Citizens on the barricades: The barricades to remain, the demands won’t be met; from „we’d rather die than be slaves“ to being forced to leave Kosovo

Protest barikade Rudare

More than two weeks have passed since the barricades in the north of Kosovo have been installed. The roadblocks can be found in ten places on the main roads leading to Jarinje and Brnjak border crossings. There are no indications that they will be removed soon – an opinion also shared by the majority of respondents who participated in the online poll conducted by the KoSSev portal. The majority also declare that the conditions put forward by Srpska Lista for their removal will not be met. On the other hand, not many believe that the barricades will be dismantled any time soon even if the demands are fulfilled.

The majority of Facebook and Twitter users were also pessimistic about the possibility that SL’s requests will be met. On the other hand, while some describe the roadblocks as „the only remaining means of defense“, others claimed that citizens were forced, blackmailed, and manipulated to go to the barricades and that Belgrade is just „buying time“. Some expect that Belgrade will give in, while others say that the Serbian side will still manage to „declare defeat as a victory“.

The barricades remain, and the demands will not be met

The arrest of a former member of the Kosovo Police in Jarinje, who is suspected of carrying out an attack on the MEC office in North Mitrovica in early December, served as the official reason for the latest barricades in the north of Kosovo. Despite Pristina and the West demanding their removal, the barricades remain strong more than two weeks later. In the meantime, Srpska Lista, i.e. the newly formed crisis team, set forward three demands that must be met before the roadblocks are dismantled – the release of the arrested Serbs, including the former policeman, the retraction of „secret lists for the arrest of accused Serbs“ and also the withdrawal of (special) police units from the north.

Following the protest of Serbs at the barricade in Rudare, we asked the citizens if they expected the demands to be met, and if and when the barricades would be removed.

The online poll on Instagram was viewed by more than 5,000 users within 24 hours, and approximately 2,000 shared their opinion on the subject.

The majority believes that the barricades will remain and that the demands will not be met. Those who think that the barricades will soon be removed with the fulfillment of all demands are in the minority.

A total of 698 (37%) Instagram users believe that the barricades will remain and that the demands will not be met. A slightly smaller number of users think that the barricades will be removed with the partial fulfillment of the demands – 32%, or 602 users.

Only 374 of the poll participants (20%), however, expect the barricades to be removed soon without the demands being fulfilled. While 213 users (11%) believe that the barricades will be removed soon and that all the demands will be met.

While Instagram users had the option to choose one of the four offered answers, the users of Twitter and Facebook expressed their opinion on the issue descriptively in the comments.

Opinions on Twitter varied, but most users of this social network had a pessimistic view about the possibility that all three demands will be fulfilled.

„1 – No, 2 – No, 3 –No,“ one of the users shared his opinion of all three requests. Another asked: „Isn’t the formation of the ASM also a condition?“, while a third user said that he is waiting for the US ambassador to resolve the new situation, and the fourth complained – „how low their conditions have fallen“.

While one of the users of this network claims that „secret lists“ may not exist, another states that this very condition – that is, „retraction of the lists“ – should be fulfilled.

„The 2nd demand is the most important one and that’s why the barricades have remained for so long. Some people finance and organize them, even by force, to protect themselves. And the help from Serbia is there only to hide the evidence of cooperation,“ added another user, stressing that the condition related to the retraction of the secret lists for the organizers of the barricades is the most important one.

And while one of the readers „expects the liberation of Kosovo from the occupation“, another says that „special units must not leave the north because then the knucklehead criminal gangs will run amok“.

„These two arrested policemen should be transferred to house arrest with ankle monitors,“ said the same user.

One of the commentators urged the Serbs not to „barricade themselves every time it suits Vucic“.

„He should go to the barricade himself and stop threatening Serbs from Mitrovica,“ he said.

Albanian Twitter users also shared their opinion, criticizing the requests, that is, the policy of the Serbian president.

One of them said that Pristina will not accept any requests and that they will remove the barricades if KFOR fails to do it, stressing that „the Storm will get the job done“.

„We are waiting for KFOR to do its job, otherwise we will take these actions ourselves and remove all the barricades in an hour, in this part only the operation ‘Storm’ gets the job done, no other method,“ he said.

„Vucic messed up again!“ added another Twitter user, adding that the Serbian president „will soon have to put another disclaimer on the border with Kosovo.“

KoSSev’s readers also shared differing views on the Facebook poll – where a total of 220 users commented on a post where we asked whether the demands from the rally would be met or if the barricades would be removed their fulfillment.

While some underlined that these were not the first barricades erected and yet „they have never fulfilled a single demand, and they won’t now either“, others were more optimistic, claiming that persistence, harmony, going out to the streets and expressing dissatisfaction „will certainly solve the problem“. Some readers of the KoSSev portal did not answer the question, instead, they called for peace and for politicians to „let people live normal lives“.

What did Facebook users say

However, the majority of Serb users on Facebook and Twitter say that they doubt the request will be met. On the other hand, while some described the roadblocks as „the only remaining means“, others claimed that citizens were forced to go and stay at the barricades.

Comments on Facebook continued today.

„All this is just a farce, people were threatened that they will lose their jobs if they don’t go to the barricades, while representatives of local self-governments protect their illegally acquired property in this way, and all to the detriment of the same ordinary people who are freezing themselves at the barricades…north of Kosovo is occupied by Kosovo special forces, KFOR and EULEX, and our Serbian army is not allowed to send a single vehicle on patrol even to the checkpoint… what are we even talking about… May God help us, if he did not give up on us already due to the discord among us“ – reads one of the comments.

