Police are investigating a hate crime which occurred in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia on Saturday 18 June.
The day’s Pride parade went ahead without incident, but a group of five people were set upon after leaving Freedom Park.
The group included three men and two women, none of who were wearing anything that would identify them as Pride-goers.
The friends left the park in broad daylight at 7.30pm and were confronted when they took a route through a back street half an hour after leaving pride.
They heard footsteps behind them and Dimitar Dmitrov (28), a bag of cherries in his hands, was knocked to the floor and kicked in the head. In the attack his bag was forced open revealing a laptop, but the perpetrators ignored it. Two other men aged 22 and 24 were viciously punched and thrown against a wall. One was thrown to the ground and kicked in the head resulting in a hemorrhage to his eye. The two women were not targeted and one of them fled the scene while the other witnessed the assault from a distance. The fray lasted 2-3 minutes.
It is likely the group was targeted because Dmitrov had appeared on television five times in the run up to Pride advocating its presence. Notably he was seen at loggerheads with Angel Dzambazki, deputy leader of right wing “nationalist” party VRMO. He is a lso head of law and order in the country. He has publicly attended counter demonstrations against Pride every year. He believes the event encourages people to be gay and it harms the human rights of “normal” people.
His party recently led a demonstration against Jehovah’s witnesses, which descended into violence. Dzambazki defended the action of the protesters on the basis that Jehovah’s witnesses “are dangerous”.
The victims believe this assault was motivated by homophobia and are working closely with the police to find those responsible. Yet Bulgarian law fails to recognise anti gay crimes as hate crimes, only those attacks motivated by race are deemed hate crimes.
Clare Dimyon MBE calls for a dramatic change in the penal code to acknowledge homophobic attacks as hate crimes, and treat them with the level of seriousness they deserve. She said this incident demonstrates “the need for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity as an aggravating feature for “hate-crimes”, in the forthcoming review of the Bulgarian penal code.”
Unfortunately, with a vehemently anti gay and an advocate of mob violence as the head of law and order it seems the road to justice will be a rocky one in Bulgaria.