Kosovo under Nazi Germany: Nazi-created Albanian security forces in Kosovo during the World War II



3. regrutacija za SS Skenderbeg diviziju Kosovo april 1944

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 by the German forces, which existed until 1945. In 1943, a Kosovo Regiment was created in Kosovska Mitrovica made up of Kosovo Albanians by German forces. In 1944, these troops were also incorporated into the Skanderbeg SS Division. The German forces also established the Pec and Pristina Territorial Police Regiments from 1944 to 1945. The Albanian Macedonian Militia was created in Macedonia in 1943-1945.

Most of the Albanian Nazi collaborationist forces were made up of Albanian Muslims from Kosovo-Metohija. The Nazi-created Gendarmerie, the special police, the paramilitary formations, the militias, and the Ushtars, Albanian security forces, were mostly from Kosovo-Metohija. It was only the Albanian Army that was made up of Albanians from Albania.

After the Italian surrender on September 8, 1943, the construction of a Nazi German Greater Albania began. This effort was led by Hermann Neubacher, and Franz von Scheiger and Martin Shliep of the German Foreign Ministry in Albania. Abwehr II or German Military Intelligence agents were also sent into Albania at this time. Three German divisions in the XXI Corps under General Hubert Lanz occupied Greater Albania. The 297th Infantry Division occupied Pristina and Prizren in Kosovo. The 100th Jaeger Division occupied Elbasan and Struga in western Macedonia. The 118th Jaeger Division advanced from Niksic and occupied the Albanian coastal areas.

Kosovo Albanian Muslim hodzas or Islamic clerics pray for Nazi occupation forces with Nazi swastika flags and Nazi-fascist officers, 1942.

The German plan to secure the occupation was based on Hermann Neubacher’s initiative to achieve “national mobilization”. Neubacher, who was from Austria, acted as the envoy of the German foreign ministry and was German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop’s representative in Albania.  This Nazi plan was to be realized by creating an Albanian Army that was led and organized by German forces. The Germans also sought to create an Albanian gendarmerie corps. They planned to arm and use certain Greater Albanian ultra-nationalist groups such as the Balli Kombetar. A Nazi Waffen SS Division in Kosovo made up of “Kosovar” Muslims was also created by Nazi Germany.

Neubacher’s military adjutant attached to Abwehr II, Captain Lange, sought to create an Albanian national militia of 30,000 which would be a reserve force. The Germans were able to find collaborators with the Roman Catholic Albanians in the Mirdita region of northern Albania. They had been collaborators with the fascist Italian forces and with the Austro-Hungarian forces in World War I. They were able to open the Prizren to Shkodra road for German forces. Gjon Marka Gjoni, the leader of the Roman Catholic Albanian Ghegs in the Mirdita, stated that: “The Germans have been my friends. To betray my friends is immoral.” They remained Nazi Germany’s closest allies. The Germans provided them with weapons and paid them for this collaboration.

Armed Albanian gendarmes or police under fascist-Nazi control walk in front of Nazi swastikas on walls above the fascist “V” symbol with a mosque in the background.

Another group the Germans collaborated with were the opportunistic Greater Albania ultra-nationalist Balli Kombetar (National Front), “Balisti” or “Balists”. The BK group was founded by Midhat Frasheri with the single objective of annexing Kosovo to a Greater or Ethnic Albania. The BK was the key collaborationist group with the Nazis in Kosovo. Bernd Fischer noted that “the Germans did win the cooperation of many BK cetas”. This disproves the pro-Albanian propagandistic historiography which seeks to portray the BK as anti-Nazi and anti-fascist. The key to the German occupation was making Kosovo-Metohija a part of Greater Albania. That was the linchpin of Nazi policy. As long as Nazi Germany supported Kosovo as a part of Greater Albania, they would have Albanian support.

The head of the Gestapo in Kosovska Mitrovica in northern Kosovo was Gunther Hausding. The Germans established Kosovo Albanian Gestapo agents who were part of the fascist Albanian Committee. Perijuc Mamut, Ramiz Mulic, and Osman Ibrahimovic were Kosovo Albanian agents of the Gestapo who seized and looted Jewish property and businesses in Kosovska Mitrovica. This followed an order by Dzafer Deva, the president of the Kosovska Mitrovica district, that Jewish property be seized and that commissioners be appointed by the Albanian Committee to oversee Jewish businesses. Ibrahimovic ordered the destruction of the Jewish synagogue.

Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in Kosovo-Metohija place responsibility for the genocide against Jews in Kosovo on the fascist Kosovo Albanian Committee. The members were Rushid Mehmet, Sahsivar Alic, Husen Pristina, Tahir Kaldziu, Malus Kosova, and Sadik Galimuci. They incited the first and second waves of arrests of Jews in Kosovo-Metohija. Miljus Kosova was the president of the Albanian Kosovo Committee.  Dzemal-beg Ismail Kanli was the chief of police. Rashid Mehmed Ali was the president of the district. Rifat Sukri Ranadan, Jahnja Asan, and Mahmud Saban Pasic were also members of the Committee.

An Albanian fascist-Nazi Ushtar or gendarme escorting a group of Albanian Muslim hodzas or clerics. He is wearing the goat’s head Skanderbeg symbol on his cap, the emblem of the fascist-Nazi security forces in Greater Albania.

There were several internment or prison camps set up in the Albanian cities of Preza, Berat, Kavaja, Burrel, Lakosnik, Shijak, Elbasan, and Kruja, where Kosovo Serbs and Jews were sent. In April, 1942, 100 Jews from Pristina were transferred to the prison camp at Berat, while 79 were transferred to Preza. In July, 1942, 88 Jews were transferred from Pristina to the prison camps at Burrel, Kruja, and Kavaja in Albania. There were also prisons in Pristina and Kosovska Mitrovica. According to Fischer, of the 400 Kosovo Jews sent to Bergen-Belsen, about 100 survived.

Josip Josifovic, a Kosovo Jew, recalled the Albanian role in the Holocaust in Kosovo. He stated that “Albanians brought us more harm than the Germans did as occupiers.” He recalled that the Albanians interned the Kosovo Jews and sent them to the Berat prison in Albania in 1942. On their work documents the word “Jude” was stamped and they had to wear a yellow card.

An Albanian member of the Nazi German occupation militia forces in 1943, wearing fascist Italian uniform.

There is overwhelming evidence that proves the Balli Kombetar collaborated with the German forces. Based on NARS Microfilm T-501, Roll 258, Frame 000628, the Balli Kombetar “would be courted by the Germans and…they would throw their support on the German side.” The new Nazi-created government for Greater Albania gained the support of the BK. Steve Kane noted that “the remnants of the Balli Kombetar entered into open collaboration with the new government.”

All of the officers in the Albanian Fascist battalions were Italians while the NCOs were a mixture of Albanians and Italians. The 1st Legion was stationed in Tirana while the 2nd Legion was at Korce, the 3rd at Valona, and the 4th at Scutari. They were dissolved in 1943. They were battalion strength in size. Many of them were later incorporated in the German occupation forces. They wore Italian blouses, Italian helmets, and a collar tab described as a flame or Fiamme which showed a goat’s head. This was the goat’s head symbol of Skanderbeg. In the fascist Albanian Militia forces, members wore helmets with the goat’s head symbol over the “V” symbol, which was the emblem for fascism. Italian M33 helmets and captured French helmets were also used.

Gunther Hausding, the Gestapo chief in Kosovska Mitrovica.

The Albanian Gendarmerie and the civil administration welcomed the Nazi German occupation in 1943. Albanian Muslim hodzas or clerics were photographed in Islamic prayer services for the Nazi forces. They supported the Nazis because they would put them in control of Kosovo.

In September, 1943, the Germans sent the 100th Jaeger Division to occupy Tirana. This was the beginning of the German military occupation of Albania. The 92nd Independent Motorized Grenadier regiment was also sent. In September, 1943, the 181st Infantry Division, the 297th Infantry Division, and the 21st SS Division Skanderbeg were meant to garrison Albania.

In October, 1943, the Germans sent three Feldkommandanturen numbered 1030, 1039, and 1040. This was the beginning of the German attempt to create an Albanian Gendarmerie or police or security apparatus. These were sent to Tirana, the capital of Greater Albania, Prizren in Kosovo, and Struga in Macedonia. A German Plenipotentiary in Albania or DGA was created.  The post was given to Oberst Dr. Westphal, whose duty it was to coordinate German military moves in the country with those of the Albanian collaborationist civil and military authorities. The members of Albanian Gendarmerie were known as Ushtars and they wore collar tabs that were red while the uniform was green. The emblem on their caps was the goat’s head symbol of Skanderbeg which was worn in metallic.

General Gustav von Myrdacz, on right, the Austrian-born commander of the fascist-Nazi Albanian Army wearing a goat’s head Skanderbeg symbol on his cap walking in front of a fascist Albanian militia member. U.S. National Archives

An Albanian militia formation, wearing Italian uniforms, consisting of a battalion of 600-700 Albanian volunteers from Kosovo, was formed by Nazi Germany under Hermann Neubacher. Neubacher sought to use them to safeguard German lines of communication in Kosovo and Albania. The battalion was under the command of Albanian Lieutenant Colonel Adem Boletini. The Germans trained the battalion in Zemun, then part of the Nazi-created Ustasha NDH. Neubacher even contemplated having the battalion occupy Tirana. In September, 1943, the Germans redeployed the battalion to Tirana.

Dzafer Deva, the Kosovar Albanian Muslim Interior Minister of Greater Albania, redeployed 1,200 Albanian Gendarmes from Kosovska Mitrovica to Tirana in December, 1943. The SS Leader in Albania Josef Fitzthum was in control of the Albanian security forces, which were described as “a thoroughly undisciplined version of storm troopers.” These Nazi Kosovar storm troopers “ravaged the countryside”. It was an example of “Kosovar brutality”. The Germans provided 14,000 rifles and 425 machine guns and funds and supplies to the Kosovo Albanian security forces.

The Germans sought to create a Nazi-led Albanian gendarmerie force and an Albanian Army. General Gustav Fehn, the commander of the German XXIst Corps and SS Leader Fitzthum organized the formation of the Albanian Army. Heinrich Himmler had initially sent Fitzthum to Albania to provide expertise on security and police matters. Fitzthum had been born in Loiersdorf, Austria on September 14, 1896. He died in an auto accident on January 10, 1945 in Vienna. He had joined the SS in April, 1932. He had earlier commanded the SS Volunteer Legions “Flandern” and Niederlande”. In 1945, he was the commander of the 18th Volunteer Panzergrenadier SS Division “Horst Wessel”.

Inmates in the Preza internment camp in Albania where Kosovo Jews were interned, 1942.

Josef Fitzthum was the Higher SS and Police Leader in Albania, Hoherer SS und Polizei Fuehrer “Albanien”, with a headquarters in Tirana from August 1, 1944 to January 1, 1945. He had originally been the SS und Polizei Fuehrer “Albanien” from October, 1943 to August 1, 1944. He was also the Beauftragter des Reichsfuehrer SS fur Albanien, Heinrich Himmler’s representative in Albania, from October, 1943 to January 1, 1945.

The German plan was to create an Albanian Army consisting of 8,250 men. The Gendarmerie was to consist of 2,400 men.

Fitzthum, who had been an oberleutnant in the Habsburg Austro-Hungarian Army during World War I, planned to create an Albanian Waffen SS Division. This would be based on the Albanian Legion formed during World War I as part of the Austro-Hungarian Army. Himmler wanted to revive the Austro-Hungarian recruitment of Balkan Muslims from World War I. Bosnian Muslims, Albanian Muslims, and Sandzak Muslims had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War I. Himmler, thus, strongly backed the creation of an Albanian SS Division. SS General Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the head of the SD, Neubacher, and the German Foreign Ministry in Albania, opposed the plan.

SS Hauptsturmfuehrer Talbot von Pistor, the supply officer of the Skanderbeg Nazi SS Division.

In February, 1944, Adolf Hitler approved the formation of the Skanderbeg Division “because the Albanian government itself favored the plan” and because German occupation forces in Greater Albania needed more manpower. Bedri Pejani had even written Himmler personally to request that an Albanian Nazi SS Division be formed. According to Fischer, the “’Skanderbeg’ Division was to serve only in Kosova and was to protect ethnic Albania.” This is incorrect. The Skanderbeg Division was deployed to Kosovo, but also in Montenegro and Macedonia. The division became notorious for massacres of Kosovo Serbs. Fischer noted: “Units of the division gained an unenviable reputation, apparently preferring rape, pillage, and murder to fighting, primarily in Serbian areas.” According to Fischer, the Germans arrested Albanian officers in the SS Division at Pec and Prizren due to war crimes against Kosovo Serbs. Those arrested were sent to the Pristina prison and to incarceration in Germany. The Skanderbeg Division thus engaged in the genocide of Kosovo Serbs.

Troops in the Skanderbeg Nazi SS Division.

The Final Solution in Kosovo

The Skanderbeg Division also contributed to the Final Solution, playing an important role in the genocide of Kosovo Jews. There was a Jewish presence in Kosovo. Based on 1931 population statistics for Yugoslavia, there were a total of 488 Jews in Kosovo-Metohija: 373 in Pristina, 109 in Kosovska Mitrovica, and 6 in Djakovica. In Pristina, the Beth Israel synagogue had been built in 1897. In Kosovo, the Skanderbeg Division rounded up the 281 Jews who were sent to the camp at Pristina and later to Bergen Belsen where they were killed.

The first operation of the Skanderbeg Nazi SS Division was to round-up 400 Kosovo Jews in Pristina on May 14, 1944. From May to June, 1944, Skanderbeg rounded-up 519 Kosovo Serbs and Jews. Haim Solomon, a Kosovo Jew from Lipljan, described how he was apprehended by the Skanderbeg SS Division:

I was captured on May 14, 1944 by troops of the SS division “Skanderbeg” which was made up of Albanian soldiers, but whose officers were German. All of us in Lipljan were captured only after a few hours after the Jews of Pristina were rounded up. From Pristina we were transported to the prison in Kosovska Mitrovica where we stayed for three weeks.

August Schmidhuber, on left, the commander of the Skanderbeg Nazi SS Division, leaving a hospital for wounded Waffen SS troops.

Solomon was sent to the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. On April 23, 1945 he was freed by advancing Soviet troops when prisoners from the camp were transported by rail to Czechoslovakia.

Josip Levi, a Kosovo Jew from Pristina, recalled how he was captured by the Skanderbeg division:

They captured us on the night between May 13 and 14. The round-up of us Jews in 1944 in Pristina began in the night, exactly at midnight, and lasted until eight the next day…Our round-up was conducted by the SS division “Skanderbeg” which consisted of Albanians from Kosovo and Metohija, particularly from Drenica, but the officers were German. We were captured based on addresses which the Germans had received from the Albanian fascist civil administration. In Pristina we were put in a “G” wagon, a cattle wagon, and sent to the “Sajmisate” prison in Zemun, which was under the control of “SD” police, but where the Ustasha was in charge of the administration and security.

Levi was sent to Bergen Belsen. He survived and was able return to Pristina.

Genocide against Kosovo Serbs

The ethnic cleansing and genocide committed against the Kosovo Serbs is described by Bernd Fischer as follows:

The wholesale expulsion of Serbs by the Albanians created special problems for the occupation, however, since the Serbs had performed important functions in Kosova. The Serbs had run most of the businesses, the mills, the tanneries, and the public utilities. Once the Serbs had gone, there were no pharmacists in Kosova. Serbian peasants, somewhat more technologically progressive than their Albanian counterparts, were responsible for much of the surplus agricultural production for which Kosova was so useful.

Fascist Albanian Ushtar or gendarme wearing the goat’s heat Skanderbeg insignia of fascist-Nazi Greater Albania on cap.

Bedri Pejani, the president of the Nazi-created Second League of Prizren, a revival of the ideology of Greater Albania, wanted 150,000 weapons from the German forces to be used to kill and drive out the remaining Serbian population in Kosovo-Metohija. The expulsion of Serbs is described as follows by Fischer:

By April 1944, German documents tell us, 40,000 Serbs had been forced to leave, and Neubacher anticipated that the Germans might have to deal with as many as 150,000 Serbs leaving Kosovo.

The policy of genocide against the Kosovo Serbian population had been officially announced in June, 1942, by Albanian Muslim Mustafa Kruja, the fascist Prime Minister of Greater Albania:

The Serbian population of Kosovo should be removed as soon as possible. Serbian settlers should be killed.

Albanian Gendarmerie under Nazi Germany

In August, the DGA office and its command were integrated into the Higher SS and Police Leader “Albania” under the command of SS Gruppenfuehrer und Generalleutnant der Waffen SS Josef Fitzhum or Fitzthum. SS Oberfuehrer Karl Gstottenbauer of the German Consular Office in Tirana was also to be attached to the HSSPF command. Fitzthum reorganized the Albanian Gendarmerie and the Army. By April, 1944, the total Albanian forces raised were two Jaeger light infantry regiments and four militia battalions.

The Albanian Order of Battle was as follows:

1. Albanian Jaeger Regiment 1
2. Albanian Jaeger Regiment 4
3. Albanian Militia Battalion “Pec”
4. Albanian Militia Battalion “Pristina”
5. Albanian Militia Battalion “Prizren”
6. Albanian Militia Battalion “Tetovo”

Three of the battalions were set up in Kosovo-Metohija, while the fourth was set up in Macedonia, known as Illirida in the Greater Albania ideology. According to German military sources, these formations were under the German Order Police or Orpo and were fighting the guerrillas. These four militia battalions were made up of 2,000 men and were under the command of Hauptmann der Schutzpolizei Spruny.

The leaders of the Nazi-fascist collaborationist Balli Kombetar (BK): From left, Ekrem Peshkopi, Vasil Andoni, Midhat Frasheri, Ali Klissura, Koco Muca.

The Skanderbeg Waffen SS Division was also being formed with recruits from Kosovo and central and northern Albania. The Balli Kombetar (Shqip, National Front) also provided men for this Nazi SS Division. Between July 14 and 30, 1944, the 1st and 2nd Battalion/1st Regiment and its 1st battalion/ 2nd Regiment performed field maneuvers south of Berane in Montenegro and near Gusinje. The four militia battalions also participated in these maneuvers as did the 14th Mountain Regiment of the Prinz Eugen Division.

General Gustav von Myrdacz (1874-1945), a former Austrian officer who commanded the pre-World War II Albanian Army under Zog, was put in charge of the reorganized Albanian security police, but was captured by Communist guerrillas. Myrdacz was the liaison officer between the Albanian Army and the XXI Army Corps. He joined the Albanian Army in 1921 and became chief of staff by 1925. He had been an engineer-officer on the staff of the Austrian Army. He was a highly decorated military officer. He was awarded four Austrian orders, one Turkish war decoration, and a Grand Cordon of Skanderbeg Order from the Albanian government. During World War I, he had been the chief of staff of the XIVth division and had commanded a regiment at Tonale. He had been the chief of staff of the military commander in Sarajevo. He was involved in the engagements at Isonzo and Piave in 1917. After Myrdacz was captured, Albanian General Prenk Previsi was put in his place.

Once it became clear that Nazi Germany would lose the war, the Albanian Gendarmerie and militia battalions began deserting and switching sides.

The German occupation forces were better able to use the Albanian security and military forces than the Italians. German occupation forces were able to integrate Albanian forces into their security and military forces. Moreover, German policy was able to fully exploit the Albanian nationalist and political objective to achieve a Greater or Ethnic Albania first envisioned and enunciated by the 1878 League of Prizren. Nazi Germany revived the League of Prizren in 1943. The key to the Nazi occupation was to maintain the collaboration of the Balli Kombetar and the Albanian population by advocating a Greater Albania that would include Kosovo-Metohija. This was the crux to Nazi policy. Kosovo was the key.

An Albanian member of Nazi-fascist Albanian occupation forces armed by fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.

Greater Albania Realized

There was widespread Albanian popular support for the Nazi occupation regime. Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler allowed Albanian nationalists to create a Greater or Ethnic Albania. This had been an unrealized goal of Albanian nationalism since the League of Prizren in 1878. Greater Albania was realized by Nazi Germany. Kosovo was thus crucial in Nazi policy. Making Kosovo a part of Greater Albania was crucial to maintain the Nazi German occupation.

The Nazi realization of Greater Albania had implications and political repercussions for the future status of Kosovo. Albanian ultra-nationalists had a precedent and a model for Greater Albania. Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler showed them how to realize a Greater Albania. The history of a Greater Albania from 1941 to 1945 under Nazi Germany is covered-up and censored in the US and the so-called West. Consequently, it is not known that Kosovo was “independent” under Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler. Kosovo was annexed to a Greater Albania from 1941 to 1945.

Albanian popular support for fascism and Nazism was widespread. Nazi Germany exploited the Greater Albania nationalist ideology to gain popular support for the Nazi German occupation of Kosovo. Bernd Fischer noted that “numerous Allied sources give evidence of widespread support for the Germans and their government. In the north and northeast support was widespread.” The Nazi creation of a Greater Albania that incorporated Kosovo-Metohija would have future political repercussions and implications.

Bibliography

Fischer, Bernd Jurgen. Albania at War, 1939-1945. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1999.

Ivanov, Pavle Dzeletovic. Jevreji Kosova i Metohije. Beograd: Panpublik, 1988.

Kane, Steve. “The 21st SS Mountain Division”. Siegrunen. Volume 36. October-December 1984.

Munoz, Antonio, ed. The East Came West. NY: Axis Europa Books, 2001.

Trye, Rex. Mussolini’s Soldiers. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife, 1995.


By Carl Savich

Source: Serbianna

1. Siptarska regrutacija za SS Skenderbeg diviziju na Kosovu april 1944

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ISIS and the Kosovar Albanians



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U.S. air strikes continue against the terrorists of the so-called “Islamic State” — formerly the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” or ISIS — in the borderlands of Iraqi Kurdistan. American military action has been impelled by the genocidal ISIS threat to Christians and various small Kurdish and other religious minorities, including Yazidis, whose faith is linked to Zoroastrianism, and the ancient monotheistic community of Mandaeans. Meanwhile, questions about the extremist movement and its foreign recruits have spread throughout the Muslim lands and the Muslim minority communities in the West, from Belgium to Australia.

On Monday, August 11, authorities in the Kosovo Republic — among the most pro-Western Muslim-majority states in the world — announced the detention of 40 Kosovar citizens suspected of participation in terrorism in Iraq and Syria. The arrests came after raids at 60 locations in the Balkan country, and were carried out under procedures established by the Kosovo Penal Code protecting “constitutional order and security in the Republic.”

The individuals jailed were identified only by initials and ages, and comprised eight in the Kosovo capital, Prishtina; seven in the eastern town of Gjilan, near the Serbian border; 11 from Ferizaj in the southeast; five from Prizren in the south; four from Peja in the northwest, and five from Mitrovica in the extreme north. The latter city is divided between Albanians and Serbs. Dates of birth ranged from 1962 to 1994.

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Evidence seized included explosives, weapons and ammunition. Kosovo police noted that 16 Kosovar Albanians have been reported killed in fighting in Syria.

According to the Kosovar newspaper of record, Koha Ditore (Daily Times), police said the sweep followed a two-year investigation, which is ongoing. Koha Ditore quoted Sevdije Morina, Kosovo’s acting chief special prosecutor, who declared that several local Muslim clerics are also under scrutiny. The same newspaper cited Blerim Isufaj, the prosecutor of the case, saying the majority of the suspects were affiliated with ISIS or Jabhat Al-Nusra, rival splinter groups from al Qaeda.

In Western Europe, alarm over ISIS and its appeal to the local Muslim diaspora emerged after the Brussels attack on the city’s Jewish Museum on May 24. Four people were killed in that incident, allegedly by Mehdi Nemmouche, a French Muslim who had fought in Syria. French interior minister Manuel Valls had warned in January that the return of jihadists from distant combat zones to Europe is “the greatest danger that we must face in the coming years.” Valls referred to ISIS influence in Muslim minorities as “a phenomenon of unprecedented size.”

On August 11, Australia was shocked as its media reported that Khaled Sharrouf, a convicted terror conspirator in that country, who went to Syria last year, had posted an image on his Twitter account of a child believed to be Sharrouf’s son holding the severed head of a Syrian soldier.

In between, both in time and space, Albanians were repelled when, on July 31, a Kosovar in the ranks of ISIS, Lavdrim Muhaxheri, posted photographs on his Facebook page of himself decapitating a Syrian soldier.

Muhaxheri has a history in Kosovo of supporting extremists in Syria. On May 12, the Kosovo daily web-portal Express, in a reportage signed by its intrepid investigator of radical Islam, Visar Duriqi, said that Muhaxheri had worked in the official Kosovo Islamic Community apparatus in Kacanik, a city near the southern Kosovo border with Macedonia. In Facebook posts before his atrocity photo was posted, Muhaxheri claimed he controlled the appointment of the imam at the Central Mosque in Kacanik, which has become a center of conflict between Islamist radicals and local traditional Muslims.

Muhaxheri threatened to kill Kacanik clerics as well as politicians and public figures in Kosovo who denounced incitement of young Albanian Muslims to fight in Syria.

As described by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) on its portal, Balkan Insight, for July 31, Kosovo president Atifete Jahjaga summoned a meeting with security officials of the Balkan republic the day Muhaxheri’s Facebook images appeared. She called for “treating this threat to the security of Kosovo as a priority.” Jahjaga said, “It is our responsibility as institutions and as a society to condemn these ugly phenomena. We must distance ourselves from these brutal acts of criminals, and we must denounce and treat them as such.”

Kosovo justice minister Bajram Rexhepi stated that an international arrest warrant had been issued for Muhaxheri.

The involvement of Albanians in ISIS has not escaped the attention of more influential global commentators. On August 7, David Gardner, a Middle East expert and reporter for the London Financial Times, pointed out that when, at the beginning of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, corresponding with the end of June, the “Islamic State” proclaimed its authority over all the Sunni Muslim believers in the world, the text was “translated into English, French, German, Turkish, Russian – and Albanian.” Gardner asked, “Why… take the trouble?”

Gardner attributed the appeal of the “Islamic State” for Albanian Muslims to penetration of the Muslim communities in the Western Balkans by Wahhabism, the fundamentalist doctrine originating in Saudi Arabia.

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Radio Free Europe reported on August 8 that Naim Maloku, a prominent veteran of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in the 1998-99 war for the territory, and now a military and security expert, said that Kosovo legal institutions must prevent local citizens from fighting abroad and that the official Islamic Community must be more involved in countering jihadist propaganda. “In their preaching, [Muslim] religious leaders should be more active in their statements,” Maloku said.

During the fighting in Gaza, radical voices were heard in Kosovo demanding that Albanians support Hamas. On August 1, the “Islamic Movement to Unite,” also known as “Join!,” and by its Albanian initials as LISBA, was supported by fewer than 100 people in a pro-Gaza protest held in Prishtina.

Kosovar Albanians are sympathetic, within limits, to the Palestinians. Many Kosovars are bitter about close relations between Serbia and Palestine. Muhammad Nabhan, ambassador of the Palestinian Authority in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, since 1974, has stated repeatedly that Palestinians support Serbian claims to rule in Kosovo and has even denied that Serbia – which invaded and annexed Kosovo in 1912 — ever “occupied” Kosovo. In 1999, the Palestinian Authority invited the late Slobodan Milosevic to visit Bethlehem for Orthodox Christian Christmas in January 2000. Israel then warned that if the Serbian dictator attempted to cross its borders, he would be arrested and sent to the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia at The Hague. The visit never took place.


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Inside Kacanik, Kosovo’s jihadist capital



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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.

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Infamous son: Lavdrim Muhaxheri, from Kacanik, in Syria 

In the last three years, some 24 local menfolk have gone to fight for jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, giving the town of just 30,000 people an unwanted reputation as the jihadist capital of the Balkans.

To add to the sense of shame, one of them, a 25-year-old recruiter named Lavdrim Muhaxheri, has committed atrocities as gruesome as any of those carried out in Kacanik in 1999, when British troops unearthed a mass grave containing 81 bodies.

Last summer, in an act that sent shockwaves across Kosovo, Muhaxheri posted Facebook pictures of himself apparently beheading another man suspected of spying against the Islamic State. Another shows him executing a Syrian man using an RPG.

“Muhaxheri has given Kacanic a name as the most radical city in Kosovo, if not the whole Balkans,” said Musli Verbani, a local imam, who claims that hardliners forced him from Kacanik’s Islamic Association four years ago. “I warned that this kind of thing was coming, but no-one listened.”

Kosovo, of course, is not alone among European nations in acquiring its own equivalent to Britain’s Jihadi John. But for a nation of just 1.8 million people, it now punches well above its weight in terms of the number of citizens joining Isil.

The interior ministry estimates that some 300 Kosovans have followed in Muhaxheri’s’ footsteps, making Kosovo Europe’s biggest contributor per capita. Along with neighbouring Albania, which has fielded around 200, and nearby Bosnia, which around 160, it is now seen as a potential launch pad for Isil in its bid to establish a new front against Europe in the Balkans.

What also alarms Western security officials, though, is why any Kosovans would join Isil’s fanatics at all.

After all, back in 1999, it was the West that rescued Kosovo’s mainly Muslim population, with Nato bombing raids that halted the campaign of ethnic cleansing by Serb extremists.

Since then it has been staunchly pro-Western, with the capital, Pristina, boasting both a statue of Bill Clinton and a road named after George W Bush, who was president when Kosovo formally gained independence in 2008. There are even young Kosovans named “Tony” in honour of Tony Blair.

Most Kosovans also follow moderate Islam that allows bars on the same street as mosques, and which is enshrined in a new constitution promoting the diversity suppressed during Communism.

Yet those same liberal values have also allowed less tolerant voices to flourish, including hardline Islamic charities that arrived during the chaotic post-civil war years.

Such is the foothold of radicalism in towns like Kacanik that last week, its modest town hall received a personal visit from Kosovo’s interior minister, Skender Hyseni.

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Kacaniku in southern Kosovo where some residents have left to fight in Syria. To the left is the mosque where Imam Musli Verbani was forced from by extremists  Photo: Will Wintercross

“Kosovo is a multi-cultural state, not a terrorist one,” he told assembled officials, speaking at a conference table decked out with the American and Kosovan flags. “Those going overseas are joining groups that spread violence and terror.”

In its defence, the Kosovan government argues that other European nations actually have higher rates of radicalisation if it is counted per head of Muslim population.

But since Muhaxheri’s shocking Facebook post last summer, Mr Hyseni has backed words with action, arresting around 100 suspected extremists, including the grand mufti of the main central mosque in Pristina.

Prosecutions are already pending of various recruiting networks, including one that passed messages via go-betweens at a kebab shop near the Bill Clinton statue.

It is, however, already too late, according to Mr Verbani, the Kacanik imam.

A former KLA fighter, he personifies the moderate face of Kosovan Islam. He studied in Cairo and speaks fluent Arabic, yet looked just like another drinker in the cafe bar where he met The Telegraph, wearing neither a beard nor robes.

It was precisely that secular outlook that he found himself having to defend as far back as 2006, when a confrontation with a young local radical named Jeton Raka turned violent.

“At first Jeton was just another good Kacanik kid, but he became more extremist by the day,” said Mr Verbani. “He said the government of Kosovo was against faith, and that school taught children to be unbelievers. I told him he couldn’t speak like that at my mosque, and eventually he came to my house, saying ‘I will burn you and your family’, and petrol bombed my car. Even then, though, the municipality and the police didn’t help me.”

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Kacaniku in southern Kosovo where some residents have left to fight in Syria  Photo: Will Wintercross

Raka is now believed to be in Syria along with Muhaxheri, while the government crackdown has largely driven the rest of Kacanik’s radical fringe out of town. Even so, locals remain reluctant to talk about the town’s most infamous son, although in such a small community, most know someone now fighting abroad.

Among them is Sadek Dema whose nextdoor neighbour, Hetem Dema, 41, was killed in January after apparently going to fight with Isil’s rival al-Qaeda faction Jabat al-Nusra.

