Terror in Kosovo
owen.jones at SPAMultramail.co.uk
Fri Aug 27 08:40:21 MDT 1999
-- An extremely moving article from the Guardian, one of the newspaper hawks
during the war, which paints a picture of what is going on in NATO's Kosovo.
One criticism I have is that it says 'old Serbs become terror target', when
quite clearly, if 90% of the Kosovar Serb population have fled, it is not
simply the elderly who are being targeted. The present victims of terror at
the hands of the KLA and gangster Albanians (from Albania) in Kosovo are
Serbs, Gypsies, Montenegrins, Jews, and dissident Kosovar Albanians. --
Old serbs become terror target
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Chris Bird in Podujevo
Monday August 23, 1999
Jelica Cemburovic, 87, is waiting to die. She wants to die in Kosovo so
that she can be laid to rest next to her husband in a Serbian Orthodox
cemetery in Kosovo's northern town of Podujevo - a banal enough wish.
But Mrs Cemburovic is not to be allowed a peaceful old age and a dignified
death. The hatred felt by Podujevo's ethnic Albanians, thirsty for revenge
against the Serb minority here for the horrific excesses of the Serbian
security forces during this year's war in Kosovo, has seen to that.
The frail old woman, with inflamed blue eyes and a heart condition, is now
a prime target for groups of armed ethnic Albanians who have carried out a
spate of murders of the Serb elderly to terrify the handful of Serbs,
Montenegrins and gypsies still left in Kosovo into leaving. At the weekend
Nato peacekeepers found an elderly couple shot dead in their apartment in
the south-western town of Prizren. "We presume they are Serbs," said a
spokesman for K-For yesterday.
Brutality characterises these murders, intended to act as an example to
those who refuse to leave. Belgrade's media reported that a 62-year-old Serb
woman was found dead in the village of Landovica, near Prizren, last week.
An elderly Serb woman was found beaten to death in her bath in Pristina
earlier this month.
In a report this month detailing abuses against Serbs and other minorities
in Kosovo, the US-based Human Rights Watch recorded how two elderly Serb
neighbours had their throats slit in June.
One of the victims, Marica Stamenkovic, was found by German peacekeepers to
have been almost decapitated. The victims had ignored repeated warnings to
leave issued by ethnic Albanians wearing the uniforms of the Kosovo
Liberation Army (KLA).
"We sit here," said Mrs Cemburovic, an enamel plate of bitter walnuts on
her dining room table accenting her still life. "We do not go out anywhere."
Across the table sat her friend Jelica Miljanovic, in her 70s. After
threats from ethnic Albanians telling her to "Go to Serbia!", she fled her
apartment to join Mrs Cemburovic.
They are two of three elderly Serbs not to have left the town when British
peacekeeping troops arrived in June.
Then, the town popped and crackled with gunfire between departing Serbian
forces, defeat in their eyes, and ethnic Albanian KLA fighters who stole
into the town behind the British troops. Now, red Albanian flags, martial
songs glorifying the KLA, and crowds clogging the streets make a frightening
din below her cramped, concrete balcony.
The two old women are now under constant protection from a unit of British
peacekeepers from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, red and white feather
hackles on their berets. Corporal Alan Lovett, stood standing at the
entrance to Mrs Cemburovic's apartment block with an assault rifle, was a
little deflated by "granny patrol". "I thought I'd be fighting my way
through towns," said the corporal, "not guarding metal factories and old
To Mrs Cemburovic and Mrs Miljanovic, the British soldiers outside their
door are mnogo fino, "very fine", despite the frightening time people had
earlier this summer under bombardment by Nato jets. "If I was younger..."
mused Mrs Miljanovic, a kittenish look on her face, lined like the walnuts
on the table.
Mrs Cemburovic - the more serious of the two characters - said that without
the soldiers she would not be able to stay in Podujevo. The glass in the
windows of her apartment overlooking the street were smashed when
unidentified attackers threw rocks. She whacked her palms on her cheeks,
saying this was how ethnic Albanians had slapped her in the street.
"The KLA have told our neighbours not to talk to us," she said. "The KLA
run everything here," she said. When she ventured out to the post office to
collect her pension last week - escorted by Corp Lovett's men - the ethnic
Albanian clerks told her there was no money for her, for which she blames
The smiles on the ragged children playing around the entrance to her
apartment block hide a disturbing malevolence. On the rare occasions Mrs
Cemburovic leaves the flat, the children run their fingers across their
throats to mock her.
"I said to one of their mothers once, 'Why do you let them behave like
that?' " she said. "She wasn't in the least sorry, just said they were
'politicised'. I think someone's stirring them up to do it."
Relations between the Serb and ethnic Albanian communities in Kosovo have
seethed for decades, but she still finds it hard to understand the hatred
now ranged against her. All across Kosovo, peacekeepers are keeping similar
vigils. Irish Guards are parked outside my elderly Serb neighbour's house in
Pristina in a large armoured vehicle. "We're here as long as they [the old
Serbs] want to stay," said one of the guardsmen yesterday. "But many are
deciding to leave."
International officials here are asking how long they can afford to keep
the Serbs and gypsies inside Kosovo. "You just can't protect everyone 24
hours a day," said Ron Redmond, spokesman for the United Nations refugee
agency (UNHCR) in Kosovo.
"There is a question: how long are K-For and the other international
agencies going to be able to provide this kind of protection?"
Mr Redmond estimates that 180,000 Serbs have left Kosovo, of whom he thinks
50,000 had gone before Nato started bombing in March. About one tenth of the
original Serb population remain.
Even if she wanted to leave, Mrs Cemburovic seems to have nowhere else to
go. The last she saw of her two adopted children was when they drove to
Podujevo from the provincial capital, Pristina, during the Nato bombardment
to see if she was alive. She speaks vaguely of a relative in Belgrade. Like
their counterparts from Croatia in 1995, Serb refugees are not welcome in
"My husband's at the cemetery," said Mrs Cemburovic. "I have a place next
to him, I just want to be buried next to him. That is all."
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