First Gay Parade in North Macedonia
A rainbow of colors filled the streets of Skopje on Saturday when North Macedonia held its first gay parade. Demonstrators in the largely conservative Balkan region have called for the cessation of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT).
Hundreds joined a march with whistles, a huge flag with rainbow colors and posters. They were walking around the city with a strong police presence.
"I am here to support human rights but also to support friends who are struggling to live fully and freely for who they are," said Dafina, a 29-year-old resident of Skopje.
Several ministers, lawmakers and ambassadors also joined the event, which ended with a concert by local pop star Tamara Todevska, who sang her Eurovision hit "Gord".
"This (the march) shows that our society is growing in a more mature society and is advancing," said Koko Andonovski, LGBT activist at the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights.
But in another part of the capital, a conservative group organizes a counter-rally for "family" values.
"If they want to have a parade, then we will not let them remain alone as the winners of the street, and we will make a parade of the right values," Velko Velesky, 58, said.
Discrimination against the LGBT community remains widespread in most of the Balkan region, although more and more countries are increasingly taking gay parades to raise awareness.
North Macedonia is one of the last countries in the region to follow, and Bosnia is the next to prepare its first such parade in Sarajevo in September.
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