“He fought in the KLA and was always a good and religious man, although he never showed signs of being radical,” said Mr Dema, as Hetem’s five year-old son, Harith, cycled past on his bicycle.

“Nobody is my father now,” Harith shouted out, before Mr Dema could usher him out of earshot. “Now my uncles look after me.”

Quite why Kacanik in particular has become such a hotbed of radicalism is unclear. Some cite its closeness to the border with Macedonia, where they say hardline preachers remain unchecked. Others blame the same lack of prospects that blight everywhere in Kosovo, where the annual GDP is only £2,500 and where youth unemployment is up to 60 per cent.

That same poverty, they also point out, has made Kosovo fertile ground for Islamic charities from the likes of Saudi Arabia, which offer education and welfare programs but also peddle a hardline vision.

Arbana Xharra, a Kosovan journalist who has investigated their activities, says that anyone who speaks ill of them can find themselves denounced and threatened as “Islamophobic”.

“I’ve had to change my kids’ school after I got messages online from people saying they would cut my children’s throats – they even knew what time they went to class,” she said.

Like many moderate Kosovans, she also points the finger at Turkey, whose Islamist government has funded networks of mosques across its Ottoman-era provinces of Kosovo, Bosnia and Albania. And while the Turkish government has denied recent claims that has offered tacit support for Isil in Syria, Kosovans are not the only ones to voice concerns.

One senior diplomat from a moderate Arab regime recently told The Telegraph that radicalism would foster in the Balkans as long as Turkey’s influence remained unchecked. “The EU’s best chance s to get countries Kosovo and Albania into its club,” he warned.

That is a view echoed by Ramadan Ilazi, Kosovo’s 30-year-old deputy minister for EU integration, who says the EU is being too slow in accepting Kosovo’s membership bid. Kosovo’s constitution, he says, is everything that a liberal EU bureaucrat could want, complete with a national anthem that has only music rather than words so “as not to offend anyone”.

Yet to this day, Kosovans cannot even travel to Europe without visa, giving small town youth in places like Kacanik little chance to broaden their horizons.

“Kosovo was built as an antidote to nationalism and the causes of the war,” said Mr Ilazi, who has a picture on his office wall of him shaking President Clinton’s hand as a 14-year-old boy. “But when people don’t see tangible results of their desire to become part of Europe, that allows radicals to suggest that Europe doesn’t want us.”

Still, with Kosovo still also suffering problems with corruption and organised crime, and with Brussels suffering enlargement fatigue, most estimates are that it may be another decade before Pristina enters the Brussels club. That, gives the radicals plenty more time to urge men in towns like Kacanik to head East rather than West.


2015-08-23

By , Chief Foreign Correspondent

Source: The Telegraph

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Noel Malcolm: “Kosovo – A Short History”, 1999. A history written with an attempt to support Albanian territorial claims in the Balkans (First part)



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Noel Malcolm – Kosovo – A Short History

A history written with an attempt to support Albanian territorial claims in the Balkans

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A Short History of Kosovo by Noel Malcolm is usually considered as one of the prime historical sources on the history of the province. In fact, this book is an example of the History with a political attitude because it is not by chance that Malcolm who attacks the “myths” of Serbian history is at the same time a president of the Anglo-Albanian Association and one of the strongest supporters of independence of Kosovo. Being far from an objective scientific work Malcolm’s History of Kosovo can be better classified as a kind of historical pamphlet which will not easily outlive the present political moment for which it was written.

Similarly, like his Shorter History of Bosnia, in which he idealizes the Ottoman rule beyond any measure, the Short History of Kosovo will find eager readers only among those who seek instant, black and white histories and do not have much time and intellectual eagerness to delve more deeply into the history of the Balkans.

With a boldness of an experienced historian, although he has written very few historical books, Malcolm in his rather journalist style very subjectively draws conclusions out of his carefully filtered bibliography in which Serb sources hardly find any place at all. But, more than anything, it is very strange that Malcolm almost completely ignores Serbian Orthodox archives and libraries although more than 90% of all cultural and historical monuments in Kosovo belong to this Church. Furthermore, although Malcolm consulted 16 different archives in six countries, none of them were in Serbia. It is a puzzling gap indeed, because so many other sources have been explored. This fact, most persuasively reveals that this is in fact a book intended to falsify the history rather than to approach it in an evenhanded and scientific way.

INSTITUTE OF HISTORY
of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Collection of Works
Volume 18

Response to Noel Malcolm’s Book
KOSOVO. A SHORT HISTORY

Scientific Discussion on Noel Malcolm`s book “Kosovo. A Short History”
(Macmillan, London 1998, 492)
8th October 1999

This book contains eight historical studies with the criticism of Noel Malcolm’s book: Kosovo A Short History. The texts were read at the Discussion organized by the Historical Institute of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Art in Belgrade on October 8, 1999.

“Needless to say, the motifs for this Discussion are scientific. It was not organized because the book in question is worthy of it as a scientific work, but because it deals with a phenomenon deserving to be thoroughly discussed. Noel Malcolm’s book Kosovo. A Short History is not a scientific work, yet the general public, and even some professional circles, have accepted it as an objective presentation of the past, notably the past of Kosovo. The publicity it has received in many media in the West as well as its eager inclusion in the holdings of many libraries bear witness to that”.

From the Foreword of the Editor-in-Chief
Prof. Slavenko Terzic

Foreword

About This Scientific Discussion
October 8, 1999

By Slavenko Terzic

The Discussion on Noel Malcolm’s book Kosovo. A Short History was scheduled for early April 1999, but it had to be postponed owing to the NATO aggression. We invited some thirty colleagues to take part in the Discussion, notably historians but also art historians, archaeologists, Orientalists and political scientists. As a matter of course, we also invited the author of the book Noel Malcolm. We have recently received his letter (fax) telling us that he was not able to attend the Discussion.

Our historiography does not pride itself on a very rich tradition of scientific discussions. Many books have been published here (in Pristina and other Yugoslav centres), but also abroad, calling for impartial scientific appraisal. As a rule, these books used to be passed over in silence, or even met with a kind of haughtiness, and in the course of time such unscientific attitudes became an accepted system of knowledge which it was very difficult to counteract, and today it is even more difficult to do so.

Needless to say, the motifs for this Discussion are scientific. It was not organized because the book in question is worthy of it as a scientific work, but because it deals with a phenomenon deserving to be thoroughly discussed. Noel Malcolm’s book Kosovo. A Short History is not a scientific work, yet the general public, and even some professional circles, have accepted it as an objective presentation of the past, notably the past of Kosovo. The publicity it has received in many media in the West as well as its eager inclusion in the holdings of many libraries bear witness to that.

Noel Malcolm’s book is undoubtedly a phenomenon. In other words, it demonstrates the extent of the betrayal of the historical truth and the manipulation of the past of nations, regions or states for the sake of the political ends of the day. It was a commonplace view that such books are possible only in totalitarian societies. But we can see that the appearance of such books is also possible in a milieu which, until recently at least, could not be called totalitarian, and that it is possible within a historiography excelling in great authors and trustworthy works.

The colleagues about to talk about this book will throw light on various aspects of this work ranging from its basic methodological and theoretical approach, its research conception, to its documentary reliability and interpretation characteristics.

Noel Malcolm has begun his studies of South-East Europe recently, at the time when the process of disintegration of the Yugoslav state was beginning. So he very rapidly became an expert in the history of the “regions going through a crisis” and of “unstable regions”. He has produced a short history of Bosnia, to be followed by this one of Kosovo, so that he can be expected to manufacture “a short history” of Dagestan or Chechnya tomorrow. He resembles a little, in everything, a “holy warrior” brandishing a pen in his hand. With his “history” of the regions with which he deals he caters to the demands of the political moment. In this particular case, to the demands of the Great Albanian project and NATO political plans in South-Eastern Europe.


Source: www.kosovo.net

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Serbian Patriarchate of Peć in the Ottoman Empire: The First Phase (1557−1594)



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Article is publishes as: “The Serbian Patriarchate of Peć in the Ottoman Empire: The First Phase (1557−94)”, Serbian Studies: Journal of the North American Society for Serbian Studies, Vol. 25, 2011, № 2, ISSN 0742-3330, 2014, Slavica Publishers, Indiana University, Bloomington, USA, pp. 143−167

Introduction

 The goals of this article are: 1) to investigate the role of the revived Patriarchate of Peć in Serbian and Balkan history?; and 2) to explore and present the results of investigation of the problems with respect to: a) the role of the Serbian Church during the first decades of the Ottoman occupation of Serbian lands in the process of the creation of a Serbian national identity; b) Serbian-Turkish relations in the second half of the 16th century; and c) the reasons for Serbian disloyalty towards the Ottoman government at the turn of the 17th century.

The article addresses the reasons and causes of the decline of the Ottoman Empire, which was one of the most powerful European states in the New Age of European history. Marking a period of prelude to the “Eastern Question” in the Balkans, i.e. the question of the survival of the Ottoman Empire in Europe.[1] This was one of the crucial questions in the history of Europe from the time of the Reformation to the beginning of the First World War. The methodology employed consists of analysis of available documents and comparison of different historical sources and literature on the subject.

The Patriarchate of Peć is a subject of major significance as it was the only Serbian national institution within the Ottoman Empire and whose role was of crucial in influencing the Serbian population to remain loyal to their faith rather than convert to Islam. The patriarchate was responsible as well for the fact that the Serbs preserved their own national medieval heritage and the idea of an independent national state. Under the influence of the patriarchate Orthodox Christianity became the central and crucial element of Serbian national identity that has been sustained to the present day.[2]

The Patriarchate of Peć was one of the most important institutions in the history of the Serbs, particularly with respect to their religious and cultural history. This institution was founded in 1346 during the realm of the most significant Serbian monarch: emperor Stefan Dušan the “Mighty” (1331−1355).[3] The foundation of the national Serbian Patriarchate of Peć was a consequence of a new political situation on the Balkan Peninsula, the emergence of Serbia as the most powerful country in this region positioned to replace the Byzantine Empire. In the same year as the founding of the patriarchate, Dušan the  Mighty was crowned by the Patriarch of Peć as the Emperor of Serbs and Greeks (i.e., the Byzantines). The period that followed was one of  full independence of the Serbian medieval church from the Greek one (named as an Ecumenical Church in Constantinople).

The history of Patriarchate of Peć can be divided into two periods, with a long interruption between them which lasted approximately one century: 1) from 1346 to 1459; and 2) from 1557 to 1766. In the first period the Patriarchate of Peć was the state church of the independent medieval Serbia. When the Ottoman Turks conquered Serbia in 1459 the patriarchate, as Serbian national church, was soon abolished (most probably in 1463) and it did not exist for a century, until its revival in 1557. However, the new patriarchate found itself in a new political situation in comparison to its previous position in independent Serbia. Now, from 1557 to 1766 the new Patriarchate of Peć was under total control of the authorities of the Ottoman Empire. Nevertheless, the territory under the jurisdiction of the “second” patriarchate was greater than that of the “first” patriarchate.

The “second” Patriarchate of Peć had jurisdiction over all Serbs in the Ottoman Empire. It is important to stress that only two (Orthodox) patriarchates (the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Serbian Patriarchate of Peć) were permitted to exist in the Turkish state after the Ottoman conquest of the largest part of the Balkans. After the fall of the Serbian independent medieval state, the Patriarchate of Peć was the only institution which could unite all Serbs in the Ottoman Empire. The patriarchate actually became a representative institution of the Serbs before the Ottoman government. Essentially, in the eyes of the Serbs, the “second” Patriarchate of Peć was a substitution for the lost medieval national Serbian state. 

The main roles of the “second” patriarchate during the two centuries of its existence were: 1) to prevent the Serbs from converting to the Islamic faith; 2) to serve as the political representative of the Serbs in Sublime Porta (the Ottoman government); and 3) to preserve the medieval cultural inheritance of the Serbian state and people.

This article deals with history of the new Patriarchate of Peć during the first thirty-eight years of its existence: from the revival of the patriarchate until the incineration of St. Sava’s relics on the Vračar Hill near Belgrade (1557−1594).

The main issues discussed in this article are: 1) the reasons for the revival of the patriarchate; 2) the reasons for the Serbian insurrection of 1594−1595 against Ottoman rule; 3) the reasons for the incineration of the relics of St. Sava and the consequences of this action with respect to the relationships between the Serbs and the Turks, 4) the tolerance and intolerance in the Ottoman Empire regarding the relationships between the Islamic and Christian Orthodox faiths in the areas under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Peć, and 5) consideration of whether the “second” patriarchate was a new patriarchate, only with old name, or was it a real resumption of the medieval (“first”) Serbian patriarchate?

132. srpsko carstvo 1346

Serbian Empire of Stefan Dušan in 1355

The Serbian people under Ottoman rule in the 16th century

The making the Ottoman state into a world power was the work of  the sultan Mehmed II al-Fatih, “The Conqueror” (1451−1481), whose conquest of Constantinople in 1453 removed the last major barrier to expansion into the northern Anatolia and enabled the Ottomans to dominate the Straits and the southern shore of the Black Sea.[4] After the conquest of Constantinople Mehmed II in four military campaigns succeeded in occupying Serbia and finally annexing it in 1459 after the fall of Smederevo – Serbia’s capital at the time.[5] Mehmed the Conqueror soon occupied Bosnia in 1463, Albania in 1479 and Herzegovina in 1482. He also made the preparations for the Ottoman conquest of Negro Monte or Montenegro (medieval Doclea or Zeta) in 1499. As a consequence, ultimately all of the Serbian medieval states and Serb populated territories came under the Ottoman sultan as parts of the Ottoman Empire. Actually, the Serbian people and  Serbian areas were being conquered by the Turks from 1371 (Macedonia) to 1499 (Montenegro). During the time of the Ottoman expansion in the Balkans, the smaller Ottoman provinces – sanjaks, which were located at the Turkish borders with Christian states, became the most important for the Ottoman administration primarily from a military point of view. The strong military fortresses and a special system of military stations were built on the territories of the borderland sanjaks. A typical example was the Sanjak of Smederevo (northern medieval Serbia) which existed from 1459 to 1552 (from the time of the fall of the city of Smederevo until the conquest of the province of Banat).

During the 16th and 17th centuries the Serbian people lived in five larger Ottoman provinces – pashaliks. The most important of these were the Pashalik of Rumelia with its sanjaks: Skoplje, Kjustendil, Sofia, Prizren, Vučitrn, Scodra, Kruševac, Vidin and Smederevo; and the Pashalik of Bosnia, divided into the following sanjaks: Bosnia, Herzegovina, Klis, Zvornik, Bihać and Lika. The other pashaliks in which the Serbs lived were: the Pashalik of Timişoara (in the sanjaks of Čanad and Timişoara), the Pashalik of Jeger (in the sanjaks of Seged and Srem), and the Pashalik of Kanjiža (in the sanjaks of Mohach and Požega).[6]          

The Ottoman administrative system was organized with the most important goal of securing full military success and thus primacy.[7] A fundamental principle of inter-ethnic relations within the Ottoman Empire was a legal and practical superiority of the Mohammedan creed (Islam) over all other creeds. The most remarkable features of superiority and the privileged position of the Muslims in the Ottoman society were the requirement that Christian subjects pay extra taxes in money (haraç) and taxes in blood – devşirme (in Serbo-Croat –  “danak u krvi”).[8] The last one – devşirme (collection of boys) was especially harsh for the Christians as it was the practice in which the Ottoman authorities collected by force the boys from the Christian families to be trained and later enrolled in the Ottoman Empires’ military or civil service.[9] In general, in the Ottoman Empire there was a legal declaration of religious tolerance (for instance, by the sultan’s firman in 1566) and a fairly complete political and social intolerance. The Christians were clearly second class citizens. While formally proclaimed religious tolerance in the majority of cases was not respected on the ground in the provinces by the local Ottoman governors.       

It is assumed by historians that approximately 90−95% of the Serbs in the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century lived in the rural areas.[10] Theoretically, the sultan owned all Ottoman lands and he was the absolute master of all inhabitants: Muslims and non-Muslims. In this way, the Christian Serbs were the sultan’s flock or subjects (reaya) – the members of tax-paying lower class in the Ottoman society. However, in the 16th century there were Christian Serbs who were timar owners.[11] A majority of them had been small and middle level feudal lords at the time of the independent Christian states. It was very rare to have more Serb Christian than Ottoman Muslim sipahis (the Ottoman feudal lords) as in the majority of cases the Serb Christian sipahis were a minority.[12]

In the Serbian ethnolinguistic territories, the farmers, who were in the majority Serbian reaya, had subordinated small-land properties (čiftluks) and tax-paying obligations to both the sultan and the Ottoman Muslim feudal aristocracy. In addition to ordinary taxes, required of all members of the reaya social strata (whether Muslim or not), Christian Serbs, as non-Muslim members of the reaya, while having to pay to the sultan, had extra tax obligations: monetary, natural and labour ones. The most important was the haraç or džizija, which was paid by all labour-able men per capita. During the second half of the 16th century, meritorious Serbs were granted by the sultan abandoned lands as čiftluks (private possessions) along with peasants as their serfs.[13] Generally speaking, during the first hundred years of the Ottoman rule, the status of the peasants was better than it had been in the Christian medieval feudal states. This was the main reason that until the end of the 16th century among the Christian Serbs there were no rebellions against the new (Ottoman) rule. There were also some privileged territories, as for instance Montenegro, where a feudal system was abolished by the Ottomans and where all inhabitants were proclaimed as free-peasants (not feudal serfs). In  Montenegro even the Ottoman administrative system was not established on the local level (nahijas). Local administration thus was left to the domestic (Christian) aristocracy.[14]

A main part of northern portion of the territory of the formerly independent medieval Serbia was transformed into a borderland Ottoman military province which was ruled by a paşa whose administrative seat after 1521 was in Belgrade (before 1521 it was in Smederevo). The paşa determined the amount of the tribute and taxation. He was also the head of the justice system and of the Ottoman administration in his province – paşalik (pashalik, pašaluk). The Christians, in contrast to the Muslims, had no rights to complain against the paşa, but they could appeal to him for his protection against the local Ottoman feudal aristocracy – the sipahis. The Ottoman paşaliks were subdivided into several sanjaks governed by sanjak-begs. The sanjaks were subdivided into vilayets or subaşiluks administered by a subaşa and finally, the subaşiluks were composed of several nahiyes, or local districts, administered by mudirs. The administration of justice was given to the kadi, whose administrative territory was the kadiluk.[15]

Almost until end of the 17th century there were large districts in the Serbian ethno-linguistic territory administered by the local Christian Serb başi-knezes. They were persons were usually the descendants of Serbian nobles or princes who had become dependent on the Turks, but managed by their services to win the latter’s goodwill and retain their lands relatively intact. Başi-knezes were responsible only to the paşa in Belgrade as the administrator of the entire province of the Belgrade paşalik. The Ottoman Muslim kadis had no jurisdiction in the territories administered by başi-knezes and the Turks did not have the right to live in their districts. Thus, a large part of Serb populated land was not under the Ottoman administrative jurisdiction in the 15th and 16th centuries. In many cases the nahiyes were administered by local Serb Christian obor-knezes. They were elected by their compatriots, but their election was subject to the paşa’s approval. The obor-knezes were mainly responsible for order in the nahiyas. Thus, some type of local national-territorial autonomy existed among the Serbs under the Ottoman rule during the first century and a half of the Ottoman administration.

3 ottoman_empire_1481-1683

The Ottoman Empire from 1481 to 1683

A revival of the Patriarchate of Peć in 1557

The (“first”) Patriarchate of Peć was established in 1346, at the time of the height of the medieval Serbian state. In the same year the greatest Serbian ruler, Stefan Dušan, was crowned as emperor by the first Serbian patriarch, on Easter Sunday (April 16th, 1346). The Patriarchate of Peć existed, at least, until the collapse of Serbian medieval state in 1459 or some years later (until 1463) .[16]

The status of the Serbian (Orthodox) church in the East-Christian world was singular. In 1352 the Serbian church was excommunicated by the Greek patriarch in Constantinople, but in 1374 the ban was removed at the request of Serbian prince Lazar (the most powerful Serbian feudal lord at the time), and the independent and autocephalous character of Serbian church was again acknowledged by the Byzantine (Ecumenical Orthodox) church authorities. However, after the fall of Constantinople (in 1453) the authority of the Greek church of the Archbishopric of Ohrid (in Macedonia) was extended over the autocephalous Serbian church (Patriarchate of Peć)[17] by permission of the Ottoman authorities.

For the Serbs, the danger of denationalisation of their national church, as it was put under the jurisdiction of the Greek church, after 1459 became much higher, especially when the Greek-Phanariot system of administration was established in the Balkans[18]. The Phanariot system of administration was a mixed framework of governance by the Ottoman Islamic and the Greek Orthodox rule, headed by the Greek patriarch of Constantinople. Although historians have not determined the exact date of the abolition of the Serbian patriarchate by the Ottoman government, it was most likely that during the next several years after the fall of the Serbian capital of Smederevo (in 1459) the Patriarchate of Peć functioned in some form under the Ottoman occupation. The Serbian patriarchate was, according to some historians, abolished in 1463 and was subject to the jurisdiction of the Greek-governed Archbishopric of Ochrid (the Archbishopric of Ohrid was established in 1018).[19] The archbishop of Ohrid was of Greek nationality but his archbishopric was independent from the Greek patriarch of Constantinople and not subject to the Greek Phanariot system. The archbishop succeeded, in the course of time, to enlarge his own area of jurisdiction, and consequently, a main part of the Serbian population in the Balkan Peninsula was put under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Archbishopric of Ochrid. This may have been the result of: 1) a lack of Serbian loyalty to the Ottoman sultan on the eve of an extremely important battle against the Hungarians at Mohacs in 1526 and 2) the personal position of the second person in command in the Ottoman Empire, Ibrahim pasha, who was a grand vizier and a Greek by ethnic origin. The Serbian clergy, led by bishop Pavle of Smederevo, rose in 1528 against this decision by the Ottoman authorities and succeeded to, de facto, separate the Serbian church from the authority of the archbishop of Ohrid. Such limited autonomy of the Serbian church within the Ottoman Empire ended in 1541 (when the Ottoman army conquered the city of Buda) at a council of Orthodox churches which was convened by order of the sultan. It was the fist planned and executed action by the Serbs as a nation after the loss of their national state in 1459 – an event which together with other favorable developments at the time, including first of all the constructive and crucial role of Mehmed pasha Sokolović (a Serb from Eastern Bosnia who was converted to Islam)[20], paved the way for the reestablishing of the Patriarchate of Peć by the sultan’s firman issued in 1557.

During the Ottoman rule in Southeast Europe the Christians were bound solely by their own church organizations. The Catholics were in a more difficult position then the Orthodox believers because the Ottoman authorities were more suspicious of the Catholics than the Orthodox since the greatest Ottoman enemies were the Catholic states of Spain, Austria and Venice. Conversely, the Orthodox churches were not a great danger for the Ottoman government – Porta, until the emergence of a strong Orthodox Russia as a great and important European military power (from the time of Petar the Great 1689−1725). The Ottoman tolerance toward the Orthodox believers in the Balkans can be explained, additionally, and by the fact that all the centres of the national churches of the Balkan Orthodox nations were located in the Ottoman Empire and thus controlled by the Ottoman authorities. The Ottoman government was particularly tolerant toward the inhabitants living in the Ottoman borderland provinces since they wanted to prevent any political co-operation between the Christian believers from the Ottoman Empire and the hostile Christian border states − Venice and Austria. Particularly, the Orthodox believers and church institutions were protected by the Ottoman authorities and enjoyed certain privileges during the time of the Ottoman wars of conquest in the southern part of Central Europe north of the Danube and Sava Rivers (Hungary and Transylvania) from 1521 to 1541.

In the Ottoman Empire the Christians were regarded as the zimias − the peoples who had the “divine books”. For that reason, Christian believers enjoyed the rights of Ottoman citizens but not on the same level as Ottoman Muslim believers.[21] As a part of the Ottoman system of religious tolerance (millet system) there was recognition of the rights of the Christian churches and monasteries to own real estate.[22] Serbian historian Milenko Vukićević has noted that just before the revival of the Patriarchate of Peć, the Ottoman sultan Suleyman the “Magnificent” (1520−1566), issued a firman ordering the free profession of all religions in his state.[23]

Until the end of the 16th century the Serbs in the Ottoman Empire enjoyed full religious tolerance offered by the Ottoman authorities. At the same time the Serbs had a very important military role in the Ottoman army during the Ottoman wars against Catholic Hungary and Austria. There were three reasons for sultan Suleyman the “Magnificent”’s decision to re-establish the Serbian national church (the Patriarchate of Peć) in 1557: 1) as reward for Serbian loyalty to the Ottoman authorities; 2) to further encourage the Serbs to continue to actively participate in the Ottoman wars in Central Europe; and 3) to fulfill the wish of the grand vizier Mehmed Sokolović (a Muslim Serb from the eastern Bosnian village of Sokolovići)[24] who played a very influential political role at the court of the sultan and in the Ottoman government. It can be concluded that the revival of the Serbian Patriarchate was a reward for Serbian national loyalty, and above all, for the full military assistance in the sultan’s wars against the borderland Catholic Christian countries in the southern part of the Central Europe. Naturally, the sultan expected that such a reward would further encourage Serb national loyalty to the Ottoman state and further Serb participation in the forthcoming decisive wars against the Austrian Empire and its capital Vienna – the  main military target of the Ottoman foreign policy at that time. However, Serb loyalty to the sultan was sustained only until 1594 with the outbreak of the first Serbian uprising against the central authorities in Istanbul.   

There is no question that the re-establishment of the Patriarchate of Peć was in 1557 and that it was the result of the sultan’s personal decision and decree. It is also evident that the role of the second-ranked man in the Ottoman Empire (the first one after the sultan) − grand vizier Mehmed Sokolović, was of significant importance on the sultan’s decision to issue the decree (firman).[25] Additionally, Mehmed Sokolović was strongly influenced by his brother Makarije, a Serbian monk, who became the first patriarch of the restored Serbian church in 1557. However, it would be incorrect to conclude that the influence of the grand vizier on the sultan’s decision to re-establish the Patriarchate of Peć was a crucial one since the revival of the Serbian Patriarchate was the sultan’s reward to the Serbs for their contribution in the Ottoman wars against Hungary and the Habsburg Monarchy. In this way, the sultan was attempting to assure future Serbian political loyalty.

The Serbian national church was restored in 1557 under its own medieval historical name. The Ottoman administration was affecting an illusion that the (“first”) medieval Patriarchate of Peć had continued its existence and function as an institution. However, in fact, in the history of the Serbian church there was an interruption of a real institutional existence for at least 30 to 50 years. It is important to note that the medieval Serbian church existed as an independent national institution from 1219 and it was an integral part of the Serbian national state. However, the revived patriarchate in 1557 was under the total control of the Ottoman administration, but with significant autonomous rights. The city of Peć (Ipek in Turkish language) in Kosovo-Metohija once again became the seat of the Serbian patriarch who was autocephalous, of Serbian nationality and who supported Serbian national interests in the Ottoman Empire.

Moreover, with the permission of the sultan, the grand vizier Mehmed paša Sokolović provided for the continuation of the Patriarchate of Peć and inheritance of the patriarchal throne by members of the Sokolović’s family. The first patriarch was the brother of grand vizier – Makarije (1557−1571). After his death, the next two heads of the Serbian church in the Ottoman Empire were Antonije (1571−1575) and Gerasim (1575−1586); both of whom were nephews of Mehmed Sokolović.[26] In reality, the influence of the Serbian patriarch on Serbian society in the Ottoman Empire was critical as he became the person with the most influence on the political behaviour of the Serbs in their relations with the Ottoman administration. In other words, the patriarchs in Peć in the new political and historical climate assumed the role previously held by the medieval Serbian monarchs as the heads of a nation – ethnarch.[27] Concurrently, they were the political representatives at the court of the sultan of all Serbs as a nation in the Ottoman Empire.

143. pecka patrijarsija 1557

Territory of the Second Patriarchate of Peć in 1557

The territory and organization of the Patriarchate of P

The sultan’s most important aim with regard to the revival of the patriarchate was to gather all of the Serbian population living in the Ottoman Empire under their own national church organization. There were two crucial political reasons for this decision by Suleyman the “Magnificent”: 1) it was a reward for the Serbian loyalty and service to Ottoman civil and military authorities; and 2) the sultan could more easily control all Serbian citizens within the Ottoman Empire because the Patriarchate of Peć was under total Ottoman administrative control and considered to be under the strong political influence of the Ottoman administration and, thus basically instrument of Ottoman policy among the Serbs.

One of the crucial points of difference between the old (“first”) and revived (“second”) Serbian patriarchate was with respect to the territory under their administrative and spiritual jurisdiction. The former medieval Serbian patriarchate controlled a significantly smaller territory under its jurisdiction in contrast to the reestablished Patriarchate of Peć.

The centre of the renewed patriarchate was the ancient Serbian medieval religious and cultural center – the city of Peć (in Turkish Ipek), located in the region of Kosovo-Metohija or Serbia proper.

The southern border of the new patriarchate included the cities of Tetovo, Skopje and Štip in Macedonia and in northern Albania the city of Scutari (Skadar).

The eastern border included in Bulgaria the city of Samokov and the Serbian city of Niš. However, Bulgaria’s city of Sofia and Serbia’s city of Pirot were left under the control of the Greek Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople. The city of Severin, which is located on the left bank of the Danube River, was also not included in the Serbian patriarchate.

The north-eastern border of the patriarchate embraced the main part of the area of the Moriş River in Romania. Thus, Romania’s cities of Timişoara and Arad were located within the patriarchate’s borders.

The northern border of the patriarchate extended far from the Hungarian town of Sent Andrea which is only 25 km. north of Buda and Pest.

The north-western border passed between Balaton Lake and the Raba River in Hungary and even included Slovenia’s city of Ptuj and the Dalmatian cities of Nin and Zadar. Consequenly, Croatia’s capital Zagreb, and Croatia’s cities of Karlovac and Sisak were put under the jurisdiction of the Serbian patriarchate regardless the fact that these cities were not part of the Ottoman Empire.

The south-western border incorporated the Adriatic littoral from Nin, on the north, to the Bojana River, on the south.[28]

It is important to note one additional significant difference between the medieval and the revived Patriarchate of Peć: the central territories of the first one were located in the south-eastern parts of the Balkans, while the central territories of the renewed patriarchate were located in the northern and north-western parts of the Balkans including some territories which had never been a part of the Ottoman Empire. The reason for this difference was the fact that the borders of the new patriarchate followed the ethnographic boundaries of the Serbs at that time. However, the new ethnographic territories of the Serbs were different from those prior to the Ottoman occupation of the Balkans (more precisely, before the Battle of Maritza in 1371). In other words, during the time of the Ottoman conquest of South-Eastern Europe a great number of the Serbs migrated from the south-east towards the north-west. Undoubtedly, the migrations were the most significant consequence of the Ottoman presence in the Balkans from 1354 to 1912.[29]

The territory of the re-established (“second”) Patriarchate of Peć was divided into approximately 40 metropolitans or archbishoprics. Those located southward from the Danube River were parts of the medieval Serbian church organization. On the other hand, the archbishoprics located northward from the Danube River and the Sava River and westward from the Drina River (i.e., located in the Southern and Central Hungary, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia) were established by the authorities of the new Patriarchate of Peć after 1557.[30]

There was a new moment in the development of the Serbian church organization when after 1557 the Serbian churches in the Ottoman occupied part of Hungary were included in the administrative system of the Patriarchate of Peć. However, the Orthodox church in Transylvania – the province mainly settled by the Orthodox Romanians, was placed under the spiritual and administrative jurisdiction of the Greek Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople.[31] Accordingly, the south-eastern borders of the Patriarchate of Peć shared common boundaries with the Greek Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople. A southern neighbour of the Serbian Patriarchate was the Greek Archbishopric of Ohrid in Macedonia. Finally, in the north and west the administrative and spiritual territory of the Patriarchate of Peć had common borders with the Roman Catholic Church in the Habsburg Monarchy and in the Republic of Venice.

