August 12, 1999
1. On the hill near the Serbian village of Drsnik in central Kosovo I counted smoke billowing from eight houses. Or at least I thought they were houses. Some proved to be haystacks. For Albanians taking revenge, even Serbian haystacks must now be burned.
In the northern town of Mitrovica I sat on a wall with Meli Uka, a pretty, twenty-two-year-old student. We sipped Coke as we watched a column of fleeing Serb families packed into cars and tractor-trailers. They looked no different from the Kosovars I had seen who had been expelled from Kosovo a few weeks earlier. Meli was smiling and said: "They wanted Albanians out and now this is our revenge. I am very happy about it and I never want them to come back. Now we are free."
Forty-five minutes later I saw the Serbian village of Samodreza on fire. Two Albanian brothers, Naim and Namun Bala, were watching it burn. The Serbs had left two hours earlier. "The Kosovo Liberation Army did it," they said. "These Serbs were our neighbors. We never had any problems with them. We grew up with them, played with them, and ate with them. But when the Serbian police came and burned our houses they turned their backs and said: 'Fuck you!'" Namun said: "There are twenty-eight of us in our family. We asked the KLA not to burn the houses because we could live in them, but still they went ahead and did it." Cars full of KLA fighters drove past waving happily and tooting their horns in triumph.
In the town of Vucitrn, Albanian families swarmed through the Serbian Orthodox priest's house. Mothers maneuvered sofas down stairs, children roamed about smashing religious pictures with hammers while others piled food, church candles, and anything else they could carry onto wheelbarrows. When they were done they moved to the church. A girl with a manic expression on her face smashed the windows. Women tugged on dark red velvet altar cloths and precious icons crashed to the floor. A man struggled to wrench the chandelier from the ceiling.
Outside two French soldiers from the Kosovo Force, KFOR, the newly arrived international peace force which has NATO at its core, looked on amiably. Up the road a Gypsy house was on fire. Albanians accuse many Gypsies of having "collaborated" with the Serbs. At that moment the local French commander drove past. According to the sticker on his jeep his regimental motto was "Avec le sourire." He said: "Our job is to reassure the population." I said it didn't look as if he was reassuring the few remaining Serbs. He replied, sans sourire: "The orders are to let them pillage." I said: "That's mad." He said: "Of course it's mad, but those are the orders, from NATO, from above."
As everywhere else in Kosovo, Serbs in Pristina, the provincial capital, live in terror. I rented a flat and soon Mileva, the Serbian woman from next door, came by. Almost whispering, she said: "What am I going to do? Someone's stuck an Albanian name on my door. It is a message that they want me out."
The next day British KFOR troops were rummaging through Flat 42 upstairs on the tenth floor. The neighbors reported that the Serb family who lived there, and whose two soldier sons had already left, were armed. It was true. Among other weapons the British confiscated a World War II- era machine gun which can fire up to seven hundred rounds a minute. My guess is that that family are by now long gone.
The following day three Serbs, an economics teacher, a porter, and a canteen worker, were murdered at the university. British troops played cat and mouse in a shopping center trying to control the looting. Whenever they left, the looters came back. There are still no police in Kosovo.
The NATO-led KFOR has got off to a rocky start. The Yugoslav army and the Serbian police fulfilled their side of the agreement made at Kumanovo on June 9 and pulled out of Kosovo on schedule. What KFOR is finding hard, even impossible, to cope with is the overwhelming popular desire for ven- geance among the Kosovars driven out and persecuted by the Serbs during NATO's bombing campaign.
Their anger is easy to understand. Wherever you go Albanian villagers will show you graves. Thirty-seven killed by the Serbian police or paramilitaries here, a family there (baby bottles and children's boots left where they were killed)... The final total of innocent civilians murdered during the two and a half months of NATO's bombing campaign, which began on March 24, will certainly be in the thousands. In the June 10 issue of The New York Review I reported that refugees arriving in Albania on April 27 told me that Serbian security forces had, a few hours earlier at a place called Meje, hauled off as many as two hundred men from a convoy of people being expelled from their villages. Later they were seen dead in a field.
I found the field. Glasses, watches, tobacco tins, and bone fragments littered the site. The earth was stained with dark crusty patches which locals said was blood. A putrefying corpse lay in a hedge. A leg lay by the side of the field. Villagers said that after the massacre all the other bodies had been taken away but they did not know where or how they were disposed of.
A great evil was done here, in Meje and across the rest of Kosovo. Still, there can be no escaping the fact that evil is being repaid in kind. Thus far, NATO has been unable or unwilling to prevent ethnic cleansing in reverse. Sometimes revenge is being exacted by KLA men, but much of it is spontaneous. A car for a car, a house for a house, a life for a life.
As of June 28, that is, sixteen days after the NATO-led force arrived, 340,000 Kosovars were reported to have returned from the refugee camps of Albania and Macedonia. Tens of thousands had also returned home from the hills and forests.
Kosovars are resourceful people with strong extended family networks. Where houses are burned, some are making do in one or two cleaned-up rooms until the rest are made habitable again. Others are staying with relatives in houses that are still intact. Many are bringing home the tents they lived in in the refugee camps and are sleeping in them in the garden while they rebuild their houses. In towns, of course, others are also moving into Serb houses or buying them at rock- bottom prices.
By the same token, also by June 28, more than 70,000 Serbs had left after the NATO-led force arrived. Since as many as 30,000 Serbs are thought to have fled to Serbia proper during the period of the NATO bombing, people I spoke to in Belgrade believed that as few as 25,000 Serbs remained in Kosovo. Yugoslavia is also home to some 600,000 Serb refugees from Croatia and Bosnia.
On June 28, 1989, Slobodan Milosevic, who had recently taken over as president of Serbia, commemorated the six-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, at which, legend has it, the Serbs lost to the Turks. Then there were more than 200,000 Serbs in Kosovo. At the site of the battlefield he told the assembled throng of one million people: "Six centuries later, again we are in battles and quarrels. They are not armed battles, though such things should not be excluded yet." Since then Milosevic has led the Serbs into defeat after defeat.
Bones of some of the knights who died at that battle lie in the Serbian Orthodox monastery of Visoki Decani, a twenty-minute drive south from Pec. In 1941 Albanian fascists wanted to burn it down but Mussolini's regular Italian troops prevented them. Today, the Italians are back. In the late afternoon, black-robed monks venture out to serve Turkish coffee to the soldiers, who sport designer sunglasses and lounge on top of the Leopard tank that stands guard outside Decani's great wooden doors.
The monks here have waged a long campaign against Slobodan Milosevic, who they believed was ruining any chances the Serbs had of coexistence with Albanians. Their leader is Bishop Artemije, who, in the spring of last year, predicted what has now come to pass. He said then: "The chances of a dialogue have been missed. What remains is what the gentlemen in Belgrade have chosenthe loss of Kosovo, just like the Krajina, in war." Krajina was the self-proclaimed Serb state in Croatia. When it fell in August 1995, the Croats cleansed its entire population of some 200,000 Serbs. According to the UNHCR only about 3,000 have returned.
Bishop Artemije's right-hand man is the urbane Father Sava, often dubbed the cybermonk for his deft use of the Internet and e-mail to spread the monastery's message of peace and reconciliation. (At the moment they are cut off. There is no phone line.) He says that, for the Serbs, Kosovo now has the same destiny "as Asia Minor, once full of wonderful Christian sites and now all ruins and ash. Or Constantinople, now a Muslim city. Or Palestine, which once had flourishing Christian communities."
He is undoubtedly right. In a month or two KFOR, by then up to full strength with 55,000 men, may be able to protect Serbs. But by then not many of them will have remained and, as in Croatia, few will be willing or able to return. So with Kosovo (and its Albanian population of up to 1.8 million) now lost to the Serbs, both it and Serbia will paradoxically become model European nation-states. That is to say, countries which are basically monoethnic with small minority groups rather than multiethnic ones.
Sergio Vieira de Mello was the interim head of the United Nations administration of Kosovo until July 15, when Bernard Kouchner, the well-known French health official and founder of Medecins Sans Frontieres, took over. The elegant Brazilian told me: "If we let ourselves be discouraged by the early signs and by intolerance, I don't think we'll succeed."
