Interview with Albanian refugees

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sat Sep 18 06:48:46 MDT 1999


[On Aug. 9, members of a North American delegation conducted interviews
with refugees from Kosovo who had fled to Belgrade, Yugoslavia. A full
transcript of the interviews was prepared by Gregory Elich and is available
on the Web site of the International Action Center at

Below are excerpts from interviews with Faik Jasari, Corin Ismali and
Fatmir Seholi, members of the Kosovo Democratic Initiative. There are also
comments by Biljana Koteska, first secretary of the United Nations Law
Projects Center in Belgrade; Bajram Haliti, secretary of the Republic of
Serbia Secretariat for Development of Information on the Languages of
National Minorities and editor of "Ahimsa"; and Jovan Damjanovic, president
of the Roma organization in Yugoslavia.

The interviewers are Barry Lituchy, Joe Friendly, Iman El-Sayed, Ken
Freeland, Jeff Goldberg and Gregory Elich, all of the North American
Solidarity with Yugoslavia delegation. Koteska acted as the translator.
Elich provided additional translation into English when transcribing the


Lituchy: Please introduce yourself and tell us your position in the

Jasari: I am Faik Jasari from Gnilane. I was a member of the Temporary
Executive Board [in Kosovo] and I was a representative in Rambouillet. I am
also president of a political party, the Kosovo Democratic Initiative.

Lituchy: Are you afraid for your life?

Jasari: Yes. I am afraid. I've already told you that the KLA [Kosovo
Liberation Army] is looking for me, even now.

Lituchy: Is there a death warrant on you?

Jasari: If they find me, they will kill me.

Lituchy: Approximately how many Albanians were forced out of Kosovo by the

Jasari: About 150,000 Albanians were forced out of Kosovo by the KLA. We
don't know the number of people who were killed or kidnapped by the KLA.

Lituchy: Is there an approximate number?

Jasari: I think about 200 Albanians were killed by the KLA.

Lituchy: What happened at Rambouillet?

Jasari: The Federal Republic of Yugo slavia was always for peace. During
1998, the government attempted to meet with KLA leaders 17 times, but the
KLA leaders refused to attend. When Western countries asked Yugoslavia to
meet the KLA in Rambouillet, Yugoslavia sent representatives.

Lituchy: Did the representatives from Yugoslavia and the representatives
from the KLA ever meet face-to-face?

Jasari: Only once, at the first meeting with Jacques Chirac, did the two
delegations meet.

Lituchy: That was like an introductory meeting?

Koteska: Yes.

Lituchy: Why were there no negotiations?

Jasari: Our representatives attempted, every day to meet them face-to-face,
but they refused.

Lituchy: Why?

Jasari: Because they did only what the United States told them to do.

Lituchy: Did you ever walk up to one of the KLA people and say, "Why can't
we discuss this?"

Jasari: No, we couldn't even meet them in the hotel. We only had meetings
with American and British officials, but not with them. We could only meet
with their Western supervisors.

Lituchy: Who did you meet with from the United States?

Jasari: We met with Ms. [Madeleine] Albright, Mr. [James] Rubin and Mr.
[James] Hill.

Lituchy: What did they talk about, what did they tell you?

Jasari: They told us to sign our names to the paper drafted by the United
States. In this paper it was written that Kosovo must be a republic. The
paper had the same aim as what the KLA representatives told them. At first,
they thought that the delegation from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
would not go to Rambouillet. Later, they saw that was not true, and when
they also saw that not only Serbs, but also Roma, Albanian and Egyptian
representatives were in our delegation, they were shocked.

Lituchy: The Americans were shocked?

Koteska: Yes.

Jasari: Only three Serbian representatives and one Montenegrin were in our

Lituchy: Tell us what you think the reason was for the United States to
launch this war.

Jasari: I think the United States wants to establish military bases here,
and extend its occupation of the Balkans.

Lituchy: What is the motive?

Jasari: The United States wants to dictate to all countries in Europe.


Lituchy: Would you tell us your name, what town you're from, and your
occupation and position?

Seholi: My name is Fatmir Seholi. I am from Podujevo. I was the chief
editor at Radio Television Pristina, and I work in public relations for the
Kosovo Democratic Initiative.

Lituchy: So you have worked as a journalist in Kosovo for a number of
years, and worked in radio and print journalism. Would you tell us a little
about the type of media that was available for the Albanian population in

Seholi: I must point out that the Albanian people had more media than did
the Serbian people. In Kosovo, you could find only one newspaper in the
Serbian language, but you could find about 65 newspapers in the Albanian

Lituchy: Did you go to Pristina University?

Seholi: Yes.

Lituchy: In what language were your courses while you were at the university?

Seholi: In the Albanian language.

Koteska: You can study in your own language, and I don't think that, in the
United States, Albanians can study in their own language. So, where is
democracy in America?

Lituchy: Are you aware that in America, the television and radio and
newspapers were regularly saying that Albanians have no rights in
Yugoslavia or Kosovo?

Seholi: I think that America did not have the right information about
Albanian people in Kosovo, or did not want to get the correct information
about the rights of Albanian people in Kosovo.

Lituchy: But information that was inaccurate was very important in allowing
the United States to carry out the war against Yugoslavia.

