Lili from Belgrade

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Gaza Song

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Kosovo is not Serbia

Crossing the border from Serbia to Kosovo is easy. Serbian citizens can get by with daily ID, as if they were EU citizen inside the EU Schengen fortress.

 If you are, for example, a globetrotting American, it gets interesting. The Kosovo border officers admire your travel stamps and ask jolly questions such as: why on earth did an American go to Brazil?  Everybody wants to go to America but we Kosovars are not allowed. 

As one of our friends in the region put it, being an American in Kosovo is like  being a Pope.  You will be asked all kind of questions, told all kind of injustices. Nobody in Kosovo has forgotten 1999 so the papal Americans are like angels of mercy with airborne bombs.

Being a Serb, in a region that looks quite like Serbia, I walked around thoughtlessly talking in Serbian.  In Yugoslavia, Serbo-

Croatian was naturally a much bigger deal than English ever was: until recently Serbian population has lived here too and before the Kosovo war, Serbian language was widespread much more than english.   With almost every Serb ethnically cleansed, there’s nobody left to speak it; just empty Orthodox churches turned into tourist attractions while the town abounds with English language menus for pizza and burger joints.

There’s nothing new about dismal slaughters and expulsions in Prizren — it’s been the capital of a medieval Serbian empire and the capital of an Albanian nationalist league, too.  Every village in Kosovo has some act of fame or infamy; a monastery, a war crime, a battle. Especially notorious to me are the war crimes committed by Serbian military forces against the Albanian population which led to the bombings by NATO in 1999. 

    It’s the globalized life in Kosovo that is really new: the crammed life of young population stuck inside a frozen conflict, an ethnic canton, a tiny, not yet internationally recognized, European republic.  Tensions abound in this little fishbowl of a country where all the great powers can look in, but none of the locals can escape.  Unemployment, alcoholism, and corruption, smuggling goods, smuggling people: the critical locals name their troubles.


 There is even a treaty underway between official Serbia and official Kosovo: they may speak Serbian and Albanian now, but with any luck they can join the EU together. 

    The shadow of another lost international regime lies heavy here:  the Ottoman Empire.  There are still a few households where people speak old-fashioned Turkish, and besides, Turkey is nearby: NATO Turco-globalism, with Turkish soap operas, Turkish coffee, Turkish food, Turkish architecture and construction companies.   Istanbul is the aspirational capital in southern Kosovo, if something is fancy, it’s in big town Istanbul style. 

    The pride and joy of the locals is the major mosque built by the famous architect Sinan in the heyday of Suleiman the Magnificent.  Muezzin towers abound in Prizren, and every one of them has a taped recital of the daily calls to prayer.  Since they are out of phase with distance, when they go off together they sound rather like some Brian Eno tape-loop composition.

   Dokufest in Prizren is becoming a famous film festival, since it specializes in short documentaries of an alternative bent  There are also music events during nights of Dokufest, and this year the festival also ventured to host its first technology conference, together with Share Foundation from Belgrade.  

    The organizers met through the good offices of Peter Sunde of “the Pirate Bay,” so it shouldn’t be surprising that the topics were surveillance, investigative journalism, activism, hacking, making, electronic  arts and the fact that Peter Sunde is currently in a Swedish prison. 

    The geeks of Kosovo are like geeks from all over the world, brilliant young people of a hackerly bent, but with a particular disdain for official borders rules and documents intended to contain them.

     The narrow streets of Prizren swarm with tourists, eating cheap excellent street food paid for in euros.  Kosovo is a NATO EU Moslem enclave: the “KFOR” units have been guarding it for the past two decades.  Uniforms and jeeps mingle with the SUVs of wealthy local bosses, expensive private cars  whose drivers despise the pedestrians.  Modest Prizren has the pace of some much bigger city; locals seem tense and busy, and even the beggars are antic.  

      Some new-built parts of the city have the raw brick and cement of Brasilian favelas.  Some streets could double for Mexican open-air markets.  Istanbul, Cairo, Baghdad are the urban shadows over this town which is ninety percent Moslem.  The broad, stony ruin of an ancient hilltop fortress surveys every bridge and street.

      The locals don’t seem overly impressed by left-wing Western political documentaries, but a projection about the Turkish soap opera industry stops them in their tracks.  There’s a documentary running in a little impromptu theater that bridges the local river. The coffee-drinkers stop to cluster and marvel.

    Who knew that Turkish soap operas, watched by women and about women, are actually written by Turkish women?  These television dramas have fans in Greece, Bulgaria, Egypt, Serbia even… every district where Ottoman rule once held sway. 

      I myself have watched these serials, amazed and dazed.  As an ex-Ottoman, ex-Yugoslav, ex-whatever dies next, it’s astonishing to see how much the Ottoman culture of unwritten laws, food and history persists in the 21st century Balkans.  The women in these soap operas don’t have any mild “first world problems” — their dramatic conflicts involve child marriages, grandfathers who are tribal mafia, gangland honor killings.  Some are cosmopolitan because they leave their state, others turn cosmopolitan because their empire bloodily crumbles around them.

