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“Serbs are our enemies”

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Matilde Ceravolo, MRG’s Fundraiser, makes friends in Pristina and hopes for peace.

Such a statement would attract international worries, had it not come from Besnik, a smiling, lovely 12-year-old, excited about practicing his English.

We are sitting atop the Prizren castle ruins, admiring the fascinating Turkish-style city at our feet, and the snow-capped mountains in front of us. Prizren is the main town inhabited by Kosovar Turks, and the only one where Turkish is still an official language. From our exceptional point of view we can observe the impressive quantity of minarets, but next to them, also several orthodox churches, demonstrating how this city has been a crossing point of different cultures.

Today, orthodox churches are surrounded by barbed wire, protected by German KFOR, behind ostensible UNMIK notices informing that no offence will be tolerated. Just under the castle, the Serbian quarter is still destroyed and inhabited. The owners never felt secure enough to return to their houses.

As I chat with my new friend and his schoolmates, I wonder how he gathered so much hate. He is too young to remember the Milosevic era. What must he be hearing from his father, commenting on the evening news?

The Serb quarter in Prizren
The Serb quarter in Prizren

During my short stay in Kosovo I have heard and read testimony of hate against Serbs on a daily basis. Since 1989, Albanians in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia have been victim of systematic discrimination and violation of human rights. FRY forces are believed to have implemented deliberate ethnic cleansing. The hate against Serbia is understandable.

But Kosovar Serbs have also been victims of the conflict. It is estimated that about 200,000 of them were displaced. A number of extra-judicial killings have been documented, of which the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was considered responsible.

Nowadays, KLA members have become political leaders of the independent Kosovo. Pristina and the whole country are filled with posters celebrating the KLA and its fighters. Albanian flags are everywhere; the National Museum in Pristina dedicates one entire floor to KLA history.

I wonder how Serbs could ever feel safe in a country that celebrates their killers; how would they ever accept to being a part of such a country?

Last Sunday Serb voters were divided, but the pro EU Democratic Party of Serbia’s president Boris Tadic got a clear majority. The new government is still to be decided and it is difficult to imagine that Serbia would accept the independence of Kosovo.

However, on behalf of MRG, during the last 10 days I have been meeting members of all the communities. The common issue that came out from all the meetings is that Kosovars have similar worries and aspirations: to live freely and safely in a country that respects their identity, no matter if the country is called Serbia or Kosovo.

Tomorrow I will be leaving this complex country and its fascinating people. I am far from having answered all the questions I had on the creation of this new state and the international intervention. But I believe that only dialogue and trust can create the premises for a sustainable solution, and for this to happen, leaders on both sides must abolish hate speech and adopt peaceful language.

All I wish to Besnik and his friends is they have the chance to grow up without enemies.

This article reflects the sole opinion of its author and does not engage MRG’s responsibility.

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Filed Under: Europe, Minorities
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