Seholi: I am Albanian, and I studied at the university in the Albanian
language, and that should be sufficient indication that Albanian people had
rights in Kosovo.

Lituchy: Are you now in political exile from Kosovo?

Seholi: Until I arrived here as a refugee, I worked as chief editor at
Radio Television Pristina, in the Albanian language. I spoke with KFOR
about a peaceful solution for problems in Kosovo.

El-Sayed: Did the United States create the KLA?

Seholi: The KLA received great support from America and Germany. According
to information from our secret service, they created the KLA. The question
is, why did they create the KLA? You came from the United States, and you
know that they want to have controlling influence in all countries.

Two years ago, on a night in January 1997, the KLA killed my father. He was
called a "traitor" and killed only because he supported Yugoslavia and the
Serbian government, not the KLA regime. He loved living with all ethnic
groups in Kosovo.

Lituchy: What was his name?

Seholi: Malic Seholi.

Lituchy: And how old was he when he was killed?

Seholi: He was 51 years old.

Lituchy: Do you know who killed him? The names of the people?

Seholi: The KLA told us that they did that.

Lituchy: The KLA themselves said that they did that?

Koteska: Yes, yes.

Seholi: The KLA said that they killed more than one thousand people because
they were not Albanian, because they wanted Kosovo to remain in Yugoslavia,
and because they supported the Yugoslav government. And that doesn't even
mention how many members of the army KLA soldiers killed.

Friendly: What is your comment on the allegations of wrongdoing by the
Serbian military in Kosovo? How would you compare that with what NATO did,
and is there some basis for the allegations that the Serbian army was
wantonly killing villagers, or were they actually still after the KLA?

Seholi: The KLA is a terrorist group, and the Yugoslav army is our state's
army. We do not think that our army killed villagers.

Friendly: Right now, people in the United States are being told that the
Serbian army after the bombing became undisciplined and decided to kill
Albanian citizens freely.

Jasari: It's not true. Our Yugoslav army exists to protect people, not kill
them. It's propaganda. The Yugoslav army never attacked anyone in Kosovo.
They only defended themselves.


Lituchy: Does anybody want to comment on the human rights issue?

Seholi: I would like to point out that Yugoslavia consists of many ethnic
groups. Yugoslavia does not consist of only Serbian people, unlike Croatia,
which is only for Croatians.

Koteska: Croatia represents her country by their constitution as consisting
of Croat ian people and the others. You cannot find that in our Yugoslav

Seholi: These are the facts, and one doesn't have to say much to know the

El-Sayed: When you met Albright in the Paris Conference, did she say the
reason they were in Kosovo? Did she say the Yugo slav army was killing
innocent civilians, and if she did say that, did you argue against her and
tell her she was wrong?

Jasari: When she told me that, I told her, "Don't speak from your
imagination. Do you have some facts? We have the facts that this is not
happening there." But she said, "Ha! Facts? We don't need facts." She had
her task, and she only saw that task. You couldn't say anything to her. She
didn't want to talk with us because she didn't want to listen to our

Kosovo is multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi- confessional.
Unfortunately, these days you cannot find many ethnic groups in Kosovo.
Serbians, Romas, Muslims, Egyptians, Albanians who do not support the
political aims of the KLA have fled from Kosovo. One day it may be entirely
cleansed and only one ethnic group will live in Kosovo. These days KLA
soldiers kill people who work in the fields.

I think that all people in Western countries who do not believe their
government tells them the truth, must bring out the truth from our country.
We want to bring charges against Bill Clinton and all the people
responsible for the NATO bombing. Now in Yugoslavia we have many innocent
victims, and you can see that we have less bridges than before. The United
States is a big country with democracy. What kind of democracy is it which
kills people, kills innocent victims, bombs schools, bombs bridges, buses
full of people, and people living in their homes? Where is democracy now?

Lituchy: Just one more question. We believe that this message, this idea of
multinational unity that Yugoslavia represents is very important. If
somehow what Yugoslavia stands for could get out to the rest of the world,
that would be beneficial to Yugoslavia, that maybe could change people's
opinion. How do you think we could get that message across to other people
in the United States and other countries?

Jasari: Yugoslavia, Serbia and Kosovo are multi-ethnic and multi-cultural,
and only if all ethnic groups have the same rights can we have a good life.
You can't find any country in the whole world that is more multi-ethnic.

Seholi: Yugoslavia was established many years ago, and it always had a
peaceful policy. You can find democracy in Yugoslavia before democracy in
the United States. Can you find any country in the entire world, where the
president of the whole country is Albanian, a member of an ethnic minority?
You cannot find it. We had a president and vice- presidents who were

Lituchy: Their names?

Seholi: Sinan Husani, Fati Hoxha, Ali Cugriho, Asam Blazi. Asam Blazi was
the president of the youth in Yugoslavia.

Haliti: Do the United States and the 19 countries who bombed us know that
in Hasim Thaci's [KLA] army they have no other ethnic groups but Albanian?
And they said the reason they bombed us is because there is no multi-ethnic
or multi- cultural life in Kosovo. Where are the other ethnic groups in the

Damjanovic: What about democracy and Black people in the United States?
They can't go to some parts of town. Where is democracy there, with

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Louis Proyect

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