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[balkans] Civil Society in Kosovo, Issue 2

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  • Florian Bieber
    Subject: OTR Civil Society in Kosovo, Issue 2 Sender: owner-kosovo@wyrdwright.com ====================================================================== ON THE
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1, 1999
      Subject: OTR Civil Society in Kosovo, Issue 2
      Sender: owner-kosovo@...

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      ON THE RECORD: //Civil Society in Kosovo//----------------------------
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      Your Electronic Link to Civil Society in Kosovo
      ----------------------------------------------------------------------
      Volume 9, Issue 2 -- September 1, 1999
      ----------------------------------------------------------------------

      In this issue:

      THE BIRTH AND REBIRTH OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN KOSOVO

      PART TWO: MARCH 1998 TO MARCH 1999 -- COUNTDOWN TO DISASTER

      ======================================================================
      FROM THE EDITORIAL DESK
      ======================================================================

      During the late 1990s, some young Albanians grew restive and
      impatient with the campaign of non-violent resistance and
      began to turn to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The Serbian
      regime's response was furious and violent. In February 1998,
      Serbian forces attacked several villages in the region of
      Drenica, to the west of Prishtina [Pristina]. This ushered in
      a year of growing violence, brutality, and displacement.

      Not surprisingly, this put enormous pressure on the civil
      associations described in the last issue. Tens of thousands of
      people were displaced, creating a major humanitarian burden
      that fell squarely on the parallel society. Their response is
      the subject of this issue, which also includes extracts from
      Peter's 1998 diaries and field reports and assessments by
      organizations working in the area.

      ======================================================================

      THE BIRTH AND REBIRTH OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN KOSOVO

      PART TWO: MARCH 1998 TO MARCH 1999 -- COUNTDOWN TO DISASTER

      From Peter's diary:

      Drenica is an area west of Prishtina. Around 10 villages there
      were surrounded and attacked by the Serbian special police
      forces (MUP) at the beginning of this month. Around 80 people
      were killed, including many women and children. Of 46 that
      were buried two days ago, there were 14 women and 12 children.
      The Serbian government has promoted this as an
      "anti-terrorist" campaign, but it was pure terrorism.

      An American I met here went out to Drenica yesterday and today
      and found bombed and burned-out houses. People are still
      hiding in the woods there; afraid to go back to whatever homes
      they have left. Five thousand Albanians have fled to
      Montenegro and others to Macedonia, but most are staying.

      One of the few options people here have is to do what they did
      today, that is, create mass public events. People have lost
      their fear of police violence. Public protests keep the issues
      in the press, which helps put pressure on the government. I
      don't really believe the repression will end here as long as
      Milosevic is in power, but nonviolent action might mitigate
      the repression. The student leadership is just finding its
      way, but it has much support. Ibrahim Rugova, the president of
      the parallel government, is also popular, but he has been
      losing popularity because of his inactivity. He has a
      reputation for not having done anything for the last seven
      years. As one of our young translators said, "There is passive
      non-violence and active non-violence. Only the latter can make
      a difference."

      Today the demonstration took place. It was located on a grassy
      area on a hillside. This was wise, because it was safe from
      any attack by cars or tanks. The whole hillside was covered
      with people, as many as a hundred thousand. There were a few
      speeches. It lasted only around an hour. People of all ages
      were there. Signs: "We are not terrorists." "Drenica, we are
      with you." "Serb police out of Kosovo." "Peace, Freedom, and
      Independence." "NATO: S.O.S."

      As it turned out, there was no problem with police violence.
      There were not even any police around, except for a couple on
      the route downtown where we subsequently marched. I think
      there is really too much international attention on Kosovo at
      this point for the police to use violence against the
      students.

      ...In the evening we went to visit the Media Project. This is
      a group of young women who, with the guidance of some older
      women, learn journalism. Aferdita Kelmendi is one of the
      counselors. We met with about 8 of the 30-odd women in the
      group. The atmosphere is one of mutual motivation. The women
      talked about gaining self-confidence through the friendship
      and support they received from each other. On the wall was a
      big slogan in English: "I want. I know. I can." The dominant
      idea was to improve oneself in order to change the world.

      The women of the Media Project work together on the magazine
      "Eritrea." They learn graphics, layout, photojournalism, and
      writing. They also have classes in conflict resolution. I
      asked if they received harassment from paternalistic men. One
      of them brushed this off, "Oh, those are just people who have
      nothing to do."

