A public appeal for the dismissal of the Minister of Culture of Croatia
A public appeal to the government of Croatia for the dismissal of the Minister of Culture Zlatko Hasanbegović
Several members have highlighted the below petition to CIMAM. We are deeply concerned about the issues stated therein. The text of the petition originally posted by Kulturnjaci11 is reproduced in full and with permission as below. We seek CIMAM members’ assistance to circulate the petition for awareness and for support.
The recently established Croatian Government appointed Mr. Zlatko Hasanbegović as minister of culture. Yet he has no experience in the cultural sector and he publicly promotes extreme political views.
He referred to anti-fascism as an empty phrase in a public appearance on national television, six months before his appointment to the position of minister of culture. He was a member of HOP (Croatian Liberation Movement), a militant fascist political organization founded by the leader of the Ustaša regime, which collaborated with the Nazis in World War II. Hasenbegović has denied being a member of HOP, but the webpage documenting his statements is now known to have been redacted. It was recently discovered that he was an external contributor to the magazine NDH (Independ State of Croatia, a Quisling regime run by ustaše), where he published articles praising Nazi values and heroes. In 1996, Hasanbegović wrote at least two articles  for the monthly which propagated the work and the political ideas of Ante Pavelić and systematically denied the crimes committed by the fascist Independent State of Croatia. More recently, in 2013 he publicly advocated the rehabilitation of the imam who served in the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (part of the Waffen-SS, an armed branch of the German Nazi Party that served alongside the Wehrmacht). Mr. Hasanbegović is also active as a publisher of books that relativize nazism and fascism.
Since Mr. Hasanbegović took up the position of minister of culture, he hasn’t abandoned the values and statements to which he gave voice beforehand. He continues to insult prominent Croatian cultural workers and artists, whom he refers to as “exhibitionists” and “ridiculous street performers”. He has announced that his political programme consists of building a uniform cultural paradigm that will serve to homogenize the nation and eliminate any dissent or opposition concerning the values that he supports. We perceive this as constituting a serious threat to the plurality of cultural and artistic creativity, to the autonomy of the cultural sphere and to freedom of speech.
Immediately after his appointment, a broad coalition of cultural workers and artists in Croatia (kulturnjaci2016.org) made a public appeal to the government of Croatia to dismiss Mr. Hasanbegović, an appeal signed in just a few days by over 3500 prominent artists, cultural workers and citizens. The appeal does not dispute an individual’s right to hold certain positions and political views, rather it is an appeal to voice opposition to the relativization of politics and to support an idea of culture free from ideological misconceptions, conservatism, nationalism and intolerance.
Therefore, we ask you to support us in our efforts to defeat threats to the freedom of creativity and expression and in our demand for the dismissal of Mr. Hasanbegović from the position of minister of culture of the Republic of Croatia.
Show your support for the appeal of Kulturnjaci 2016 by e-mailing your signature and occupation / affiliation to the firstname.lastname@example.org
We, the citizens signed below, cultural workers, believe to be witnessing a moment when the field of culture is threatened and humiliated by the decision of the new Croatian Government to nominate Zlatko Hasanbegović, a scientist who is entirely incompetent to manage the system of cultural institutions and all segments of cultural production and lacks knowledge of all mechanisms of local and international collaborations as well as the use of the European cultural funds, as a person who holds completely unacceptable reactionary ideological positions.
We believe that culture has to be defended from any ideology that in any way introduces a regime marked with bigotry, narrow-mindedness, revisionism and nationalist concepts of cultural politics and production. A culture robbed off the principles of humanism and rolled in the mud of dictatorship is no longer a culture but only a medium for political pragmatism.
How can cultural workers trust the new minister knowing his previous public appearances when he, among other things, accused the third channel of the Croatian Radio of “postmodern neo-Yugoslav deconstruction and dissolution of the Croatian national and cultural identity”?!?
This appeal is not directed against an individual’s right to hold positions and political views, rather it is an appeal to raise voice against the relativizing politics and equivocation and the support to the idea of culture preserved from ideological misconceptions, conservatism, nationalism, intolerance and tribal traditionalism.
This public appeal has been compiled by a group of citizens, cultural works, and artists who believe that for the position of a minister of culture, as well as the entirety of culture, it is far more important to think outside of the national framework, understand the other and the different, respect the antifascist heritage, understand culture and society as a heterogeneous combination of diversity and openness for dialogue and language than to merely write research papers and other works, without underestimating the value thereof.
For all the above state reasons, we think that Zlatko Hasanbegović cannot and should not be the minister of culture and therefore, we demand from the president of the Croatian government, Mr. Tihomir Orešković, to undertake the subsequent steps.