Friday, July 29, 2005

Half of Serbia Illiterate?

Half of Serbia without primary education

BELGRADE -- Friday – According to statistics from the Education Ministry, nearly 50 percent of Serbian citizens never finished elementary schooling.

This means that over 3 million people in Serbia are considered illiterate by all international and European standards. While night schools are meant to help people in such situations, because of numerous problems and the lack of support from state institutions, help is hard to find.

There are a total of twelve adult schooling institutions in Serbia, all of which are currently on recess. According to the Education Ministry, this school year was once again filled with various problems faced by institutions responsible for the primary schooling of people over the age of 15.

The director of one such school, Nada Pejovic-Mitrovic, said that the schools do not have enough resources for the proper education of adults.

“The education of adults is considered very marginal, there are not enough resources, and no one is addressing the issue. I have been a director in this system of education for eleven years. Eleven years ago there were eighteen of these schools now there are only twelve or thirteen. That means that these school have already been cut down by about 30 percent either because they have lost their facilities or that the directors of such schools were not able to convince people to attend.” she said.

Adult schooling festivals are organized every year in an effort to make the public aware of these problems faced by those working in such institutions. Experts say that the biggest lack of interest is being shown by the state institutions.

The institutions disinterest for these issues is best displayed by the recent failure to implement the project of setting up a special sector for adult education in Ada.

“I really cannot believe it myself. Firstly, adults will receive an education. Secondly, it would give teachers jobs who are currently on the market looking for employment. My professors will get five to ten percent which they need to reach the norm, while visiting the schools on a monthly basis for testing. Everyone has an interest in this project, but it looks like no one is interested. I cannot do it alone; I am only one small screw in the entire system. I am coming from the home base and looking for options, but I need to be certified to do so by the region of the state so that this school would have the right to work, because I cannot do anything before that.” Pejovic-Mitrovic said.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Blood feuds? in Kosovo[Kosova] threaten final status talks

Journalist, family members of political figures shot dead in two months of violence

Peja- Kosova/Kosovo- A spate of ruthless assassinations in Kosovo[Kosova] is threatening to divide the Kosovo Albanian elite. As final-status talks loom - with most bets on late summer to early autumn - this could splinter it and weaken the Albanian side, should it develop into a renewed power struggle. With some form of hedged independence the most likely outcome of the negotiations, the stakes are high.

On June 3 Bardhy Ajeti, a journalist on the newspaper Bota Sot, was shot in the head near Gnjilane. He later died. Bota Sot is close to President Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and Ajeti was a vocal critic of the post-war elite, most of whom were associated with the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK).

Then, on July 12, two members of the Musaj family were killed in a drive-by shooting near Pec in western Kosovo.

The killings fall into a pattern of feuds that run both on the family and clan level, and at the political level. The Musaj family was prominent in the so called Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosovo (FARK) during the late 1990s. FARK was allied to the LDK, and was a bitter rival of the UCK. During the 1998-99 conflict the Haradinaj family, also from the Pec area and influential in the UCK, became embroiled in a vendetta with the Musajs.

Ramush Haradinaj commanded the UCK's 'Dukagjini' Operational Zone and then founded the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) after hostilities ceased. In December 2004 he became prime minister after the AAK became Rugova's junior coalition partner. Four months later he was indicted by the Hague Tribunal and resigned his post.

The Haradinaj-Musaj feud became emblematic of wider FARK-UCK bloodletting. In 2000 Ramush Haradinaj was involved in a gun battle with members of the Musaj family at their home in Strelnik, western Kosovo. The Musajs allege that he ordered the murder of their brother and three others in 1999.

Then in November 2002 the hybrid international-local war crimes court in Pristina convicted Haradinaj's brother Daut of torturing and killing four people in the aftermath of the conflict in 1999 - including a member of the Musaj family. He was sentenced to five years in jail. Subsequently Musaj family members who testified at the trial were threatened and harassed. One of them, Sadik Musaj, was shot in Pec by unidentified gunmen on February 2 and died later from his wounds.

In March, days after Ramush Haradinaj surrendered to The Hague, his younger brother Enver was murdered by gunmen. According to a source in The Hague,in addition to the Serbian Government, former FARK members have co-operated in the indictment against Haradinaj. The indictment includes the following: "Ramush Haradinaj [and those under his command] did not tolerate the presence of any other Albanian factions fighting against the Serbs, such as the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosovo ("FARK") in their territory. On July 4 1998, Ramush Haradinaj along with soldiers of his headquarters in Glodjane/Gllogjan beat, humiliated and seriously injured four members of these forces."

