Internet platform for studying Xenophobia, Radicalism and Problems of Intercultural communication.

Incitement of Hatred

Incitement of Hatred About 20,000 Croatian nationalists protest in Vukovar against the introduction of the Cyrillic alphabet (Serbian language and alphabet) in official use in a city inhabited by a significant Serb population. February 2013.

A number of public events were organized by the nationalists surrounding the issue of signs written in Cyrilli, which, according to the requirements of the EU, should be located in areas heavily populated by Serbs. One of these places is Vukovar – a symbolic city for Croatian nationalists, which came under Croatia’s control during the wars in the 1990s.

On April 7th an “anti-Cyrillic” rally took place in Zagreb, attended by about 20,000 people, mostly veterans of the Croatian conflict of 1991-1995. Representatives of the Defence Staff (against Cyrillic alphabet) Vukovar, which unites 300 communities of war veterans demanded that until November 18th (the anniversary of the day when the troops of the Yugoslav army entered Vukovar) a law should be passed that declares the city of Vukovar an everlasting memorial, where Cyrillic will never be administered. One speaker, Tomislav Yakich said: “The German national anthem is not played in Oswiecim. Similarly the Cyrillic alphabet will never stand in Vukovar”.

In early September rallies and protests against the introduction of Cyrillic alphabet took place in Vukovar and Dubrovnik. The largest demonstration took place in Vukovar on September 1st - it gathered 20,000 people On September 2nd four police officers were injured in Vukovar during the riots.

On November 18th, a massive nationalist demonstration took place in Vukovar, commemorating the victims of the war. They did not allow to lay wreaths to Croatia’s leadership.

In early April 2014, a call for a boycott of Serbian trade and other activities in Vukovar appeared online, with the publication of a list of Serb-owned stores, clinics, etc.

In 2018 report of the European Commission against Racism and Discrimination on Croatia states that racism and hate speech is on the rise in the country and the government is not doing enough to deal with it. According to the Council of Europe, Serbs, Roma and the LGBT community are the main targets. Official figures provided by the Croatian authorities show that there were 35 cases of hate speech in 2016, compared to 24 cases a year earlier. "The report condemns the Croatian authorities' inadequate response to such growing intolerance, as criminal prosecution is too often excluded," writes the Council of Europe's European Commission to Combat Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). “Most incidents of hate speech and hate violence are simply regarded as misdemeanors.”

The report documents an escalation of racist and intolerant hate speech in public discourse. In particular, Serbs, LGBT people and Roma have been targets of hate speech. There was also an increase in nationalism, especially among young people, largely in the form of praising the fascist-Ustash regime. Racist and xenophobic statements against Serbs, LGBT people and refugees, as well as offensive language against the Roma community, are widespread in the regional media and on the Internet.

As for the Serbs, we are talking about both attempts to rehabilitate the Ustashe regime during World War II, and attempts to glorify the war criminals of the war in Yugoslavia in the 90s. To this should be added numerous mocking comments and posts on social networks.

In recent years, the process of rehabilitation of the Ustashe movement and even its glorification is gaining momentum. This process is actively supported by many political parties, and not necessarily marginal or ultra-right. In contemporary Croatia, the brutality of the actions of the Ustaše regime is at times downplayed by the media and prominent politicians, and the party is portrayed by many as a symbol of national power and pride. The party salute "Ready for the Motherland" ("For the House of Premni") is still openly used by far-right nationalists. Holocaust denial, which goes hand in hand with sanitizing Ustaše crimes against Croatian Jews, also seems to have become more acceptable in the country. Every May, thousands of far-right Croats gather in a field in southern Austria, carrying Ustashe flags and insignia, to commemorate the thousands of Ustashe massacred by Yugoslav anti-fascists at the end of World War II. They claim, with the tacit support of Croatian politicians, that the annual event near the village of Bleiburg symbolizes their suffering under communism in the former Yugoslavia before independence.

In social networks and the media, information is widely disseminated about certain protests about the official position of the state in relation to the Nazi Independent State of Croatia (NHC) during the Second World War. For example, in 2016, during a televised debate in the city of Split, Catholic priest Luka Prcela sharply criticized Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic for her statement that the Ustaše NDH, a state formation in 1941-1945, “was not independent and was criminal” .

The ideas of ethnic superiority that are gaining momentum in Croatia have their roots in the Croatian War of Independence (1991-1995). 300,000 people were displaced. In 1995, Croatian forces regained control of all of Croatia in a massive military operation codenamed Oluja (Storm) and paved the way for the country's independence. Today, Croatia celebrates this operation as an act of liberation, but many Serbs consider it an act of ethnic cleansing, since the operation to liberate Croatia also resulted in the displacement of Croatia's native Serb population. The Bosnian-Croat forces also committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the war against the Bosnian forces.

