European Western Balkans

“Mirëdita, dobar dan!” festival, which has taken place since 2014, banned by the Serbian police

The protest in front of Dorćol Plac, which took place on June 27th in Belgrade: Photo; FoNet

BELGRADE – A culture festival “Mirëdita, dobar dan!” (“Good day” in Albanian and Serbian) was banned on Thursday by Serbian police. The event has taken place since 2014, with participants from Kosovo and Serbia. The intimidation of the organisers continues.

In the weeks leading up to the festival, part of the public, including the members of the ruling coalition, demanded the ban because, as they stated, it promoted the independence of Kosovo and provoked the people of Serbia due to the fact that it was organized from 27 to 29 June, which includes the national and religious holiday Vidovdan on 28 June.

The festival has regularly faced protests from right-wing parties and organisations, but it was never banned before. In 2016, it was jointly endorsed by then Prime Minister of Serbia (now President) Aleksandar Vučić and Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama.

On 27 June, almost 200 young men, many of them members of football hooligan groups and extreme right-wing organizations, gathered in front of “Dorćol Plac” in Belgrade, before the opening of the festival. They prevented the participants from entering the building and waved Serbian flags.

This was followed by a decision by the police to ban the festival. Ivica Dačić, Minister of Internal Affairs, claimed that the order was made “due to the risk of endangering the safety of people and property, as well as the danger of disturbing public order and peace on a larger scale”.

Youth Initiative for Human Rights, a civil society organization, which organised “Mirëdita, dobar dan!”, claimed that the Ministry of Internal Affairs “violated the Constitution of Serbia, specifically freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, as well as a number of laws, including at least two articles of the Law on Public Assembly due to the application of disproportionate measures”.

“Placing the burden on the organizers instead of addressing the hooligans and failing to ensure the gathering runs counter to the legal and constitutional order of the Republic of Serbia, as well as the standards and practices upheld by the European Court of Human Rights”, YIHR claimed.

According to the official website, “Mirëdita, dobar dan!” festival is an annual event that brings together artists, human rights and peace activists, and opinion makers from Kosovo and Serbia, to enrich regional perspectives and foster cooperation and peacebuilding. Besides presenting the best of the contemporary art scene, parts of the festival are public debates and advocacy actions.

In a post on X, the European Union Delegation in Serbia said it was disappointed by the fact that the EU-funded festival, taking place since 2014, had been banned.

“This commendable CSO initiative builds bridges between the peoples, an important part of the Belgrade-Pristina normalisation efforts”, the EU Delegation wrote.

Similar assessments were made by several non-governmental organizations, as well as some of the opposition political parties. For instance, the civil society organisation CRTA noted that the Serbian state officials “have not shown such hostility to the festival since 2014”.

“Instead of “Mirëdita, dobar dan!”, the Government says’ Freedom, good night’. Never since 2014 has the state shown such hostility towards this festival. The rhetorical question is whether it will stop at just one festival”, CRTA underlined.

An opposition party “Free Citizens Movement” demanded the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ivica Dačić to urgently withdraw “the shameful order to ban the festival”.

“Belgrade is a metropolis that must be open to all forms of cultural content and a place where it will be spoken clearly and loudly that the interest of all peoples and states of the former Yugoslavia is regional peace and a common European future”, the party stressed.

On the other hand, a hard-right politician and Minister of Family Care and Demography Milica Đurđević Stamenkovski welcomed the cancellation of the festival, stating that the people in Serbia “have their dignity and a clear border between tolerance and masochism”.

On Friday morning, Sofija Todorović, Programme Director of the Youth Initiative of Human Rights and the co-organiser of the festival, received a package containing a threatening message and a severed pig head. The message was signed by the extreme right-wing organisation “People’s Patrols”.

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