Kosovo is a tiny place, about the size of greater Los Angeles. It also has a small populationno more than two million before the war. Still, such statistics mask the enormity of the job that the UN now has to do. Since the Serbian administration here has simply evaporated, the UN must hurry to set up its own structures. The situation it finds itself in is, however, unprecedented. While Security Council Resolution 1244 of June 10 reaffirms the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yugoslaviaof which Kosovo is of course a partit also calls for the UN to organize "provisional institutions" and move toward elections in Kosovo.
The contradictions in all of this are immediately obvious. The UN is to run part of a country whose status under international law is unclear. Who, for example, will collect customs and taxes, and where will that income go? What law will apply? Who will issue passports? Will Yugoslav currency still be legal tender? (The German mark and Albanian lek are already pushing out the Yugoslav dinar.) "The sovereignty question is very delicate," says Mr. Vieira de Mello, adding, "There are a thousand questions; we have thought of them all and we are trying to find answers. However, when we relate the present status of Kosovo to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslaviasometimes the two are not compatible."
Despite Mr. Vieira de Mello's diplomatic caution it is clear that a vision of the future is beginning to emerge. The UN will run Kosovo, subcontracting various parts of the administration to the EU and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Vienna-based group concerned with regional security. The former will be in charge of reconstruction; the latter will help recruit a new police force. Yugoslav law, stripped, he says, of certain "repressive" measures, is to be applied. A UN customs and tax regime will be set up and funds raised will help pay for the administration. The international administration will organize and consult with committees of Albanians and Serbs. Although these voices will be listened to, the administration will have the last word.
The UN resolution talks of elections, but there is no political settlement for Kosovo, as February's Rambouillet accord would have been if the Serbs had accepted it. One still has to be worked out. But since Kosovo is still part of Yugoslavia and since the "international community" agrees that Kosovo cannot become independent, shouldn't the government in Belgrade have a say about this part of its country? Or, in fact, is everyone just playing lip service to the question of sovereignty? I asked Robin Cook, the British foreign secretary, on his visit to Pristina, if the Serbian authorities would be entitled to a say on any final agreement for Kosovo. He said: "Belgrade will not have a veto on it.... For the long term that depends on the democratization of Serbia."
Statements like these enrage the authorities in Belgrade. Milisav Pajic, the Yugoslav assistant deputy foreign minister, whom I saw there, says that since Kosovo remains part of his country, "that implies a role for Yugoslavia in any discussions." And, as for Mr. Cook's visit to Pristina, Mr. Pajic notes that since the British foreign secretary had not asked permission from Belgrade to go to Kosovo, this proved, once again, the British (and American) "neo-colonial approach to the region. This disrespect for a sovereign country drives us crazy!" But whether Mr. Pajic's government can translate its anger into political pressure seems doubtful. The governments of Britain, the US, and other countries have said clearly that Yugoslavia will remain isolated as long as Mr. Milosevic remains in power.
There is only one bar open in Pristina. It is called Tricky Dick's. Phil Smucker, an American who co-owns it, says it was named in honor of Richard Holbrooke, who tried to forestall the disaster that eventually engulfed Kosovo. Anyone who is anyone in Pristina (so long as he is not a Serb) comes here now. I watched a diplomat I know propel Hashim Thaci, the leader of the KLA, into Tricky Dick's. Later the diplomat outlined the Western strategy.
"The KLA have a shock coming to them," he said, "because contrary to their expectations, they will not be running Kosovothe UN administration will." He told me that he and his colleagues were working hard on a plan to detach the thirty-year-old Thaci, along with the KLA's other political and military leaders, from the top of the guerrilla organization, whose job was done and which now had no role to play. The idea, the diplomat said, is that Mr. Thaci and his friends should now move into civilian politics by forming a party that could then claim the mantle of the KLA. When the time came for elections this party would be well primed to take over.
In fact the jockeying for future power has already started. Bardhyl Mahmuti, one of the formerly Swiss-based emigre founders of the KLA, has begun a new political party, taking with him some KLA leaders. However Thaci has not so far joined him and could emerge to head a rival group. Since all but a small number of ordinary fighters now want to go home, find work, and rebuild their burned houses, the NATO strategists do not expect major military problems from the KLA. Any middle-level commander who refuses to comply with orders to disarm will either be seduced into joining a new police force or will be arrested by KFOR.
But are people like Mr. Thaci suitable candidates for coddling by Western diplomats and politicians? All sorts of charges have been leveled against the KLA. These include accusations that they are drug smugglers and, recently, that they have executed political opponents and dissenters. Certainly the KLA has taken money from the Kosovo Albanian mafia but this does not make the KLA, per se, a drug-smuggling organization. Besides, whatever outsiders may think and say, most Kosovo Albanians see it as their liberation army.
Recent accusations that Mr. Thaci or elements of the KLA leadership may have ordered the execution of opponents are almost impossible to substantiateKLA leaders deny thembut in a few cases they are more than probably true. The question then arises whether that means the West should not do business with them. As a matter of Realpolitik that would be unfeasible since they are clearly a strong power in Kosovo, and overwhelmingly popular among its Albanians. Brutal though it is, another question arises. If the accusations are true, so what? A guerrilla organization fighting against a vastly superior powerwhich certainly penetrated its ranks with infiltratorsthat did not eliminate people would be a historical first.
While the Western nations have to deal with the KLA, simply because it is thereand it is powerfulwhat about ordinary Kosovars? Whatever they may say now, during these euphoric days, they may well have their private reservations about politicians who have emerged not by way of the ballot box but thanks to a brutal armed struggle. Still, sooner or later, they will have a chance to make their choice in what will be internationally supervised elections, closely scrutinized for fairness.
Unless things change in the next few months and years, there may be less choice than people might like. From 1989 until the emergence of the KLA as a serious force last year, the overwhelming majority of Kosovars supported Ibrahim Rugova, president of the self-proclaimed (and nonexistent) Republic of Kosova. Mr. Rugova consistently argued in favor of independence but cautioned that it had to be achieved through peaceful means in order to avoid death and destruction on a huge scale. Laudable though Mr. Rugova's methods were, the problem was that they achieved nothing.
Clearly the uprising led by the KLA eventually provoked precisely the death and destruction that Mr. Rugova warned against. Still, to judge by the rapturous reception Mr. Thaci gets when he walks through the streets of Pristina, it seems obvious that most Kosovars think the outcome so far was worth it. The ones I talked to said they believe that the sacrifices of those killed, and the damage and the displacement they themselves suffered, will have been justified if they achieve the end they have long hoped forindependence. Since nobody here, or in Serbia for that matter, believes that Serbian rule will ever return to Kosovo, most Kosovars are now convinced, probably rightly, that independence is simply a matter of waiting a few more years.
The next problem is Mr. Rugova's credibility. First it was undermined by the KLA and then by his meeting with Mr. Milosevic, under duress, during the bombing. Until recently he had much residual support; but this may have been further weakened by his delaying his return to Kosovo until July 15.
As if all this were not enough Mr. Rugova's once monolithic and powerful Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) is in ruins. And the chances for its reclaiming its lost strength seem weak. Not least among the reasons for this is that Fehmi Agani, its most respected political strategist, was murdered during the war. According to the Serbs he was killed by the KLA; according to his family he was killed by the Serbian police. Veton Surroi, both a politician and editor of the influential daily Koha Ditore, sums up the LDK's predicament this way. "The LDK was a dinosaur with a very big body and a very small brain, and that was concentrated in the very great mind of Fehmi Agani."
Surroi's analysis of the political situation among the Kosovo Albanians is succinct and convincing. He says that the LDK is now a party without leadership. The small party led by Rexhep Qosija which is allied to the KLA is "a leadership without a party" and the KLA is "disintegrating militarily" into "many splinters." Still, he is optimistic that new forces, or new political alliances, will emerge and that the job of the international community will be far easier in Kosovo than in Bosnia. Unlike in Bosnia, he says, "here there is a much higher degree of identification with the idea of Kosovo. The idea of Bosnia as a state is a NATO idea. Here you have a people who were not free but have always felt that this place is theirs."
The thirty-eight-year-old Surroi decided to stay in Kosovo during the bombing. Many suggested that he did so because, if he lived, he could then make a pitch for the leadership of Kosovo's Albanians. When I walked down the street with him, people constantly came up to greet and hug him. His reception was not quite that of the conquering hero, which was reserved for Mr. Thaci. But Kosovo's political scene is in turmoil and Mr. Surroi could still put himself forward as a political leader. Would he do so? "If it was clear that what I would be doing would be right, I might consider it," he says coyly.
