MON, 08 NOV 1999 00:27:55 GMT
AIM Pristina, 24 October, 1999
Apparently an ordinary apartment building in a suburb of Pristina is hiding a secret. For more than three months, eight Serb families are living there in complete isolation for fear that somebody would hurt them just because they are not Albanians. None of the inhabitants of this building, children of different age inclusive, dares go out even to the nearby market to buy bread or milk. The grown-ups spend most of the day in their apartments, and the children at the entrance halls which are protected by metal nets. If it had not been for the patrol of KFOR stationed in one of the apartments and the soldiers who do all the necessary shopping, probably all these people would have been thrown out a long time ago and forced to leave their homes and set out into the unknown. "It is the hardest for the children", says a woman who asked that her name not be mentioned. "Not only because they don't have what they need of the food and entertainment, but because they can't go to school", she explains. Except for KFOR soldiers and occasionally members of UN police, nobody from civilian administration, humanitarian organisations, journalists, visited these prisoners in their own apartments.
Thousands of people in Kosovo share the destiny of these people. It is even mnore difficult for them when they hear that practically every day some of the members of their ethnic group have been killed. According to the data of the office of the Centre for Peace and Tolerance and the People's Church Committee, since the entrance of NATO-KFOR troops on 12 June, about 350 murders of non-Albanians were registered, who were not only shot, but also burnt down in their houses, stoned, beaten up... About 500 persons, mostly Serbs, have been proclaimed disappeared and their destiny is still a mystery. The Albanians are now living in about 30 to 35 thousand of their apartments and houses, and their previous owners were often thrown out by attacks, blackmail, threats and other forms of pressure. According to the knowledge of these two sources, many of them did not manage to take along even the absolutely necessary personal belongings. Several thousand men, women and children, among whom there are many ailing, starving and feeble live locked up in their homes in fear of violence. At the Centre for Peace and Tolerance they claim that there are also criminals in Kosovo who have come from Albania in order to get hold of apartments, but primarily to benefit by robbery. According to the same source about 200 people, mostly Serbs but also an enormous number of Romanies were forced to seek refuge or leave Kosovo altogether.
The Serbs, Romanies and Bosniacs who have sought refuge in isolated and impoverished Serbia of Slobodan Milosevic are living in collective centres and depend on other people's aid, and Europe is refusing to let them in under the pretext that "conditions due to which inhabitants of Kosovo were offered exile have ceased to exist". Among Serb analysts in Kosovo it is believed that more resolute seeking of a solution for this problem would for KFOR mean opening of a conflict with their war allies - Kosovo Albanians and creation of an unfriendly environment for the soldiers whose safety is one of their priorities. The assessment of representatives of international military forces that the atmospere in Kosovo has significantly improved because the number of murders has gone down from 30 registered in the first weeks after the entrance of international military forces to last week's six, offers no comfort to the remaining non-Albanians. The reason for reduction of the number of incidents can in fact be sought in the fact that there are less and less mixed environments in Kosovo. On the other hand, representatives of UNMIK civilian administration stick to their declarative commitment to "building of a multiethnic, democratic society and institutions in Kosovo" and keep saying that "a long time will be needed for building peace and democracy". Kosovo Serbs, Turks and Romanies while sitting in their homes afraid of what the next day will bring them - believe less and less...
Representatives of the Serbs in Kouchner's Transitional Council of Kosovo which is expected to develop into some kind of an executive authority and even government, submitted resignations as a sign of disapproval and protest against what is happening in Kosovo. After numerous complaints while they still participated in the work of this body, it seems that the decisive event was formation of the Protective Corps of Kosovo more than 70 per cent of which are former members of Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Symbolically, by withdrawing, the Serbs have left Kouchner's administration without a single argument with which they corroborated to the world public that the idea of multiethnic Kosovo will after all come true.
As a result of such a situation, in places where there still are non-Albanians, especially Serbs, completely isolated ethnically pure environments have been established which they most frequently call enclaves. That is where those banished from cities or villages also live, and they are guarded by KFOR units. Gracanica, Kosovska Kamenica, northern part of Mitrovica, are examples of such environments. It is much worse in Gorazdevac, but especially in Orahovac where about 4,500 Serbs and Romanies live in some kind of ghetto, surrounded by barbed wire in the area which covers a single street with the church and village cafe. Even food and drugs are brought to them by convoys with military escorts. In places such as Kosovo Polje or Obilic where the population is still mixed, every day there are attacks against non-Albanians, abuses and even murders and homes set on fire primarily of the Serbs and the Romanies, but also of the Bosniacs and Goranians. New KFOR commander, German general Klaus Rheinhardt could not resist publicly expressing his wrath when after several public appeals that the violence stop, a body of an elderly woman who had been beaten to death was found in a burnt down house in Obilic. His call to Kosovo Serbs who had fled to return to their homes, just a few days after he had taken over command of KFOR units, could be a sign of better treatment of non-Albanians than it had been under command of his predecessor, British general Mike Jackson.
Violence continues, though. In Pec where there are no more Serbs and Montenegrins, now the Bosniacs are the targets of attacks because their mother tongue is also Serbian. Head of civilian administration Bernard Kouchner, recently visited this area where a Bosniac was killed in the course of the past fortnight, and a few were beaten up just because they are of different ethnic origin. The recent case of murder of a UNMIK worker in Pristina who was a Bulgarian by origin and who lost his life just because he spoke in the street in his mother tongue which is similar to Serbian may be the best illustration of what is currently happening in Kosovo. Some people are trying to throw the hot potato into the lap of UNMIK reminding that the murdered Valerij Krumov had just arrived from the airport without an identity card or a uniform. In other words, he was in civilian clothes...
However, it is not only the people that are targets of the attacks of the Albanians who think that by violence against non-Albanians they are working for the benefit of their community. According to the Centre for Peace and Tolerance, more than 70 Orthodox churches in Kosovo have been destroyed since the arrival of KFOR. Many of them have been set on fire and then torn down to their foundations with dynamite. Among them are the Church of Ascension of the Mother of God built in 1315 in Musutist, St. Marko monastery built in 1467 in Korisa (Prizren) and other religious buildings of priceless historical and artistic value... Hieromonach Sava Janjic who has moved from Decani to Gracanica monastery where KFOR soldiers are accommodated, believes that the main objective of this violence is "eradication of Serb spirital roots in Kosovo". Of course there are many of those who are trying to explain everything that is happening as a boomerang of violence and revenge for the crimes committed against Kosovo Albanians during the two-and-a-half month long war. However, it seems to be just a way to fall into the trap of justifying violence with - violence.