      Aferdita said, "I don't believe the propaganda about the
      'terrorists.' I have never seen the KLA. Serbian television
      shows police cars with bullet holes in them, but where are the
      terrorists? I'll tell you where they are. If I go to sleep
      every night knowing that the police can break into my
      apartment, and disturb my family and my children, that's
      psychological terrorism." (March 13, 1998 -- End of diary
      excerpt.)

      * * *

      When Albanians speak of "the war," they are referring not only to
      Serbian outrages during the NATO campaign, but to the entire period
      after the Serbian attack on the villages in the Drenica area west
      of Prishtina in February and March of last year.

      In this first major military campaign, Serbian forces attempted to
      put an end to the disorganized, nascent military resistance known
      as the KLA. Over 80 people, mostly civilian villagers including
      women, children, and the elderly, were killed during this
      offensive. Around 20 villages were attacked and burned, and most of
      their inhabitants fled for the woods in fear of their lives.

      This first offensive was characteristic of what came to be an
      intermittent, one-sided campaign against the KLA over the next
      year. By the end of 1998 it resulted in over 250,000 displaced
      persons, hundreds of destroyed villages, and a drastic
      deterioration of the human rights situation. The offensive was also
      indirectly aimed at the parallel social structure of Kosovo. While
      the international community issued threats and mild sanctions
      against the Serbian regime, the nongovernmental organizations
      (NGOs) that constituted Kosovo's parallel society had to adjust to
      wartime conditions in which their operations were severely
      curtailed and their activists were in danger, at times, for their
      very lives.

      In the face of this heightened repression, in which any Albanian
      could be labeled a "terrorist," activists bravely continued their
      work. City-based organizations oriented their operations towards
      the villages, where people were hardest hit by the offensives.
      Human rights organizations had their hands full documenting the
      latest abuses. The independent student union dropped its attempt at
      "non-political" activism and demonstrated in solidarity with
      Drenica.

      As Melihate Juniku of the Center for the Protection of Women And
      Children told me, "This was a psychological war." The underground
      schools were disrupted during this period, and many of the
      alternative clinics, particularly those in the countryside, were
      shut down. Mother Teresa's ability to deliver relief goods and
      medicines was severely curtailed, as its workers were harassed,
      arrested, and even killed. Relief supplies were routinely
      confiscated.

      The Center for the Protection of Women and Children, like many
      other NGOs, also had to cope with the influx of displaced villagers
      into the cities. Juniku continued, "The number of children in
      school kept decreasing. We tried to encourage children to return to
      school. We were also trying to teach young mothers how to raise
      their children. We offered pediatric and gynecological services, as
      well as pedagogical and psychological counseling."

      * * *

      The following is a field report from the Center for the Protection
      of Woman and Children, Prishtina, Kosova, written by Sevdie Ahmeti,
      human rights activist and director of the Center. The field report
      assessed the situation of villages in the municipality of Klina, in
      northwest Kosovo, during November and December 1998 and January and
      February 1999.

      Village: BOKSHIQ

      By mid-December 1998, this village had 374 people back home out of
      a previous total of 980. It had 42 IDPs. Residents usually used the
      services of the clinic in Grabanice village, which is destroyed.
      The population is traumatized. Out of 136 houses, 86 of them are
      burned to ashes. Only elder people can travel with minimum problems
      as the police checkpoints are frequent on the way to Klina. Needs
      are serious in food, blankets, clothes and mattresses. Water is
      being used from springs, otherwise water wells are poisoned. This
      village has 3 checkpoints and loud explosions can be heard over the
      nights. At short notice, people are ready to leave as the situation
      is deteriorating. The Dolove-Kpuz road is mined. Gunfire is heard
      overnight.


      Village: CESKOVE

      As of the end of January 1999, only 8 families are back home.
      Others are expected to return as soon as they feel secure. Out of
      the total number of 59 houses, only 11 of them can be inhabited,
      and 35 are completely destroyed. Needs of the population are in
      food, shoes, blankets, bedding, winter clothes, and heating; 68
      water wells are contaminated and only 2 can be used after they have
      been cleared. Circulation of the residents is limited. They can
      move as far as the villages of Jabllanice, Kpuz, and Bokshiq.
      Police shoot at night from their nearby positions from time to
      time. Villagers are intimidated and they are trapped.


