Monday, 2 December 2013

The referendum that has prevented marriage equality

Yesterday was a sad day for Croatia's LGBT population, as the results of the 1st December constitutional referendum show that 65.87% of voters have decided that the institution of marriage should only be between a man and a woman, thus effectively banning same-sex marriages from ever taking place in the country.

The be-all-end-all question was "Are you in favor of the constitution of the Republic of Croatia being amended with a provision stating that marriage is matrimony between a woman and a man?", and your choices were "za" if you're for it, and "protiv" if you're against it. As of 30th November 2013, article 62 of the Croatian constitution stated: "The family shall enjoy special protection of the State. Marriage and legal relations in marriage, common-law marriage and families shall be regulated by law." Thanks to 946,433 supporters (65.87% of all voters), as opposed to 481,534 (33.51%), that article is set to be amended.

This referendum came about thanks to the 749,316 signatures gathered by U ime obitelji ("In the name of the family"), whose most notable member claims that all the steps they took in their campaign were "not aimed against anyone". Yet by voting "for" this amendment in the Croatian constitution, 65.87% of referendum voters have given their approval to deny same-sex couples in their country access to marriage.

The legal effects of this referendum result will not seem obvious at first, since the law recognising same-sex unions, adopted in 2003, which grants such unions certain rights, still stands. And it's possible that the rights of same-sex couples could be enhanced, regardless of this referendum's outcome. But, needless to say, should Croatia's LGBT population and their straight allies in the more distant future seek once again marriage equality for same-sex couples, they will be constitutionally denied. And given how polarised the political climate in the country is between the left and right, supporters of this successful referendum (blatantly rightwing and conservative) will always be able to refer to the positive result therein in order to undermine, discredit and even disparage their mainly leftwing and liberal opponents.

I have no doubt that the social and legal consequences of this referendum, both in the near and distant future, will be seen both in Croatia and further afield. Even if the traditionalist groups do nothing to oppose enhancing the rights of same-sex couples in the country, the resulting amendment in the constitution will create a kind of two-tier system of unions, in which one type of couple can have their pairing recognised as a marriage, while a different type of pairing will have to use a different formula. And just outside Croatia, one should expect likeminded organisations and politicians in Serbia and nearby to be inspired by this result, even if they choose not to go down the route of calling for a constitutional referendum in their own countries. Instead, rightwing politicians in neighbouring countries may use the example of the recent constitutional referendum in Croatia to argue in their national parliament that the people of their country are similarly conservative re: marriage and related issues such as family, and in turn vote against recognising same-sex unions altogether!

There is a possibility that the effects of this referendum will not just affect the LGBT population, but also ethnic minorities, particularly the Serb minority, which has been collectively blamed and condemned by Croat nationalists because of the recent war in the country. As I reported earlier this year, there has been an initiative in Vukovar to remove bilingual signposts and placques (in Croatian Latin and Serbian Cyrillic) that have been put up around the city within the last two months. The main protagonist of this initiative is the Stožer za obranu hrvatskog Vukovara ("Headquarters for the defense of Croatian Vukovar"), who promote the view that local Serbs are collectively guilty (be it through active collaboration or passive complicity) for the attack on the city by the then Yugoslav People's Army and various Serb nationalist paramilitaries in 1991, and because of that, they don't don't deserve to see their alphabet officially around Vukovar, as that would, according to the Stožer and likeminded people throughout Croatia, represent an offence to the victims of the afore-mentioned attack and atrocities that took place at that stage of the Croatian war.

More recently, the same self-styled Stožer has started gathering as many signatures as it can, just like U ime obitelji before them (see here and here), to get a referendum to amend ethnic minority rights! Personally, at this point in time, I think they probably won't succeed in getting such a referendum, like U ime obitelji managed to achieve (see here), but I could be wrong. We'll find out soon.

Therefore, this referendum has put Croatia onto a slippery slope, leading to a situation in which disenfranchisement of any whole section of the country's population with a public seal of approval (like in this case, thanks to 65.87% of referendum voters) will be the norm. That's an example of "majority tyranny", a scary thought indeed. And let's be in no doubt about the possibility that neighbouring countries, and countries further afield too, will follow. The question here is: how far will all this go?

