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.
Because the request for its membership is a serious breach of the international law, the Constitution of UNESCO, the legally binding UN Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) and the Charter of the UN whose Article 25 says that „The Members of the UN agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter”.
Because according to the UN Security Council resolution 1244, which reaffirms the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (now Serbia), Kosovo and Metohija is an integral part of the Republic of Serbia, under the administration of ...
Kosovo after June 1999: Made by Kosovo ISIS
The horrible pictures of the atrocious ritual beheadings of ICS, the Islamic Caliphate State, on the Internet, have shown an ugly face of Western leaders, avoiding and denying what is crystal clear, as if these heinous acts are not Islamic, and continuing their march of folly as if Islam is a religion of peace and compassion; as if ICS and Qaeda are in fact not Islamic; and as if these and other Islamic terrorist organization hijacked Islam, in order to smear it and de-legitimized its presence in the West.
However, these denials are not ...
OBILIC – A Serbian Orthodox cemetery near Obilic and a cemetery just outside Gnjilane, southern Kosovo, have been desecrated over the past few days by unknown perpetrators.
Tombstones in the cemetery in Krusevac, a village near Obilic, have been knocked over and burned, the Eparchy of Raska and Prizren of the Serbian Orthodox Church has said in a statement.
The eparchy vehemently condemned the incidents, deploring the continuing desecration of Serbian Orthodox cemeteries in Kosovo-Metohija.
The Orthodox cemetery in the Donji Livoc village, situated just outside Gnjilane, has also been desecrated as unknown perpetrators desecrated and dug up the grave of Gradimir Milosavljevic, ...
Germany joined the war against Yugoslavia under the pretense of fabricated facts. Sensational confession of German policeman Henning Hentz who served in the OSCE in Kosovo in the 90s confirmed that.
The reason here is that photographs taken by Hentz in late January 1999 were used by then German Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping to justify the immediate interference of NATO in the Kosovo conflict. He presented the photographs of the militants killed in Rugovo as photos of innocent Albanian victims.
What did really happen in Kosovo in late January of 1999, several months before NATO launched its operation against Yugoslavia?
According to Serbian ...
One of the biggest and most outlandish US infowar and propaganda whoppers of the 1999 Kosovo conflict was the infamous NPR story of the ethnic Albanian Anne Frank. This seems like a mindless, unethical, immoral, and vicious, racist propaganda hoax today, using propaganda to destroy an entire people, Serbian Orthodox Christians. The Anne Frank infowar campaign was manufactured to support an illegal land grab in Kosovo, in support of a Muslim Albanian separatist and secessionist terrorist war against Serbian Christians. But at the time it was very popular and helped sell the US bombing of Yugoslavia in support of Albanian ...
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.
Nestling in a wooded valley that its citizens laid their lives down to defend, the town of Kacanik in southern Kosovo is fiercely proud of its war dead.
Well-kept cemeteries include nearly 100 victims of Serb-led ethnic cleansing in 1999, while in the town centre, a statue clutching an RPG honours fallen members of Brigade 162 of the Kosovan Liberation Army.
But a decade and a half on from the war that brought about Kosovo's independence, there is rather less pride in Kacanik's new crop of warriors.
Infamous son: Lavdrim Muhaxheri, from Kacanik, in Syria
In the last three years, some 24 local menfolk ...
True, the majority of investors are Americans who bore a relation to the “democratization” of Yugoslavia that was carried out at the end of the 90s of the last century. Among them is the former commander of NATO forces in Kosovo retired general Wesley Clark, who is determined to invest more than 5.5 billion dollars in the former Yugoslav republic. Experts say that Washington’s strategy could be characterized by the following slogan: “Conquer and plunder”.
His closest supporters say that Wesley Clark is a great strategist. He wrote the book “Winning Modern Wars” that was published in 2001. In his fundamental ...
Greater Albania under Nazi Germany
During World War II, 35,000 to 40,000 Kosovo Albanians were recruited by Nazi Germany as part of the German occupation forces and security formations in Greater Albania, a state created by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini that included Kosovo-Metohija, western Macedonia, and territory from Serbia and Montenegro. In Albania, there were 30,000 Albanians who were in the German occupation forces. In 1941, the German occupation forces created a Kosovo Albanian Gendarmerie with headquarters in Kosovska Mitrovica. In 1944, these forces were incorporated into the Skanderbeg Nazi SS Division. In 1942, Balli Kombetar organization battalions were established ...
While all eyes have been on the U.S. presidential campaign, such foreign-policy hot spots as Syria, Iran and Pakistan, and the increasingly frosty relations between the United States and China, a simmering problem in the Balkans threatens to come to a boil. The most serious clashes to date involving angry Serb inhabitants of the northern portion of Kosovo and international Kosovo Force (KFOR) peacekeeping personnel erupted on November 28. Thirty German and Austrian soldiers were injured, some by small-arms fire and Molotov cocktails, when KFOR troops tried to remove roadblocks that Serb residents had erected. Those barricades have been the most ...
Donald Trump, influential billionaire and a candidate for the president of United States, back in the 1999, as a guest of the famous host Larry King on CNN, spoke about that time ongoing topic of the bombing of Serbia.
Asked by Larry King, what does he think and what would he do if he was in Clinton's place, Trump criticized the decision to bomb Serbia.
“So, I would do something different and I know it will sound ghastly to everybody. But, look at the chaos which we created in Kosovo. I think, we can say that we lost only few people. Of ...
