Desperate Albanian mothers protesting for sons in Serbian prisons
For the second week Albanian women, mothers of hundreds of imprisoned Albanians in Serbia, are protesting daily to attract world attention and ask for the immediate release of their loved ones.
Riots in Serbian prisons sparked the protests after the life of Albanian prisoners became endangered. The riots began on 5 November after inmates started complaining about unsatisfactory living conditions.
Albanian women are asking the new Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica to declare an amnesty and free many of the Albanian prisoners. The women have already started a hunger strike and a sit-down protest in front of the theatre at Mother Teresa Street, Priština, not far from United Nations Mission In Kosovo (UNMIK) headquarters.
Last week the Yugoslav authorities released prominent Kosovo Albanian poet and human rights activist Flora Brovina. Koštunica said his decision marked the beginning of work on an amnesty law for all political prisoners in Serbia, including many of the remaining 800 Albanian inmates in Serb jails. Koštunica said the move was partly "to change the atmosphere" and try to resolve individual cases of human rights violations, including the hundreds of cases of missing Serbs in Kosovo.
On Thursday UNMIK head Bernard Kouchner spoke to the United Nations Security Council on the problem of prisoners and aimed to increase pressure on Belgrade to implement the amnesty. On Friday it was announced that Kouchner would be leaving his position in Kosovo.
During the week the protests have swept through the entire province. Localized demonstrations transformed into a regional demonstration centring on the capital Priština, halting everyday activity for some hours. Streams of people from around the province protested, shouting slogans and holding pictures of their imprisoned family members.
Albanians are very angry at the international community's immediate acceptance of Yugoslavia back to its ranks, while Belgrade has failed to show democratic signs through the release of Albanian political prisoners in Serb jails.
Kosovo assemblies sworn in
The winners of the 28 October municipal elections were formally sworn in on Saturday 11 November with ceremonies around Kosovo inaugurating the new Communal Councils.
Formal ceremonies were held in all towns and they were all characterized by the Albanians' last-minute request to have their national flag raised. In a few cases, some of the new local authority officials did not participate in the ceremonies because the flag was not there.
The elections aimed at reconstructing the Kosovar community through democratic procedures. By establishing a legitimate governing authority through free, fair and multiparty elections, international organizations have attempted to create conditions that would enable the provincial government of Kosovo to negotiate with the central government of Yugoslavia on an equal footing.
Elections were held for 30 municipal assemblies in Kosovo province. Voting took place at 1500 polling stations across the province, lasting from seven in the morning to seven at night. Each municipal assembly elects a municipal administrator to serve as chairman of the assembly; this person is equivalent to a prefectural governor or mayor in Japan. Each municipal assembly has between 17 and 51 seats.
The Democratic League of Kosovo, led by Dr Ibrahim Rugova, an advocate of Kosovar independence, along with every Albanian leader, won a majority in at least 21 of the 30 administrative district assemblies. The Serbs boycotted both the elections and the inauguration ceremonies.
By contrast, the Democratic Party of Kosovo, headed by Hashim Thaçi, former leader of the militant Kosovo Liberation Army, gained control of six western district assemblies.
Next spring general elections to elect the provincial parliament are expected.
The Western attempt to use democratic elections as a vehicle to begin efforts to resolve ethnic problems in Kosovo can be said to have been great success. Now it remains to be seen how LDK will run the province.
Two shot dead, one child found burned
Two Kosovo Albanians were shot dead and the corpse of an Ashkaeli gypsy child was found burned in separate incidents in the lawless Yugoslav province, UN police said last Monday.
On Thursday four Ashkaeli—three heads of family and a 16-year-old boy—were found riddled with bullets outside the homes they were trying to rebuild after returning to the village 17 months after the end of the Kosovo war.
Police believe ethnic Albanian extremists, who suspect Gypsies of having collaborated with Serb forces during the fighting, killed the Ashkaeli just two days after they returned home.
In a separate incident Ali Ibrahim Shala, a Kosovo Albanian woodcutter, was killed and a passenger in his car injured when it was ambushed on a road near Kosovo's border with Albania, police said.
In a third incident on Sunday 12 November, 34-year-old Nezir Delaveri was shot outside his house, in the western village of Stupelj, by an unidentified gunman armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle.
Llazar Semini, 16 November 2000
Llazar Semini is the Kosova Project Manager for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
- Archive of Kosovo news reviews
- Archive of articles on Kosovo in CER
- Browse through the CER eBookstore for electronic books
- Buy English-language books on Central Europe through CER
- Return to CER front page