KOSOVO-SERBIA TENSIONS

September 30, 2021

For almost two weeks, ethnic Serbs from Northern Kosovo have been blocking Jarinje and Brnjak crossing points on the administrative border with Serbia using trucks and construction machinery as makeshift barriers. It came after Kosovo authorities announced drivers with Serbian plates would need to cover them or remove them and swap them out for local registration upon entry to Kosovo. This crisis raised fears that such incidents could unleash much deeper tensions in the region.

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TOURISTS RETURN TO CAPPADOCIA, TURKEY

August 25, 2021

As tourism picks up in Turkey due to quarantine-free travel and a cheap lira, the historical region of Cappadocia in Central Anatolia saw a significant increase of visitors in 2021. Apart for its famous for its chimney rock formations and ancient churches carved into the rocks, Cappadocia became popular among local and foreign tourists in recent years as the destination for various activities such as horseback riding and quad tours and especially for hot air balloon trips. A prolonged currency crisis has seen the dollar strengthen against the lira by nearly 60% in just over two years, meaning that vacations in Turkey became cheap for many. Tourism workers are hopeful that the stream of visitors coming to Cappadocia will continue to grow over the course of the year.

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ASHURA MOURNING CEREMONY IN ISTANBUL, TURKEY

August 18, 2021

Ashura is a day of mourning marked by Muslims around the world to commemorate the martyrdom of the grandson of the prophet Muhammad, Hossein, and his compatriots. The story of this martyrdom at the Battle of Karbala and its commemoration is of particular importance to Shia Muslims around the world. The battle took place in 680 A.D. when the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad was killed by the forces of the second Umayyad Caliph, Yazid. The day of Ashura falls on the 10th of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It is marked with mourning rituals and passion plays re-enacting the martyrdom. The celebrations take place each year in Istanbul’s Zeynebiye neighborhood which is a home to a large community of Jafaris, Twelver Shias of which the majority are of Azeri descent.

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BURNING OF “LILA”TORCHES

July 11, 2021

The customary practice of burning “Lila” torches in the eve before the day of St. Apostles Peter and Paul which is celebrated on 12 July each year, locally known as “Lilanje” exists for centuries in shepherd communities of Western Serbia. In the weeks before Petrovdan, people prepare lila torches from birch or cherry bark. The biggest event of burning “Lila” torches takes place in front of the Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin in Loznica. Today, this ancient ritual is primarily practiced by children and teens that burn the torches and celebrate for several hours each year on 11 July after the sunset.

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ANNIVERSARY OF SREBRENICA MASSACRE

July 11, 2021

Annual commemoration ceremony at the Memorial Center in Potocari was held on 11 July 2021, marking the 26th anniversary of Srebrenica massacre. The bodies of 19 recently identified victims have been buried alongside other victims already interred in the vast cemetery. The massacre that happened in 1995, when the unprotected enclave around the town of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia was captured by Bosnian Serb forces, what ensued was a systematic massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims, mainly men and boys, in an event that was described as the worst crime committed on European soil since the WW2.

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