Ultra-nationalists try to stop protests against violence against women in Bulgaria’s capital

Tensions erupted on the night of November 25 when a small group of ultra-nationalists tried to disrupt a protest against violence against women in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia.

According to eyewitness reports, the group came to the well-attended protest with a Bulgarian flag and a banner stating that campaigning against violence against women should not be equated with “gender rights”. In Bulgaria the term “gender” is associated with homophobic feelings.

The group allegedly tried to take the microphone away from the person speaking at the meeting in front of the Sofia Court, allegedly injuring her arm.

After a few minutes, the police arrived and escorted the group, where they stayed, yelling at those taking part in the protest. Shouted calls for the extremist group to be arrested went unheeded.

A video of the group was later posted on the Facebook page of one of them, Alexander Alexandrov. In a long narration in front of the camera on video that lasted more than 10 minutes, the group claimed that they were the target of assault and mocked the demonstrators for calling them “fascists”, “Nazis” and “murderers”.

A screenshot from the video in which the group with flag and banner that they took to the protest narrates their alternative version of the evening’s events.

Posts from recent years on Alexandrov’s side include homophobic messages, support for the Lukov March – a neo-fascist annual event in praise of a pro-Nazi general – rejection of the euro and boasting that Alexandrov attended VMRO events, and ultra-nationalist political party .

Participants in the protest against violence against women – which took place under the motto “not another one” – complained about the inaction of the Bulgarian institutions and politicians on this issue.

The protest, which took place not only in Sofia but also in other major Bulgarian cities, was accompanied by an open letter calling on Bulgaria’s newly elected MPs and the President to take urgent action to combat violence against women.

Shortly before the protest began, it was revealed that a 21-year-old woman had been murdered and her body was left in an abandoned building in Sofia. According to media reports, the suspect was her 28-year-old partner.

The Bulgarian Women’s Fund announced that there had been at least 17 murders or attempted murders of women since the beginning of 2021.

A survey by Alpha Research found that 16 percent of Bulgarians were of the opinion that domestic violence was a problem that could be resolved within the family, and four percent thought it was acceptable for a man to hit a woman if she “provokes him” “While 15 percent believed women were exaggerating when they complained about sexual harassment.

The protest was accompanied by an open letter to the newly elected MPs and the President to take urgent action to combat violence against women.

Bulgaria’s Alliance for Protection against Gender-Based Violence said that in the months since Bulgaria declared a state of emergency in March 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic, calls to the national hotline for victims of domestic violence have increased by 150 percent.

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