8 April 2004, Volume 6, Number 14
KOSOVO'S TWO TRUTHS
Adem Demaci, known as "the Kosovar Mandela," is one of the most respected figures on Kosovo's public stage. Oliver Ivanovic is a prominent representative of the Kosovo Serbs and member of the Presidency of Kosovo. Interviewed for RFE/RL's Radio Most (Bridge) by Omer Karabeg.
On 22 March, RFE/RL's Radio Most presented the very first public dialogue between Serbs and Albanians after the violent incidents several days earlier (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 and 26 March, and 2 April 2004).
RFE/RL: Mr. Demaci, many people think that after the latest violence there is no hope of rebuilding a multiethnic Kosovo. What do you think?
Adem Demaci: I do not agree. I am an optimist. There is always a possibility.
We lived together for 500 years under the Ottoman Empire and later [in Serbia and Yugoslavia]. Negative things here have always been the result of Belgrade's policies.
The Serbian state has [now] lost all the rights here, including the moral, human, and political basis for its hopes of subjugating Kosovo again. The entire world should understand that Kosovo must be free and independent.
The Serbian regime should give up its hegemonic ambitions. I have recently heard [Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav] Kostunica say: "We will not let Kosovo go. We cannot live without Kosovo." [But Serbia managed to] live without Kosovo for 500 years, namely [most of] the last 500 years.
Such slogans can only irritate [people] and generate mistrust. That is the source of all the problems we have in Kosovo now.
Oliver Ivanovic: One should not blame the victim for what happened. This reveals the nature and way of thinking of the Albanian political elite, and Mr. Demaci is one of them.
It is as if the violent expulsion of the Serbs never took place, as if their houses and churches were not burned down, and as if everything that belonged to the Kosovo Serbs was not destroyed.
Mr. Demaci mentioned Belgrade's policies. Those are the policies of a state concerning a part of its territory, and are therefore democratic. The problem is that the Kosovo Albanians have a very irrational, romanticist wish to form an independent state, contrary to all modern trends. Nowadays [independent statehood] is a complete anachronism.
Demaci: Extreme nationalism has again taken center stage in Serbia. Hard-line nationalists, led by Kostunica, have come to power. The Albanians have no reason whatsoever to put up with the state that killed some 15,000 people in Kosovo.
More than 250,000 houses were destroyed during the [1999 conflict], not to mention what happened before.
I am very sorry about the things that took place several days ago, but I cannot simply forget what happened in Kosovo under Serbian rule. It was simply unbelievable at the end of the 20th century.
Ivanovic: Mr. Demaci, you are misusing statistics. You claim that some 15,000 people were killed, and you know very well that there were no more then 7,800 killed. You know that as well as I do. Can you give me the name of a single international organization that can confirm the figure of 250,000 burned houses?
Demaci: I am giving the facts. Since the beginning of the Serbianization of Kosovo in 1991, more then 150,000 people were fired, pupils had to leave their schools, sick people had to leave their hospitals, and fear became the dominant emotion. The violence was horrible. [The Serbian authorities] tried to kill us all with hunger.
Ivanovic: What do you make of the latest developments. What caused them?
Demaci: These are the consequences of so many years of a particular [oppressive] policy. [It was] an inevitable revolt.
Ivanovic: To kill women and children and burn down houses -- that cannot be a revolt. How can you call it a revolt? You [Albanians] have been in power in Kosovo for the last five years.
Demaci: This was a spontaneous reaction, which is hard to stop. The violence of Serbian power was organized through the police, while this was unorganized, and both thugs and criminals joined it. No one could control it. I wonder what UNMIK and KFOR were doing. Were they doing their jobs?
Ivanovic: According to you, a very well-armed group took some 20 buses and came spontaneously to Mitrovica. What spontaneity? That's nonsense. It was a very well-organized action, and you know that very well. You would have acknowledged it if you were sincere.
Demaci: I just do not understand what buses you are talking about. I think that Mr. Ivanovic is dreaming. How could so many buses go past the KFOR patrols? A sparrow could not have passed through.
Ivanovic: It's KFOR's figure.
Demaci: Mr. Ivanovic, stop making arguments out of fabrications. Let us discuss the facts.
Milosevic attempted to expel the entire Albanian population from Kosovo. That is a fact. Do you think that someone dreamed up all those refugee camps in Macedonia and Albania? A state that has committed those crimes should not try to pretend that it is a victim.
Ivanovic: That's nonsense. After so many victims and material, cultural, and so much historical damage [in recent days], Mr. Demaci keeps talking about Milosevic. Milosevic has paid for what he did, and we, as a people, have paid the price for the fact that he was our leader, our president. That story is over. One should not try to justify everything else by mentioning Milosevic.
Demaci: No, you have not paid the price. What good is it for Kosovo that Milosevic was sent to The Hague? None whatsoever. As far as we are concerned, the right price will have been paid when the Serbian state, chauvinism, and [expansionist ideology] have lost [any claim to] Kosovo. As long as Serbia has Kosovo under its whip, the price will not have been paid. How can you [try to] dominate some 2 million Albanians who do not want you, Serbia, who want freedom?
Ivanovic: One thing you have to understand. If the town of Strpce decides not to want to be in Kosovo, it does not mean that it can become independent. Kosovo cannot do it either unless the one in charge agrees, and that is Serbia. This is not how it goes anywhere in the world. Violence, murder, and destruction are not the way to achieve independence. That does not happen in Europe anymore; it is the way power and independence are won in Africa. Come on, some 20 villages were simultaneously attacked last week; that cannot happen spontaneously. First there was the provocation in Mitrovica aimed at diverting attention, and then some 20 villages were attacked and burned down.
Mr. Demaci, it was done by a very organized group, a paramilitary unit of extremists or terrorists, call them whatever you want....
I do respect you. Please do not tarnish your own image. Continue to be the man who said in 1992 that war is not necessary. Tell that to the Albanians now.
Demaci: The Albanians did not make war here; it was the Serbian army and police. And now Serbia wants to chop Kosovo up.... The people will never accept it. If you want to avoid bloodshed, simply let the people decide through a referendum, instead of imposing solutions on us.
Ivanovic: I suppose that you are talking in the name of many Albanians. That means that there will be more bloodshed, unless you manage to persuade both the international community and Serbia to accept Kosovo's independence....
Demaci: If you insist on the partition of Kosovo, the bloodshed will never stop. This nation is not a child that can be easily manipulated. This nation wants its freedom, just like you want yours.