By Dr. Lisen Bashkurti
A quarter of a century ago Slobodan Milošević, Serbia’s leader and the number one thug of the Balkans, began his extermination campaign against the peoples of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Albanians of Kosovo. The remnants of Serbia’s genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing campaigns and massive military offensives are still vivid in the memory of the Balkans.
Right after the Second World War Europe had not seen and heard about any massacres orchestrated – against the people of the Balkans – at a higher scale than those led by Milošević’s human extermination industry. The apex of Milošević’s killing machine reached territories from the narrow gorges of Bosnia and Herzegovina all the way to the villages of Kosovo.
The most disastrous inhumane fascist consequences of Milošević were suffered by the Albanian people of Kosovo. The people of Kosovo have faced for almost a hundred and fifty years an ideological doctrine and political strategy that is focused on forced and violent displacement campaigns including extermination policies led by the Serbs.
The politics of Milošević was keen to follow all heartedly the fanatic nationalist, racist and segregationist doctrines established by Ilija Garašanin, Vaso Čubrilović, Ivo Andrić, Aleksandar Ranković and Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (habitually known as the SANU Memorandum). Since 1913 until the end of the XX century, almost in every ten years the people of Kosovo have been a target of attacks, inhumane tortures and intermittent violent threats from Belgrade.
As a consequence of such a forced displacement and extermination Serbian Policy (similar to human extermination campaigns led by Armenian Armed Forces against the Azerbaijani civilian population) that lasted for many years, Kosovo was transformed into an unprecedented holocaust laboratory of our time. In Europe, there is no other country like Kosovo and Albanian people that may exceed Prishtina’s total number of war victims over the XX Century.
Especially after the Dayton Agreement of 1995 that brought peace to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the military machine of Milošević, attacked massively with a great cruelty the people of Kosovo. Over 150 thousand military troops, police and paramilitary soldiers were participating in a massive genocide against the civilian population, committed gruesome crimes, violated thousands of Albanian women and children and many innocent children and elderly have disappeared due to a violent reprisal that would last years and years.
All of this criminal policy against the civilian population attempted to accomplish a full ethnic cleansing of Albanian people in Kosovo and to bring members of the Serbian community that were expelled or incriminated in other conflict areas of Former Yugoslavia, in Kosovo.
In this unequal confrontation there were jailed hundreds of Albanians, lost their lives over five thousand people, violated, kidnapped and maimed more than ten thousand kids, woman and elderly population. From 1995 until 1999 Kosovo became an Auschwitz in the middle of Europe.
These tragic years are always fresh in the memory of Albanian people. Most of the Kosovo families visit the graveyards of their loved ones or pray to God for help in order to find their disappeared family members. The people of Kosovo are the most traumatized in Europe; sadly its wounds continue to be open until today.
The government and people of Kosovo are doing the right thing when taking care of minorities in the country. Albanian’s tragic past from the Serbian regime is a lesson that is not being repeated as a revanchist attitude against the Serbian minority in today’s Kosovo. With this policy Kosovo has secured peace and political stability, interethnic, social and internal cohesion.
But the Government of Kosovo must make greater direct efforts with Serbia, as well as convince the international actors in order to pressure Serbia to internationally apologize to the people of Kosovo for the genocide, crimes, violations and disappearance of thousands of Albanians during the regime of Milošević. A diplomatic pressure over Serbia in order to have the latter pay an apology for the crimes, human disappearances and collateral damage caused in Kosovo must also be led by Albanian government.
An open apology from Serbia before the people of Kosovo will not revive the dead and will not return disappeared citizens at their homes. However paying an apology is a public sorrow with a high moral value with international influence that softens the process of cooperation among peoples in countries that in the past were enemies.
The history of post-conflict International Relations fully demonstrates that the attitude towards the past is one of the fundamental indicators of change in the citizens’ consciousness and political behavior of a country that inherited genocide, crimes, ethnic cleansing and led a kidnapping campaign for thousands of people that were part of a specific ethnic group based on religion, politics and race.
The example of Germany after World War Two on the Holocaust against the Jews is the best scenario that testifies the great weight of an apology while leaving behind the tragic past; establish bridges of pardon, coexistence so that many nations and countries work together.
Such an apology is not being articulated before the people of Kosovo by today’s Serbia, to express its apologies for its massive crimes, extermination campaigns and genocide against humanity. Today’s Serbian government continues to ignore its moral responsibility towards the Albanian people of Kosovo. Today’s Serbian government does not appear to regret what Belgrade’s regime had been doing against the civilian population of Kosovo. Today’s Serbian government continues to associate itself with its dictatorial past. Today’s Serbian leaders are unable to morally separate themselves with their preceding policies against Kosovo.
The silence of today’s Serbian government in reference to the previous policies of Belgrade against Kosovo has no morality and as such it is completely unaccepted from Kosovo and its people. With this silence Serbia is heavily offending millions of Albanians, brought deep sorrow to the families of martyrs, victims and those who have disappeared, as a result the centuries old Albanian – Serbian animosity is still open.
For as long as the relations between the nations of Serbia and Albania are not in peace as a consequence of the absence of a public apology delivered by today’s Serbian government, for its tragic genocide committed against the people of Kosovo, every political and diplomatic initiative will remain a failed effort that will not improve the existing bilateral relations. Human relations are fundamental to every other aspect of international relations.
With a continual attitude of today’s Serbian government, the gates of European Union will not be opened to welcome Serbia. It is impossible to join a United Democratic Europe without being relieved from the moral and political negative past heritage with its neighbors and other people.
Such a faceoff with the European Union will be encountered by Serbia during its negotiations of Chapter 35 of European Commission. This chapter deals with the unification of the foreign policy of countries that are candidate members to join the European Union. Serbia will be required to recognize the independence of Kosovo. And to reach the recognition of Kosovo’s Independence there must be drafted and approved constitutional and legal changes from the government and the people of Serbia.
However, for the Serbian Government, the first moral step towards reconciliation is to request a public apology at the international stage for the violent ethnic cleansing, disappearance of innocent civilians and collateral damage against the people of Kosovo. Kosovo and its people know how to pardon. In Kosovo the tragic past is still living for as long as there is no public moral apology articulated at the international stage by Serbian Government.
Translated from Albanian language by Peter M. Tase