Geert Lovink on Wed, 7 Apr 1999 22:43:49 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> FF: IWPR Balkan Crisis # 16 (fwd)

     [manually de-MIME-ified; apologies for any errors.--tb]

1. IWPR on Refugees and Dissenters in FRY
2. AFP on Rugova


ESCAPE FROM PRISTINA. After ten days in the Kosovo capital, watching the
expulsions and the packed trains, IWPR's correspondent is forced to leave.
Gjeraqina Tuhina, whose name was withheld from her reports from Pristina,
now relates her own expulsion and journey over the Macedonian border.

SLOBO'S BIGGEST ALLY: THE FEAR. Internal dissenters are keeping their heads
down, and not because of NATO bombs. But the real concern is after the air
strikes end, and the internal reprisals begin.

BISCUITS AND BROTHERLY LOVE. Kosovo refugees streaming over the Albanian
border are being met by two aid workers distributing biscuits and two
Italian Jehovah's Witnesses urging them to love each other. Fron Nazi
reports from Kukes.


EDITOR'S NOTE: To protect contributors from Yugoslavia, and their families,
from reprisals, we are compelled to withhold authors names.

IWPR's network of leading correspondents in the region provide inside
analysis of the events and issues driving crises in the Balkans. The
reports are available on the Web in English, Serbian and Albanian;
English-language reports are also available via e-mail. For syndication
information, contact Anthony Borden <>.

The project is supported by the European Commission and Press Now.


The opinions expressed in "Balkan Crisis Report" are those of the authors
and do not necessarily represent those of the publication or of IWPR.

Copyright (C) 1999 The Institute for War * Peace Reporting <>.



After ten days in the Kosovo capital, watching the expulsions and the
packed trains, our correspondent is forced to leave. After filing reports
for a week with her name withheld, she now relates her own expulsion and
journey over the Macedonian border.

By Gjeraqina Tuhina in Skopje

You can't imagine how rumours spread in our town, even in normal times. But
after the bombing starting, and then the retaliations, there were rumours
about everything.

After the death of Bayram Klimendi, the human rights lawyer, we heard that
several politicians and writers had been executed. We heard the rumours
about people being rounded up in the main stadium, but we could see from
our apartment that nothing was going on there--though I cannot say for the
other two stadiums in town.

We knew that people were getting maltreated when they were being expelled,
and then their flats were being destroyed. But the biggest problem was that
the phone lines were cut, and no one knew about their relatives. So the
fear was extreme, and people thought only about staying alive.

Even for ten days, I did not think it would happen. Even after the trains
began. The line to Skopje hadn't run for ages, but after the neighbourhood
of Dragodan was cleared, all of a sudden they started, and everyone was
somehow instructed to head to the station.

We could see them from our window. There was shooting in other parts of
town. But here, people were going on foot to the station--in silence, with
their heads down, just walking. Thousands of them, for hours and hours,
escorted by the police.

The first day we saw it, we thought, "Amazing." The next day, we said, "Oh,
here they are again." By the third day, we thought it was normal, and
everyone just wanted to know what neighbourhoods the people came from so
they could know when it would be their time.

But it didn't become real until they finally came to our house. I had
become desperate to leave--I was frightened and wanted to live. But I still
had some kind of hope, maybe that it would be temporary. I could never
imagine myself and my parents, with our dignity and pride destroyed, just
walking like that to the station, losing everything.

It was a "normal," quiet day. By then we had three other families living
with us, fifteen people in our small flat, and it was lunchtime. They had
come from Dragodan and we got to know each other spontaneously, like
family. My mother and the girls were preparing the table, meat and rice,
which we still had. Then we heard a commotion on the floor below, and we

I wouldn't say they were polite, but they weren't abusive. We were
surprised. There was no shouting, no pointing of machine guns. Four young
soldiers in the dark blue uniforms of the Ministry of the Interior (MUP)
just knocked hard on the door and said, "You have to go. You have fifteen

They waited patiently. Everyone quietly moved to pick up some things. The
computer was on, so I went over and sent off one last short e-mail to say I
couldn't file a story that day: "Pray for me."

When we got to the street, everyone was heading left, to the station, and
we headed right. We weren't ready yet. Like the people who had come to our
house, we just walked over to some friends in another neighbourhood and
said, "We're here."

When we arrived, my host and a friend were having a heated discussion. Our
host was clear: "When they kick me out, I'm leaving." His friend did not
want to give up his life and become a refugee. He said: "As long as I am
not forced, I will not go to the train station." They talked for a long
time, while we just stayed in the dark, without candles or anything to draw

A day passed. It was horrible feeling, just counting the time. We were
disappointed because there weren't even any new NATO air strikes near the
town. We discussed ideas for leaving, but nothing seemed safe enough. And I
wouldn't take that train: three days in the field, losing all my

Only the day before, I had heard that the authorities had burned all the
civil documents, on births, marriages, deaths, etc., and the message was
clear. We were to become non-persons.

