Natasa Kandic (by way of Thomas Keenan <>) on Sat, 3 Apr 1999 23:15:16 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Natasa Kandic YHRF#8


Natasa Kandic

Monday and Tuesday in Kosovo
29 and 30 March 1999

I reached Pristina before nightfall. I could not get to the HLC office.
The building is opposite the Police Department and prison and the front
entrance was locked. Someone inside said, "We donít know you and we wonít
open the door." By his accent, I knew the man was Serb and he must have
known by mine that I was Serb too. I knew that the residents were Serb and
Albanian and I saw their determination to allow no strangers into the
building as the good side of Pristina. I went round the back and saw
guards at the entrance of the neighboring building. Several men were
standing behind neatly stacked sandbags. I spoke with them and learned
that they were Serb and Albanian residents of the building and that they
were guarding their homes. They had agreed that Serbs would defend
Albanians from the police, the Albanians would defend Serbs from the KLA
and all would defend themselves from paramilitaries and other bands. When
air raid warnings are sounded, everyone goes down to the shelter except
those standing guard. 

>From there I went to Noraís. I had just arrived when a weeping neighbor
rushed into the apartment: "They have taken our car." Three men in police
uniform had come, she said, forced open the car door and drove it away.
"Better the car than your son," said Noraís father. I dialed over 20 phone
numbers. Most phones were not working. It was quiet until 4 a.m. Then
there were explosions, followed by silence.

When day broke, I went to see some friends. The Keljmendis phone was cut
off. Bajram Keljmendiís shingle was still on the door of his law office.
Neighbors told me they hadnít seen his wife Nekibe since the burial of
Bajram and their sons. I asked them to give her my regards. Then, together
with Nora, a relation of Fehmi Agani and a driver from Belgrade, I made my
way to Dragodan, Fehmi Aganiís neighborhood. When we reached it, we were
stopped by police. They asked to see our papers and when they saw that
Nora and Arsim were Albanian, the one in charge ordered them out of the
car. I got out too, saying we all worked for the same organization and
were looking for a friend. The officer replied that Albanians no longer
worked in Serbia and should be on their way to Macedonia. I asked since
when police had the authority to fire people and he yelled at me to get
back in the car and shut up. I sat on the seat, leaving the door open and
my legs outside the car. He slammed the door against my legs, saying
Serbia was being ruined by such Serbs. The one in charge called someone
over his Motorola. This lasted about 10 minutes and then he waved us on.
We made our way back to the center, hardly believing that we had got off
so lightly. We drove through side streets to the Suncani Breg district. On
the way, we saw wrecked and looted stores and kiosks. We found Vjollca but
she was determined to stay with her family in Pristina. We were driven
away by her Serb neighbor. "What kind of gathering is this? No loitering!
Albanians, inside your homes!" he said.

In all-Albanian districts, we encountered groups of people discussing what
to do: should they make their way to the border or stay until the police
ordered them out of their homes? Some told me no more than 1,000 people
were left in Pec, those who managed to get out of the column the police
and military escorted to the Montenegrin border. None of them knew if it
was true that Fehmi Agani had been killed, not even his relations. They
had heard the report on CNN. Nor was there any reliable news of Baton
Jakdziju, the editor of Koha Ditore. People kept to their homes. Only the
bravest went to see relations who live near by. Only a few phones were

The streets of downtown Pristina were almost deserted. People were in
their apartments or the stairways of their buildings. In one of these
buildings, we spoke to residents and found Mentor. He was just about to
leave for the border. Everyone we spoke to was in a panic. With one
exception, an Albanian, who calmly repeated he would not leave his home
until he was thrown out. An elderly Serb woman came in and stopped for a
moment to chat with her neighbors. She too appeared to be fearless.

We started out for Macedonia, in two cars, at about noon. Itís 75
kilometers to the Djeneral Jankovic crossing. Several cars coming from
side streets joined us. When we were on the road to the border, there were
hundreds of cars behind us. The plan was to get to the border, wait until
Ariana and Mentor had crossed and then Nora and I would make for Belgrade.
Three kilometers from the border, the column stopped. Rumors flew around
that the border was closed, that police were taking cars, that they were
separating out the men... The sight of police with masked faces in the
column frightened us and we decided to return to Pristina. No one
prevented us. People asked us what was going on and we tried to persuade
them to go back home. But only a few cars followed us. As we drove back,
we saw that there were more than 2,000 cars in the column. We also saw
groups making their way on foot, all gripped by a terrible fear.

We got back to Pristina, dropped off Ariana and the others and I, Nora,
her brother, and Mentor headed for Belgrade. I was afraid of what would
happen at police checkpoints. The first was just outside Pristina on the
road to Gnjilane. Our driver asked a policeman if the road to Gnjilane was
open. "Depends on the name," was the reply. The officer checked the
driverís papers and let us through. The driverís papers were examined at
the other checkpoints too and we were allowed to continue. Soldiers at a
military checkpoint 10 kilometers outside Pristina asked to see all our
papers. There were no problems. We reached Belgrade at about 10 p.m.

* * * * *

Yugoslavia Human Rights Flash is an HLC bulletin containing the latest
information on human rights in Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro. Only reports
received by the HLC offices in Belgrade and Pri{tina are published.

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