A more holistic policy that examines the stagnation of EU integration efforts and addresses Kosovar identity as it relates to empathy with Syrians is necessary to approach the issue of foreign fighters in full.
Type “Syria” and “Kosovo” into an internet search engine and the results produce a predictable medley of opinion pieces comparing Western involvement in the Kosovo conflict of the late nineties to hypothetical Western involvement in the Syrian conflict of the 2010s. These articles, the bulk of which were penned in 2013, do not surprise me.
More alarming are the other headlines, appearing with increasing frequency in recent months: headlines detailing a worrisome phenomenon of men and women traveling from Kosovo to Syria to fight on behalf of ISIL.
As of January 2015, the Kosovar Centre for Security Studies (KCSS) reported more than 232 instances of fighters from Kosovo joining militant organizations in Syria and Iraq. That number places the country highest amongst other countries in the Balkans region, an area that has been referred to as ISIL’s “new recruitment hotspot” by media and intelligence sources.
The statistics are troubling: 125 foreign fighters per capita for every 1 million citizens, and reports of a growing radical Islamist trend in Kosovo, particularly among the country’s youth. Kacanik, a southern town of less than 40,000 occupants, has been branded “Kosovo’s jihadist capital” and has gained notoriety as the home of ISIL leader and recruiter Lavdrim Muhaxheri, designated by the US Department of State as a terrorist after photos of a graphic beheading surfaced on social media in 2014 [underlined in bold by Vladislav B. Sotirovic].
It is difficult to reconcile these reports with the Kosovo I know from my experience in the region. Studies paint a portrait of a country shifting rapidly towards religious conservatism; I remember passionate discussions of atheism with Muslim-identifying youth. Articles focus on instances of fanaticism and fundamentalism, on burqas and beards; I remember bustling shopping malls, lively coffee shops, and robust political dialogue.
Alongside these darkly prophetic reports are accounts of the government’s efforts to halt the flow of potential fighters to ISIL. Recently, Kosovo made news with its arrest of Arben Livoreka and Nexhat Behluli on terrorism charges. Kosovo courts have ordered jail sentences for offenders conducting propaganda for ISIL through social media. Arrests were made over an alleged ISIL plot to poison Pristina’s water supply made headlines in July 2015.
But these heavy-handed reactions may prove counterproductive in the face of religious extremism, driving those most susceptible to ISIL recruitment into a defensive, threatened mindset. Reactionary law enforcement needs to be coupled with proactive societal efforts to address the root causes of the phenomenon and to transform the energy of Kosovar citizens eager for action in Syria.
Anger and poverty certainly play roles in driving extremism, and both are present in Kosovo. Frustration born from economic stagnation, high unemployment rates – particularly youth unemployment rates – and weak governmental structures are certainly present in the region. The nuances of Wahhabism and its role in radicalization may also play a part, and have been examined at length.
However, additional factors specific to Kosovo may be exacerbating this phenomenon. Identity-related narratives and anger over the prospects of EU integration need to be further examined and continuously addressed in the discussion of Kosovo’s fighters in Syria.
I first visited Kosovo in 2012, more than a decade after the establishment of the UN Mission there, and memories surrounding the 1999 conflict were still integral to the identities of those around me. Stories of small-town heroism in the face of ethno-religious oppression were something to be celebrated as a community, and local fighters something to be continuously honored. Stretching back beyond the 1990s, generations of struggle in the Balkans pre-date the conflicts of WWI; residents of Pristina stress the importance of the 14th century Battle of Kosovo to their present day identity.
In the land of blood and honey, the idea of shedding blood for a noble cause remains attached to the historic identity of many citizens: particularly to their youth, who have yet to fight in such a conflict. For this reason, participation in the Syrian conflict may appeal to certain individuals as an expression of this identity. Though cases vary, for some fighters, participation in the Syrian conflict is viewed as an honorable means of defending the Syrian people. This stems from the desire to help a civilian population that many in the Balkans view as victims, reminiscent of the victimhood that they have experienced historically.
Understanding and addressing the relationship between Kosovars’ historic identities and their parallels to civilians in Syria could be an important step in exploring alternatives such as greater participation in Syrian aid programs and refugee initiatives in Kosovo.