One last thing: let's look at the referendum question again: "Are you in favor of the constitution of the Republic of Croatia being amended with a provision stating that marriage is matrimony between a woman and a man?" To me, it's like pointing a gun at someone's head and asking them, "Do you want to live?" To which one would tremblingly answer, "Yes, but preferably not by your terms!"

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Anarchist, Liberal, and Authoritarian Enlightenments: Notes From the Arab Spring

Confirmatory yet insightful and revitalising article from 2011, written in the early days of the Arab Spring.

"Thus in these revolutionary experiments we encounter a rare combination of an anarchist method and a liberal intention: the revolutionary style is anarchist, in the sense that it requires little organization, leadership, or even coordination; tends to be suspicious of parties and hierarchies even after revolutionary success; and relies on spontaneity, minimal planning, local initiative, and individual will much more than on any other factors. On the other hand, the explicit goal of all Arab revolutions is the establishment of a liberal state—explicitly, a civic state--not an anarchist society." - Anarchist, Liberal, and Authoritarian Enlightenments: Notes From the Arab Spring

Monday, 8 July 2013

State or no state, but never without justice!

"Ma kako se ona zvala - Crna Gora, Bosna i Hercegovina, Francuska ili Turska - država koja ne razumije da ljudi mogu bez države, ali ne mogu bez pravde, ne razumije ništa."

"However it is called - Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, France or Turkey - a state that doesn't understand that people can [live] without a state, but cannot [live] without justice, doesn't understand anything." - Andrej Nikolaidis

Source: Al Jazeera Balkans

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Radical progress?

President Tomislav Nikolić of Serbia, ex-Radical turned pro-EU "progressive". For real?

Ever since he candidated himself for the position of president of Serbia the second time in 2008 on behalf of the Serb Radical Party (Srpska Radikalna Stranka), which once again ended in defeat, he broke away from the party he was a loyal and prominent member of for almost two decades and established a new one, the "Serb Progressive Party" (Srpska Napredna Stranka). This new, more moderate right-wing party doesn't advocate changing the borders of Serbia to include vast regions to its west, and unlike the Radical Party is supportive of EU membership for Serbia, which has been a major party policy for the Progressive Party since its inception.

However, can we really believe that the once long-term, far-right, Serb nationalist has all of a sudden become a more moderate, right-of-centre politician? Let's look at his recent rhetoric at the UN and his comments in an interview this past month alone, which should give every observer at least cause for concern, if not confirm long-held suspicions.

In a debate about the work of international criminal courts organised earlier this month by the youthful Serbian diplomat Vuk Jeremić at the United Nations in New York, but boycotted by the ambassadors of the USA, Canada and Jordan, President Nikolić took to the speaker's stand to question the ICTY's impartiality and objectivity, claiming there was "a systematic atmosphere of a lynch-mobbing of everything that is Serbian", accusing it of double standards in its approach towards Serbs compared to others, and he even compared the Hague trials to the Inquisition! As President Nikolić was delivering his speech, Munira Subašić, the president of the association Mothers of Srebrenica (Udruženje Majke Srebrenice) was taken away from the hall by security, when she tried to raise a banner with "Republika Srpska - genocidal formation" written on it in capitals. Subašić later explained how she felt "powerless" when listening to Nikolić accuse the ICTY of bias against Serbs. (Notice how at odds Nikolić's view of international justice regarding accused Serbs is with what Subašić actually lived through and continues to put up with, thanks to the ideology he personally professed at the time she lost 22 relatives in July 1995.)

Let me turn your attention to the phrase "everything that is Serbian", used by the Serbian president in New York. This is something I often come across on the Internet in articles on Serbian websites, in messages on Serbian messageboards, and in YouTube and Facebook comments by those of a nationalistic bent, often using it in an apocalyptic context. Although I would expect such rhetoric from the likes of Nikolić, given his entire career in politics, I would never have expected a serious head of state at an international conference at the United Nations in New York of all places to use phrases popular in online commentary to discuss very serious issues regarding justice in the region.

