Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Kosovo's Relief and Sadness

Milosevic's extradition has prompted all manner of emotions on the streets of Pristina
By Agim Fetahu

"Every person has his price tag - and Milosevic is no exception, " said Petrit. " He was sold, man, sold. Serbia sold him for money, lots of money, but who cares." Drinking at Kaqa, a popular bar in downtown Pristina, the 22-year-old was reminiscing over numerous vodka and tonics.


It's twelve years to the day when the former Yugoslav president flew to Kosovo to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo - an event which many believe lit the flames of Serbian nationalism.


Back then, Petrit, now an internet whiz kid, hadn't a clue what was going on and certainly couldn't have foreseen the devastating consequences that day would have for his family and for the whole of Yugoslavia.


When he first heard the news of Milosevic's transfer, Petrit rushed to tell his 77-year-old grandmother. "She started crying," said Petrit. "Not because of Milosevic's extradition," he said, but because she was remembering thirty relatives massacred at Suva Reka. Petrit explained how they had all reportedly been found in a mass grave in Batajnica near Belgrade.


"Man, I remember when he was toppled," he said, " Surrounded by his loyal guards, in his comfortable house. Well, I don't care even if he gets a five star hotel room with an ocean view. He'll spend the rest of his miserable life in prison."


And for 68-year-old Isa Gashi, Friday was just another day. Isa hadn't shown any emotion when told the news of the extradition. He asked his daughter to make him some coffee. He drank it and said, simply, "We cannot bring the dead back to life." Then he went out to work in the fields as he does every day in the small village of Qyshk in western Kosovo.


It's just over two years now since his brother and several other family members were killed by Serbian paramilitaries along with 41 others in the village. Isa somehow survived the massacre. "I don't think extraditing Milosevic will restore justice. I will not celebrate," he said.


There was a time when news of Milosevic's extradition would have caused euphoria here but now there seems little cause for joy. Like Petrit's grandmother and Isa, the news has rekindled painful memories - many of which are to feature in a special supplement Koha Ditore staff are putting together.


"It's a special feeling when you see the end of the person responsible for our suffering during all these years but we will not stop talking about the crimes committed by the Serbian regime here," said Koha Ditore's editor-in-chief, Baton Haxhiu.


People followed the story of the former president's journey from Belgrade prison to The Hague on television. They talked sarcastically in the cafes about the man traditionally known as 'the criminal'. "I wish him a nice trip," said one.


Cynicism pervades the café conversations. "Do you think that Djindjic has done this in order to see justice done?" asked 29-year- old Naser Luzha. "No, no, this is all about the billion dollars they have asked from the donors conference. This is another Serbian game."


Generally though, the mood was upbeat with people cracking jokes as to whether 'The Butcher of Belgrade' would be allowed to wear a belt in prison.


For some though, Milosevic is no longer a Kosovan problem. "Milosevic was sent to The Hague. So what," said law student Zana Cavdarbasha, "This is no longer our problem, this has to do with Serbia."


The attitude of political parties to the extradition can be gauged by the fact that none of their leaders even commented on the affair on Thursday night.


However, Adem Demaci, a well-known personality in Kosovo, who spent 30 years in Serbian prisons, was quick to comment on the news.


"This is a dramatic turn for Serbia," he said. "But, above all, this is an attempt by Djindjic to preserve his power, which can only realised with the money


promised by the West."


Politicians, analysts, the man-on-the-street - no one really believes that the new regime in Belgrade is any different from its predecessor. As one Kosovan journalist put it, "Crimes committed cannot be changed. Milosevic's extradition will only benefit Serbia".


"I wonder how Milosevic is feeling tonight," Petrit mused, nursing another vodka and tonic. "I'm sure he's sitting in his cell and saying to himself 'I'm nothing more than a criminal.'"


Agim Fetahu is an IWPR project editor and Adriatik Kelmendi is a Koha Ditore journalist.


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