For the first time in the country's history, thousands of Bosnians gathered in the streets of Sarajevo over the weekend to demand equal treatment and protection under the law and celebrate their LGBTQ+ identities. They were greeted by a rainbow in the sky.
Although Bosnia and Herzegovina decriminalized homosexuality in 1998, Bosnia had never held a Pride celebration, despite efforts by organizers. In the past when LGBTQ+ groups attempted to organize parades, officials denied requests due to concerns that anti-LGBTQ+ groups would use the event as an opportunity to incite violence. According to the news website Balkan Insight, LGBTQ+ events had faced attacks in 2008 and 2014.
Once again this year, government officials asked to postpone the march due to security concerns, but Bosnian activists pushed forward. Thousands of Bosnians marched hand in hand through the nation's capital on Saturday. The march lasted two peaceful hours and ended with a rainbow appearing over the Eternal Flame, the World War II memorial where the march ended.
\u201cU Sarajevu je ki\u0161a \u010dekala da zavr\u0161i \u0161etnja. A onda smo mi \u010dekali da se uka\u017ee duga. Sve je bilo kao re\u017eirano. I evo je. \ud83d\ude00 photo by Nineta Popovic\u201d
The majority of Bosnia's top officials declined to make appearances or comment in support of the march, although Sarajevo's local Prime Minister, Edin Forto, attended the march. U.S. Ambassador Eric Nelson, who is gay, also showed up to support LGBTQ+ Bosnians.
Marchers also received support for neighboring regions, with attendees coming all the way from Yugoslavia, Montenegro, and Albania to join the event. Participants used the hashtag #imaizac ("open the door, please"), demanding their country move forward on LGBTQ+ inclusion. Although queer people are protected from discrimination in employment, the country has yet to enact workplace protections on the basis of gender identity.
Bosnia is the final country in the Balkan region to host an LGBTQ+ Pride event, and now that activists have shown that its LGBTQ+ population can celebrate safely in public, many are hopeful that this is the beginning of a new era for the nation.
The march was "proof that this state, with all its limitations, can ensure the rule of human rights," as activist Sanjin Buzo told Global Insight.