In an interview on the BHT channel, also reported on Al Jazeera Balkans, asked about the Srebrenica massacre, President Nikolić said, "Genocide needs to be proven". Asked to comment on the fact that the war crime in Srebrenica has all the characteristics of genocide, Nikolić told, "Everything that was happening in the wars of the former Yugoslavia has the characteristics of genocide". Nevertheless, Nikolić did say the following, "Because of that, here I am, on my knees seeking mercy for Serbia for the crime executed in Srebrenica. I apologise for the crimes, which were, in the name of our state and our people, committed by any individual from our people". (This interview came a couple of days after the Serbian president met with two members of Bosnia & Herzegovina's tripartite presidency, Nebojša Radmanović i Bakir Izetbegović (son of Bosnia's wartime president, the late Alija Izetbegović). The latter of the two members insisted that, "Genocide in Srebrenica should not be denied, and that what happened in BiH 20 years ago should not be relativised or minimised, nor Serbia's role in it".)

Putting aside his repentant statement, the President is either unaware of the mountains of evidence and research already done with regards to the Srebrenica massacre and the nature of the atrocity in question, or is deliberately ignorant of it. But what to make of his claim that "everything" that happened during the wars had genocidal characteristics? These words could easily be interpreted as moral equivalence; suggesting that all sides in the wars were up to the same thing. And according to distinguished historians, who've thoroughly researched the wars in the former Yugoslavia, claiming that "all sides were at it" misrepresents how things actually happened on the ground.

From the start, I was never convinced by Nikolić's apparent transformation from Radical Chetnik Vojvoda into pro-EU integrationist! That's not to say that I don't think people can change from one extreme to another, or perhaps change from an extremist to a moderate; I do believe that some people can change their views on life quite radically and fundamentally, and I believe many have already done so and many more will do so. However, Nikolić is not just any member of the Serb Radical Party; he is a man who dedicated his life to the Chetnik cause and fought for its ideals. He joined the Ravna Gora Chetnik Movement (Ravnogorski Četnički Pokret) before any of the wars even started, and he was even bestowed the title of "vojvoda" in a ceremony, filmed in Bosnia and broadcast on Bosnian Serb TV in 1993. So how does such a man, who has for years been the deputy leader of his party (effectively its frontman since 2003, when its actual leader (who also happens to be his kum) got extradited to the Netherlands), has even candidated for the post of Serbian president twice (both times frighteningly close to victory (see here for the 2008 election results)), then suddenly decide to kiss goodbye to his anti-EU views and irredentist rhetoric, become the leader of a new party, and then win the presidential election? Third time lucky, huh? But seriously, doesn't that just strike you as odd?

But think about it, to put oneself on the electoral ticket twice, and coming short of winning both times, and then he founds a new party and wins! Come on, you don't have to be a politics graduate to work out how much this guy wanted to be president of his beloved country! Of course, one could interpret this as pure self-interest, and no doubt there must be at least some of it there. But let's not forget that this is someone who had devoted a large part of his life to Serb nationalism, the unification of so-called "Serb lands", etc. And even though he doesn't openly advocate "Greater Serbia" any more (which remains an unfulfilled dream for him), he still doesn't shy away from voicing clearly nationalistic sentiments, as expressed recently at the UN (read above). Perhaps he's just voices such sentiments purely for "political marketing", which certainly got him enough votes last year to get him into this current position of authority? But personally, I think Nikolić is still the same pro-Chetnik, Serb nationalist he always was inside, despite the much publicised change of heart. The only difference now is that he's put aside the territorial claims (you remember the "Karlobag-Karlovac-Virovitica" line?) and replaced them with pro-EU rhetoric.

I remember suspecting Nikolić of deciding to found a new party in emulation of what Čeda Jovanović achieved following his expulsion from the Democratic Party (the party of the late prime minister Zoran Đinđić) with the founding of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which aimed to go further than where the then Serbian President Boris Tadić was willing to go with the Democratic Party. Jovanović reached 5th place in the 2008 presidential elections on behalf of the LDP. So maybe Nikolić thought, "How about I leave my party and found a new one, just like Čeda did?" Who knows, maybe that's exactly what happened?!

