The Holy Land

Tatjana Lazarević Vreme ličnost godine
Tanja Lazarevic, novinarka, Kossev, 04.01.2019 Kosovska Mitrovica, Foto Marija Jankovic

By Tatjana Lazarevic (originally published on Normalizacija.rs)

 

The criminal North and the Kosovo authorities, with the support of the international community, aspire to establish the rule of law throughout the Republic of Kosovo so that the young state can finally develop unimpeded – this is the dominant two-decade-long narrative of Albanians and the West, which is used to attempt to normalize relations between Belgrade and Pristina. What is also important for progress and reconciliation is to free Kosovo Serbs from the malignant influence of Belgrade and for Serbia to apologize for war crimes and pay war reparations.

The chances of solving the problem in such a narrative are close to zero, unless the few Serbs who remained in Kosovo after 1999, i.e. 2004, 2008, and 2014, are not pushed out. Instead of reconciliation, the tradition of a new exodus will be passed on from one generation to another.

Shiptar terrorists, drug dealers, and human organ traders who aspire to ethnically cleanse Kosovo and Metohija with the support of the West, and erase every trace of the Serbian cradle in the centuries-old hearth of the few remaining Serbs – reads the parallel narrative in Serbian tabloids, pro-governmental media, and hybrid guerrilla electronic TV channels that spilled over into homes, schools, celebrations and memorials.

Even with such a forty-year-long official installation we are left with no hope to reach a solution.

We’ll hate each other for who knows how many more decades, maybe we will kill each other again – with both sides convinced that they are victims and the good guys and that the other side is the villain, while the experts and promoters of this craft sit in the same government or the same yacht, easily reaching agreements, whether making or destroying governments, while swearing oaths and downing expensive brandy.

What does the application of these instructions look like on the ground?

Today marks the two-month anniversary of the special operation of the Kosovo authorities against smuggling and organized crime in Mitrovica. In fact, the operation was planned at 26 locations across Kosovo – 9 in the north, and it was unsuccessful at 8 locations. Supposedly, this was the case due to intelligence leaks. Violent clashes between protesters and police took place in Kosovska Mitrovica and Zvecan. Outcome: a dozen injured citizens, 6 policemen, and the most severe case – Srecko Sofronijevic sustaining a firearm injury. He was successfully operated on in the Mitrovica hospital and was recuperating. Then, he was transferred to the Emergency Medical Center in Belgrade, where he was urgently visited by the Minister of Health. A total of 8 people were arrested, three from the north, 6 Albanians, a Bosniak, and a Serb. Arrest warrants have been issued for 10 people – two Serbs and 8 Albanians. In the meantime, some of them surrendered, and one of the two Serbs on this wanted list was included on the US sanction list of individuals last week.

When it comes to persons wanted by the Kosovo police, I have yet to hear any Serb interlocutor of mine say that they are surprised that these persons are on the wanted list. This is a small town and everyone knows each other – Serbs and the Albanians who work in the north. Regardless, they condemned the action. The fact they knew what they were doing didn’t help, neither did the all-day reiterations from Pristina that the action was not ethnically-motivated, nor the hell-bent listing of all the facts that proved this.

The Kosovo police, notoriously unreachable for the media in the main directorate – that day being the exception, were only heard by the Albanian public, whose hackles were up at the same time – ahead of the elections that were set to take place in four days.

How is it that the fight against corruption and organized crime was met by absolute support in one part of society, and general criticism and resistance in another?! It cannot be that the two nations differ in that one lives a virtuous life and the other supports crime? Unless the ideology of German Nazism is embraced again in order to defend this thesis?

At the time the inspectors entered the pharmacy owned by Besim Zeqiri, and the fierce clash between police and protesters that followed, Zeqiri’s sister-in-law, who was 7 months pregnant at the time, was working there – along with her young, recently employed colleague, whose father rushed to save his daughter.

I was told that the wanted Zeqiri seldom visited the pharmacy and that the chances of them finding him in a gym or cafe were much higher.

When the Kosovo authorities attempted to do something similar in another pharmacy a year ago, the officers left North Mitrovica in fear after people who were present there or those that came running, including the citizens waiting in line for medicine at the height of the pandemic, instantly revolted.

Drug seizure is a risky business in the north during the corona pandemic as well. Serbs get treatment in the health system of the Republic of Serbia, and pharmacies follow that system. Medicines are mostly treated as over-the-counter because the nearest well-stocked state pharmacy is 65 km away – behind Jarinje, in Raska.

