This Saturday, only a day before local elections took place, 10,000 people gathered in Croatia’s two largest cities, Zagreb and Split, for the second ‘Walk for Life’ march, pushing for a ban on abortion. However, with coordinated action throughout the entire route, they were met with opposition by hundreds of activists, collectively describing themselves as the ‘Platform for women’s reproductive rights.’
The Walk for Life march was led by individuals from ultra-conservative groups, including representatives from organizations like In the name of the family and the Vigilare association, who represent the Croatian branch of the global ultra-conservative movement Tradition, Family and Property.
They were all met at different locations by smaller groups of protesters from the Platform, who carried messages on placards, clearly showing what they think about the right to a legal, safe, and accessible abortion. Some of the messages activists held aloft included; ‘State, God — keep away from my ovaries!,’ ‘My uterus is not public property,’ ‘We won’t give up our bodies!,’ ‘This pussy isn’t giving birth to nationalists,’ and ‘I want to study, not burn at the stake.’
Twenty activists were forcibly removed by police as they attempted to block the Walk for Life march with a sit in protest, as both groups descended on central Zagreb’s Ban Josip Jelacic square. The Walk for Life’s entrance to the square was saluted by the Platform with the unfurling of a nine-meter long banner bearing the message: ‘the Walk for Life steps on women.’
War criminals in the Walk for Life
At the Walk for Life, the most famous faces of the conservative revolution, Zeljka Markic and Vice John Batarelo, were joined by numerous politicians; including the minister for foreign affairs, Davor Ivo Stier, Bruna Esih, a candidate for the mayor’s office in Zagreb and member of the European Parliament, Ruza Tomasic.
Another member of the European Parliament, Marijana Petir, also participated in the gathering and photographed herself smiling with, and hugging the convicted war criminal, Dario Kordic. Kordic, whose charge sheet included the murder of a three month old baby, attended both this and last year’s Walk for Life march.
To help redeem their sins, a large number of nuns and priests were also in attendance, including Don Damir Stojic, most famous for his statement that raped women cannot become pregnant.
In the days before the Walk for Life was held in Zagreb and Split, a group of anonymous feminists performed a number of guerilla actions under the cover of night, to show their opposition to any potential ban on abortion. Their protests included colouring the water of the Mandusevac fountain in Ban Josip Jelacic square red, and leaving wire hangers and stickers with the message: ‘We won’t go back!’
The activists proclaimed that they are unveiling the real intentions hidden beneath the smiles and carefully selected slogans on celebrating life, which had been espoused by the organizers of the Walk for Life march.
Deconstructing the subtle and manipulative tactics in campaigns attempting to limit human rights, while cynically packaging it in the discourse of human rights has been recognized as one of the central targets for the denunciation of ultra-conservative organizations’ goals. It is a dynamic that has been set in place ever since the homophobic referendum that was held in 2013 on the definition of marriage as the communion of a man and a woman.