If FARK members did indeed assist The Hague, it will add further intensity to the conflict. Nevertheless, it appears so far to have been confined geographically and politically. According to Jeta Xharra, Kosovo director of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), "There is definitely a personalised, local vendetta in western Kosovo, but it does not affect Pristina. Although these are the military wings of LDK and AAK, the parties themselves remain in coalition and unaffected. This is a wild, thuggish and irrational war, and it doesn't matter to them what happens in Pristina."

For those watching the security situation as status talks approach (for which KFOR's intelligence capacity has been bolstered considerably) it is hoped that the conflict does not break out of its local confines and spread to civilian politics. For many, however, possibly including the local police, the vendetta is almost a natural phenomenon that must be allowed to run itself out. "This sort of thing happens in Kosovo," one seasoned Balkan diplomat told The Budapest Times.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

'Balkan' Lazio adds Kosovo-born midfielder Behrami to roster

Rome - Lazio of Rome announced Tuesday the signing of Kosovo-born Swiss midfielder Valon Behrami from second division side Verona for a reported 2.8 million euros (3.36 million dollars).

The highly-rated 20-year-old signed a five-year contract worth 300,000 euros per season, set to rise progressively to 500,000 euros. Verona agreed to sell its 50 per cent stake in the player after obtaining the consent of Genoa, which owns the other half.

Behrami will join a squad that features strikers Goran Pandev of Macedonia and Igli Tare of Albania and which local media have already nicknamed "Balkan Lazio".

The Roman club is trying to bounce back after narrowly escaping bankruptcy last year. The team will play Marseilles of France in the Intertoto competition semifinal scheduled to take place on Wednesday.

Winners of the Intertoto Cup are allowed a place in next season's UEFA Cup.

Haradinaj murder suspect surrenders?

Haradinaj murder suspect surrenders

PEJE -- Tuesday – Tasim Osaj, who is wanted by Kosovo police as the main suspect in the murder of Enver Haradinaj, turned himself in today.

Osaj’s family stated that he was not involved in the murder of Enver Haradinaj, who is the brother of Hague indictee and former Kosovo prime minister Ramush Haradinaj.

Osaj’s brother, Ljuljzim Osaj said that his brother was not involved in the April 15 murder of Haradinaj and that his family never held the Haradinaj’s responsible for the death of older brother Rexhep Osaj, who was murdered six months ago under still unknown circumstances.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Three Kosovo Ministers to be fired?

PRISSTINA -- Kosovo governor Soeren Jessen Petersen has asked Kosovo Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi for the dismissal of three ministers of the Kosovo government. Petersen is asking that Deputy Prime Minister Adem Saljihaj and Ministers Melijhat Trmkoli and Astrit Haracija be replaced before the start of status discussions in Kosovo for the misuse of power as officials of the Kosovo government. According to sources of the daily Koha Ditore, the three ministers may be dismissed at the beginning of September if Kosumi does not react by then, since Petersen is pushing for the status discussions to begin in the fall. The three ministers in question have been called out in the media several times for having alleged ties to criminal activity, misusing their parliamentary positions and being affiliated with the Homeland Security organization. All of these ministers belong to LDK, the largest political party in Kosova.
Koha Ditore

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Wages of Denial

Washington -- TEN years ago this week, Serbian forces slaughtered more than 7,000 Muslim men in the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica. Despite the efforts of a dedicated few in Serbia, and despite the war crimes prosecutions at The Hague, Serbia is no closer today than it was a decade ago to reckoning with its war guilt.

For years Belgrade has denied involvement by its citizens in Srebrenica and other massacres of the 1990s. The recent broadcast of a graphic video that showed Serbian paramilitary police executing six young men from Srebrenica should have made it very hard to sustain that revisionism. Amazing as it seems, however, the video was not enough to shatter what Serbian human rights activist Sonja Biserko has described as the country's ''state of collective denial.''

Fewer than half of Serbs polled last spring believed the Srebrenica massacre took place. And while much has been made of the video's effects on a shocked Serbian public, it remains to be seen where that public will stand once the furor recedes. The Radical Party, which won 27 percent of the popular vote in the last national elections, making it the largest party in Parliament, has already criticized what it sees as the anti-Serb hysteria that ''wishes at all costs to put the burden of all crimes on Serbia.'' Graffiti has appeared in several cities praising the ''liberation'' of Srebrenica. Rumors circulate that the video was doctored, or that the men committing the crimes were acting independently.

