Comment: Kosovo Fascism, Albanians' Shame

The systematic intimidation of Kosovo's Serbs brings shame on the province's Albanians and will have far-reaching and long-term consequences.

In the past month an old woman has been beaten to death in her bath; a two-year-old boy has been wounded and his mother shot dead; two youths have been killed with a grenade launcher; and a woman dares not speak her name in public for fear that those who attempted to rape her will return. All these victims were Serbs.

Sadly, these are not isolated incidents. Many more of Kosovo's remaining Serbs have locked themselves in their homes, terrified by an atmosphere in which every sound seems threatening and every vehicle that stops might take you away to your death.

Then there is the case of the elderly couple with nothing to eat who are afraid to venture out to buy food because they know their poor Albanian language will be noticed. Their Albanian neighbours cannot give them any food because they have been warned not to "feed Serbs".

I know how Kosovo's remaining Serbs, and indeed Roma, feel, because I, along with nearly 2 million Albanians, was in exactly the same situation only two and a half months ago. I recognise their fear. We learned from the radio that Belgrade had given its units the right to kill at will - even women, children and the old. As a result, every car that stopped was a potential danger; every unusual sound appeared to herald inevitable death. Meanwhile, little or no help could be expected from our Serb neighbours.

This is why I cannot hide my shame to discover that, for the first time in our history, we, Kosovo Albanians, are also capable of such monstrous acts. I have to speak out to make it clear that our moral code, by which women, children and elderly should be left unharmed, has been and is being violated.

I know the obvious excuse, namely that we have been through a barbaric war in which Serbs were responsible for the most heinous crimes and in which the intensity of violence has generated a desire for vengeance among many Albanians. This, however, is no justification.

Those Serbs who carried out Belgrade's orders and committed atrocities against Albanians have already fled, as have others fearing reprisals from relatives of the thousands who are buried in mass graves. Today's violence - more than two months after the arrival of NATO forces - is more than simply an emotional reaction. It is the organised and systematic intimidation of all Serbs simply because they are Serbs and therefore are being held collectively responsible for what happened in Kosovo.

Such attitudes are fascist. Moreover, it was against these very same attitudes that the people of Kosovo stood up and fought, at first peacefully and then with arms, during the past 10 years.

The treatment of Kosovo's Serbs brings shame on all Kosovo Albanians, not just the perpetrators of violence. And it's a burden we will have to bear collectively. It will dishonour us and our own recent suffering which, only a few months ago, was broadcast on television screens throughout the world. And it will dishonour the memory of Kosovo's Albanian victims, those women, children and elderly who were killed simply because of their ethnic origins.

The international community will probably not punish us for failing to defend multi-ethnicity in Kosovo. After all, even before the war, the number of non-Albanians in Kosovo was akin to that of non-Slovenes in Slovenia, yet nobody talks today of a multi-ethnic Slovenia. However, from having been victims of Europe's worst end-of-century persecution, we are ourselves becoming persecutors and have allowed the spectre of fascism to reappear.

Anybody who thinks that the violence will end once the last Serb has been driven out is living an illusion. The violence will simply be directed against other Albanians. Is this really what we fought for?

Veton Surroi is publisher of the Pristina daily Koha Ditore, in which a version of this article has previously appeared.


Also in this issue

The systematic intimidation of Kosovo's Serbs brings shame on the province's Albanians and will have far-reaching and long-term consequences.
If elections are held in Serbia this autumn, the opposition will once again have to decide whether to participate and legitimise them, or boycott.
Former rivals, Milosevic and dismissed Bosnian Serb leader Poplasen are forging a new alliance to try to refresh their standing among the Serbs.
The UN administrator questions whether ethnic havens are the only way to enable Serbs to remain in Kosovo?