While several senior Croatian officials have acknowledged and condemned these crimes in the past, some right-wing politicians in the country continue to downplay the devastating effects of military action. Thus, the conservative government of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and former President Grabar-Kitarović, who belongs to the same party, have repeatedly expressed their support for the Croatian war criminal Slobodan Praljak.

In 2017, Praljak, along with five other Croatian officials, was convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for committing crimes against humanity in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The court found that Praljak was part of a criminal enterprise that attempted to ethnic cleansing of part of Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Muslim population. Praljak committed suicide by drinking poison on the last day of the ICTY deliberations. After his death, then-President Grabar-Kitarović described him as "a man who chose to give his life rather than live, being convicted of crimes he firmly believed he did not commit."

The former president praised the war criminal long before his death, writing in a statement in 2017, for example that: "The contribution of General Slobodan Praljak to the defense of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina against Greater Serb aggression and the defense of the survival of the Croatian people in their historical places during The Patriotic War [the war of the 1990s in Croatia] is of great importance." Grabar-Kitarović continued to praise him as a national hero until the end of her presidential term. In December 2019, she posted on social media a photo of Paljak along with a photo of the Croatian flag and cross in an apparent attempt to attract right-wing nationalist voters.

This condescending attitude towards the Ustaše regime, combined with narratives that undermine the crimes committed by Croatian militants during the Yugoslav wars, normalizes racism and xenophobia. Ultra-nationalism has become so acceptable in Croatia that the country celebrated its success at the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a performance by far-right singer Marko Perković Thompson in the main square of the Croatian capital Zagreb. He was invited to speak there directly by the football team and their coach.

Perkovich Thompson has been repeatedly accused of nationalist propaganda, and even has a song that begins with the line "Ready for the Homeland", a clear tribute to the Ustasha regime. His lyrics are replete with patriarchal images of the strong, genetically superior Croatian male, and often emphasize the unity between blood and church. Perković Thompson's concerts have been banned in several European countries, yet many in his home country still consider him a "national treasure", including former President Grabar-Kitarović, who once said his songs were "good for national unity".< /p>

The consequence of this is the widespread anti-Serbian sentiment, which is becoming wider every year. Most egregious was an insulting “Orthodox Christmas greeting” in early 2019 from a member of the ruling party, who is also the son of an MP, Ivan Dzhakic. On January 7, he posted a personal message on Facebook with a photo of a World War II Ustaše fascist fighter holding the severed head of a Serbian soldier, with the message: "Merry Christmas to all Serbian 'friends'."

In May of that year, ahead of the EU elections, posters put up by the Serb Minority Party in Croatia were defaced with hate messages in several cities. Political advertisements of the Serbian party in Croatia were repeatedly distorted with the symbols of the pro-Nazi Ustasha regime in Croatia and anti-Serb slogans during the election campaign to the European Parliament.

An equally broad hate campaign has been carried out for a number of years against the Roma, who, through numerous posts on social networks and articles in the media, are blamed for the increase in Croatian crime. Often, such an information campaign is followed by mass anti-Roma protests, which are increasingly allowed by local authorities. For example, on June 1, 2019, about 1,000 people gathered in the center of the northern town of Čakovets on Saturday for a protest called “I want a normal life”, and speakers at the event pointed to the irresponsible, dangerous and criminal behavior of the Roma in their community.

However, as ECRI shows, Roma continue to face high levels of social exclusion, employment rates are alarmingly low, and early school dropout rates remain high.

Homophobic attitudes are quite high in Croatia compared to other EU countries: 64% of the population have a negative attitude towards them. This is expressed in active anti-LGBT rhetoric, which spills out not only on social networks, but also on the streets of Croatian cities. For example, in 2017, the Zagreb court sentenced to 6 months. a one-year probationary prison sentence for a young man who cheered the tear gas attack on a gay club.

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association's 2020 report on LGBTIQ rights in Europe highlights widespread homophobic and transphobic hate speech on social media, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, including Croatia, the NGO says . The worsening situation in Croatia is evidenced by a series of homophobic attacks against gays in parks in Zagreb, in particular the brutal arson of a gay man in December 2020. Moreover, the growth of violence is always preceded by the growth of intolerance and inciting hatred in the public sphere.

Exactly the same scenario followed the first LGBT pride in 10 years attacking its members. “For the first time in ten years, there was an outbreak of homophobic fascist violence on the day of the LGBTIQ Pride Parade,” Zagreb Pride said in a statement. Police said the attackers beat and spat on some people, insulted others and burned the LGBT+ rainbow flag.

At the turn of the 20s of the 21st century, there was a significant increase in indirect anti-Semitism in Croatia, when not hatred for Jews was cultivated, but reverence and love for their executioners. For several years now, the country's Jewish community has not participated in the official celebrations dedicated to the Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is celebrated throughout the world annually on January 27th. The boycott is associated with the glorification of the Ustaše and their slogan "The Motherland is Ready", which is often used at events dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Croatian War of Independence 1991-1995.

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