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INFO   :::  Reports - PAGE 3 > Status of Albanians in Serbia During and After the Nato Intervention


Status of Albanians in Serbia During and After the Nato Intervention

March 2000



The armed conflict in Kosovo, which began in February 1998, was a logical outcome of a long-standing repression carried out by the regime against Albanians in Kosovo. In recent years a series of trials of Kosovo Albanians accused of "terrorism and "anti-state activities" resulted in imprisonment of thousands of them. Almost all of them were tortured and sentenced to terms of imprisonment despite the lack of evidence. Their ethnicity was a good enough ground for their arrests and harassment.

Arrogance of local authorities and brutality of the police have in fact led to a massive insurgence of the Albanian people and formation of the Liberation Army of Kosovo. Unfortunately Serbia has not shown readiness to seriously tackle the resolution of the Kosovo issue. Efforts of the international community to preserve the current Yugoslavia as a framework suitable for the resolution of the issue, was met with resistance of both the Albanian and Serbian elite. The Albanian side refused to accept the Yugoslav state framework, and the Serbian side wanted to preserve a unitary state within it, which in the past had led to disintegration of former Yugoslavia. In fact Serbia treats Kosovo and Montenegro as an exclusive territorial question, notably- as a regional one. Besides the Belgrade regime clearly indicated its intention to reduce the number of Albanians through massive ethnic-cleansing and divide Kosovo in such a way that only a minimum number of Albanians would continue to live in the Serbian part thereof.

Opposed political goals of the two sides ultimately resulted in the armed confrontation and massive violations of human rights and breaches of humanitarian law. Presence of the Yugoslav army and police in Kosovo throughout last year had a markedly repressive character. The Serbian regime and the entire political elite rejected conditions proposed in Rambouille and Paris, which led to the NATO intervention.

The NATO intervention was used a pretext for massive ethnic cleansing of Albanians (approximately 1 million). At the same time the Albanians living in other parts of Serbia (Vojvodina, Belgrade, South Serbia) were subject to harassment, intimidation and expulsion, notably in the southern Serbia.

It is a well-know fact that the largest ethnic distance has always been between Serbs and Albanians (see the 1997 Helsinki Committee survey). In 1998 that distance largely increased. The media, notably the state-run ones, played a major role in this antagonism-building. Hate speech was very intensive, and its main message was: Kosovo is an internal issue of Serbia and the FRY, the Albanian insistence on independence is equal to separatism, while their methods are of terrorist nature. The opposition parties by and large shared that viewpoint without analysing the underlying reasons of the Albanian separatism. Despite the fact that Kosovo is under the international protectorate and that its status is still uncertain, all the main protagonists of the political scene in Serbia continue to treat Kosovo as an integral part of Serbia. Motives for the deployment of international troops, as it is tacitly agreed by the Serbian public at large, were "to use Kosmet as a pretext and mechanism for an attempted break-up of Yugoslavia" and "create there a launching pad for an attack on the Russian Federation." (Politika, 30 October 1999)

Violence against Kosovo Serbs and other minorities, following the deployment of international troops in Kosovo (KFOR) has additionally contributed to animosity towards Albanians, notably those living in Serbia. Thus in the context of verbal defence of interests of Serbia and the Serbian people, massive violations of civil and human rights of Kosovar Albanians became an exemplary/adequate, generally accepted phenomenon.


Basic facts and figures

There are no accurate statistical figures on the number of Albanians living in the territory of the Republic of Serbia, barring those related to municipalities of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveda, situated in Serbia's border belt with Kosovo and Macedonia. According to the 1981 census, the total population in those municipalities was 97,856 inhabitants, that is, 61,6% Albanians, 30,4% Serbs, 7,3% Romany, and 0,7% Montenegrins and others. Albanians constitute the majority population in Preševo and Bujanovac municipalities (respectively 85,3% and 55,3%). However Albanians from this area did not take part in the 1991 census. But, according to the Albanian Party of Democratic Action, an estimated 100,000 Albanians lived there in early 1999. The Albanians made up an absolute majority before the bombardments in Preševo (95%) and Bujanovac (65%), while in Medveda they accounted for 35% of the total population.

