Bulgarian presidential candidate arrested after leading attack on LGBTQ center

The interior of Sofia‘s Rainbow Hub LGBTQ center after the attack – Photo: British Ambassador Rob Dixon / Twitter

A Bulgarian presidential candidate was arrested after leading an attack on a transgender event in an LGBTQ community center.

On October 30, Boyan Rasate, a far-right nationalist, led about a dozen supporters into the Rainbow Hub Community Center building in Sofia, where they sprayed walls, destroyed furniture and attacked human rights activists, LGBTQ Nation reports.

Rasate faces up to five years’ imprisonment after being charged with hooliganism and minor assault after slapping a woman in the face and brandishing a knife.

Manuela Popova, communications manager at the Bilitis Foundation, which supports the Rainbow Hub, said Vice it came about 15 minutes after the attackers left.

“The first girl I saw cried so much that she collapsed on the floor and said, ‘It was my fault, I opened the door for them,'” said Popova. “I had to hold her in my arms for a few minutes just to calm her down. Everyone was so scared. It was heartbreaking to see your friends and community like this. “

Gloria Filipova told the woman who allegedly punched Rasate in the face Bulgarian service from RFE / RL that Rasate “hit me and just got on” after trying to prevent the mob from entering. “Everyone else followed him.”

“They just started throwing and breaking things, smashing kitchen cabinets while shouting that we were corrupting children,” Filipova said. the project coordinator of the Rainbow Hub. “He stopped in front of me and that scared me because he had hit me before and I didn’t know if he would hit me again.

“I told him they had done their job and could go. “No, I still have a job,” he said, pulling out a knife. Fortunately, he didn’t harm any of us, ”added Filipova.

Simeon Vasilev, chairman of Gays and Lesbians Accepted in Society, the other group that runs the Rainbow Hub, said VICE world news that he “had never seen such a crime before” and “never thought they would go that far”.

“It’s not just the physical thing – we’re going to repaint, we’re going to remodel,” said Vasilev. “But that’s something that will cause long-lasting damage. Everyone feels insecure, everyone is afraid. “

The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, spoke on Tuesday tweeted that the attack was “another worrying example of growing threats against NGOs advocating for #equality for the LGBTI community”.

Rasate, known for his anti-gay and anti-immigrant rhetoric, is the founder of the Bulgarian National Union Party, which is no longer under his control. All of the country’s major political parties, including politicians from across the spectrum, have condemned his actions.

After appearing on a television show about the upcoming November 14 elections, Rasate was arrested late Tuesday and charged with hooliganism and harming Filipova.

Bulgaria’s Central Electoral Commission lifted Rasate’s legal immunity as a presidential candidate hours after prosecutors announced on November 1 that they had found enough evidence to charge him with “acts of gross violation of public order.”

“The crimes committed are characterized by extreme audacity and disregard for the democratic foundations of the state,” said a statement by the public prosecutors.

Ambassadors from several countries have condemned the attack on the Rainbow Hub.

“LGBTQI + rights are basic human rights, and like many Bulgarians we reject violence and intolerance that have no place in any democratic society,” said the US Embassy in Sofia in a opinion.

ILGA-Europe, an NGO working for LGBTQ people, called on the Bulgarian authorities to “publicly condemn the attacks, investigate and sanction the attackers”.

Rasate, who has been arrested several times for disturbing public order and making racist and xenophobic comments, declined to confirm whether he was involved in the incident.

“Whether I participated or not, as I have told other colleagues of yours, we are currently campaigning and I will not give an answer,” he told the Bulgarian service of RFE / RL.

The attack drew attention to the discrimination faced by the LGBTQ community in Bulgaria opinion, “This appalling incident exposed the flaws in the Bulgarian legal and judicial system,” namely that homophobia is not classified as a hate crime.

The Bilitis Foundation said it recently filed a petition with more than 8,000 signatures calling for the country’s criminal code to include hate crimes based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

“For years we have tried to change the law that addresses hate crimes through homophobia and transphobia. Unfortunately, these attempts have been unsuccessful for almost 15 years, ”said Filipova, expressing her hope that Bulgaria’s political establishment will now recognize the seriousness of homophobia.

Vasilev, the chairman of GLAS, stated that “what we are missing so far is political support”.

“This terrible incident may be a turning point where hopefully the next parliament will assist us in amending the penal code,” he said Vice. “Society recognizes that this is something really bad.”

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