Today’s soap opera, of the globalization of Balkanization, is a woman’s tale of  pain and glory where the last will be some day the first — at least in certain places, maybe in some tiny no man’s no name’s land in a brisk transition to nowhere.   Europe has never lacked for unions, some willing, some unwilling, some in the fortress, some outside it.  You can do anything with bayonets, as Napoleon used to say, except sit on them while you watch television.

On the way back to Serbia there was a 5 hour queue of cars on the Serbian border. Polite officers were deliberately slow as if saying: you wanted a border and now you have it. I remembered how 100 years ago my grandfather survived the Thessaloniki  front, retreating through Albania with very few other Serbian soldiers who took part in that war, far far away from Serbia. A famous song sprang from that tragic retreat that later on was used as a Serbian favorite anthem of lament. My grandma never forgave my grandpa for fighting wars far away from his homeland, as an idealistic fool. If he hadn’t come back my mother would have never been born, thus me too.

Time has come to quote Max Frisch, the Swiss writer in this Serbo/Albanian useless never-ending conflict: I want to live for  my country not to die for it! 

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Far Far Away

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Far far Away from Serbia

Guitar Milutin Petrovic
Bass Filip Cetkovic
Drums Marko Gajic
Vocal 2 Aneta Ilic
Vocal 1 and lyrics Jasmina Tesanovic
produced by Vlatko Dzogovic, Belgrade 2014

Far far away
away from the sea
thats where you are my darling 
I’m in the village of ours 
here in that home of ours
here in Serbia

Far far away
where yellow lemon blooms
where you and the serbian army
ran off and died of plague 2x

You made an unhappy night
come to cross our happy life
when you my only true love
marched to the bloody fight

Away from our homeland 
you’re dying on Corfu 
and still cheerfully I sing
long live my Serbia
and still cheerfully I sing
long live my Serbia
long live my Serbia

Tamo daleko, daleko od mora,
Tamo je selo moje, tamo je ljubav moja.
Tamo je selo moje, tamo je ljubav moja.
O zar je morala doć’, ta tužna nesrećna noć,
Kada si dragane moj, otiš’o u krvavi boj.
Tamo daleko, gde cveta limun žut,
Tamo je srpskoj vojsci jedini bio put.
Tamo je srpskoj vojsci jedini bio put.
Tamo daleko, daleko od mora,
Tamo je selo moje, tamo je Srbija.
Tamo je selo moje, tamo je Srbija.

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Gaza Song

Guitar Milutin Petrovic
Bass Filip Cetkovic
Drums Marko Gajic
Vocal and lyrics Jasmina Tesanovic
produced by Vlatko Dzogovic, Belgrade 2014

Gaza Jerusalem Gaza
Palestine Gaza 
let’s stop this criminal war!
Soldiers, sisters and brothers
Why do you fight still
your father s dirty war

Shake off your violent dreams
Think of the pleasant scenes
Nobody follows your shameless fears
Destroy the weapons guys
Don’t hit the humankind
Don t be the bloody news
be the best of Jews

i m the jewish girl
not in my name
not in my face
that’s no homeland
no no no

Gaza Jerusalim Gaza Jerusalim Gaza
Let us not be deceived by our own!
Gaza Jerusalim Gaza Jerusalim Gaza 
Let us not be deceived
by yours or mine!

No army protects peace!
No war crime brings justice
Not in our name,
not with our money!
Crossing borders,
transgressing the walls!
Every war is a crime!
No war is justified!

yes yes yes yes
i am the Israel girl
you are the soldier
I am the palestine girl
you are the warrior
no no no no

no no no
disobedient all
always a no
always disobedient all

not in my name
not in my name, no
because my name
bears the power of change

no no no
let’s not, no
be fooled , no
by our own, no

no no no
disobedient all
always no
disobedient all

Always disloyal to: 
- nation 
- fathers of nation
- head of the family
Always disobedient to all
warriors/heroes militarists/nationalists
Always disobedient to: patriarchy
war nationalism militarism
Antimilitarist is not born – antimilitarist becomes
Banish war from history and from our lives
Between killing and dying
there is another way– life
Crossing borders, transgressing the walls!
Every war is a crime
No war is just nor justified!
Feminist is not born – feminist becomes
I am not responsible for my doings only, 
I am also responsible for what is done in my name!
If you want peace, make peace!
Peace depends on me, on you, on us all.
Instead of despair and powerlessness – creative rebel!
Let us not be deceived by our own!
Let us not be deceived by our own
and let us not be deceived by anybody!
No army protects peace!
No war crime may stay unpunished!
Not in our name, not with our money!
Pacifist is not born –pacifist becomes
Violence, war and militarism 
have an alternative: nonviolence, peace and antimilitarism!
We first condemn those who committed crimes 
in our name.
Women in Black principles of peace politics
Women’s solidarity beyond all borders and divisions.

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Mau Mau Belly Dance

Reunion Torino

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