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Politicians protest against LGBT exhibition in Europe's 2019 Capital of Culture

Politicians protest against LGBT exhibition in Europe's 2019 Capital of Culture
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Politicians in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, one of this year's European Capitals of Culture, are campaigning to block an LGBT exhibition due to be held later this year.

Local council members are set to vote on Monday on whether to remove the artistic director of the Plovdiv 2019 Foundation from her position, due to criticisms over the scheduled exhibition.

The exhibition, named Balkan Pride, is set to showcase pictures from previous Pride events from around the region, and will later hold a concert and a public discussion.

"We expect to begin a dialogue on the intertwining of national culture, traditions, sexual orientation and gender identity, and to make a step forward in breaking the stereotypes of LGBTI people in the context of Balkan traditions," exhibition organiser Gays and Lesbians Accepted in Society (GLAS) said in a statement.

Just last month, Alexander Sidi, a politician with the local branch of Bulgaria's nationalist VMRO party, said the event was "scandalous and unacceptable."

"Society clearly shows that it is intolerable to such provocations," he wrote on Facebook.

Sidi was also quoted in a recent news conference as vowing to halt the event, using "illegal means" if necessary.

But GLAS's Simeon Vasilev said the event would go ahead "no matter what," adding that the politicians' actions could in fact damage the city's current reputation.

"Hate speech, discrimination and misunderstanding contradicts the very idea of the European Capital of Culture," Vasilev said.

On Twitter, Vasilev also highlighted a recent case in Plovdiv, when graffiti reading "no gay propaganda" was discovered.

Plovdiv was inaugurated earlier this year as the 2019 European Capital of Culture, sharing the title with Matera in Italy.

It is said to be the oldest continually inhabited European city, with more than 6,000 years of history.

READ MORE: Plovdiv celebrates becoming Europe's Capital of Culture

In 2014, an LGBT survey conducted by the EU found that 53% of Bulgaria's respondents felt they were discriminated against or harassed due to their sexual orientation in the previous 12 months.

The same survey found 76% of respondents in Bulgaria believed politicians widely used offensive language to describe the country's LGBT population, while 60% actively avoided certain places for fear of being assaulted over their orientation.

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