Tag Archives: Croatia

Bob Dylan faces insult charge in France after comparing Croatians to Nazis, KKK

French authorities have filed preliminary charges against Bob Dylan over a 2012 interview in which he is quoted comparing Croatians to Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

The charges of “public insult and inciting hate” were filed against the musician in mid-November, Paris prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre said on Dec. 3.

They stem from a lawsuit by a Croatian community group in France over remarks in an interview in Rolling Stone magazine in September 2012.

Speaking about race relations in the United States, Dylan was quoted as saying: “If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.”

A lawyer for the Croatian group, Ivan Jurasinovic, said it is not seeking monetary damages but wants Dylan, “a singer who is liked and respected in Croatia, to present an apology to the Croatian people.”

He said the Croatian community in France was upset by the remarks, but said he did not know why Croatians in Croatia or the United States, where Rolling Stone is based, have not filed similar suits. France, home to about 30,000 Croatians, has strict laws punishing hate speech and racist remarks.

Representatives for Dylan, who performs in France regularly, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The charges were filed two days before Dylan received a French government honor at the Culture Ministry Nov. 13 but were not publicly confirmed until this week.

In other news, on Dec. 1, a majority of Croatians voted in a referendum to ban gay marriages in what is a major victory for the Catholic Church-backed conservatives in the European Union’s newest nation.

The state electoral commission, citing near complete results, said 65 percent of those who voted answered “yes” to the referendum question: “Do you agree that marriage is matrimony between a man and a woman?” About 34 percent voted against.

The result meant that Croatia’s constitution will be amended to ban same-sex marriage.

Gay marriage banned by popular vote in Croatia

A majority of Croatians voted in a referendum on Dec. 1 to ban gay marriages in what is a major victory for the Catholic Church-backed conservatives in the European Union’s newest nation.

The state electoral commission, citing near complete results, said 65 percent of those who voted answered “yes” to the referendum question: “Do you agree that marriage is matrimony between a man and a woman?” About 34 percent voted against.

The result meant that Croatia’s constitution will be amended to ban same-sex marriage.

The vote has deeply divided Croatia. Liberal groups have said the referendum’s question infringes on basic human rights. The Church-backed groups have gathered 750,000 signatures in its support.

Referendum results signal that right-wing and conservative forces have been gaining strength in Croatia amid the deepening economic crisis and widespread joblessness.

The country of 4.4 million, which became EU’s 28th member in July, has taken steps to improve gay rights, but issues such as same-sex marriage remain highly sensitive in the staunchly Catholic nation.

The referendum was called by the “In the Name of the Family” conservative group after Croatia’s center-left government drafted a law to let gay couples register as “life partners.”

The Catholic Church leaders have urged their followers to vote “yes” in the referendum. Nearly 90 percent of Croatians are Roman Catholics.

“Marriage is the only union enabling procreation,” Croatian Cardinal Josip Bozanic said in his message to the followers. “This is the key difference between a marriage and other unions.”

Croatia’s liberal president, Ivo Josipovic, said he voted against amending the constitution. Josipovic said the referendum result must be respected, but added the government is preparing a law to allow some rights to gays and lesbians living together.

“The referendum result must not be the reason for new divisions,” Josipovic said. “We have serious economic and social problems. It’s not worth it to focus on such issues.”

Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said earlier “this is the last referendum that gives a chance to the majority to strip a minority of its rights.”

Conservatives have also started gathering signatures for another referendum, demanding a ban of the Cyrillic alphabet in Croatia. The Cyrillic is used in neighboring Serbia and by minority Serbs in Croatia. The nationalists blame the Serbs for atrocities committed by their troops during Croatia’s 1991-95 war for independence from the Serb-led Yugoslavia.

The EU hasn’t officially commented on the referendum, but has clashed with Croatia over some of its other laws, including an extradition law that has prevented its citizens from being handed over to the bloc’s other member states, which Croatia had to amend under pressure from Brussels.

Several hundred gay rights supporters marched in the capital, Zagreb, on Saturday urging a “no” vote.

“I will vote against because I think that the referendum is not a festival of democracy, but a festival of oppression against a minority, which fights for its rights and which does not have its rights,” Jura Matulic, a university student, said.

Thousands march for LGBT equality in Croatia

Several thousand people held an LGBT Pride march over the weekend in Croatia. Neighboring Slovenia’s president led a similar march in his country’s capital.

There were no incidents as the crowds carrying flags and banners and guarded by police gathered and then marched through the center of Croatia’s capital, Zagreb.

“This Pride parade is not directed against others, not even against those who hate us and view us as second-rate citizens,” an organizer Marko Jurcic said.

