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Croatian alt-right and problem with Near Eastern immigrants (part 3): Unintegrated minority

White socks, one of the unofficial symbols of an unintegrated minority

(← part 2) On a TV talk show, Frano Čirko argued that terrorism is only the tip of the iceberg, citing examples of widespread crime and social integration as deeper issues. According to him, without immigration, basically there would be no crime. Such claims can be examined quite easily by using our case study (i.e. Croats of BiH) and just one city, the Croatian capital Zagreb. In the early 1990s, during the tragic war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Croatia opened the doors to uncontrolled immigration from the former country and it received doctors and engineers, but also some of the worst criminals. The latter also came from the West, under the guise of "political" immigration. The result was the formation of a flourishing organized crime and during this period Zagreb experienced the mafia wars, dozens of murders, kidnappings, explosions in clubs, sniper and rocket attacks in the streets, and so on.

The city had been divided up among two mafia clans, one led by Zlatko Bagarić, originally from Kupres, and the other by Vjeko Sliško, born in Derventa. After both were killed in the assassinations, they were replaced by their compatriots, the Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The book "Zagrebačka mafija" (lit. The Zagreb Mafia) by recently deceased investigative journalist Jasna Babić clearly indicates that the vast majority of prominent gangsters have been from the ranks of the former Croatian paramilitary forces of Herzeg-Bosnia entity. It also reveals that a disproportionately large share in organized crime was held by the so-called Janjevci, yet another Near Eastern group, consisting of the Catholic Croats from Kosovo.

Unfortunately, since the Croatian police follows the practice of Swedish and other European counterparts and does not collect statistical data on the ethnic or geographic background of criminals, it is not possible to precisely determine how many of them are Croats from BiH. Nevertheless, alongside the aforementioned mafia bosses, as additional representative examples we may mention Zagreb's longtime mayor Milan Bandić, born in Grude, and former FC Dinamo's boss Zdravko Mamić, originally from Zidine near Tomislavgrad. Three years ago the former spent six months in prison on charges of corruption, bribery and organized crime, and in June this year the latter was sentenced to six and a half years in prison for a multi-million fraud, but he fled on the eve of the verdict to his homeland – Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Based on the data above, we can conclude that Frano Čirko is not entirely wrong when he says immigration contributes to high crime rates. In addition to Zagreb, an example of Germany can also be used, the European country with the largest Croatian diaspora. According to the 1993 statistics on organized crime by the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany (BKA), roughly half of the criminals were ethnic Germans, and another one-third were divided among the three largest ethnic minorities: Turks, former Yugoslavs, and Italians. In proportion to their respective population, Turks and Italians were engaged in organized crime on average six times more frequently than ethnic Germans, while former Yugoslavs were engaged even ten times more.

The specific data for ethnic Croats or Croats of BiH doesn't exist in the BKA statistics on organized crime, but it is not even necessary for two reasons. First, more than two thirds of all reported cases involved ethnically heterogenous groups, and second, the Yugoslav gangsters were closely interlinked. The best evidence of it is the case of Zlatko Bagarić who, before becoming Zagreb mafia boss, had been developing his criminal career in Germany together with Serbian mafia boss Ljubomir Magaš. Bagarić was Magaš's close friend, business partner, godfather, and even married his widow. Even today, the gangs from former Yugoslavia remain among the most powerful in Germany, and immigrants from these areas aren't enjoying a favorable reputation neither in terms of individual crime. For example, the worst crime committed in Germany over the past two years was a triple murder in Rottweil, perpetrated by Croatian far-right nationalist Dražen Dakić from Bosanska Gradiška. He murdered his own six-year-old son and two other people at a party to celebrate the boy's first day at school, only because he wanted his former wife to suffer for leaving him. In Croatia itself, the most monstrous crimes in the two largest cities over the past couple of years have been the murder of pregnant ex-girlfriend by 77 stabbings in Zagreb, and the decapitation of Mexican tourist in Split. Murderers, David Komšić and Edi Mišić, are from Kiseljak and Mostar respectively.

Putting crime aside, another important question remains: what are the Near Eastern Catholic Croats' abilities to integrate within society of the Republic of Croatia, a country that is both ethnically Croatian and Catholic-dominated? Among the inhabitants of Zagreb, they are not famous for bow ties, chivalry or visiting theaters, but rather infamous for rude behavior, vulgarity, simple-mindedness, thievery, tasteless lifestyle and peripheral turbo-folk nightclubs. Speaking of theater, one notable incident occurred during the presidency of Franjo Tuđman, when someone in jeep ravaged a whole flower garden around the Croatian National Theatre. Croatia's first president was so outraged by this act that he personally called the police minister and ordered him to find the perpetrator, and the vandal was eventually identified as Damir Džeba, a criminal from Čapljina. One of the recent scandals that shocked the public is the case of Krešimir Bagarić, a religious classroom teacher originally from Bešpelj, who praised the Bosnian genocide and called for the murder of Croatia's leading political figures in front of the children.

Listing a large number of similar incidents is relatively difficult, so it's no wonder that there are terrible stereotypes and prejudices about Croats from BiH, particularly about those coming from the region of Herzegovina. A very few native Croats would describe their immigration as "cultural enrichment." On the contrary, there is a relevant survey (Odak Krasić; Sedak; Sivrić: 2014) conducted in different cities in 17 out of 21 counties of Croatia, which shows 58% of respondents believe that the image of Herzegovinians is negative, and 39% consider that prejudices and stereotypes are actually truthful. This scores indicate more unfavorable attitudes compared to the negative opinions toward Muslims observed in Western European countries, since a recent Pew study (Wike; Stokes; Simmons: 2016) shows that such attitudes were held by 35% of Swedes, 35% of Dutch, 29% of Germans, 29% of French and 28% of British. Equally interesting is the survey (Skoko: 2012) about regional Bosnians (mostly Bosniaks) and Herzegovinians (mostly Croats) conducted in Croatia, showing the former were perceived more positively than the latter, and that Croats see Bosnians as more hardworking, honest, modest, loyal, sincere, even more entertaining.

Frano Čirko spoke of "invading hordes" of immigrants "lacking inherent cultural qualities and the desire to integrate with indigenous society" in his TV speech, claiming that this problem is "being passed on to the younger generations." Considering there's no any research study that focuses primarily on second-generation Croats from BiH and their integration abilities, there's no other option but to arbitrarily choose an example and thus examine Čirko's claims. Therefore, our next study case will be only one Catholic Croat of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian origins, namely Frano Čirko. He was born in 1990 in Zagreb and comes from an immigrant family originally from the village of Rašeljke near the town of Tomislavgrad. And what is the attitude of this second-generation Near Eastern, born and raised in a Central European city, to the aforementioned problematic individuals involved in terrorism, genocide and other monstrous crimes? The answer may surprise you. (→ part 4)

See also:
Part 1: A single tiny group
Part 2: Pro-terrorist mindset?
Part 3: Unintegrated minority
Part 4: A representative failure

Robert Novak

Robert Novak is a social anthropologist and human rights defender with more than five years of experience in the Open Society Institute (OSF), an organization campaigning for human rights and reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia. His research interests include law and religion, human rights, comparative ethics, and international relations. Born in Osijek, he lives and works in Zagreb.