Voices against the war in Kosovo [1999]
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6/15/99

[Source: BBC News]

Tension as Kosovo deadline looms

Thousands of Serb civilians are fleeing Kosovo, as the midnight deadline for the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops from Pristina and southern Kosovo approaches.

The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) says 24,000 Serbs have left the province for Serbia since last week's peace deal. Another 13,300 are reported to have crossed into Montenegro.

The exodus came as the Serb Orthodox Church called for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to resign.

The church has issued a statement urging Mr Milosevic and his government to give way to new authorities acceptable at home and abroad.

It also called on Serbs not to leave Kosovo.

However, with Serbian forces set to leave by midnight on Tuesday, many Serb civilians fear reprisals from the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and returning Kosovo Albanians.

A large convoy of Serbs reportedly left Pristina overnight.

Nato says 14,300 peacekeepers have now entered Kosovo and has assured that they will guarantee Serb safety.

A British military spokesman said K-For would react to any incident even-handedly in order to rebuild confidence among both Albanian and Serb people.

As Serb forces continue to retreat from Kosovo hundreds of refugees have been pouring back despite warnings of mines and unexploded ordinance.

Reports say an elderly woman was killed on Tuesday and her husband injured after accidentally detonating a mine as they returned from Macedonia.

The UNHCR says it could be several weeks before Nato troops can clear the region of mines and booby traps.

But several hundred refugees have already crossed the border from Macedonia, and their number is expected to grow.

Some 20,000 displaced Kosovo Albanians have also been found inside Kosovo, hiding in the mountainous area west of Pristina.

One official said there could be up to 500,000 people "living hand to mouth" in desperate need of help.

The refugees have been fleeing their homes over the last three months, following systematic attacks by Serb forces.

Night of violence

Despite K-For's presence on the streets, several attacks were reported in Pristina in a second night of violence between Serbs and Kosovo Albanians.

British military sources said KLA members in the north-east of the city shot dead a Serb hostage after taking him hostage.

Paratroops who had tried to help the Serb came under fire from five KLA guerrillas, who later gave themselves up.

According to Nato, a rocket-propelled grenade was also fired on Tuesday near Pristina airport, which Russian troops unexpectedly took control of last Saturday.

Nato did not say who fired the grenade which did not cause any injuries or damage.

KLA welcomed back

In Kosovo's second largest city, Prizren, armed KLA soldiers returning to the town have been receiving a hero's welcome.

Some Kosovo Albanians also jeered, spat and threw stones at retreating Serbs, most of whom were heading north into Serbia.

German K-For troops stood guard overnight outside a church where Serbs too frightened to leave had taken refuge.

Italian troops have entered the city of Pec, the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and scene of some of the grimmest accounts of slaughter in recent months.

Yugoslav troops withdrew from the city on Monday after a spree of house torchings and alleged rapes.

[Source: Ansa]

KOSOVO: ESODO DI OLTRE 37 MILA SERBI DA VENERDI', UNHCR

(ANSA) - GINEVRA, 15 GIU - I serbi che hanno lasciato il Kosovo da venerdi' scorso sono gia' 37.300: lo hanno detto stamane a Ginevra i portavoce del Comitato internazionale della Croce rossa (Cicr) e dell'Alto Commissariato dell'Onu per i rifugiati (Unhcr). Secondo Jette Sorensen del Cicr, 24 mila serbi hanno abbandonato il Kosovo per tornare in Serbia e questo dato e' stato confermato dalla Croce rossa jugoslava, che ha distribuito razioni alimentari e aiuti di emergenza agli sfollati. La portavoce dell'Unhcr Judith Kumin ha parlato di 13.300 civili, in prevalenza serbi, che sono fuggiti dal Kosovo verso il Montenegro. Circa la meta' di essi sono rimasti nella repubblica federata alla Jugoslavia, mentre gli altri sono rientrati in Serbia. (ANSA).

serbs.jpg (17094 bytes)


[Source: Il Manifesto, 15/06/1999]

Ventimila serbi in fuga

di GIACOMO SCOTTI

Come volevasi dimostrare: Milosevic non era il principale obiettivo della Nato. Sin dal primo momento - e la cosa si ripete in questi interminabili giorni di "cambio della guardia" nell'occupazione militare del Kosovo - l'intervento armato della Nato ha moltiplicato le conseguenze tragiche dell'esodo delle popolazioni, e mentre finora a fuggire dalla regione erano in prevalenza gli albanesi (anche perché sono la maggioranza degli abitanti), ora a fuggire sono i civili serbi, e vanno ad aggiungersi ai cinquanta-sessantamila già costretti a scappare nel corso dei circa ottanta giorni di bombardamenti terroristici.

