The “Mirëdita, dobar dan!” festival, sixth edition, will take place from May 29th to June 1st this year

By introducing the audience with artists and performers, who are representatives of the modern Kosovo cultural scene, the festival is aiming to initiate changes in Serbia’s and Kosovo’s social and cultural communities and create a tradition of collaboration, which will further contribute to achieving a stable relationship between Belgrade and Prishtina.

This year, the festival takes place in a specific climate, when the relationship between Belgrade and Prishtina is at its lowest since the start of the Brussels Agreement. An evident political crisis is reflected in the everyday lives of the citizens in Serbia and Kosovo. This further discourages collaboration between the two societies, not only in the cultural sphere but also in trade, sports, education, and all other sectors. The festival sends out a clear message to Kosovo’s and Serbia’s public and to political elites – barriers must be broken, not built.

 

As during previous years, visitors will have the chance to learn more about Kosovo’s cultural scene through a variety of theatre plays, performances, films, concerts, and exhibits. A part of the festival will be dedicated to discussions and debates about the future of the Belgrade – Prishtina relationship and the importance of collaboration for the two societies.

The official opening of the “Mirëdita, dobar dan!” festival will take place on Wednesday, May 29th with the screening of the movie “Cold November”, directed by Ismet Sijarina, a movie that has been presented in many international film festivals that have resulted with 2 wins and three nominations. As a pre-opening event will be the artistic performance “Let’s make love” by Shkumbin Tafilaj. Throughout the festival, the audience will have the opportunity to see the documentary film “Ferdonija”, a film by Gazmend Bajri, which demonstrates the life of one woman who has lost her entire family during the last war in Kosovo. A theatre play written and directed by the famous Albanian actor and director Enver Petrovci called “Kreolet e Ballkanit” will be presented during the festival for all theatre lovers. During the festival three different debates will be organized to discuss matters related to missing persons, new drama writing in Kosovo and history text books. Together with these debates three specific publications with be promoted: Memory book with stories of families of the missing “Living with memories of the missing” published by forumZFD in Kosovo and Integra, “ONE FLEW OVER THE KOSOVO THEATER – An Anthology of Contemporary Drama from Kosovo” published by  Multimedia (Kosovo) and Beton (Serbia), “The History of Kosovo in the history textbooks of Kosovo, Albania, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia” written by Shkelzen Gashi and published by Alter Habitus.

 

The closing performance of this year’s festival will be a very thrilling concert of the trio band “Don’t listen to your neighbors” from Kosovo, who are well known because they have always maintained a well-refined collection of traditional Albanian repertoire, and in the last few years they have developed quite a unique style with elements of jazz delivered through sophisticated arrangements. Afterward a performance by DJ Matale from Prishtina will conclude the “Mirëdita, dobar dan!” festival 2019.

The inspiration for the  “Mirëdita, dobar dan!” festival is Bekim Fehmiu, renowned Albanian, Kosovar, Belgrade, Yugoslavian and global actor who is a symbol of unity and division, but also represents the possibility of joining two cultural spaces into a unified whole.

The festival will take place in several locations. Entry will be as during previous years, free of charge.

The festival is organized by the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (Serbia), Integra (Kosovo), Civic Initiative (Serbia), with the support of the Kosovo Foundation for Open Society (KFOS), Foundation for Open Society in Serbia, Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport of the Republic of Kosovo.

Šainović needs to apologize for his crimes and stop promoting criminal politics

YIHR demands that Nikola Šainović issues a public and clear apology to the families of the Albanian civilian victims of the war in Kosovo for whose murders he was convicted.  Rather than deny their acts, war criminals must apologize to victims and publicly speak of their individual accountability and guilt, while media outlets such as RTS need to give a platform to victims’ families instead of those who celebrate, make relative and lessen the extent of human losses.

On Tuesday, March 26th, Šainović was a guest on the RTS talk-show “Upitnik”, where he was introduced as a “negotiator in Rambouillet who bore witness to the times”. Although it was mentioned in the show that he was convicted for war crimes, there was no mention of his crimes over civilians in Kosovo. Šainović is not a chronicler but a convicted war criminal who – especially since he is present on public service television, which is an issue in itself – must be confronted with his criminal past. Failure to do so on part of RTS and Nikola Šainović is a denial of crimes and a mockery of the victims. Nikola Šainović was also a guest speaker at a public panel on March 23rd themed “At the dusk of war, 20 years on” at the Aeronautical Museum in Belgrade, a public institution in state ownership. During this panel, he made relative his role in war crimes in Kosovo through a narrative of defense against state aggression, as evident from video footage of the event. Additionally, the Socialist Party of Serbia Board in Vrbas announced on its Facebook page that Nikola Šainović would give a lecture in the cinema “Yugoslavia” in Vrbas on the topic “Slobodan Milošević and the challenges of the Yugoslavia crisis“ on Thursday March 28th at 18h.