However, for me as a Serb from Croatia, that this man became president of Serbia could never be good news. He has never denied being a Serbian volunteer in the Croatian war. However, worst of all, he is accused of personal involvement in the murder of elderly Croats in the village of Antin near Vinkovci (see here). So what would happen now if the current Serbian President were to decide to step onto Croatian soil; what would happen to him personally, and what kind of a reaction would such a visit provoke? Therefore, without any effort on his part, Nikolić's presidency has and will undermine relations between the two countries, which have otherwise been building closer ties over the past ten years, especially during Tadić's term in office, despite the brutal legacy of the war and the tensions that emanate from that era.

So these are the primary reasons why I, as a lay observer of Ex-Yu politics, take whatever Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić says with reserve: firstly, although "Greater Serbia" is no longer on the menu, by expressing popular nationalistic opinions in his capacity as head of state, as he did in New York, he gives credence to that worldview and to that interpretation of history, regardless of its accuracy or lack thereof; secondly, I suspect the whole transformation into a "Progressive" is a clever political stunt, designed to finally bring him to that coveted position of authority he now occupies; and thirdly, I fear his presidency will not only undermine relations with Croatia, as it already has done so far, but also discourage justice and reconciliatory efforts from moving quicker.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Just a guest here in my homeland

Ruža Tomašić, a member of the rightwing Croatian Party of Rights - Ante Starčević (Hrvatska Stranka Prava - Ante Starčević) and member of the Croatian parliament said that, "Croatia is for Croats", and that "everyone else is but a guest".

In response to such an inflammatory statement, Milorad Pupovac, deputy leader of the Independent Democratic Serbian Party (Samostalna Demokratska Srpska Stranka) and likewise a member of the Croatian parliament, yesterday brought a yellow band with the word "guest" in Serbo-Croat.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Gračac through Street View!

For a long time, all I and other Gračani in the diaspora could get was a bird's eye view of our hometown of Gračac in Lika, Croatia, not to mention how the zoomed in satellite images were rather blurred.

But now you can see it through Google Maps' Street View feature wherever you are! Just type "Gracac" and pick "Gračac, Croatia" from the list. You will first notice how this time, the zoomed in satellite images are in the highest definition ever! And along with that, you can drag the orange man on the left, under the compass, onto any street in town, and even on roads outside town (like the road to Knin), to see Gračac and its stunning surroundings in marvellous and breath-taking Street View! Milina!

PS: Check out the garavuša (i.e. dark-haired lady) on the bridge! ;-)

Friday, 8 February 2013

Balkan Anarchist on Anarchist News!!!

I've joined the open blog Anarchist News, and you can find my profile here, where all my articles published there will be found! I hope to post new articles and perhaps some old articles from this blog there, so watch this space!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Signposts that offend people!

As I've read here on Al Jazeera Balkans, 22 Croatian war veterans' associations have declared their intention to remove Serbian Cyrillic signposts and placques in Vukovar, and they're prepared to break the law to do so!

They don't get why their country's prime minister "has given up on the interests of the majority Croatian people, has given up on the truth of [their] recent history, and is selling [their] pride and sacrifice for just ten thousand votes from Vukovar Serbs!"

They also claim that the "policy of bilingualism and Cyrillics in Vukovar will give extra motivation for further the nationalist-chauvinistic plans and activities" of young local Serbs in the region of Vukovar, who allegedly go to military and para-military camps in Serbia for training. According to the undersigned, it is an "open secret" that this happens.

If you are reading this and wondering what on earth all the fuss is about, let me clear this up for you. The whole opposition Vukovar Croat veterans and supporters are raising to the enforcement of the law in favour of the local Serb minority (i.e. their rights as a demographically significant minority, amounting to over a third of the population of the wartorn city, to use their language and alphabet officially and in public) is down to the wounds of the war. Their hometown was devastated in the recent war by the JNA in 1991, and thousands of Croats (military and civilian) were killed. Although a couple of convictions have been achieved regarding at least one war crime near Vukovar (specifically Ovčara), most of the culprits of all the other war crimes are still unpunished and are probably walking freely in neighbouring Serbia.

Along with the grievances regarding the atrocities during that war, many local Croats see their ethnic Serb neighbours as collectively guilty for their suffering. In my humble opinion, I think collectivising guilt is a big problem here, so much so that any sign of Serbian culture and language is seen as an offense. As far as they're concerned, Cyrillics is the alphabet of the enemy and they don't want to see it in their beloved town, even though their Serb neighbours have the right to use it in public and see signs with it put up around town.

