Rob Dixon, the British ambassador to Bulgaria, has condemned an attack on an LGBTQ community centre in Sofia. Local sources appear to have confirmed that the attack was led by Boyan Rasate, a nationalist candidate in this month’s presidential election, who is known for his virulently homophobic views.
Mr Dixon joined the ambassadors of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United States to condemn the “senseless” attack against the Rainbow Hub, when around a dozen men and women stormed a meeting at the centre, assaulting one of the attendees and vandalising the building.
All eleven envoys demonstrated their solidarity with Bulgaria’s beleaguered LGBTQ+ community by visiting the centre and taking to social media to express their concern, with Mr Dixon tweeting images of his and his fellow ambassadors’ visit to Rainbow Hub and confirming that the “UK stands with LGBTI+ people right around the world”
The Bilitis Foundation, which runs the centre, commented, “The leader of the attack, Boyan Rasate, is well known for his LGBTI-phobic actions and statements, and is currently running for President in Bulgaria.”
In response, Mr Rasate, who has been the leader of the far-right Bulgarian National Force since 2ooo and who refused to confirm or deny that he had led the attack, told Nova TV that [LGBT people] “should not be surprised that this has happened” before launching into a tirade about the “corruption of minors”.
The official prosecutor’s office reacted to the ambassadors’ statement, confirming that it had requested that there was sufficient evidence to charge the attackers with public order offences which carry a sentence of up to five years. Although the prosecutor stopped short of naming Mr Rasate, they did identify the ringleader by the initials “BR”.
Institutional homophobia within the Bulgarian establishment also impacts women and girls; the country has refused to ratify the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing Violence against Women and Combating Domestic Violence because the country’s Constitutional Court has claimed that ratification would lead to gay marriage.