In those final days, I just gave up emotionally. It wasn't that I was
afraid, it was the opposite: I was sure--sure that I wouldn't see my
friends anymore, sure that nothing would ever be the same.

At one point, I just had to go out. My brother came with me. We put hats
on, kept our heads down and went quickly. By then, the town, which had
300,000 people, was half empty. You could feel the emptiness, like you are
the only person is a room breathing. Pristina was dead.

A car stopped in front of us, a Serb, but someone I was friendly with.
"Hey," he said, "you are still around? What the hell are you doing. Don't
you know your life's in jeopardy?"

I thanked him for the reminder.

He said he had a way out. Two friends of his were heading to the Macedonian
border right now. He promised that it would be safe and they could get me
through. They had already left, but if we went immediately we could catch
them. I didn't have time to think about it, but I wanted to believe that he
wouldn't harm us. We jumped in.

Some distance down the street we caught the other car. There was a brief
exchange and we got in. There were no introductions, and the driver and his
friend didn't seem interested. They were Yugoslav customs officers.

As we drove, towards the border at Tetovo, I got a proper view of the city
for the first time in ten days. There were too many tanks, too many police.
Everywhere. There were armoured vehicles in front of all the government
buildings. Except for the shops, the centre itself was not too damaged.
Even the street lights were working, though no one stopped at them. But as
we passed through other neighbourhoods, especially residential areas, it
was all burned. It was strange: I'd lived in Pristina for 23 years but felt
like I no longer knew the town.

The route, not two hours, was quiet. I had reported on all the fighting,
and many of the villages along the way had already been burned. There
wasn't that much more destruction than I'd already seen.

There were a few check points, and some vehicles being stopped by armed
civilians, but the roads were basically empty and we sailed through. The
officers chatted with each other, complaining about the poor availability
of cigarettes in Pristina and the long day ahead of them. They saw I was in
no mood to speak.

The border was announced by the line of refugees--10 kilometres long.
People in cars, tractors, wagons, and several thousand on foot, lined up to
get out of Yugoslavia. There were old people and babies, and it was very

My "driver" took me to the head of the line, and let me out right over the
border. I asked if they wanted to see my documentation, and they said no:
"Just have a good trip, and good luck." Could it be that they didn't
realise I was Albanian? Whatever, I was out of Kosovo, out of Yugoslavia,
and out of danger. I felt reborn.

Not everyone was so lucky. In no-man's land, there were several thousand
people who had been waiting for days. I saw an old woman who had died. A
few men carried her body out into a field, and buried her there. It's a sad
place for your parent's grave. There were many children crying, and
stampedes whenever milk or bread, usually from some Albanian from
Macedonia, arrived.

Since I had a mobile phone, I become the centre of a mini-stampede as
everyone wanted to borrow it to get in touch with their family. So while we
waited, I spoke to many people. They had no idea where they were going or
what they would do. "If we get lucky, someone will give us a room," they
said. But they had no aim or motive.

There were only a few international agencies. The Macedonian authorities
were in no rush to process people, and after eight hours the cars there had
not moved at all. Every hour or so, they just singled someone out and said,
"Hey, you. You can pass now." And you were through.

By nightfall, it began to rain and get really cold. I was very lucky: I
have family in Macedonia, and a relative found a way to come pick me up.
But on the other side, a few hundred Albanians, people from western
Macedonia, from Tetovo and Gostivar, were standing in the snow and the
rain, waiting to pick up strangers with no place to go and take them into
their homes.

The thing that we had feared for so long had happened. As we drove away, I
was leaving Yugoslavia and the MUP--the fear. But I was also leaving
Kosovo, and will have to start my life over again. Still, I think the
people will go back. I saw people even right now who want to return. They
have this bizarre feeling that they just left, and their homeland is empty.
That whether they like it or not, Kosovo, for now, belongs to the Serbs.

Gjeraqina Tuhina is a correspondent for the Institute for War Peace


Internal dissenters are keeping their heads down, and not because of NATO
bombs. But the real concern is after the air strikes end, and the internal
reprisals begin.

By a Journalist from Belgrade *

Right up until the evening NATO launched its offensive against Yugoslavia,
the country had never been entirely behind its president. But this is no
longer the case. Today Serbia is cast in the image of one man: Slobodan

This is not to say that Milosevic has succeeded in persuading all Serbs
that his is the true path. Rather, overnight, he acquired a most potent
ally, namely fear. It is all-pervasive and has silenced every dissenting

Milosevic has always had to expend roughly an equal amount of time and
energy on the enemy within, that is the domestic opposition, as the enemy
without, be they the other peoples of the former Yugoslavia or the West. As
long as Serbia proper was spared direct involvement in war, the internal
battle remained largely civil. Dissidents were branded traitors, fifth
columnists, foreign mercenaries and the like, but rarely harmed physically.

