Sarajevo, lined the parade route on Sunday, September 8, with fences, concrete blocks and anti-sniper units set up on top of buildings.

The event received overwhelming criticism from religious groups and politicians, and there were anti-gay counter-protests on the day of the event and before.

Deputy of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Samra Cosovic-Hajdarevic, previously said the march was a “terrible” idea aimed at “destroying the state and its people”.

She said LGBT+ people should be “isolated and moved as far as possible from our children and society”.

However, with the increased security, the march of around 2,000 people took place without any violent incidents.

Sanja, 54, who attended the march, t0ld Reuters: “I have always thought that basic human rights should exist for all and when I saw all those hate comments against the Pride march, I felt it was my obligation to come and show support.”

Bosnia pride march

LGBT activists hold signs and rainbow flags as they march through Sarajevo city centre, on September 8, 2019. (ELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP/Getty)

EU commissioner Johannes Hahn praised the Pride march in Bosnia.

Bosnia is seeking to join the European Union, and this weekend became the last Balkan country to hold a Pride march after past attempts ended in violence.

EU commissioner Johannes Hahn wrote on Twitter on the day of the event: “I welcome the holding of the first Pride parade in Sarajevo today and wish the organizers and participants a peaceful event!

This is an important step in the protection of the fundamental rights of all citizens in BiH, including of LGBTI persons, who have the right to live their lives free from discrimination, abuse and threats, and enjoy full social inclusion.”

A 2017 survey conducted by the Sarajevo Open Centre found that safety is a huge concern for LGBT+ people in Bosnia.

Around 69% feel unsafe attending public events or being in public spaces, while 32% of gay men and 17% of lesbians have experienced violence because of their sexual orientation.