Deadly riots in Kosova

It barely rates a headline these days, but things are sure looking good in the long aftermath of another US military adventure, eh? From the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, Feb. 12:

Hundreds gathered on Sunday, February 11, in the centre of Pristina to mourn the victims of the previous day’s demonstration against the UN peace plan that turned violent and ended in fatalities. Two people died and more than 80 were injured in clashes with the police.

Most of those who returned on Sunday lit candles in memory of the dead men, named as Arben Xheladini, 34, and Man Balaj, 30.

Some wept, not only from sorrow but as a result of the residue of the rounds of tear gas that police fired into the city’s principal Mother Theresa street.

Fatmir Rexhepi, Kosovo’s interior minister, condemned the protest on Saturday, saying the security situation in Kosovo had “worsened as a result”.

About 3,000 people responded to the call of a nationalist organisation called Vetevendosje (self-determination), to protest against the UN proposal on Kosovo’s final status.

They are angered by the terms of the deal, which they say offers too many concessions to the Serbian minority and to the government in Belgrade. Serbia strongly opposes independence for Kosovo, claiming it as an integral part of its own territory.

The Kosovo Police Service, KPS, supported by the Special Police Unit of the UN mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, used tear gas and rubber bullets when the protesters tried to break through police lines.

Albin Kurti, Vetevendosje’s leader, who was arrested later that day, claimed the protest had been non-violent in nature and condemned the police intervention as brutal and politically motivated.

The police have responded that they are obliged to protect public property and government buildings from potential assault.

Protests organised by Vetevendosje have turned violent before, although not on this scale. The last rally, on November 28, 2006, resulted in light damage to government buildings after protesters pelted windows with stones.

“We considered that the [government’s] property was endangered by the protesters and we took the necessary measures,” said Veton Elshani, the KPS spokesperson.

Behxhet Shala, of a local civil rights group, the Council for Defence of Human Rights and Freedom, described the police action as a “severe violation of human rights”.

“I have never seen such an amount of tear gas. Despite the fact that there was no violence from the protesters, the police was quite prepared to be violent,” he said.

The protest began peacefully on Saturday with marchers moving off from Vetevendosje’s headquarters towards the government and parliament buildings. Placards attacked the proposal for Kosovo drawn up by the UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari and the Kosovo negotiating team.

Other groups joined the core of protesters, including members of missing persons organisations, war veterans groups and people who wanted to protest against corruption.

Just before they reached government buildings, police stopped the crowd who stood there for several minutes, listening to speeches from the organisers. The clash began after Albin Kurti urged the crowd to continue the march to the parliament and government building despite the police blockade.

Police then opened fire with rounds of teargas and rubber bullets for about one hour, despite the fact that most of the protesters quickly ran away.

Dugagjin Gorani, a local political analyst who took part in the protest, said the police “started shooting at us indiscriminately; I felt like they made a terrorist out of all of us”.

But KPS spokesperson Elshani was unrepentant. “We had information that the protestors are going to be very radical and we have evidence that they threw two Molotov cocktails at the police,” he said.

The authorities were clearly taking no chances. Special police units from Romania, Ukraine, Poland and Italy deployed in support of KPS colleagues who are not equipped with rubber bullets. The two men died from rubber bullets hitting their faces and necks.

Kosovo’s political leaders expressed their condolences to their the families. Both the protest and its aftermath have divided the community. “They shouldn’t start protesting at all,” said one woman who watched the events from her balcony.

The Kosovo negotiating team also condemned the marchers. “The violent protest stimulated by Albin Kurti and Vetevendosje… is against Kosovo’s stability and general interests,” they said on Sunday.

But Alban Bokshi, a civil society activist, said the police strategy had been counterproductive. “In such situations the police should use a defensive strategy but instead they used an offensive one,” he said. “They fired over 200 rounds of gas in one hour.”

Dugagjin Gorani said such types of policing would only recruit more people to Vetevendosje. “I went just to see what would happen and came home ‘self-determined’,” he said.

Arben Xheladini will be buried at 16:00 on Monday, February 12, in Pristina cemetery and Man Balaj the next day.

See our last posts on the Balkans and the struggle in Kosova.

  1. Telling propaganda
    This appalling piece of propaganda tells volumes about why, despite the popular perception that the West came to the defense of the Kosovar Albanians, there is still no independent Kosova eight years later. From New York’s Jewish Week, Feb. 16 (emphasis added):

    Jews Still Islam’s Favorite Dupes

    by Julia Gorin

    It is somewhat pathetic that even after 9/11, and even after a nearly four-year trial at the Hague disproving “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” of Albanians in Kosovo (something the late reporter Daniel Pearl uncovered as early as 1999), the Jewish community still insists on being used to promote the agenda of the Albanian lobby that allied us with the Kosovo Liberation Army, which was trained by al Qaeda in 1999.