Ora con le bande dell'Uck, libere di scorazzare nel Kosovo, le popolazioni serbe, prive di tutela da parte della loro polizia e del loro esercito, sono il bersaglio preferito del tiro al piccione. Come avvenne a Sarajevo sul finire del 1995: interi quartieri periferici della città, abitati prevalentemente dai serbi, invece di essere protetti dalle forze internazionali, furono abbandonati al saccheggio dei "vendicatori", e tutti i civili costretti a fuggire. A quattro anni di distanza, pochissimi di essi sono riusciti a tornare nelle loro case. Dunque, siamo in presenza di una nuova pulizia etnica, stavolta non compiuta dagli uomini di Milosevic ma da quelle milizie sulle quali la Nato ha aperto il proprio ombrello protettivo.

Da Belgrado un collega ci informa sommariamente dicendo che finora sono dieci i serbi assassinati e decine i rapiti. L'esodo, poi, è massiccio: insieme ai serbi fuggono gli appartenenti alle minoranze turche e rom. La corrispondente del "Novi List" di Fiume dalla Serbia, Btanka Vujnovic, comunica che i "i distretti meridionali del Kosovo resteranno presto senza un solo abitante di etnia serba, mentre nella parte settentrionale resteranno in pochi. Come quelli dei quartieri periferici di Pristina, chi resta lo fa sperando nella protezione delle truppe russe". Branka precisa che, insieme ai serbi e ai rom, "cercano scampo in Serbia anche numerosi albanesi", quelli di religione cristiana, ortodossi e cattolici che hanno già conosciuto le persecuzioni degli estremisti loro connazionali. Secondo l'agenzia di stampa "Beta", miliziani dell'Uck hanno circondato la cittadina di Prizren (15 km dal confine con l'Albania) dove la situazione è molto tesa. Qui quasi tutti i serbi, eccettuate poche centinaia di anziani e ammalati, hanno lasciato le loro case sotto la pressione delle milizie albanesi. Non mancano i saccheggi e le uccisioni. L'arcivescovo ortodosso della diocesi di Rascia-Prizren, Artemije, ha lanciato un sos chiedendo aiuto e protezione per i sacerdoti e i civili serbi nella regione. A Rozaj, poco oltre il confine del Montenegro, si sono ammassati finora oltre tremila profughi serbi kosovari. Viaggiano su automobili stracariche di materassi, sedie e altre masserizie. Il commissario per i profughi e rifugiati del Montenegro, Giorgje Scepanovic, ha detto che il suo paese "tratterà serbi e montenegrini fuggiti dal Kosovo come tutti gli altri disgraziati che già da anni hanno trovato rifugio nel nostro paese", nella speranza che la loro condizione di esuli non si protragga a lungo. L'esperienza dei 750 mila profughi serbi cacciati o fuggiti nel '95 da Croazia e Bosnia dice però che la tragedia di questa gente non sarà di breve durata.

I serbi del Kosovo fuggono soprattutto perché conoscono la "besa" albanese, la radicata tradizione della vendetta del sangue. Anche oggi si sono viste interminabili colonne di fuggiaschi, comunica un altro collega del quotidiano croato di Fiume, il corrispondente da Pristina Slobodan Rackovic. Si calcola che negli ultimi quattro giorni hanno abbandonato l'intera regione 20.000 civili serbi, cinquemila dei quali sono riparati in Montenegro. Il maggior numero di fuggiaschi proviene dalle zone di Pec, Djakovica, Prizren e Suva Reka, ma anche da altre città. L'unica zona in cui sono ancora in buon numero è quella di Pristina, ma nelle prossime ore, quando anche di là si saranno ritirati gli ultimi reparti dell'esercito e della polizia serbi, anche i civili rimasti li seguiranno. Tra profughi dalla Croazia (450.000), dalla Federazione croato-musulmana di Bosnia (350.000) e dal Kosovo (200.000) i profughi serbi saranno un milione. Ammassati in una Serbia ridotta in macerie dalle bombe della Nato e praticamente privata degli aiuti umanitari di quegli stessi paesi che si richiamano alle ragioni umanitarie per fare la guerra.

 


[Source: Washington Post]


Three Kosovo Men Extinguish the Flames of Ethnic Hatred

Albanian and Serbian Neighbors All Victims of Balkan Violence
Pledge to Protect One Another's Lives and Property; In Podujevo, 3 Neighbors Take a Stand Against Hate

By Daniel Williams
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, June 15, 1999; Page A25

PODUJEVO, Yugoslavia, June 14—When Ramadani Bejtus returned home in late April with his wife and six children to find their house reduced to a scorched heap, his first reaction was fury at the Serbs who had torched it.

"I was so angry I shook. It was impossible for me to not hate the people who did it and wish the Serbs would die," recalled Bejtus, an ethnic Albanian schoolteacher.

Then his two elderly Serbian neighbors appeared, with the Bejtus family's cow. They had rescued the animal and cared for it for a month, after trying but failing to save the Bejtus house from the flames.

"They said, 'We're glad you're safe. We knew you would come home,' " said Bejtus. "Except for the clothes on our backs, the cow was all we had."