It is not possible to specify the exact date of the administrative re-organization of the Patriarchate of Peć. It most probably began within the first ten years of the revived Patriarchate of Peć.[32] Nevertheless, it is known that the entire Serbian church organization in Ottoman Hungary was restructured during the second half of the 16th century into five eparchies (dioceses): Belgrade-Srem, Bačka, Slavonia, Lipova and Vršac. However, the eparchy of Budim was not established at that time.[33] It was a fact that all of the lands of the Kingdom of Hungary (northward from the Danube River and the Sava River) settled by the Orthodox Serbs immediately after the Ottoman conquest (from 1521 to 1541) were incorporated into the administrative-spiritual territory of the Greek Archbishopric of Ohrid, but when the Patriarchate of Peć became re-established in 1557 they were included into the administrative-spiritual territory of this Serbian national church organization and institution. The residences of the metropolitan of Belgrade-Srem were in Belgrade and in the Hopovo monastery in Fruška Gora (in present day Vojvodina province in Northern Serbia).[34]

The province of Banat, at that time in the southern part of the Kingdom of Hungary, but after 1918 in present day Romania and Serbia, was already settled by the Serbs in the late Middle Ages. Banat had in the 16th century two eparchies (Lipova and Vršac) and in the next century two additional ones (Timişoara and Bečkerek). The first known metropolitan (archbishop) of Vršac was Teodor, who was one of the most important spiritual leaders of the Serbs in the uprising of 1594 against the Ottoman government.[35]

Patriarchate_of_Peć_09_2010_1

A headquarters of the Patriarchate of Peć (14th century) in Kosovo & Metochia

The inter-confessional relations, rights and privileges

One of the critical research problems in dealing with the history of the revived Patriarchate of Peć is the question of the inter-confessional relations in the southern part of the former Kingdom of Hungary, while under jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Peć. It is a question of the inter-confessional tolerance and intolerance between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic believers living within the borders of the Serbian patriarchate. The Catholic religion, which was dominant in Hungary before the Protestant reformation and the Ottoman influence in the Balkans and the southern parts of Central Europe, had simply disappeared in many regions of Southern Hungary (present day Vojvodina province in Serbia) which had become heavily populated by the Orthodox Serbs. Catholic clergy together with the Hungarian feudal aristocracy fled from many parts of Hungary and Transylvania during the Ottoman wars against the Hungarians (1521−1541).[36] Several Catholic dioceses from Hungary such as Srem, Pecs, Kalocsa and Csanad were even devoid of Catholic archbishops. Consequently, all  Catholic believers in Srem, Bacska and Banat (these three provinces constitute the region of Vojvodina in present day Serbia) were put under the jurisdiction of Serb Orthodox archbishop of Belgrade-Srem. The Orthodox archbishops (metropolitans) received permission from the Ottoman sultan to collect ordinary taxes from Catholic believers (such as dimnica and milostinja) and extraordinary taxes (such as those for weddings).

The introduction of the new Gregorian calendar in 1582 by the Roman Catholic Church caused some problems with respect to the relations between the Catholic and the Orthodox believers within the Patriarchate of Peć. According to some sources, in the province of Srem the Orthodox-Catholic relations were negatively impacted after 1582 when the Orthodox believers became aware of the intention of the Catholics to force Orthodox believers to adopt the Gregorian calendar. However, according to documentation provided by one Catholic believer, in the case of a Christian war against Muslim Turks the Catholics from the Southern Hungary would have joined the Orthodox Serbs and Romanians from Transylvania.[37]

It is important to note that the tendency of Catholics to convert to the Orthodox faith increased when the pope issued a bula “Inter Gravissimos” on February 24th, 1582. There were some areas in Southern Hungary where the Catholic and Orthodox believers celebrated holidays together according to the old Julian calendar until the expulsion of the Ottoman authorities and Muslims from Hungary during the Great Vienna War 1683−1699.[38] This fact can be explained only by the strong influence of the Orthodox Church on the Roman Catholics in Southern Hungary where the Catholics had become a minority without the protection of their own church organization.

Among other privileges, the Patriarchate of Peć was granted land properties, the right to collect one ducat (gold currency) for each priest and the right to collect the so-called bir – 12 akçes (Ottoman currency) per house. The Serbian church had the autonomy to elect its own patriarch and archbishops. However, the elected patriarch had to be recognized by the Ottoman government, the Porta. One of the most important privileges given to the patriarchate was the right to adjudicate marital disputes of its own believers.

The organization of the Serbian church consisted of not only high officers such as a patriarch, archbishops and bishops, but also lower rank servants – the priests. The rural priests lived and worked basically like peasants while the urban priests lived as did the other urban population.[39] According to Serbian philologist Vuk Stefanović Karadžić (1787−1864), every priest in Serbia was beared while in Montenegro it was not the case. Montenegrin Orthodox clergy did not wear the religious caps of the clergy as it was done in Serbia. In Serbia priests served in several villages and when they were at home they worked at the typical rural jobs of the peasantry. In Montenegro priests carried arms like ordinary people, thus eliminating differences between the priests and their congregations. Furthermore, the priests in Montenegro participated in the battles against the Turks along with the rest of the population.[40]

The Serbian Church was a great landowner on the borderlands of the Patriarchate of Peć. The residences of the church were located in the monasteries and one part of their support was provided through the income generated by the real estate holdings of the monasteries. The church’s incomes were guaranteed by the sultan’s berats. In turn the patriarchate was required to pay special taxes for the election of a new patriarch, archbishops and bishops.[41] However, this regulation and practice was in many cases used by the highest church authorities to bribe the sultan and the ministers in Porta. In order to insure that a new Ottoman sultan confirmed all privileges of the patriarchate through the issuance of a new berat the church authorities were required to pay new taxes. This taxation was the miri-peşkeş. For instance, the price of a berat for the appointment of a new patriarch was 100.000 akçes in 1766.[42]

The legal relations between the authorities of the Patriarchate of Peć and the Ottoman Empire were regulated by the sultan’s firman issued in 1557. From the religious point of view the patriarchate was autonomous and self-governed. Generally, the government of the Ottoman Empire did not interfere in the internal religious life of the Christian churches. For all Ottoman Christian subjects it was very important that destroyed or damaged churches and monasteries were repaired or rebuilt. This required special permission issued by the Ottoman authorities. However, according to Ottoman law, any rebuilt Christian religious structure could not be higher than its original height prior to destruction[43] or higher than any local minaret.

The privileges and rights which the first patriarch Macarius (Макарије) received from the sultan were equivalent to the privileges given to the Greek church in Constantinople. The Serbian patriarch was recognized as a leader of all Serbs in the Ottoman Empire (ethnarch, in Turkish milet başa).[44] The Serbs saw their patriarch primarily as a secular national leader. For the Ottoman administration the Patriarchate of Peć was a legal representative institution of the Serbs in the Ottoman Empire, but for Serbian people it was both a religious and court institution.[45] A patriarch, archbishops and bishops of the Serbian church had received the right to freely profess their religion, to freely administer the church’s properties and the right to collect taxes from the people, priests and monks. The Ottoman sultan gave the Serbian patriarch the right to appoint archbishops (архиепископе, владике и митрополите) and bishops (епископе) with the sultan’s approval. The Patriarch also had the right to arrogate properties of the priests, monks, archbishops and bishops which were left without any successors (ius caducitatis) and to adjudicate marital or civil disputes. Thus, the Ottoman state did not have jurisdiction over  the Serbs. The Serbian church used the medieval Christian laws such as Dushan’s Codex from 1349/1354, the Vlastareva Sintagma (revised Byzantine Law) or the common law.[46] Taking these rights and privileges into consideration, we can conclude that the Patriarchate of Peć was in practice a Serbian state within the Ottoman Empire.

11

A White Angel from Mileševa monastery in the South-West Serbia (13th century)

The historical role of the Patriarchate of Peć in preservation of Serbian national and cultural identity

The Patriarchate of Peć was one of the most significant national institutions in Serbian history. The importance of its role in the history of the Serbs takes on even more significance if we know the fact that the “second” patriarchate (1557−1766) was the only Serbian national institution that functioned and subsequently could protect and unify all Serbs in the Ottoman Empire. The Patriarchate of Peć basically assumed the role of the Serbian state which had disappeared in the mid-15th century.

The upper structure of the patriarchate had a feudal organization,[47] but the lower structure was composed of priests who originated in the ordinary Serbian folk social strata. The patriarchate succeeded in the course of time to bring together the main groups of Serbs who were dispersed across large territories of the European parts of the Ottoman Empire into a single national organization  – that of the patriarchate – which served as the Serbian national and political representative in Istanbul. The main national task of the patriarchate was to foster the idea of Serbian ethnic unity within Orthodox Christianity and the spirit of St. Sava. Compared to the Patriarchate of Peć, all autonomous local communities of Serbs in the Ottoman Empire played a secondary role of importance in this regard.[48] A commonly held opinion of researchers of the history of the Patriarchate of Peć is that this “unique spiritual Serbian community in Turkey took the most important merits, not only for preservation of the Orthodoxy but also for forming and developing of one common and strong Serbian national conscience throughout all Serbian ethnic territories.”[49] In addition, the patriarchate had a significant influence on the Serbian population living in Hungary and under the Habsburg Monarchy.[50]

By protecting the spiritual and cultural tradition of medieval Serbia, the Serbian church sustained and continued the cultural development of the Serbs during the time of Ottoman rule. In the 16th century several new printing-houses began to operate (in the monastery of Mileševa, in Belgrade, in Rujna, in Scodra, etc.) in which the religious books written in the Old Church Slavonic language were printed and later used by the Serbian clergy not only in the Ottoman Empire but also in the Habsburg Monarchy. In Serbian monasteries some of the most significant medieval Serbian manuscripts and books were re-written. That the Serbian clergy, while under Ottoman rule continued to write in the traditional (medieval) Serbian manner is exemplified by the case of Serbian patriarch Pajsije Janjevac (1614−1648) who wrote a biography (животопис) of the Serbian medieval emperor Uroš (1355−1371) according to the style of the Middle Ages. The others collected or revised ancient annals which were written in the Serbian type of the Old Church Slavonic language (Serbian-Slavonic language).[51]

After the revival of the Patriarchate of Peć the construction of Orthodox shrines increased in Serbia, Slavonia and in Bosnia-Herzegovina. For instance, immediately after the patriarchate was re-established  in 1557 the most important church buildings in the administrative centre of the patriarchate – the city of Peć in Kosovo-Metohija were renovated. Patriarch Makarije (1557−1571), for instance, became directly involved in supervising  the construction of the narthex (припрата) in the central church in the town of Peć  and in the program of its fresco paintings. In 1560 one of the most significant Serbian medieval monasteries – Gračanica in Kosovo-Metohija near the city of Priština was restored. The process of restoration of ancient Serbian sacred buildings (monasteries and churches) especially affected the region of Kosovo-Metohija, the cultural, political and spiritual cradle of the Serbian nation.[52] According to Serbian art  historian Sreten Petković, during the first decades of the revival of the patriarchate approximately one hundred monasteries and churches were restored; twenty of them in Kosovo-Metohija.[53] However, this period of restoration and new construction lacked the support of wealthy founders of churches and monasteries, typical of Serbia in the Middle Ages. It was the main reason that the buildings and decorative art were modest in comparison to those of the independent Serbian medieval state. However, the style and execution characteristic of medieval Serbian churches and traditional iconography served as the prototypes for the creation of the new fresco paintings.[54]

From the time of the revived Patriarchate of Peć a special term emerged among the Serbs – the so-called “Serbian faith”, which, using the model of the Serbian medieval tradition, defined Orthodox Christianity as the synthesis of state and culture, infused with the “spirit of St. Sava”. The “Serbian faith” became in the 17−18th centuries a basic foundation of the Serbian national identity.[55]

One of the most important features of the restored Patriarchate of Peć was that it became more interested in domestic national questions rather than in the broader questions of Christian dogma being debated in Europe at a time of struggle and wars between Roman Catholics and Protestants. The reason for this fact was that the patriarchate was primarily interested in the preservation of a medieval Serbian national heritage and Serb national identity. In practice it meant that the prime task of the patriarchate was to prevent the Serbs from conversion to Islam.[56]

decani

Dečani monastery (14th century) in Kosovo & Metochia

A rebellion of the Serbs in Banat in 1594

The conflict between the Muslim Ottoman state and its own Christian subjects started in the second half of the 16th century and very soon became intensified. The Ottoman feudal system at the end of the 16th century ended the process of destruction of the Serbian feudal strata and consequently formed conditions in witch the class and religious opposition to the system were united.[57] Enlarged political and social differences between the Ottoman Muslims and Ottoman Christian citizens made a strong impact on the behaviour of the Serbian church towards the Ottoman authorities. The Serbian church experienced economic and financial pressure by the Ottoman state during the crises in the Ottoman feudal system which began with the death of the sultan Suleyman Magnificent in 1566, and even in the second half of the 16th century some old rights enjoyed by Serbian monasteries were abolished by the Ottoman government.[58] Such new Ottoman policies directed at the Serbian church aggravated the position of the monasteries. Increased taxes required of the Serbian monasteries and churches became a reality from the first years of the reign of the sultan Selim II (1566−1574). There were even examples of Ottoman feudal and military aristocracy appropriated properties of Serbian monasteries and requiring bribes in exchange for solving every disputed question.[59]

Just before the end of the 16th century the Ottoman Empire lost two great battles in their struggle against the European Christian states: a naval battle near Lepanto in 1571 (in the Ionnian Sea) and a land battle near Sisak in the Habsburg Monarchy (present day Croatia) in 1593.[60] The moral impact of these two Christian victories on the Ottoman Christians was of great importance for the subsequent Christian uprisings against the Ottoman rule in the South-East Europe. Most of the Ottoman Christians wrongly believed after 1593 that the military power of the Ottoman Empire could be easily broken and subsequently with the support of some Christian state they could be liberated from Ottoman power. Particularly, they had been considering the Habsburg emperor Rudolf II (of Austria and the Holy Roman Empire, 1576−1611)[61] as a potential liberator of all Ottoman Christians. The Austrian emperor also viewed himself as a European monarch determined to finally break Ottoman power in Europe and to become a Saviour of Europe. In order to fulfill this “holy mission” he primarily expected great support of the Transylvanian prince and the Serbs from Southern Hungary. In 1591 the Austrian imperial deputy Richard Schtreit promised the Serbs and the Bulgarians Austrian military support in the case of a Christian rebellion against the Ottoman Empire during the upcoming war (“Long War” 1593−1606) between the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire. Both, Serbian and Bulgarian negotiators pledged that in the event of war the Serbs and Bulgarians from the Ottoman Empire would contribute fully in order to support the Habsburg Monarchy – a country seen by many Europeans as antemurale christianitatis.

Relations between the Serbs and the Ottoman government were drastically aggravated during the last decades of the 16th century. There were several causes for this fact but the most important was that at the end of the 16th century the pressure on Serb tax-payers (and on other non-Muslims) in the Ottoman Empire increased as the government in Istanbul needed additional funds in order to continue their wars against Austria, Venice, Spain and the Vatican. Generally, the situation of the non-Muslims in the Ottoman Empire worsened at the turn of the 17th century. Basically, the Ottoman feudal system was in a great crisis and the Ottoman administration was compelled to increase taxation in order to improve its finances. It was a necessary measure in order to continue Ottoman military-political expansion towards the heart of Central Europe, i.e. the city of Vienna (Wien) which was unsuccessfully besieged in 1529 by the troops of the sultan Suleyman the “Magnificent”. The Serbian church was already under economic and financial pressure by the Ottoman administration during the reign of sultan Selim II (1566−1574) when for the first time Serbian monasteries and churches were being sold. The annual taxation rate, which the Patriarchate of Peć had to pay to the sultan at the end of the 16th century was increased to 100,000 akçes.

The highest Serbian church administrators became involved in the struggle against the Turks at the end of the 16th century. Patriarch Jovan Kantul (1592−1614) was the first head of the Serbian church who began to plot against the Ottoman authorities.[62] As a national representative of all Serbs in the Ottoman Empire, the Serbian church at the end of that century tried to find a protector for the Serbs in some foreign country. The church representatives negotiated with the representatives of Austria, several Italian rulers and the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.[63] Thus, hoping that the Austrian emperor would assist in Serbian liberation from the Ottoman rule at the time of the  “Long War” or the “Sisak War” (1593−1606) between the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire the Serbs from the Banat region (historical southern province of the Kingdom of Hungary; today divided between Serbia and Romania), led by their own church clergy, took an active role in this war against the Ottoman Empire on the side of the Austrians. Together with the Serbs from Banat and the Serbs from Kosovo-Metohija (in the region of Peć in 1594) and from Herzegovina (in 1597) rose in arms.[64] Thus, the Serbs and their national church entered into the overt hostilities against the Ottoman government, siding with the Habsburg Monarchy for the attainment of their national liberation and in defense of Christianity.[65]

This Christian rebellion, the biggest up to this point against the Ottoman authorities broke out in Southern Transylvania and the Banat region among the Orthodox Serbs and Romanians. The Serbian intention was to involve on their side the Transylvanian prince Sigismund Batory. In order to realize this aim, a special Serbian delegation was sent to the Transylvanian city of Belgrade (Giulafehervar in Hungarian or Alba Iulia in Romanian). The delegation participated in a session of the Transylvanian feudal assembly of local magnates. This Serbian delegation was led by one of the highest administrators of the Patriarchate of Peć − the metropolitan of Vršac, Teodor Tividorović. The Serbian deputies offered the throne of the Serbian kings to Sigismund Batory in exchange for his support of the Serbian rebels. During the rebellion the Serbs were in constant contact with the prince of Transilvania, as well as the Austrian general Teifenbach. The Serbian deputy Đorđe (Georgije) Rac, helped by general Teifenbach, succeeded in meeting with the Austrian archduke Maximilian, who at that time was leading the siege of the Hungarian fortresses of Esztergom on the Danube River. Đorđe Rac’s talks with him were on the future of the war and Serbian destiny after the war.

A turning point in the Serbian rebellion occurred when the new beglerbeg (or paşa-the governor) of Timişoara (Temišvar), Sophy Sinan-paşa, organized a great military counter-offensive at the end of June 1594 against the Serbs, Romanians (Wallachians) and Austrians. Firstly, he succeeded in ending the Christian siege of Hungarian Esztergom and in the same month his troops were merged with the Ottoman army of the paşa of Budim. This united Ottoman army (c. 30,000 soldiers) of two paşas moved toward the Banatian Serbs. The Serbian army numbered only about 4,300 men. The main battle took place near Bečkerek in Western Banat where the Serbs suffered a great defeat. Sinan-paša entered the city of Bečkerek and totally plundered it. The Serbian metropolitan of Vršac was arrested and, by order of Sinan-paša, he was flayed. With the fall of Bečkerek the rebellion collapsed. In determining the main causes of the failure of the rebellion the political role of the Roman Catholic pope Clement VIII (1592−1605) must be considered. He had who sent many deputies to the Serbs to different Balkan provinces encouraging them to rise in arms, while promising significant military help from the West in their final struggle against the Muslim Ottoman Empire. However, during the time of rebellion it became clear that these were only empty verbal promises by the pope and no real military support and help for the rebels was forthcoming. The latter were left to mainly deal alone with the  much stronger and far numerous Ottoman forces.

During this Serbian rebellion of 1594 in Banat against the Ottomans there was one unusual political event with a huge symbolic character. The Ottoman authorities knew very well that this great Serbian revolt was directly inspired and encouraged by the Serbian patriarch Jovan Kantul who blessed the revolt. The rebels and their leaders had a picture of Serbian St. Sava on a flag of blue, white, and red colors (the colors of the present-day Serbian national flag and therefore, the rebellion was named “St. Sava’s Rebellion”. In order to exert revenge on the Serbs and, particularly on the Serbian church, Sinan-paşa (Kodža) ordered that on Easter day of 1594 (April 27th /May 10th) the body of St. Sava would be burned and reduced to ashes. The Turks solemnly exhumed the body from his holy grave in the 13th century-monastery of Mileševa (in Southern Serbia on the border with Montenegro), conveyed it to Belgrade and there (“near Banat”), on Vračar Hill (today the down town area of Belgrade), incinerated the body of the most significant Serbian saint in Serbian history. Some parts of the saint’s relics were saved by the people who had gathered around the bonfire and returned to the Mileševa monastery. St. Sava’s relics were again burned by the Turks in 1692, as revenge against the Serbs who had again sided with the Habsburg Monarchy in its war against the Ottoman Empire in 1683−1699. In the Banat rebellion of 1594 the rebelious Serbs were lead by Đorđe Slankamenac-Rac, Deli Marko and Sava Temišvarac. During the same „Long War“, the Herzegovinian Serbs were lead by a local metropolit Visarion, who wrote a letter to the new Roman pope Paul V (1605−1621) asking the Vatican for political and military help, and by the duke Grdan from Nikšić (today in Montenegro). After putting down the rebellion the Turks invited the Serbian patriarch to Istanbul where he was murdered in 1614.[66] The death of patriarch Jovan Kantul in Istanbul had a deep impact on the subsequent policy of the Serbian Patriarchate with respect to the Ottoman authorities. The patriarch was in fact betrayed by several western diplomatic representatives to the Ottoman Empire, but above all by the Venetian one who reported to the Ottoman authorities on the former’s secret activities and even negotiations with the western Christian states on the issue of the liberation of Christian subjects on the Balkan Peninsula from the Ottoman yoke. This western conspiracy against the Serbian patriarch, church and the nation became the central reason that many prominent Serbs and above all the Serbian church abandoned hope for the support of Serbian national liberation by western European countries. They turned, instead, towards Orthodox Russia. That was in fact the case with the first sucessor of patriarch Jovan Kantul – patriarch Pajsije (1614−1648).

Nevertheless, even the symbolic act of burning the relics of St. Sava in 1594 had failed to crush the rebellion as its success really depended only on Austrian military support.[67] The Ottoman authorities had chosen this political act because St. Sava actually was the most remarkable holyman in all of Serbian tradition and history and the most significant symbol of the Patriarchate of Peć and the Serbs as a nation. Basically, the Serbian church was identified with its own founder. Nevertheless, after the incineration of the St. Sava’s body the influence of his spirit and myth were not deminished. Rather, after 1594 the name of St. Sava passed into legend and the Serbs came to be known as the “nation of St. Sava”.

kosovo-big_16738.jpg.axd

Gračanica monastery (14th century) in Kosovo & Metochia

Conclusion

The Patriarchate of Peć was one of the most important institutions in the history of the Serbs, particularly regarding their religious and cultural history. This institution was founded in 1346 during the reign of the most significant of Serbian monarchs – Stefan Dušan the “Mighty” (1331−1355). The foundation of the national Serbian Patriarchate of Peć was the consequence of a new political situation in the Balkan Peninsula when Serbia reached ascendancy as the most powerful country in this region poised to replace the Byzantine Empire. In the same year, Dušan the “Mighty” was crowned by the patriarch of Peć as emperor of the Serbs and the Greeks (i.e., the Byzantines). Concurrently, the Serbian medieval church became independent of the Greek church of Constantinople.

The “first” Serbian patriarchate was abolished in the mid-15th century after the demise of the medieval Serbian independent state (in 1459). However, the Ottoman authorities allowed the Serbs one century later (in 1557) to restore their own national church, which took the name of the old Patriarch of Peć.

During several centuries of the Ottoman occupation, from the collapse of  the Serbian medieval state (in 1459) to the First Šumadija-Serb Uprising against the Turks (in 1804), the re-established Patriarchate of Peć was the only national institution of all Serbs under the Ottoman rule. This spiritual and national institution of the Serbs lasted for two hundred years (1557−1766) during the most difficult period of Serbian history when there was neither a national Serbian state or any Serbian national institution. However, the Patriarchate of Peć assumed the historical role of protecting Serbian national identity and national interests during the Ottoman occupation. Consequently, the patriarchate was a political representative of all Serbs in the Ottoman Empire.

Officially, according to Ottoman authorities, the Patriarchate of Peć was restored in mid-16th century as a continuation of the medieval Serbian national church. However, in reality, it seems to have been more a new church institution of the Serbs than directly connected to the former (“first”) patriarchate. Nevertheless, the new patriarchate accepted all the medieval traditions and the spiritual legacy of the former patriarchate.

The most important historical achievement of the “second” patriarchate was that it succeeded in legally protecting the majority of Serbs in the Ottoman Empire and influencing them in the preservation of their own national medieval heritage and Christian Orthodoxy as central to the national identity and character of the Serbs. Finally, the history and the role of the revived Patriarchate of Peć remained in the collective memory of all Serbs as the national  “lighthouse” during the dark years of the Ottoman occupation[68] inspiring the Serbs to persevere in their resistence to the Ottoman policy of denationalization through the acceptance of Islam.[69] The Islamisation of the Balkan Peninsula during the Ottoman reign was most successfull only in those regions of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania and the Rhodopes region in Bulgaria where the Christianity was not rooted, as it was left without a strong church organization.[70]

ENDNOTES:

[1] For a discussion of the “Eastern Question” see: Б. Поповић, Источно питање (Београд, 1928).

[2] Today is known that almost all former Orthodox Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Raška (Sandžak) who became converted to Islam are “Bosniaks”, former Orthodox Serbs converted to Roman Catholicism in Croatia, Dalmatia, Slavonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina are “Croats” and former Orthodox Serbs converted to Islam in Kosovo-Metohija became “Albanians” (Arbanasi). In Kosovo-Metohija existed Arnauts (Arnautaši) – converted former Orthodox Serbs to Islamic faith who still did not lose their ethnic identity before they finally became Albanians. It is estimated that c. 30% of present-day Albanians in Kosovo-Metohija are of Serb origin (Д. Т. Батаковић, Косово и Метохија у српско-арбанашким односима (Београд: Чигоја штампа, 2006), p. 33−36).

[3] On emperor Stefan Dušan and his empire see: М. Стевановић, Душаново Царство (Београд: Књига-комерц, 2001).

[4] For information on Mehmed the “Conqueror” see: J. Hammer, Historija Turskog/Osmanskog/Carstva, I, (Zagreb: Ognjen Prica, 1979), pp. 151−252.

[5] H. Inalçik, The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age 1300–1600 (London, 1973), p. 27.

[6] I. Božić, S. Ćirković, M. Ekmečić, V. Dedijer, Istorija Jugoslavije (Beograd: Prosveta, 1973), see the map on p. 136.

[7] H. W. V. Temperley, History of Serbia (New York, 1969), p. 106.

[8] However, the Armenians and the Jews were exempted from devşirme taxation (В. Ћоровић, Историја Срба (Београд: БИГЗ, 1993), p. 373).

[9] About devşirme see more in LookLex Encyclopaedia: http://i-cias.com/e.o/devsirme.htm.

[10] F. Singleton, A Short History of the Yugoslav Peoples (Cambridge, 1989), p. 38.

[11] A timar was an inheritable solders’ small land-property.

[12] I. Božić, Istorija Jugoslavije, p. 137.

[13] On the Ottoman feudal, state’s and military systems see in: Историја народа Југославије. Књига друга од почетка XVI до краја XVIII века (Београд: Просвета, 1960), pp. 9−38

[14] I. Božić, Istorija Jugoslavije, p. 143.

[15] Историја народа Југославије, p. 19−21.

[16] The creation of an independent (autocephalous) Serbian (Orthodox) medieval church in 1219 was possible due to the work of St. Sava (c. 1174−1236) (Ст. Станојевић, Историја српскога народа. Треће издање, поправљено, (Београд: Издавачка књижарница Напредак, 1926), pp. 124−125). St. Sava, however, was and one of the most important Serbian medieval profane national worker. About his profane activities see: М. Црњански, Свети Сава (Шабац: „Глас цркве“, 1988).

[17] H. W. V. Temperley, History of Serbia, p. 123.

[18] The so-called Phanariots were the Greeks who lived in the Phanar – a suburb of Constantinople. This part of the city was mainly poplulated by the Greeks. In this “Greek quarter” was located the “Ecumenical Church” (i.e. the Greek Orthodox church) which enjoyed a large scale of privilages within the Ottoman Empire till 1821.

[19] It has to be stressed that the authority of Archbishopric of Ohrid gradually was taking over the dioceses of the Serbian Patriarchate and extended its own territory of jurisdiction up to the town of Peć in Metohija and monastery of Žiča in Central Serbia.

[20] About the life of Mehmed pasha Sokolović see: Р. Самарџић, Мехмед-паша Соколовић (Београд, 1975).

[21] Ђ. Слијепчевић, Историја Српске православне цркве, т. I (Београд, 1991), pp. 303–304.

[22] On the relations between Christians and Muslims in the Balkans during the Ottoman domination see: G. Castellan, History of the Balkans. From Mohammed the Conqueror to Stalin, (New York: East European Monographes, Boulder, 1992), pp. 109−116.

[23] М. М. Вукићевић, Знаменити Срби муслoмани (Београд: Српска књижевна задруга, 1906), p. 43. (reprint in 1998 by ННК, Београд)

[24] On the life of Ottoman grand vizier Mehmed paša Sokolović see in: R. Samardžić, Mehmed Sokolović (Beograd: 1971). It was this grand vizier who built the famous bridge over the Drina River in 1567.

[25] М. Јовић, К. Радић, Српске земље и владари (Крушевац: Друштво за неговање историјских и уметничких вредности, 1990), p. 127.

[26]  Ibid., p. 129.

[27] The Serbian patriarchs were signing themselves in some documents as the patriarchs of “All Illyricum”, i.e. of the main part of the Balkan Peninsula (Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Dalmatia, the Vardar Macedonia and the part of Bulgaria) according to the old tradition that the Balkan lands were called according to their antique names and that Serbia was the synonim for the Roman province of Illyricum (Д. Т. Батаковић, Косово и Метохија. Историја и идеологија, Београд: Чигоја штампа, 2007, p. 17).

[28] I. Božić, Istorija Jugoslavije, p. 146 (see the map № 23 of the borders of the Patriarchate of Peć in the mid-17 century).

[29] On these migrations see: Ј. Цвијић, Балканско полуострво и јужнословенске земље (Београд, 1922), pp. 60−139.

[30] I. Božić, Istorija Jugoslavije, p. 146 (see the map № 23 of the borders of the Patriarchate of Peć in the mid-17 century).

[31] It has to be said that in Transylvania at that time “lacking political power, the Orthodox faith, the religion of the majority of the Romanian population, was not admitted among the official religions of the country, having only a ‘tolerated’ status” (K. Treptow (ed.), A History of Romania (Iaşi: The Center for Romanian Studies and The Romanian Cultural Foundations, 1996), p. 133).

[32] Историјско друштво у Новом Саду, Војводина, т. I (Нови Сад, 1939), p. 389.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid., p. 392.

[35] Ј. Томић, Устанак Срба у Банату 1594 (Београд, 1899), p. 28.

[36] About Hungarian history from the Battle of Mohács to the fall of Buda, Hungarian relations with the Ottomans and the question of cohabitations of Protestants and Catholics in Hungary in the 16th century see: L. Kontler, Millennium in Central Europe. A History of Hungary (Budapest: Atlantisz Publishing House, 1999), pp. 139−158.

[37] Војводина, p. 407.

[38] Draganović, „Massenubertritte von Katholikenzur ‚Ortodoxie‘ im Kroatischen Sprachgebiet zur Zeit der Turken hershaft“, Orientalia Christiana Periodica, № III–IV (Roma, 1937), pp. 587–592.

[39] Историја народа Југославије, p. 464.

[40] В. С. Караџић, Етнографски списи & О Црној Гори (Београд, 1985), p. 78–80.

[41] Историја народа Југославије, p. 102–103.

[42] Ђ. Слијепчевић, p. 405–407; Р. Самарџић and others, Косово и Метохија у српској историји (Београд: Српска књижевна задруга, 1989), p. 105.

