Activists have high hopes with Kosovo's first gay pride parade

Demonstrators marched along the main street of Pristina on Tuesday during Kosovo's first gay pride parade (AFP Photo/Armend NIMANI) (AFP)

Pristina (AFP) - About 300 people marched through Kosovo's capital on Tuesday at the first gay pride parade in the strongly conservative country which has a large Muslim majority.

Carrying a giant rainbow flag declaring "This is my Pride", the participants marched along Pristina's main street, drawing curious looks from passers-by.

"This is the happiest part of my life," said Lendi Mustafa, 21, one of the organisers of the event dubbed "In the Name of Love."

"We are here to send love, including to those who are against us, as we believe in diversity and keep love also for those who hate us," Mustafa told the crowd as the march ended in a square.

He was referring to hateful messages towards Kosovo's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community which spread through social networks in recent days.

On the eve of the march, for example, an e-mail was sent to local media outlets threatening organisers and participants with violence if they went ahead with the parade.

"In the name of morality, kill those who are immoral," the message read, with a signature of "revolted citizens".

Kosovo's LGBTI activists had warned before the parade of growing difficulties in defending their rights in Kosovo.

They quoted a recent international study in which Kosovo was singled out as the most homophobic country in the Balkans, with LGBT people facing discrimination in all areas of life.

Agim Margilaj, whose advocacy group was among organisers of the parade, said that according to its records 80 percent of Kosovo's gay and transgender people had experienced "physical violence, pressure and blackmail".

"There is no interaction between LGBTI community and society as LGBTI members fear how they will be treated," he told AFP.

"Most of the community lead a double life."

Many gays and transgender people in the country are expecting the government to enact laws for improving their rights and providing more protection against discrimination and abuse, Margilaj added.

Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj did not attend the parade, though President Hashim Thaci appeared briefly, declaring that "all the communities are equal".

The parade ended with a short concert attended by the march's participants and supporters.

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