Now, however, potential dissidents are acutely aware that the price for
raising their voice against the regime may be much dearer. It may even cost
them their lives.

Following the first NATO bombs, my neighbour ran out on the balcony, looked
up in the sky and unleashed a torrent of abuse. He cursed NATO for what he
considered an unjust and illegal bombing. And he cursed his president, whom
he had never voted for, asking rhetorically: "Where are you now, Slobo?
I'll bet you're somewhere safe, unlike the rest of us."

This frustration echoed throughout the apartment block. The second night of
bombing went by, the third, and the fourth, by which time my neighbour
could no longer be heard voicing his double-pronged anger. He continues
watching the skies from the balcony, but has decided it would be prudent to
keep his opinions to himself.

My neighbour is a professional, long critical of Milosevic, but not
especially political. His only public expression of opposition to the
regime came in winter 1996-97 when he joined the daily protest marches,
which brought Belgrade to a standstill for the better part of three months.
He is therefore used to keeping quiet. Not so the human rights' activists
and opposition politicians who addressed the crowds during those protests.
Yet they are equally silent.

Although logically it should be feasible to oppose both the NATO action and
the Serbian regime at the same time, in reality this is no longer an
option. The air strikes have effectively destroyed what opposition existed,
even more efficiently than the repression of the past decade. And, with the
dissidents silenced, Milosevic has truly emerged as Serbia's supreme and
unchallenged ruler.

Where does Serbia's former opposition go from here? The views of some I
have spoken with have come as a greater shock to me than the air strikes
themselves. Even those who used to argue that Milosevic should be bombed
for the suffering he has caused not only to Croats, Bosnians and Albanians,
but also to Serbs, have, publicly at least, lined up behind the regime.
Moreover, their newly articulated position becomes ever more entrenched
with each day of bombing.

Many Belgrade analysts had warned of the "day after" in Kosovo, predicting
prophetically massive reprisals against the province's Albanians in the
event of air strikes. Ominously, the same individuals are now increasingly
fearful of the "day after" in Serbia. They fear that after NATO's bombing
campaign stops, the regime will turn against the remnants of Serbia's
opposition. As one good friend says: "As long as the NATO air strikes
continue, we're fine. But god helps us when they stop."

As for me, I was never a political figure. But I used to view myself as a
dissident--opposing the dominant political view in Serbia and arguing in
public against the regime. As of Wednesday evening, when the sirens began
to wail and when my flat shook from the first explosions in the distance, I
joined the ranks of the "yes-men". Instead of doing the talking, I have
begun listening. Even when I find what I am hearing totally unpalatable, I
say nothing. I just nod in seeming agreement. It's something I never
thought I would do.

With censorship tightened and no opportunity to hear any alternative
opinion in the media, I wonder how many like-minded remain. I almost
rejoiced when, one evening last week in the company of old friends, we
gradually plucked up the courage to criticise Milosevic and his regime.
Sadly, however, the prospects of this particular anger spilling out into
the public realm are minimal. Indeed, as we dispersed, I wondered whether
it was wise for me to have been so frank.

The author is a journalist and writer from Belgrade, who recently left the
country. The name is withheld to protect his family from reprisals.


Kosovo refugees streaming over the Albanian border near Kukes are being met
by two aid workers distributing biscuits and two Italian Jehovah's
Witnesses urging them to love each other.

By Fron Nazi at the Kukes border crossing

Nine days after NATO launched its bombing campaign and the exodus began in
earnest, aid is still failing to reach the refugees as they complete their
trek to safety. With somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 refugees massed at
the border crossing and another 15,000 expected to arrive tomorrow, none of
the major aid agencies is present and distributing relief supplies.

The two aid workers on the border are both Albanians working for Catholic
Relief Services (CRS). They are handing out boxes of biscuits, each
containing 20 packets, to the refugees, many of whom had not eaten since
fleeing their homes. They also have two barrels of water.

Standing 50 feet from the aid workers, two Italian Jehovah's Witnesses were
offering the latest arrivals spiritual solace. They were handing out fliers
in Albanian saying "We have to learn how to love each other" and posing the
question "Does everybody understand this?" The words were set over a
picture of the smiling faces of young people of every ethnic and racial
background, all apparently living in some sort of tropical harmony,
complete with palm trees.

The Jehovah's Witnesses, who were dressed in two-piece suits and sparkling
white over-coats, had not come to Kukes to proselytize, but to meet their
co-religionists from the Kosovo towns of Djakovica and Pristina whom they
hoped to find among the refugees. They decided that since they were there,
they should make the most of the situation and distribute the fliers.