      Village: CUPEVE E ULET

      By the end of November 1998, this village had 350 people back home
      out of 430 before. It had 50 IDPs [internally displaced persons].
      Most of the residents were suffering from scabies, diarrhea, TB
      [Tuberculosis], and flu. All of them have psychosomatic problems.
      The village is situated 7 km away from Klina, and any need to reach
      Klina is obstructed by the police. Out of 20 houses, some 90% of
      them are destroyed. Food usually used to be collected from Klina,
      but the police make problems. All animals of the village are gone.
      Everything is burned, needs are serious in all kinds. The quality
      of water wells is uncertain. Fighting is reported at night. Heat
      cannot be assured, because residents cannot go to the woods as
      heavy police is present in the area. The population is complaining
      about the behavior of their Serb neighbors in the neighboring
      village.


      Village: GJURGJEVIK

      By early November 1998, this village had 500 people who returned
      back out of a total of 1200 residents of the village. It has some
      30 IDPs. Population suffers from hypertension and disorders. Out of
      140 houses, only 13 of them remain intact, 23 of them destroyed and
      the rest is damaged to a greater degree. Needs are serious in food,
      clothes, and mattresses. Some water wells are poisoned with oil,
      detergent, and dead animals. Population is surrounded by police
      checkpoints, although there is no police in the village. They face
      frequent night shooting and are afraid to travel outside the
      village. The village does not have electricity. There is a sizeable
      police and military presence.


      Village: PERCEVE

      By the end of December 1998, this village had 1600 people back and
      300 IDPs. Out of 118 houses of the village, 24 of them are
      completely destroyed, but 90% of the houses are damaged.
      Electricity was not available to the residents until two days ago.
      Needs of the population are serious in food and clothing. People
      are very afraid to use the water wells. They are afraid of the
      Yugoslavian Army movement around the village. The whole population
      sleeps rough in the open frequently because of the fear of army
      attacks on them.


      Village: VOLLJAKE

      By the beginning of February 1999, this village had half the
      population back, 750 out of 1400 before the war. It had 22 IDPs.
      Out of approximately 110 houses, only 6 houses are completely
      intact. The whole community lives in some 50 houses, the other 50
      houses are empty as the people are too afraid to come back. Some of
      the houses are repaired. Needs of the population are in everything.
      They are facing continuous intimidation from the shooting that
      reportedly goes on from the bauxite factory where the Serb forces
      are deployed ever since the summer offensive. Military forces want
      the people move from the village. Movement is limited. (End of
      field report.)

      * * *

      During this period, the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and
      Freedoms raised charges against the Serbian regime in the war
      crimes tribunal at The Hague. It supplied witnesses from its
      network of informants during visits of tribunal investigators.

      The Humanitarian Law Center also contributed to the investigations.
      A staff member described the conditions of her work after Drenica:
      "We were the first investigators in Prekaz (a village in Drenica)
      after the massacres last year. We saw all kinds of things, the
      worst, right after the fighting. From March to May of last year was
      the worst time to be traveling. We were at risk both from the
      police and the KLA. It was easier for women to travel. The KLA got
      used to us and allowed us passage. With the Serbian police, we just
      lied about where we were going."

      The Humanitarian Law Center's staff of lawyers and other trained
      professionals continued to monitor trials. We were told, "All of
      the trials took place in the same way. Suspects were beaten and
      subjected to electroshock, often detained without food. All the
      European rights conventions were violated. Suspects were deprived
      of the right to send letters or have contact with relatives. Visits
      from lawyers were only allowed in the presence of guards.

      "Between January 1998 and February 1999 there were 2,400 political
      imprisonments. In that period we were aware of three deaths from
      torture in Ferizaj (Urosevac) and five more in Prizren.

      "Anyone who came from an area where there was fighting could be
      accused of being a 'terrorist.' We observed a trial of a
      95-year-old man who was senile. We never saw KLA soldiers on trial.
      People who were on the bus going shopping could be arrested. Often
      their trials were based on forced admissions. In the cities,
      intellectuals and students were arrested. Sometimes they were
      arrested because they had relatives in the KLA.