In an email sent to his business partner and Democratic fundraiser Jeffrey Leeds, former Secretary of State Colin Powell wrote of Hillary Clinton, “Everything HRC touches she kind of screws up with hubris.”
Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State during Barack Obama’s first term was an unmitigated disaster for many nations around the world. Neither the Donald Trump campaign nor the corporate media have adequately described how a number of countries around the world suffered horribly from Mrs. Clinton’s foreign policy decisions.
Millions of people were adversely harmed by Clinton’s misguided policies and her “play-to-pay” operations involving favors in return for donations ...
A couple of months ago I chanced upon the Emperor's Clothes Website.
I noticed their startling claim that we have been systematically lied to about Yugoslavia, including Slobodan Milosevic. As they told it, he was not guilty of racist incitement and genocide; rather he advocated multiethnic peace. Since their views sharply contradicted my own, I started systematically checking their references by obtaining the relevant original documents. I have yet to find a single claim in error.
This was particularly surprising regarding the famous speech that Slobodan Milosevic delivered at Kosovo Field in 1989 at the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo. ...
More than forty years later: The 5000 page Saville Commission Report into the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry, Northern Ireland, while calling for compensation to the victims’ families, fails to identify who were the perpetrators, both within H.M government and the British Army.
“The North’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) is continuing to scrutinise the Saville report to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to bring charges against British soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday on January 30th, 1972. While progress has been made on the issue of compensation there have been no substantial developments in relation to the possibility of British ...
The ongoing de-Christianization of Kosovo continues and unlike the past frenzy of the anti-Serbian mass media in the West, we mainly have a deadly silence about the reality of Kosovo and the continuing Albanianization of this land. However, how is it “just” and “moral” to persecute minorities and to alienate them from mainstream society; and then to illegally recognize this land without the full consensus of the international community?
How ironic it is that the same United States of America and the United Kingdom, two nations who were in the forefront of covertly manipulating the mass media; remain mainly silent about ...
Kosovo and Metohia, two central regions of perennial Serbia, are the very essence of Serbian spiritual, cultural identity and statehood since Middle Ages to date. Fertile and clement planes of Kosovo with mild climate, and reach in water resources, with high mountain chains bordering with Albania have been good-blessed environment for a fruitful development of the highest achievements in all fields in medieval Serbia. The cultural and demographic strength of the Serbs is best illustrated by the presence of 1.500 monuments of Serbian culture identified so far. Numerous outstanding noble Serbian families used to live in these regions, as families ...
Italian police broke up an alleged jihadist cell in Venice who had celebrated last week’s terrorist attack in London and planned to blow up the city’s famous Rialto Bridge in the hope of killing hundreds of tourists. In a series of overnight raids, anti-terrorism police arrested three suspects, all of them Kosovars who were living in Italy.
Fisnik Bekaj, 24, Dake Haziraj, 25, and Arian Babaj, 27, were allegedly admirers of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and were secretly recorded discussing how they were ready to die for the sake of jihad. A fourth person, an unnamed minor ...
The U.S. military base in Kosovo was constructed in 1999 without consulting with the government of Serbia and is the largest U.S. military base built outside of the U.S. since the Vietnam War. The site was apparently used for extraordinary renditions and has been referred to as a “little Guantanamo”.
This is a very little known fact as NATO, the U.S., the European Union and the West are in the process of forcing Serbia to effectively give up Kosovo, and indicates the real motive for the West’s support of the Kosovo Liberation Army which it had deemed a terrorist organization ...
At least 120 natives of Kosovo have returned home during the last few years after taking part in the ongoing hostilities in Syria on the side of Daesh (ISIL), according to local police reports.
Milovan Drecun, chairman of the Serbian parliamentary Committee on Kosovo-Metohija, told Sputnik that these former militants may establish ties with local political extremists, thus further exacerbating the current volatile situation in Pristina. He pointed out that ties already exist between the jihadists and certain Albanian organized crime groups, as well as former militants of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) – a terrorist group that was officially disbanded but still exists.
"These ties were established back in the 1990s, after Osama ...
Why Kosovo is ineligible for membership in UNESCO?
Islam: Beheadings, decapitation and butchering
Two Serbian cemeteries desecrated in Kosovo
NATO’s war against Yugoslavia was based on lies
Anne Frank of Kosovo propaganda hoax: Where are they now?
Photo story: Muslim Albanian Islamic State of Kosovo from 1999 onwards
Inside Kacanik, Kosovo’s jihadist capital
Investment opportunities in Kosovo, America’s “Mafia State” in the Balkans
Kosovo under Nazi Germany: Nazi-created Albanian security forces in Kosovo during the World War II
Donald Trump: We created chaos, we should not have attacked Serbia!
Kosovo and Other Countries Destroyed by Hillary Clinton
How politicians, the media, and scholars lied about Milosevic’s 1989 Kosovo speech
War crimes by British General Sir Michael Jackson: From Bloody Sunday in Derry, Northern Ireland to Croatia, Kosovo and Iraq
Kosovo and ongoing de-Christianization
Kosovo-Metochia: What does it mean?
Kosovo history – Second part
Kosovo Albanian jihadists planned to attack Venice’s Rialto Bridge
Europe’s “Little Guantanamo”: Why the U.S. wants Serbia to give up Kosovo
Coming home to roost: Kosovo sees return of locals who fought for Daesh