A second factor unique to the country is frustration with the prospects of EU integration. International travel for Kosovars is difficult, and I remember the palpable sense of entrapment experienced by Kosovars eager to leave their country, whether for travel or for job opportunities abroad, yet unable. Delays in visa liberalization and setbacks within the EU integration process have left a sense of hopelessness, augmented in the wake of the “Brexit”. Radicals may play on the sentiment that the West simply does not want Kosovo, while highlighting the sense of belonging and involvement that comes from participation in ISIL. For this reason, continued efforts at integration would prove useful in thwarting the growth of radicalization and recruitment in Kosovo.
Reading articles designating Kosovo the new “hotbed” for ISIL activities deeply concerns me, but what concerns me equally is the fact that these articles sometimes paint a picture of Kosovo as a nation of angry, religiously fundamental radicals. And while arrests and jail sentences may curb the problem on a case-by-case basis, a more holistic policy that examines the stagnation of EU integration efforts and addresses Kosovar identity as it relates to empathy with Syrians is necessary to approach the issue in full.
About the author:
Brenna Gautam is currently a student at the Georgetown University Law School, hoping to specialize in international law and nonproliferation.
Note and all illustrations by Vladislav B. Sotirovic:
This is a Western pro-Albanian propaganda article for the sake to support and legitimate Albanian Kosovostan jihad terrorism in Kosovo and Syria. Nevertheless, the basic truth was unavoidable to be mentioned in the text that is underlined in bold. The rest is up to the readers to understand and interpret correctly if they want.
The interest of European scholars, primarily German and Austrian, in research on Albanian ethnical origin rose gradually during the second half of the 19th century. Their interest in Albanian and Balkan studies came later in comparison with the study of other ethnic groups and regions in Europe. The reason was that Euro-centrism of the late 19th century and the early 20th century defined the Balkans and its nations as the territory and peoples of obscure identity. In contrast to the “real Europe”, the Balkans was seen as the “Orient”, not part of Europe at all, and above all it was ...
The struggle for peace and the struggle for full respect of universal human rights, as defined by UN Declaration on protection of human rights, are interdependent and non-separable. Violations of sovereignty and territorial integrity, military interventions, aggressions and occupations go hand in hand with massive violations of the basic human rights.
It is clear that there are no humanitarian military interventions.
NATO military aggression against Yugoslavia ( Serbia ) which started March 24rth, 1999 was launched to allegedly protect human rights of Kosovo Albanians. It was carried out in blatant violation of the basic principals of International Law and without approval of ...
Kosovo Ethics, which are implanted in the national consciousness of the Serbian people, have not changed for 600 years - nor will they ever change. The basic values of those ethics, bequeathed to Serbians on Vidovdan in 1389, have not been chiseled on 2 stone tablets, but are impressed in the inmost being of every Serb.
Every nation has 1 date in its history which it considers more important than any other. For the Serbs, the most important date in their history is June 15, by the old calendar - June 28, by the new calendar (Vidovdan). On that day, in ...
The same arguments used to justify a western 'humanitarian intervention' in Kosovo in 1999 could be used to support a Russian intervention in Ukraine.
This article originally appeared at Irrussianality
Yesterday, I gave a talk on ‘The Folly of Military Intervention’ at McGill University. Afterwards, one of the students asked me a question about parallels between the wars in Kosovo in 1999 and Ukraine in 2014/15. As I answered, I found myself thinking about the scale of the humanitarian crises in both cases and what this means for supporters of so-called ‘humanitarian intervention’.
In 1999, NATO aircraft bombed Yugoslavia for three months. The aim, ...
Remember watching ancient Orthodox Christian monasteries in flames in Kosovo dozen times.
Old, noble constructions, spiritual and historical testimonies of past times.
I also remember that majority of Orthodox Christian monasteries, churches and relics has been attacked and destroyed after NATO forces (officially: KFOR) took full control of the Serbian province.
It amazed me to see how Western soldiers, under full equipment and heavy armament, often didn’t make a single move to stop Albanian violence; over 200 000 Serbs had to flee, in order to save their bare lives, bearing whole their lives in few suitcases if they were lucky enough.
Photo: NATO ...