According to the unofficial figures of the Belgrade branch of the Ministry of the Interior of Serbia (the police figures) 120,000 Albanians lived in Belgrade in 1997 (Glas javnosti, 7 November 1999). But, according tot he same daily, the Association of Goranci, stated that 40,000 Goranci were erroneously included in that figure. The fact is that in the past decade many Albanians left Belgrade. But the regime-run and "independent" media create an additional confusion by using haphazardly the 1991 census figures, although the Albanians had boycotted that census. Glas javnosti of 7 November also maintained that there were about 50,000 Albanians in Belgrade (the source is probably the Belgrade police). According to Albanians living in Belgrade that number in 1991 never exceeded 10,000, while today it is likely to be around 4,000. In the pre-war period 121 Albanians lived in Niš, while currently only 40 are still residents thereof.



a) Vojvodina

During the bombardments there were only lesser violations of minorities human rights, notably of Albanians and Hungarians, in Vojvodina. In many towns, notably in the first days of the air campaign, shops of Albanian handicraft artisans were systematically demolished. In Ruma unknown perpetrators first broke the windows of the bakery "Složna braca" and when the frames were covered with nylon bags, a Molotov cocktail was thrown onto the house. Then the owner of the bakery Stajki moved to Kosovo. His neighbour, "chevapcici" restaurant owner, Hamidi, knowing with dismal premonition what would happen, also left Ruma just before the start of the air campaign. A bakery co-owned by Šabani and Veliju was demolished in Indija. The shop is now run by a local Serb, as the two former owners left the town. A handicraft artisan of Albanian ethnicity still lives in Nova Pazova. He 'survived' by posing as an ethnic Goranac. His school mates claim he 'adopted' this new ethnic identity in order to continue his business in this small town.

In a series of Vojvodina towns during a state of war, and particularly in the first days of bombardments, the Albanian shops were systematically destroyed. Those of them who tried (and some even managed) to preserve their property placed big billboards with name "Goranac" on their shops. Destruction of property of ethnic Albanians varied in intensity and character from town to town, as did responses of local authorities to such destruction. Backa Topola and Senta locals maintain that Albanian shops were destroyed in an organised way, which indicates that such incidents were stage-managed. In Zrenjanin, probably the strongest stronghold of the ruling left extremists in Vojvodina, all Albanian shops were demolished. According to some Zrenjanin locals, all the shops were demolished in an organised way. The name of Mr. Draškic, as a possible perpetrator, often cropped up in their stories. It bears mentioning that Mr. Draškic had been accused of a premeditated murder last year, but charges against him were later dropped. Demolition and looting of ethnic Albanians shops was often followed by violent brawls between local criminals. A part of the local public opinion interprets these incidents as "quarrels about booty."

It bears stressing that there were only few incidents of this kind in Novi Sad, which is run by the local opposition. The police also rapidly and professionally responded to such incidents by arresting the perpetrators. The municipal authorities in Subotica promptly reacted to vandalising of "Mc Donald's" restaurant and Albanian shops. Jozef Kasa had a meeting with representatives of local Albanians, and three days later all of them had new shop-windows. The second wave of attacks was less violent. Jozef Kasa then had a new meeting with local Albanians, condemned the attacks and promised funds for renovation of demolished and looted shops.

In Zrenjanin the damaged Albanians were informed that the police could not protect them. But as fire was set to a series of Serbian houses, during the attack on an Albanian bakery in the neighbourhood, the police reacted immediately and caught the perpetrators. Interestingly enough shops of ethnically heterogeneous owners were also attacked. In July several persons who had demolished a Zrenjanin shop owned by an Albanian and a Montenegrin, Nobilo, received imprisonment sentences. As the town is run by the left extremists there were no favourable judicial decisions in cases of demolished shops owned exclusively by ethnic Albanians.

Fearing physical harassment, an Albanian family took refuge with its neighbour, a Hungarian family Tot, and then escaped to a nearby village Mohajlovo, predominantly inhabited by ethnic Hungarians. The police interest in this case of Albanian-Hungarian co-operation was "limited" to an "informative talk" with hosts-protectors.