Croatia’s foreign minister and prime minister’s wife joined the march in a sign of support.

An anti-gay group in Croatia has gathered more than 700,000 signatures in support of a referendum to have the country’s constitution define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Zeljka Markic, a representative of the group, said “the aim is for the citizens to have a say over how to define the question of marriage and family.”

The dispute over gay rights has divided Croatia just weeks before it becomes 28th member of the European Union. The country has taken steps to improve gay rights, but issues such as same-sex marriage remain highly sensitive in the staunchly Catholic nation.

The Catholic Church in Croatia also has clashed with the liberal government over the introduction of sex education in schools, which was suspended months later by the country’s top court.

In neighboring Slovenia, President Borut Pahor led the gay Pride march in the capital of Ljubljana, the first president of this tiny Alpine nation to do so. Hundreds attended the gathering on a bright, sunny day, walking through the city center. There were no incidents reported.

In Germany, some 1,500 people took part in the Christopher Street Day parade in the northern city of Oldenburg. Participants there celebrated a recent verdict by Germany’s top court ruling that gay couples in civil unions should receive the same tax benefits as heterosexual married couples.

Riot police protect at Croatia Pride

Riot police watched on as several hundred people, including some government ministers, marched unhindered through the Croatian town of Split on June 9, many carrying flags and banners reading “Gay is OK” and “We are all equal.”

Authorities had pledged to secure the pride event as a sign of determination to protect gay and other human rights ahead of joining the European Union in 2013.

Police said that they had briefly detained more than 40 people, but that there was no unrest despite threats of violence. Last year, extremists threw bottles and rocks at participants, drawing international condemnation.

The crowd walked along a route that was fenced off by the police, while a helicopter flew overhead and a water cannon was parked nearby.

Participants urged more rights for Croatia’s gays and lesbians. “We want to be equal, we want equality for our families,” activist Mirjana Kucer told the gathering.

“We have to stand in defense of every person in Croatia, and let them be whatever she or he wants to be,” Minister for Foreign Affairs Vesna Pusic. “People should have the freedom and right to be what they want. And no one should persecute, attack, beat and discriminate them just because of what they want to be.”

Local police chief Ivica Tolusic said police were “more than pleased” that the event had passed without incident.

Also June 9, a march in support of the Split event was held in the northern Adriatic port of Rijeka, where some 300 people took part.

Anti-gay violence is common in the conservative Balkans. A pride event was cancelled in Serbia last year over extremist threats, while hundreds were injured during a march in 2010.

No pride events were ever held in Bosnia or Montenegro, while in Croatia, the first pride gathering took place ten years ago in the capital of Zagreb.

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Pope denounces ‘disintegration’ of European family life

Pope Benedict XVI wrapped up his visit to Croatia earlier this month by denouncing the “disintegration” of family life in Europe and calling for couples to make a commitment to marry and have children, not just live together.

Benedict stressed traditional Catholic values, including opposition to abortion, during an open-air Mass attended by about 400,000 people at Zagreb’s hippodrome.

While Croatia is nearly 90 percent Catholic, it allows some legal rights for same-sex couples and, thanks to leftover communist-era legislation, permits abortion up to 10 weeks after conception and thereafter with the consent of a special commission of doctors. Elsewhere in Europe, including in Italy, marriages are on the decline as more and more people choose to just live together.

In his homily, Benedict lamented the “increasing disintegration of the family, especially in Europe” and urged young couples to resist “that secularized mentality which proposes living together as a preparation, or even a substitute for marriage.”

“Do not be afraid to make a commitment to another person!” he said.

– from AP reports

Extremists attack gay Pride march in Croatia

Stone-throwing extremists disrupted a gay Pride march in Croatia on June 11, a day after the Balkan country was given the green light to join the European Union.

At least 100 people were detained and many others were injured after opponents of the march in the coastal town of Split attacked about 200 participants with rocks, bottles and firecrackers, state TV reported.

Riot police prevented direct clashes between the two groups, which were also separated by iron fences. Police said thousands lined the streets in protest of the march.

Croatia has pledged to protect human rights as part of efforts at EU membership after a series of wars in the Balkans in the 1990s. EU officials said Friday that Croatia could join in 2013, after years of tough negotiations.

But organizers of the Split march accused the police of not doing enough to protect them.

“The state institutions did not do their job properly,” activist Sanja Juras said.

Amnesty International described the violence as a “disgrace.”

“The Croatian authorities need to act to stop this happening in future,” said Nicola Duckworth, the human right group’s director for Europe and Central Asia, urging an immediate investigation and punishment for the attackers