NYT: Ethnic Cleansing, KLA style!
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Fri Nov 5 04:07:59 MST 1999
November 5, 1999
Gypsies and Others Said to Draw Kosovar Fury
By CARLOTTA GALL
RISTINA, Kosovo -- Kosovo Albanians have become increasingly aggressive in
attacking not only Serbs in this battered province, but also Gypsies and
other ethnic minorities, according to foreign officials in charge of
restoring peaceful administration in Kosovo.
A joint report issued here on Wednesday by the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
described "a climate of violence and impunity."
Attacks by the Albanians against the dwindling Serbian population and the
Gypsies are continuing unabated, officials of the European organization
said, and, in a new step, Muslim Slavs in the Prizren area in southern
Kosovo are suffering intense intimidation and violence.
The officials said there was growing evidence that the Kosovo Albanian
leadership was behind some of the harassment and was encouraging the
formation of an intolerant monoethnic state.
Moderate Albanians who have spoken out against the violence have been
subjected to threats. Minorities in Kosovo, confused and frightened, are
retreating behind a wall of silence, as they lose faith in the international
organizations that are on the scene to protect them.
Monitors from the European organization, entrusted with the democratization
of Kosovo and preparations for elections next year, have expressed
especially strong alarm over the ugly atmosphere that is spreading across
The Prizren region has become a source of particular concern, said the head
of the regional security group here, Benedicte Giaever.
A center of culture and learning, ancient Prizren had always been regarded
as an example of tolerance and multiethnic harmony in Kosovo. The slender
minarets of its mosques mingle with the solid proportions of the Orthodox
churches and monasteries, and Turkish is the common language, spoken alike
by the Albanian, Serb, Turkish and Gypsy communities. The townspeople
largely escaped the ethnic purges that ravaged the province this year. Yet
they have not avoided the purging of Serbs and other minority groups since
A retired government clerk, Vojislav Stankovic, 80, was one of the few Serbs
still living in his own house -- until the weekend. Youths broke into the
house and struck him in the face with a stone. The next day they returned,
tied him up and threatened him with a knife. They told him that they wanted
his house and that he should leave.
"They said they would slaughter me," he recounted. "I asked them, 'Why, what
have I done?' And they said, 'If you do not leave by 10 tomorrow, we will
cut you into pieces and throw you into the river.' "
He was sitting on a bed in the Serbian Orthodox seminary in Prizren, where
he had sought refuge. His tone was deadpan, his face and eye a bruised mess
from the stone. Beside him was a plastic bag of clothes, the only belongings
that he had taken. Some 160 Serbs and members of other minority groups,
mostly old people and children, are taking shelter in the seminary, guarded
by German troops.
The Serbian quarter, a collection of old tiled town houses, climbs the hill
behind the seminary. The steep cobbled streets wind through a scene of
devastation of charred rafters and rubble. One house was still smoking, set
afire a few days ago.
An Albanian couple in the area said a house was burned almost nightly. They
said they did not know who was responsible and refused to give their names
or be interviewed.
Albanians appear uncomfortable about the burnings. But few publicly condemn
the violence against the Serbian neighbors. "It is the same to me whether
the Serbs stay here or go," the man said.
In the western part of the town, 2,000 Gypsies are starting to experience a
similar fate. On Monday night Isa Viseli, 27, a street cleaner, fled with
his family when Albanians shouted a warning that they had arrived to burn
"They shouted, 'Leave the house, go!' " Viseli said. "So we left. When we
had gone halfway, I looked back and saw the house was burning."
He scrambled down the hillside with his wife, three children, his brother's
family and his parents. They are living in a relative's house, joining other
refugees in the increasingly overcrowded Gypsy community clustered around
the city hospital. They had lost everything, he said, and were worried that
they would be thrown out of their new refuge. His father, Bajram, sat
silently, his dark eyes troubled.
"The Albanians have changed since the war," he said. "But I never expected
them to burn our house."
Albanians have often accused Gypsies of collaborating with the Serbian
forces in the conflict. Now they are turning to the 17,000 Goranis, or
Muslim Slavs, who live in the mountainous southern tip of Kosovo. In the
last two weeks, European security officials in Dragas, the administrative
center of the Gorani district, have reported seven grenade attacks on Gorani
Tossed into gardens, courtyards or shops, the grenades are intended to
intimidate, to make the Goranis leave or to stop those who had left from
thinking of returning, said Maria Avello Martinez of the European group.
The Goranis' misfortune is that their language is close to Serbian and that
they were loyal to the Belgrade government. "We are not being pushed out,"
Merfid Huseini, a young lawyer in Dragas, said. "But these attacks are a
warning to those who did collaborate."
Some people profit from the general anarchy, too, Huseini said.
Lt. Col. Peter Michalski, a spokesman for the German commander of the NATO
forces in the region, denied knowledge of the grenade attacks in Dragas and
questioned the veracity of many of the accounts of violence in Prizren.
"The situation is very calm now and has been for several weeks," Colonel
But another German officer, who insisted on anonymity, said the NATO troops
were eager to avoid clashes and were choosing not to tackle the rampant
crimes head on. "They want to go home with a clean uniform," the second
A result is that Albanians are being allowed to threaten and even kill
unprotected minority members with impunity, Ms. Giaever said, adding:
"We have to increase security. We have to find out who is doing it."
Ramush Haradinaj, a senior commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army and, now,
of the Kosovo Protection Corps in Prizren, denied that the violence was
organized. He also said it was no longer his responsibility, since the
insurgents had been disarmed and converted into a civilian organization.
"It is not our task," Haradinaj said, "to keep law and order."
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