In fact Mr. Surroi has been considering what new position he might have. As one diplomat pointed out, "If it was up to foreign diplomats and liberal intellectuals in Pristina then Veton would win any contest hands down." The problem, as Mr. Surroi has probably rightly assessed it, is that in any forthcoming elections Mr. Thaci is going to wear the mantle of the KLA and win the popular vote, particularly in the rural areas. Still Mr. Surroi, who smokes a pipe and exudes the unusual (for here) image of an American college professor, will without doubt have an immensely important part in the future. He is positioning himself to be a behind-the-scenes power broker, using Koha Ditore and perhaps new ventures in radio and television to exercise that power. He also seems likely to become the de facto foreign minister of the Kosovo Albanians.
Bishop Artemije is clear about who is at fault. Still living in Kosovo, he says that the main responsibility for everything that has happened there must lie with Slobodan Milosevic. The KLA must share some of the blame, he argued in a press conference on June 28, but "Milosevic's policy is the reason for all the evil that has been inflicted on Kosovo Albanians and also Serbs...." He is also clear about another point. So far as broad accusations against the Serbs themselves are concerned, "There is no collective guilt or collective crime."
In Belgrade, Milan St. Protic, a historian who has written extensively about ethnic cleansing and migrations in Balkan history, is now a political activist with the new Alliance for Change coalition, which has been trying to build up opposition to Milosevic throughout Serbia. He, too, has begun to open up the debate about responsibility. "We want to send the message that it wasn't this nation that was committing those atrocities and crimes but this government. It wasn't this people who were doing them but the repressive dictatorial regime of Slobodan Milosevic. As absolute ruler he should face absolute responsibility."
Zarko Korac, a professor of psychology at Belgrade University and a well-known liberal commentator, has long held the view that, in the post-Milosevic world, Serbia will not be like postwar Germany, but will be like postwar Austria. That is to say, Milosevic will be made the scapegoat for all the evil that was done in the name of the Serbs; and the Serbs will then claim that they were his firstand ultimately greatestvictims, since more Serbs ended up being driven from their homes than people from any other former Yugoslav nation.
"Of course," Professor Korac argues, "the debate has to start"; but he believes that it cannot make much progress under present circumstances because the press and television are still restrained and fearful. Until Mr. Milosevic has gone, editors are unlikely and unwilling to show the Serbs the full extent of the carnage committed in their name. Natasa Kandic, the director of the human rights organization the Humanitarian Law Fund based in Belgrade, described to me how press restrictions during the last few months have encouraged Serbs to think of themselves as victims twice over. First NATO bombed them and now they see the Serbian exodus from Kosovo apparently presided over by NATO.
Until new media laws were passed last year, Ms. Kandic argues, things were quite different in Serbia. A small number of independent magazines and newspapers accurately described Serbian abuses in Kosovo and the displacement of many thousands from their homes. Their reports were supplemented by Serbian-language broadcasts of the BBC and other foreign programs by local radio stations. The new media laws banned such broadcasts. Whether the majority of Serbs actually wanted to know what was happening in Kosovo is another question. However, once the new laws were passed, Ms. Kandic said, editors "stopped publishing stories about atrocities. They only published stories about negotiations, talks with foreign governments, and about terrorists." In Kosovo virtually every family has satellite television, which transmits programs from Albania and many other countries. In Serbia proper, far fewer people have satellite TV, and thus their access to news from outside is far more limited.
Days after the bombing began, Slavko Curuvija, a member of Milosevic's inner circle who had defected to become an opposition newspaper editor, was murdered, apparently by professional assassins. Among intellectuals and other people who shape public opinion, panic set in. Anyone who was associated with the opposition or foreigners feared arrest or worse. Some who had worked with foreigners were bundled into cars by the secret police, who said they were hunting for spies. They were subjected to harsh grillings but then subsequently released.
For the authorities in Belgrade the question of responsibility is simple. Milisav Pajic says that the indictment of Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes by the Hague Tribunal during the bombing was "widely ridiculed here." It was part of "an attempt to make the victims guilty. Those who committed crimes are saying who is guilty." The victims, in this case, are the Serbs, and the criminals are NATO countries, primarily Britain and the US. Mr. Pajic says NATO bombs killed some 1,500 civilians and about 500 soldiers and policemen. (His claims about civilian casualties roughly correspond to estimates by NATO sources.)
As a debate in the West begins on the subject of the collective responsibility of the Serbs, it is vitally important to keep the setting in mind, and to ask what you would have done if you had lived in Serbia. It is also important not to have a double standard. There is a very thin line between flight and cleansing. Many Kosovo Albanians fled Kosovo during those awful months of Serbian attackssome without waiting to be ordered out at gunpointand we are right to say they were cleansed. But the entire debate risks being debased if the flight of the Kosovo Serbs is passed over in silence or rationalized as something different. The essence of the matter in Kosovo was, and is, simple. Us or them. Serbs or Albaniansbut not fellow citizens.
If you did not pass the ruined ministries and police buildings hit by NATO bombs, you might easily believe that nothing had happened in Belgrade. Shops and cafes are full, people friendly, everything looks normal. It is not. Serbia has become Europe's black hole, more isolated than ever and, as far as most people are concerned, the outlook has never been so utterly hopeless.
It would be wrong to try to characterize the views of Serbs as homogeneous. They are not. Many direct all their bitterness at NATO. "Everything is NATO's fault," a friend told me. "Milosevic is the American man. He does whatever Bill tells him to do. Now he has sold Kosovo, the soul of the nation, so I, and all my friends, are leaving. We don't want to be American slaves." Mad though it sounds to a Westerner, a great many Serbs hold this view.
Others are less sure. On June 27, a part of the Serbian opposition held its first postwar anti-Milosevic rally in the provincial town of Cacak. There were some 7,000 people presentnot a very large crowd but still a significant one. Igor, aged eighteen, told me: "Milosevic lost three wars and I will not see many of my friends again." Pointing to printed announcements of the names of soldiers killed in Kosovo, he said: "You can see their faces on the trees." He wants to leave too. "My mother spent two hours waiting in line to buy a kilo of sugar this morning," he said. Over the loudspeakers came the booming voice of Milan St. Protic: "Milosevic has lost everything and shamed us before the world."
During the war it became a commonplace to say that NATO bombs had solidified Serbian support behind Mr. Milosevic. Whether that was true or not is open to question. The bombing strengthened support for the defense of the country. Now that the war is over the opinion polls show that Milosevic's popularity has slipped to an all-time low, hovering at about 20 percent. Still, support for individual opposition leaders is even lower, and they have now resumed their favorite pastime of bickering among themselves instead of concentrating their energies against Mr. Milosevic.
What this could mean is that, with many people bitter and now associating democracy and Western values with bombs and cruise missiles,nothing will change, or, worse, that the power of the extreme nationalist Vojislav Seselj will grow. Since most Western leaders say that Serbia cannot be reintegrated into the rest of Europe while Mr. Milosevic remains in power, the country may well remain a black hole for years to come.
Still, there are those who argue that sooner rather than later things will change. The historian Aleksa Djilas argues: "This must be the beginning of the end. People will want him to go when the Himalayan proportions of our defeat become clear. It will sink in when people realize the level of the destruction of the economy." Mr. Djilas is careful to point out that, unlike others, he has never before predicted that Mr. Milosevic would fall. Now he is convinced that his end is near.
Predrag Simic, a political analyst now close to the Serbian Renewal Movementthe party led by Vuk Draskovic, who was sacked as Yugoslav deputy prime minister during the waralso thinks that Mr. Milosevic cannot survive. But like everyone else he does not know how he will go. "It will not be the Ceausescu scenario since, despite the bombings, things here are still not as bad as they were in Romania. But it will not be a velvet revolution either." As if to confirm this view, Mr. Draskovic announced on July 14 that he was planning anti-Milosevic demonstrations.
