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Report on the excursion of members of the Serb community from Sjaricka Župa enclave on 18 November 2008.

On 18 November 2008 Helsinki Committee organized an excursion of the Serb community members from Sirjacka Župa enclave. In that enclave there are currently about 12,000 inhabitants (75% Serbs and 25% Albanians).

The group was composed of 49 women, human rights activists, representatives of NGOs, housewives, 2 males and 1 child, from Strbac, Berevac, Gornje Bitinje, Donje Bitinje, Drajkovac, Gotovuša, Ježinac, Sevac, Vrbestica and ethnically mixed villages Vica and Sušica. Sijaricka Župa is in fact Strbac municipality which encompases all the aformentioned villages. In Strbac there is a dual administration. Serbs, members of the Radical Party run the municipal administration. The second municipality, which they oft call the UNMIk municipality, is an ethnically mixed locality, composed of both Serb and Albanian locals. Municipal president is a Serb, and Vice President is an Albanian. They have a joint assembly composed of assemblymen from both communities.

Excursion started at 7 a.m. and ended at 6 p.m. During a day-long excursion the group visisted Pec, Pecka Patriarchate, Visoki Decani monastery and the city of Prizren.

Participants in the excursion in the Pec Patriarchate were welcomed by Mother Dobrila, She then told them a brief history of the monastery and offered them coffeee and fruit juices. Then the group continued their journey to Decani, to visit the Visoki Decane monastery and later proceeded to Prizren, where they visited the shopping centre ITC-Elkos and strolled along the city streets. For the majority of them it was the first-time visit to those places and for some even the first journey outside their enclave after the year 1999.

Participants in the excursion were not escorted by members of the Kosovo Police Force and KFOR. The whole trip and visits unfolded in the best possible way. All participants either in group or individually moved freely and communicated in Serb language between themselves and with locals and sales persons in the shops they visited. It was an accident - and provocation-free excursion. All the participants in the excursion were very pleased with it, and thanked and praised the Helsinki Committee for having organized this trip and visit to the aforementioned places. They were all eager to take part in similar, future excursions and visits.

Helsinki Committee deems such visits as highly useful for they help dispel fear of some members of the Serb community. In parallel they help make members of the Serb community more visible in some urbane milieus.



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