Some Croats, who are opposed to bilingualism being introduced in Vukovar and nearby, feel that it's too soon for it; the wounds are still fresh, but maybe in the distant future. Some are calling for a moratorium of ten to twenty years, while others are more resolute and don't think Cyrillics should ever be seen in Vukovar.

I find some of the arguments expressed by some of the estimated 20,000 protestors from an earlier protest shown in the clips of this report rather unconvincing and even disturbing. Supposedly, by introducing bilingualism, this will create deeper divisions between Croats and the Serb minority in the city; placing Cyrillics on an even level with the Roman alphabet will bring about inter-ethnic intolerance and threaten peace in Vukovar. One man among the demonstrators stated, "If they (Croatian government) give them (Serbs) Cyrillics, they'll give them everything they will ask for", the well-known "give them an inch, and they'll take a mile" line. While one veteran openly denounced and "exclusively" blamed the government in advance if any violence should occur in the city and surroundings, should they "blindly" approve of the enforcement of this law in the city of Vukovar.

(Notice how on one of banners held by those protestors, this fused Serbo-Croat flag was deliberately crossed out. I guess that's a sure sign of how much they value inter-ethnic relations, and perhaps what they think of equality between Croats and Serbs.)

I am also baffled by the assertion above that bilingualism, of all things, could have anything to do with nationalism and chauvinism! As for the allegation about young east Slavonian Serbs receiving military and para-military training in nearby Serbia, I have absolutely no idea if that's true or not, so I won't comment on it. But seriously, how is treating Serbian Cyrillics as equal to the Croatian Roman alphabet supposed to "motivate" such young men; assuming the accusation is true, surely there would be other things that would motivate such men much more than bilingual signposts?!

Personally, I'm supportive of the presence of bilingual signs etc. anywhere around the world; I'm a citizen of the world and I like languages and dialects thereof. In Wales, you have bilingual signs in Welsh and English, while in England you can find welcome signs at the entrances of schools and other institutions with greetings in other languages around the English greeting. However, not everyone considers themselves one as well, especially people from wartorn regions, where distrust and suspicion expectably abound.

I also believe in the rule of law, and minority rights are guaranteed in the Croatian constitution. However, if there is no desire to respect the constitutional law of the country, then maybe the consitution itself must be changed, as suggested by president Ivo Josipović himself. Nevertheless, the deputy leader of the largest ethnic Serb party in the country, Milorad Pupovac, explained that the constitutional law regarding the rights of national minorities is a component of Croatia's international obligations, which it accepted at the time of international recognition and accession into international institutions. He goes on to say, "One law cannot be accepted internationally but denied domestically, thus creating an image of Croatia for the outside world, where the rights of national minorities are respected, while trampling over them here".

Pupovac is of the opinion that, "…someone has obviously decided, for political reasons, to block it (the constitutional law) and turn it into a political question, which is harming inter-ethnic relations, inter-ethnic and political tolerance and is renewing wartime rhetoric and atmosphere". He also pointed out that after the protest attended by 20,000 people earlier this month, a 21 y.o. Serb from nearby Borovo got beaten up.

For me, this issue is very reminiscent of a smaller protest in Kistanje in 2010, when the local Croatian veterans' association dictated to local Serbs and their representatives which famous people should have street names in their honour and which shouldn't. Basically, such associations can come along to your hometown, lay down the law as they see fit, dictate to you how things should be according to their standards, and expect all politicians to bow down to their demands. How intimidating that must be for those on the receiving end!

Do I deny that they are voicing serious grievances that many Croats hold? Absolutely not. I condemn the crimes of Hague convicts Milan Martić and the late Milan Babić, and I believe that we, decent and honest Serbs, should be ashamed of what was done in the name of Serbdom during the '90s and condemn it all unequivocally! And I also agree that it's wrong that most Serb war crimes suspects have yet to be apprehended; it should not stay like that any longer. However, it's one thing to seek justice for serious offences that were committed in wartime, and a completely different thing to deny every sign of another culture and language in peace time, just because some dispicable members of that community did something horrible to you or a loved one. Those members have a name, and they should not assume that the wrong they did is of no consequence!

