Protest raised against Croatian gulag tourism idea
Fri Nov 19,12:41 PM ET Offbeat - AFP
ZAGREB (AFP) - A proposal to turn a former communist gulag island off the Croatian coast into a tourist camp drew protests from an independent group which is investigating crimes committed by the communist Yugoslav regime.
"It is unacceptable that a tragic place of execution like Goli Otok, where Tito's Yugoslav communist regime killed over 30,000 political prisoners, will be used in future as a tourist destination," the Center for Investigation of Communist Crimes said in a statement. A study recently ordered by the government envisaged "hard-labour holidays" on Goli Otok, a rocky and inhospitable island that was virtually abandoned following the dismantlement of a detention camp there as the Yugoslav federation crumbled in the late 1980s. The aim would be for guests to survive long enough to receive a certificate at the end of the 'holiday' proving they had done their time.
Former detainees of Goli Otok have welcomed the idea, some even offering their services as guides, according to the study's author, Josip Modric. But the Center for Investigation of Communist Crimes likened the idea to using a Nazi concentration camp as a tourist theme park. "We urge the Croatian authorities to reject the study which suggests making profit from the killing and torture of innocent people," it said. The island should instead be turned into a memorial center as a warning to future generations of the evils of totalitarianism, it said.
Croatia, a former Yugoslav republic, welcomed more than eight million tourists in the first nine months of 2004, the best result since it gained independence in 1991. Tourism revenues are projected to amount to about 8.5 billion dollars in 2004, seven percent higher than last year.