[43] Ibid., p. 401.

[44] Ibid., p. 315; Д. Т. Батаковић, Косово и Метохија у српско-арбанашким односима, p. 22. The independent Serbian-milet (the Serbian religious nation) was separated from the Rum-milet with the establishment of the Patriarchate of Peć in 1557 (Д. Т. Батаковић, Косово и Метохија. Историја и идеологија, p. 32).

[45] М. Јовић, К. Радић, Српске земље и владари, p. 128.

[46] В. Ћоровић, Историја Југославије (Београд, 1931), p. 312.

[47] Историја народа Југославије, p. 462.

[48] I. Božić, Istorija Jugoslavije, pp. 145–147. 

[49] Војводина, p. 389.

[50] Ibid.

[51] I. Božić, Istorija Jugoslavije, p. 146–147; Историја народа Југославије, p. 102–109.

[52] О. Зиројевић, Цркве и манастири на подручју Пећке патријаршије до 1683. године (Београд, 1984), pp. 31–33. About Kosovo and Metohija in Serbian history see: Р. Самарџић, Косово и Метохија у српској историји. There were c. 1300 churches, monasteries and other monuments in Kosovo-Metohija before the Ottomans. However, there were only c. 15 active Orthodox shrines in this region in the first decades of the Ottoman rule (Д. Т. Батаковић, Косово и Метохија у српско-арбанашким односима, p. 22).

[53] С. Петковић, Зидно сликарство на подручју Пећке патријаршије 1557–1614 (Нови Сад, 1965), pp. 49–50.

[54] I. Božić, Istorija Jugoslavije, pp. 146–147.

[55] Ђ. Слијепчевић, Историја Српске православне цркве, т. I, p. 317; М. Павловић, “Српска вјера-српски закон”, Зборник Матице српске за друштвене науке, № 13–14 (Нови Сад, 1956), p. 285.

[56] В. Ћоровић, Историја Срба, p. 418.

[57] Историја народа Југославије, т. II, p. 462.

[58] Ibid., p. 463.

[59] Ibid.

[60] On the Battle of Sisak see: J. von Hammer, Historija Turskog/Osmanskog/Carstva, I, pp. 118−120.

[61] For information on emperor Rudolph II (1576−1611) see: J. Bérenger, A History of the Habsburg Empire, 1273−1700 (London, New York: Longman, 1994), pp. 242−260.

[62] М. Јовић, К. Радић, Српске земље, p. 129.

[63] Историја народа Југославије, т. II, p. 107, 493–494.

[64] М. Јовић, К. Радић, Српске земље, p. 129.

[65] However, the Habsburg authorities in all their wars against the Ottoman Empire never had in mind the re-establishment of any kind of Serbian independent state in the Balkans in the case of Christian victory. In addition, the Serb national-confessional identity was better protected in the Ottoman Empire than in the Catholic Habsburg Monarchy or Venetian Dalmatia. For the reason of Catholic proselityzing the Orthodox Serbs, for instance Dalmatian Serbs, were emigrating several times in the 18th century to Russia (regarding this issue see: М. Јачов, Венеција и Срби у Далмацији у XVIII веку (Београд: Просвета, издање Историјског института у Београду, 1984).

[66] М. Јовић, К. Радић, Српске земље, p. 129. According to historian Vladimir Ćorović, patriarch Jovan Kantul „died“ in Istanbul in 1614. Obviously, for Ćorović it was not clear did he was murdered or not (В. Ћоровић, Историја Срба, p. 431).

[67] H. W. V. Temperley, History of Serbia, p. 125.

[68] Р. Самарџић, Усмена народна хроника, Нови Сад, 1978.

[69] The Ottoman successful policy of peaceful conversion of the Christians to Islam is best seen in the case of the Albanians and in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Today a majority of ethnic Albanians are Muslims. After four centuries of Ottoman rule in Bosnia-Herzegovina almost half (43,7%) of its population are the Muslims (T. Judah, The Serbs. History, Myth & the Destruction of Yugoslavia (New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 1997), p. 317). For additional readings on the topic of this article see: Српска православна црква, издање Архијерејског синода Српске православне цркве, Београд, 1969; С. Ћирковић, Срби у средњем веку, Београд, 1995; T. Kostić, Serbia under Ottoman Rule, Vienna, 2005; Р. Самарџић, Србија у списима француских савременика XVI−XVII века, Београд, 1961. The Serbs accepted Islam for two crucial reasons: 1) the fudal aristocracy from the time before the Ottoman occupation in order to preserve their estates and benefits; and 2) the ordinary people for lucrative reasons (Д. Т. Батаковић, Косово и Метохија. Историја и идеологија, p. 36)

[70] Д. Т. Батаковић, Косово и Метохија. Историја и идеологија, p. 33.


2. Sotirovic 2013

Prof. Dr. Vladislav B. Sotirović

www.global-politics.eu/sotirovic

globalpol@global-politics.eu

© Vladislav B. Sotirović 2014

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Kosovo history – Fifth part



Serbs fighting ISIS

The series of long-scale Christian national movements in the Balkans, triggered off by 1804 Serbian revolution, decided more than in the earlier centuries, the fate of Serbs and made ethnic Albanians (about 70% of whom were Muslims) the main guardians of Turkish order in the European provinces of Ottoman Empire. At a time when the Eastern question was again being raised, particularly in the final quarter of 19th and the first decade of 20th century, Islamic Albanians were the chief instrument of Turkey’s policy in crushing the liberation movements of other Balkan states. After the congress of Berlin (1878) an Albanian national movement flared up, and both the Sultan and Austria-Hungary, a power whose occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina heralded its further expansion deep into the Balkans, endeavored, with varying degrees of success, to instrumentalize this movement. While the Porte used the ethnic Albanians as Islam’s shock cutting edge against Christians in the frontier regions towards Serbia and Montenegro, particularly in Kosovo, Metohia and the nearby areas, Austria-Hungary’s design was to use the Albanians national movement against the liberatory aspirations of the two Serbian states that were impeding the German Drang nach Osten. In a rift between two only seemingly contrary strivings, Serbia and Montenegro, although independent since 1878, were powerless (at least until the Balkan wars 1912-1913) without the support of Russia or other Great Power to effect the position of their compatriots within the borders of Ottoman Empire.

karadjordjeDuring the Serbian revolution, which ended with the creation of the autonomous Principality of Serbia within the Ottoman empire (1830), Kosovo and Metohia acquired special political importance. The hereditary ethnic Albanian pashas, who had until then been mostly renegades from the central authorities in Constantinople, feared that the flames of rebellion might spread to regions they controlled thus they became champions for the defense the integrity of the Turkish Empire and leaders of many military campaigns against the Serbian insurgents, at the core of the Serbian revolution was the Kosovo covenant, embodied in the “revenge of Kosovo”, a fresh, decisive battle against the Turkish invaders in the field of Kosovo. In 1806 the insurgents were preparing, like Prince Lazar in his day, to come out in Kosovo and weigh their forces against the Turks, However, detachments of Serbian insurgents reached only the fringes of northern Kosovo. Metohia, Old Raska (Sandzak), Kosovo and northern Macedonia remained outside the borders of the Serbian principality. In order to highlight their importance in the national and political ideologies of the renewed Serbian state, they were given a new collective name. It was not by chance that Vuk Stefanovic Karadzic, the father of modern Serbian literacy, named the central lands of the Nemanjic state – Old Serbia.

Fearing the renewed Serbian state, Kosovo pashas engaged in ruthless persecution in an effort to reduce number of Serbs living in their spacious holdings. The French travel writer F.C.H.L Pouqueville was astounded by the utter anarchy and ferocity of the local pashas towards the Christians. Jashar-pasha Gjinolli of Prishtina was one of the worst, destroying several churches in Kosovo, seizing monastic lands and killing monks. In just a few years of sweeping terror, he evicted more than seventy Serbian villages between Vucitrn and Gnjilane, dividing up the seized land among the local Islamized population and mountain folk that had settled there from northern Albania. The fertile plains of Kosovo became desolate meadows as the Malisor highlanders, unused to farming knew not to cultivate.

The revolt of the ethnic Albanian pashas against the reforms introduced by the sultans and fierce clashes with regular Turkish troops in the thirties and forties of the 19th century, emphasized the anarchy in Kosovo and Metohia, causing fresh suffering among the Serbs and the further devastation of the ancient monasteries. Since neither Serbian nor Montenegro, two semi-independent Serbian states, were able to give any significant help to the gravely endangered people, Serbian leaders form the Pristina and Vucitrn regions turned to the Russian tsar in seeking protection from their oppressors. They set out that they were forced to choose between converting to Islam or fleeing for Serbia as the violence, especially killings, the persecution of monks, the raping of women and minors, had exceeded all bounds. Pogroms marked the decades to come, especially in period of the Crimean War (1853-1856) when anti-Slav sentiments reached their peak in the ottoman empire: ethnic Albanians and the Cherkeses, whom the Turks had resettled in Kosovo, joined the Ottoman troops in persecuting Orthodox Serbs.

The brotherhood of Decani and the Pec Patriarchate turned to the authorities of Serbia for protection. Pointing to the widespread violence and increasing banditry, and to more frequent and persisted attempts by Catholic missionaires to compel the impoverished and spiritually discouraged monk communities to concede to union. Prior Serafim Ristic of Decani loged complaints with both the sultan and Russian tsar and in his book Plac Stare Srbije (Zemun 1864) he penned hundreds of examples of violence perpetrated by the ethnic Albanians and Turks against the Serbs, naming the perpetrators, victims and type of crime. In Metohia alone he recorded over one hundred cases in which the Turkish authorities, police and judiciary tolerated and abetted robbery, bribery, murder, arson, the desecration of churches, the seizure of property and livestock, the rape of women and children, and the harassment of monks and priests. Both ethnic Albanians and Turks viewed assaults against Serbs as acts pleasing to Allah acts that punishing infidels for not believing in true God: kidnapping and Islamizing girls were a way for true Muslims to approach Allah. Ethnic Albanian outlaws (kayaks) became heroes among their fellow-tribesmen for fulfilling their religious obligations in the right way and spreading the militant glory of their clan and tribe.

Eloquent testimonies to the scope of the violence against the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia, ranging from blackmail and robbery to rape and murder, come from many foreign travel-writers, from A. F. Hilferding to G. M. McKenzie – A. P. Irby. The Russian consul in Prizren observed that ethnic Albanians were settling the Prizren district underhidered and were trying, with the Turks, to eradicate Christians from Kosovo and Metohia. Throughout the 19th century there was no public safety on the roads of Metohia and Kosovo. One could travel the roads which were controlled by tribal bands, only with strong armed escort. The Serbian peasant had no protection in the field where he could be assaulted and robbed by an outlaw or bandit, and if he tried to resist, he could be killed without the perpetrator having to face charges for the crime. Serbs, as non-Muslims, were not entitled to carry arms. Those who possessed and used arms in self-defence afterwards had to run for their life. Only the luckiest managed to reach the Serbian or Montenegrin border and find permanent refuge there. They were usually followed by large families called family cooperatives (zadruga), comprising as many as 30-50 members, which were unable to defend themselves against the numerous relatives of the ethnic Albanian seeking vengeance for his death in a conflict with an elder of their clan.

Economic pressure, especially the forced reducing of free peasants to serf, was fostered by ethnic Albanian feudal lords with a view to creating large land-holdings. In the upheavals of war (1859, 1863) the Turkish authorities tried to restrict enterprising Serbian merchants and craftsmen who flourished in Pristina, Pec and Prizren, setting ablaze entire quarters where they worked and had their shops. But it was the hardest in rural areas, because ethnic Albanians, bond together by tight communities of blood brotherhoods or in tribes, and relatively socially homogeneous, were able to support their fellow tribesman without too much effort, simply by terrorizing Serbs and seizing their property and livestock. Suppression in driving of the Serbian peasantry, space was made for their relatives from northern Albania to move in, whereby increased their own prestige among other tribes. Unused to life in the plains and to hard field-work, the settled ethnic Albanians preferred looting to farming.

Despite the hardships, the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia assembled in religious-school communes which financed the opening of schools and the education of children, collected donations for the restoration of churches and monasteries and, when possible, tried to improve relations with the Turkish authorities. In addition to monastic schools, the first Serbian secular schools started opening in Kosovo from mid-1830s, and in 1871 a Seminary (Bogoslovija) opened in Prizren. Unable to help politically, the Serbia systematically aided churches and schools from the 1840s onwards, sending teachers and encouraging the best students to continue with their studies. The Prizren seminary the hub of activity on national affairs, educated teachers and priests for all the Serbian lands under Turkish dominion, and unbeknownst to authorities, established contact on a regular basis with the government in Belgrade, wherefrom it received means and instructions for political action.

33. ZvecanEthnic circumstances in Kosovo and Metohia in the early 19th century can be reconstructed on the basis of data obtained from the books written by foreign travel writers and ethnographers who journeyed across European Turkey. Joseph Miller’s studies show that in late 1830s, 56,200 Christians and 80,150 Muslims lived in Metohia; 11,740 of the Muslims were Islamized Serbs, and 2,700 of the Christians were Catholic Albanians. However, clear picture of the ethnic structure during this period cannot be obtained until one takes into account the fact that from 1815 to 1837 some 320 families, numbering ten to 30 members each, fled Kosovo and Metohia ahead of ethnic Albanian violence. According to Hilferding’s figures, Pec numbered 4,000 Muslim and 800 Christian families, Pristina numbered 1,200 Muslim, 900 Orthodox and 100 Catholic families with a population of 12,000.3

Russian consul Yastrebov recorded (for a 1867-1874 period) the following figures for 226 villages in Metohia: 4,646 Muslim ethnic Albanian homes, 1,861 Orthodox and 3,740 Islamized Serbs and 142 homes of Catholic Albanians. Despite the massive departure of the population for Serbia, available data show that until Eastern crisis (1875-1878), Serbs formed the largest ethnic group in Kosovo and Metohia, largely owing to a high birth rate.

The biggest demographics upheaval in Kosovo and Metohia occurred during the Eastern crisis, especially during the 1876-1878 Serbo-Turkish wars, when the question of Old Serbia started being internationalized. The Ottoman empire lost a good deal of territory in its wars with Russia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Austria-Hungary occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the second war with the Turks, Serbian troops liberated parts of Kosovo: their advance guard reached Pristina via Gnjilane and at the Gracanica monastery held a memorial service for the medieval heroes of Kosovo battle… After Russia and Turkey called a truce, Serbian troops were forced to withdraw from Kosovo. Serbian delegations from Old Serbia sent petitions to the Serbian Prince, the Russian tsar and participants of the Congress of Berlin, requesting that these lands merge with Serbia. Approximately 30,000 ethnic Albanians retreated from the liberated areas (partly under duress), seeking refuge in Kosovo and in Metohia, while tens of thousands of Serbs fled Kosovo and Metohia for Serbia ahead of unleashed bashibozouks, irregular auxiliaries of Ottoman troops.4

On the eve of the Congress of Berlin in the summer of 1878, when the great powers were deciding on the fate of the Balkan nations, the Albanian League was formed in Prizren, on the periphery of ethnic Albanian living space. The League called for the preservation of Ottoman Empire in its entirety within the prewar boundaries and for the creation of autonomous Albanian vilayet out of the vilayets of Kosovo, Scutari, Janina and Monster (Bitolj), regions where ethnic Albanians accounted for 44% of overall population. The territorial aspirations of the Albanian movement as defined in 1878, became part of all subsequent national programs. The new sultan Abdulhamid II (1878-1909) supported the League’s pro-Ottoman and pro-Islamic attitude. Breaking with the reformatory policy of his predecessors, sultan adopted pan-Islamism as the ruling principle of his reign. Unsatisfied with the decisions taken at the Congress, the League put up an armed opposition to concession of regions of Plav and Gusinje to Montenegro, and its detachments committed countless acts of violence against the Serbs, whose very existence posed a permanent threat to Albanian national interests. In 1881, Turkey employed force to crush the League, whose radical wing was striving towards an independent Albanian state to show that it was capable of implementing the adopted reforms. Notwithstanding, under the system of Turkish rule in the Balkans, ethnic Albanians continued to occupy the most prominent seats in the decades to come.

Surrounded by his influential guard of ethnic Albanians, the Abdulhamid II became increasingly lenient toward Islamized Albanian tribes who used force in quelling Christian movements: they were exempt from providing recruits, paying the most of the regular taxes and allowed at times to refuse the orders of local authorities. This lenient policy towards the ethnic Albanians and tolerance for the violence committed against the Serbian population created a feeling of superiority in the lower strata of Albanian society. The knowledge that no matter what the offense they would not be held responsible, encouraged ethnic Albanians to ignore all the lesser authorities. Social stratification resulted on increasing number of renegades who lived solely off banditry or as outlaws. The policy of failing to punish ethnic Albanians led to total anarchy which, escaping all control, increasingly worried the authorities in Constantinople. Anarchy received fresh impetus at the end of the 19th century when Austria-Hungary, seeking a way to expand towards the Bay of Salonika, encouraged ethnic Albanians to clash with the Serbs and disobey the local authorities. Ruling circles in Vienna saw the ethnic Albanians as a permanent wedge between the two Serbian states and, with the collapse of the system of Turkish rule, a bridge enabling the Dual Monarchy to extend in the Vardar valley. Thus, Kosovo and Metohia became the hub of great power confrontation for supremacy in the Balkans.

The only protection for the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia until the end of 1880s came from Russian diplomats, Russia being the traditional guardian of the Orthodox and Slav population in the Ottoman Empire Russia’s waning influence in the Balkans following the Congress of Berlin had an unfavorable impact on the Serbs in Turkey. Owing to Milan and Alexander Obrenovic’s Austrophile policy, Serbia lost valuable Russian support at the Porte in its efforts to protect Serbian population In Kosovo and Metohia, Serbs were regarded as a rebellious, treasonous element, every move they made was carefully watched and any signs of rebellion were ruthlessly punished. A military tribunal was established in Pristina in 1882 which in its five years of work sent hundreds of national leaders to prison.

The persistent efforts of Serbian officials to reach agreement with ethnic Albanian tribal chiefs in Kosovo and Metohia, and thus help curb the anarchy failed to stem the tide of violence. Belgrade officials did not get a true picture of the persecutions until a Serbian consulate was opened in Pristina in 1889, five centuries after a battle in Kosovo. The government was informed that ethnic Albanians were systematically mounting attacks on a isolated Serbian villages and driving people to eriction with treats and murders: “Go to Serbia -you can’t survive here!”. The assassination of the first Serbian Consul in the streets of Pristina revealed the depth of ethnic Albanian intolerance. Until 1905, not a single Serbian diplomat from Pristina could visit the town of Pec or tour Metohia, the hotbed of the anarchy. Consuls in Pristina (who included the well-known writers Branislav Nusic and Milan M. Rakic) wrote, aside to their regular reports, indepth descriptions of the situation in Kosovo and Metohia. Serbia’s sole diplomatic success was the election of a Serbian candidate as the Raska-Prizren Metropolitan in 1896, following a series of anti-Serbian orientated Greek Bishops who had been enthroned in Prizren since 1830.

Outright campaigns of terror were mounted after a Greaco-Turkish war in 1897, when it appeared that the Serbs would suffer the same fate as the Armenians in Asia Minor whom the Kurds had wiped out with blessing from the sultan. Serbian diplomats launched a campaign at the Porte for the protection of their compatriots, submitting extensive documentation on four hundred crimes of murder, blackmail, theft, rape, seizure of land, arson of churches. They demanded that energetic measures be taken against the perpetrators and that the investigation be carried out by a joint Serbo-Turkish committee. But, without the support of Russia, the whole effort came to naught. The prime minister of Serbia observed with resignation that 60,000 people had fled Old Serbia for Serbia in the period from 1880 to 1889. In Belgrade, a Blue Book was printed for the 1899 Peace Conference in the Hague, containing diplomatic correspondence on acts of violence committed by ethnic Albanians in Old Serbia, but Austria-Hungary prevented Serbian diplomats from raising the question before the international public. In the ensuing years the Serbian government attempted to secretly supply Serbs in Kosovo with arms. The first larger caches of guns were discovered, and 190l saw another pogrom in Ibarski Kolasin (northern Kosovo), which ended only when Russian diplomats intervened.

The widespread anarchy reached a critical point in 1902 when the Serbian government with the support of Montenegrin diplomacy again raised the issue of the protection of the Serbs in Turkey, demanding that the law be applied equally to all subjects of Empire, and that an end be put to the policy of indulging ethnic Albanians, that they be disarmed and that Turkish garrisons be reinforced in areas with a mixed Serbian-ethnic Albanian population. Russia, and then France, supported Serbia’s demands. The two most interested parties, Austria-Hungary and Russia, agreed in 1897 to maintain the status quo in the Balkans, although they initiated a reform plan to rearrange Turkey’s European provinces. Fearing for their privileges, ethnic Albanians launched a major uprising in 1903; it began with new assaults against Serbs and ended with the assassination of the newly appointed Russian consul in Mitrovica, accepted as a protector of the Serbs in Kosovo.

The 1903 restoration of democracy in Serbia under new King Petar I Karadjordjevic marked an end to Austrophile policy and the turning towards Russia. In response, Austria-Hungary stepped up its propaganda efforts among ethnic Albanians. At the request of the Dual Monarchy, Kosovo and Metohia were exempt from the Great Powers Reform action (1903-1908). A new wave of persecution ensued: in 1904,108 people fled for Serbia from Kosovo alone. Out of 146 different cases of violence, 46 ended in murder; a group of ethnic Albanians raped a seven-year-old girl. In 1905, out of 281 registrated cases of violence, 65 were murders, and at just one wedding, ethnic Albanians killed nine wedding guests.

The Young Turk revolution in 1908, which ended the “Age of Oppression” (as Turkish historiography refers to the reign of Abdulhamid II), brought no changes in relations between ethnic Albanians and Serbs. The Serbs’ first political organization was created under the auspices of the Young Turk regime, but the ethnic Albanian revolt against the new authorities’ pan-Turkish policy triggered off a fresh wave of violence. In the second half of 1911 alone, Old Serbia registrated 128 cases of theft, 35 acts of arson, 41 instances of banditry, 53 cases of extortion, 30 instances of blackmail, 19 cases of intimidation, 35 murders, 37 attempted murders, 58 armed attacks on property, 27 fights and cases of abuse, 13 attempts at Islamization, and 18 cases of the infliction of serious bodily injury. Approximately 400,000 people fled Old Serbia (Kosovo, Metohia, Raska, northern and northwest Macedonia) for Serbia ahead of ethnic Albanian and Turkish violence, and about 150,000 people fled Kosovo and Metohia, a third of the overall Serbian population in these parts. Despite the persecution and the steady outflow of people. Serbs still accounted for almost half the population in Kosovo and Metohia in 1912. According to Jovan Cvijic’s findings, published in 1911, there were 14,048 Serbian homes in Kosovo, 3, 826 in Pec and its environs, and 2,400 Serbian homes with roughly 200,000 inhabitants in the Prizren region. Comparing this statistics dating from the middle of the century, when there were approximately 400,000 Serbs living in Kosovo and Metohia, Cvijic’s estimate that by 1912 about 150,000 refugees had fled to Serbia seems quite acceptable.

The Serbian and Montenegrin governments aided the ethnic Albanian rebels against Young Turks up to a point: they took in refugees and gave them arms with a view to undermining Turkish rule in the Balkans, dispelling Austro-Hungarian influence on their leaders and curbing the violence against Serbs. But it was all in vain as intolerance for the Serbs ran deep in all Albanian national movements. Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Greece realized that the issue of Christian survival in Turkey had to be resolved by arms. Since Turkey refused to guarantee the Christians the same rights it had promised the ethnic Albanian insurgents, the Balkan allies declared war in the fall of 1912.


Source: http://nokosovounesco.com/the-age-of-oppression/

Gazimestan 2

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Kosovo history – Fourth part



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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 army in Serbia after the fall of Belgrade in 1688 prompted the Serbs to join it. Thanks to the support of Serbian insurgents, the imperial troops penetrated deep into Serbia and in 1689 conquered Nis: a special Serbian militia was formed as a separate corps of the imperial troops.

After setting fire to Skoplje (Uskub), which was raging with plague, the commander of Austrian troops Ennea Silviae Piccolomini withdrew to Prizren where he was greeted by 20,000 Serbian insurgents, and with whom he reached an accord on fighting the Turks with joint forces. Shortly afterwards, Piccollomini died of the plague, and his successors failed to prevent their troops from marauding the surrounding regions. Disappointed by the conduct of the Christian troops from which they had expected decisive support, the Serbian insurgents abandoned the agreed alliance. Patriarch Arsenije III Crnojevic tried in vain to arrive at a new agreement with the Austrian generals. The restorer of the Ottoman Empire, Grand Vizier Mustafa-Pasha Koporilli, an Albanian by origin, took advantage of the lull in military operations, mustered Crimean Tatars and Islamized Albanians and mounted a major campaign. Despite assurances of help, Catholic Albanian tribes deserted the Austrian army on the eve of the decisive clash at Kacanik in Kosovo, on January 1690. The Serbian militia, resisting the Sultan’s superior hordes, retreated to the west and north of the country.

Turkish retaliation, in which the Serbian infidels were raided and viciously massacred lasted a three full months. The towns of Prizren, Pec, Pristina, Vucitrn and Mitrovica were hit the worst, and Serbs from Novo Brdo retreated from the Tatar saber. Fleeing from the brutal reprisal, the people of Kosovo and the neighboring areas moved northwards with Patriarch Arsenije III. The decision to end the massacre and declare an amnesty came belately as much of the population had already fled for safer areas, moving towards the Sava River and Belgrade. Other parts of Serbia were also targets of ghastly reprisals. In the Belgrade pashalik alone, the number of taxpayers dropped eightfold. Grand old monasteries were looted from Pec Patriarchate to Gracanica, and the Albanian tribe Gashi pillaged the Decani monastery, killing the prior and seizing the monastery’s best estates.

At the invitation of emperor Leopold I, Patriarch Arsenije III led part of the high clergy and a sizeable part of the refugees (tens of thousands of people) to the Habsburg Empire to the territory of southern Hungary, having received assurances that the Serbs would there be granted special political and religious status. Many Serbs from Kosovo and Metohia followed him. The new churches built along the Danube they named after those left in old homeland.

The Great 1690 Migration was a important turning point in the history of the Serbs. In Kosovo and Metohia alone, towns and some villages were abandoned to the last inhabitant. The population was also decimated by the plague, whatever remained after the Turkish troops. The physical extermination along with the mass exodus, the burning of grand monasteries and their rich treasuries and libraries, the death and murder of a large number of monks and clergy wreaked havoc in these regions. The position of the Pec Patriarchate was badly shaken; its highest clergy went with the people to Austria, and the confusion wrought by the Great Migration had a major influence on its abolition (1766).

The hardest consequence of the Great Migration was demographic upheaval it caused, because once the Serbs withdraw from Kosovo and Metohia, Islamized Albanian tribes from the northern highlands started settling the area in greater number, mostly by force, in the decade following the 1690 Great Migration of Serbs, ethnic Albanian tribes (given their incredible powers of reproduction) was posing a grave threat to the biological survival of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia. Colonies set up by the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, Metohia and the neighboring areas provoked a fresh Serbian migration toward the north, encouraged the process of conversion and upset the centuries-old ethnic balance in those areas. Supported (depending on circumstances) by the Turks and the Roman Curia, ethnic Albanians, abyding by their tribal customs and hajduk insubordination to the law, in the coming centuries turned the entire region of Kosovo and Metohia into a bloody battleground, marked by tribal and feudal anarchy. The period following the Great Migration of Serbia marked the commencement of three centuries of ethnic Albanian genocide against Serbs in their native land.

The century after the Great Migration saw a fresh exodus of the Serbs from Kosovo and Metohia, and a growing influence of ethnic Albanians on political circumstances. Ethnic Albanians used the support they received from the Turkish army in fighting Serbian insurgents to seize the ravaged land and abandoned mining centers in Kosovo and Metohia and to enter in large numbers the Ottoman administration and military. More and more Catholic ethnic-Albanians converted to Islam, thereby acquiring the right to retain the estates they had seized and to apply the might-is-right principle in their dealings with the non-Muslim Serbs. The authorities encouraged and assisted the settlement of the newly Islamized ethnic-Albanian tribes from the mountains to the fertile lands devastated by war. The dissipation of the Turkish administrative system encouraged the ethnic-Albanian colonisation of Kosovo and Metohia, since with the arrival of more of their fellow tribesmen and compatriots, the local pashas and beys (most of whom were ethnic Albanian) acquired strong tribal armies which in times of trouble helped them hold on to their position and illegally pass on their power to their descendents. The missionaries of the Roman Curia did not heed to preserve the small ethnic Albanian Catholic population, but endeavoured instead to inflict as much harm as possible on the Pec Patriarchate and its dignitaries, and, with the help of bribable pashas, to undermine the cohesive power of Serbian Orthodoxy in these areas.

The next war between Austria and Turkey (1716-1718) marked the beginning of a fresh persecution in Kosovo and Metohia. Austrian troops, backed by Serbian volunteers, reached the Western Morava River where they established a new frontier. Ethnic Albanians collectively guaranteed to the Porte the safety of the regions in the immediate vicinity of Austria, and were in return exempted from the heaviest taxes. Towards the end of the war (1717), a major Serbian uprising broke out in Vucitrn and its surroundings: it was brutally crushed and the troops sent to allay the rayah and launch an investigation, perpetrated fresh atrocities. Excessive dues, robbery and the threat of extermination put before the Kosovo Serbs the choices of either converting to Islam or finding a powerful master who would protect them if they accepted the status of serfs. Many opted for a third solution: they moved to surrounding regions where life was more tolerable.

The following war between Austria and Turkey (1737-1739) ended with the routing of the imperial troops from Serbian territory. The border was reestablished at the Sava and Danube rivers, and Serbs set out on another migration. Patriarch Arsenije IV Jovanovic, along with the religious and national leaders of Pec, drew up a plan for cooperation with the Austrian forces, and contacted their commanders. A large-scale uprisings broke out again in Kosovo and Metohia, engaging some 10.000 Serbs. They were joined by Montenegrin tribes, and Austrian envoys even stirred up the Kliments, a Catholic tribe from northern Albania. A Serbian militia was formed again, but the Austrian troops and insurgenta were forced to retreat in the face of superior Turkish power: reprisals ensued, bringing death to the insurgents and their families. Serbs withdrew from the mining settlements around Janjevo, Pristina, Novo Brdo and Kopaonik. In order to keep the remaining populace on the land, the Turks declared an amnesty. After the fall of Belgrade, Arsenije IV moved to Austria. The number of refugees from Serbia, including Kosovo and Metohia, along with some Kliments has yet to be accurately determined, as people were moving on all sides and the process lasted for several months. The considerably reduced number of taxpayers in Kosovo and Metohia and in other parts of Serbia points to a strong migratory wave.

siptarska devojcica i natpis u Djakovici smrtUnrest in the Ottoman empire helped spread anarchy in Kosovo and Metohia and rest of Serbia. Raids, murder, rape against the unarmed population was largely committed by ethnic Albanian outlaws, who were now numerically superior in many regions. Outlaw bands held controll over roads during Turkey’s war with Russia (1768-1774), when lawlessness reigned throughout Serbia. Ethnic Albanian outlaws looted and fleeced other regions as well, which sent local Muslims complaining to the Porte seeking protection.

During the last Austro-Turkish war (1788-1791), a sweeping popular movement again took shape in northern Serbia. Because of the imperial forces swift retreat, the movement did not encompass the southern parts of Serbia: Kosovo, Metohia and present-day northern Macedonia. The peace treaty of Sistovo (1791) envisaged a general amnesty for the Serbs, but the ethnic Albanians, as outlaws or soldiers in the detachments of local pashas, continued unhindered to assault the unprotected Serbian population. The wave of religious intolerance towards Orthodox population, which acquired greater proportion owing to the hostilities with Russia at the end of 18th century, effected the forced conversion to Islam of a larger number of Serbian families. The abolition of the Pec Patriarchate (1766), whose see and rich estates were continually sought after by local ethnic Albanian pashas and beys, prompted the final wave of extensive Islamization in Kosovo and Metohia.

