News 27 Jul 16

Croatian Rightists Disrupt Anti-Fascist Anniversary Rally

Far-right Croats did their best to cause chaos at the annual commemoration of the anti-Fascist uprising in Croatia in 1941 in the remote village of Srb.

Sven Milekic BIRN Zagreb
Far-right protesters fenced-out by the police. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Stipe Majic

Anti-Fascists in Croatia commemorated the 75th anniversary of the 1941 uprising in the village of Srb on Wednesday, despite attempts by far-right Autochthonous Croatian Party of Rights, A-HSP, and other groups to obstruct it.

The commemoration in the border village near Bosnia and Herzegovina traditionally marks the start of a revolt against the World War II Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia, NDH.

The Serbian National Council, SNV, an NGO, and Croatian anti-fascist association organised the event where a choir sang Partisan songs, while wreaths were laid on the monument.

Different associations from Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia attended the commemoration, along with the Serbian ambassador to Croatia and the former Croatian President Stjepan Mesic.

In his speech, Nikola Budija, from the Croatian Alliance of Anti-Fascist Fighters from Zadar, criticised President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic for allegedly downplaying the anti-Fascist struggle and the crimes committed by the NDH – and for removing a bust of Yugoslavia's longtime communist President Josip Broz Tito, which was moved to Tito's museum in his home village of Kumrovec.

People commemorating the Srb uprising. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Stipe Majic

“I am a Croat, not an Ustasa, but Tito’s fighter,” Budija said, referring to the Ustasa movement that ran the NDH.

Veteran Croatian Serb leader Milorad Pupovac, also head of the SNV, said that anyone who had doubts about the character of the uprising should read the works of the well-known Croatian writer and historian, Slavko Goldstein. “We do not belong among extremes, we want a normal life,” Pupovac concluded.

However, the A-HSP and other rightist groups did their best to stop the commemoration in Srb, saying crimes were committed against ethnic Croats during the uprising.

The head of A-HSP, Drazen Keleminec, was prevented from reaching the site with his party members after police banned him for six months from accessing the monument.

After being told that he was banned from the event, he sat on the road before being taken away by the police.

Some of his fellow protesters wore shirts paying homage to a paramilitary unit from the 1990s, the Croatian Defence Force, HOS, and chanted the Ustasa slogan "Za dom spremni" - "Ready for the Homeland". After being prevented from reaching the site as well, they blocked the road to traffic.

Drazen Keleminec shouting on the megaphone. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Stipe Majic

For the past six years, the A-HSP has held protests during the commemoration, calling it a "Chetnik commemoration".

[The Chetniks were wartime Serbian royalists who committed widespread atrocities against Serbs, Bosniaks and others.]

Nevertheless, a group of some 15 women members of "Women in the Homeland War", Homeland War being official term for Croatia’s war for independence in the 1990s – did reach the monument.

Police allowed them to be present, but separated them from those commemorating the uprising with a fence.

However, the women interrupted the speech of Stjepan Mesic, former Croatian President and honourable president of the Anti-Fascist Alliance, singing songs of the far-right nationalistic singer Marko Perkovic "Thompson".

Zeljko Glasnovic, an MP from the main centre-right party, the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, also joined the protesters, saying he had come “to commemorate the victims [of the 1941 uprising]”.

Protesters wearing shirts with names of Ustasa units. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Stipe Majic

He went on to call the human-rights activist Zoran Pusic “a moral freak” who “praises Greater Serbian Chetnik imperialistic aggression”, which he said had cost over half a million lives in the region between 1912 and the 1990s.

Keleminec himself eventually reached the site as well, claiming that “no one can stop him from coming to Croatia.

“I'm not afraid of anything except God! With this greeting, I went to war for a democratic Croatia. 'Za dom – spremni!'” he shouted to fellow-protesters using a megaphone.

Although the police were present, none of the protesters was reported for using this banned chant.

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