Bosnian Anti-Fascists Rally Against Controversial WWII Church Service

Police said 5,000 people attended an anti-fascist march in central Sarajevo on Saturday against the holding of a Catholic mass which opponents claim glorifies people involved in crimes committed by Croatia's WWII-era Nazi-allied Ustasa regime.

The mass, which was held under heavy security in the Sacred Heart Cathedral in the old part of Sarajevo, has been condemned by the US and Israeli embassies, many politicians and public figures and the World Jewish Congress, an international organisation representing Jewish communities.

Saturday's protest was the first large rally in the city since the easing of restrictions on movement to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Some of the protesters sang World War II-era Yugoslav Partisan and anti-fascist songs, and chanted slogans like "Smrt fasizmu, sloboda narodu" ("Death to fascism, freedom for the people").

Aida Feraget, a PR expert who was wearing a red scarf instead of a face mask and chanting anti-fascist slogans with a group of friends, said Sarajevans gathered despite the fear of infection.

"The coronavirus is something that provokes fear, definitely. However, the danger that the revival and glorification of fascism brings with it is far greater. Sarajevans felt it and today showed that this city is bigger than fascism and fear," Feraget told BIRN.

They protesters gathered next to the central government building at a monument to dozens of anti-fascist activists executed by the Ustasa just days before Sarajevo was liberated on April 6, 1945.

Above the memorial, a big picture was displayed showing some of those who were hanged in 1945, while a cellist played sombre music.

The protesters then walked some two kilometres up Sarajevo's main Titova Ulica (Tito Street) towards...

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