I honestly think this has everything to do with collectivising guilt; all Croatian Serbs, as far as such patriotic Croats are concerned, are suspected Chetniks, and as such, we offend them by simply making our presence known. On a bad day, they will accuse you of Greater-Serbian nationalism, while on a good day, they will expect not to have to see or hear from you. So how is an ethnic Serb living in Croatia supposed to feel? Condemned at worst, ignored at best.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Compensation for Jovan Berić and his sisters for their murdered parents in Varivode ‘95

Some justice has been done in the form of compensation for Jovan Berić and his two sisters for the murder of their parents Radivoje & Marija Berić in their village of Varivode on 28th September 1995. They originally sought 900,000 KN in damages, but instead received 540,000 KN in accordance with European conventions, whereby only 60% of the sought after sum can be awarded for terrorist acts.

Translated from Večernji list:

Jovan Berić, visibly shaken, said after the verdict how after so many years in court this comes as some kind of satisfaction, but added that he has less and less faith that the murderers of his parents will ever take responsibility for that crime. He pointed out that he believes that, after this verdict, the children of the other murdered seven from Varivode will seek reparations from the republic of Croatia.

Al Jazeera Balkans: Odšteta za djecu ubijenih Srba u Varivodama.

Večernji list: Djeci ubijenih supružnika Berić iz Varivoda 540.000 kn odštete Djeci ubijenih supružnika Berić iz Varivoda 540.000 kn odštete

Monday, 7 January 2013

Well considered and realistic

Every Theology and every Ideology, it seems to me, is an endeavor in hypnotism and self-hypnotism. If there is one thing that everybody knows in common sense — when they are in "their right minds" and not hypnotized — it is that "all generalizations are hazardous" and that individual cases are each unique. The function of Theological and Ideological hypnosis is to forget this common sense and follow a robot-program that evades the responsibility of thinking and feeling anew in each unique situation. It is not just the other gang's Theology or Ideology that is nefarious: all Theology and Ideology is nefarious. It is a form of sleep-walking in which we can do monstrous things because we are not alive, awake and aware of who we are, where we are and what is going on around us. — Robert Anton Wilson

Definitely something worth bearing in mind and pondering, whatever ideology or theology you may subscribe to.

Inspiring Anarchist quotes

Here are a couple of Anarchist quotes I found lately, which I think help to explain what Anarchism is essentially and fundamentally all about.

If your object is to secure liberty, you must learn to do without authority and compulsion. If you intend to live in peace and harmony with your fellow-men, you and they should cultivate brotherhood and respect for each other. If you want to work together with them for your mutual benefit, you must practice cooperation. The social revolution means much more than the reorganization of conditions only: it means the establishment of new human values and social relationships, a changed attitude of man to man, as of one free and independent to his equal; it means a different spirit in individual and collective life, and that spirit cannot be born overnight. It is a spirit to be cultivated, to be nurtured and reared, as the most delicate flower it is, for indeed it is the flower of a new and beautiful existence. — Alexander Berkman (What Is Anarchism?)

Anarchism is the attempt to eradicate domination. This includes not only such obvious forms as the nation-state, with its routine use of violence and the force of law, and the corporation, with its institutionalized irresponsibility, but also such internalized forms as patriarchy, racism, homophobia. Also it is the attempt to expose the ways our philosophy, religion, economics, and other ideological constructions perform their primary function, which is to rationalize or naturalize --make seem natural-- the domination that pervades our way of life: the destruction of the natural world or of indigenous peoples, for example, comes not from the result of decisions actively made and actions pursued, but instead, so we convince ourselves, as a manifestation of Darwinian selection, or God's will, or economic exigency. Beyond that, Anarchism is the attempt to look even into those parts of our everyday lives we accept as givens, as part of the universe, to see how they, too, dominate us or facilitate our domination over others... Most fundamentally, I would see Anarchism as a synonym for anti-authoritarianism. — John Zerzan

And here's one I found some time ago by a famous Anarchist revolutionary, which I think basically and honestly explains the primary goal of Anarchism:

The anarchists are not promising anything to anyone. The anarchists only want people to be conscious of their own situation and seize freedom for themselves. — Maria Nikiforova

I hope to post many more I find on the net, be it in Facebook groups or Anarchist websites.