Mr. Simic talked of obscure machinations within Milosevic's own Socialist Party which may eventually threaten Milosevic's power. He also outlined the so-called Kurt Waldheim scenario. This envisages the opposition gaining strength if Western countries make good their promise to give aid to towns like Cacak that oppose Milosevic. If that happens, a coalition of opposition forces in Serbia could link up with the anti-Milosevic forces of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic. Together they might be able to muster enough strength to take over the Yugoslav federal government. They would then leave Milosevic ignored and isolated, just as Kurt Waldheim was in Austria after the revelations about his Nazi past.
The Waldheim scenario has obvious advantages in that it might allow Yugoslavia to be reintegrated into the world while avoiding unpopular choices about what to do with Milosevic. The trouble is that it may well be little more than wishful thinking. Zarko Korac, who also does not believe that Milosevic can survive politically, is skeptical. Authoritarian personalities don't just fade away, he argues. "I cannot see him as a pensioner walking his grandchildren in the park," he says.
And who knows? The country is volatile, especially people in the provinces who believe that more of their men were sent to fight an ultimately useless war than were sent from Belgrade. Opposition activists, including Zoran Djindjic, leader of the Democratic Party, who on July 5 returned from his self-imposed wartime exile, pin their hopes on provincial opposition spreading across the country this summer. He had been joined by such men as Vuk Obradovic, once Yugoslavia's youngest general, who resigned his commission in 1992 after he was unable to keep his promise to bring home conscripts from Sarajevo early in the siege there. And recent reports of continuing protests suggest their hopes may not be unfounded.
As for officials like Mr. Pajic, they simply dismiss calls for Mr. Milosevic to go as "unrealistic." He says: "No one serious here blames the Yugoslav leadership for what has happened." He for one does not believe that Yugoslavia will remain isolated. While Britain and the US maintain their "arrogant," "disgusting," and "hypocritical" positions, many other nations, he suggests, including Austria, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries, are being much more "flexible." And the reason for that is that they do not wish to miss out on important trade and reconstruction contracts. "I'm not so sure that Britain and the US can block these things," he says. If he is right Mr. Milosevic might well be able to shore up his position.
If the next few weeks and months are unpredictable, then so, by definition, are the next few decades. While the Serbs stream out of Kosovo, just as they did from Croatia and western Bosnia in 1995, some may be tempted to think that a victory for ethnic cleansing, however brutal it may be in the short term, will at least secure peace in the long term. Others are not sure.
Paraphrasing Stendhal, Aleksa Djilas says, "The possibility of revenge increases the desire." So while today Albanians take their revenge, the day may yet come when Serbs can take theirs. The way the Serbs have lost Kosovo means that for years to come the Serbs will have no chance to get it back. How could they do so while it is controlled by 55,000 NATO and other troops? But what will happen in ten or twenty years? Just over a decade ago no one could have predicted the shape of the world as it is today. What if, in twenty or thirty years, America is locked in isolationism, Russia rearmed and strong, and Europe weak and divided? He says that the spirit of revanchism may grow. "Of course," Djilas adds, "I would not support such a thing, but Serbs are not exactly a 'forgive and forget' nation. If they have remembered the 1389 defeat for 610 years, why not this one?"
Mr. Djilas may well be right. In the short term, though, as Duska Anastasijevic, who works for the Belgrade magazine Vreme, says, things might look a little better if "Serbia found its Adenauer and Kosovo its Mandela." They are both so far from achieving this that it would be foolish to be optimistic about the future of either place.
October 9, 1999
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia -- The door cracks open, releasing a waft of stale air, and the old woman peers suspiciously into the dark stairwell. As one of a vanishing breed - a Serb in Pristina - her caution is well-founded.
Milanka Todorovic no longer ventures outside. The last time she did was last month, only to be beaten by a young ethnic Albanian who chased her back up a flight of stairs into her apartment and stole her front door keys and money.
She worries that another trip out might be her last - that she could come back to find her apartment occupied by her assailant or other Albanian squatters from the countryside, such as those who moved into some Serb flats in her crumbling prefab high-rise when the owners fled.
"All my neighbors here were Serbs," she says, tears welling in her eyes. "Now, they are all Albanians - all strangers. We don't exchange greetings, and I am afraid."
Old, feeble and alone, Todorovic is in many ways typical of the Serbs left in Pristina more than three months after the Serb forces they viewed as security against the ethnic Albanian majority pulled out and NATO troops moved in.
In times of peace, about 20 percent of Pristina's 200,000-plus residents were Serb. Grim-faced Serb police were everywhere, and the victims of repression were the Albanians. Now, according to various estimates, only 400 to 3,000 Serbs remain in Kosovo's provincial capital. Most of the others have fled, victims of revenge - feared or fact - from ethnic Albanians.
Many Serbs were able to sell their homes before pulling up stakes. But some just left, leaving behind what they couldn't carry, and their apartments were occupied by ethnic Albanians.
Serbs like Todorovic who don't venture out, or can't because of ailments, survive on handouts brought to their door. The U.S.-based Adventist Development and Relief Agency delivers food to about 25 Serb homes each day.
Relief worker Darlene Ward says about 20 percent of the people her group helps are physically able to leave their homes for food pickups but won't because they fear for their safety.
"They feel they don't have the freedom to go to the local market," Ward says. "Even if some market owners are willing to serve them, they could get harassed by others there. The moment they open their mouths it's quite clear they're Serb, because they don't speak Albanian."
Fernando Herrera of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees agency says Serbs are subject to "consistent incidents of harassment."
"As of late it's been more break-ins, verbal threats, youths throwing stones at windows, but you also have incidents of elderly persons being beaten," he says.
Killings of Serbs are becoming less frequent, perhaps, Herrera says, because NATO soldiers now know the territory and respond more quickly to emergencies. Still, Serbs continue to flee.
"We will often go to an address where Serbs have asked for deliveries and not find anyone there," Ward says. "About five families a week leave."
The group's food deliveries used to be made from a large truck, but Ward says it switched to vans after hostile ethnic Albanian crowds berated workers for helping Serbs.
Even kids are hateful, she says.
"I had a case of an 8-year-old boy asking me, 'Why are you taking food to her? She's a Serb.' I told him the woman was old, and he replied, 'It doesn't matter; she's Serb.'"
So Todorovic stays inside her one-bedroom flat, windows shut tight, front door barricaded, passing each day from a worn couch she rarely leaves.
She opens the door only for the charity workers - and only after they press their two-way radios against her door to let her hear the crackle of English as proof of who they are.
Canned goods, detergent, toothpaste, pasta - the goods are crucial for survival, but field worker Leonora Mucaj's presence seems just as important to Todorovic.
Though an ethnic Albanian, the relief worker radiates reassurance. Speaking in perfect Serbian, she comforts the woman, squeezing her shoulder before leaving. As she closes her door, Todorovic smiles - through tears.
At the van's next stop, Smilja and Slobodan Deljanin sit in a living room packed with boxes and crates. They are leaving this week for Belgrade, the Yugoslav capital, after selling their one-bedroom flat to an ethnic Albanian for the equivalent of $25,000 - below what used to be market value.
Serving up strong black coffee with a chaser of home-brewed liquor as a visitor looks at a photo album of weddings, family reunions and other mementos of better times, Smilja, 53, says she is afraid to go out.
"I went to a store only 100 meters away, and people threw rocks at us," she says. "We are now the only Serbs here. The others are Albanians, from who knows where."
A friend, Milanka Jankovic, drops in to say hello. "We're leaving in four or five days for Belgrade," she says when asked about her family's plans for the future.
A few minutes' drive away, Radmila and Nikola Simic emerge from a gateleading into a leafy garden, smiling and hugging Mucaj as they take possession of their food ration. They say they're staying.
"There are incidents - Albanians knocking on the doors of Serb apartments and telling the owners to leave," concedes Nikola, 68. "But my home is Kosovo. I'd rather be killed in Pristina than move elsewhere."
Copyright 1999 The
Sunday, September 12, 1999
As Serbs in Kosovo face continuing intimidation and revenge attacks, the province's Serbian leaders have asked the United Nations to create safe havens to protect them. Based on my own experience in Kosovo before the war, where I researched its ethnically divided schools, I can't help but think that--paradoxical as it may sound--such ethnic segregation may be the only way to preserve what remains of Kosovo's multiethnicity.