Those who suffered the most during these centuries of utter lawlessness were the Serbs, unreliable subjects who would rise every time the Turks would wage war against one of the neighboring Great Powers, and whose patriarchs led the people to enemy land. Although initially on a small scale, the Islamization of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia began before the penetration of ethnic Albanians. More widespread conversion to Islam took place in the 17th and the first half of 18th centuries, when ethnic Albanians began to wield more influence on political events in these regions. Many Serbs accepted Islamization as a necessary evil, waiting for the moment when they could revert to the faith of their ancestors, but most of them never lived to see that day. The first few generations of Islamized Serbs preserved their language and observed their old customs (especially slava – the family patron saint day, and the Easter holiday). But several generations later, owing to a strong ethnic Albanian environment, they gradually began adopting the Albanian dress to safety, and outside their narrow family circle they spoke the Albanian language. Thus came into being a special kind of social mimicry which enabled converts to survive. Albanization began only when Islamized Serbs, who were void of national feeling, married girls from ethnic Albanian tribal community. For a long time Orthodox Serbs called their Albanized compatriots Arnautasi, until the memory of their Serbian origin waned completely, though old customs and legends about their ancestors were passed on from one generation to the next.

For a long time the Arnautasi felt neither like Turks nor ethnic Albanians, because their customs and traditions set them apart, and yet they did not feel like Serbs either, who considered Orthodoxy to be their prime national trait. Many Arnautasi retained their old surnames until the turn of the last century. In Drenica the Arnautasi bore such surnames as Dokic, Velic, Marusic, Zonic, Racic, Gecic, which unquestionably indicated their Serbian origin. The situation was similar in Pec and its surroundings where many Islamized and Albanized Serbs carries typically Serbian surnames: Stepanovic, Bojkovic, Dekic, Lekic, Stojkovic, etc. The eastern parts of Kosovo and Metohia, with their compact Serbian settlements, were the last to undergo Islamization. The earliest Islamization in Upper Morava and Izmornik is pinpointed as taking place in the first decades of the 18th century, and the latest in 1870s. Toponyms in many ethnic Albanian villages in Kosovo show that Serbs had lived there the preceding centuries, and in some places Orthodox cemeteries were shielded against desecrators by ethnic Albanians themselves, because they knew that the graves of their own ancestors lay there.

In the late 18th century, all the people of Gora, the mountain region near Prizren were converted to Islam. However they succeeded in preserving their language and avoiding Albanization. There were also some cases of conversion of Serbs to Islam in the second half of 19th century, especially during the Crimean War, again to save their lives, honor and property, though far more pronounced at the time was the process of emigration, since families, sometimes even entire villages, fled to Serbia or Montenegro. Extensive anthropogeographic research indicates that about 30% of the present-day ethnic Albanian population of Kosovo and Metohia is of Serbian origin.


Source: http://nokosovounesco.com/the-age-of-migrations-serbs/

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Kosovo: An evil little war



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Six Years Later, Kosovo Still Wrong

In the early hours of March 24, 1999, NATO began the bombing of what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. For some reason, many in the targeted nation thought the name of the operation was “Merciful Angel.” In fact, the attack was code-named “Allied Force” – a cold, uninspired and perfectly descriptive moniker. For, however much NATO spokesmen and the cheerleading press spun, lied, and fabricated to show otherwise (unfortunately, with altogether too much success), there was nothing noble in NATO’s aims. It attacked Yugoslavia for the same reason then-Emperor Bill Clinton enjoyed a quickie in the Oval Office: because it could.

Most of the criticism of the 1999 war has focused on its conduct (targeting practices, effects, “collateral damage”) and consequences. But though the conduct of the war by NATO was atrocious and the consequences have been dire and criminal, none of that changes the fact that by its very nature and from the very beginning, NATO’s attack was a war of aggression: illegal, immoral, and unjust; not “unsuccessful” or “mishandled,” but just plain wrong.

Illegal

There is absolutely no question that the NATO attack in March 1999 was illegal. Article 2, section 4 of the UN Charter clearly says:

“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

Some NATO members tried to offer justification. London claimed the war was “justified” as a means of preventing a “humanitarian catastrophe,” but offered no legal grounds for such a claim. Paris tried to create a tenuous link with UNSC resolutions 1199 and 1203, which Belgrade was supposedly violating. However, NATO had deliberately bypassed the UN, rendering this argument moot.

Article 53 (Chapter VIII) of the UN Charter clearly says that:

“The Security Council shall, where appropriate, utilize such regional arrangements or agencies for enforcement action under its authority. But no enforcement action shall be taken under regional arrangements or by regional agencies without the authorization of the Security Council.” (emphasis added)

Furthermore, Article 103 (Chapter XVI) asserts its primacy over any other regional agreement, so NATO’s actions would have been illegal under the UN Charter even if the Alliance had an obligation to act in Kosovo. Even NATO’s own charter – the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949 – was violated by the act of war in March 1999:

“Article 1

“The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle any international dispute in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations. […]

“Article 7

“This Treaty does not affect, and shall not be interpreted as affecting in any way the rights and obligations under the Charter of the Parties which are members of the United Nations, or the primary responsibility of the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security.” (emphasis added)

The attack violated other laws and treaties as well: the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 (violating the territorial integrity of a signatory state) and the 1980 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (using coercion to compel a state to sign a treaty – i.e., the Rambouillet ultimatum).

Yugoslavia had not attacked any NATO members, nor indeed threatened the security of any other country in the region; it was itself under an attack by a terrorist, irredentist organization. What NATO did on March 24, 1999 was an act of aggression, a crime against peace.

Illegitimate

Perfectly aware that the bombing was illegal, NATO leaders tried to create justifications for it after the fact. They quickly seized upon a mass exodus of Albanians from Kosovo, describing it as “ethnic cleansing” and even “genocide.” But as recent testimonies of Macedonian medical workers who took care of Albanian refugees suggest, the Western press was engaging in crude deceit, staging images of suffering refugees and peddling the most outrageous tall tales as unvarnished truth.

Stories abounded of mass murder, orchestrated expulsions, mass rapes, seizure of identity papers, even crematoria and mine shafts filled with dead bodies. Little or no evidence was offered – and not surprisingly, none found afterwards. The stories were part of a Big Lie, aimed to justify the intervention, concocted by professional propagandists, and delivered by the KLA-coached refugees. The KLA ran every camp in Macedonia and Albania, and there are credible allegations they organized the exodus in many instances. Albanians who did not play along were killed.

Eventually, the “genocide” and other atrocity stories were debunked as propaganda. But they had served their purpose, conjuring a justification for the war at the time. They had allowed NATO and its apologists to claim the war – though “perhaps” illegal – was a moral and legitimate affair. But there should be no doubt, it was neither.

Unjust

Even if one can somehow gloss over the illegal, illegitimate nature of the war and the lies it was based on, would the war still not be justified, if only because it led to the return of refugees? Well, which refugees? Certainly, many Kosovo Albanians – and quite a few from Albania, it appears – came back, only to proceed to cleanse it systematically of everyone else. Jews, Serbs, Roma, Turks, Ashkali, Gorani, no community was safe from KLA terror, not even the Albanians themselves. Those suspected of “collaborating” were brutally murdered, often with entire families.

According to the Catholic doctrine of “just war,” a war of aggression cannot be just. Even if one somehow fudges the issue, “the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.”

The evil conjured by NATO’s and KLA’s propaganda machine was indeed grave. But it was not real. In contrast, what took place after the war – i.e., under the NATO/KLA occupation – is amply documented. At the beginning of NATO’s aggression, there were fewer dead, fewer refugees, less destruction, and more order than at any time since the beginning of the occupation. NATO has replaced a fabricated evil with a very real evil of its own.

Monument to Evil

What began six years ago may have been Albright’s War on Clinton’s watch, but both Albright and Clinton have been gone from office for what amounts to a political eternity. For four years now, the occupation of Kosovo has continued with the blessing – implicit or otherwise – of Emperor Bush II, who launched his own illegal war in Iraq. Kosovo is not a partisan, but an imperial issue; that is why there has been virtually no debate on it since the first missiles were fired.

Six years to the day since NATO aircraft began their onslaught, Kosovo is a chauvinistic, desolate hellhole. Serbian lives, property, culture, and heritage been systematically destroyed, often right before the eyes of NATO “peacekeepers.” Through it all, Imperial officials, Albanian lobbyists, and various presstitutes have been working overtime to paint a canvas that would somehow cover up the true horror of occupation.

Their “liberated” Kosovo represents everything that is wrong about the world we live in. It stands as a monument to the power of lies, the successful murder of law, and the triumph of might over justice. Such a monument must be torn down, or else the entire world may end up looking like Kosovo sometime down the line. If that’s what the people in “liberal Western democracies” are willing to see happen, then their civilization is well and truly gone.


By Nebojsa Malic

25-03-2005

Source: Antiwar.com

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Kosovo: An evil little war (almost) all US candidates liked



NATO missiles and warplanes attacked military targets across Serbia including Kosovo ©

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Kosovo history – Third part



Gazimestan 2

For the Serbs as Christians, their loss of state independence and fall to the Ottoman Empire’s kind of theocratic state, was a terrible misfortune. With the advent of the Turks and establishment of their rule, the lands of Serbs were forcibly excluded from the circle of progressive European states wherein they occupied a prominent place precisely owing to the Byzantine civilization, which was enhanced by local qualities and strong influences of the neighboring Mediterranean states. Being Christians, the Serbs became second-class citizens in Islamic state. Apart from religious discrimination, which was evident in all spheres of everyday life, this status of rayah also implied social dependence, as most of the Serbs were landless peasants who paid the prescribed feudal taxes. Of the many dues paid in money, labor and kind, the hardest for the Serbs was having their children taken as tribute under a law that had the healthy boys, taken from their parents, converted to Islam and trained to serve in the janissary corps of the Turkish army.

An analysis of the earliest Turkish censuses, defters, shows that the ethnic picture of Kosovo and Metohia did not alter much during the 14th and 15th centuries. The small-in-number Turkish population consisted largely of people from the administration and military that were essential in maintaining order, whereas Christians continued to predominate in the rural areas. Kosovo and parts of Metohia were registrated in 1455 under the name Vilayeti Vlk, after Vuk Brankovic who once ruled over them. Some 75,000 inhabitants lived in 590 registered villages. An onomastic analysis of approximately 8,500 personal names shows that Slav and Christian names were heavily predominant.

Along with the Decani Charter, the register of the Brankovic region shows a clear division between old-Serbian and old-ethnic Albanian onomastics, allowing one to say, with some certainty which registrated settlement was Serbian, and which ethnically mixed. Ethnic designations (ethnic Albanian, Bulgarian, Armenian, Greek) appeared repeatedly next to the names of settlers in the region. More thorough onomastic research has shown that from the mid-14th to the 15th centuries, individual Albanian settlements appeared on the fringes of Metohia, in-between what had until then been a density of Serbian villages. This was probably due to the devastation wrought by Turks who destroyed the old landed estates, thus allowing for the mobile among the population, including ethnic Albanian cattlemen, to settle on the abandoned land and establish their settlements, which were neither big nor heavily populated.

A summary census of the houses and religious affiliations of inhabitants in the Vucitrn district (sanjak), which encompassed the one-time Brankovic lands, was drawn in 1487, showed that the ethnic situation had not altered much. Christian households predominated (totaling 16,729, out of which 412 were in Pristina and Vucitrn): there were 117 Muslim households (94 in Pristina and 83 in rural areas). A comprehensive census of the Scutari district offers the following picture: in Pec (Ipek) there were 33 Muslim and 121 Christian households, while in Suho Grlo, also in Metohia, Christians alone lived in 131 households. The number of Christians (6,124) versus Muslim (55) homes in the rural areas shows that 1% of the entire population bowed to the faith of the conqueror. An analysis of the names shows that those of Slav origin predominated among the Christians. In Pec, 68% of the population bore Slav names, in the Suho Grlo region 52%, in Donja Klina region 50% and around monastery of Decani 64%.

Ethnic Albanian settlements where people had characteristic names did not appear until one reached areas outside the borders of what is today Metohia, i.e. west of Djakovica. According to Turkish sources, in the period from 1520 to 1535 only 700 of the total number of 19,614 households in the Vucitrn district were Muslim (about 3,5%), and 359 (2%)in Prizren district.

In regions extending beyond the geographic borders of Kosovo and Metohia, in the Scutari and Dukagjin districts, Muslims accounted for 4,6% of the population. According to an analysis of the names in the Dukagjin district’s census, ethnic Albanian settlements did not predominate until one reached regions south of Djakovica, and the ethnic picture in the 16th century in Prizren and the neighboring areas remained basically unchanged.

A look at the religious affiliation of the urban population shows a rise in the Turkish and local Islamized population. In Prizren, Kosovo’s biggest city, Muslims accounted for 56% of the households, of which the Islamized population accounted for 21%. The ratio was similar in Pristina, where out of the 54% Muslim population 16% were converts. Pec also had a Muslim majority (90%), as did Vucitrn (72%). The Christians compromised the majority of the population in the mining centers of Novo Brdo (62%), Trepca (77%), Donja Trepca and Belasica (85%). Among the Christians was a smattering of Catholics. The Christian names were largely from the calendar, and to a lesser extent Slav (Voja, Dabiziv, Cvetko, Mladen, Stojko), and there were some that were typically ethnic Albanian (Prend, Don, Din, Zoti).

After the fall of Serbia in 1459, the Pec Patriarchate soon ceased to work and the Serbian eparchies came under the jurisdiction of the Hellenic Ochrid Archbishophoric. In the first decade following Turkish conquest, many large endowments and wealthier churches were pillaged and destroyed, while some turned into mosques. The Our Lady of Ljeviska Cathedral in Prizren was probably converted into a mosque right immediately following the conquest of the town; Banjska, one of the grandest monasteries dating from the age of King Milutin, suffered the same fate. The Church of the Holy Archangels near Prizren, Stefan Dusan’s chief endowment was turned into ruins. Most of the monasteries and churches were left unrenewed after being devastated, and many village churches were abandoned. Many were not restored until after the liberation of Kosovo and Metohia in 1912. Archeological findings have shown that some 1,300 monasteries, churches and other monuments existed in the Kosovo and Metohia area. The magnitude of the havoc wrought can be seen from the earliest Turkish censuses: In the 15th and 16th centuries there were ten to fourteen active places of Christian worship. At first the great monasteries like Decani and Gracanica, were exempt from destruction, but their wealthy estates were reduced to a handfull of surrounding villages. The privileges granted the monastic brotherhoods by the sultans obliged them to perform the service of falconry as well.

sokolovici-mehmed-pasa-i-makarije-713x454Two brothers of different faith and historical roles – Patriarch Makarije Sokolovic and his relative (a brother) Mehmed Pasha Sokollu (who was taken as a little child by Turks to be a yannisar)

The restoration of the Pec Patriarchate in 1557 (thanks to Mehmed-pasha Sokolovic, a Serb by origin, at the time the third vizier at the Porte) marked a major turn and helped revive the spiritual life of the Serbs, especially in Kosovo and Metohia. Mehmed-pasha Sokolovic (Turkish: Sokollu) enthroned his relative Makarije Sokolovic on the patriarchal throne. Like the great reform movements in 16th century Europe, the restoration of the Serbian Orthodox Church meant the rediscovery of lost spiritual strongholds. Thanks to the Patriarchate, Kosovo and Metohia were for the next two centuries again the spiritual and political center of the Serbs. On an area vaster than the Nemanjic empire, high-ranking ecclesiastical dignitaries revived old and created new eparchies endeavoring to reinforce the Orthodox faith which had been undermined by influences alien (particularly by Islamic Bekteshi order of dervishes) to its authentic teachings.

Based on the tradition of the medieval Serbian state, the Pec Patriarchate revived old and established new cults of the holy rulers, archbishops, martyrs and warriors, lending life to the Nemanjic heritage. The feeling of religious and ethnic solidarity was enhanced by joint deliberation at church assemblies attended by the higher and lower clergy, village chiefs and hajduk leaders, and by stepping up a morale on the traditions of Saint Sava but suited to the new conditions and strong patriarchal customs renewed after the Turkish conquest in the village communities.

The spiritual rebirth was reflected in the restoration of deserted churches and monasteries: some twenty new churches were built in Kosovo and Metohia alone, inclusive of printing houses (the most important one was at Gracanica): many old and abandoned churches were redecorated with frescoes.6

Serbian patriarchs and bishops gradually took over the role of the one-time rulers, endeavoring with assistance from the neighboring Christian states of Habsburg Empire and the Venetian Republic, to incite the people to rebel. Plans for overthrowing the Turks and re-establishing an independent Serbian state sprang throughout the lands from the Adriatic to the Danube. The patriarchs of Pec, often learned men and able politicians, were usually the ones who initiated and coordinated efforts at launching popular uprisings when the right moment came. Patriarch Jovan failed to instigate a major rebellion against the Turks, seeking the alliance of the European Christian powers assembled around Pope Clement VII. Patriarch Jovan was assassinated in Constantinople in 1614. Patriarch Gavrilo Rajic lived the same fate in 1659 after going to Russia to seek help in instigating a revolt.

The least auspicious conditions for an uprising were actually in Kosovo and Metohia itself. In the fertile plains, the non-Muslim masses labored under the yoke of the local Turkish administrators, continually threatened by marauding tribes from the Albanian highlands. The crisis that overcome the Ottoman Empire in the late 16th century further aggrovated the position of the Serbs in Kosovo, Metohia and neighboring regions. Rebellions fomented by cattle-raising tribes in Albania and Montenegro, and the punitive expeditions sent to deal with them turned Kosovo and Metohia into a bloody terrain where Albanian tribes, kept clashing with detachments of the local authorities, plundered Christian villages along the way. Hardened by constant clashes with the Turks, Montenegro gradually picked up the torch of defending Serbian Orthodoxy; meanwhile, in northern Albania, particularly in Malesia, a reverse process was under way. Under steady pressure from the Turkish authorities, the Islamization of ethnic Albanian tribes became more widespread and the process assumed broader proportions when antagonistic strivings grew within the Ottoman Empire in the late 17th and early 18th century.

Novo_Brdo_Serbia1The ruins of the Ancient Novo Brdo Basilica – Novo Brdo was one of the major medieval cities in Kosovo. In the 14th century the population of Novo Brdo was greater than London

It is not until the end of the 17th century that the colonization of Albanian tribes in Kosovo and Metohia can be established. Reports by contemporary Catholic visitators show that the ethnic border between the Serbs and Albanians still followed the old dividing lines of the Black and White Drim rivers. All reports on Kosovo and Metohia regard them as being in Serbia: for the Catholic visitors, Prizren was still its capital city. In Albania, the first wave of Islamization swept the feudal strata and urban population. Special tax and political alleviations encouraged the rural population to convert to Islam in larger number. Instead of being part of the oppressed non-Muslim masses, the converts became a privileged class of Ottoman society, with free access to the highest positions in the state. In Kosovo and Metohia, where they moved to avoid heavy taxes, Catholic tribes of Malesia converted to Islam. Conversion to Islam in a strongly Orthodox environment rendered them the desired privileges (the property of Orthodox and of the Catholics) and saved them from melting with Serbian Orthodox population. It was only with the process of Islamization that the ethnic Albanian colonisation of lands inhabited by Serbs became expansive.

The ethnic picture of Kosovo did not radically change in the first centuries of Ottoman rule. Islamization encompassed part of a Serbian population, although the first generations at least, converted as a mere formality, to avoid heavy financial burdens and constant political pressure. Conversion constituted the basis of Ottoman policy in the Balkans but it was les successfull in Kosovo and Metohia, regions with the strongest religious traditions, than in other Christian areas. The Turks’ strong reaction to rebellions throughout the Serbian lands and to the revival of Orthodoxy, embodied in the cult of Saint Sava, the founder of the independent Serbian church, ended in setting fire to the Mileseva monastery the burial place of the first Serbian saint. The Turks burned his wonder working relics in Belgrade in 1594, during a great uprising of Serbs in southern Banat. This triggered off fresh waves of Islamization accompanied by severe reprisals and the thwarting of any sign of rebellion.

Apart from Islamization, Kosovo and Metohia became the target of proselytizing Catholic missionaries at the end of 17th century, especially after the creation of the Sacra Congregazione de Propaganda Fide (1622). The ultimate aim of the Roman Catholic propaganda was to converts the Orthodox to Graeco-Catholicism as the initial phase in completely converting them to the Catholic faith. The appeals of patriarchs of Pec to the Roman popes to help the liberatory aspirations of the Serbs were met with the condition that they renounce the Orthodox faith. In spreading the Catholicism, the missionaries of the Roman Curia had the support of local Turkish authorities; a considerable number of the missionaries were of Albanian origin. Consequently, the propagators of Catholic proselytism persisted in inciting Catholic and Muslim Albanians against the Serbs, whose loyalty to Orthodoxy and their medieval traditions was the main obstacle to the spreading of the Catholic faith in the central and southern regions of the Balkans.9

Catholic propaganda attempts at separating the high clergy of the Serbian Orthodox Church from the people prompted the Pec Patriarchate to revive old and create a new cults with even greater vigor. In 1642 Patriarch Pajsije, who was born in Janjevo, Kosovo, wrote The Service and The Life of the last Nemanjic, the Holy Tsar Uros, imbuing old literary forms with new content reflecting the contemporary moment. By introducing popular legends (which gradually took shape),into classical hagiography Patriarch Pajsije strove to establish a new cult of saints which would have a beneficial impact on his compatriots in preserving their faith.

Parallel with the Orthodox Church national policy in traditionally patriarchal societies, popular tales gradually matured into oral epic chronicles. Nurtured through epic poetry, which was sung to the accompaniment of the gusle, epic tales glorified national heroes and ruler, cultivating the spirit of non-subjugation and cherishing the hope in liberation from the Turkish yoke. Folk poems about the battle of Kosovo and its heroes, about the tragic fate of the last Nemanjices, the heroism of Prince Lazar and his knight Milos Obilic, and, especially, about Kraljevic Marko (King Marko Mrnjavcevic) as the faultless and dauntless legendary knight who was always defeating Turks and saving Serbs, were an expression not only of the tragic sense of life in which Turkish rule was a synonymous to evil, but a particular moral code that in time crystalized into a common attitude towards life, defined in the first centuries of Ottoman rule. The Serbian nation’s Kosovo covenant is embodied in the choice which, according to legend, was made by Prince Lazar on the eve of the battle of Kosovo. The choice of freedom in the kingdom of heaven instead of humiliation in the kingdom of earth constituted the Serbian nation’s spiritual stronghold. Prince Lazar’s refusal to resign to injustice and slavery, raised to the level of biblical drama, determined his unquenchable thirst for freedom. Together with the cult of Saint Sava, which grew into a common civilisational framework in everyday life, the Kosovo idea which, in time, gained universal meaning. With its wise policy the Patriarchate of Pec carefully built epic legend into the hagiography of old and new Serbian saints, glorifying their works in frescoes and icons.


Source: No Kosovo Unesco

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Kosovo history – Second part



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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 Brankovic, Hrebeljanovic, Music, Vojinovic, some of which were the inceptors of Serbian dynasties.

A great number of noble castles existed all over Kosovo with rich aristocratic life going on inside their walls. They were also meeting places of Serbian nobility and centers where important political and other decisions have been taken and places attended by foreign envoys and outstanding guests from noble foreign ruling families. Here are some of famous medieval castles: Svrcin, Pauni, Nerodimlja, Stimlje and many others. In Svrcin, for example, the famous Serbian Emperor Dusan was first crowned king in 1331, and Pauni, famous for its beauty, were favored place of king Milutin. In Pauni in 1342 Serbian Emperor Dusan had received Jovan VI Kantakuzin, one of the pretenders to the Byzantine throne at that time. Nerodimlja, with the fortress of Petric over the castle, was favorite residence of Stevan Decanski.It is in the Stimlje castle that king Uros issued his charges. In Ribnik, near Prizren, were the castles of Serbian Emperors Dusan and Uros.

The Serbian elite and minor nobility has built in these regions hundreds of smaller chapels and several dozens of monumental Christian monasteries. Some of them have been preserved to date, such as Patriarchy of Pec (since 1346 site of the Serbian Patriarch), Decani, Gracanica, Bogorodica Ljeviska, Banjska, Sveti Arhandjeli near Prizren and others. Serbian churches and monasteries had been for centuries owners of great complexes of fertile land. Metohia, the name originated from the Greek word metoh means church land. Highly developed economic life was an integral part of a high level of civilization attained in medieval Serbia. Prizren, for example, was a famous economic and commercial center, with developed silk production, fine crafts, and numerous settlements where the merchants from Kotor and Dubrovnik had their houses, and in 14 century, Prizren was the site of the consul from Dubrovnik for the whole Serbian State. And many other commercial centers such as Pristina, Pec, Hoca, Vucitrn, testify of the strength of highly developed economic life in these regions. Famous mining center were Trepca, Novo Brdo and Janjevo, out of which in the 15 century Novo Brdo had become one of the most important mining centers of the Balkans. Silver and gold were exported to the big European centers in great quantities. The Serbian society of the Middle Ages was in all respects identical to European social, economic and cultural developments of that time, much more integrated in Europe then it may seem when analyzed from the later perspective.

Turkish invasion means a fatal turning point in Serbian history in the second half of the 15 century. As known from history, the advance of the Turks towards Europe was a rather slow process. Prince Lazar Hrebeljanovic and Serbian nobility in the famous battle of Kosovo in 1389 did everything humanly possible to stop the Turkish invasion toward south eastern Europe. It was not only a clash of two armies led by their rulers Serbian prince Lazar and Turkish sultan Murat (who both perished in the battle of Kosovo), but also a clash of two civilizations, one Christian and European and other Islamic and Asiatic. Later on, in Serbian national conscience the battle of Kosovo has acquired mythical dimension of a crucial historical event, greatly affecting the consequence destiny of the whole Serbian nation. The Serbian epic poetry is very rich and the cycle of poems devoted to Kosovo are a pearl of that treasure and moral and psychological support to Serbian people during the centuries of forendous slavery under the Turks till the 19 century, and speaking of Kosovo and Metohia till 1912, when they were finally liberated from the Turks. This is the reason why in Serbian national poetry we find such a great number of representatives of Serbian nobility, of Serbian castles and outstanding Serbian monasteries from Kosovo and Metohia. Prizren, from example, in our national poetry is called the “Serbian Constantinople”. All topics connected with Kosovo are symbols of a high medieval civilizational level of the Serbian society and culture, its aristocratic wealth and glamour on the one hand, and on the other the fall of that civilization due to the violent and cruel blow of the Ottoman invaders.

The Turkish invasion of south eastern Europe and the Serbian lands as its part, have not only brought about the fall of Christian civilization, but are also responsible for the destruction of all social structures, the elimination of the Serbian elite and the destruction of the most outstanding cultural achievements. One part of Serbian nobility was killed, one part expelled to Asia, one part forced to take up Islam, and one part managed to emigrate north, west and across the Adriatic to Italy. Average people deprived from its leaders had no option but to stick to the traditional national values. It is thanks to the Orthodox Church which managed to revive its work in 1557 (renewal of the Patriarchy of Pec), that Serbian people kept alive the awareness of the medieval national state and high achievements of its civilization. Many medieval castles and towns were destroyed, many churches were raised to the ground , and some of them turn into the mosques. At the beginning of the 17 century, Sveti Arhandjeli (where emperor Dusan was buried), the monumental mausoleum of Emperor Dusan was totally destroyed, and the precious polished stone out of which the church was built was used for building the Sinan-pasa mosque, sill existing in Prizren to date. Bogorodica Ljeviska, the monumental legacy of King Milutin, in 1756 was turned into the mosque and only after the First World War it was again restored into a Christian church. Turkish invasion and the consequences of their conflict with Christian Europe, particularly since the siege of Vienna in 1683, had considerably changed the ethnic and demographic picture of that part of Serbia. The orthodox Serbs were the absolute majority population until the end of the 17 century, and before the First Migration of the Serbs in 1690, due to the defeat of the Christian Europe in the conflict with the Turks and the participation of the Serbs in that conflict of the side of Christian Europe. The Turks settled in towns, and the Albanians (at that time called Sqipetars) coming from the mountains of northern Albania of today started settling in smaller groups on Serbian land in bordering regions of Metohia.

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Until the 18th century, there are no Sqipetars (now called Albanians) in Kosovo and Metohia in bigger agglomerations. Actually, they began settling in this region in greater numbers only in the 18th and 19th century from today’s northern Albania. In addition to the newly settled Sqipetars (now called Albanians) who were mostly Muslims or converted to Islam soon after settling in Kosovo, it is also the Islamization of the Serbs that brought about great changes in the cultural environment of this region. Many of Islamized Serbs gradually fused with predominantly Albanian Moslems and adopted their culture and even language. At the beginning of the second half of the 19th century, the Turks also settled Cherkeses in this region. Despite of all these artificial demographic changes, Orthodox Serbs decreased for almost 50% of the total population living in Kosovo and Metohia. In the second half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century the Serbian middle class in Prizren, Pec, Pristina and other towns was the main driving force of the urban and economic development of the region . The news paper “Prizren” was published both in Serbian and Turkish language. In 1871 the Orthodox Theological School was founded in Prizren by Sima Igumanov. During the eighties and nineties a great number of new schools, cultural institutions and banks were founded.

It is during the Second World War, that the most drastic changes in the demographic picture of Kosovo took place. In Kosovo and Metohija the Albanian nationalists got free hand to terrorize the Serbs. Under such pressure estimated 75,000 Serbs left Kosovo. In their empty houses about the same number of Albanians from Albania settled. This definitely tipped the balance in the Albanian favour. The first official census in post-WWII Yugoslavia (in 1948) showed 199,961 Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo and 498,242.

After the Second World War, As a result of unbelievable demographic explosion Albanian population in Kosovo doubled by 1971. The official Yugoslav census for that year shows 916,168 Albanians living in Kosovo, while Serb and Montenegrin population reached only to number 259,819. This demographic trend clearly demonstrates that the theory of Serb repression over Albanians after the WWII is absolutely not correct. The truth is that the Communist authorities favorized the Albanians on the expense of Serbs allowing uncontrolled settlement of Albanian immigrants and tolerating different methods of ethnic discrimination over the Serbs which made more and more Serbs leave the province and seek better life in Central Serbia. By 1990ies more than 800 settlements in which Serbs lived with Albanians became ethnically clean Albanian villages.

In an attempt to prevent the secession of Kosovo and Metohija Serbian government in 1990 abolished Kosovo Albanian autonomy. A failure of Milosevic government to develop true democratic institutions instead and using the police methods to prevent Albanian secession even more increased ethnic Albanian wish to cut of from Serbia. When the KLA rebels began attacks on Serbs in 1998 the Government brought the army and police to put the rebellion down. In the course of the civil war – 1998-1999 which ended by the NATO intervention against Yugoslavia more than 500.000 Kosovo Albanians fled the province to Macedonia and Albania. After the war, despite the international presence, KLA organized persecutions of Serb population and more than 200.000 Serbs fled Kosovo and Metohija. Only 90.000 Serbs remained living in total isolation, dispersed in several KFOR protected Serb enclaves.


Source: No Kosovo Unesco

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Kosovo history – First part



Monah na rusevinama crkve

In the thousand year long-history of Serbs, Kosovo and Metohia were for many centuries the state center and chief religious stronghold, the heartland of their culture and springwell of its historical traditions. For a people who lived longer under foreign rule than in their own state, Kosovo and Metohia are the foundations on which national and state identity were preserved in times of tribulation and founded in times of freedom.