One gains the impression that the status of ethnic Albanians to a large extent depended on those wielding power in Vojvodina municipalities. Ethnic Albanians fared better in towns run by the Serbian and autonomous civic opposition (Novi Sad) and those boasting a genuine condominium at a local level (Subotica), than in those municipalities run by Socialists or in smaller municipalities in Northern Backa administered by VMS, and in which the police and the judiciary are controlled by Socialists from district centres.

b) Belgrade

An anti-Albanian climate escalated during the NATO intervention. According to Albanian sources, 350 Albanians left Belgrade in the first week of bombardments.

Albanians who live in Belgrade are by and large employed by the public utilities companies (Metropolitan Parks Services, Metropolitan Cleaning Services), or they own small restaurants or handicraft shops. The latter were notably the target of the attacks. Many restaurants were repeatedly demolished, their windows broken and the equipment destroyed. In late March many Albanians from Belgrade were celebrating their religious holiday -Bairam- in Kosovo. Many of them, together with Kosovo Albanians, were expelled from the FRY territory. Those who remained in Kosovo, and could not go back to Belgrade due to poor transport lines, were sacked. Metropolitan Cleaning Services dismissed 400 workers of Albanian ethnicity. Albanians were also dismissed from construction firms, Ratko Mitrovic, Rad and Hidrotehnika, then from the Belgrade Port, Rakovica Engines Industry and Metropolitan Parks Services. Dismissals were justified by "absenteeism and surplus of work-force." Those dismissals were not a mere coincidence, as Goranci, often erroneously taken for ethnic Albanians, were also victims of aggressive actions of denizens of Belgrade and labour discrimination.

Albanians who stayed in Belgrade live in a kind of isolation, and keep a low profile. They are still faced with hostility on the part of their fellow-citizens. Their more prominent co-nationals, intellectuals and journalists, receive anonymous telephone calls and threats. A few days after the murder of Slavko Curuvija, a renowned Belgrade journalist Bahri Cani was abducted in a Belgrade street, in a broad daylight. He was released few days later and then he left Belgrade.

Decision of the Ministry of the Interior of Serbia dated 27 September 1999, on checking residences of citizens of Serbia (the decision is based on an 1977 Act) is the last in a series of repressive measures taken against citizens. According to Deputy Minister of the Interior, Lieutenant-General Obrad Stevanovic, the goal of the action is to "check personal documents and establish the veracity of registered residences and well as development of contacts between citizens and the police to result in an exchange of information important for the general security." Such a police action is unconstitutional and unlawful, and contrary to basic tenants of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also encourages an already overtly obedient and denunciation-prone mentality.

Of the above is indicative "Generally Binding Decision of Local Community 'Bratstvo-Jedinstvo', in Novi Beograd, dated 28 September 1999 (the largest local community in the FRY boasting 25,000 inhabitants) tasking all tenants of Block 70 with "thoroughly checking tenants of all flats in all buildings" and "checking all flats of Shiptari, notably the male members of families, who had been away during the war."

The Belgrade based media, as regards Albanians, only cover their trials, for example the trial of five Albanians (students of the Belgrade University) charged with "associating with a view to committing hostile actions." The indictment spells out that the accused Paljuca and Petrit Beriša founded an illegal political group "Popular Movement of Kosovo," which later morphed into the KLA branch, collected money from students and Albanian private entrepreneurs to buy arms and ammunition. The arms were allegedly sent to Kosovo and money was also used for publishing propaganda material. According to the indictment a part of arms and ammunition should have been used in planned terrorist actions.

Fearing possible hostile reactions of their neighbours and fellow-citizens, the Belgrade Albanians reluctantly talk about their pressing problems.

c) Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveda

It is estimated that since 24 March 1999, 25,000 thousand Albanians illegally left those areas and moved to Kosovo, Macedonia, over Sandžak to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Western European countries. Albanians left the most threatened villages in the area of Preševo Kradak in early April. A total population of those areas, barring locals from villages Bukovac and Gornji Šušanj, fled to Macedonia, over Preševo. A large number of Albanians left villages Miratovac, Norca, Trnava, Buštranje and town of Preševo proper. As all the local roads and highways were blocked by the military and police check-points, the refugees fled via mountain passes and roads.


Forms of repression

The massive flight of Albanians was caused by call-ups, murders of civilians, looting, destruction and burning down of houses, schools, mosques, confiscation of property, restriction of freedom of movement, intimidation, harassment, etc.

