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Belgrade residents tell rights court of bar noise 'torture'

Belgrade residents tell rights court of bar noise 'torture'

BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s capital is vibrating with nightlife again after over a year of pandemic restrictions. Cafes, bars and fun-hungry customers are celebrating a summer boom in business and entertainment options, but the accompanying loud music and other noise are a bust for residents across Belgrade.Since hot weather arrived and coronavirus rules eased, Nemanja Dragic, 36, said he can’t open his balcony door without a thunderous cacophony bursting into his apartment. He used his savings to install a thicker door and sturdier windows, desperate to muffle the sounds coming from over a dozen bars and clubs.Dragic’s apartment overlooks a downtown Belgrade street that is one of the hot spots in a European capital with a reputation for partying after dark. He said all the carousing makes it impossible to keep his windows open during much of the summer, to rest or to spend undisturbed time in his home.”The noise is such that some neighbors just leave the city or the street or everything,” said Dragic, an engineer.Residents of the city’s commercial areas have complained for years about deafening noise from bars, discos and night clubs. Faced with inaction from authorities, some citizen’ associations have turned to the European Court of Human Rights, filing a case that argues they have been exposed to torture and had their rights to family life and privacy violated.Lawyer Marina Mijatovic said she took the issue to the court in Strasbourg after Belgrade authorities didn’t respond to a local court ruling last month that said they hadn’t done enough to limit noise. The European court is yet to decide whether it will accept the case, she said.”We expect the (European) court to confirm the violation of rights and instruct Serbia to take measures to reduce the noise to the levels acceptable for normal life,” she said.City officials didn’t reply to interview requests from The Associated Press. Belgrade authorities, after promising repeatedly to address the complaints, and have prepared new noise protection rules that envisage wider authority for a community policing unit.Misa Relic, who heads the Association of Night Bars and Clubs, said he is aware of tension with residents in some Belgrade neighborhoods, but he warned against rushed solutions that on the heels of the coronavirus pandemic could jeopardize what he described as Belgrade’s signature tourist experience — the clubbing.“I am always for an agreement between two sides who understand each other’s position and are ready for a fair compromise,” Relic said.Though not new, the noise problem became acutely visible in late June and early July as Belgrade’s night life exploded in full force with a series of concerts, rave parties and festivals. Partying crowds also triggered alarm over a potential virus resurgence as few events requested proof of vaccination or negative tests.Ana Davico of the Belgrade Noise Abatement Society said local government should follow the examples of other major European cities with dynamic night scenes that have encouraged and provided financial support for sound-blocking equipment in night clubs.Instead, noise limits aren’t enforced, and in the decade since her group was formed, the situation in Belgrade — and throughout Serbia — has only gotten worse, Davico insisted.“We now have depots of noise all over Belgrade and a situation where the existing regulations that offer a decent framework to solve the problem are not being implemented,” she said.Citizens’ groups have collected thousands of complaints filed with police, videos and noise level recordings to back their case in the European court, Davico said. The noise often is much higher than the legally permitted limits, and only rarely do cafes or nightclubs use soundproofing equipment even though it is generally envisaged in the current regulations, she added.Dragic said the noise problem on his street has slashed real estate prices, making it hard for people to sell if they want to move out of the area. Although bars located in central residential zones only are supposed to stay open until midnight, the noise they produce before closing time is unbearable, he said.“What other people take for granted, that they can rest or sleep whenever they want, for us depends on the bars and their guests,” Dragic said. “We never wanted to be the ones to determine how long they stay open or what kind of music they play, as long as it is not heard in my flat.”

Belgrade residents tell rights court of bar noise 'torture'

Belgrade residents tell rights court of bar noise 'torture'

BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s capital is vibrating with nightlife again after over a year of pandemic restrictions. Cafes, bars and fun-hungry customers are celebrating a summer boom in business and entertainment options, but the accompanying loud music and other noise are a bust for residents across Belgrade.Since hot weather arrived and coronavirus rules eased, Nemanja Dragic, 36, said he can’t open his balcony door without a thunderous cacophony bursting into his apartment. He used his savings to install a thicker door and sturdier windows, desperate to muffle the sounds coming from over a dozen bars and clubs.Dragic’s apartment overlooks a downtown Belgrade street that is one of the hot spots in a European capital with a reputation for partying after dark. He said all the carousing makes it impossible to keep his windows open during much of the summer, to rest or to spend undisturbed time in his home.”The noise is such that some neighbors just leave the city or the street or everything,” said Dragic, an engineer.Residents of the city’s commercial areas have complained for years about deafening noise from bars, discos and night clubs. Faced with inaction from authorities, some citizen’ associations have turned to the European Court of Human Rights, filing a case that argues they have been exposed to torture and had their rights to family life and privacy violated.Lawyer Marina Mijatovic said she took the issue to the court in Strasbourg after Belgrade authorities didn’t respond to a local court ruling last month that said they hadn’t done enough to limit noise. The European court is yet to decide whether it will accept the case, she said.”We expect the (European) court to confirm the violation of rights and instruct Serbia to take measures to reduce the noise to the levels acceptable for normal life,” she said.City officials didn’t reply to interview requests from The Associated Press. Belgrade authorities, after promising repeatedly to address the complaints, and have prepared new noise protection rules that envisage wider authority for a community policing unit.Misa Relic, who heads the Association of Night Bars and Clubs, said he is aware of tension with residents in some Belgrade neighborhoods, but he warned against rushed solutions that on the heels of the coronavirus pandemic could jeopardize what he described as Belgrade’s signature tourist experience — the clubbing.“I am always for an agreement between two sides who understand each other’s position and are ready for a fair compromise,” Relic said.Though not new, the noise problem became acutely visible in late June and early July as Belgrade’s night life exploded in full force with a series of concerts, rave parties and festivals. Partying crowds also triggered alarm over a potential virus resurgence as few events requested proof of vaccination or negative tests.Ana Davico of the Belgrade Noise Abatement Society said local government should follow the examples of other major European cities with dynamic night scenes that have encouraged and provided financial support for sound-blocking equipment in night clubs.Instead, noise limits aren’t enforced, and in the decade since her group was formed, the situation in Belgrade — and throughout Serbia — has only gotten worse, Davico insisted.“We now have depots of noise all over Belgrade and a situation where the existing regulations that offer a decent framework to solve the problem are not being implemented,” she said.Citizens’ groups have collected thousands of complaints filed with police, videos and noise level recordings to back their case in the European court, Davico said. The noise often is much higher than the legally permitted limits, and only rarely do cafes or nightclubs use soundproofing equipment even though it is generally envisaged in the current regulations, she added.Dragic said the noise problem on his street has slashed real estate prices, making it hard for people to sell if they want to move out of the area. Although bars located in central residential zones only are supposed to stay open until midnight, the noise they produce before closing time is unbearable, he said.“What other people take for granted, that they can rest or sleep whenever they want, for us depends on the bars and their guests,” Dragic said. “We never wanted to be the ones to determine how long they stay open or what kind of music they play, as long as it is not heard in my flat.”

Serbian Roma girl band sings for women's empowerment

Serbian Roma girl band sings for women's empowerment

BELGRADE, Serbia — Their songs are about “women chained” in abuse witnessed by generations, or teenage brides being forced into marriage by their fathers. And they tell women to seek love, fight back and stand up for their right to be equal with men.A female Roma band in Serbia is using music to preach women’s empowerment within their community, challenging some deeply rooted traditions and centuries-old male domination.Formed in 2014, “Pretty Loud” symbolically seeks to give a louder voice to Roma girls, encourage education and steer them away from the widespread custom of early marriage. The band has gained popularity and international attention, performing last year at the Women of the World Festival in London.“We want to stop the early marriages … we want the girls themselves, and not their parents, to decide whether they want to marry or not,” said Silvia Sinani, one of the band members. “We want every woman to have the right to be heard, to have her dreams and to be able to fulfil them, to be equal,”Sinani, 24, said the idea for an all-female band was born at education and artistic workshops run for Roma, or Gypsies, by a private foundation, Gypsy Roma Urban Balkan Beats. The girls initially danced in GRUBB’s boys’ band and then decided they wanted one of their own, she said.“They (GRUBB) named us ‘Pretty Loud’ because they knew that women in Roma tradition are not really loud,” she said.The band’s music, a combination of rap and traditional Roma folk beat, mainly targets a younger generation of girls who are yet to make their life choices — the band itself includes 14-year-old twin sisters. The songs tackle women’s position in their community, and seek to boost their self-awareness.The quest is essential in a community where early marriages are widespread — a UNICEF study published last year showed that over one-third of girls in Roma settlements in Serbia aged 15-19 are already married. Of them, 16% were married before they were 15.Alarmed, Serbian authorities, too, have formed a state commission to try to reverse the trend.“I am an example of early marriage,” said band member Zlata Ristic, 27, who gave birth to a baby boy at 16. “Nobody forced me into it but I have realized I should not have done it.”Now a single mother, Ristic said she wants other women in similar situations to know that their lives are not over once they have children, and that they can still pursue their dreams.“My biggest reward is when 14-year-old girls write to me and say they want to become one of us, that they now attend school thanks to us, that they have improved their grades,” she said.Among the most underprivileged ethnic communities in Serbia and Europe, the Roma largely live in segregated settlements on society’s fringes, facing poverty, joblessness and prejudice.Activists have warned that the COVID-19 pandemic has further fueled the social isolation of marginalized groups and increased their poverty. Disruptions of regular schooling due to the virus lockdowns have made it even harder for Roma children to stay in the system.At the GRUBB center in Belgrade’s Zemun district, several children could be seen working with young instructors in an improvised classroom. The girls from “Pretty Loud” teach at music and dance workshops run by GRUBB, which was established in Serbia in 2006.Diana Ferhatovic, 18, first came to the center four years ago, initially seeking help with school lessons before joining the music program and finding her way into “Pretty Loud.” Their performance in London last March — just as the COVID-19 pandemic was starting — was unforgettable, she said.“I had a kind of positive jitters, we all did at first, the whole group,” Ferhatovic said. “Then we blew them off their feet.”———“One Good Thing” is a series that highlights individuals whose actions provide glimmers of joy in hard times — stories of people who find a way to make a difference, no matter how small. Read the collection of stories at https://apnews.com/hub/one-good-thing———This story was first published on June 22, 2021. It was updated on June 24, 2021, to correct the name of the festival the band appeared in. It was Women of the World, not Women of the Year.