Photo evidence of Jihadization of Kosovo & Metochia by Muslim Albanians from June 1999 onward. Kosovo after June 1999 when became occupied by NATO troops became the first world's ISIS/ISIL.
The EuroChristian culture of the ethnic Serbs is systematically destroyed like today in the Middle East for the reason to create pure Islamic state. At the same time Kosovo & Metochia is becoming overwhelmingly Islamized with ethnic cleansing of all non-Albanians especially of the Christian Serbs.
Many of us go through life searching for our purpose, for something that we are passionate about. After years of searching finally I stumbled upon mine a few years ago. Having the world hear Syrians telling their side of the story while living through this imposed war is what ignited that fire in me. As a Syrian American that was born in Syria and lived in both countries my entire life, I feel a strong link to my heritage, my birth country, my culture, my language, my customs, my nationality, and my history.
We have been bombarded with lies and propaganda ...
BELGRADE – The Diocese of Raska-Prizren of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) denied the allegations that the unfinished Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Pristina was illegally built on usurped grounds and needs to be removed.
The government (of ethnic Albanians) in Pristina threatened to destroy the unfinished facilities of Christ the Saviour Cathedral in keeping with the law on legalisation in case a request for its registry is not filed by February 5.
The daily Blic in Pristina reported that together with the request for legalisation, SPC will have to submit the consent of the University of Pristina which launched a ...
Documentary movie: Rachak Village in Kosovo 1999- Lies and the truth (in Serbian)
Лажи и истине о случају села Рачак на Косову и Метохији у јануару 1999. г.
Лажи и истине о случају села Рачак на Косову и Метохији у јануару 1999. г.
The NATO occupation was seen by Arab/Muslim countries as an opportunity to transform Kosovo-Metohija into a Muslim state. Terry Boyd in the Stars and Stripes article “In Kosovo, Islamic groups work to rebuild country, attract followers,” September 21, 2001, examined how Muslim countries were seeking the Islamization of Kosovo. The US State Department listed Kosovo as having active cells of al-Qaeda, Ossama bin Laden’s terrorist network. Al-Qaeda and Ossama bin Laden were aiding the UCK jihad in Kosovo. Iran was also active in Kosovo and Bosnia. Boyd reported that an Iranian Islamic group offered 120-300 German marks a month for ...
If a German had showed up in London in 1944 and opened fire, would police have ruled out any connection to Nazism? Fatmir H comes from a hotbed of jihad activity. The Islamic State and al-Qaeda have issued repeated calls for Muslims in West to murder civilians. We have seen the perpetrators of numerous jihad terror attacks declared mentally ill, often absurdly. In light of all that, the possibility that this was a jihad terror attack cannot be ruled out.
“‘He jumped out of the train and started to strike at people with an AXE’: Horror in Dusseldorf as Kosovan attacker ...
Serbia today is a member-State of United Nations (U.N.), after the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was split into several nations during the early 1990’s when war broke out between Serbian General Milosevic and neighboring nations. After partition, Serbia is still the most powerful “state” of the former Yugoslavia.
“Kosovo”, the term used for the territory of southern Serbia, is de-jure recognised as a “state” by over 110+ “states”, but is not a “state” itself, as per the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (1933), and is not a “state” at the U.N. where 2/3rd positive vote is ...
Barack Obama's speech on Ukrainian crisis seems to have left the public confused as he claimed that Kosovo broke away from Serbia "after a referendum". But attentive listeners quickly pointed Obama's gaps in history - there was no referendum in Kosovo. Video here.
President Obama was speaking Wednesday at The Center for Fine Arts in the heart of Brussels, Belgium, and was telling the youth crowd mostly about Russian-Ukrainian conflict over the strategic Crimean Peninsula.
He lashed out at Russia for "violation of international law, its assault on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Obama recalled the conflict around Kosovo and NATO's involvement, making ...
The Serbs stepped again onto the historical scene in the years of the European wars that swept the continent from the forests of Ireland to the walls of Constantinople in the late 17th century. The Turks finally withdrew from Hungary and Transylvania when their Ottoman hordes were routed outside Vienna in 1683. The disintegration of Ottoman rule in the southwest limbered up the Serbs, arousing in them hope that the moment was ripe for joint effort to break Turkish dominion in the Balkans. The neighboring Christian powers (Austria and Venice) were the only possible allies. The arrival of the Austrian ...