Units of Niš Corps of the Army of Yugoslavia are billeted in the area covering those three municipalities. The YA units are also quartered in village of Mucibaba (municipality of Gnjilane). The Yugoslav Army on 4 and 5 April seized all weapons legally owned by Albanians. However, under the pretext of arms search its units continue to raid and search Albanian houses. Albanians, in whose houses national symbols were found, were consequently harassed and beaten. The YA and the police control a large number of check-points. In this way the freedom of movement of Albanian population is practically abolished.

The YA units from Kosovo have repeatedly come to Preševo and then verbally and physically harassed the local Albanians.

A group of 160 mobilised Albanians was engaged in carrying out hard menial work.

In the morning of 24 April 1999 masked members of the Yugoslav Army searched Albanian houses in Bujanovac. Albanians were told to stand outside their houses, then they were separated from women and children, and their houses were looted and demolished. On 27 April 1999 units of the Niš Corps of the YA, headed by General Nebojša Pavkovic, entered village Veliki Trnovac (municipality of Bujanovac). 10,000 Albanians (the whole village) were ordered to leave their houses and stand outside. For three hours, surrounded by the military, they had to stand in front of their houses.

The local bus lines operated (operate) infrequently, some villages are totally isolated. In Preševo communications were made even more difficult when telephone lines of Albanian citizens and private firms were cut off. Although the curfew was not officially imposed, Albanians are advised not to leave their houses after 18 h p.m.


Murders and woundings

In April and May 20 civilians were either murdered or wounded. Most of them were from the Preševo Karadak area (mountainous area bordering with Kosovo).

Ibrahim Fejzulahu and Rahim Nuhiu were killed on 29 May in Gospodince village.

M. F.'s testimony: in the early morning hours of 29 may, 18 YA soldiers entered the house of M.F. He and his family were taken outside and beaten. Then they were taken to courtyard of Rahim Nuhiu and repeatedly beaten. Semi-conscious Rahim Nuhiu was later dragged out of his house. Three soldiers singled out Ibrahim Fejzulahu, and took him to a nearby brook. Several minutes later three shots were heard. The same day (around 15 h) M.F. and his son were taken out of their house at gun-point, and were ordered to lay down on the ground. The soldiers fired over 50 shots in their direction. The harassment lasted about an hour. On 30 May M.F. and 8 locals went to search the casualties' bodies. Body of Rahim Nuhiu was found in his house. He had wounds on his head and on his chest. Body of Ibrahim Fejzulahu was found on a meadow, about 150 m away from the house. The right side of his face was butchered with an axe, and on the right side of his chest, near the heart, he had a 4 X 3,5 cm open wound. Four gunshot wounds were also found on his body.

Driton Arifi - killed on 4 April 1999 in Ranatovac village.

Dž. A.'s testimony - on 4 April the YA units from Mucibaba village (municipality of Gnjilane) ambushed Driton Arifi who was returning with his cattle to the village. Without any warning they shot at him (3 gunshots wounds- stomach, chest and one leg). Other local were not allowed to help him and after 7 hours Driton Arifi died of heavy haemorrhaging. The village was looted.

Bajram Bajrami- was killed on 12 April 1999 in Depce village.

D.B.'s testimony: Bajram Bajrami was shot by one bullet. He died of serious haemorrhaging. On that very day the army came to the village, looted all the houses and set them all on fire.

Džefrije Zeciri and Rahim Osmani- were killed on 5 April 1999 in Ranatovac village.

J.B's testimony: Around 11.30 h a.m. 40 YA soldiers met Dževrije Zeciri and Rahim Osmanlija on Ranatovac-Inatovac road. After wounding them, the soldiers burnt them alive.

Nedžati Arifi- killed on 18 April 1999 in Buhic village.

R.A.'s testimony: On 18 April, around 18 h p.m., a group of 40 soldiers and armed civilians entered Buhic. That was the last time R.A. sold the Nadžati Arifi alive (who was in his house when the army came to the village). On 27 April a group of locals, escorted by a team of civilian protection members, set out to visit Karadcka villages. At "Šehovska livada" they met the YA patrol. They were ordered by soldiers to go back or -they would be killed "like those in village Buhic."