Serbian Roma girl band sings for women's empowerment

Serbian Roma girl band sings for women's empowerment

BELGRADE, Serbia — Their songs are about “women chained” in abuse witnessed by generations, or teenage brides being forced into marriage by their fathers. And they tell women to seek love, fight back and stand up for their right to be equal with men.A female Roma band in Serbia is using music to preach women’s empowerment within their community, challenging some deeply rooted traditions and centuries-old male domination.Formed in 2014, “Pretty Loud” symbolically seeks to give a louder voice to Roma girls, encourage education and steer them away from the widespread custom of early marriage. The band has gained popularity and international attention, performing last year at the Women of the Year Festival in London.“We want to stop the early marriages … we want the girls themselves, and not their parents, to decide whether they want to marry or not,” said Silvia Sinani, one of the band members. “We want every woman to have the right to be heard, to have her dreams and to be able to fulfil them, to be equal,”Sinani, 24, said that the idea for an all-female band was born at education and artistic workshops run for Roma, or Gypsies, by a private foundation, Gypsy Roma Urban Balkan Beats. The girls initially danced in GRUBB’s boys’ band and then decided they wanted one of their own, she said.“They (GRUBB) named us ‘Pretty Loud’ because they knew that women in Roma tradition are not really loud,” she said.The band’s music, a combination of rap and traditional Roma folk beat, mainly targets a younger generation of girls who are yet to make their life choices — the band itself includes 14-year-old twin sisters. The songs tackle women’s position in their community, and seek to boost their self-awareness.The quest is essential in a community where early marriages are widespread — a UNICEF study published last year showed that over one third of girls in Roma settlements in Serbia aged 15-19 are already married. Of them, 16% were married before they were 15.Alarmed, Serbian authorities, too, have formed a state commission to try to reverse the trend.“I am an example of early marriage,” said band member Zlata Ristic, now 27, who gave birth to a baby boy at the age of 16. “Nobody forced me into it but I have realized I should not have done it.”Now a single mother, Ristic said she wants other women in similar situations to know that their lives are not over once they have children, and that they can still pursue their dreams.“My biggest reward is when 14-year-old girls write to me and say they want to become one of us, that they now attend school thanks to us, that they have improved their grades,” she said.Among the most underprivileged ethnic communities in Serbia and Europe more widely, the Roma largely live in segregated settlements on society’s fringes, facing poverty, joblessness and prejudice.Activists have warned that the COVID-19 pandemic has further fueled the social isolation of marginalized groups and increased their poverty. Disruptions of regular schooling due to the virus lockdowns have made it even harder for Roma children to stay in the system.At the GRUBB center in Belgrade’s Zemun district, several children could be seen working with young instructors in an improvised classroom. The girls from “Pretty Loud” teach at music and dance workshops run by GRUBB, which was established in Serbia in 2006.Diana Ferhatovic, 18, first came to the center four years ago, initially seeking help with school lessons before joining the music program and finding her way into “Pretty Loud.” Their performance in London last March — just as the COVID-19 pandemic was starting — was unforgettable, she said.“I had a kind of positive jitters, we all did at first, the whole group,” Ferhatovic said. “Then we blew them off their feet.”