Only a dozen meters from the pharmacy, the central high school and faculty were full of children that morning, and the health center was full of patients. Parents rushed to the school, some patients panicked. Shooting and stun grenades explosions echoed through the town. In Zvecan, where an attempt to seize goods in a warehouse was made, the clash was even worse.

The regional police found themselves between the demonstrators on the one hand, and the inspection and special police forces on the other. Without body armor, helmets, and other equipment, some of them resembled clay pigeons. They were not notified about the operation planned in Pristina, except when they were called to provide backup just before the operation. They didn’t even know that some of the people in the crowd „wouldn’t stick to the deal“. At least, this is what one policeman shouted in front of the pharmacy, while another policeman previously tried to protect his Albanian colleague.

The majority of the gathered were civilians – employees who were brought in an organized manner, parents, bystanders, citizens who came running to see what was happening. Everyone was worried and scared. A controlled semi-civilian aggressive group of younger men who pushed back the police was also present. Srpska Lista officials weren’t, except for one councilor, who was at the scene of the conflict only because he lives nearby, who tried to calm the situation.

The same group also committed violence against journalists – above all, by intimidating them not to film, attempting to take their phones, and seize IDs, and the sense that something more serious could break out was definitely present.

Each side could have been much more seriously hurt that day. One does not have to attend police or military training to know that action against organized crime and corruption must be 100% professionally planned and implemented. That means that it must be safely implemented. In an area prone to conflict, in a divided community or antagonized social categories, such action must not deepen the conflict and further divide society, but bring down tensions and provide security.

But tensions spilled over into an all-day TV program, broadcast live, first from Belgrade, and then 65 kilometers from Kosovska Mitrovica.

This is the policy of psychopath Albin Kurti. Freedom of movement of our people is being abolished. They are using long-barreled weapons against bare-handed people, dozens were wounded. It was an attempt to kill our people. With the wounding of Srecko Sofronijevic, the first drop of Serb blood has been spilled in Kosovo. Doctors are fighting for his life, and the bare-handed Serb people managed to defend the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica and push back members of ROSU. Albin Kurti’s savagery has led to chaos in the north, the head of the Kosovo Office said at an emergency press conference, where reporters were not given the opportunity to ask questions.

Afterward, Srpska Lista chief heroically defended the bare-handed people on TV Pink, announcing the urgent departure of all Serbs to Raska if necessary, where they will meet with the president because they can no longer tolerate Crystal Night. Even after addressing the public via a telephone, the mystery remains as to where was the chief of the strongest and only party of Kosovo Serbs all morning and early afternoon while his people were being beaten? That afternoon, however, he admitted in front of the cameras at the barracks of the Serbian Army that he had to take a tranquilizer.

Keeping in mind that any kind of recapping would diminish the credibility of the original event, I always urge everyone to watch the video of the meeting of the military-police-political hierarchy of Serbia with bold Serbian patriots from the north, which is archived on several YouTube channels. No interpretation can outshine the original, just as the original showed the porosity of state institutions and the humiliation of its symbols on October 13th – simply for the sake of one television set.

Should they start carrying our children and us out of our Kosovo in coffins for you to stand behind us and protect us; If you intend to defend and protect us, we ask you to do so; Stand by your people until it is too late, so that there is no Storm, there is no pogrom and we don’t start carrying our children out in coffins!

If the state is not able (cf. to protect us), tell us, we will remain by our people as we have done so far, and if blood is to be shed – tell us, let us know. We, the chosen ones, will go, as we have done many times, we will not push women or children.

We have our soldiers and policemen, so if they can’t come in uniform, let them come to us in tracksuits, because we really need help and protection here. Nobody needs any kind of conflict, we all know what peace means, so I ask you all to be united.

On that day, a new generation of Bridge Watchers relocated to the barracks of the Serbian Army – mostly from the payrolls of the Republic of Kosovo. From there, they moved back to the building near the Ibar three days later, and there, standing behind the same microphones, they called on citizens to vote in the elections in the same state that carried out this Crystal Night against them and paid their wages.

Perhaps Bollywood took place in the heart of Raska that day if you ask the majority in Serbia, only recently to be seen, to be followed by the same in the gendarmerie further down the Ibar, two months ago, as it certainly did for one director and part of the cast. That was not the case, however, to those tabloid and pro-governmental media news consumers listed at the beginning of this text. For sure this was not Bollywood to the excited naturchiks who were taken all the way down from Mitrovica. Despite their ignorance, many of them embraced pure patriotism.

Their wake-up call will have double the bitterness. The other ones have already taken their first bitter pill.

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