According to R.A. : on 2 July he found a grave on a plot of land. Scattered around the grave were Nedžati Arifi's personal belongings (a watch, a jacket, a waistcoat). The holes in clothes indicated that the Nedžati Arifi was shot several times in his back.

The following Albanians were also killed:
Magbulje Sylejmani - on 7 May 1999, in the vicinity of village Norca.
Naser Salihu - on 7 may 1999, in the vicinity of village Norca.
Hasan Maloku - on 8 May 1999 in the vicinity of village Norca.
Ikšin Maloku - on 8 may 1999 in the vicinity of village Norca.
Sabedin Hamidi - killed on 8 May 1999 in the vicinity of village Norca.

There were also several attacks on the civilians:

E. S. - was detained, verbally abused, tied to an electric pillar and hit with hands, legs and butts of rifles on 15 May 1999 in village Trnava. After the beating he was taken by the same soldiers to a police station and kept in custody there for two days.

T. O. - on 17 May 1999, at 1:30 a.m., unidentified civilians threw stones on his house. The same thing happened the next evening, when assailants tried to enter his house. T.O. asked them to identify themselves, after which they fired many times in quick succession and fled.

M. L. - on 9 April 1999 a group of 30 soldiers came to village Stanevce, M.L and his family were dragged into the courtyard. Soldiers threatened that they would shoot them. Then they were taken into the house where soldiers started hitting them with legs, rifles' butts and sandbags. Their personal jewellery was seized and their house looted. DM 100 were sized from N.L (husband M.L.) Fire was set to several houses in the village.

B. Z. - on 24 April 1999 in Preševo, in Karpoš street, a group of soldiers shot at Hakija Zeciri. He was hit by five bullets, three in his left arm and two in his left leg.

A. A. - on 31 May 1999 a soldier badly battered and cut with knife A.A. in her house in Baštranja.

H. A. - on 7 May 1999 soldiers took away H.A. and C.H. from village Madere to Gnjilane. On their way to Gnjilane, H.A. and C.H, were harassed and abused. In Gnjilane they were placed in a house converted into a prison. They spent 12 days there. They were repeatedly beaten with different objects. C.H, witnessed terrible torture of other civilians in that prison: piercing of ears with knives, digging out of eyes, incision of initials on the skin.

A. I. - on 19 April 1999 in village Stanevce was wounded by the YA soldiers in the genitals area.

N. B. - on 6 April 1999, the army came to village Depce. Many houses were looted and set on fire. N.B. and his neighbour were taken to village Mucibaba (municipality of Gnjilane). N.B's ear was cut off and his neighbour's face was cut by a knife. After that they were taken to the military police headquarters in village Parteš (municipality of Gnjilane). There 15 policemen brutally beat hem. From Parteš they were taken to a Gnjilane hospital, where they were harassed by doctors. Then they were taken to a jail.

Vedat Sulejmani - wounded on 7 May 1999 in the vicinity of village Norca.


Destruction and confiscation of property

The army is particularly active in the area of Preševo Karadak. Property of Albanians is looted, demolished and set on fire. 44 houses and 20 other buildings were set on fire and many of them were looted. A central school in Cervajka was demolished. Local community centre was set on fire, and 5 shops demolished and looted in Ranatovac. In mid-April the YA units from Mucibaba set on fire 16, of a total of 18 houses in village Bujic. A mosque in village Cerevajka was partially burnt down, while mosques in villages Miratovac and Trnava were looted and demolished. A large number of houses were looted in villages Trnava, Miratovac, Buštranje and Norca.

The YA soldiers forcibly and unlawfully confiscated a large number of private houses in Miratovac, Tranava, Buštranja and Norca. Motor vehicles are also being seized from Albanians, without any military authorities certificates.


Current situation

After the signing of the Kumanovo Agreement, the police and military units previously stationed in Kosovo, were moved to aforementioned area. The war psychosis is still felt there. The Yugoslav Army controls a 5 km wide border belt towards Kosovo and Macedonia. Peasants who own arable land, pastures and forests in the area, need special permits (valid for only one day and issued by the army) to visit their land and do the necessary work. Smaller army units make occasional incursions into villages beyond the area. All this limits the freedom of movement and makes more difficult agricultural work. A large number of Albanians from mountainous areas or municipalities of Medveda, Bujanovac and Preševo Karadak, living off the land, continue their emigration. Village Zarbince, Soharna, Novo Selo, Pribovac and Ravnobuca (Bujanovac municipality) formerly boasting 3,000 inhabitants, now have been depopulated.