Most of Kosovo's Serbs (the prewar population was 200,000) have fled the province since peacekeepers began arriving June 12; the leaders of the remaining Serbs have endorsed the safe-haven idea, which was proposed by Momcilo Trajkovic, the local Serb representative to the U.N.'s Transitional Council, Kosovo's multiethnic consultative body, late last month.
Obviously, safe havens do not promote multiculturalism. But "multiculturalism" is a recent Western concept that never stood much of a chance in Kosovo, where NATO's 78-day bombing campaign forced the end of Yugoslavia's 18-month crackdown on ethnic Albanians. Before the war, the province was multiethnic, but it was hardly multicultural. The Albanian majority and the Serb, Turkish, Muslim Slav and Roma minorities never mixed to create the Western-style cultural "salad bowl." Instead, the Albanians and the Serbs, Kosovo's biggest minority, lived parallel existences as each group sought to dominate the province.
Indeed, voluntary ethnic separation was a feature of life in Kosovo long before the province plunged into crisis in the late 1980s. It was already the pattern by the early 1960s. Twenty years later, ethnically mixed settlements were rare. Segregation was institutionalized after Serbia abolished the province's autonomy in 1989. Serbs expelled Albanians--who made up 90 percent of Kosovo's population--from the province's political, economic, social, educational and cultural institutions. In response, the Albanians built their own separate but unequal society.
This separation initially staved off conflict, but in the longer term it helped make the eventual war more savage. The Albanians' exclusion from power in all fields fueled their determination to achieve independence from Serbia. After 1989, even informal contact across ethnic lines was rare. Inter-ethnic marriage prompted exclusion from the Albanian community. The children of such unions often deny the roots of one parent, preferring to identify with one people or the other.
I am half Serbian and half Slovak--born in Bratislava, Slovakia, and raised in Belgrade. So it's easy for me to understand the complexities of mixed identity, and the very real ways in which it can affect everyday life.
In the fall of 1997, I went to live in Pristina, Kosovo's capital, for a year to do research. I will never forget my first dinner at a tiny, smoke-filled restaurant there, not so much for the meal's Albanian specialities, but for the Serbian police raid that interrupted it. Policemen with machine guns collected our ID cards. My Albanian friends were interrogated, harassed and threatened. This, they explained to me, was routine. But my Belgrade ID shocked the police. What was I, a Serb, doing in an Albanian restaurant with a bag full of Albanian newspapers? At that point, I was truly scared. The police left me alone, but they taught me an important lesson: The inter-ethnic line is not crossed in Kosovo, or, at least, not usually. I had experienced the random harassment, though admittedly not the brutality, that was part and parcel of Albanians' lives in Serb-ruled Kosovo.
Unlike the vast majority of people of Kosovo, I continued to cross the ethnic line--exploiting my own mixed ethnicity. My research focused on the Albanians' "parallel" schooling--in homes, cellars, garages--and so I had a largely Albanian experience. But I played up my Serbian background in rare contacts with Serbs. Alternately, I accented my Slovak identity among Albanians. This was a must outside my circle of Albanian friends, who had the ability and courage to look beyond ethnicity. My situation was paradoxical: I befriended one Serbian couple, but, despite my heritage, my visits with them always gave me the uneasy feeling I was doing something wrong, so strong was the taboo on crossing ethnic lines.
Ethnic mixing brought only insecurity. The other tenants in my apartment building were both Serbs and Albanians--a remnant of the communist policy of encouraging "brotherhood and unity." Yet the mistrust was so strong that not a single neighbor ever greeted me. To say "hello" in the wrong language was too dangerous.
Since the war, the remaining small pockets of Serbs are increasingly at risk--and difficult to protect. Isolated Serbian hamlets provide a target for ethnic Albanians who want revenge for the Serbian violence and ethnic cleansing last spring. In the rare mixed areas where Serbs still live interspersed among Albanians, peacekeepers have tried to protect Serbs by registering Serbian houses and identifying them with stickers to help the NATO-led forces protect them. However, in the absence of a 24-hour guard on each dwelling, this strategy may prove counterproductive. By contrast, Serbs in the town of Kosovska Mitrovica, which is divided by the Ibar River into ethnic areas, feel more secure precisely because they live among other Serbs. It is that division between the Serbian and the Albanian parts of the town that has made Kosovska Mitrovica a place where many Serbs have remained.
As non-Albanians--Serbs, Roma and even Muslim Slavs--continue to leave Kosovo, might the establishment of safe havens, or cantons, for Kosovo's Serbs serve not as a prelude to permanent division but as a way to give remaining Serbs a minimum of dignity? In short, can such purposeful ethnic separation preserve what remains of the province's multiethnicity?
Unlike the separation in the 1990s that stripped Albanians of dignity, division now could help restore dignity. For Serbs it could be lifesaving; for Albanians it could be a means of maintaining international sympathy. If, on the other hand, the Albanians drive out all Serbs and are left with an ethnically pure state, that will surely draw comparisons to the Serbian goal of ridding Kosovo of its Albanian presence.
Eventually, the wounds of war will heal. If separation now helps those wounds heal more fully, it may pave the way for a more hopeful and humane future.
Denisa Kostovic is a doctoral candidate at Cambridge University and co-editor of "Kosovo: Myths, Conflict, War" (Keele European Research Center). A shorter version of this article was published by the Institute of War & Peace Reporting in London.
© Copyright 1999
The Washington Post Company
Commander Remi - The Man Who Insults Gen. Jackson and Gets Away With It
"Murders occur at a frightening rate"
What Happened in Kosovo?
Since General Jackson's military occupation began on June 12th it has become increasingly clear that something is going terribly wrong inside Kosovo and Metohija.
Murders occur at a frightening rate. Little old ladies get strangled while taking a bath. Young girls are kidnaped and sent to European brothels. Children get blown up by unexploded cluster bombs. Whole residential streets are looted, then torched. Nuns are raped. More than a dozen Farmers tending their crops get their throats slit by thugs dressed in British army uniforms.
It wasn't supposed to be like this.
We were told by Washington that the tyrant Milosevic and his evil henchman must be kicked out of Kosovo to stop hundreds of thousands from being killed. We were told by Washington that NATO occupation would bring peace and stability to Kosovo. We were told by Washington that the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) represented the desires of 99.95% of the people.
Somehow what we were told by Washington and the reality unfolding in Kosovo doesn't appear to jive. Why is that? Why is the situation so chaotic in Kosovo? Why have things got worse since the 'NATO liberation'?
Perhaps these questions can be answered by taking an in depth look at the UCK. This is the very same UCK whose leaders' Madeline Albright has feted in Paris, Washington, and now in Pristina. Numerous reports have indicated the US has secretly armed and advised the UCK. One such leader is Commander Remi.
This article presents information about Remi and how he appears to have spent most of his time in killing fellow Albanians who disagreed with his extremist position.
is a leading UCK commander. Using the nom de guerre Commander Remi,
he was responsible for UCK actions in the so-called Llap operational
zone. This vital zone includes Pristina, the strategic highway linking
Kosovo with Serbia, and the market town of Podujevo. At
Remi seems to have believed that any person would not support the UCK was a traitor and deserved to be treated that way. Remi rejected the Rambouillet Peace agreement signed by the UCK leadership describing it as a betrayal by 'business patriots' and criticized the 'fraud' and 'manipulation' which went into the agreement. (source Reuters Tuesday March 16 12:31 PM ET ; Yugoslav Army Advances: By Sean Maguire) The day to day work of leading Remi's fighters appears to have been the responsibility of Kadri Kastrati, deputy commander of the Llap zone.
Kastrati was a 39 year old seasoned mercenary from the Croatia Army who spent the early 1990's with the paramilitary group "Vangas" ethnically cleansing the Dalmatian coast from Zadar to Dubrovnik. (source: Vecernji List (Zagreb) 9 March 1999; Some 300 Former Croatian Army Members Fighting in Kosovo ; by Sonja Hodak).
Remi, the 20 something failed law student and Karrati, the unemployed paramilitary from Croatia organized a focused campaign against moderate Albanians within their zone beginning with the kidnapping of Hajif Hoti on December 1st , 1999.
