Two days before the Germany-Hungary soccer game on June 23, the media published the news that the Mayor of Munich will ask permission to illuminate the Allianz Arena in rainbow colors. It should have been a sign of solidarity with the LGBTQ + community in Hungary after it passed an anti-LGBT + law earlier this month. UEFA rejected the request due to the political context.
Meanwhile, on June 12th, a record 10,000 people attended the 14th edition of Sofia Pride in Bulgaria.
“We have not been reported to any violent interactions this year. This is a first for Pride as there were clashes during and mainly after Pride with members of counter-demonstrators chasing and attacking participants on their way home, ”said Stana Iliev, Campaign Manager at All out and previous co-organizer of Sofia pridesaid FairPlanet.
The rainbow projection in the national parliament also went uninterrupted. The motto of the building “Unity makes us strong” was supplemented by the activists with “Hatred makes us weak”.
“[B]Before that, every single Sofia Pride cultural event was disrupted or attacked by a mob of young hooligans from various nationalist and right-wing groups, yelling insults or ravaging property, ”added Iliev.
East and West offer different freedoms for queer people
If you imagine swapping these two cities, countries, regions – such news would hardly make the headlines. The border between East and West also separates the level of achieved human rights and marks the growing wave of queer phobia.
“We have certainly seen that the pandemic was instrumentalized to crack down on LGBT + rights, usually where attitudes and the political atmosphere were complex beforehand,” said Iliev. “Starting with sudden raids in Ghana and Uganda, where lockdown measures were used as a pretext for the incarceration of LGBT + people, for an increase in homeless LGBT + youth in Southeastern Europe because the tense family situation has escalated.”
Goran Zorić moved from Bosnia to Germany in the middle of the pandemic, partly because of him
sexual orientation. Even while he was living in Prijedor, he refused to hide under the imposed heteronormativity. Now, in Berlin, he finally feels his sexual orientation is a private matter.
“In Prijedor I made coming-out a political act and part of the struggle for the way of life that I want to live,” Zorić told FairPlanet. “In my experience, it was not just my personal cause, but” the cause of the whole church. “
“I also notice the difference in LGBT + people’s motives for hanging out,” he added. “Here it is above all the search for pleasure, while in Bosnia essential socialization, a sense of belonging and protection are necessary.”
Sofia’s first non-violent pride march
There are at least three reasons why violence was expected to occur during the Sofia Pride march.
First, it happened in previous years, and several events and protests have already been attacked this year. Second, there were four registered counter-demonstrations on the same day organized by conservative religious organizations and ultra-nationalist non-formal groups associated with soccer hooligans.
Third, the Bulgarians will vote in early elections on July 11th after no party was able to form a government after the round in April 2021 and right-wing, conservative parties and alliances rose at the expense of the left.
However, there are also at least three reasons why the violence didn’t happen despite the concerns about this year’s Pride march.
According to Stana Iliev, violent attacks do not deter or prevent activists from fighting for civil and human rights – or ever will. Second, without the support of international missions in the country and LGBTQ + organizations around the world, Pride in Bulgaria would look very different. Third, international pressure is also essential when it comes to security.
“Even as a member of the European Union, there are often worrying situations where pressure from other member states has proven to be very helpful,” said Iliev.
Regarding the situation in the country, Iliev stated that large, “relevant” parties in Bulgaria – whether liberal, left, right or center – do not include LGBTQ + rights in their platform.
“More liberal parties are actually afraid to bring up the issue, and neither are they prepared or informed enough to articulate their support,” she added.
THE UEFA DECISION SHOULD NOT BE ACCEPTED AS EXPECTED
Back to the European Football Championship, German authorities convicted UEFA decision as shameful. Many other Western governments did so, as did human rights activists and LGBTQ + communities. The Hungarian government was the only one to welcome this, saying that “common sense prevailed” by rejecting “political provocation”. UEFA said it wanted to maintain its political and religious neutrality.
The claim that one is neutral, however, be it whether they stand for human rights or support their injury seems to choose a side. The one who doesn’t fit in with fair play.
Picture: Sofia pride.