Secular Italy, Free Verona!

Around 60 000 activists from various parts of Europe gathered in Verona this weekend to stand in solidarity with their Italian brothers and sisters, but also to join forces in showing that they aren’t willing to give up their rights and freedom. Among them also bravely stood 15 activists from Rijeka, Split and Zagreb.

To explain further, this weekend Verona was hosting the World Congress of Families, an international congress of religious fundamentalist who under the disguise of „family values“ promote suppression of a wide spectrum of human and female rights and return to the so-called „natural order“. What was especially problematic in this story was the fact that this congress was greatly supported by the Italian government on a local and regional scale, therefore some of the key speakers were the Vice president of the Italian government and the president of the their pro-fascist party Lega Nord Matteo Salvini, Minister of Family and Disability Lorenzo Fontana and the Minister of Education Marco Busseti, both members of the Lege Nord. These people spoke at an event that rallied extremist and religious fundamentalists such as Lucy Akello, a politician from Uganda who advocates life in prison and death sentences for homosexuality, Nigerian activist Therese Okafor who compared gay people to an Islamic terrorist organization Boko Haram, as well as Ignacio Arsuaga, the president of the Spanish lobbying initiative CitizenGo, an online platform that collects donations and signatures against abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage and is putting pressure on European Union institutions. Another person who found herself in their company is naturally, our very own Željka Markić.

With all that being said, it’s entirely obvious why Croatian activists also responded to the invitation by an Italian fraction Non Una Di Meno and joined the freethinking, progressive and left-wing organizations in their activities against WCF. Around 60 000 activists from different parts of Europe recognized the importance of this counter-protest which resulted in colorful and different groups gathering on Saturday and showing through various messages and means that they do not submit to this clerical fascism wrapped up in nice decorative paper, but that they see right through it and are fully aware of what is behind these nice words and phrases. The rally was most critical of Salvini who unequivocally supported this congress and himself promotes extremely right-wing positions. Besides messages such as „No more reproductive violence“, „Hatred ends lives“ and „Smells like clerical fascism“, Croatian activists also held a sign that says „No pasaran!“ what was the most important message of this weekend. It will not pass.

On Sunday, Croatian and Polish activists participated in an activist performance and dressed as handmaids from the novel „Handmaid’s Tale“ by Margaret Atwood, stood in front of a church in Verona in which the participants of the Word Congress for Families were attending a mass, and then walked through the old city center and stopped in front of the building of the congress itself. This was a symbolic act which was meant to highlight how this congress promotes ideas that aren’t that far from the dystopian world of Margaret Atwood. On this congress, the speakers were advocating for a world in which there is a hit list for gay people, a world in which women who want to enjoy their bodily autonomy to the fullest extent are being called names, imprisoned and judged and who, other than birthing children, have no other ways of attaining self-realization available to them, a world in which you are prohibited from loving, a world of single-mindedness and complete obedience.

During the protest there were no difficulties, but the number of people who attended was too high so we are not entirely sure if anything was happening among the front rows. According to our knowledge, there were no „interventions“. However, on Sunday, during our performance, even though we simply stood peacefully, certain people threw various insults and remarks, a group of women stood in front of us and prayed the rosary and on the square in front of the congress there was also a gathering being held by an extremist right-wing party Forza Nuova, who later on joined the March for families that was organized by the Congress, which is pretty indicative of what kind of people identify with the Congress. After our performance was finished, some of the members ended up following us through the city and „kept an eye“ on us, but it was all closely monitored by the police so there were no incidents.

These trans-feminist and trans-activist unified gatherings against religious fundamentalists are actually necessary to truly defend our rights and freedoms from the darkest scenarios these groups present us with. Political programs and ideological convictions of members of the WFC truly do not promote a world any different than Gilead, but with great PR and understanding of communicational psychology this world was made to seem acceptable to a large number of people who almost naively fall for the stories of protecting lives and marriages. Which is why it is extremely important to stand in solidarity on an international level, exchange practices, experiences and become (or rather remain) united with women and men from other countries who are in equal danger of having their rights violated as a consequence of the growing extremely right-wing and religious fundamentalist groups. Hatred has never created life, it can only destroy it. 

You can take a look at the photos on our Facebook page.