Remi's Campaign Against Moderate Albanians
The fifty-six year old Hajif Hoti, was kidnaped by a group of people wearing UCK uniforms near Podujevo and never heard from again. Hoti's case is typical of what happened to moderate Albanian villagers in Remi's zone. They go about trying to avoid all conflict and find themselves disappeared (source Pristina Media Center 3.December)
Moderate villagers were not the only victims of Remi's wrath. Two days later on the 3rd of December, Remi's fighter's assassinated Hizri Tala and his two companions; the journalist Afrim Malici, and the student Iljir Durmisi when their car was machine gunned in Pristina's University district. Albanians who attended multi-ethnic Yugoslav schools were by definition traitors becuase they refused to attend UCK run nationalist schools. (source Pristina Media Center)
The next day, Remi ordered two of his fighters to sneak into the Pristina hospital for unknown reasons. When confronted with a request to show identification inside a hospital corridor, Remi's fighter's opened fire wounding 4 Albanians: Semsija Ceri, Dzevat Ceri, Jeton Muljaj, and Shuban Beahimaj. There are conflicting stories about what happened next. One version states that the female UCK threw a grenade forgetting to pull the pin. Her UCK companion then shot her while berating her for her incompetence. (numerous sources )
Remi's attacks against Albanians seemed to quiet down until 10:30 on the night of 23rd of December when his fighters shot up the "Melisa" cafe in Kosovska Mitrovica killing 24 year old Naser Haziri and wounding 20 year old Ljulzim Ademi. Ademi was an Albanian member of the local Yugoslav police and therefore a target for assassination by Remi. (source Pristina Media Center 23.December)
Moderate Albanian intellectual leaders were a particular target of Remi. For example, on the 9th of January at 4:00 in the afternoon Enver Maloku was shot and fatally wounded while stepping out of his car in front of his home in Prishtina. Maloku was a leading member of the Albanian nationalist political party known as the LDK as well as a prominent publisher. The LDK was the chief political rival of the UCK. Maloku's crime in Remi's eyes was that he advocated a peaceful struggle for independence. Remi considered that traitorous and therefore assassinated Maloku. (Sources Kosovo Information Service, Pristina Media Center 10. January)
Even driving a cab using Yugoslav registration was enough to earn a guilty verdict from Commander Remi. On the morning of January 21s, Fatmir Sheqiri, 21, was found killed at Livaxhë, on the Prishtina - Ferizaj roadway. The body of Fatmir was found in the trunk of his car. It seems he was shot with two bullets on the neck, whereas signs of violence were all about his body, according to reports issued by the Pristina Association of Taxi Drivers. Fatmir was guilty of two crimes the first was working within the Yugoslav system. The second was to be a 21 year old Albanian and not fighting with the UCK under Commander Remi. (Source Kosovo Information Service 22.Jan)
Commander Remi seemed to specialize in the bombing of cafes which were frequented by ethnically mixed groups of youth. At 8:45pm on January 29th, Remi's fighters threw a Chinese made hand grenade into the downtown Pristina "Galerija" Cafe wounding Gordana Miladinovic, Milovan Vujosevic, Milenko Stojanovic, his sister Mirjana Stojanovic, Miodrag Markovic and Alma Beljulji, while Nikola Gavrilovic was lightly wounded. The Albanian girl, Alma Beljuli, was 21 years old and presumably attacked because she was mixing with Serbians.
Another middle aged Albanian writer was shot and wounded by Remi at the end of January. Selman Konjusha (50), a Pristina writer, was shot in the entrance to his flat in downtown Pristina. Konjusha was shot twice - in the chest and his kidneys - and was taken to the Yugoslav run Pristina surgery clinic in a critical condition. When operated upon, he had one of his kidneys removed. (Source Kosovo Information Center)
Two days after the "Galerija" grenade attack, Remi's fighters struck yet again. This time they attacked two cafes frequented by young Albanians who were more interested in drinking Fantas and flirting with girls than joining the UCK extremists shivering in the hills. At 10:00pm a bomb was tossed in the courtyard of the "Gëzimi II" cafe in downtown Pristina. Luckily it caused no injuries and only light damage. The Albanian proprietor, Rrahman Ismaili may also have gotten a little warning from Remi to pay his UCK taxes on time.
Twenty minutes later, an Albanian student was killed, and six other young Albanians were wounded at 10:20pm on Sunday when a bomb was hurled in the "Beqa" grill bar in Vellusha street in downtown Pristina, The killed university student was Osman Ibrahim Gashi (23). An eye-witness, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a tall man with a black overcoat was seen leaving the scene and being driven away by a waiting car a few meters away. (sources Center for Defense of Human Rights and Freedom, Kosovo Information Center, and Pristina Media Center 1st February)
The next weekend Remi's fighters were at it again, this time bombing the "Almir" convenience store in Pristina's Ulpijana suburb and killing 3 Albanians. Storeowner Enver Salja (52) and Viljora Kumoli (16) were killed outright, while Arton Ajeti (20) died on his was to the hospital. A powerful explosive device, planted outside the store, went off at around 7 PM local time, shattering windows of a post office some 100 m away. The BBC reported that "those killed were ethnic Albanians who were loyal to Serbia and had apparently been targeted by separatists." Particularly grisly footage of Remi's handiwork was shown on CNN with the voiceover " A leg with the shoe still on and other pieces of mangled bodies were scattered on the city's main road, and a trail of blood ran along the gutter," The LDK condemned in the strongest terms "the terrorist attack".
Interestingly, the UCK made no comment on this attack. The attack coincided with the start of the international conference in Rambouillet, France, which Remi was adamantly against. The day before there had been another bomb attack in Pristina, this time on a Serb owned bar causing no casualties. It has been suggested that Remi intended these bombings to undermine the peace talks. (Reuters, Kosovo Information Center, BBC, CNN 7th Feb)
By the first week of February, the OSCE monitors were deployed throughout Remi's zone of Operations. One of their reports describes how Remi's men operated when accosting Albanian villagers. The monitors reported that on February 5 Arben Rahmani was accosted by three men, one dressed in UCK uniform, in a vineyard at Pashki Dol Teca. After checking his identity papers, one of the men used his radio to ask whether the man should be killed or released. Before releasing him, the three questioned Rahmani about his relations with Serbs, how many Serbs were in his village, and what arms the Serbs have. He was warned not to return to the vineyard on penalty of death (source: KDOM report 8.Feb)
Remi's methods in harassing Albanian villagers are illuminated by another OSCE dispatch in which a female resident of Vucitrn reported that on February 6 four "terrorists," one sporting a UCK badge, broke into her home and beat her with a rifle butt. The "terrorists" allegedly searched the home and took a rifle, saying they would kill her if she reported to police. (source: KDOM report 9. Feb )
around Vucitrn increased dramatically in the next few weeks. On Tuesday
the 23rd of February at 9:00am an Associated Press photographer was
wounded by UCK fighters in an attack designed to expel non-Albanian
residents of Bukos village near Vucitrn. The previous day,
By the end of February, Remi's fighters turned again to terrorizing Albanians in Pristina. Automatic gunfire killed Ekrem Gashi and seriously wounded Fahri Bejti and Genc Nuha as they shopped at a group of Serb owned shops early Sunday evening on the 28th February. (Kosovo Information Center 1.March)
The next weekend, Remi's attacked the "Kovac" restaurant in the Pristina suburb of Vranjevac, killing one and wounding seven Albanians who remained in the city and refused to join the UCK: Agim Revuci was killed, and Saban Zeciri, Bajram Zakupi, Gani Ismailji, Isa Krasnici, Avdulj Musica, Ismet Labljani and Arben Tahiri were wounded. (Reuters 6.March)
Nine miles north of Pristina, Remi's men shot two middled aged Serbian brothers Ljubisa and Radivoje Mitrovic in the back as they tried to escape being kidnaped on March 3rd. (March 4th By ANNE THOMPSON (AP) MIJALIC, Yugoslavia )
Remi did not forget to continue the silencing of the UCK's main rivals the LDK. On Thursday, March 11th , His fighters assassinated Enver Feka chairman of the Velika Reka chapter of the LDK outside Vucitrn. Feka was guilty of two capital offenses in Remi's eyes. First, he led a political party which advocated peaceful transition to autonomy and Second, he owned a shop which was frequented by Serbs. (source: Thursday March 11 6:50 AM ET; By Deborah Charles Reuters)
Up until now, Remi had spent most of his resources in minor attacks on moderate Albanians and terrorizing non-Albanians of every persuasion. These minor attacks and individual murders appeared to be part of a strategy designed to support a UCK offensive in the summer. However, events began to unfold quickly in mid-March and the threat of a Peace Agreement loomed at Rambouillet.