The story of how Bejtus was helped by his next-door neighbors, Serbs Goran Cap and Milan Jovic, stands in blunt contrast to the last 2 1/2 months of shootings, looting and humiliation in Kosovo. It is a precious and rare example of how some people in the province have overcome the ethnic hatred that has caused so much grief in the Balkans.

Now that NATO's entry is changing the balance of power in Kosovo, Serbs are fearful of ethnic Albanians and are leaving Kosovo by the thousands. Many of the returning ethnic Albanians are threatening to take revenge on any Serbs who dare to stay.

Not Bejtus.

"My friends will stay," he said matter-of-factly, as the three sat on a bench under grape vines in the two Serbs' garden. He tapped Jovic on the shoulder lightly, and his voice got louder, as if he were addressing a crowd. "I guarantee that no one will touch a tile on the roof of this house, or a hair on their heads," Bejtus said.

Cap, a retired construction worker, and Jovic, a retired land survey company employee, were themselves victims of ethnic violence before they ever met Bejtus. They were among 250,000 Serbs who fled Croatia in 1995 at the end of a civil war there.

They eventually landed in Podujevo, a nondescript town in northeast Kosovo about five miles from the border of Serbia proper. It shares the marks of terror seen in every ethnic Albanian city, village or neighborhood in the province: shattered storefronts, blackened houses, emptied larders, deserted gardens and fields.

On March 24, NATO jets began bombing Yugoslavia with the aim of getting the Belgrade government to sign a peace agreement for Kosovo, a province of Serbia, the dominant republic of Yugoslavia. Quickly, Serbian paramilitary marauders began to go house to house throughout the province to expel ethnic Albanians. Tensions are long-standing between Serbs and Albanians, who are of different religions and speak different languages.

The paramilitaries got to Bejtus's one-story place at 7:30 p.m. They shouted at him and his family to flee. Cap and Jovic protested, but the paramilitaries ignored them. Cap said the attackers were not from Podujevo.

On the first night, Bejtus's house was spared. Flames from a neighboring house licked at the barn, but Cap and Jovic doused the fire with water from a hose. All around, there was shooting and screaming. Albanians were fleeing every direction on foot and by tractor.

"We just wanted to save the house. It was all we could do," Cap said.

The victory was temporary. The next day, someone came and threw gasoline into the house and lit it. It burned to ashes and mortar. Cap and Jovic rescued the cow from the courtyard.

"We were afraid for Ramadani [Bejtus], but believed he would come back," said Cap, who wears an abundant beard the color and texture of straw.

When asked to explain the effort, the two old Serbs related the lesson of their own harsh experience. In August 1995, both were driven out of Krajina, a region of Croatia, at the close of the conflict there. Croatians were then engaged in "ethnic cleansing" or forced deportations of Serbs, just as Serbs did to ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

"I've read this screenplay before," said Jovic, sweeping the few remaining strands of gray hair over his crown. "This time, the players are different, but the ending is always the same."

"I knew ahead of time this would happen," said Cap.

The men joined a tractor and car convoy from Croatia to Bosnia, and then to Serbia. There, Jovic and Cap, both bachelors, spent several weeks in camps. Finally, authorities ordered them and hundreds of others to settle in Pristina, the Kosovo provincial capital.

Cap and others protested. To escape, he volunteered to do paramilitary duty in Vukovar, Croatia, where fighting continued. Jovic submitted and traveled to Pristina. "The officials told those who didn't know where Pristina was that is was located in Dalmatia," he said, referring to a lovely Adriatic coastal region.

Meanwhile, Cap avoided Vukovar by claiming illness. He too turned up in Pristina. Both were then resettled in Podujevo, and lived for two years in a schoolhouse converted into a refuge. A Montenegrin homeowner who traveled a lot invited them to live at his house. "It hasn't been very easy, but every so often, people helped us. So we knew what to do when all this happened" -- he gestured at the rows of burned houses on his street. "Unfortunately, saving the cow was all" that was possible, Cap said.

It was enough for Bejtus. He and his family fled to wooded hills where for a month they subsisted on flour, cooking oil and water. Now he explains to his children that he wants their neighbors to stay. He tells them not everyone is bad, that what is important is they are alive and have friends like Jovic and Cap.

The war is over, and NATO peacekeepers will soon arrive in Podujevo. The ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army, whose tactics include terrorizing Serbian civilians, will also be back. KLA units still shoot up the hills along a valley north of Podujevo. The black and red patches on their uniforms are dreaded by Serbs.

Police and soldiers are telling Serbs no one can guarantee their security. The mayor has fled. "We are staying," said Jovic. "What would be the point of fleeing? We know what it's like."

Cap said: "We didn't do anyone any harm, so we don't think we have reason to leave."

A few doors down, a Serbian family loaded a trailer chained to a big, blue tractor. They angrily declined to say why they were leaving. Today, near Pristina, gunmen wearing black and red arm bands pulled three Serbian males off a similar tractor and shot them dead.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

 

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