Of a total, pre-war Albanian population in Medveda municipality, only 10% remain there. 3,200 Albanians left Preševo, 3,000 escaped from Bujanovac and 4,200from Medveda. Over 7,000 original inhabitants of those municipalities now live in Kosovo. Professionals also continue to leave those municipalities. Their 'emigration' is boosted by the protracted recognition of diplomas from universities in Bulgaria, Rumania, Albania and Croatia, non-recognition of the Priština University diplomas, and employment discrimination. Such a brain-drain adversely affects work of schools and health care institutions. Communications with Kosovo, to which this area is naturally inclined, have been made more difficult due to the blockade of Preševo-Gnjilane road.

Albanian returnees have to pay fines for the illegal 'emigration' to the police. Subsequently they have to pay another 1,000 dinars fine to a magistrate.

The YA soldiers, policemen and Serbs currently living in these three municipalities continue to verbally and physically abuse the Albanian population. According to eye-witnesses, several Kosovar Serbs killed Fetah Fetahu, taxi-driver from Bujanovac, on 31 July 1999.

Š. A.'s testimony: On 30 June 1999 the YA soldiers stopped F.E. (24), R.E. (19) and C.E. (15) on Ilince-Buhic road. Then they were taken to a military check-point "Šehovske livade", where the soldiers beat and kicked them. On 1 July 1999, around 16 h p.m. they were taken first to the Preševo railway station and then to the police station. Š.A. saw soldiers beating the detainees at the railway station. On 1 July, around 18 h p.m. they were released from the police station. Š.A., father of F.E., R.E., and C.E., stated that his children told him that soldiers threatened that they would cut into their bodies the KLA initials, kill them and throw them into a pit.

S. A.' testimony: On 30 June 1999, while he was returning with his daughter to village Ranatovac, soldiers stopped them at a place called "Šahovske livade." They ordered him to leave his car, and take off his cap (the white Albanian cap). Than an officer ordered him to go into the forest. S.A. said that he had a travel pass, but the officer retorted that he did not care and that he would kill him. S.A. was harassed for about an hour. When S.A. finally got into his car, the officer stopped him again, snatched his cap and trampled upon it. When S.A. refused to do the same thing, 5 soldiers tried to force him to trample upon his own cap.

Testimonies of R. O., Š. Š. and A. S.: On 15 July the threesome left village Miratovac and headed to their plot of land. Just outside the village they were stopped by soldiers who asked them to show their movement passes. When they did that, their passes were torn up. Then they were taken to a school building, where they were beaten and harassed. Soldiers also threatened that they would kill them. R.O. was asked to admit his KLA membership. They were searched, all their money was seized. R.O. had 25 dinars and 20 ATS, Š.Š. had DM 112 and A.S. had 20 dinars. At 12:30 the police came and took them to the police station in Preševo. A magistrate sentenced each of them to pay a 1,520 dinar fine.

A. A. (14 years) testimony: on 21 July 1999, while he was returning to village Miratovac, three soldiers stopped him, I.?, and L.A. They were asked to produce their movement permits. A.A. said he had no such permit as he was under-age. Then another 10 soldiers arrived and they took A.A. to a school building. There the soldiers kicked him with legs and beat him with hands and butts. Finally he was ordered to sit on a chair. Then another 30 soldiers, beat and kicked him, trampled over him and kept dragging him along the corridor. He was knocked unconscious. Director of the school then asked soldiers to release A.A. When the finally let him go the officer told A.A. "if we catch you once again, we shall kill you."

Mentor Memeti, Driton Aliu and Arian Aliu -were injured in a minefield in village Buštranje on 29 July 1999. Mentor Memeti died of injuries.

In village Veliki Trnovac the YA soldiers (a captain and four soldiers from Bujanovac garrison), on 27 October 1999, beat 7 Albanians. Brothers Agim and Ramiz Ibrahimiju sustained grave injuries.