    As part of his PR push to see the West seal its 1999 blunder that resulted in the ethnic cleansing of Jews, Serbs and other non-Albanians from Kosovo—which is well on its way to being an ethnically and religiously pure state of Saudi-financed mosques—former Rep. Joe DioGuardi, an ethnic Albanian, reminds Jews of the lead they took “in pressing President [Bill] Clinton to bomb Serbia, because they instinctively understood the nature of genocide and were determined to keep it from being repeated.” (“Jewish Support For Kosovars Sought,” Dec. 29)

    The reason Jews took the lead in that misadventure is that Albanians hired PR firms to convince Jews that Kosovo was another “genocide,” just as the Bosnians and Croats had done.

    In 1993, the president of Ruder Finn Global Public Affairs, James Harff, gave a candid interview to French journalist Jacques Merlino, which was reprinted in Midstream magazine. In response to Merlino’s question, “What achievement were you most proud of,” Harff answered, “to have managed to move the Jewish opinion to our side. This was extremely delicate, as [Bosnian] President Izetbegovic strongly supported the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic state. Moreover, the Croatian and Bosnian past was marked by a real and cruel anti-Semitism. Tens of thousands of Jews perished in Croatian camps.

    “We outwitted three big Jewish organizations, the Anti-Defamation League, the [American] Jewish Committee, and the American Jewish Congress. We suggested to them to publish an advertisement in the New York Times and to organize demonstrations outside the U.N. This was a tremendous coup. When the Jewish organizations entered the game on the side of the (Muslim) Bosnians, we could promptly equate the Serbs with the Nazis in the public mind.”

    DioGuardi is asking the Jews to continue buying into this colossal hoax which will end in the establishment this year of a narco-terrorist mafia state in Europe. He wants us to believe that independence is “the only way to secure stability in the Balkans.” This is in fact a veiled threat. Kosovo Albanians have been using violence against NATO peacekeepers and the UN since 2000 as a means of persuading the international community that there is only one acceptable outcome to Kosovo’s final status: complete independence without border compromises.

    Stability is precisely what has suffered by our signing on to Muslim land grabs in the Balkans, which emboldened Albanian separatists in Macedonia, Montenegro and southern Serbia. An independent Kosovo will serve as a nod to secessionists around the the world. The Balkans have also given Islam its long-sought gateway into Europe, as the Kosovo connection to the terrorist attacks in Madrid and London demonstrates.

    Albanians argue that their fight for Kosovo is not an Islamic movement but a national one. (DioGuardi himself is Christian.) Palestinians, of course, make the same claim. But the big picture is the same: jihadists. If the international community is “backing away from prompt implementation of independence for Kosovo,” as DioGuardi observes, it isn’t “out of a misguided inclination to appease Serbia,” as he states. Rather than a state to be appeased, Serbia is still seen as a pariah. The new wariness about Kosovo independence is a result of both the terror connections and the daily attacks against the remaining non-Albanians.

    So the Albanians are once again turning to the well-meaning but gullible Jewish community. In its current leg of the PR campaign to get the Jews on board, the Albanian lobby is peddling the story that Albania was the only European country that didn’t turn over any Jews in WWII and saved 2,000 Jews during the German occupation of Albania. Indeed, on the eve of World War II there were 600 Jews in Albania, 400 of them refugees from elsewhere. Many historians believe “it was the Italian occupation of Albania that ‘rescued’ the Jews rather than the local population,” according to the Jewish Virtual Library.

    Once the Germans took over Albania and annexed Kosovo, Albanians volunteered to form an SS division that committed atrocities against Jews and Serbs.

    In more recent history, Albanians pushed the Jews out with the rest of the non-Albanians after NATO occupied Kosovo in 1999. (I profiled one such Jewish family for The Jerusalem Report in 1999.) Today, Albania and Kosovo are virtually free of Jews.

    One should view the ubiquitous “Nazi” analogies hurled at the Serbs—the designated villain of the Balkans—with great skepticism, considering they originated with Croatian former Nazis and their Bosnian and Albanian former allies. There’s a reason that unlike Europe’s other concentration camps, which were placed in remote areas, the Sajmiste camp was in clear view of Belgrade’s populace.

    “[T]hat was the intention, to intimidate other Serbs by showing them what was going on inside because Serbs were much more courageous in resisting the Fascists than other nations,” Aleksandar Mosic explains in his book The Jews in Belgrade. Note that it was Belgrade, not Tirana, that Hitler bombed.

    When the world—American Jewry included—sided with the Croats, Bosnians and Albanians against Serbs in the Balkan civil wars, Israel was a notable exception. But the PR blitz in support of “Kosovo” has done its work: Last week the Kosovo Democratic party chairman and ruthless KLA commander Hasim Thaci was received by Shimon Peres, and claims to have received assurances that Israel will support an independent Kosovo. If so, Israel is supporting a precedent for immediate Palestinian statehood.

    As a Jew who expects people to do their homework before taking a position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I became committed to doing my homework on the Balkans in 1999. It’s too bad that, eight years later, my fellow Jews still haven’t bothered.

    Julia Gorin serves on the advisory board of the American Council for Kosovo.