Thousands of people participated in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first-ever Pride March on September 8, including the out gay US ambassador to that nation, Eric George Nelson.
The march in the capital city of Sarajevo went on under heavy security despite the presence of protestors who unsuccessfully set out to thwart the event. More than 1,000 police officers were stationed along the parade route, and other cops armed with sniper rifles were perched atop buildings for bolstered security, according to Reuters.
The nation became the final Balkan state to host a Pride celebration, and marks a key moment in the history of a country that has banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity but is still rife with anti-LGBTQ attitudes rooted in religion and leftover ethnic tensions among Serbs, Muslims, and Croats from the 1992-1995 war that led to the dissolution of Yugoslavia.
Previous attempts to hold LGBQ festivals in Sarajevo were foiled by religious radicals in 2008 and 2014.
Some in Bosnia and Herzegovina, however, have warmed up to the idea of queer rights as the nation pursues a place in the European Union.
After the Pride March, the EU signed onto a joint statement with the US Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina and other ambassadors to that nation.
“We congratulate the Organizing Committee, March participants, local institutions, and citizens of BiH on successfully holding Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first Pride March,” the letter stated. “The people of BiH came together to reject fear and hate and instead demonstrated to the world that BiH is indeed an open and tolerant country that respects the rights of all individuals.”
The US Embassy in Sarajevo tweeted a photo featuring Nelson as Pride participants surrounded him.
“Incredibly proud to have been part of the historic [Pride march],” Nelson said in the tweet.
the tweet read.
Nelson was nominated to his current post by President Donald Trump in August of last year, but his career as a diplomat predates the current administration. Nelson’s work for the State Department dates back to the 1990s and from 2015 through 2018 he was a top aid to the secretary of state, according to his LinkedIn profile.