The Serbian national ideology which emerged out of Kosovo’s tribulations and Kosovo’s suffering (wherein the 1389 St. Vitus Day Battle in Kosovo Polje occupies the central place), are the pillars of that grand edifice that constitutes the Serbian national pantheon. When it is said that without Kosovo there can be no Serbia or Serbian nation, it’s not only the revived 19th century national romanticism: that implies more than just the territory which is covered with telling monuments of its culture and civilization, more than just a feeling of hard won national and state independence: Kosovo and Metohia are considered the key to the identity of the Serbs. It is no wonder, then, that the many turning-points in Serbian history took place in the and around Kosovo and Metohia. When the Serbs on other Balkan lands fought to preserve their religious freedoms and national rights, their banners bore as their beacon the Kosovo idea embodied in the Kosovo covenant which was woven into folk legend and upheld in uprisings against alien domination. The Kosovo covenant – the choice of freedom in the celestial empire instead of humiliation and slavery in the temporal world – although irrational as a collective consciousness, is still the one permanent connective tissue that imbues the Serbs with the feeling of national entity and lends meaning to its join efforts.

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The Age of Ascent

Kosovo and Metohia, land lying in the heart of the Balkans where virutal trade routes had crossed since ancient times, was settled by Slav tribes between the 7th and 10th centuries. The Serbian medieval state, which under the Nemanjic dynasty (12th to 14th century) grew into a major power in the Balkan peninsula, developed in the nearby mountain regions, in Raska (with Bosnia) and in Duklja (later Zeta and then Montenegro). The center of the Nemanjic slate moved to Kosovo and Metohia after the fall of Constantinople (1204). At its peak, in the early the 14th century, these lands were the richest and the most densely populated areas, as well as state and its cultural and administrative centers.

In his wars with Byzantium, Stefan Nemanja conquered various parts of what is today Kosovo, and his successors, Stefan the First Crown (became king in 1217), expanded his state by including Prizren. The entire Kosovo and Metohia region became a permanent part of the Serbian state by the beginning of the 13th century. Soon after becoming autocephalous (1219), the Serbian Orthodox Church moved its seat to Metohia. The heirs of the first archbishop Saint Sava (prince Rastko Nemanjic) built several additional temples around the Church of the Holy Apostles, lying the ground for what was to become the Patriarchate of Pec. The founding of a separate bishopric (1220) near Pec was indicative of the region’s political importance growing along with religious influence. With the proclamation of the empire, the patriarchal throne was permanently established at the Pec monastery in 1346. Serbia’s rulers allotted the fertile valleys between Pec, Prizren, Mitrovica and Pristina and nearby areas to churches and monasteries, and the whole region eventually acquired the name Metohia, from the Greek metoch which mean an estate owned by the church.

Studded with more churches and monasteries than any other Serbian land, Kosovo and Metohia became the spiritual nucleus of Serbs. Lying at the crossroads of the main Balkan routes connecting the surrounding Serbian lands of Raska, Bosnia, Zeta and the Scutari littoral with the Macedonia and the Morava region, Kosovo and Metohia were, geographically speaking, the ideal place for a state and cultural center. Girfled by mountain gorges and comparatively safe from outside attacks, Kosovo and Metohia were not chosen by chance as the site for building religious centers, church mausoleums and palaces. The rich holdings of Decant monastery provided and economic underpinning for the wealth of spiritual activities in the area. Learned monks and religious dignitaries assembled in large monastic communities (which were well provided for by the rich feudal holdings), strongly influenced the spiritual shaping of the nation, especially in strengthening local cults and fostering the Orthodox doctrine.

In the monasteries of Metohia and Kosovo, old theological and literary writings were transcribed and new ones penned, including the lives of local saints, from ordinary monks and priors to the archbishops and rulers of the house of Nemanjic. The libraries and scriptorias were stocked with the best liturgical and theoretical writings from all over Byzantine commonwealth, especially with various codes from the monasteries of Mounth Athos with which close ties were established. The architecture of the churches and monasteries developed and the artistic value of their frescoes increased as Serbian medieval culture flourished, and by the end of the 13th century new ideas applied in architecture and in the technique of fresco painting surpassed the traditional Byzantine models. With time, especially in centuries to come, the people came to believe that Kosovo was the center of Serbian Orthodoxy and the most resistant stronghold of the Serbian nation.

The most important buildings to be endowed by the last Nemanjices were erected in Kosovo and Metohia, where their courts which became their capitals were situated. From King Milutin to emperor Uros, court life evolved in the royal residences in southern Kosovo and Prizren. There rulers summoned the landed gentry, received foreign legates and issued charters. The court of Svrcin stood on the banks of Lake Sazlia, and it was there that Stefan Dusan was crowned king in 1331. On the opposite side was the palace in Pauni, where King Milutin often dwelled. The court in Nerodimlje was the favourite residence of King Stefan Decanski, and it was at the palace in Stimlje that emperor Uros issued his charters. Oral tradition, especially epic poems, usually mention Prizren as emperor Dusan’s capital, for he frequently sojourned there when he was still king.

Among dozens of churches and monasteries erected in medieval Kosovo and Metohia by rulers, ecclesiastical dignitaries and the local nobility, Decani outside of Pec, built by Stefan Uros III Decanski, stands out for its monumental size and artistic beauty. King Milutin left behind the largest number of endowments in Kosovo, one of the finest of which is Gracanica monastery (1321) near Pristina, certainly the most beautiful medieval monument in the Balkans. The monasteries of Banjska dear Zvecan (early 14th century) and Our Lady of Ljeviska in Prizren (1307), although devastated during Ottoman rule, are eloquent examples of the wealth and power of the Serbian state at the start of the 14th century. Also of artistic importance is the complex of churches in Juxtaposition to the Patriarchate of Pec. The biggest of the royal endowments, the Church of the Holy Archangels near Prizren, erected by Tsar Stefan Dusan in the Bistrica River Canyon, was destroyed in the 16th century.

Founding chapter whereby Serbian rulers granted large estates to monasteries offer a reliable demographic picture of the area. Fertile plains were largely owned by the large monasteries, from Chilandar in Mount Athos to Decant in Metohia. The data given in the charters show that during the period of the political rise of Serbian state, the population gradually moved from the mountain plateau in the west and north southward to the fertile valleys of Metohia and Kosovo. The census of monastic estates evince both a rise in the population and appreciable economic progress. The estates of the Banjska monastery numbered 83 villages, and those of the Holy Archangels numbered.

Milutin i Dusan

Especially noteworthy is the 1330 Decani Charter, with its detailed list of households and of chartered villages. The Decant estate was an extensive area which encompassed parts of what is today northwestern Albania. Historical analysis and onomastic research reveal that only three of the 89 settlements were mentioned as being Albanian. Out of the 2,166 farming homesteads and 2,666 houses in cattle-grazing land, 44 were registrated as Albanian (1,8%). More recent research indicates that apart from the Slav, i.e. Serbian population in Kosovo and Metohia, the remaining population of non-Slav origin did not account for more than 2% of the total population in the 14th century.

The growing political power, territorial expansion and economic wealth of the Serbian state had a major impact on ethnic processes. Northern Albania up to the Mati River was a part of the Serbian Kingdom, but it was not until the conquest of Tsar Dusan that the entire Albania (with the exception of Durazzo) entered the Serbian Empire. Fourteenth century records mention mobile Albanian mobile cattle sheds on mountain slopes in the imminent vicinity of Metohia, and sources in the first half of the 15th century note their presence (albeit in smaller number) in the flatland farming settlements.

Stefan Dusan’s Empire stretched from the Danube to the Peloponnese and from Bulgaria to the Albanian littoral. After his death it began to disintegrate into areas controlled by powerful regional lords. Kosovo and parts of Metohia came under the rule of King Vukasin Mrnjavcevic, the co-ruler of the last Nemanjic, Tsar Uros. The earliest clashes with the Turks, who edged their way into Europe at the start of the 14th century, were noted during the reign of Stefan Dusan. The 1371 battle of the Marica, near Crnomen in which Turkish troops rode rougshod over the huge army of the Mrnjavcevic brothers, the feudal lords of Macedonia, Kosovo and neighboring regions, heralded the decisive Turkish invasion of Serbian lands. King Vukasin’s successor King Marko (the legendary hero of folk poems, Kralyevich Marko) recognized the supreme authority of the sultan and as vasal took part in his campaigns against neighboring Christian states. The Turkish onslaught is remembered as the apocalypse of the Serbian people, and this tradition was cherished during the long period of Ottoman rule. During the Battle of the Marica, a monk wrote that “the worst of all times” had come, when “the living envied the dead”.

Unaware of the danger that were looming over their lands, the regional lords tried to take advantage of the new situation and enlarge their holdings. On the eve of the battle of Kosovo, the northern parts of Kosovo where in possession of Prince Lazar Hrebeljanovic, and parts of Metohia belonged to his brother-in-law Vuk Brankovic. By quelling the resistance of the local landed gentry, Prince Lazar eventually emerged as the most powerful regional lord and came to dominate the lands of Moravian Serbia. Tvrtko I Kotromanic, King of Bosnia, Prince Lazar’s closest ally, aspired to the political legacy of the saintly dynasty as descendant of the Nemanjices and by being crowned with the “dual crown” of Bosnia and Serbia over St. Sava grave in monastery Mileseva.

The expected clash with the Turks took place in Kosovo Polje, outside of Pristina, on St. Vitus day, June 15 (28), 1389. The troops of Prince Lazar, Vuk Brankovic and King Tvrtko I, confronted the army of Emir Murad I, which included his Christian vassals. Both Prince Lazar and emir Murad were killed in the head-on collision between the two armies (approximately 30,000 troops on both sides). Contemporaries were especially impressed by the tidings that twelve Serbian knights (most probably led by legendary hero Milos Obilic) broke through the tight Turkish ranks and killed the emir in his tent.

car lazar

Military-wise no real victor emerged from the battle. Tvrtko’s emissaries told the courts of Europe that the Christian army had defeated the infidels, although Prince Lazar’s successors, exhausted by their heavy losses, immediately sought peace and conceded to became vassals to the new sultan. Vuk Brankovic, unjustly remembered in epic tradition as a traitor who slipped away from the battle field, resisted them until 1392, when he was forced to become their vassal. The Turks took Brankovic’s lands and gave them to a more loyal vassal, Prince Stefan Lazarevic, son of Prince Lazar thereby creating a rift between their heirs. After the battle of Angora in 1402, Prince Stefan took advantage of the chaos in the Ottoman state. In Constantinople he received the title of despot, and upon returning home, having defeated Brankovic’s relatives he took control over the lands of his father. Despite frequent internal conflicts and his vassal obligations to the Turks and Hungarians, despot Stefan revived and economically consolidated the Serbian state, the center of which was gradually moving northward. Under his rule Novo Brdo in Kosovo became the economic center of Serbia where in he issued a Law of Mines in 1412.

Stefan appointed as his successor his nephew despot Djuradj Brankovic, whose rule was marked by fresh conflicts and finally the fall of Kosovo and Metohia to the Turks. The campaign of the Christian army led by Hungarian nobleman Janos Hunyadi ended in 1448 in heavy defeat in a clash with Murad II’s forces, again in Kosovo Polje. This was the last concertive attempt in the Middle Ages to rout the Turks out of this part of Europe

After the Fall of Constantinople (1453), Mehmed II the Conqueror advanced onto Despotate of Serbia. For some time voivode Nikola Skobaljic offered valiant resistance in Kosovo, but after a series of consecutive campaigns and lengthy sieges in 1455, the economic center of Serbia, Novo Brdo fell. The Turks then proceeded to conquer other towns in Kosovo and Metohia four years before the entire Serbian Despotate collapsed with the fall of new capital Smederevo. Turkish onslaught, marked by frequent military raids, the plunder and devastation of entire regions, the destruction of monasteries and churches, gradually narrowed down Serbian state territories, triggering off a large-scale migration northwards, to regions beyond reach to the conquerors. The biggest migration took place from 1480-1481, when a large part of the population of northern Serbia moved to Hungary and Transylvania, to bordering region along the Sava and Danube rivers, where the descendants of the fleeing despots of Smederevo resisted the Turks for several decades to come.


Source: No Kosovo Unesco

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Russia calls for investigation into human-organ trade ring in Kosovo



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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 brutal criminal underworld that led investigators to the doorstep of Kosovo’s US-backed Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, the leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), and former political head of the KLA.

Thaci has vehemently denied the charges, saying the investigation, which was headed by liberal Swiss politician Dick Marty, was “racist against Albanians.”

Moscow, meanwhile, says it wants to see an “impartial investigation” by an international committee.

“We want the report on the instances of illegal trade in human organs in Kosovo to be followed by an impartial independent investigation, and we support Serbia’s position on this issue,” Lavrov told a press conference in Belgrade following a meeting with his Serbian counterpart Vuk Jeremic.

The Russian minister said the Serbian people deserved a fair trial over the allegations since “much less significant crimes have been the subject of international investigations.”

“There should be no double standards,” Lavrov added, saying that “Russia fully understood the desire of Belgrade to achieve the triumph of justice.”

Jeremic said that “Serbia within a few days will submit proposals to the UN Security Council for what might look like an international investigation into this matter.”

The Serbian minister then said Serbia was looking to Russia for support on the international level in addressing the matter.

“Then we could begin consultations with members of the UN Security Council,” he stressed. “We count on support from Russia. It is to be hoped that our proposal will be considered in a proper manner.”

The European investigation of the KLA’s alleged trade in organs was opened after the publication of a book by Carla Del Ponte, United Nation’s War Crimes tribunal prosecutor, entitled “The Hunt: Me and War Criminals” (2008).

Bagra Kosova

Del Ponte presents exhaustive evidence in her book, much of it based on conversations she had with journalists, that the Kosovo Albanians were guilty of kidnapping Serbs and murdering them to harvest their organs.

The book provides horrifying details of the alleged organ trade ring, and how the prisoners endured what can only be described as a nightmare.

“The victims, deprived of a kidney, were then locked up again, inside the barracks, until the moment they were killed for other vital organs,” Del Ponte writes. “In this way, the other prisoners were aware of the fate that awaited them, and according to the source, pleaded, terrified, to be killed immediately.”

Investigators say that of some 400 Serbians who went missing in the war, many of them disappeared forever into the depths of this criminal underworld.

The government of Kosovo, meanwhile, released a statement following the release of the PACE report, saying it was an attempt “to tarnish the image of the Kosovo Liberation Army.”

NATO unleashed a full-scale air attack on Yugoslavia on the grounds that Serbian forces were using excessive force against ethnic Albanians in the breakaway province of Kosovo. The aerial strikes lasted from March 24, 1999 to June 10, 1999, when Belgrade finally surrendered to the coalition forces.


20-04-2011

By Robert Bridge

Source: RT

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The World According to ISIS



ISIL 1

This article is excerpted from Fawaz A. Gerges’s forthcoming book, ISIS: A History.

Although the spectacular surge of ISIS must be contextualized within the social and political circumstances that exist in Iraq and Syria and beyond, the group’s worldview and ideology should be taken equally seriously. Ideology is, after all, the superglue that binds Salafi-jihadists known as revolutionary religious activists or global jihadists of the ISIS variety to each other. The Salafi-jihadist movement emerged from an alliance between ultraconservative Saudi Salafism (or Wahhabism) and revolutionary Egyptian Islamism which was inspired by the Egyptian master theorist, Sayyid Qutb. The Afghan war against Soviet occupation from 1980s onwards baptized Salafi-jihadists by blood and fire and lay the operational foundation of what subsequently came to be known as Al Qaeda. Ever since, a vibrant ideology has allowed the Salafi-jihadist movement to renew and revitalize itself after suffering crushing blows. A traveling and expanding ideology, Salafi-jihadism has evolved into a powerful social movement with a repertoire of ideas, iconic leaders, worldwide supporters, networks of recruiters and enablers, theorists, preachers who provide members with ideological and theological sustenance. It has taken hold of the imagination of small Sunni communities worldwide.

Regardless of what happens to ISIS—which is an extension of the global Salafi-jihadist movement which includes a litany of groups, like Al Qaeda central—this messianic ideology is here to stay and will likely gain more followers in politically and socially polarized Arab and Muslim societies. Despite a costly civil war unfolding between ISIS and Al Qaeda Central, particularly in Syria, Salafi-jihadists continue to expand their influence and attract new recruits. A fringe social movement during the second half of the 20th century, Salafi-jihadism now vies for public influence and offers an alternative for both mainstream and radical Islamists. It is a popular, enduring brand. A sense of triumphalism permeates the discourse and public pronouncements by Salafi-jihadist ideologues and propagandists who openly proselytize. They boast that the tide of history has shifted their way and that they are on the cusp of a historical breakthrough.

Researchers have tended to underestimate the power of the Salafi-jihadist ideology at their own peril. The challenge is to shine light on this growing ideology and make sense of it. Although ISIS is an extension of the global Salafi-jihadist movement, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS who anointed himself caliph in the summer of 2014, and his cohorts represent another wave, a post-Al Qaeda generation, of Salafi-jihadists. At present, ISIS—its ideology, as well as its state and security status—has successfully tapped into a fierce clash of identities between Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims in the Middle East and beyond.    The US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 caused a rupture in an already fractured Iraqi society. America’s destruction of Iraqi institutions, particularly its dismantling of the army and the Baathist ruling party, unleashed a fierce power struggle, mainly along sectarian lines, creating fissures in society. These growing ruptures provided the room necessary for non-state actors and armed insurgent militias, including Al Qaeda (AQI), to infiltrate the fragile body politic in post-2003 Iraq. In contrast to Al Qaeda Central whose key concern is the far enemy—that is, the US and its close European allies—AQI and its successor ISIS are a hyper-Sunni identity driven by an intrinsic and even genocidal anti-Shia ideology. ISIS’s lineage of Salafi-jihadism forms part of the ideological impetus; the other part of its ideological nature is an identity frame of politics. Despite the group’s insistence that it operates within a different value system from that promulgated by Western liberalism and the nation state system, its ideological rhetoric is anchored not in novelty but in identity politics whose main articulating pole is religious. Religion can act as a potent framework for social identity, especially in war environments where insecurity runs high and cultivates group loyalty by projecting itself as the truth and the right path to follow.

By providing a clear structure through strict sets of rules and beliefs and a worldview that encompasses life on earth and in the afterlife, ISIS presents individuals with the promise of an eternal group membership, which can prove particularly attractive for people prone to existential anxiety. Moreover, scholars point out that several factors feed into (Abrahamic) fundamentalist ideology, including dualism (absolute evaluations of good versus evil), authority (of a sacred book or leader), selectivity(choosing certain beliefs or practices over others), and millennialism (confidence in eschatology as God’s will). Of all factors, however, one facet is thought to be vital:“reactivity,”F[1] which takes the form of a hostility toward secular modernity that is directed not only toward people outside of the fundamentalists’ religious in-group but also toward members of their own religious group who are not viewed as “true believers.”

In this light, ISIS’s development of a pure and absolutist ideology can be seen as part of a strategy to feed its members’ fundamentalism by emphasizing their exclusivity while projecting a universalist vision. For example, the widespread use of suicide bombers by Salafi-jihadist groups such as ISIS constitutes a recent modus operandi in Islam rather than a return to the roots. Few Muslim communities appear to be currently entangled in a war of subjectivities that stems from a series of ruptures that started with the Enlightenment and that takes the form of an Islamic-Islamic civil war over the Muslim identity itself.[2]  Meanwhile, many Arabs are also involved in an interpretative dispute about their being-in-the-world in which both the Arab world and the world at large are questioned and contested. According to an Arab philosopher, Fathi al Makdisi, the current rise of Salafi-jihadism and terrorism represented by ISIS is the result of not only creeping sectarianism or a crisis of the modern state, but also a growing nihilism that signals the collapse of progressive values and tolerance in its conception of humanity.[3]

Nevertheless, far from being sui generis, genealogically and ideologically ISIS belongs to the Salafi-jihadist family, although it marks another stage in the evolution or, rather, mutation of the ideological gene pool. Over the past half century, the Salafi-jihadist movement has developed a repertoire of ideas, a frame of reference, theorists, thousands of followers, and “martyrs” who provide inspiration for new volunteers and who ensure the durability of the brand. ISIS has been able to draw from this repertoire, re-articulating old concepts and presenting them as new or revolutionary. Its rhetoric makes use of religious ideology to articulate identity politics. Indeed, religion has for some time been the glue that maintains the coherence, if not the unity, of various factions and divisions, and the rationale for vicious and flamboyant violence. Salafi-jihadists from various orientations, including ISIS, always cite verses from Qur’anic scripture to portray their offensive jihad as blessed.

The world according to ISIS is frozen in time and space, incorporating the rules and laws of seventh-century Arabia into the twenty-first century. Its leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and his associates depict themselves as battling the “antichrist” and paving the way for the ultimate triumph of the “Mahdi” and Islam (in Arabic, the Mahdi means “the Guided One,” the central crowning element of all Islamic end-time narratives, or an expected spiritual and temporal ruler destined to establish a reign of righteousness throughout the world). This millenarian thinking is at the heart of ISIS’s caliphate ideology and the global jihadist movement in general. The problem is not to know whether ISIS is Islamic—of course it is, though Muslims worldwide disavow it and distance themselves from its actions—but rather to understand how this organization borrows heavily but selectively from the Islamic canon and imposes the past on the present wholesale. Baghdadi and his propagandists overlook centuries of Islamic interpretations and counterinterpretations and rely on a narrow, strict, and obsolete textualist reading of the Islamic doctrine, a move that is very controversial and deeply contested by the religious community and al-Islam al-Sha’bi (lived Islam). There is no swell of public support for ISIS in Muslim societies, including the areas in Syria and Iraq under its control and hardly any important preacher or a cleric has lent his voice to Baghdadi’s Caliphate. Despite its sound and fury, ISIS remains a fringe phenomenon that is too extreme for mainstream Muslim opinion but sounds like a sweet melody to the ears of its social base. This base continues to replenish the ranks of ISIS and similar organizations with willing combatants and suicide bombers. Time and again politicians and observers have penned the obituary of the global jihadist movement only to be shocked by its resilience and capacity for self-renewal. Ideology is a significant factor in this process of regeneration, and it confers legitimacy on ISIS’s actions.

Under ISIS, there is no breathing space for social mobilization and political organization, including by like-minded Salafi-jihadist activism. ISIS possesses a totalitarian, millenarian worldview that eschews political pluralism, competition, and diversity of thought. Baghdadi and his associates criminalize and excommunicate free thought, and the idea that there should exist a legitimate other—be it a Muslim of differing ideological disposition or a non-Muslim—is alien to their messianic ideology. Any Muslim or co-jihadist who does not accept ISIS’s interpretation of the Islamic doctrine is an apostate who deserves death. In the same vein, any Muslim or co-jihadist who refuses to submit to the will of the new caliphate faces either expulsion from the land or death. One here needs to recall the words uttered by ISIS’s chief propagandist and official spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, following the establishment of the Islamic State. In a communiqué, Adnani, whose real name is Taha Sobhi Falaha, demanded that all jihadist factions everywhere pledge allegiance to the new caliph, Baghdadi, as the legality of all emirates, groups, states, and organizations was now null and void. In his own words, “The land now submits to his order and authority from Aleppo to Diyala.”[4]Adnani made it clear that there is only one Islamic state and one caliphate, with no room for dissent: “Indeed, it is the state. Indeed, it is the khilafah [caliphate]. It is time for you to end this abhorrent partisanship, dispersion, and division, for this condition is not from the religion of Allah at all. And if you forsake the State or wage war against it, you will not harm it. You will harm yourselves.”[5] He also warned that all Muslims must obey the commander of the faithful, including former and current aspirants to the title, and ordered his fighters to “split the head” and “strike the neck” of anyone who breaks the ranks and does not submit to the will of the new caliphate.[6]

In ISIS’s worldview, then, the caliphate is not just a political entity but also a collective religious obligation (wajib kifa’i), a means to salvation: Muslims have sinned since they abandoned the obligation of the caliphate, and, ever since, the umma has not tasted “honor” or “triumph.” ISIS’s repeated message to Muslims is that they must pledge allegiance to a valid caliph, Baghdadi, and honor that oath and live a fully Islamic life.

Politics and Tactics

Behind the romantic idea of the caliphate, however, lies identity politics, as the core of ISIS’s ideological framework is the affirmation of its “Sunni Islamic” identity and its redefinition of true Islam. Adnani’s orders might have given the illusion that the establishment of the Islamic State entails a real rupture from the present state system, but, just like under Saddam Hussein, under ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq is headed by an absolute leader who tolerates no dissent. In fact, ISIS’s conception of sovereignty does not break away from the autocratic mode of governance that has plagued Arab countries for decades: for example, both Hussein in Iraq and the Assads in Syria have used identity politics as a pillar for their policies—albeit an ethnic rather than a religious version.

ISIS has used its messianic ideology to brutally suppress both Islamists and nationalists (Baathists) in areas under its domination. Its raison d’être is to convert everyone to its cause, including rival jihadists who share a similar vision. For example, in a severe rebuttal, Adnani harshly criticized Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of Al Qaeda Central and the most senior living jihadist, for daring to side with the chief of Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, against Baghdadi in the power struggle for Syria. ISIS’s chief spokesman bluntly reminded Zawahiri that should he make it to the territories of the Islamic State, he would have to swear baiya (fealty) to Baghdadi and serve as one of his footsoldiers. As Baghdadi pledged allegiance to Zawahiri in 2010, this open attack represents the ultimate insult.[7]

ISIS’s hard-line stance has caused much havoc within the global jihadist movement, even leading to a split between ISIS and al-Nusra, which was originally constituted on Baghdadi’s orders. A key cause of the rift between the two organizations was that Joulani rejected an order by Baghdadi in April 2013 to annex his front to ISIS. Baghdadi considered Joulani’s snub treacherous and ever since has waged all-out war against al-Nusra and its Islamist and nationalist Syrian allies. The intra-jihadist confrontation in Syria has killed thousands of skilled fighters from both camps and has seen atrocities committed by each side, including wholesale rape, beheadings, and crucifixions. The war within the jihadist tribe is as savage as the war with outsiders. Islamic State followers and those of Al Qaeda Central excommunicate one another and marshal religious discourse to show that they are the real jihadist vanguard, while their rivals are pretenders. In Syria ISIS could not coexist with al-Nusra or any other Islamist group because that would have challenged its monopoly on the scared and on the global jihadist project as well. In addition to mastering the art of making enemies of all regional and global powers, ISIS eliminates conventional politics altogether and aspires to organize society along puritanical lines of seventh-century Arabia, a worldview that imposes the distant past on the present.

It is no wonder, then, that ISIS engages in cultural cleansing, purifying the Islamic lands of all alien and infidel influences, including traditional Sunni practices that clash with its fundamentalist and timeless interpretation of the Islamic doctrine. The idea of purifying the Islamic lands is deeply ingrained in the imagination of radical religious activists, but ISIS is the first social movement to attempt to operationalize this ideology. As Islamic State militants swept across Syria and Iraq, they destroyed, damaged, and/or looted numerous cultural sites and sculptures, condemning them as idolatry. Celebrating their cultural cleansing in spectacular propaganda displays, Islamic State fighters show by deeds, not words, their intent to purify the lands and resurrect the caliphate. While ISIS’s propaganda is abhorrent to the outside world, it is greedily devoured by its social base. Its slickly produced recruitment films about cultural cleansing not only reinforce its strategic message of triumph and expansion but also divert attention from battlefield setbacks.3[8]

 A Pure Caliphate

For an authentic Islamic state to be erected, the Sunni militants of ISIS feel that the Islamic lands must be cleansed of apostasy and heretics, regardless of the human or civilizational costs. In fact, ISIS’s fighters are keen on displaying an ideological zeal and purity in an effort to outbid their Islamist rivals like Jabhat al-Nusra, the official arm of Al Qaeda Central. For example, in an attempt to cleanse Sunni society of other cultural influences, ISIS has sought to dismantle the diverse social fabric made up of Sunnis, Shias, Kurds, Yazidis, and Christians that has developed and persevered since the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia, today’s Iraq. Broadly, their wrath is directed at minorities whom they view as infidels without human rights. A case that illustrates ISIS’s ideology of ethnic cleansing is its extraordinary punishment of the Yazidis, a tiny religious minority, representing less than 1.5 percent of Iraq’s estimated population of thirty-four million, whom ISIS considers heretics. After the capture of Mosul and its outlying towns in summer 2014, including Sinjar, near the Syrian border, home to tens of thousands of Yazidis, ISIS engaged in systemic cultural cleansing, forcing hundreds of thousands of minorities from their homes and using sexual violence as a weapon by indiscriminately raping Yazidi girls and women. ISIS viciously attacked the Yazidis, killing men and boys of fighting age and abducting a total of 5,270 Yazidi girls and women (at least 3,144 of whom are still being held at the time of writing), who were subsequently forced into sexual slavery, according to human rights organizations, United Nations figures, and community leaders. To handle the modern sex trade, ISIS has set up a Department of “War Spoils” and a detailed bureaucracy of sex slavery, including sales contracts notarized by its Islamic courts, according to a cache of documents seized by US Special Operations Forces in a May 2015 raid in Syria that killed top ISIS financial official Aby Sayyaf.[9]And systemic rape has become an established and increasingly powerful recruiting tool for ISIS to lure men from deeply conservative Muslim societies, where casual sex is taboo and dating is forbidden.[10]

According to the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and investigative reports by the media, ISIS has destroyed hundreds of Yazidi women’s lives.4[11] Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s senior crisis response adviser, spoke to forty Yazidi women who had managed to escape from ISIS captivity, and said that what ISIS had done to them amounted to war crimes. “Hundreds of Yezidi women and girls have had their lives shattered by the horrors of sexual violence and sexual slavery in IS captivity,” she said.[12] Zainab Bangura, a UN envoy investigating sexual violence in the conflict, has confirmed that an ISIS pamphlet that gives prices for the purchase of women is real and that “the girls get peddled like barrels of petrol.” Bangura notes that prices for boys and girls aged one to nine are about $165. Adolescent girls cost about $124, and it’s less for women over twenty. “They have a machinery, they have a program,” she told Bloomberg News. “They have a manual on how you treat these women.”[13]According to ISIS’s ideology, Yazidis are seen as polytheists and, worse, devil worshipers, and they are not even entitled to be treated like “People of the Book,” Christians and Jews, who can atone for their sins by paying a tax known as jizya to be set free. In contrast, ISIS either kills or coverts Yazidis by force and enslaves their women, a punishment sanctioned, they say, by their experts of Islamic jurisprudence.

ISIS’s involvement in the sex trade and its enslavement of girls and women from the tiny Yazidi religious community are driven not only by power and male (patriarchal) domination but also by ideological zealousness. Baghdadi and his shura council (cabinet) want to distinguish themselves from Islamist rivals by attempting to revive traditions, rituals, and practices that have been dormant for over a thousand years in Muslim history. They have falsely made emulation of the Prophet Mohammed a strict duty, a tool to display their religious purity and authenticity.[14]For example, citing selective sayings of the Prophet, a booklet entitled “From Creator’s Rulings on Capturing Prisoners and Enslavement,” calls for both kindness and cruelty to captives by ISIS. Enslaved women should not be separated from their children, the booklet says, but the rules allow the group’s combatants to have sex with female slaves[15]ISIS has also publicly boasted about its enslavement of Yazidi women in their magazine called Dabiq and in their propaganda videos. ISIS has justified its actions on religious grounds by juxtaposing the distant past with the present and selectively citing verses from the scripture or the Sunna (the traditions based on the sayings and deeds of the Prophet Mohammed) to justify their sex slavery. In an October 2014 article titled “The Revival of Slavery before the Hour,” the group argues that the Yazidi women “could be enslaved unlike female apostates [the Shia], who the majority of the fuqahā’ [experts in Islamic jurisprudence] say cannot be enslaved and can only be given an ultimatum to repent or face the sword. . . . After capture, the Yazidi women and children were then divided according to the Sharī’ah [Islamic law] amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations, after one fifth of the slaves were transferred to the Islamic State’s authority to be divided as khums [the one-fifth of booty or spoils that goes to the state].”[16]

Christians do not fare much better. After capturing Mosul and other cities in Iraq and Syria, ISIS presented Christians in both countries with a stark choice: convert to Islam, pay a special tax (jizya), or get out immediately and be disinherited from everything you own. Recent evidence shows that despite paying the special tax, Christian girls and women have been victims of ISIS’s practice of systemic rape. In light of this ultimatum, the ISIS surge has triggered another wave of exodus by Christians, an exodus that began in earnest when its forerunner, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, also commonly known as Al Qaeda in Iraq, forced 1 million of Iraq’s surviving 1.5 million Christians to flee the country between 2003 and 2010. There is a real danger that Baghdadi could finish the job of his predecessor, Zarqawi, who was killed in 2006 by the United States—a job that would entail ridding Iraq of its ancient Assyrian community, nearly two thousand years old.