      "Activists such as Fatima Boshniaku, director of Mother Teresa in
      Gjakova [Djakovica], were targeted. Boshniaku was accused of
      terrorism. She spent seven months in jail, and was released two
      weeks before the NATO intervention."

      The League of Albanian Women opened the Center for the
      Rehabilitation of Women and Children in March 1998, after the
      massacres at Drenica began. Zahidi Zeqire, one of the
      organization's founders, told me, "Women began to come to our
      center to sleep and to get food. OXFAM and the ICRC [International
      Committee of the Red Cross] helped us, as did Save the Children and
      ADRA [Adventist Development and Relief Agency].

      "During this period we worked non-stop. We were one of the only
      organizations that worked in the field. We cared for around 300
      children of the Jashari, Ahmeti, and Sejdiu families from Drenica.
      They were all here. They slept at relatives' houses, and came here
      for help by day. Some of them eventually went home and some went
      abroad. Since March of 1998, over 400 pregnant women stayed here
      and gave birth. Only one of their children died.

      Flora Brovina, pediatrician and human rights activist, was another
      founder of this organization. (Editor's note: Imprisoned by the
      Serbian police during the NATO intervention, Brovina remains in a
      jail in Serbia, prohibited from communicating with her friends and
      colleagues.) During the Drenica offensive and afterwards, she
      worked in the woods with the displaced villagers. She also helped
      to organize a solidarity march, during which thousands of women set
      out from Prishtina carrying bread for the families hiding in the
      woods without food. The march was stopped and turned around by the
      Serbian police.

      Igo Rogova of Motrat Qiriazi told me, "After the massacres at
      Drenica we thought, 'We can't just sit around.' So we started
      working with families that were displaced from Drenica to
      Mitrovica. In Mitrovica we organized women's meetings and
      psychosocial programs. We organized games and drawing sessions for
      the children.

      "One problem was that many displaced families could not get
      assistance. Some of them would not seek aid because they were
      ashamed. With funding that we received, we gave families cash
      grants of 100 DM a month for six months."

      * * *

      From Peter's diary:

      Fifteen women work at the Center for the Protection of Women
      and Children, putting in long days. They receive 50 to 70
      visitors a day and two workshops are held a week, on such
      things as contraception and sexually transmitted diseases.
      There are up to 60 people attending each workshop, and many of
      the junior and senior high school students have come through
      the Center.

      The Center organizes protests, and lobbies on human rights. It
      serves both Albanian and Serbian women. There has been some
      discomfort on the part of the Albanians when Serbians come to
      the Center, but this tension has decreased. Vjosa said she
      considered it a success that Serbian women, who have access to
      better care than the Albanians, would come into the Center.

      Vjosa said that women and children were the most vulnerable in
      Kosovar society. She told us that she was the first doctor
      fired from the hospital, on August 13, 1990. Around 2,300 were
      fired, and since then Albanian women have been afraid to go to
      the hospital. We were told that 72% of working people had been
      fired from their jobs. People are hard pressed to afford
      medical services.

      Fewer than 3% of women are currently working, according to
      Vjosa. Women make up 38% of college graduates, but most are at
      home; the Center is trying to help them. Among other problems,
      there is an increase in domestic violence, as men's
      frustration rises. Women have few choices in how to deal with
      this problem, since they don't have their own money and the
      law doesn't protect them.

      It is difficult for outside donors to get supplies through to
      Kosovo, because much of it may be stolen by the police. The
      Mother Teresa clinic is one of the few institutions receiving
      any supplies. We were given some medical statistics: 26 people
      died from polio in 1996: infant mortality among Albanians is
      estimated to be around 50 per 1,000, but it is probably
      higher; sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise, as is
      teenage pregnancy (This refers to pregnancy among young
      married women as pregnancy among unmarried women is rare.);
      the birth rate is higher because more women are at home with
      less to do; there has been a 1/3 dropout rate from high school
      for young women; and more than half the population is under
      the age of 19.

      The Center is harassed by police, who park in front of its
      door and frighten clients. I sat by the computer, listening to
      Vjosa. On the screen was a list of Drenica refugees who needed
      places to stay. Vjosa told us she thought that all Kosovo
      should become a demilitarized area.

      As we left we learned that an 11-year-old boy from Drenica had
      just shown up. Both of his parents had been killed, and he had
      escaped by walking alone through the woods. (March 16, 1998)

      * * *

      We met with Mary from Balkan Peace Teams (BPT) this morning.
      The organization has one team in Belgrade and two in Croatia.

