Thursday, May 30, 2024

THE SOCIO-CULTURAL SPACE OF TETOVA, AN ABSURD AND HOPEFUL STORY

This story will not end here, but it will continue – and it will continue for good because what the initiators of this action do not understand is that the space is not made by the walls but by the people inside them, that a place is not made by tiles but by ideas , that a community is not held by oppression but by freedom, by independence – therefore “The Space” will find new walls and tiles, while the walls of the former Tetovo radio facility will breathe with shame, or will be covered again by oblivion. 

Author: Sefer Selimi Jr.

In June 2018, a group of young people knocked on the doors of our organization, Democracy Lab, in Tetovo with a request that excited us all. This group of urban youth was looking for a local organization which would institutionally cover a cooperation initiative within the European program Erasmus+ with an organization from Brussels, which as its mission had the revival and return to community function of abandoned public spaces.

In essence, this noble idea solved multiple problems through a single approach: Remove the dirt collected by time and institutional oblivion, restore to use a facility that was built with citizens’ money, and finally turn it into a resource for the community itself. various activities and events can take place – including day use where young people can gather to pass the time. Our only dilemma at that time was whether, after the revitalization of the building, the community itself would be able to take care of the space so as not to let it return to the recesses of oblivion again. This was a legitimate concern witnessing and dealing directly as an organization with the lethargy of youth in our society.

However, after many efforts we managed to agree, we were fully committed to the function of this initiative and after many efforts, researches and consultations we identified two spaces for intervention: 1) The neglected object of the former Radio Tetovo and 2) The space in front of the station of buses where a mini- skate park would be built. For ten days in July, Tetovo was flooded by more than 40 volunteers from Belgium, Kosovo and Switzerland, young men and women with different professions who, taking advantage of the annual holidays, came to give Tetovo a space for the community. Their physical work, together with the local volunteers, was a superhuman effort with sweat poured in the figurative and real sense of the word – from early in the morning until late at night. Only from the building of the former Radio Tetovo were thrown more than 4 trucks with slime and garbage, and the dust was measured by the palm of the hand. For 10 days without interruption, the volunteers not only transformed a feared object into a modest but lifelong object for the community, but they also brought celebration, dedication, and more than that, they brought an example of love to the community. From this was born the Socio-Cultural Space of Tetovo, or as it is known by young people – The Space.

After the physical transformation, the human transformation was needed to give soul to an object with damp and moldy walls from oblivion. Beyond the continuous investment but piecemeal and with many difficulties, with many obstacles and delays from local government institutions, the group of young people who undertook to revive the object with a lot of sacrifice but with an unyielding will in the end managed to return the soul to the object. For four years, exhibitions, debates, workshops and social activities were organized, which are so lacking in our youth and community. An independent, alternative and urban community of young people in Tetova and beyond was selflessly built. Because just as Tetova followed the example of Brussels and Pristina, that example was followed by Tirana and other cities in the Balkans and Europe continue to follow it.

And when everything had entered the good way to return to a space that will produce an independent and urban spirit among young people, when these young people were recognized and accepted by the local and external community – those who had to They supported them, they stood up shamelessly to kill this space. The narrow-mindedness and small-mindedness led by pride, the love of power and control, and the short-term interest of the Mayor and the people around him were set in motion to usurp and alienate a civic initiative, led by the youth themselves. Analyzing the preliminary campaign led by party militants of the Mayor, the baseless accusations and the tendency to denigrate the people and the activities developed gives the impression that they originate either from ignorance that blinds them to make the difference or from ideological hatred and the slave mentality that hates freedom, independence and the autonomous and autochthonous organization of the community. What makes this attempt destined to fail even more scandalous is the statement and accusation of the Mayor Kasami himself who, without providing evidence, accused the public that “pornographic” activities have been carried out in this area, an accusation which will now be try it before the justice bodies – because even if the space volunteers don’t sue him anyway, the parents whose children were part of the activities will sue him, or in the last instance, the prosecutor’s office itself can start investigations for these charges. As if this were not enough, for these local leaders to be completely denigrated before public opinion, like thieves in the middle of the night, a group who with a stolen and unauthorized key, led by the former deputy minister for culture, replace the lock of the entrance door, depriving the volunteers of access to the space. And to make this even more absurd, guards are placed in front of the door to protect the space and the tools inside the space from the legal owners – which actually means classic usurpation by the Mayor and local authorities. This whole sad and absurd story for the community and young people of Tetovo was started and implemented by those who were supposed to be supporters, supporters and financiers of this civic initiative. However, this story will have consequences for the parties, and here the biggest loser will be the Mayor of the Municipality, Bilall Kasami, who, perhaps drunk by some power, embarked on such a reckless and unnecessary adventure that I will put in front of the young people of Tetovo, local civic and international organizations and in front of the entire international community as a ruler who does not tolerate freedom, who hates independence and who is against European values.

This story will not end here, but it will continue – and it will continue for good because what the initiators of this action do not understand is that the space is not made by the walls but by the people inside them, that a place is not made by tiles but by ideas , that a community is not held by oppression but by freedom, by independence – therefore ‘The Space’ will find new walls and tiles, while the walls of the former Tetovo radio facility will breathe with shame, or will be covered again by oblivion.

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