Serbs Blamed for Starting Fires, Croats Set Dalmatia Ablaze to Punish Serbs

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We’re more than used to absurdities of daily life in this country of ours, but every once in a while, the level of human idiocy and the dangerous potential of mass hysteria can still come as a surprise.

The wildfires that are currently ravaging Dalmatia – and forgive me for the unfortunate choice of words – sparked a public debate. Apart from rightfully worrying about the firefighters who are battling the blaze day and night in inhuman conditions, part of the public got very invested in establishing the identity of the culprits who might have started the fires on purpose. Among all the news on arrests that were made in the last couple of days, a particularly despicable side of the debate reared its ugly head: some people seem to be very interested in the nationality of the possible offenders.

See, most individuals who were arrested or taken in for questioning so far have been Croats. Two Croatian minors were charged for purposely starting a fire near the National Park Krka on Monday, August 21; another young man was caught by the police while setting a patch of grass ablaze near Šibenik on August 22. On the same day, a 75-year-old woman was brought in after she was caught burning old clothes out in the open – supposedly not a pyromaniac, but an irresponsible individual who accidentally started a fire in Biskupija village that was extinguished an hour later.

However, the case that got the public intrigued was the arrest of seven people in Knin who pleaded guilty to starting a fire near Kistanje. Six of them were minors, two of those members of the Serbian national minority living in Croatia. This, of course, was the tipping point that got the public insane, starting heated discussions on whether Serbs are exclusively to blame for Dalmatia burning. A lot of hate and vitriol rapidly filled the social media.

The Facebook page called Vatrogasci – oni su naši heroji (Firemen – They are our heroes) was quick to react: on August 21, they published a post condemning the hateful accusations. The post wasn’t written by the admins, but is a direct quote of a message they received from an unnamed reader; they decided to publish because they agreed with its message. It says most fires are started accidentally and that the major part of the public isn’t capable of dishing out advice on how to stop the fires from spreading, yet many people are quick to assign blame and roar against ‘Others’. “We show how much we’re lacking in culture, we show how nervous, paranoid and intolerant we all are. We show that we’re not able to analyse causes and consequences, consider all the options, choose the most probable one. (…) We MUST develop a sense of responsibility for the words we say. Those words have the power to hurt, to spread hate and hysteria, to do evil. Those words are a devastating spark in a fire much more powerful than the ones ravaging Dalmatia”, the text reads. 

The status went viral, but most of the comments still come down to ‘blame the Serbs’. A fine example of irony, regarding that the original post was an attempt to stop the hateful talk. Two days later, even the prefect of Šibenik-Knin County Goran Pauk reacted, condemning all xenophobic allegations on social networks.

And now, for the third act of this all-around public tragedy, the Police Department in Zadar announced they arrested two young women of Croatian nationality – one aged 21, the other 25 – for starting the fire that ravaged Brgud village near Benkovac. It’s an area predominantly populated by Serbs.

On August 23, 2017, Jutarnji reported that the older girl allegedly admitted they were guilty of arson. According to her own words, she has bored a grudge against Serbs since the Homeland war when her childhood home was set on fire. It’s safe to assume their actions were an attempt to get even, despite knowing they’re burning down the same country that thousands of people gave their lives to protect.

Are two individuals in a group of culprits of Serbian nationality? Yes, nobody’s denying the fact. However, if one were to make a list of possible motives someone could have for starting a fire, their nationality probably wouldn’t make the first ten. Those who like to watch the world burn might be certified pyromaniacs, lunatics, criminals, sociopaths, psychopaths, or just stupid kids giving in to peer pressure. Their country of origin can’t have much to do with that. 

While a good part of the public has been blaming Serbs for starting the fires, certain Croats are setting their own country ablaze in order to punish Serbs. How’s that for absurdity?


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