ISIL International

Moreover, ISIS’s totalitarian religious ideology also openly targets Muslims. Trying to distinguish themselves theologically from like-minded Islamist radicals, including Al Qaeda Central, Baghdadi and his cohorts are intensely takfiri44F—that is, followers of the takfiri doctrine, which calls for excommunication of a person or a group of kuffar (infidels) or non-Muslims. ISIS considers Shia Muslims to be apostates, sanctioning the shedding of their blood as well as that of Sunnis who oppose their vision. While it can be argued that Arab authoritarian rulers such as President Bashar al-Assad and former Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki have not done enough to protect the region’s minorities against ISIS, these sectarian-based regimes created fertile conditions that allowed Salafi-jihadist groups like ISIS to build a popular base of support among Sunnis and surge. Indeed, ISIS is the main beneficiary of the divisive and destructive policies of the central governments of Iraq and Syria and the breakdown of state institutions in the Arab arena in general. From the beginning Baghdadi and his cohorts depicted themselves as the sole defenders of excluded and aggrieved Sunni communities against Shia-dominated regimes, first in Baghdad and then in Damascus.

As discussed at the beginning, ISIS is a near-enemy revolutionary movement, focusing on the Arab-Islamic world, not a far-enemy organization targeting the Western powers, even though it has recently devoted more resources to carrying out attacks against the far enemy, including Russia, Europe, North America, and Southeast Asia. It is an ideational, hyper-Sunni movement that harbors a genocidal ideology against the Shia, which means that roughly 120 Shias are marked for death. After it burst out of its original home in Iraq, ISIS expanded to Syria in 2012, with grand ambitions to spread to neighboring countries. In his second address to the world in November 2014, Baghdadi confirmed that his imperial ambitions were not limited to Iraq and Syria but also included Libya, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and beyond.[17]

Theorist Enablers of ISIS

Although ISIS does not have its own reputed scholars or theorists, it has mined Salafi-jihadists’ repertoire of ideas and selectively borrowed whatever fits its unique worldview. At times, the organization has even been accused of falsely appropriating the works of extremist Salafi theorists. For example, a prominent Salafi-jihadist scholar, Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi, lashed out angrily against Baghdadi’s cohorts for stealing his writings considered to be foundational by Salafi-jihadist and claiming them as their own. Maqdisi, however, is not a major inspiration for ISIS, as the group is nourished on a bloodier and deadlier diet. Baghdadi and his inner circle rely particularly on three Salafi-jihadist manifestos to rationalize and justify what they do.[18]The most well-known of the three is The Management of Savagery. Circulated in PDF format under the pseudonym Abu Bakr al-Najji in the early 2000s, the manifesto provides a strategic roadmap of how to create an Islamic caliphate that differs dramatically from similar efforts by Salafi-jihadists in earlier decades. The second book is Introduction to the Jurisprudence of Jihad by Abu Abdullah al-Muhajjer, which calls on Salafi-jihadists to do whatever it takes to establish a purely unified Islamic state. The final book is The Essentials of Making Ready [for Jihad] by Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, aka Abdel-Qader Ibn Abdel-Aziz or Dr. Fadl. This massive work focuses on the theological and practical meanings of jihad in Islam, and it has become a central text in jihadi training. Dr. Fadl admitted that he wrote the book in 1987–1988 in order for it to be a manual for training camps of what subsequently became known as Al Qaeda.47F[19]

While Najji’s identity remains unconfirmed, both Muhajjer and Dr. Fadlwere close associates of Zawahiri. Muhajjer is an Egyptian national who fought in Afghanistan alongside Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri. After graduating from the Islamic University in Islamabad and teaching at jihadist camps in Kabul, Muhajjer mentored fighters at Zarqawi’s camp in Herat, and he was seriously considered as a candidate for the scientific and scholarly committee of Al Qaeda Central.[20] After the collapse of the Taliban rule in 2001, he escaped to Iran and was held by the authorities there until his release to Egypt just after the January 25, 2011, revolution. Dr. Fadl was an early associate of Zawahiri. The two first met in the late 1960s in Cairo, where they both attended Cairo University’s medical school. In the early 1980s their paths crossed again in Pakistan-Afghanistan, where they worked together to rebuild Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a Salafi-jihadist group. After September 11, 2001, Dr. Fadl and Zawahiri parted ways, engaging in a public feud over ideology and the future direction of the global jihadist movement. While serving a life sentence in an Egyptian prison, Dr. Fadl subsequently disowned his ideas and called for the demilitarization and deradicalization of the Salafi-jihadist camp. But despite Dr. Fadl’s subsequent revisions and repudiation of his extremist ideas, his book has taken a life of its own, a bible for many Salafi-jihadist. The story and journey of the three theorists show the enduring intellectual impact of the pioneers or the first generation of Salafi-jihadists on the movement as a whole. As a traveling ideology, Salafi-jihadism is nourished on ideas that can be tailored to fit the predilections and whims of every wave, providing nourishment and motivation to new coverts and adherents.

The three manifestos represent the most extreme thinking within the movement and the degeneration of the Salafi-jihadist ideology into Fiqh al-Damaa (the jurisprudence of blood). Although most analysts focus mainly on The Management of Savagery, the other two manifestos are as important in providing intellectual and ideological motivation and inspiration for Baghdadi and his ideologues. Despite differences, there are common conceptual threads among the three manifestos that offer theoretical guidance for ISIS’s actions. First, the three books call for all-out war and advocate performing offensive (jihad) as opposed to only defensive jihad in order to bleed the kuffar (infidels) or the enemies of Islam, thus creating chaos and fear. At the heart of this rationalization lies the belief that Salafi-jihadists must rid themselves of the illusion that the establishment of an Islamic state is possible through gradual electoral means or the political process. The authors poke fun of fellow Islamists who call for a reformist approach, arguing that it is impossible to build the institutions of an Islamic state under a system of apostasy. Second, although this total war should target both the “near enemy” (Muslim rulers) and the “far enemy” (the US and its close European allies), they prioritize the fight against tyrannical Muslim rulers who do not apply shariah (Qur’anic law). Finally, all three manifestos call on the movement’s planners and lieutenants to kill with impunity, to observe no limits and follow in the footsteps of the Prophet’s companions, who, in their opinion, brutally punished dissenters and rivals. They cite selective cases of early Islamic history to prove their claim that excessive violence produces the desired effect: submission. According to their logic, viciousness is the secret to success and victory, while softheartedness is a recipe for failure and defeat. They also argue that the ends—reclaiming Islam’s golden age and establishing the Islamic state—justify the means—viciousness and savagery.

Total War = Total Victory

Although all three Salafi-jihadist theorists advocate offensive jihad rather than defensive jihad, Najji explicitly makes the case for all-out war. According to Najji, in the past Salafi-jihadists lacked a strategic blueprint and carried out isolated acts of violence with no comprehensive “military strategy” or master plan. He harshly criticizes fellow Islamists for squandering precious time and effort on “preaching” jihad rather than doing jihad.[21]Instead, Najji offers an expansive plan with three stages in which violence would be escalated qualitatively and strategically rather than in ad hoc and random way. In the first stage, al-Nikayawal-Tamkeen (vexation and empowerment), the will of the enemy must be broken by carrying out attacks against vital economic and strategic targets such as oil facilities and the tourism infrastructure. As security forces would rush in and mobilize resources to protect these sensitive targets, the state would be weakened and its powers would wither away, a condition conducive to “savagery and chaos.” Salafi-jihadists would then take advantage of this security vacuum, notes Najji, by launching an all-out battle on the thinly dispersed security forces.[22] Once the rulers are overthrown, a second phase would commence, Idrarat al-Tawhush (the administration or management of savagery), and the third and final stage, Shawkat al-Tamkeen (empowerment), would see the establishment of the Islamic state. This Islamic state, Najji explains, should be ruled by a single leader who would then unify diffuse and scattered groups and regions of “savagery” in a caliphate.[23] According to Najji, this third stage employs a mixture of persuasion and coercion to win hearts and minds and gain legitimacy and recognition forthe Islamic rule.

Although Najji does not directly acknowledge the influence of Sayyid Qutb, the master theorist of contemporary revolutionary Islamism, he borrows some of his terminology and Islamist references, such as al-Qilla al-Mumtaza (the vanguard) and Zulm al-Jahiliyya (the darkness of ignorance of divine guidance).[24] However, he explicitly professes inspiration from an influential fourteenth-century radical Islamic scholar and theologian called Ibn Taymiyya, whose fatwas (religious edicts) on jihad have provided motivation for multiple waves of Salafi-jihadists, including ISIS. Unsurprisingly, Najji emphasizes the significance of the media and propaganda as an ideological tool to mobilize and recruit the Muslim masses to the side of Salafi-jihadists during the first and second stages of the long war, and then to control them and pacify them during the final stage under a centralized Islamic rule.

In The Management of Savagery, Najji’s sole preoccupation is with the near enemy, secular and renegade Muslim rulers. He lists a few countries as a potentially fertile ground, mainly Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, North Africa, Nigeria, and Pakistan. However, Najji qualifies his shopping list by saying that it is temporary and that it would be more effective to apply his master plan to two or three countries before targeting the other cases.[25] Similarly, in The Essentials of Making Ready [for Jihad], Dr. Fadl contends that although jihad should target both the far enemy and the near enemy, the latter should take precedence. According to Dr. Fadl, the near enemy is those “infidel rulers” who “apply infidel laws and infidel democracy.”[26] He argues that attacking these rulers, whom he called Murtadeen (apostates), should even take priority over the other “jihad against Jews,” because they “are closer to us and they have abandoned and renounced Islamic beliefs.”55F[27] He depicts these Muslim rulers as more dangerous than kuffar—Christians and Jews.[28] Like Najji and Muhajjer, Dr. Fadl draws on Ibn Taymiyya’s fatwas to justify war against the near enemy, claiming that jihad against “apostate leaders” is Fard Ayn (an obligation) of every Muslim who has reached the age of fifteen.[29]Citing Ibn Taymiyya and being inspired by Qutb without naming him, he expands the list of apostates to “include anyone who rules by positivist [secular] laws.”[30] During this phase of jihad, Muslims should “display animosity and hatred towards those living infidels,” and “disavow their infidel principles such as communism and democracy,” and “isolate themselves even by migration from the infidels’ land.”[31]Dr. Fadleven argues that jihad against the enemy in its homeland should take place “at least once a year,” although he cites other Muslim scholars who argued that “there are no time limits to this Jihad.”6[32] The Muslim umma, he notes, must prioritize this offensive jihad, and both its internal and external policies, including agriculture, industry, commerce, and housing, must be geared to support this sacred mission.[33] He warns Muslims that anyone who avoids “jihad for the sake of God” would “betray Allah, his prophet and the religion itself.”[34]The key goal, notes Dr. Fadl, is to create Hakimiyya (the rule of God) on earth; this would occur “when Muslims defeat their enemies and apply Islam’s rules in the conquered lands.” [35] The concept of the vanguard is essential to the success of Dr. Fadl’s jihadist project, and he first and foremost calls on Salafi-jihadists to “form a Jama’a Muslima [Muslim group]” whose task is to recruit others to join the mission described in the manual.[36] The significance of Dr. Fadl’s manual is that it provides doctrinal justification in the fight against the near enemy, which ISIS prioritizes over that against the far enemy.[37]

Prioritizing the fight against the far enemy, Muhajjer calls on Salafi-jihadists to launch war on kuffar. In Introduction to the Jurisprudence of Jihad, he opposes the consensus among jurisprudents over the centuries and asserts that “killing kuffar and fighting them in their homeland is a necessity even if they do not harm Muslims.”[38]Muhajjer does not distinguish between “civilians” and “combatants” among non-Muslims because he bluntly confesses that the main reason for “killing them and confiscating their property” is the fact that “they are not Muslims.”[39] Moreover, the writer who earned the pseudonym Faqih al-Damaa (jurisprudent of blood) expanded the definition of Dar al-Kuffr (land of apostasy) to include countries inhabited by a majority of Muslims; these states do not apply shariah or Islamic law and thus are legitimate targets for attacks by Salafi-jihadists.[40]

Savagery as a Means to an End

Whether they prioritize the fight against the near enemy, as Najji does, or insist that attention should be paid to both the near enemy and the far enemy, as Dr. Fadl and Muhajjer (to a lesser extent) do, all three authors argue that the existing system of Kufr (apostasy) must be overthrown, incinerated, regardless of the inherent cost or sacrifice. In fact, the authors’ key argument is that Salafi-jihadists must hasten social and institutional disintegration of the state system and induce mayhem and be prepared to manage this cataclysm. The goal is to kill and terrorize not for the sake of killing or terrorism but for a higher moral purpose: cultural cleansing and the imposition of God’s laws on kuffar. For example, in The Management of Savagery, Najji points out that “the worst chaotic condition is by far preferable to stability under the system of apostasy”,[41]thus turning the received wisdom of the mainstream religious establishment on its head. He depicts Salafi-jihadists as the vanguard best equipped to trigger an apocalypse or an end to apostasy, an end to the world as we know it, and a religious rebirth. “We must drag all the people to battle and bring the temple down on the heads of everyone,” Najji states. Even “if the whole umma perishes, they would all be martyrs,” he adds, justifying the death of millions of Muslims as for a worthy cause.[42]

As to their favorite methods of violence, it seems that the authors have a preference for beheading and burning, which they see as effective in instilling fear and deterring others from resisting. Such vicious methods, they insist, can also be used to attack economic targets, particularly petroleum. Requiring sacrifice and pain, this confrontation must use shock-and-awe tactics to overwhelm the enemy, make him “think one thousand times before attacking us . . . and keep him on the defensive and off balance.”[43]Najji advocates attacking the population and infrastructure in order to terrorize the enemy and maximize levels of savagery.[44]

In a similar vein, Muhajjer advocates the use of gruesome methods such as beheading, a favorite tactic of his. In Introduction to the Jurisprudence of Jihad, he devotes a whole chapter to beheading, arguing that it would “convey a gory picture” by “strengthening the hearts of Muslims and terrorizing the apostates” by deterring them.[45]Muhajjer even provides theological justification for grotesque forms of punishment such as transporting and displaying the heads of those non-Muslims killed in battle from one country to another in order to boost the deterrence power of Salafi-jihadists.[46] He dedicates another chapter to suicide bombings, claiming that killing oneself is theologically legal because it is designed to boost religion. Going beyond Najji’s guidelines, Muhajjer advises Salafi-jihadists to obtain weapons of mass destruction, which he sees as a “necessity” in this total war.[47] Although he says that weapons of mass destruction must only be used in defense against an invasion by kuffar, he qualifies this by insisting on other measures of punishment if that would benefit Muslims.[48]

There is a sober, realist, cold-bloodedness to the guidelines offered by Najji, Muhajjer, and Dr. Fadl, a businesslike attitude that belies the dark, sinister, and vile ideological message. Their point of departure is that the Islamic State can only be nourished on “blood” and erected on “skeletons and human remains”; the whole society must be transformed into a war society prepared to wage a prolonged battle that will produce historical leaders. Although these leaders, caution the authors, will sustain deep wounds and suffer great personal losses, they are necessary to build a jihadist generation, a Qur’anic generation baptized by blood and fire.[49] Theirs is an existential fight between faith and Kufr, Islam and apostasy, and only total war against enemies near and far will bring about the Islamist utopia.

Totalitarian Religious Ideology: A Doubled-edged Sword

Much like it was for Al Qaeda before it, the world according to ISIS is characterized by a perpetual war against real and imagined enemies. Society is in constant mobilization, on a permanent war footing, to fend off enemies who lurk everywhere and hatch conspiracies against the Islamic State. According to this worldview, stability can only be attained when enemies are either subjugated or forced to recognize the group’s sacred mandate. This totalitarian and absolutist ideology is a doubled-edged sword that while, on the one hand, cemented the ties that bind among ISIS combatants and followers; it has blinded ISIS to the complex realities of governance at home and international relations abroad, on the other. There are credible reports of public restiveness in the areas under ISIS’s control in Syria and Iraq and even defection by some of its fighters. Residents also report that ISIS is experiencing serious financial hardship and is squeezing the local population in order to extract resources and conscript young men. Hundreds of leaked ISIS documents show that since the start of October 2015, the group has taken a number of measures, including military mobilization, fearing traitors in their midst. Becoming increasing paranoid, ISIS issued an amnesty for military deserters because it presumably needs more soldiers.[50]

Ideological fanaticism has also led the group to monstrously miscalculate by mastering the art of making enemies and turning the entire world against it. Although ISIS has done impressively on the battlefield so far, its political and strategic miscalculations and shortsightedness do not bode well for the group in the long term. With ISIS, there are no blurred lines or gray areas, only followers and enemies: you either pledge allegiance to Baghdadi and his ideology or are labeled an enemy who could be killed. There is no neutral stance between good and evil; passivity is seen as apostasy. This binary black-and-white worldview pitted the organization against most of humanity, including the godfathers of Salafi-jihadist thought and neutral states like Turkey. Turkey is a prime example of the effects of ISIS’s strategy of waging war on the entire world and turning neutral regional countries and potential friends into enemies. Of all regional powers, Turkey was the least hostile toward ISIS and could have encouraged the organization to demonstrate restraint and diplomatic awareness. At the end of 2015, ISIS allegedly carried out deadly attacks against foreign targets, including a Russian jet, and urban centers in Beirut and Paris, killing and injuring hundreds of civilians. These massive operations galvanized the great powers, particularly France and Russia, to coordinate and redouble their efforts to defeat ISIS. Instead of making an effort at diplomatic engagement that could have increased their claims of statehood, Baghdadi and his inner circle have united the world against them.

In a way, ISIS has rejected the structure of the state system and is attempting to offer an alternative revolutionary model based on Islamic identity, not state sovereignty. ISIS’s conduct seems suicidal, however. There is a disconnect between ISIS’s limited military capabilities and the long list of regional and global powers pitted against the group, including the two most powerful militaries in the international system—those of the Americans, the Russians, and the Europeans. With too many enemies and shrinking resources, it is doubtful if ISIS could sustain its stranglehold on the major cities that it controls in a prolonged fight over several years. A more plausible scenario is that, as military pressure intensifies against ISIS in the near future, its core middle and senior leaders might melt into urban areas and wage a terrorist campaign along similar lines to that of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) between 2007 and 2011. The “Islamic State” would mutate into its original type, an underground, paramilitary Salafi-jihadist organization. As explained previously, ISIS’s success so far has mainly depended on the group’s ability to exploit the deep communal divide in the region and the fragility of the state structures in Syria and Iraq as well as contradictions within the US-led coalition and the lack of effective local forces on the ground. More importantly, Baghdadi’s armed apparatus and “state” require a constant resupply of men of fighting age, arms, ammunition, and money, all of which have become scarce. Although foreign recruits continue to travel to Syria to join ISIS, albeit at a much reduced rate, there are credible reports of fighters who are disillusioned and defecting from the organization. The flow of jihadists to Syria has also dried up due to the Americans and the Turks working closely together by the end of 2015 to close down Turkey’s five-hundred-mile-long border with Syria, a border that until very recently provided a lifeline to ISIS.[51] Fundamentally, in the coming future, it may prove to be a significant challenge for ISIS to keep its overextended armada oiled and stocked within an increasingly hostile regional and international environment.

With many enemies and very few friends, Baghdadi and his armed contingents stand naked and alone in the eye of a gathering storm, much weaker than ISIS’s propagandists would like us to believe. The Islamic State is built on shaky foundations, and the foolishness and recklessness of its planners aggravate its predicament. Baghdadi and his inner circle are their own worst enemies. While it is essential not to underestimate ISIS’s military strength, its ideological fervor, and the asabiya (social solidarity) of its hard-core operators, it is also important not to buy into the group’s narrative of itself as invincible, undefeatable, and expandable. In comparative historical terms, ISIS is more like the Taliban in Afghanistan than the great revolutionary movements such as the Bolshevik Revolution and the Chinese Communist Revolution. The notion of ISIS’s invincibility is a myth. Supported by the US-led coalition airstrikes, the Kurds in Syria and Iraq have bloodied the nose of Baghdadi and his cohorts, delivering ISIS a hard blow. The Iraqi security forces backed by Sunni and Shia allies and US airpower have recaptured major cities and towns from ISIS in 2015, including Tikrit, Baiji, Sinjar, and Ramadi. Supported by coalition planes, the American-backed anti-ISIS alliance of Syrian Kurds and Arab rebel groups, known as the Democratic Forces of Syria, made important gains against the group in the latter half of 2015, threatening to cut off its last direct access to the Turkish border and hampering its ability to attract foreign recruits. In addition, the introduction of Russian airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria in 2015 has allowed the Syrian army to regain territories from the group, though most of the Russian attacks focused on other rebels opposed to the Assad regime. And after the Paris attacks in November 2015, the French, together with other European powers, have become more active in the fight against ISIS, providing logistical and military assistance to local forces in Iraq and Syria.

A few days before the Iraqi security forces expelled ISIS from the center of Ramadi in December 2015, Baghdadi released an audio tape, his first public message in seven months, in which he conceded that his group faces a dangerous moment, calling on his soldiers to be patient and steadfast. Trying to shore up the morale of his followers in a rare public message, his first in seven months, Baghdadi said that “Crusaders and Jews” did not dare to fight on his turf and portrayed the military setbacks as a trial by Allah to test the faith of his men. “Be confident that God will grant victory to those who worship him, and hear the good news that our state is doing well. The more intense the war against it, the purer it becomes and the tougher it gets,” he preached.[52] Baghdadi’s unusual acknowledgment of hardship and tribulation is not only related to recent military setbacks in Iraq and Syria but also to dissention within the group’s own ranks. The lesson is that ISIS can be defeated militarily if resisted by determined and organized local communities; whether this is an achievable goal in marginalized Sunni-majority areas in Iraq and Syria is another matter.

In the meantime, the organization will endure as long as the factors and circumstances that have fueled its rise remain in place in Iraq and Syria and beyond. While the fragility of the state structures in Iraq and Syria is the key cause of ISIS’s swift and spectacular surge, regional and global rivalries sustain and prolong its existence. As long as these conditions and cleavages exist, it is going to be difficult to defeat ISIS and dislodge it from Iraq and Syria.

Notes

[1] R. Ysseldyk, M. Kimberly, Matheson, and H. Anisman, “Religiosity as Identity: Toward an Understanding of Religion from a Social Identity Perspective,” Personality and Social Psychology Review 14, no. 1 (2010): 60–71.

[2]Fethi Benslama, La guerre des subjectivities en Islam (Paris: Nouvelles Editions Lignes, 2014).

[3]See the interview of Fathi al Makdisi: “The Modernity Promised by the Nation State Is No Longer Sufficient—There Is a Need for a New Affiliation,” al-Quds al-Arabi, August 22, 2015 [in Arabic],www.alquds.co.uk/?p=391704&print=1#comments_controls.

[4]See link to an audio message by Abu Mohammed al-Adnani,“Hazizahu Allah” (This is the promise of Allah) June 29, 2014, http://jihadology.net/2014/06/29/al-furqan-media-presents-a-new-audio-message-from-the-islamic-states-shaykh-abu-muḥammad-al-adnani-al-shami-this-is-the-promise-of-god/.

[5]Ibid.

[6]Ibid.

[7]See link to a voice recording by Abu Mohammed al-Adnani,“Apologies, Leader of al-Qaeda,” declaring the revocation of the pledge of allegiance to Al Qaeda and calling on it to reject the pledge of allegiance by Joulani:www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAB(posted on September 17, 2014).

[8]Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad, “ISIS Fighters Seize Control of Syrian City of Palmyra, and Ancient Ruins,” New York Times, May 20, 2015. See also Anne Barnard, “ISIS Conquest of Palmyra Expands Militants’ Hold on Syria,” New York Times, May 21, 2015.

[9] Jonathan Landay, Warren Strobel, and Phil Stewart, “Exclusive: Seized documents reveal Islamic State’s Department of `War Spoils`,” Reuters, December 28, 2015]

[10]Rukmini Callimachi, “ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape,” New York Times, August 13, 2015; see also Judit Neurink, “The ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Viewed Women Held Captive at a Syrian House as His Private Property, and Raped a Number of Them, Including the US Hostage Kayla Mueller,” Independent, August 14, 2015.

[11]Amnesty International, Escape from Hell: Torture and Sexual Slavery in Islamic State Captivity in Iraq(London: Amnesty International, 2014),www.amnesty.org.uk/sites/default/files/escape_from_hell_-_torture_and_sexual_slavery_in_islamic_state_captivity_in_iraq_-_english_2.pdf; Rothna Begum and Samer Muscati, “Interview: These Yezidi Girls Escaped ISIS. Now What?,” Human Rights Watch, April 15, 2015; Samer Muscati, “Raped by ISIS and Trying to Face the Future,” Human Rights Watch, April 14, 2015.

[12]Amnesty International, Escape from Hell.

[13] The “price list” was first leaked by activists based in ISIS-controlled areas of Syria in November 2014, but it was unable to be verified and its authenticity was initially brought into question. Cormac Fitzgerald, “ISIS Executes 19 Female Prisoners for Refusing to Practice ‘Sexual Jihad’—Kurdish Official,” Irish Independent, August 6, 2015.

[14]Fiker Center for Studies, “The Islamic State Organization: Drivers and Ideology” [in Arabic],www.fikercenter.com/, summarized in AlSouria.net, July 18 and 22, 2015.

[15] Jonathan Landay, Warren Strobel, and Phil Stewart, “Exclusive: Seized documents reveal Islamic State’s Department of `War Spoils`,” Reuters, December 28, 2015].

[16]ISIS, “The Revival of Slavery before the Hour,”Dabiq, no. 4, October 2014.

[17]For Baghdadi’s audio statement in November 2014, seehttps://pietervanostaeyen.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/audio-message-by-abu-bakr-al-baghdadi-even-if-the-disbelievers-despise-such/.

[18]Abu Bakr al-Najji, Idaraat al-Tawahush: Akhtar MarhalaaSatamur Beha al-Umma [Management of savagery: The most critical stage through which the Islamic nation will pass] (n.p.: Markaz al-DerasaatwalBuhuth al-Islamiyaa, n.d.), https://pietervanostaeyen.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/idarat_al-tawahhush_-_abu_bakr_naji.pdf; Abu Abdullah al-Muhajjer, Masael fi Fiqh al-Jihad [An introduction to the jurisprudence of jihad], https://archive.org/details/msael-mn; and Abdel-Qade Ibn Abdel-Aziz [Dr. Fadl], Al-’Umda fi I’dad al-’Udda[The essentials of making ready (for jihad)],www.m5zn.com/newuploads/2015/02/18/pdf/4f2fb076fd7d595.pdf.

[19]Abdel-Aziz, The Essentials of Making Ready, 5.

[20]Ibid. Moatez al-Khatib, “Daesh’s Intellectual Origins: From Jurisprudence to Reality,” January 2015, http://studies.aljazeera.net/en/dossiers/decipheringdaeshoriginsimpactandfuture/2014/12/2014123981882756.htm#a20.

[21]Najji, Management of Savagery, 83.

[22]Ibid., 20.

[23]Ibid., 50.

[24]Ibid., 75, 77.

[25]Ibid., 15.

[26]Abdel-Aziz, The Essentials of Making Ready, 340.

[27]Ibid., 342.

[28]Ibid., 313.

[29]Ibid., 30, 344. Fard Ayn (an individual duty) is an act that is obligatory for Muslims individually. Each will be rewarded for performing it, or punished for failing to perform it. The five daily prayers, for which Muslims are individually responsible, is one example of this duty.

[30]Ibid., 315.

[31]Ibid., 293–295.

[32]Ibid., 303.

[33]Ibid., 304.

[34]Ibid., 345.

[35]Ibid., 30.

[36]Ibid., 5.

[37]Fawaz Gerges, The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 14.

[38]Muhajjer, An Introduction to the Jurisprudence of Jihad,25.

[39]Ibid., 32.

[40]Ibid., 18.

[41]See Najji, Management of Savagery, 4.

[42]Ibid., 76.

[43]Ibid., 32.

[44] Ibid.

[45]Muhajjer, An Introduction to the Jurisprudence of Jihad, 270, 288.

[46]Ibid., 282.

[47]Ibid., 187–188.

[48]Ibid., 469.

[49]Najji, Management of Savagery, 76–79.

[50] Shiv Malik, “The Isis papers: Leaked documents show how Isis building its state,” Guardian, December 7, 2015.

[51] Martin Williams, “Dozens of Fighters Are Defecting from the Islamic State. Here’s Why,” Washington Post, September 21, 2015; Schmitt and Sengupta, “Thousands Enter Syria.” See also J. Diamond, “Congressional Report: U.S. Has ‘Failed’ to Stop Flow of Foreign Fighters to ISIS,” CNN.com, September 30, 2015, http://edition.cnn.com/2015/09/29/politics/foreign-fighters-isis-congressional-task-force-report/index.html; Erin Cunningham, “The Flow of Jihadists into Syria Dries Up as Turkey Cracks Down on the Border,” Washington Post, August 1, 2015; David Brunnstrom, “U.S., Turkey Working to Finish Shutting Northern Syria Border: Kerry,” Reuters, November 17, 2015.

[52]Baghdadi, “The Khilafa Publications.”See also Ensor, “Islamic State leader Baghdadi Goads West.”

18-03-2016

About the author:

Fawaz A. Gerges is Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and holder of the Emirates Professorship in Contemporary Middle East Studies. He was also the inaugural Director of the LSE Middle East Centre from 2010 until 2013. Gerges’ most recent books are: Contentious Politics in the Middle East: Popular Resistance and Marginalised Activism beyond the Arab Uprisings; The New Middle East: Protest and Revolution in the Arab World; and Obama and the Middle East: The End of America’s Moment? On the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, Oxford University Press released Gerges’ book, The Rise and Fall of Al Qaeda.

Source: Foreign Policy Journal

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Western intelligence operation “Kosovo Liberation Army” harvested Serbs’ organs – EU inquiry



Bagra Kosova

An inquiry by the EU has found “compelling indications” that ten Serb captives had their body organs harvested for illegal trafficking during the 1998-99 Kosovo war. However, it wasn’t widespread and there will be no trial, the lead investigator said.

The chief prosecutor Clint Williamson, who led the investigation, said there was no evidence of widespread organ harvesting, but that the crime had occurred a number of times.

“There are compelling indications that this practice did occur on a very limited scale and that a small number of individuals were killed for the purpose of extracting and trafficking their organs,” he told journalists. However, he added that there would not be enough evidence at the moment to prosecute the alleged crimes.

The revelation was part of a presentation on a 2 1/2 year investigation into atrocities that also largely confirmed human right reports that there was a campaign of persecution against Serb, Roma and other minorities by some people in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

The investigation was prompted by a 2011 report by Council of Europe member Dick Marty that accused senior KLA commanders of involvement in the smuggling of Serb prisoners into northern Albania and the removal of their organs for sale.

Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, himself a former KLA leader who was named in Marty’s report, has dismissed the accusations as an attempt to tarnish the Kosovo Albanian fight for independence.