Instead of coming to terms with its past, Serbia has circumvented the issue with the narrative skills befitting a psychopath. For example, a debate on Srebrenica at the Belgrade Law Faculty earlier this year was initially titled ''10 Years After the Liberation of Srebrenica.'' In response to the video, Serbia's president, Boris Tadic, said, ''Serbia is deeply shocked'' that ''the killers had walked freely among us.'' But Mr. Tadic's government surely knows that the killers in the video are but a small fraction of the number who continue to walk the streets of Serbia and Montenegro as free men.

A fairy tale has passed for public memory until now in Serbia and Montenegro and it is conspicuous in its omission of Serb atrocities in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, which left hundreds of thousands dead. The Serbian version of that history denies the fact that President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia and those like him enjoyed overwhelming popular support in Serbia during the war, despite the evictions, rapes and unchecked slaughter by Yugoslav troops and irregulars. It suggests that Belgrade today has nothing to do with Belgrade as it was 10 years ago. It aims at an absurd relativism, placing Serbian atrocities within the context of crimes committed by other ethnicities (in fact, the C.I.A. has reported that Serbs were responsible for 90 percent of all atrocities committed in Bosnia). Mr. Tadic was quoted as saying, ''Crimes are always individual.'' All of this is fiction.

At the end of the Second World War, Allied troops forced German citizens to walk through Nazi death camps. They were confronted by crimes committed in their name, in order to ensure that those crimes could not be denied or minimized later. The people of Serbia and Montenegro, by contrast, have never been forced to acknowledge the crimes committed in their name.

There are those who refuse to whitewash Serbia's recent past. The Helsinki Human Rights Committee in Serbia and the independent broadcaster Radio B92 are admirable examples. People like Natasa Kandic, chairwoman of the Humanitarian Law Center in Belgrade, have spent years fighting for the truth, often at great personal risk. Extremists threatened to lynch Ms. Kandic at the law school debate on Srebrenica, and one of them spat in her face.

Eight of Serbia's human rights groups have drafted a declaration on Srebrenica that would obligate the country's government to confess to the massacre and to ''expose and punish any ideological justification of crime.'' But the daily newspaper Blic reported that the majority of parties in Serbia's Parliament refused not only to endorse the declaration but also to debate it.

Serbia must relinquish the fairy tale that its own wartime suffering was equivalent to the devastation it visited on others. Adopting an honest declaration on Srebrenica would have been an important first step, and the Serbian Parliament should have taken it. For as long as Serbia's people deny complicity in war crimes, they undercut any hope for justice and cheat their country out of any decent future. The Western aid money that has poured into Serbia may help rebuild the country's infrastructure, but it will do nothing to cut out the cancer that riddles the country's heart.

Western governments are anxious for reconciliation in the Balkans, which would ensure future stability in the region. They are pushing hard for the arrests of people like Radovan Karadzic, the architect of the genocide, and Ratko Mladic, who carried it out, and they lauded the speed with which the Serbian government detained those suspected of being the killers shown on the video. But those arrests will not be nearly enough.

Such men were not exceptions, nor were they acting independently, and Serbia must acknowledge this truth, rather than denying or minimizing it. That means surrendering all war crimes suspects to The Hague and paying reparations to the victims of war. The West should ask for no less than this when it considers Serbian requests for aid.

Courtney Angela Brkic is the author of ''Stillness: And Other Stories'' and ''The Stone Fields,'' an account of her work excavating mass graves outside Srebrenica.
The New York Times-ANGELA BRKIC

Friday, July 08, 2005

Srebrenica still an emblem

Srebrenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina -A tear rolls down Sabaheta Fejzic's cheek as she twists open the blue tin of hand cream and gazes at the fingertip tracks left by her son. The 17-year-old and his father have never been seen since they were taken away to the factory where Europe's worst massacre since World War II was being perpetrated.

Nearly 8,000 people died in the five-day bloodbath of Srebrenica that was set in motion 10 years ago on Monday with the Bosnian-Serb capture of the town from UN peacekeepers. Over the next two days, troops rounded up the town's males, shot all who couldn't flee and scattered their remains in dozens of mass graves that are still turning up today.

Srebrenica was supposed to be a UN "safe haven" but its 600 Dutch peacekeepers, outmanned and outgunned, could only watch as soldiers supervised by Bosnian-Serb General Ratko Mladic separated men from women and children at a factory in the suburb of Potocari.

Ten years later, Srebrenica remains an emblem of a three-and-a-half-year war that left 260,000 dead and 20,000 missing. Even now some 800,000 remain uprooted, often -- as in the case of Srebrenica's Muslims -- afraid to go back to towns now run by their former enemies.

Rijad, Fejzic's only child, was taken from his mother on the morning of July 12. As the Serbs led him away, she grabbed his belt pack to hold him back. It broke off in her hands.

Opening it later, she found music cassettes of Dire Straits and Bosnian rockers, and the half-used Nivea tin.

