BY Aziz Aziri/
I want to begin this report by quoting one of the most crucial symbols of modern day human rights activists, Cesar Chavez. Once social change begins, it can’t be reversed. You can’t un-educate someone who has learn how to read. You can’t humiliate someone who has pride. You can’t oppress someone who is not afraid anymore. This brings me to the point of introducing the modern day crisis we are experiencing in “North Eastern Kosovo” or as it is known internationally, the Presheva Valley. The crisis is linked to prejudice that is directly related to the civil rank the Albanian minorities have in the Serbian state. Thus the governing body does not respect basic human rights of the minorities, not only Albanians,in Serbia.The major cause of how they control the Albanian community is by strict control of the municipalities and the community enclave’s borders in turn enabling military regime to enforce fear and oppression. They control what goes in and what goes out. It is a modern day dictatorship tactics. They perform these tactics in the municipalities of Presheva, Bujanovac, Medvegja. The province itself has roughly 120,000 citizens with about 100,000 being Albanian. The only other Albanian community in Serbia is in the Sanxhak region where unfrotunaetly most of the community have been forcefully assimilated to declare themselves Boshniak. Their names changed, religiously influenced to marry Bosnians, imposed strict laws, and kept uneducated and poor plus cut all access with their previous identity. Their identities are gone with the wind.
Before 1980’s, this place had a Albanian majority any was autonomous to the province of Kosovo in the Former Yugoslavia. During Miloshevic’s era, just like all the rest of the provinces, it was occupied by Serbian Nationalists and placed under strict control of the Serbian run government. Above all the complexities on this crisis, discrimination is influenced by violence, aggression, and ethnic hatred against the Albanians. Done so by the Serbian authorities, and the simple public who know no better but to believe the deceits that the government agencies spread. Such Is the case that the whole world witnessed with the Serbia-Albania soccer match where the Albanian soccer player where discriminated and violently attacked. This violence is subjected towardsthe Albanian community in Serbia almost every day by being arrested, abused, tortured and murdered. Yes murdered; because of their ethnicity. Such horrendous hate crimes can only be compared to the racial discrimination towards African-Americans during the civil rights movements.
In 2000 the Albanian citizens of Presheva Valley, began their armed uprising to demand rights and fundamental freedoms. These are simple, basic, God-given rights that everyone in this earth should be able to enjoy in order to live equal in peace and harmony. The armed uprising ended with an agreement signed between the Ethnic Albanians and Serbian representatives known as “Koncul convention” where the agreement stop the armed struggle and mandated that the Serbian government adopt a law that gave amnesty to the Albanians who were part of the war. Unfortunately, amnesty was provided only on paper and all the participants of the armed struggle were arrested, tortured and brutally killed by the Serbian state.Furthermore, the agreement was suppose to implement a multiethnic police force, which meant the Albanians would have a presence in the law and further governance of their own community. They requested the simple wish to learn Albanian books, to have the use of the Albanian national symbols, to sing and dance in Albanian and also guaranteed fundamental freedom to civil rights. This NATO, OSCE mediated agreement was not respected and none of the treaty points wereplaced into effect by the Serbian government. Furthermore, the International institutions that assisted in creating this cease-fire did very little to influence Serbia to keep true to their pact. They stood back and watched rivers turn red and the skies turn blue. Even to this day, Ethnic Albanians in the country are completely victimized and subjected to prejudice activities in terms of human rights, denied education, denied to experience their heritage and culture, forceful change of their history and oppressed via tactics that incite fear. The only thing that isn’t lacking in this region is religious foundation that the Serbian government allows. Furthermore they don’t allow proper schools and universities for the people to receive a fitting education, keeping the community ignorant and ill informed. Furthermore the Serb minority runs most of the municipality posts and administrative institutions. Jobs in banks and hospitals are restricted. Funds and government programs are denied.
The people of Presheva Valley should be treated with the same reciprocity and balance of rights with the Serb minority within Kosovo. Why did the International community establish these agreements and not operate them fairly? Why are they objective? Why are there double standards and difference in they way that they are employed? What have we done to the international governing agencies to think of us so poorly and treat us so harshly? In Northern Kosovo, all the points of the Serbia-Kosovo agreement are followed, applied and executed with pressure from the International organization. Whilst in Serbia, the Serbian government buys land and houses from the poor Albanians and relocates Serbian citizens in order to dilute the statistics. They change municipality rules and border to minimize voting impacts. They bribe officials to stay restrained and keep them subdued. They entice young people to assimilate them. In order to get a job, you have to get inline with their terms and conditions. They corrupt the system. They create propaganda to create factions to divide the community. This is what the international organizations that are reconciling these negotiations are allowing.
I want to bring to attention a mis-informed international audience that “Greater Albania” is a ruseby which certain neighboring countries use to avoid dealing with the crimes of post Balkan Wars era. This has never been the official agenda of the Albanian or Kosovo governments. With this being said, I want to make clear what the intentions of this report, which are not politically motivated, but simply requiring the ear of the world to intervene and do what is right. The Albanian people have paid the price of inequality for the sake of Balkan stability. We must prove that the Albanian people are not the aggressors but the victims. This issue should not be seen as a nuisance by the international organizations but they should step up and serve accountability. These organizations need to hold certain Balkan countries responsible for not upholding the same minority rights as per EU standards.These organizations need to step up and show responsibility for keeping quiet for such a long time and make amends.
We constantly hear of Serbia’s claim that their reactions are acceptable because they were triggered. Do we accept these claims when a rapist explains that his actions where justifiable because his victims was dressed provocatively? Do we accept these claims when a drunk driver rationalizes that his crash was alcohol induced? Do we accept these claims when a murder defends his violent actions and blames them upon provocations from his victim? If NO, then why do we always consent to Serbia’s excuses???
Director of RSLP (Society of Presheva Valley Student Youth)
* Presheva Born Student Studying Political Science at the University of Tirana