Nikola Šainović is the former Vice President of the FRY Parliament, who was found guilty of crimes against humanity and violation of the rules of warfare during the war in Kosovo in 1999 by the Hague Tribunal. Within the indictment are accusations of deportation and other inhumane acts, murder and persecution on political, racial and religious grounds with the intention of forcibly deporting Kosovar Albanians and altering the ethnic composition of Kosovo so that Serbian supremacy would be reinstated. Šainović was sentenced to 18 years of prison. Having served only two thirds of his punishment, he returned to Belgrade in 2015, where he was appointed to the Socialist Party of Serbia party governing board. Today he serves on the Chairmanship board of this party. 

The highest authorities, representatives of political parties and movements, state apparatus, public institutions, state-owned media and publishing houses have, for the past few months, embarked on a joint campaign of intensely promoting and legitimizing war criminals in public spaces in Serbia.

Supporting and glorifying war criminals is equal to supporting criminal politics and the justification of the crimes that have been committed.

War criminals are no tour heroes, and they must be silent so that the victims can be heard.

Human rights NGOs mark anniversary of crimes against Albanians

The Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Humanitarian Law Center and Women in Black marked 20 years since the murder of Albanian civilians in 1999 in Kosovo, whose bodies were hidden in the Belgrade suburb Batajnica. The activists joined together in a street performance named “Batajnica 744: A Buried Truth” during which they covered the names of 744 victims with earth, and then proceeded to march through central Belgrade towards the National Assembly building.

Marko Milosavljević of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights gave a statement that Serbia has been silent about the mass graves in Batajnica, Petrovo Selo, Perućac lake and Rudnici for 20 years, and that legitimacy is only given to victims of Serbian nationality.

„There are over 10 locations from which the victims were transported, and the fact that 744 posthumous remains were dug up a mere 10 kilometres from here is a testament to the evil about which we must never be silent. We will continue to bring this up and try to educate young people and give them the full context of the war in Kosovo and the disintegration of former Yugoslavia” said Milosavljević.

Albanian civilians were exposed not only to NATO bombing, but also to the criminal campaigns of the Slobodan Milošević regime. Armed forces (Ministry of Interior Affairs of Serbia, Yugoslav army and paramilitary forces) committed numerous crimes in Kosovo, all of which culminated during the NATO intervention. The transfer of the bodies of the murdered Kosovar Albanians to mass graves in Serbia constitutes a crime. Four mass graves in different locations were discovered on Serbian soil since 2001. to date. 941 Albanians, murdered in Kosovo during 1999, mostly civilians murdered outside of armed conflict, were found in those mass graves. The victims found in the mass graves in Batajnica were killed in Kosovo from March 24th till May 22nd 1999.

Karadžić verdict reconfirms the need for Serbia acknowledge the genocide in Srebrenica

Serbia, Serbian institutions and officials must stop denying the genocide in Srebrenica and cannot continue disregarding other war crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina; they must adopt the Declaration about the genocide in Srebrenica and express utmost respect for the victims of the genocide and war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Serban authorities, society and political agents need to decisively stand against the glorification of war criminals and the relativization of war crimes, something that was demonstrated today by the daily newspaper “Večernje Novosti” – they published the aphorisms of Radovan Karadžić and a letter written by convicted war criminal Nebojša Pavković on occasion of the 20th anniversary of the NATO bombing. Verdicts such as the one for Karadžić must become a stepping stone, urging all states in the region to allow for victims to be heard through institutions, and for all nationalist programs to be condemned.

The Initiative would like to indicate that with this verdict, the individual criminal accountability of Radovan Karadžić has been reconfirmed, which must be separated from the fallacious belief that court sentences for political, army and police leaders equate a judgment for the Serbian people in its entirety, The Republic of Serbia, Republic of Srpska as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina as an entity.

War criminals are not our heroes. Glorifying war criminals means glorifying the crimes they have committed.

Graffiti messages “Ratko Mladić” and “No divisions” left in the hallway leading to YIHR office

We interpret the messages that have been left for us as a reaction to the fact that we painted over three graffiti messages (“Ratko Mladić, Serbian hero”, “Kosovo is Serbia”, and “No divisions”) in the Terazije tunnel two weeks prior. The graffiti we had painted over, as the utility services of the city of Belgrade should have done, and the graffiti on our door come from the same nationalist and misogynist sources. Human rights activists have always been the primary target when nationalist muscles are being exercised.

Ongoing competitions in expressions of nationalism between ruling parties and opposition movements must stop. A society based on human rights principles, European values, must be explicitly direct and clear – Ratko Mladić is a war criminal who carries the most responsibility for the genocide committed in Srebrenica. We do not have the right to use euphemisms, make the matter relative or deny the crime.

Human rights activists mustn’t remain alone in standing against radical right-wing movements and nationalism. If we allow for the glorification of war criminals, we diminish our chances of living in peace, prospering and living better than we are today. A space for war criminals cannot exist in state institutions, the Parliament, state supported publishing houses and the education system, nor on the walls of our cities.