U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Eric Nelson published a blogpost on Tuesday, commending the organization of the first Pride March in Sarajevo.

According to Nelson, September 8 was an historic day in Sarajevo, and a day of pride for all of Bosnia and Herzegovina. “Bosnia and Herzegovina surpassed its neighbors with the most peaceful and the most successful first Pride March in the Western Balkans. The Organizing Committee can be proud of the courage and perseverance it took to organize the event. The Sarajevo Canton government and police and security authorities can be proud of the safe environment they created. The participants can be proud of their courage to stand for a cause. And the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, including those who opposed the march, can be proud of the peace, tolerance and dignity accorded to a minority. Bosnia and Herzegovina demonstrated it is capable of defending dignity and human rights for all”, Nelson wrote.

The Pride March is important because it shines a light on the uncomfortable truths around discrimination, intimidation, and even violence against sexual minorities and vulnerable communities. Members of the LGBTI community in Bosnia and Herzegovina face rejection by their families, discrimination, and threats of violence simply for being who they are. No one should live in fear of losing their job or of being subjected to violence just for their identity. One of the clearest examples of why the Pride March is necessary are the flood of hateful comments against my sexual orientation and the longstanding advocacy of the US Embassy on behalf of the LGBTI community, including comments that members of the LGBTI community do not deserve basic human rights”, wrote the US Ambassador.

Much work remains. Moving forward, Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to bring local legislation on the freedom of expression and right to peaceful assembly fully in line with European and international standards. It should be incumbent on local authorities, not event organizers, to ensure that all safety measures are in place, regardless of the cause for which one is marching. Prosecutors must also ensure that cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender-based identity be prosecuted to the full extent of the law”, stated Nelson.

It has often been said that a society can be measured by how it treats its most marginalized members. On Sunday, the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina affirmed their embrace of EU values of equal rights for all, and demonstrated a shared desire to build a more tolerant, diverse, and inclusive society. Thanks to the courageous actions of the Organizing Committee and the people of BiH, we have seen what can be accomplished when people come together in defiance of fear and hatred and walk toward the common goal of equal dignity and human rights for all. The U.S. Embassy congratulates you for your strength and courage, and we will continue to walk with you”, Nelson concluded.

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