Flying Dutchwomen Rape Croatia

Večernji list, March 2, 1993


Dunja Ujević

The first rule of the feminist lobby is: lie! Once the truth is revealed, the purpose has already been achieved – an official denial does not carry the weight of slander.

And here is a well-proven recipe: shock the European Council with a flyer stating that Zagreb has been transformed into a laboratory for systematic rapes of Croatian and Muslim women. When the European Council blocks Croatia’s request for membership in order to check what is happening, say that Croatia’s request has been postponed because of its bad image in the world.

Milan Kundera divided his fellow citizens into over-sensitive ones and others in one of the chapters of his book “Book of Laughter and Forgetting”, where he describes the Czech intellectual elite as “sleeping happily in the safe and firm Soviet embrace”. In his ironic division, which portrays two types of human behaviour during occupation, the writer proscribed the over-sensitive attribute to people who find every moral inquiry annoying because even the mere acknowledgement of the inquiry would mean a commitment to make a personal moral choice. The others are – others. The people.

Does this terrific observation by Kundera have anything in common with modern Croatia? It most certainly does.

Longing for the cradle

That part of the Croatian intellectual elite which was “sleeping happily in the safe and firm Yugoslav embrace” was over-sensitive then and is over-sensitive now. Only that now this over-sensitiveness has changed its shape and has transformed itself from the sweet lethargy of civic conformity, because of unbearable change, into complete disorientation, rage and frenzy. 

Dubravka Ugrešić is an unavoidable member of the travelling crew which cannot handle the fact that they were bluntly kicked out of the Yugoslav cradle and which is nowadays wandering around the world and reporting about the “horrors of the new Independent State of Croatia (NDH)”. This prominent writer published her last article presenting Croatia to the world on January 22 of this year, in “Die Zeit”, under the heading “Everything but death”. Although the headline itself describes the climate in Croatia, the problem appeared when the writer, carried away by the intensity of the literary and anti-Croatian atmosphere, mentioned facts which could be verified or which deny some other facts. But when it comes to that, the goal has already been achieved – even if an official denial refutes the slander, some of the slander always remains. 

Dubravka Ugrešić confided to “Die Zeit” that she was forced to hide her favourite poet, Ivan Goran Kovačić, on a shelf. Because it was dangerous in modern Croatia to like him publicly. She then described the horrible inconveniences she had to endure in a Zagreb police station when she wanted to have her identity card made. The harassment reached its peak when the police officer insisted on her declaring her nationality and when he did not accept her response that she “did not have” a nationality. (Where did she get the audacity to apply for citizenship?)

It isn’t easy for Dubravka’s mother either. She doesn’t dare enter a butcher shop and buy meat after she had found – rings and bracelets in pork on several occasions!

Regarding the ID card – the problem is that the ID form itself does not ask for nationality. But, after all, as if a German will check this!

And as far as rings are concerned – maybe the mother would be so kind to tell us where this butcher shop is?

Women’s list of surrealists

All joking aside, Switzerland has recently been flooded by flyers where organizations under the name “Women’s list” from Basel demand urgent aid for Croatia. Because, as they state: “In Croatia laws are being drafted where women will be used as child-bearing machines” for the purpose of “ethnic growth”. As a consequence, abortion will be prohibited and women will be systematically forced to leave their jobs. Infant nurseries will be closed and every woman who can physiologically have children will be “forced to give birth to at least three children” with the introduction of taxes and “other measures”. “Divorce will be prohibited to spouses whose children are minors”. And, finally, “In Zagreb, which is in the midst of war, women are being constantly and repeatedly raped. They are being attacked in the streets and the ones who resist are murdered, their throats slit with knives”. The conclusion is, “Sexism happens in the shadow of war, and Muslim women, rape victims, are being raped in Zagreb!”

This flyer was allegedly passed on to the Council of Europe and Prime Minister Hrvoje Šarinić. Its authors claim that we are holding a draft of “racial laws” which will soon be used by the Croatian Government to legalize these crimes. When the Croatian Embassy in Switzerland asked them to submit these laws, they of course, did not want to do so.

What is most interesting about this Swiss “Women’s list” activities, headed by Barbara Thurncher and whose members recently participated at a scandalous international women’s summit in Zagreb with the poster “rape is not a matter of nationality”, is: Who is their source of information about events in Croatia? Their letter states that the source is “Autonomous Women’s House” from Zagreb run by our Mrs. Nela Tolle. This is an organization founded in 1988 as an S.O.S. hotline which was then split up at the beginning of the war, because its members had opposite political views. The members of the S.O.S. hotline who still work there stood on Croatia’s side while the group led by Mrs. Tolle supporting women at risk launched an anti-war campaign based on the principle of “equal guilt of all warring sides”.

Poison as food

The women’s organization from Basel was “briefed” according to that standpoint. This organization is supported by the “Swiss Peace Council” which is currently organizing a “Yugoslav anti-war action”. Of course, under the slogan that none of the ex-Yugoslav countries is innocent. Their source of information is their list of “outside associates”. People on the list include: Vladimir Malogajski, Hamdija Demirović, Sonja Licht, Mirko Tepavac, Slobodan Blagojević, Gorka Stojanović, Marko Oršolić, Vlatka Krsmanović, Staša Zajović, Jelena Lovrić and Ana Davičo. Slavenka Drakulić and Dubravka Ugrešić supported the entire anti-Croatian campaign in the media in Switzerland and which was based on the assumption that people there are not acquainted with the subject. Slavenka Drakulić appeared on the radio and Dubravka Ugrešić repeated, in a three-page article in “Femine”, everything she had written in “Die Zeit”.

This Croatia is a strange country. Equally common and special, but unbelievably unique for the quantity of hate it has produced and nurtured and with which it is, against all laws of nature, still alive.

Really, where is it still possible, where is it still customary to have units of “flying Dutchmen” wandering the world and pouring out poison over their own country?

However, the question is: How dangerous are the over-sensitive ones? They are dangerous but not fatal. The world is, in fact, listening to what they are saying because they are saying what the world wants to hear, but the world does not trust them, does not respect them. Cantonal Switzerland will gladly feed its people with horror stories that happen when such a country disintegrates. But it would be worth seeing how it would treat its citizen who is spreading the word throughout the world that the named country is an oasis of primitivism where the right of women to vote is being discussed at the end of 20th century.

So, have no fear, we will join the Council of Europe. After all, we have the support of the IMF, the World Bank, and other organizations where our people did not describe us as ragamuffins who should be stopped at the entrance because they did not wear a civilized tuxedo. They have probably admitted us because they looked at us and saw that it was not the case.

However, the over-sensitive ones can become really dangerous only when they are used as alibis. When we, the others, start to believe that we are an ideal nation and start to blame them or some others for everything gone wrong. Well, that’s a story about home terrain.