|Gay Pride participants carry carry a giant rainbow flag through the streets of |
Skopje as North Macedonia holds its first ever such parade. AFP
Skopje (Republic of North Macedonia) (AFP) - A sea of rainbow colours filled Skopje's streets on Saturday as North Macedonia held its first Pride parade, with marchers calling for an end to LGBT discrimination in the largely conservative Balkans region.
Hundreds joined the march with whistles, an enormous rainbow flag, and signs as they walked through the city amid a formidable police presence.
"I am here to support human rights, but also to support friends who have been struggling to live fully and freely because of who they are," said Dafina, a 29-year-old Skopje resident.
Several ministers, MPs and ambassadors also joined the event which ended with a concert from local pop star Tamara Todevska, who sung her Eurovision hit "Proud".
"This (march) shows that our society is growing into a more mature society and moving forward," said Koco Andonovski, an LGBT activist from the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights.
But in different part of the capital, a conservative group organised a counter-rally for "family" values.
"If they want to a have parade, than we are not going let them be alone like winners on the street; we will parade for the right values as well," said one of the participants, 58-year-old Velko Veleski.
Discrimination against the LGBT community remains widespread in much of the Balkans region, though more countries are increasingly holding events like Pride parades to raise awareness.
North Macedonia is one of the last countries in the region to follow suit, with Bosnia next as it prepares its first Pride march in Sarajevo in September.