Some of those currently advocating bombing Syria turn for justification to their old faithful friend “humanitarian intervention”, one of the earliest examples of which was the 1999 US and NATO bombing campaign to stop ethnic cleansing and drive Serbian forces from Kosovo.
However, a collective amnesia appears to have afflicted countless intelligent, well-meaning people, who are convinced that the US/NATO bombing took place after the mass forced deportation of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo was well underway; which is to say that the bombing was launched to stop this “ethnic cleansing”. In actuality, the systematic forced deportations of large numbers of people from Kosovo did ...
Key facts about Kosovo's Islamic Albanian minority of Serbia and the century long drive by Islamic extremists to exterminate Kosovo Serbs from that region:
1389---Muslims defeat Christian Serb defenders in Kosovo, depopulate the area and invite mountain tribe of Albanians, in exchange for converting to Islam, to take over pillaged land from Serbs.
1594---Sinan Pasha, an ethnic Albanian, who was a commander in the Ottoman Turkish Empire, burned the relics of St. Sava at Vracar, Belgrade. St. Sava is the Saint that brought Serbs into Christianity.
1878---Albanian nationalist leaders meet in Prizren, known as the First League of Prizren, to announce the creation ...
The former Yugoslavia was engulfed by many conflicts and ethnic and religious differences tore away at the very fabric of this nation. Like all wars, atrocities took place on all sides but the mass media in general focused on Serbian atrocities, while neglecting brutal crimes committed against the Serbian community. This certainly applies to the glossing over of war crimes done by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
However, more and more evidence is coming to light about brutal KLA death camps and killing people for organs. Therefore, will former KLA members be charged with war crimes and will the “real truth” ...
A German documentary film about the false pretext and German propaganda used to exert and sustain public support for illegal NATO aggression against Serbia and Montenegro in 1999
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is calling for an “impartial investigation” into grisly reports by a European investigative commission alleging that Kosovo government officials were involved in the trade of human organs.
In an exhaustive report released by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in December, it was alleged that Serbian detainees of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) were kidnapped and murdered by Kosovo Albanians so their organs could be sold on the black market.
The report says the crimes occurred after the Kosovo War ended in 1999.
These shocking allegations came on the heels of a two-year investigation into a ...
SKOPJE – In recent months Albanians from Kosovo and Metohija have massively been buying properties in Macedonia, and those with “deep pockets” do not ask for price of the properties in the most attractive locations, claim real estate agencies, as reported by Macedonian media. Properties are bought mostly in Tetovo, Gostivar and Skopje.
Almost 80 percent of newly built apartments in Tetovo and Gostivar were bought by citizens from Kosovo. They pay as much as 700 euros per meter square. Houses are also bought, but their price is high, media learned at one construction company in Gostivar.
Except in Tetovo and Gostivar, ...
Albanology and political claims of the Albanians
Violation of human rights of Serbs in the province of Kosovo and Metohija
Kosovo and Vidovdan after 600 Years
“Responsibility to protect” was not valid in Kosovo and isn’t valid in Ukraine
Albanian terrorists as official NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo members – photo evidence
Photo story: Muslim Albanian Islamic State of Kosovo from 1999 onwards
Export of Kosovostan jihad in the Middle East: The Christian genocide in Syria
Kosovo government wants to destroy Christ the Savior cathedral in Pristina
Documentary movie: Rachak village in Kosovo 1999 – Lies and the truth (in Serbian)
Persecuted Serbian Orthodox Church: The Islamization of Kosovo
Dusseldorf axe attacker: “Fatmir H,” Muslim Albanian from Kosovo
Illegal occupation of southern Serbia: Kosovo – Analysis
Obama ignorance exposed: States Kosovo left Serbia only after referendum, but there was NO referendum at all!
Kosovo history – Fourth part
The myth of NATO’s “humanitarian intervention” in Kosovo
Kosovo: Key dates in the century long goal to create Greater Albania
Kosovo and systematic persecution by KLA
German documentary film on Kosovo in 1999: “It began with a lie”
Russia calls for investigation into human-organ trade ring in Kosovo
Kosovo Albanians massively buy properties in Macedonia