Remi was adamantly against the Rambouillet Peace Agreement and therefore attempted to destabilize the situation in the most dramatic fashion. After meeting with his UCK counterparts who departed on Friday to sign the Rambouillet Agreement, Remi undertook a bombing campaign of a ferocity heretofre unknown in Kosovo.
Remi tries to scuttle Peace Talks through bombing campaign
Remi's first series of bombs were set off on Saturday , March 13th ,in the crowded town marketplaces of Mitrovica and Podujevo. In Podujevo, Remi set two bombs to blow up 15 minutes apart which would inflict maximum damage to rescue workers arriving at the scene. The Mitovica bomb exploded only 750 meters from the OSCE mission there. On this day, Remi killed at least 8 innocent shoppers and wounded more than 58. At least 40 of the injured in the bombing were Albanians. The wounded included a eight year old girl who lost both her legs. 10 people were listed in critical condition. Reporters described pools of blood which lay amid the pulped remains of fruit and vegetable stalls.. Discarded shoes and torn clothing were strewn amid the metal stalls. (Sources: The Guardian, The Times, UPI, Reuters, AP, March 13th - 15th)
One of Remi's last acts before the UCK demanded cluster bombing of Kosovo started on March 24th was the drive by machine gunning of 4 traffic cops in Pristina. (Source Reuters 21st March) This wanton act of violence again betrayed his remarkable cold blooded attitude towards killing.
However, once the bombing began, Remi proved that while he professed to be attacking the hated Serbs, his true acts were the expulsion of more than 220,000 Albanians from his zone of operations.
Remi expels the Albanian population
Remi began expelling Albanians from the Llap region once the international monitors pulled out. The sole intent of this strategy seems to have been to provoke a refugee crisis. Evidently, the UCK knew it could only rise to power through the maximum suffering of the very people it purported to be defending.
Chris Bird of the Guardian filed a story on Saturday March 20 which described how the UCK knocked on people's doors in Srbica telling them they had to "leave immediately, at one in the morning" as the UCK spread landmines throughout the village. The villagers then had to walk miles through a wind swept snowy night.
The tide of UCK induced refugees grew until it reached 160,000 as described by Lirak Qelaj. Qelaj acted in part as an information officer for Commander Remi and one of his jobs was to film the plight of displaced Albanian civilians with a video camera. Qelaj " disclosed that it was KLA advice, rather than Serbian deportations, which led some of the hundreds of thousands of Albanians to leave Kosovo" as reported by Jonathan Steele of the Guardian on June 30th
In one episode, around 160,000 displaced people were stranded near the village of Kolic on the east side of the Pristina-Podujevo road. Qelaj said the UCK " urged the people to go on to the main road and start walking to Pristina."
Sometime in late April, in the north of the Llap region, the KLA urged another crowd hiding from the bombing and numbering almost 60,000 to leave for Macedonia and Albania according to Qelaj.
In Remi's zone of operations alone, the UCK expelled 220,000 Albanians. This is keeping with the pattern Remi established prior to the bombing. Albanians were only worthy of decent treatment if they were actively supporting the UCK. Those who stood on the sidelines were to be used for propaganda purposes or worse.
After the military occupation of Kosovo by forces led by English General Sir Micheal Jackson, Remi opened a UCK information center in Pristina. A few weeks later Remi personally insulted Gen. Jackson for his " lack of respect for KLA soldiers" and issued veiled threats against the occupation troops.
Remi Attacks General Jackson
Prishtinë, July 3, (Kosovapress)
Following last night's incident in which KFOR soldiers killed two Albanian civilians and injured two others, KFOR commander Mike Jackson expressed to the commander of the Llap operative zone, Rrustem Mustafa-Remi his profound regrets. They met today upon the request of General Jackson. Agim Çeku, Chief of Staff of th KLA also attended the meeting.
Commander Remi expressed his concern over the uncontrolled behavior of some KFOR soldiers towards Albanian citizens, in particular, towards KLA soldiers and their superiors. Some incidents between KFOR troops and Albanian civilians and personnel have been categorically stated as unacceptable. Remi added that these acts increase the tension between KFOR and Albanians.
In relation to the incident last night which resulted in the death of two KLA soldiers, Fahri Bici and Avni Liman Dudi, and the injury of two other civilians, Commander Remi, said this was an undisciplined attacked and was unacceptable coming from the allies of the Kosovar people.
These actions are not necessary, said Remi, "because, based on information gathered from eyewitnesses, KFOR soldiers were not in danger. Last night thousands of citizens were in the streets to celebrate the victory over a common enemy. Our citizens were celebrating together with KFOR soldiers. This joy turned to death due to an irresponsible act taken by the KFOR patrol.
"I expect from you that those who committed this act to be held responsible. I am afraid that among your soldiers there is a lack of respect for KLA soldiers. It is in our common interest to work together in a mutually respectful atmosphere between the KLA, the Kosovar civilians and KFOR troops. We must do everything to make sure these acts will not be repeated again."
KFOR commander Jackson expressed his regrets and apologized for last night's incident. "Our soldiers did not know that they were KLA soldiers. They felt they were in danger and they opened fire. "Commander Jackson promised the case would be investigated fully with all necessary measures taken.
Commander Remi also wanted to clarify with his counterpart the process of transforming the KLA into a regular army. "We insist, as the people of Kosova, to keep the continuity of our army. We will not disband our troops under no condition but we will maintain this organization until we are able to transform ourselves into a regular army as the agreement stipulated." (End of Kosovapress release)
Not only does Remi
feel he can insult Gen. Jackson directly to his face, Remi apparently
continues to hold fast to the idea that his troops will never disband.
Since the time of Remi's last communique reprinted above, there has
been little news about him. However, the increasing number of mass graves
which are being uncovered in North-East Kosovo seem to be his handiwork.
These mass graves are filled with bodies of civilians murdered after
Yugoslav forces left Kosovo. Remi may be as active as ever, but just
not as willing to grant interviews.
PRISTINA, Kosovo - For three years before the conflict in Kosovo erupted, I worked here as a political analyst for the International Crisis Group, or ICG. It was then the most unpleasant spot in what remained of Yugoslavia: It combined the post-Tito version of communism with the Balkan version of apartheid, directed against ethnic Albanians.
Nowadays, after the arrival of the international troops and the United Nations administration to Kosovo, the atmosphere here is that of merriment, with people belonging to the ethnic majority proudly enjoying the right to be themselves. But somehow I find it unpleasant to be here and I do not entirely share their joy.
Outsiders are ill-placed to make precipitated judgments, especially concerning the post-traumatic syndrome affecting a nation that was humiliated and decimated for purely ethnic and racist reasons. But on this Kosovo-revisited tour I encountered many signs that there is something rotten in the air.
The most annoying noise in Pristina under Belgrade's rule was the nationalist Serbian music that often blasted from the Yugoslav Army headquarters. But nobody in his right mind would complain, because the switch of the loudspeaker was in the hands of the local branch of the Serb Radical Party. These days what disturbs a conversation on the main street in Pristina are songs to the glory of the heroes of the Kosovo Liberation Army blasted by cassette vendors.
During my tour of duty in Kosovo I never dared to display the logo of ICG, for it could have gotten me into trouble with the Serbian police, to whom it would have been a proof that I was an enemy. Now the office here has proudly put up a big sign outside, but I have a different problem: My car has non-Kosovo Yugoslav license plates. I need to park at an international organization, lest it be vandalized by an ethnic Albanian purist for whom the Montenegrin license plates are proof that I am an enemy.
Under Serbian rule it was not wise for ethnic Albanians to be seen with foreigners and even my friend Dardan, then nine years old, knew better than to speak to me in the street, although I shared a room with him. I used to come late at night to his parents' apartment to avoid being spotted by Serbian neighbors. These days, I come in daylight and Dardan, now aged eleven, introduces me to everyone on the block.
Meanwhile the new director of ICG here has his own problem with a Serbian neighbor. She is a 76-year-old widow named Milka who has been threatened by Albanians. For the last week he has been staying at her apartment overnight to give her some comfort and an illusion of safety. There used to be 40,000 Serbs in Pristina, and now there are a few hundred left. Most are old, lonely, and too weak to flee.
