Statement by Zvonimir Dobrović, president of the Domino association, regarding the catastrophic and shameful reaction of the Split police at the 14th Silent Mass at the Peristyle in Split
The 14th Silent Mass took place in Split, at the Peristyle, on February 3, 2024
Last Saturday in Split, the Croatian police failed to fulfill its legally defined and constitutionally binding duty. While simultaneously providing security for a gathering of so-called “prayers” and a duly registered artistic-activist intervention by Arijana Lekić-Fridrih, the Split police decided to take sides against all rules, as evidenced in the video exclusively released by us.
For 14 months now, Arijana Lekić-Fridrih has been conducting her artistic activist action “Silent Mass” with the association Domino, which regularly points out that the collective prayers of men in squares across Croatia are not what they appear to be. These are not prayers, the messages are not peaceful, they are not harmless, nor are their gatherings legal. These are gatherings of men who use the form of prayer and the posture of kneeling for easier mimicry of their real intentions – for over a year, they have been unconstitutionally invoking gender inequality in society, occupying and privatizing public space beyond the Law on Public Gatherings, and regularly usurping the main squares of about ten Croatian cities without permits obtained from local authorities.
Masks and gloves have slowly but surely been falling off over the past months, as we regularly warned the public each time the “Silent Mass” by Arijana Lekić-Fridrih took place. It is now well-known, proven, and repeatedly reported in the media that behind these prayers lies a well-funded political action by the Polish ultra-conservative organization Ordo Iuris, aimed at implementing their contempt for women. Their goal appears to be to deprive women of equal status as citizens in Polish society, and later in Croatian society as well. They seek to deny women the right to choose, the right to decide about their own bodies, assign them subordinate roles in families, and in society in general. We witness shameless normalization of discourse on women’s rights in a supposedly secular state through the prism of religious dogmas as understood by a group of men kneeling for a future without women as fully free citizens of the Republic of Croatia. The men who gather regularly and persistently across our country, occupying public and media space with their perverse demands, all in a state that struggles to combat the rise in violence against women and alarming rates of femicide. We can now be sure that they are not just men on their knees, with a rosary in hand and a prayer on their lips. They are men in a starting position for ever stronger and more openly hostile attacks on women, on human rights to autonomy over one’s body, secularism, and generally on the right to a dignified life for women in Croatia and Europe. Their expression of these demands is becoming less restrained and increasingly aggressively clear in their real intentions.
Arijana Lekić-Fridrih exposes herself to risk for her own safety every time she stands before kneeling men on the first Saturday of the month, who wish to assert, like all women, that she has fewer rights than any man among them. For over a year, she has not wavered in her determination to unreservedly warn us of the future these men are preparing for us. Through her courageous public actions, she primarily demonstrates and demands courage, determination, and above all, commitment to the fight to preserve the hard-earned rights of women.
However, what happened last Saturday at the Peristyle in Split is a kind of culmination and exposure of Ordo Iuris’ intentions for Croatia. Ushers and organizers of the “prayers” in Split were giving direct commands and instructions to the Split police about who should and should not be allowed on the Peristyle. The organizers of the “prayers” in Split were commanding the police on how to manage and regulate their own gathering. The Split police diligently and obediently followed the instructions and orders given by the ushers and organizers of the group of men gathered at the Peristyle. Of course, that’s not all. The organizers openly threatened the police that if Arijana approached them or stepped onto the part of the Peristyle where they were praying, someone from their group would react, and they didn’t know how they would react, so it was better for the police to intervene in time and prevent Arijana, as a free citizen, from being in a public space where, for now, (only) women are not allowed to approach every first Saturday of the month. The police diligently acted upon this threat, but towards Arijana, and unquestionably followed the instructions they received from the prayer organizers. These are just some of the quotes and parts of the conversation that show how much the Split police were in cahoots with the organizers of the “prayers” and how far they acted from Article 41 of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia regarding the separation of religious communities and the state.
Given that a documentary film is being made about the Silent Mass, there arevideo recordings that illustrate that what we have been witnessing as a society for over a year is not accidental and is by no means harmless.
Similar situations were simultaneously occurring in Zagreb, where ushers also prevented women from approaching, stating that the part of the square where they were located was not for women. “You can’t approach here, this isn’t for Jews. You can’t approach here, the Peristyle isn’t for Blacks. You can’t approach here, the Square isn’t for homosexuals, Muslims, Roma…” the list goes on. Statements like these wouldn’t pass so easily by the police and local authorities. However, “You can’t approach here, the Square isn’t for women” and “You can’t approach here, the Peristyle isn’t for women” in February 2024 in Croatia – it passes. In Croatia, misogyny and discrimination against women pass under the watchful eye of the police.
Due to concerns about constitutional rights and the preservation of the legal order of the Republic of Croatia, we demand statements from the Chief of the Split-Dalmatia County Police Administration, Slobodan Marendić, the Chief of Police, Nikola Milina, and the Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia and Minister of the Interior, Davor Božinović, regarding this scandalous failure. Zvonimir Dobrović President of the Domino Association
For more information about Domino programs click here.
The artistic action “Silent Mass” is supported by the Solidarna Foundation through the Women’s Fund as part of Program Support for NGOs. It is co-financed by the European Union through the Transatlantic Foundation, the PROTEUS program, as part of the project “Women’s Right to a Life Free from Violence”.