PRISTINA -- Activists and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in Kosovo have gathered in the center of Pristina to participate in what organizers described as their second-ever pride parade.
Kosovar Minister of European Integration Dhurata Hoxha and Pristina Mayor Shpend Ahmeti joined several hundred other people at the October 10 event, dubbed In the Name of Freedom.
The head of the European Union office in Kosovo, Natalia Apostolova, was also among the participants, many of whom were waiving rainbow flags.
The parade kicked off at Pristina's Skanderbeg Square amid increased police presence, and was set to end some 500 meters away, at Zahir Pajaziti Square, where a concert was to be held.
Ahead of the event capping Pristina 2018 Pride Week, organizers called on politicians and civil society activists to take part in support of the LGBT community's rights to freedom of expression, to have different sexual orientations, and to feel safe.
Kosovo passed an antidiscrimination law in 2004 that guarantees the rights of sexual minorities. But observers say members of the LGBT community continue to face widespread discrimination in the predominantly Muslim country of 1.9 million, where much of society is socially conservative.
Blert Morina, a transgender man from Kosovo, told RFE/RL that the threats his community was facing have forced many of its members to flee to other countries.
He added that Kosovo police do not answer properly to the reported cases of physical violence against transgender people.
'We don't have specific figures but as a small community we can see the ones who are missing', Morina said.
The first such LGBT parade announced in advance, unlike small previous marches held over the previous years, was held in October last year without major incident.
President Hashim Thaci addressed the participants at the start of the gathering, and U.S. Ambassador Greg Delawie joined the crowd at the end of the march.
RFE/RL's Balkan Service
RFE/RL's Balkan Service promotes the values of democracy, human rights, and freedom of expression in a region where genuine media freedom remains elusive and where many media outlets remain divided along ethnic lines.
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