In addition to the CRS workers and the Jehovah's Witnesses, a five-man team
of French doctors from Medicins du Monde arrived in Kukes today and began
seeing to the medical needs of the refugees.

Representatives from both the UN High Commission for Refugees and the
Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe had also come to assess
the situation, though not to distribute aid. Albanian border guards noted
names of the latest arrivals, most of who no longer possessed Yugoslav
identity documents.

The refugees themselves, most crammed into tractor-driven wagons, had come
from an area between Pristina and Prizren. Sulumjen Berisha, a 64-year-old
man from Pristina set off walking on Wednesday with 10 members of his
family. He said: "We left Pristina in flames and have been walking without
food or water for the past two days, sleeping in the open among the Serb

Mr. Berisha wanted to know where he could get food and water and whether
anybody had information about other family members who had fled one day
earlier. A border guard advised him to keep going because there was no
assistance at the border.

More than 100,000 refugees have crossed into Albania at the same point in
the past 10 days. The population of Kukes was 24,000 before the refugee
influx. Tonight it will be greater than 50,000. In the absence of tents,
most of the refugees are obliged to sleep out in the cold.

Fron Nazi is a senior IWPR editor.


2. PRISTINA, Yugoslavia, April 5 (AFP) - Moderate Kosovo Albanian  
leader Ibrahim Rugova said Monday that NATO "bombings should be 
halted" in Yugoslavia and called on Belgrade to be "more cooperative 
with the international community." 
   Rugova was speaking with reporters after a meeting with the  
Russian ambassador to Belgrade Yuri Kotov in his house in the Kosovo 
capital Pristina. 
   "There should be an end to the situation in Kosovo, the bombing  
should be stopped and monitoring put in," Rugova said in French, 
without elaborating further. 
   "I hope this will be discussed on the international level. This  
is not a question just for me. I am here without my people," he 
   Already last Wednesday, during a brief meeting with journalists  
in his house in Pristina, Rugova had called on NATO to stop the air 
raids and asked Belgrade to "cooperate." 
   Rugova said he had asked the Belgrade authorities to allow him  
to go abroad. 
   "I told Kotov that I am interested in leaving Pristina to go to  
Skopje (Macedonia) and other countries to contribute to the process 
and stop the actual situation, because I am here without my 
associates," Rugova said. 
   "I cannot work and contribute here in Pristina. I can do more  
outside Kosovo ... I told Serbian authorities of this request. I am 
waiting for a response," Rugova said. 
   Kotov said he had raised the issue with Yugoslav deputy premier  
Nikola Sainovic. 
   "Sainovic confirmed to me that your movements are free and that  
they (the Yugoslav authorities) are concerned about your personal 
security. I believe this situation will be solved," Kotov told 
   Asked whether he actually met with Yugoslav President Slobodan  
Milosevic in Belgrade last Thursday -- a meeting shown on Serb 
television and whose authenticity has been questioned -- Rugova 
simply said, in English: "This is speculation. I was in Belgrade." 
   NATO officials had doubted that Rugova was at the meeting,  
saying that the footage shown by the Serbian state television may 
have been "two years old." 
   After Thurday's meeting, Milosevic and Rugova signed a joint  
statement in which they committed themselve to solving the problem 
in Kosovo by "political means," Serbian state television reported. 
   Rugova thanked the Russian ambassador for his "engagement on the  
Kosovo issue" in the current circumstances which "are very 
   "A solution should be found to this situation. It is very  
serious and I ask Belgrade to be more cooperative with the 
international community," Rugova said. 
   He reiterated that the problem should be tackled politically,  
adding: "Everything should be done to find a solution for all people 
in the Balkans region and Kosovo." 
   Kotov said that the "Russian position is well-known."  
   "The bombing should be stopped immediately and (one should)  
return to the political track, because ... the problem in Kosovo is 
too complicated and cannot be resolved, except by political means," 
Kotov said. 
   "I am very satisfied that Mr Rugova shares this opinion," he  
   The Russian government, Kotov said, "has made an official  
decision to organise humanitarian aid to all the regions of 
Yugoslavia, to send a hundred trucks with purely humanitarian aid." 
   "We are positive that Kosovo inhabitants should return," he  
said, "but I also believe that returning under bombs, demands lot of 
   Kotov expresssed admiration for Rugova's courage in choosing to  
remain in Kosovo. 
   Rugova's and Kotov's brief meeting with journalists was  
organised by the Serb Information center in Pristina. Some 15 
reporters, among them Greek, Turkish and Serbian television 
journalists, were present. 
   Serbian television broadcast footage of the meeting, with a  
brief report saying the Russian ambassador reaffirmed Moscow's 
position that "the bombing should stop immediately and political 
dialogue should be relaunched." 
   Kotov said "he was satisfied that Doctor Ibrahim Rugova has the  
same view," the TV reported. 

Albana Shala

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