      BPT monitors human rights in Serbia and comes to Prishtina
      each month. It works to get Serbians and Albanians talking to
      each other. There has been some success with this, but it is a
      risky proposition for the Albanians.

      Mary spent some time evaluating the student movement,
      criticizing them for failure to speak to the Serbians. She
      thought they should at least have some of their signs in
      Serbian, so people can understand what the demands are.
      Certainly it would be good if Serbians could have more
      alternative information about the conditions the Albanians are
      living under, because they are (mostly) terribly
      indoctrinated. But it is risky for Albanians to reach out to
      the Serbs at this point, because of the potential for being
      ostracized by their own people. (March 17, 1999)

      * * *

      I went with David Hartsough to the office of Koha Ditore, the
      local independent daily Albanian newspaper, to meet with its
      editor, Veton Surroi. We sat in Veton's office with him and a
      co-editor, Ylber Hysa. Veton seems to be even busier than the
      other journalists these days. He is a quiet, serious man with
      a low voice. He did not waste words. David was asking about
      possibilities for action, trying to feel out the situation.
      Veton, speaking of the students' indecision, said, "There is a
      leadership vacuum. The students need to move. When you jump
      into the water, you don't look to see whether it's hot or cold
      first."

      Speaking of what was needed to help Kosovo, Veton said that
      troops should be gathered around Serbia's borders. David asked
      if he meant NATO troops. Veton said, "Who else? The Warsaw
      Pact?" (March 18, 1999 -- End of diary excerpt.)

      * * *

      Lepa Mladjenovic is an activist in the Belgrade organization
      Autonomous Women's Center against Sexual Violence. This
      organization has been a strong supporter of independent activist
      organizations in Kosovo. Mladjenovic posted the following
      assessment of the situation in Kosovo on the Internet on August 31,
      1998.

      "The situation in Kosovo is very bad. Three days ago the first rain
      and bad weather started, and more than 100,000 Albanian people are
      'under the sky', in woods and bushes. Many of us activists as well
      had a hard time sleeping that night.

      "This morning a feminist and pediatrician, Vjosa Dobruna, from the
      Center for Protection of Women and Children was here in Belgrade
      and was very tired. Her eyes are now on the edge of tears. Vjosa,
      like all the other activists in Kosovo is all the time on the spot
      -- in the woods and so on, with humanitarian aid and medical
      equipment. Many women who are giving birth are dying afterwards,
      and many children are sick. She also said that many people have
      recently been put in prison, among them some women activists and as
      well three women students from the Independent Student Union. The
      three students were sentenced to three months in prison 'because
      they gave first aid courses to people.'

      "Vjosa also said that she is very sad for the fact that Albanian
      politics in Kosovo, of peaceful conflict resolution that they have
      patiently cherished for 8 years, following the precious politics of
      Ghandi, ended with war and catastrophe!"

      Autonomous Women's Center Against Sexual Violence, Lepa
      Mladjenovic, Tirsova 5a, Beograd, Yugoslavia; tel/fax:
      381-11-687-190; email: awcasv@...

      * * *

      The following statistics come from Albanian sources:

      "Near 1000 killed, over 800 missing or held hostage, over 400
      settlements and villages destroyed, over 14,000 buildings ruined,
      over 380,000 Albanians displaced or made refugees. The makeup of
      IDPs: 63% children, 25% women, and 12% men of different ages.

      "Three-hundred-and-fifty villages have been destroyed completely,
      together with Decan and Rahovec. Over 25% of the population of
      Kosova is faced with a humanitarian catastrophe. The needs of IDPs
      and the whole endangered population are: food, shelter, clothing,
      medicine, health care, and hygienic supplies."

      Contacts:

      Center for Protection of Women and Children, Pristina, Kosovo;
      email: sevdie.a@....

      Center for Protection of Women and Children, Vjosa Dobruna,
      Sevdie Ahmeti, , Pristina, Kosovo; email: sevdie.a@...

      Sister Qiriazi, Igballe Rogova, Rachel Wareham; email:
      guava@...

      Center for Women's Human Rights, Nazlie Bala; email:
      nazlie@...

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      In the next issue: Expulsion and Exile.
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