„If 10,000 citizens come out to express their dissatisfaction, who can stop them – a handful of so-called members of special forces? They are just victims of Kurti’s dictatorial regime,“ one of the users stressed.

One user says that „there is no deviation from the demands“, and another emphasized: „We’d rather die than be slaves!“

„The demands of my people are a demand for survival. I believe that the almighty God will make all ill-wishers hear what the Serbs have to say,“ reads one of the comments.

Some users added that while they would like the requests to be fulfilled – „experience taught them not to be optimistic.“

„As always, there will be pressure to which Serbia will give in, unfortunately. The effort and pain of all these days are in vain. Full support for the Serbian people,“ read one of the comments.

Another Facebook user interpreted the barricades as „Belgrade’s way of buying time,“ saying that they will be removed by KFOR and EULEX, while another user assessed them to be „pure manipulation“ that will result in „the rich fleeing, while the poor remain“.

“They will attack the people without fulfilling any of the demands, but if that is the case, Serbia will not observe this calmly“; „Of course they will be removed – willingly or otherwise“ – some of the comments read.

Some users believe that the citizens who are on the barricades will not be able to „persist – both because of the weather conditions and because of the people who have led to this situation“.

„Kosovo cannot be defended from armchairs in Belgrade like the Kosovo Office, and its employee Petar Petkovic,“ this user said.

One of the readers believes that the barricades will be removed, but „with some ‘compromise’ that will be at the detriment of the Serbs“. He also sent a message to the authorities in Pristina: „Let us live in peace once and for all, stop asking for trouble.“

Another user says that the compromise will be the formation of ASM and „Vucko (cf.Serb president Aleksandar Vucic) will say – remove the barricades, I’m in favor of peace, we don’t want war and blah, blah – there will be no barricades“.

One of the commentators alleged that the demands of the people are not the same as the demands of Serbian officials.

„We do not need any Association of Serbian municipalities, because it is not an institution of the Republic of Serbia! We need Serbia and the arrested or rather kidnapped Serbs to be released!“ he said.

Some users made claims similar to those shared by SL leaders – that the Serbs at the barricades are „fighting in a peaceful way.“ While other users asked them what “peaceful” means to them – “does it mean that you will set up barricades and guard them with weapons and block people“.

One of the readers refused to answer the questions until the leaders of Srpska Lista join the discussion:

„Instead of them just reading the comments, then calling people out in bars – who wrote what, who called them out, and who said what,“ he added.

Some users responded with a question of their own for the Serbs in the north.

„Why didn’t you set up barricades when Oliver Ivanovic was arrested, with a request that he be released?“

Several users said in the comments that the people at the barricades were blackmailed, that they were „threatened by text messages that they will lose their jobs.“

„Is this normal?“ – they questioned.

„The Belgrade leaders and their servants declared every defeat a victory, and they will do that once again. Many people will get sick because of those barricades because it is not easy to be outside in this temperature. Many people’s health conditions will deteriorate because there are also chronically ill citizens. And some will benefit enormously, as they have done so far. And the suffering Serbian people will get worse and worse, and there will be none left in Kosovo in a few years.”

Commenting on the protest held on Thursday, one of the Facebook users stated that 95% of those who attended the rally did not do so because they wanted to:

„They did it due to various threats – they receive text messages that they will lose their jobs, social benefits, etc., it has gone so far that they are ordering certain people to come to the barricades via SMS.“

The majority of users of Albanian ethnicity objected to the barricades and the demands of SL, and one of them compared the demands to a hypothetical demand – for the US President to resign.

This comment was met with many negative reactions from Serbs, from „you are ridiculous“, and „enjoy while America is here“, to – „Albanians want a Serb-less Kosovo“.

Some claimed that Serbs are „the most privileged minority in all of Europe and beyond“, and that they „reached the limit a long time ago“.

„Now things will explode,“ this user said, to which the Serbian users ironically replied that the privileges are reflected in „constant thefts and pressure on Serbs to leave Kosovo.“

„While waiting for things to change, life passes us by“

Instead of answering the poll question, one of the users said after the rally in Rudare:

„We’re expecting all of us bots who’ve been there today to get a cold.“

Others said that „it would be nice to live a little“, and that while waiting for changes – life is passing us by.

„My kid is in the sixth grade, and I was like her in 1999… And since then to date, it has been the same old thing… I am not interested in any politics, ethnicity, hatred, or anything but life… It would be nice if our generation could take a breather at least for a while and live a little… Waiting for things to change, life passes us by,“ said one Facebook user.

In a similar tone, another user stated that ordinary and normal people want peace – “How come politicians don’t understand that?” While another user said that people should be the ones to come to an agreement – not the politicians.

From 1389 to 1999

In the comments on the post shared by the KoSSev portal, other topics were also discussed – the meaning of the term „tagging“, what racism is, and what the Albanians and the Serbs are guilty of. Who „destroyed cemeteries“ and who „perpetrated genocide“ and against whom. The users also discussed whether Urosevac or Ferizaj is the more proper name and which one is older, when was the area populated by the Serb and when by the Albanians, and the events of 1389 and Murat.

Preuzimanje i objavljivanje tekstova sa portala KoSSev nije dozvoljeno bez navođenja izvora. Hvala na poštovanju etike novinarske profesije.