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<nettime> YHRF#10
natasa kandic on Tue, 13 Apr 1999 02:56:17 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> YHRF#10


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YHRF # 10
Natasa Kandic
12 April 1998

FROM MONTENEGRO TO PRISTINA
3-7 April 1999

None of the Kosovo Albanian displaced now in Rozaje (northern Montenegro)
and Ulcinj (Adriatic coast) have tried to return to Pec.  Only local
Muslims go to take food and medicine to the mostly elderly Albanians who
are still in Pec. Albanians from Istok and surrounding villages started
arriving in Rozaje on Friday, 9 April. 

Though it seems as if all Kosovo is in Rozaje, no international
humanitarian organizations have a presence here.  Reporters come, take
notes if the story is about a massacre, and then return to Podgorica to
wait for a military coup.  There are over 1,000 people in the mosque 
children, elderly, sick.  They have not had a bath since they came to
Montenegro on 27 or 28 March.  Younger men are seeking ways to get out of
the country and find somewhere to make a living.  They would all send
their families back to Kosovo if their safety was guaranteed.

A teacher from Pec tells me the inhabitants of her neighborhood were
driven from their homes and taken to the indoor sports stadium on 30
March.  They were held for 12 hours and then the army returned them home. 
The next day, they were again driven out and ordered to go to Montenegro. 
The first men who drove them out and took them to the stadium had
camouflage paint on their faces and wore black caps.  The teacher said the
soldiers who took them home said, 'We have orders that you should return
to your homes.' Those who ordered them to leave for Montenegro, she says,
wore police uniforms. 

Here in Rozaje, I was told that that several people were killed while the
inhabitants were being driven from their homes.  Five men were killed in
the yard of the Kastrati house in the Brzenik II neighborhood.  A woman
whose son, Nevzat, was killed, says her son, two brothers with the last
name Gega, and another three men were slaughtered in front of her.  Some
odd men in uniforms and caps on their heads came into their yard, she
says.  They seemed to be drunk and shouted and cursed. They told her she
would not be killed, that they would let her live so she would pine for
her dead son.  They killed the men with knives. Nevzat bled to death in
his mother's arms.  One of the Gega brothers, whose belly had been slit
open, lingered on for a few hours. Other uniformed men came the next day
and took the bodies away in a truck.

When I said I was going to Pristina, everyone in Rozaje was astounded.  As
I was leaving the town, the police wished me good luck.  The road to
Pristina via Novi Pazar and Kosovska Mitrovica was deserted  not a single
vehicle.  My first impression was that Pristina too was deserted.  The
first block of apartment buildings in the Suncani Breg district, before
Matican village, was empty.  Cars stood in the parking lot.  Friends of
mine lived on the second floor of one of these buildings.  I went up, rang
the doorbell and knocked.  Then I tried the knob and the door swung open. 
Everything inside was as it used to be, at least at first glance.  I met
only two women on the block.  The residents were given 10 minutes to leave
their apartments and go to the railway station.

On the next block, I saw children playing and found some friends.  The
police had not been there.  But many people left nonetheless, fearing that
they would be ordered out of their homes at any minute.  Some returned on
Sunday and Monday (3 and 4 April).  They had waited several days at the
border and, seeing that police were not preventing people from returning,
they decided to go back home.  Besides the residents, there are people
from other neighborhoods in these buildings.  Serbs and Albanians are
keeping together.  They lock the front entrances at night and no one can
either leave the buildings or come in.  People listen to the news until
the power is cut.  Only a few phones work.  They are not in touch with
their family members or relatives in other Kosovo towns and villages.

They keep talking about the events from 31 March to 3 April.  By a quirk
of fate, several people from the Taslidze neighborhood remained in
Pristina  they were not there when the inhabitants were being driven from
their homes.  Pristina was gripped by panic when the expulsions from the
suburban areas started.  Rumors of killings and disappearances ran round. 
Nobody dares report disappearances to the Serbian police.  The bombings in
fact do not scare Albanians as much as 'those' who will come and slaughter
them - 'those' being paramilitaries, police or armed gangs.

Listening to the news on the BBC, Sky News, Tirana TV and Serbian TV, they
gather that Pristina was not as badly hit as Pec, Djakovica or Prizren. 
The downtown cafes were blown up before the NATO intervention.  Some
civilian facilities were destroyed by the NATO attacks and there were
civilian casualties.  Everybody, myself included, is afraid of being
accused of spying and we kept away from the ruins.

On the night of 6/7 April, I talked for a long time with my friends by
candlelight.  D. tells me it is the women who bring the news about local
events and that they get their information while standing in line for
bread.  They tell the men when it is safe to go out or to visit with
friends in neighboring buildings.  Everyone watches the news and then talk
it over.  Another major topic is 'what do our Serb neighbors say.' These
neighbors are ordinary people but a lot of importance is attached to their
words.  According to D., every half hour or so, a housewife comes to his
apartment with new information from the Serbs:  'They say the situation is
better today,' or 'they say it will be a bit better tomorrow.'

We were just leaving at about midnight when explosions were heard and
continued until daybreak.  The phones were all out in the morning and
somebody said the main post office must have taken a hit.  It was only
when I came back to Belgrade that I learned that not only the post office
but the Social Security Department building had also been hit and that
there were civilian casualties.

Before I left for Belgrade, I went to check up on the HLC office.  I had
heard the police had been there.  There was a police officer outside the
building.  He let me in but said I was not to touch anything as 'something
was found in here and the police will be investigating.' As soon as I was
inside, an elderly lady with a dog ran up, shouting 'Call the State
Security; I was told to report if anybody came to this office.' The
officer remained silent. 'Well, I'll be on my way now,' I said and left. I
shook with fright as she shouted after me, and heaved a sign of relief
once I had left Pristina.

On the way to Belgrade, I saw several large groups near Kosovska
Mitrovica.  They were on foot, with children, making for Vucitrn.  I asked
where they were going.  'Home, but we're not sure if we can,' was their
reply.  When I told them to go back home, they remained silent and just
plodded on.  'People are returning to Pristina; go back home,' I cried out
to them.

After Raska and about ten kilometers from Kosovoska Mitrovica, I waited
for hours near a bridge that had been destroyed by NATO, hoping to find
some kind of transportation.  A villager came up and warned me sternly
that I was not to stand on their land. He said he had seen a Muslim woman
under the bridge before it was bombed. 

ENDS

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