According to Danas of 18 November 1999, Živojin Pavlovic, president of assembly of Medveda municipality confirmed that local Albanians were re-settling in Kosovo. He appealed to the Serbian and Yugoslav authorities to stop this outflow. He said that "as the political leaders and educational professionals were the first to leave Medveda, no wonder that poor and confused peasants followed in their footsteps." He also urged the authorities to stop the Albanian re-settlement in Kosovo, as 'they confiscate Serbian houses there' and ....'while in Serbia they leave behind their shanties, in Kosovo Polje and Priština they are given Serbian villas."

The BETA Agency correspondent learnt in conversation with several Albanians in Medveda, that people were moving out, but not under pressure. Bahram Jahuliju, cashier of the shop operating in the Medical centre in Medveda, stated that "he was not pressured to move out, and that, to his knowledge, none of his friends had similar problems with the authorities and Serbian neighbours." Osman Ferati, and administrative clerk in the primary school "Božidar Stojanovic Drenicki" also said that "there were no direct pressures", but added that "many injustices are at work after this war that Albanians from Medveda did not want." However, Ferati was demoted after serving for 33 years as the school secretary, due to "his wrong actions and behaviour under conditions of an imminent war danger."


Other forms of discrimination

Albanians are discriminated by being eliminated from the state and local (barring Preševo which is governed by the PDD) bodies, public services and dismissals. One out of 40 Albanians has a white-collar job in Preševo, while only 5 out of 100 policemen are of Albanian origins. In Bujanovac 12 Albanians are aldermen (out of a total of 41) which is disproportionate to their share in total population (61%). Only 4 Albanians work in the municipality, while none of them is employed in the police forces. Although they constitute 33% of total population of Medveda, none of them work in the police or in judicial bodies. 250 Albanians, workers of Eureofleks branch in Preševo, lost their jobs. The facility was converted into the military quarters, and all documentation, including labour booklets and diplomas of the employees, was thrown into garbage. In Bujanovac "Simpo" plant fired 45 Albanians, "Svetlost" -30 and "Heba"-12.

The area covering those three municipalities has been totally sidelined. The republican investments are minimal, hence the employment rate and income per capita are 4 to 5 times below the Serbian average. Despite such a dire situation, humanitarian organisations and NGOs have not shown any interest in helping them resolve their problem.



A large number of schools was totally destroyed or partly ruined. Many do not have any pupils. A school in village Zarbince which until 24 March 1999 had 360 pupils is completely empty now. The number of pupils in a school in Preševo has been reduced from the pre-war 230 to the current 45. An additional problem is the lack of educational professionals. Schools use Serbian textbooks translated into Albanian. In fact only the main text is translated, while charts, maps and drawings are written in Serbian (Cyrillic alphabet).


Health and medic care

Thirty Albanians employed in the Preševo health centre either left the country or were dismissed during a state of war. Many of them are still jobless. Although there was no public competition, the same health centre in the meanwhile employed 5 doctors of Serbian nationality from Vranje. As the centre is understaffed, notably due to dismissals of Albanians, X-ray department, internal medicine department and the first aid unit do not function at all.

All the additional resources allocated from the republican funds to this vulnerable area are distributed to the Vranje health centre.


The media

Although Albanians constitute an absolute majority in those three municipalities, they don't have any Albanian language mass medium. As early as in 1997 application was submitted for a local TV frequencies, but to date there was no response. Distribution of Kosovo press is banned, and only the state-controlled newspapers in Serbian language are available. Hence there is the media blockade in the area.



1. Mistreatment of Albanians in Serbia inevitably accelerates their exodus from Serbia, which in turn helps the completion off ethnically-cleansed territories, both in Kosovo and in South of Serbia.

Having in mind dire consequences of such trend Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia recommends to:

Authorities of the FRY and Serbia:
- to abolish all forms of repression against Albanians and other minorities in Serbia;
- to define a serious approach to return of Serbs to Kosovo, as well as to a continued stay of those Serbs who are now in Kosovo;
- to pass a Minority Act, with a view to regulating this matter;
International community:
- to make additional efforts to prevent exodus of Serbs and other non-Albanians minorities from Kosovo, and destructive processes threatening the whole region, including Macedonia.





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