Milka is not a particularly likable person. She seems to feel no guilt for the ethnic cleansing operated by her Serbian compatriots. When I asked her about the deportation of almost all ethnic Albanians out of Kosovo, she said something along the lines of, ''Oh yes, I know, they all traveled to Macedonia, but now they are back here, aren't they?'' She does not dare to come out of her apartment. In over 43 years of living in Kosovo she never learned Albanian, spoken by 90 percent of her neighbors. These days, speaking Serbian in the street is not wise at all.
The linguistic discrimination is probably the most irritating and racist phenomenon here. Many of my Albanian acquaintances with whom I used to communicate in Serbo-Croatian now refuse to speak the language. But sometimes there is no other lingua franca.
My best friends, Dardan's parents, for instance, defiantly speak Serbian in the street with me. But what we speak about is their worry that Kosovo will soon be cleansed of everyone who is not ethnic Albanian. And they think it may not be a very happy Kosovo then.
July 29, 1999
Despite a peace
agreement that calls for a United Nations-appointed administration,
and the fact that the Albanian militants have no legal standing, they
have created a fait accompli, and these days they talk not of ceding
power to the United Nations but of cooperating as if they were equals.
The rebel army's swift move to take power has been aided by the squabbling and ineffectiveness of the moderate opposition, along with a disorganized United Nations administration that is short on personnel and awaiting the police that member countries promised to send to help maintain order.
In the absence of a United Nations police force, NATO peacekeepers have tried to provide some order. But they are not intended to serve as the police or as civil administrators.
Bernard Kouchner, the United Nations chief administrator in Kosovo, said he was aware of the abuses being committed by the rebel army, and insisted that the world organization was working to curb them. The United Nations is planning to deploy a 3,100-strong police force, although it has only 156 officers in Kosovo at the moment. American officials have criticized the United Nations for moving slowly, and Kouchner, who arrived July 15, said he is working to set up legal mechanisms that will sort through issues such as property ownership and taxation.
"It is always like this after wars of liberation," he said. "Things take time. What we want to avoid is an internal war. Some of these activities are carried out by the K.L.A., others are carried out in the name of the K.L.A., but we must work with them to establish law and order. It will take more than 10 days. It was exactly the same in my country when the British, the Americans and the Canadians liberated France."
The ramifications for Kosovo, and for the international powers that have set up this protectorate, are immense, for the raw, often unschooled fighters have as their political patron the Government of Albania and care little for the civilities of Western-style democracies.
Despite the presence of the 35,000 NATO peacekeepers, violence has been rising steadily, especially against the remaining Serbian civilians. The looting and burning of Serbs' homes, as well as dozens of assassinations and kidnappings of Serbs and a few Albanians, including the massacre of 14 Serbian farmers on Friday, speak of a province slipping into the kind of gunslinging lawlessness that has characterized Albania in the last few years.
"The only political group that has any structure is the K.L.A.," said Baton Haxhiu, the editor of Koha Ditore, an Albanian-language daily. "It is using it to take power, backed eventually by a police and a national guard force it alone will control. It will be very hard to turn Albania into Kosovo, but I expect very easy to turn Kosovo into Albania. Each day it is becoming more dangerous to think and speak independently."
The rebels are supposed to turn in their weapons to the NATO-led peacekeepers, known as KFOR, before the end of September. But they have been slow to comply with the demilitarization agreement and are hiding large amounts of weaponry, NATO officers said.
In Prizren, German soldiers on Friday stumbled onto a cache of 10 tons of ammunition squirreled away by the rebels. There is an average of one murder a day, most often of a Serb, and three or four lootings and house burnings in Prizren, which is in many ways a typical city in postwar Kosovo. In Prizren the city hall and municipal buildings have been commandeered by the Kosovo Liberation Army. Former fighters sit in the offices and run the city.
In Pristina several large buildings have been taken over by the group and turned into ministries. Small cafes, shops, apartments and the huge shopping center in Pristina are in the hands of a rebel cadre.
Most of these new entrepreneurs come from rural areas and have nothing but disdain for the Kosovo Albanian urban elite, who, they say, failed under Ibrahim Rugova to drive away the Serbs. Rugova, the nonviolent political leader of a faction of Kosovo Albanians, remains in exile in Italy after a brief visit to Kosovo, saying he has delayed his return because of concerns about his security in rebel territory.
Hetem Hetemi, who said he led a unit of 20 fighters in the war, most from his immediate family, was seated outside his new business, the Mozart Bar, which was seized from its Serbian owner.
"My sons and I showed up in Pristina with our weapons and decided to take this bar." It was a point of pride to Hetemi that one of the enemy, a Serbian paramilitary leader known as Arkan who has been indicted on war crimes charges, used to drink at the bar.
Hetemi said, "Everything we had in our village was destroyed. I took a Serb car but the KFOR soldiers stopped me and made me give it to them. What am I supposed to drive? These peacekeepers are worse than the Serbs."
The provisional government is headed by Hashim Thaci, a rebel commander who has appointed himself Prime Minister and his friends and relatives to head various departments, including his uncle Azem Syla to the post of Defense Minister.
Thaci's orders are usually delivered by bands of sunburned young men, many carrying concealed pistols. The orders are handed over with warnings that failure to comply will lead to beatings or death.
Thaci says he will govern Kosovo until parliamentary elections, which are expected to be scheduled sometime during the next nine months. But he does not speak of disbanding the structures that have been set up to allow the United Nations to assume responsibility.
There is no deadline for elections -- local elections may precede parliamentary or regional votes -- meaning that Thaci could be in power for well over a year before any vote is organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Under Thaci, the large ministries here hum with activity. In the lobby of the old social security building in Pristina, now the rebel movement's Defense Ministry, groups of wiry young men sat huddled at their desks over coffee cups and dented tin ashtrays filled with cigarette butts.
Rebel commanders, many with pistols tucked in shoulder holsters, moved in conversation up and down the central spiral staircase. New bureaucrats, with fancy titles and late model sedans and jeeps, all parked outside and curiously lacking license plates, barked orders and passed out documents stamped with "The Defense Ministry of Kosovo."
The reach of these newly formed institutions is increasingly felt in the streets and neighborhoods, where most people say they are afraid to run afoul of the self-appointed authorities. Business owners interviewed in recent days were reluctant to give their names, but many said they were being pressed for money by the rebels or have had their vehicles confiscated.
Tahir Canolli, 49, a heavy-set man with a deep baritone voice and the soothing, obsequious mannerisms of a salesman, ran a furniture store in Pristina for nearly three decades. He bought his couches, chairs, dressers and tables from a furniture factory near Nis, and doggedly fended off Serbian tax inspectors, who visited frequently with demands for money. He, like many businessmen, hoped that when he returned to Pristina from the refugee camps in Macedonia, such harassment would end.
Instead, a group of fighters arrived at his shop two weeks ago with a paper issued by "The Ministry of Public Order" demanding the keys to his 1990 Audi 80 and his store.
"They were arrogant, brutal and rude," he said, unfolding the stamped order that he now carries in his pocket. "They told me that if I did not comply immediately they knew a cellar I might like to visit."
Within hours, $50,000 worth of furniture was loaded onto trucks brought by the officials who had demanded his keys. The looters not only stripped the store of its contents but also ripped out the heaters, lamps and mirrors. They carted away 24 large flower boxes that had been outside the building. The next day several flower boxes of the same design and with the same kinds of plants were placed outside the building where Thaci works.
Thaci's appointees said that such confiscations, especially of state-owned buildings, were part of their effort to determine property ownership. They also defended the decision to begin collecting money from businesses, a practice many shop owners have labeled "extortion."
"If mistakes are being made they will be corrected," said Gjonbalaj, the deputy minister. "There were many irregular contracts. We need to regulate things in Kosovo and this means collecting taxes, or contributions, rather, to rebuild. We are the legitimate government and we must assume all governmental responsibilities."
Canolli has spent hours outside Thaci's ministries in recent days in the hope that he can reclaim some of his property or be compensated for it. But each attempt has been rebuffed.
"I saw the K.L.A. police inspector who gave me the confiscation order driving my car, although it had no license plates," he said. "I went to his office but was told at the door that I should never come back or attempt to speak with him. I am afraid. I survived Serb occupation to be destroyed by my own people."