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Torched effigy of gay couple causes outrage in Croatia

Politicians and human rights groups have jointly condemned the burning of an effigy of a same-sex couple and their child at a carnival on Sunday in the Dalmatian town of Imotski.

Photograph by Bosko Cosic

By Anja Vladisavljevic

 

Balkan Insight (24.01.2020) – https://bit.ly/2SWGIOL – The Croatian President, government ministers, LGBT rights groups and the Ombudsperson on Monday all condemned the burning of an effigy of a kissing same-sex couple and their child at a Dalmatian carnival, calling it a hateful act. The image was torched at Sunday’s traditional carnival in the small town of Imotski in the Dalmatian Hinterland.

 

President Zoran Milanovic condemned the act on Facebook as “inhumane and totally unacceptable”. Education Minister Blazenka Divjak and Economy Minister Darko Horvat also condemned it.

 

The Rainbow Family Association, which gathers LGBT couples and individuals who have or want to have children, on Monday said the action sent an appalling message to society and to children especially.

 

“The scary scenes from Imotski cannot be justified by carnival customs… What kind of message is being sent to our children, children who nowadays in Croatia grow up with lesbian mothers or gay fathers?” Daniel Martinovic the association’s coordinator, said.

 

“I find it incomprehensible, devastating and sad. It teaches children that it is okay to hate. That’s unacceptable,” Ombudsperson Lora Vidovic tweeted on Sunday.

 

A Social Democrat MP, Arsen Bauk, said that he would file charges against the organisers of the carnival.

 

Each year, carnivals across Dalmatia select new figures to feature as effigies, often selecting things or people that have made local inhabitants upset and angry.

 

Part of the effigy burned in Imotski clearly showed the face of Social Democratic Party MP Nenad Stazic, who has campaigned in parliament for same-sex couples to be allowed to foster children. His character had also a red star on his forehead, the symbol of former communist Yugoslavia.

 

When local media outlet Slobodna Dalmacija asked the carnival organisers why they had chosen a same-sex couple as an effigy to burn, one said: “We remain conservative, sticking to tradition. Give the baby to a mother, as the saying goes. We think that’s right.”

 

The torching comes after the Constitutional Court published a ruling at the end of January that obliges courts and relevant authorities to give all competent appliers to foster equal opportunities, including same-sex couples. The ruling was welcomed by human rights organisations but criticised in socially conservative circles.

 

It is not the first time that carnivals in Croatia have featured effigies targeting minority groups. In March last year, at the carnival in the coastal town of Kastel Sucurac, an effigy of the Croatian Serb leader and parliamentarian Milorad Pupovac was burned. Pupovac told BIRN that it was a nationalistic and chauvinistic act.

 

In February 2018, a replica of Croatia’s first picture book about same-sex families “My Rainbow Family” was ceremonially burned at the carnival in Kastela. LGBT rights groups filed a complaint against the carnival organisers, and the Science and Education Minister, Blazenka Divjak, condemned the book’s burning.





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Bulgarian Muslims Condemn Islamophobic Attacks

Bulgaria’s Muslim community has called on the police to investigate attacks on a mosque and the Grand Mufti’s Office in Sofia as hate crimes.

 

By Maria Chereseva

 

Balkan Insight (05.07.2019) – https://bit.ly/2G19kPY – Bulgaria’s Grand Mufti’s Office called on the police on Friday to investigate an attack on its office in the capital, Sofia, as a “hate crime”.

 

The windows of the building in central Sofia were smashed with stones by an unknown person on Thursday, three days after swastikas and other hate symbols were scratched onto a mosque in the central town of Karlovo on July 2.

 

“This is a typical hate crime. Unfortunately in Bulgaria no one is being convicted of such crimes. They are always declared as [the work of] drunks or hooligans,” Jelal Faik, spokesperson of the Grand Mufti’s office, told BIRN.

 

He added that the attack was recorded by security cameras, which showed the perpetrator taking stones out of a bag and throwing them at the window, which he said was a “clear sign that this was a planned and deliberate act”.

 

Faik said the presence of the nationalist United Patriots union in the GERB-lead coalition government, had encouraged anti-Muslim attitudes among some people.

 

“If we neglect this act, it means that we are closing our eyes to far more serious national phenomena where everyone different can be targeted”, he said, recalling that the synagogue in Sofia also was attacked with stones in January.

 

Rights groups say Bulgaria’s failure to tackle hate crime is fuelling violence and prejudice against minority groups, including asylum seekers, migrants, Muslims and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

 

A 2015 report by Amnesty International warned that, despite existing legislation, authorities in Bulgaria have consistently failed to identify and adequately investigate hate crimes. They also not do they collect or publish data on such crimes.

 

Bulgaria’s biggest rights group, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, included in its 2018 annual report a number of attacks committed against religious sites around the country, and warned that hate speech against certain religious communities had continued to “spread with impunity”.

 

Ruslan Trad, a Bulgarian journalist and member of the Muslim community, said fear was widespread among Bulgarian Muslims.  “There is fear. The Muslim community … actively discusses those events [the recent attacks] and views them as [part of] an anti-Muslim policy on the state level,” he said.

 

Muslims are a significant community in Bulgaria and are mostly descended from ethnic Turks, or from Slavs who converted during several centuries of Ottoman Turkish rule.

 

According to the 2011 census, Muslims make up just under 8 per cent of the population, but some more recent estimates put the figure at 15 per cent.

 

Unlike the migrant communities of Western Europe, Bulgarian Muslims show little interest in religious extremism.

 

A 2011 study by a Turkish paper showed about 40 per cent never even go to mosques.


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