by Fr. Sava Janjic
PRISTINA, CITY OF ETHNIC HATRED - THE SHAME OF UN/NATO MISSION
Out of more than 20.000 Serbs who lived in Pristina town before the war in 1999, only 200 Serbs remain in Kosovo's capital now. After a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing organized by members of the extremist ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army, in the presence of KFOR and UN Mission, dozens of Pristina Serbs were killed or abducted in the streets, hospitals, homes and schools, whereas others were forced to leave their homes and live as refugees in Central Serbia. Although all these crimes happened during the UN/NATO protectorate, international community still rejects any kind of responsibility for tolerating the campaign of ethnic cleansing and persecution. The remaining Pristina Serbs now mostly live in the YU Program block of apartments while 20 Serb children from Pristina travel daily under the KFOR escort to a neighboring Serb village to attend their classes in Serbian, because no one is capable of granting them freedom of movement and education in their own city.
Pristina is the only major city in Europe in which freedom depends on ethnic or religious background. This is not happening in a war, nor under a totalitarian regime of a Balkan nationalist leader, but in the very presence of more than 30.000 best armed NATO led troops and thousands of UN personnel. Three years after the war Serbs do not have a safe access to schools, University, hospitals and other institutions in any major Kosovo's city. Nevertheless, there are Serbs who dare walk in the streets defying pervading ethnic hatred and intolerance of the Albanian population. But these mostly young people are always careful to speak English in public. Many of them have false ID cards with international names which are still issued by some International organizations for which they work in order to save their life in this city of hatred.
International visitors who come to Pristina usually do not notice atmosphere of ethnic discrimination in the streets. They cannot know at the first glance that almost all smiling faces in shops, restaurants in the streets are Kosovo Albanian or international. For them the bustling Pristina life is an indicator of the mission's success. However, a more deeper look reveals that the city of hatred lives on quite different principles. The most difficult to understand is that many internationals slowly get used to this situation and do not do anything to change it to the better. On the other hand Kosovo Albanian intellectuals and political leaders turn the blind eye to this reality. While speaking of democracy and Europe in public, paying a lip service to the international media, in their everyday life they tolerate or even support the society based on ethnic discrimination and hatred. In the best case they do nothing to change it.
While in Serbia and Croatia during the totalitarian regimes of Milosevic and Tudjman many civil society groups and NGO's, students and young people bravely stood against the rule of terror in Pristina one cannot find a single individual or a group which would publicly raise the voice against the discrimination of Serbs and other non-Albanians. This is simply a taboo and a usual explanation is the fear although no one would dare name who they fear from. While Kosovo Albanian media daily satanize Serbs, which is regrettably tolerated by the UN Mission and OSCE as a standard of free press, the life of the remaining Serbs in Kosovo's capital is becoming more and more unbearable. Probably, Pristina will at the end be multiethnic indeed but only with Albanians and other internationals who came to Kosovo to help them build their "freedom".
Fr. Sava (Janjic)