By Rafaela PRIFTI/ DIELLI/
The joint Albanian, Bosnian, Croatian rally held on Tuesday in Manhattan raised its voice for the Serbian diplomats inside the Consulate offices to hear the chant: SHAME ON SERBIA!
Scores of speakers with different backgrounds, nationalities and political affiliations addressed the issue of prosecuting Serbia’s War Rapists in front of participants who waved Albanian, Bosnian and Croatian flags and held up signs. To them, as far as Belgrade is concerned, Milosevic is alive and well, since his hard line ideology that instigated three wars in one decade and directed rape as a weapon is still not condemned by bringing justice to thousands of sex crime victims. On behalf of the organizers, the Albanian American Women Organization Motrat Qiriazi, Ariana Elezaj said that for far too long justice has eluded the victims but today all of them together have a voice.
Today’s rally will start a movement, as our efforts will continue to gain momentum, said Ms. Elezaj, AAWO Board Member. Earlier Dielli provided background on the UN Resolutions and the bipartisan support for the US Congressional Hearing on Accountability for Kosovo Victims of War. A brief conversation with the representatives of the organization about the significance of the rally was posted online For Its Sex Crimes, Serbia is Betting on Silence …
City Council Member Mark Gjonaj, who has continuously supported the issue of punishing the war crimes, led the initiative of #Rally for Her Justice campaign. He introduced each speaker and maintained the energy of the protest with the chants directed at the Serbian government representatives. Joining him at the rally was Co-Chair NYC Councilwoman Carlina Rivera who said that the NYC Women’s Caucus strongly condemns the sexual violence perpetrated during the Yugoslav Wars. Professor Tanya Domi, Senior Public Affairs Officer for International Affairs, Economics and Politics at Columbia University’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs since 2006, has worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, gender issues, sex trafficking, human rights in many countries including Bosnia, Kosovo etc. She spoke of her Albanian grandmother and the strong values that were passed on to her. Professor Domi is an articulate and powerful supporter of women survivors of sexual crimes, a campaign carried out during the Balkan Wars in the 1990s that “targeted women’s bodies to destroy lives”.
Patricia Engel, Women’s Caucus Activist and wife of NY Congressman Elliot Engel raised the issue of the ‘unbalanced’ court system that has prosecuted Albanian perpetrators of similar crimes, yet not a single Serbian case has been brought forth despite ample evidence. A week earlier, Representative Eliot Engel, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee delivered a statement on the House floor in support of House Resolution 32 “a measure calling for justice for United States citizens Ylli, Agron and Mehment Bytyqi” who were murdered in the Republic of Serbia in July 1999. The surviving brother Ilir addressed the protest as he campaigns with the message: “We will not be ignored!”
It was the remarks of Vasfije Krasniqi Goodman, the first rape survivor to speak openly about it that delivered a strong message to the offenders of the actual acts and the ones who support the culprits by stopping justice. She said that they were cowards then and they are cowards now! By speaking up and standing up for herself and the ‘voiceless’, she will undertake visits to foreign office and embassies to put pressure on Serbia to punish the sex crimes of war.
One by one the speakers echoed the message of the pain inflicted on the women who were subjected to rape during the war and how they are being wronged again by waiting for justice that is not delivered: Ella Miche, a Croatian-American filmmaker and singer, one of the most influential Croatians in the USA 40 under 40, Vilma Bosanka, Bosnian-American Professor and Researcher, Tommi Michelle, Croatian-American writer and artist etc.
Ambassador William Walker, a well-respected veteran diplomat known for his role during the Yugoslav wars, particularly as Head of the Kosovo Verification Mission between October 1998 and June 1999. Following the Racak massacre and the findings of the forensic experts with regards to the Serbian security forces as perpetrators, Walker said that the FR Yugoslavia government made him persona non grata. He likened the compassion of Tuesday’s rally with the protests organized by Vetevendosja that persisted for decades. Referencing the outcome of the recent elections in Kosovo, Ambassador Walker projected optimism in pressing on with the issue of unpunished crimes of Serbia’s wars.
Marko Kepi, a Republican Candidate in the 2020 race for a seat in the New York Assembly, spoke at the rally for the victims of sexual abuse conducted by the forces of Serbian regime during the Yugoslav wars. Board Members of Vatra and numerous Vatran as well as officials from community organizations and associations participated at the protest. The size of the rally went beyond the area in Midtown Manhattan to around the country and the world through the campaign #RallyforHerJustice as pictures of hundreds were displayed on a portable electronic screen placed across the street right at the entrance of the Consulate General of the Republic of Serbia.
A POWERFUL STATEMENT WENT OUT FROM THE PROTEST: JUSTICE WILL NOT BE DELAYED FOREVER!