"When you lift the lid you can see the traces of his fingertips in the cream," she says, searching for a tissue to catch her tears.

Bosnia now is united, on paper, as a Serb republic and a Muslim-Croat federation. But it still needs international supervision enforced by armed foreign peacekeepers to keep its ethnic groups working together in a central government.

Already inefficient before the war, its post-communist economy remains dependent on outside help.

The strong sense of accounts unsettled is highlighted by NATO forces' failure to capture Mladic, as well as the wartime Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, so that they can be tried for the Srebrenica massacre and other war crimes.

The US Congress recently passed a resolution deeming the Srebrenica killings to be genocide and demanding the perpetrators be punished.

But a text with the same message was voted down in Bosnia's federal parliament by Bosnian Serb lawmakers.

Still, after nearly a decade of denial, Serbs are starting to come to grips with their wartime conduct.

The evidence has become impossible to ignore, now that ordinary Serbs have seen TV footage of Srebrenica's victims being rounded up and shot.

Screened last month, the video has poked huge holes in the Serb nationalist spin on the Bosnian and other Balkan wars -- that Serbs were the victims and other ethnic groups the perpetrators.

The president of now defunct Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, was ousted by street protesters in 2001 and is on trial for war crimes in The Hague, Netherlands, and Monday's memorial in Srebrenica will for the first time be attended by a Serbian president, the pro-Western Boris Tadic. Organizers expect 50,000 people to show up.

In Belgrade, capital of neighboring Serbia, billboards have been put up by a human-rights group as a reminder of the Srebrenica anniversary.

They show a forensic examiner holding a human arm, a child's smashed doll, coffins awaiting burial.

Too subtle, says Dragana Marinkovic, 60, a passerby.

"You need to shock Serbia to make it face the past," he says.

Muslims like Fejzic need no reminders.

A tiny woman with dark brown hair and a permanently sad face, she remembers losing sight of Saban, her husband, in the melee of Serb soldiers, crying children and wailing women who had gathered in the UN compound. She tried to hold on to her son with both arms when the Serbs started separating the men from the women.

She fell on her knees and begged the soldiers to take her instead. Then she pleaded with them to kill her.

She remembers Rijad's thin shoulders heaving with sobs as he watched his mother crawling after him on all fours, clutching his fanny pack.

The remains of her son and husband have never been identified.

Since the previous anniversary, another 600 victims of the massacre, aged 14 to 75 and found in 60 mass graves, have been identified and will be buried on Monday at the cemetery of Srebrenica Muslims killed by Serbs.

Of the 2,079 sets of remains that have been identified by name after exhaustive investigations including DNA matching, the cemetery holds 1,327.

From missing-persons reports filed by close relatives, authorities estimate 7,800 people were massacred in Srebrenica.

Many may be among the 5,000 corpses stored in Bosnia pending identification. Or they may have belonged to families slaughtered in their entirety, leaving no one alive to report them dead.

Ahead of the ceremony, at the Potocari Memorial Center, work crews were busy repairing the main road into Srebrenica and digging graves.

"It's the only time I get some work for a few days," said Mirsad Karahasanovic, a 24-year old Muslim and temporary gravedigger.

Before the post-communist rivalries that led to the breakup of Yugoslavia, Bosnia was a place of ethnic coexistence and Srebrenica and the surrounding countryside were home to about 36,000 people, of whom 27,500 were Bosnian Muslim, the rest Serb and Croat.

Today, Srebrenica, whose name roughly means silver town, doesn't really come alive except for massacre anniversaries, when it fills with dignitaries, TV crews and massacre survivors.

Some 10,000 people are left, most of them Serbs. They are mostly shunned by the 1,000 Muslims who have returned to their old homes.

Not so the two 76-year-olds bantering and sipping coffee at a restaurant called Omer's, by a street sign from better days pointing to the Square of Brotherhood and Unity, surrounded by collapsed roofs and bullet-scarred walls. Bosko Obric is a Serb, his friend Edhem Delic a Muslim.

They talk about the supposed benefits of Srebrenica's waters -- enough to make an ugly person look good.

"It didn't work for you!" Delic says.

"Nor for you!" Obric retorts.

They erupt in hoots of laughter.

Fejzic, Rijad's mother, comes here for anniversaries, but otherwise avoids the town and her former Serb neighbors, who she says must share blame for the massacre because they were there, and in uniform.

"I will not return to Srebrenica while the perpetrators are still freely walking the streets and until I see Karadzic and Mladic in The Hague," she says.

"Only old people return here," says Obric, the Serb in the cafe. "Like elephants who come to die." AP