The government of the Republic of Kosovo appreciates the completion of the ambassador Williamson’s work, which is an important step to determine potential individual responsibility and gives an end to the claims of the unfounded charges,” Thachi said.

However, Williamson bitterly complained that the investigation had been made far more difficult because of “a climate of intimidation that seeks to undermine any investigations of individuals associated with the former Kosovo Liberation Army.”

Williamson did say the Special Investigative Task Force would in future be “in a position to file an indictment against certain senior officials of the former Kosovo Liberation Army” for a series of crimes, including killings, disappearances, camp detentions and sexual violence.

Without naming any individuals, Williamson said that “there are compelling indications that this practice did occur.” He went to lengths to make clear the alleged harvesting was not a wholesale practice, rejecting claims of hundreds of victims. Some 400 people, mostly Kosovo Serbs, disappeared near the end of the war, AP reports.

Just over 2,000 Serbs are believed to have been killed during and immediately after the war.

Serbia has vowed never to recognize the independence of its former province, which many Serbians consider their nation’s heartland, after it declared independence in 2008. It is also not recognized by dozens of countries worldwide, including Russia.

In Belgrade, Serbia’s war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic told The Associated Press that Tuesday’s announcement “crowns a big effort on our part and shows that we were right when we said that war crimes had been committed and that organ trafficking took place.”

29-07-2014
Source: RT

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Stay out of Kosovo!



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…When did Congress authorize Bill Clinton to go to war against
a Yugoslav army that has never attacked Americans?…

This week, NATO conducted air exercises over Albania as a warning to Belgrade that its crackdown in Kosovo must end now.
NATO’s demands? Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic must call off his offensive by June 16, allow monitors unimpeded access to the rebellious province, let the refugees return home, and resume talks with the Kosovan resistance. If Milosevic balks, NATO is preparing attacks on his forces and, says The New York Times, “possible air strikes against strategic military targets in Serbia.”

France contends that NATO needs a new U.N. Security Council resolution before it can attack, but the United States say earlier resolutions will do.

Am I missing something? Air strikes are an act of war. When did Congress authorize Bill Clinton to go to war against a Yugoslav army that has never attacked Americans and is operating entirely within Yugoslavia’s own borders?

“We know that in a clash with NATO … we don’t stand a chance,” said Belgrade’s deputy prime minister. But the minister insists his army has a duty is “to defend the territory against anybody who tries to enter by force.” Does he not have a point?

When Biafra broke from Nigeria, the United States sided with Lagos as it crushed the rebellion at the cost of a million lives. When Chechnya tried to break from Russia, we sided with Russia. How would Abraham Lincoln have reacted if warned by Britain and France that attacks on Union ships and ports would commence, unless he got firm control of Gen. Sherman and began negotiating with Jefferson Davis?

Kosovo is 90 percent ethnic Albanian, and Milosevic’s treatment of its majority has indeed been repressive and cruel. Yet Kosovo is also the cradle of the Serb nation. Serbs are no more willing to let it go than Israelis would be willing to let Jerusalem go. Serbs who were glad to be rid of Slovenians, Croatians and Bosnian Muslims will fight to hold onto their ancestral homeland.

But where is the vital U.S. interest in this ethnic quarrel that we should send American pilots and F-16s to kill Serbian soldiers, rather than let them recapture their rebellious province?

Where is the Republican Congress? Many in that body are today whining that Clinton moved unilaterally into Bosnia and they had no choice but to back him. Well, now, they do have a choice. Congress should vote this week to instruct the president that he has no authority to wage war against Yugoslavia unless Congress votes its approval. Before the United States gets embroiled in another nasty Balkan war, every member should have to vote on it — and be held accountable.

The United States bears a measure of responsibility for this unfolding tragedy. In 1992, President Bush warned Belgrade that a crackdown in Kosovo would risk confrontation with America. Bush had no authority to threaten military action, but that warning from the leader of a nation that had just smashed Iraq gave encouragement to Kosovan rebels that, if they arose for independence, the world’s last superpower would be at their side.

Now the Kosovo Liberation Army may control a large area of the countryside, but perhaps 85,000 people are refugees from homes and villages destroyed by Yugoslavian security forces.

Before Clinton launches air strikes or Congress approves any act of war, America should think through the end game. What outcome is it that we desire to this rebellion?

The Bosnian armistice was produced not by air strikes alone but by the intervention of a Croatian army of 100,000 that had the Bosnian Serbs on the run. The peace that exists in Bosnia exists because tens of thousands of NATO troops are patrolling the ethnic frontiers of that country, which has been de facto partitioned. Are we willing to send American ground troops into Kosovo?

The United States opposes independence in Kosovo, as it would prove a lure to Albania and perhaps lead to a breakup of Macedonia with its Albanian minority. And if Macedonia comes apart, a general Balkan war could ensue, with nations scrambling to pick up the loose pieces. Even Greece might come in. Then, the balloon would really go up.

The same NATO strikes that rain death on the Yugoslav Army could also convince the Kosovo Liberation Army to go all out for independence. Why not, with U.S. air power supporting them? Would we then launch strikes on the KLA for going too far?

America should stay out. Kosovo is not our quarrel; it is not our war. The United States has no vital interest in whose flag flies over its capital, Pristina. But Serbs and Albanians do see something worth dying for. If they wish to settle it with arms, they will do so one day. We have no right to kill Serbs or Albanians to postpone that day.


By Patrick J. Buchanan – June 16, 1998

Source: http://buchanan.org/blog/pjb-stay-out-of-kosovo-314

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Why are we in Kosovo?



Цлинтониѕација

Once again, U.S. air and naval forces are preparing strikes on Serbia’s army and police for refusing to stand down in Kosovo. And, once again, Americans are deeply ambivalent about intervention.

“Either we get in there with a NATO force, or we get the hell out,” said an exasperated Sen. John Warner after Yugoslav strong man Slobodan Milosevic showed two NATO generals the door.

Warner advocates intervention. But Americans sense that, despite our disgust at the latest massacre and Milosevic’s thuggery, no vital U.S. interest exists there. The Serbs do not threaten NATO; they have not attacked Americans; they are fighting to hold onto a province that is the birthplace of Serbian nationhood. Whose flag flies over Kosovo’s capital has never been critical to us.

Defense Secretary Bill Cohen asserts that NATO’s “credibility remains on the line.” But who put it there? Before the 1990s, most Americans had never heard of Kosovo. And where does President Clinton get the authority to launch air strikes — acts of war — against a sovereign nation whose troops are putting down a rebellion on their own soil?

If we attack Serbs inside their own country, do Serbs have a right to attack us in ours? Why has Congress not demanded to know where we are going here, before we are ensnared in a war?

As the Kosovo Liberation Army has been accused of terrorism and seeks independence from Belgrade, which the United States opposes, why make our Air Force the air arm of the KLA? The KLA clearly wishes to drag NATO in as its shield against the Serbian army. But why should we accommodate the KLA? What is in it for us?

America’s fear is of a Balkan war, and one scenario runs thus: Kosovo, 90 percent Albanian, breaks free of Serbia to unite with Albania. The Albanians in Macedonia then attempt to break free to join them. Macedonia disintegrates; Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria all tear off a chunk. Having lost Kosovo, Serbia seeks to reunite with its kinsmen in Bosnia, smashing the Dayton accords. With Muslims in Bosnia under siege and Greece grabbing territory, Turkey enters the war.

Such a Balkan conflict would be horrific, but Balkan wars broke out in 1912, and again in 1913, without any great power intervening. Only in 1914, when Russia and Austria each saw its “credibility on the line” and clashed over Serbia, did World War I erupt, one of the worst disasters of Western civilization. History’s lesson: If you wish peace, stay out of the Balkans.

Before we use air power, that night stick of the New World Order, we should ask: What is it we hope to accomplish? To punish Milosevic? To convince him to send his army back to the barracks?

But if he complies and U.S. intervention brings independence to Kosovo, which then attempts to unite all the Albanians in the Balkans, leading to Macedonia’s collapse, do we intervene with U.S. troops to guarantee everyone’s territorial integrity?

Air strikes in Kosovo might be like those air strikes in Vietnam in 1965, the first bold step into the Big Muddy.

What is happening in the Balkans today is the continuation of the deconstruction of the Ottoman Empire, the “Sick Man of Europe” of the 19th century, and of the Hapsburg Empire, which collapsed in 1918. The centrifugal force in this struggle is virulent nationalism.

Slovenes wish to be ruled by Slovenes, Croats by Croats, Serbs by Serbs, Muslims by Muslims, Albanians by Albanians. All have shown a willingness to fight, to die and to see their own suffer and die in considerable numbers rather than submit to what they hold to be alien rule, either religious or ethnic. The past decade of atrocities and reprisals has hardened hatreds all around.

But why is this America’s conflict? If, as Bismarck observed, the entire Balkans were not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier, why do they justify an American military intervention?

If NATO will commit 100,000 troops to Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia indefinitely, it can probably maintain the status quo. But NATO Europe doesn’t have the troops, and Americans don’t believe the Balkans are worth that heavy a commitment.

So we arrive at Warner’s alternative: Get out, let the Balkan peoples settle their own quarrels, but be there to aid the innocent victims rather than add to their roster with air strikes and murderous sanctions that inflict suffering and death on people who never did us harm.

Of the German squadron pressing him at Manila Bay, Adm. George Dewey said, “They are too pushing and ambitious; they’ll overreach themselves someday.” They did, and so will we, with our constant compulsion to intervene in every foreign quarrel.


By Patrick J. Buchanan – January 22, 1999

Source: http://buchanan.org/blog/pjb-why-are-we-in-kosovo-286

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Hearts beat in Kosovo for Islamist warriors



Kosovo ISIL Ridvan Haqifi and Lavdrim Muhaxheri

As Kosovo tries to stop its sons from going off to fight in Iraq and Syria, sympathy for their cause remains strong among some hardline Muslims.

Nektar Zogjani, Petrit Collaku and Nate Tabak
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Pristina

Facebook photo

The calls stopped coming more than three months ago.

Even while fighting in Iraq and Syria for the militants of Islamic State, Musli Musliu still checked in with his family regularly. He used to post photos on Facebook, showing a beaming young man posing with his comrades. One even shows him in a sweet shop.

It was during one of those calls, in April, that he broke the news that his brother, Valon, had been killed. The two had been fighting alongside each other in Iraq when Valon died. Musli said he had buried him there, too.

Musli has since gone silent, leaving his family to wonder he has shared the same fate as his Valon.

Their brother, Selman, speaks softly when he talks about Musli and Valon outside the family home in the village of Tushile, 50 kilometers west of Prishtina. Selman says their mother is taking it hardest. “She’s suffering a lot with the loss of Valon,” Selman said.

Both Musli and Valon had embraced a strict form of Islam. Valon had gone to a Medressa and had chosen to fight to “protect the word of God,” said another brother, Muhamet, expressing pride in his siblings.

 Facebook photo

Some 150 Kosovars have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq, primarily for Islamic State, or for the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, according to the Kosovo Intelligence Agency. Around 40 have died in what has become an increasingly dangerous war, with a US-led coalition of countries now attacking both groups via air strikes.

Meanwhile, Kosovo itself is becoming more hostile to those who have fought in Syria and Iraq, or who plan to. Police have arrested dozens of people in recent weeks, including imams and others accused of helping recruit fighters.

This week, President Atifete Jahjaga appeared on Fox News Channel in the US, declaring: “We are taking this threat very seriously and our security mechanisms are working around the clock to address this challenge.”

Kosovars make up only a tiny portion of the thousands of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, far outnumbered by those coming from Western European countries, including Belgium, the UK and France. They have nevertheless become a national embarrassment for a Muslim-majority country that wants to present itself as a secular, progressive European democracy.

A particular source of embarrassment is the leader of the Albanian fighters, Lavdrim Muhaxheri, who this summer posted photographs on Facebook, appearing to show him beheading a captive, with a message encouraging others to come join the fight. It followed a video showing him delivering a firebrand speech in Arabic and tearing up his Kosovo passport.

 Facebook photo

As outrage has grown across the world at the sheer brutality of Islamic State’s campaign to establish a so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq, it has only hardened the resolve of the Kosovo authorities, and of mainstream leaders in the Muslim community. “This is the right moment,” an official in the Kosovo Intelligence Agency, said, referring to the official crackdown.

Fighters coming for years

Since the civil war there erupted in 2011, it has been remarkably easy for people to travel from Kosovo to join the fight. In November 2012, Naman Demoll became the first Kosovar to die in the Syrian civil war.

The intelligence official noted that it is cheap – requiring only about 100 euros to get from Kosovo to the war zone, with a flight to Istanbul and then a bus to the Syrian border.

The same official says the practice was long largely ignored because no special law exists barring such activities. Until recently, the Turkish authorities also did little to stop would-be fighters from entering Turkey.

The official said there had been multiple cases of Turkish authorities letting Kosovars into the country after being provided with intelligence of their intention to fight in Syria or Iraq.

 Facebook photo

As for fighters who have returned to Kosovo, the official said most of them have returned to a quiet life. But a small number have come back further radicalized, complete with combat experience and a new disdain for the state.

The official said they have disrupted three terrorist plots involving former fighters already. With a series of high profile arrests in September and August, the official says the members of two terror cells are now in custody, with a third potential cell remaining in Syria or Iraq.

The same official said he believes about 30 Kosovars are still fighting for Islamic State or Al-Nursa. But, with the authorities now arresting and prosecuting fighters, the official says it is unlikely any of them will return to Kosovo. Those remaining have effectively bought themselves a “one-way ticket,” the official said.

Sympathies remain

The town of Kacanik, near the Macedonian border, is known in Kosovo’s history as a place that put up stiff resistance to the Ottoman Empire – which brought Islam to Kosovo and ruled the Balkans for nearly 500 years.

These days, however, it is known as a centre of radical Islam and as the hometown of a large number men fighting in Syria and Iraq. Among them is their purported leader, Muhaxheri.

On a recent Friday, at afternoon prayers, few were willing to discuss those fighting in Syria or Iraq. But a young man, who refused to give his name, expressed openness to fighting for Islamic State.

 Facebook photo

“I would seriously think of going there if someone invited me,” he said. The young man says he has practiced Islam strictly for the past year-and-a-half and feels an affinity for Islamic State because “my heart feels for Sharia Law… My brother, I think ISIS is Allah’s will,” he continued.

The same man also drew parallels with the 1998-99 conflict, in which the Kosovo Liberation Army took on Yugoslav and Serbian forces. He says there is a similar imperative today to go to fight in the Middle East.

Mentor, a middle-aged man in Kacanik, agreed, comparing the intervention of NATO forces in Kosovo to Kosovars fighting in Syria in Iraq.

“When foreigners came to help us in Kosovo, no one complained at that time,” he said. “Now the Kosovars are doing the same thing.  They are going to help liberate a people,” he said.

The Kosovo intelligence official agreed that the legacy of the war is one factor driving young Kosovars to fight abroad today.

“Most were very young when the Kosovo war happened. They want to try war – and feel it,” the official said, adding, however, that, based on the Intelligence Agency’s interviews, many come away disappointed.

For years, the leader of Kosovo’s Islamic Community, Naim Ternava, has drawn accusations of turning a blind eye to rise of extremism in the country’s mosques. Since the end of the war, strict forms of Islam, imported from and funded by the Middle East, have proliferated.

While the hardliners remain a minority among Kosovo’s Muslims, they have nevertheless become a visible and vocal presence. One of those arrested by police in September was Shefqet Krasniqi, the imam of the Grand Mosque, the largest in Prishtina.

In the wake of the arrests, however, Ternava has sharpened his rhetoric against the hardliners.

In a recent interview on Klan Kosova, Ternava warned of the rise of hardline Islam, brought in by people from outside Kosovo, “who have sown a sort of a seed of trouble.

“Now, that seed has somewhat grown up and is present. For instance, we have people who say the Kosovo Mufti is a nonbeliever because he does not grow beard,” he said. “This is not in line with real Islam; there are individuals who want to interpret Islam in very narrow terms, and to misinterpret Islam,” he added.

Skender Perteshi, of the Kosovar Center for Security Studies, blames a bad economy and a poor education system, as well as radicalised Islam, for creating the conditions that have sent Kosovars off to fight in Syria and Iraq.

He said recent police actions are encouraging. “It sends a message that the state is capable of coping with all the threats against the state, including terrorism,” he said.

It remains to be seen, however, if the crackdown stems the flow of fighters in the long term.

Muhamet Musliu remains proud of two of his brothers who went to fight in Iraq and Syria, even with one dead and another missing.

“They went to fight for Allah, to defend the words of Allah,” he said.  “I wish I could go there but the moment of destiny has not come yet.”


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Former Kosovar jihadist recounts Syrian Odyssey



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Albert Berisha, charged with participating in terrorist organisations and on trial in Kosovo, said he travelled to Syria to help the moderate Syrian opposition but got trapped by ISIS fighters.

Ridvan Haqifi (left) and Lavdrim Muhaxheri (right), two ISIS Kosovo Albanian commanders. | Photo: ISIS propaganda video

Albert Berisha, a former Kosovar jihadist who travelled to fight in Syria, appeared before a Pristina court on Monday to recount his version of the story and maintain his innocence.

Berisha, who graduated in political sciences from the University of Pristina and holds a Masters degree from the University of Tirana, was arrested in 2014 and is charged with participating in terrorist organisations. This crime is punishable with a minimum of five years in prison.

Berisha said he went to Syria from October 6 to 20, 2013, to help the Syrian opposition in their struggle against Bashir Al-Assad’s regime but never engaged in fighting.

On arrival in Syria, he asked to join other Albanian-speaking formations to “avoid language barriers”, and was taken to meet Lavdrim Muhaxheri, the ISIS commander of Albanian fighters.

“I swear by God, that I had never heard of him or met him before,” Berisha said, when the prosecution asked whether he knew Muhaxheri before that meeting.

Berisha claimed he searched the internet during the two available daily hours of electricity, trying to understand where he had ended up and came across a video of Muhaxheri.

“It was then when I understood that he was part of the Islamic State organisation, so I decided to leave and join the Ahrar al-Sham group,” Berisha said.

As escaping ISIS proved almost impossible, according to Berisha, he used Facebook to contact a friend in Kosovo to arrange an exit plan.

“He then sent me an SMS saying a relative of mine was sick and I had to return home, which I used as justification to return to Kosovo,” the suspect told the court.

Berisha claimed he then joined Ahrar al Sham, saying he also checked the US State Department list of terrorist organisations, to make sure the group was not included among them.

“The group was being financially supported by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and indirectly supported with weaponry from the US,” Berisha recounted.

While Ahrar al-Sham does not appear on Western lists of terrorist organisations, it is recognised as such by Iraq, Syria, Iran and Russia. Other sources say the group has affiliations with Al Nusra – Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria and Iraq.

Berisha said that when he returned to Kosovo after Muhaxheri granted him permission to leave, an Albanian from Skopje told him that other “Albanian recruits at ISIS had expressed regret for not having killed” him.

Berisha said he spent little time with Ahrar al-Sham because of increased tensions between this fighting formation and ISIS, and he did not want to become part of the fighting between the two formations.

Around 100 people have been arrested in Kosovo since September 2014 on charges of active membership of, or affiliation to, Islamist groups including ISIS and Al-Nusra.

More than 50 are currently on trial. The latest estimates from the authorities are that about 300 Kosovo Albanians have joined ISIS and Al Nusra.


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Kosovo secession linked to NATO expansion



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The U.S. calls it “Operation Status.” The United Nations calls it “The Ahtisaari Plan.” It is the U.S./NATO “independence” project for Kosovo, which has been a province of Serbia since the 14th century. With NATO’s 17,000 troops backing it, Kosovo’s government is set to secede on Feb. 6, declaring itself a separate country.

Kosovo’s president is Hashim Thaci, who was the leader of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK for its Albanian initials), which U.S. diplomat Robert Gelbard called “terrorist” in 1998, just before the U.S. started funding the UCK to use it against Yugoslavia. Thaci, whose UCK code name was “Snake,” and his UCK cronies are well funded by drug running and the European sex trade.

In a series of wars and coercive diplomacy in the 1990s, the U.S. government and the European NATO powers backed the secession of four republics of Yugoslavia, a sovereign socialist state. It took another 78 days of NATO bombing in 1999, aggression that President Bill Clinton described as “humanitarian,” and a coup financed by the National Endowment for Democracy and other imperialist agencies in 2000, to install a pro-western regime in Serbia that was open to Western intervention and privatization.

State resources were privatized. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was almost totally dismantled politically and economically.

But the U.S. then moved to break up the rest of Yugoslavia. Through lies and raw military power, the U.S. supported a pro-imperialist group of gangsters—the UCK—in the war against Yugoslavia, and this gang then took over Kosovo.

Then the U.S. supported UCK moves to detach Kosovo, where the U.S. had built the massive military base “Bondsteel.” Washington and its NATO allies allowed this criminal element to drive over 200,000 Serbs, Roma people and other minorities out of Kosovo, and terrorize the impoverished Albanian population.

Wealth and poverty in Kosovo

Kosovo is sitting on fifteen billion tons of brown coal. Its mines contain 20 billion tons of lead and zinc and fifteen billion tons of nickel. EU and U.S. corporations are going to buy Kosovo as soon as its status is settled as “independent.” (Inter Press Service Italy, Jan. 15, 2008)

But in Stari Trg, the most profitable state-owned mine in former Yugoslavia, inactive since 1999, rich with lead, zinc, cadmium, gold and silver, unemployment is above 95 percent. With unemployment high, wages will be low, and profits fabulous.

In Kosovo half of the population doesn’t get enough to eat. Unemployment hovers near 60 percent (IHT Jan. 28). Kosovo Albanians in the U.S. or Europe send home 450 million euros in remittances each year, half of Kosovo’s entire budget. “I don’t know how we would survive without this,” said economist Ibrahim Rexhepi. (Deutche Welle, Jan 27).

An Albanian living in New York told Workers World recently that he knows many families in Kosovo and Albania that have had to sell their daughters to get the remittances from their work in the sex trade. “Unemployment is so high that most people are poor, and many bought into the Ponzi scheme in 1997 that robbed most Albanians at home and in Kosovo of their entire life savings.”

The U.N. Charter forbids the forced breakup of nations, and U.N. Security Council resolution 1244 guarantees the territorial integrity of Serbia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Kosovo independence “is fraught with serious damage for the whole system of international law, negative consequences for the Balkans and the whole world and for the stability in other regions.” (Interfax, Jan. 25)

The U.S. and its NATO partners are ignoring legalities. But they have to pay attention to the possibility of Serbia making energy deals with Russia. The two countries agreed to build a large gas storage facility in Serbia, while Russia’s state-controlled oil concern Gazprom signed an agreement granting Gazprom control of 51 percent of Serbia’s state-owned oil-refining monopoly NIS. The Russians have commenced work on the South Stream gas pipeline through Serbia to supply southern Europe.

The U.S. and the EU have been working feverishly on the rival Nabucco pipeline to cut European dependence on Russian energy (Reuters, Jan 25).

Kosovo and NATO growth

The Kosovo crisis has prompted leading Serbian presidential candidate Tomislav Nikolic, of the Radical Party, to suggest the creation of a Russian military base in his country. (Itar-Tass, Jan. 25).

Why is Kosovo so crucial to NATO expansion?

The creation of Kosovo as an “independent” state would be a precedent for other schemes U.S. imperialism could take advantage of to break away areas of other sovereign nations, including China and Russia, applying the old “divide and conquer” strategy perfected by British imperialism.

The Russian and Chinese governments both have spoken out against the Ahtisaari plan.

Russia’s foreign minister Sergy Lavrov said NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe and the ex-Soviet republics are “a process of territorial encroachment similar to what Napoleon and Hitler failed to achieve by cruder means.” (Voice of Russia, June 28, 2007)

The planned NATO/U.S. plot to make Kosovo independent is a continuation of NATO military expansionism to ensure U.S. economic control in Eastern Europe. NATO is the military arm of international capital on five continents. Popular opposition is rising in Serbia, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, the Czech Republic, Poland, the Ukraine, Afghanistan and Africa.

But anywhere NATO tries to go, resistance grows. The secession of Kosovo may still blowback to haunt the imperialists.


January 30th, 2008

By Heather Cottin

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Kosovo’s “Mafia State” and camp Bondsteel: Towards a permanent US military presence in Southeast Europe



terorista-pripadnik-ovk-uck

In one of the more bizarre foreign policy announcements of a bizarre Obama Administration, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced that Washington will “help” Kosovo to join NATO as well as the European Union. She made the pledge after a recent Washington meeting with Kosovan Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in Washington where she praised the progress of the Thaci government in its progress in “European integration and economic development.”1

Her announcement no doubt caused serious gas pains among government and military officials in the various capitals of European NATO. Few people  appreciate just how mad Clinton’s plan to push Kosovo into NATO and the EU is.

Basic Kosovo geopolitics

The controversial piece of real estate today called Kosovo was a part of Yugoslavia and tied to Serbia until the NATO bombing campaign in 1999 demolished what remained of Milosevic’s Serbia and  opened the way for the United States, with the dubious assist of EU nations, above all Germany, to carve up the former Yugoslavia into tiny, dependent pseudo states. Kosovo became one, as did Macedonia. Slovenia and Croatia had earlier split off from Yugoslavia with a strong assist from the German Foreign Ministry.

Some brief review of the circumstances leading to the secession of Kosovo from Yugoslavia will help locate how risky a NATO membership or EU membership would be for the future of Europe. Hashim Thaci the current Kosovo Prime Minister, got his job, so to speak, through the US State Department and not via free democratic Kosovo elections. Kosovo is not recognized as a legitimate state by either Russia or Serbia or over one hundred other nations. However, it was immediately recognized when it declared independence in 2008 by the Bush Administration and by Berlin.

Membership into the EU for Kosovo would be welcoming another failed state, something which may not bother US Secretary Clinton, but which the EU at this juncture definitely can do without. Best estimates place unemployment in the country at as much as 60%. That is not just Third World level. The economy was always the poorest in Yugoslavia and today it is worse. Yet the real issue in terms of the future of EU peace and security is the nature of the Kosovo state that has been created by Washington since the late 1990’s.

Mafia State and Camp Bondsteel

Kosovo is a tiny parcel of land in one of the most strategic locations in all Europe from a geopolitical standpoint of the US military objective of controlling oil flows and political developments from the oil-rich Middle East to Russia and Western Europe. The current US-led recognition of the self-declared Republic of Kosovo is a continuation of US policy for the Balkans since the illegal 1999 US-led NATO bombing of Serbia—a NATO “out-of-area” deployment never approved by the UN Security Council, allegedly on the premise that Milosevic’s army was on the verge of carrying out a genocidal massacre of Kosovo Albanians.

Some months before the US-led bombing of Serbian targets, one of the heaviest bombings since World War II, a senior US intelligence official in private conversation told Croatian senior army officers in Zagreb about Washington’s strategy for former Yugoslavia. According to these reports, communicated privately to this author, the Pentagon goal already in late 1998 was to take control of Kosovo in order to secure a military base to control the entire southeast European region down to the Middle East oil lands.

Since June 1999 when the NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR) occupied Kosovo, then an integral part of then-Yugoslavia, Kosovo was technically under a United Nations mandate, UN Security Council Resolution 1244. Russia and China also agreed to that mandate, which specifies the role of KFOR to ensure an end to inter-ethnic fighting and atrocities between the Serb minority population, others and the Kosovo Albanian Islamic majority. Under 1244 Kosovo would remain part of Serbia pending a peaceful resolution of its status. That UN Resolution was blatantly ignored by the US, German and other EU parties in 2008.

Germany’s and Washington’s prompt recognition of Kosovo’s independence in February 2008, significantly, came days after elections for President in Serbia confirmed pro-Washington Boris Tadic had won a second four year term. With Tadic’s post secured, Washington could count on a compliant Serbian reaction to its support for Kosovo.

Immediately after the bombing of Serbia in 1999 the Pentagon seized a 1000 acre large parcel of land in Kosovo at Urosevac near the border to Macedonia, and awarded a contract to Halliburton when Dick Cheney was CEO there, to build one of the largest US overseas military bases in the world, Camp Bondsteel, with more than 7000 troops today.

The Pentagon has already secured seven new military bases in Bulgaria and Romania on the Black Sea in the Northern Balkans, including the Graf Ignatievo and Bezmer airbases in Bulgaria and Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania, which are used for “downrange” military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Romanian installation hosts the Pentagon’s Joint Task Force–East. The US’s colossal Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo and the use and upgrading of Croatian and Montenegrin Adriatic harbors for US Navy deployments complete the militarization of the Balkans.[ii]

The US strategic agenda for Kosovo is primarily military, secondarily, it seems, narcotics trafficking. Its prime focus is against Russia and for control of oil flows from the Caspian Sea to the Middle East into Western Europe. By declaring its independence, Washington gains a weak state which it can fully control. So long as it remained a part of Serbia, that NATO military control would be politically insecure. Today Kosovo is controlled as a military satrapy of NATO, whose KFOR has 16,000 troops there for a tiny population of 2 million. Its Camp Bondsteel is one of a string of so-called forward operating bases and “lily pads” as Donald Rumsfeld called them, for military action to the east and south. Now formally bringing Kosovo into the EU and to NATO will solidify that military base now that the Republic of Georgia under US protégé Saakashvili failed so miserably in 2008 to fill that NATO role.

Heroin Transport Corridor

US-NATO military control of Kosovo serves several purposes for Washington’s greater geo-strategic agenda. First it enables greater US control over potential oil and gas pipeline routes into the EU from the Caspian and Middle East as well as control of the transport corridors linking the EU to the Black Sea.

It also protects the multi-billion dollar heroin trade, which, significantly, has grown to record dimensions in Afghanistan according to UN narcotics officials, since the US occupation. Kosovo and Albania are major heroin transit routes into Europe. According to a 2008 US State Department annual report on international narcotics traffic, several key drug trafficking routes pass through the Balkans. Kosovo is mentioned as a key point for the transfer of heroin from Turkey and Afghanistan to Western Europe. Those drugs flow under the watchful eye of the Thaci government.

Since its dealings with the Meo tribesmen in Laos during the Vietnam era, the CIA has protected narcotics traffic in key locations in order partly to finance its covert operations. The scale of international narcotics traffic today is such that major US banks such as Citigroup are reported to derive a significant share of their profits from laundering the proceeds.

One of the notable features of the indecent rush by Washington and other states to immediately recognize the independence of Kosovo is the fact that they well knew its government and both major political parties were in fact run by Kosovo Albanian organized crime.

Hashim Thaci, Prime Minister of Kosovo and head of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, is the former leader of the terrorist organization which the US and NATO trained and called the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, or in Albanian, UCK. In Kosovo crime circles he is known as Hashim “The Snake” for his personal ruthlessness against opponents.

In 1997, President Clinton’s Special Balkans Envoy, Robert Gelbard described the KLA as, “without any question a terrorist group.” It was far more. It was a klan-based mafia, impossible therefore to infiltrate, which controlled the underground black economy of Kosovo. Today the Democratic Party of Thaci, according to European police sources, retains its links to organized crime.

A February 22, 2005 German BND report, labeled Top Secret, which has since been leaked, stated, “Über die Key-Player (wie z. B. Haliti, Thaci, Haradinaj) bestehen engste Verflechtungen zwischen Politik, Wirtschaft und international operierenden OK-Strukturen im Kosovo. Die dahinter stehenden kriminellen Netzwerke fördern dort die politische Instabilität. Sie haben kein Interesse am Aufbau einer funktionierenden staatlichen Ordnung, durch die ihre florierenden Geschäfte beeinträchtigt werden können.“ (OK=Organized Kriminalität). (Translation: “Through the key players—for example Thaci, Haliti, Haradinaj—there is the closest interlink between politics, the economy and international organized crime in Kosovo. The criminal organizations in the background there foster political instability. They have no interest at all in the building of a functioning orderly state that could be detrimental to their booming business.”3

The KLA began action in 1996 with the bombing of refugee camps housing Serbian refugees from the wars in Bosnia and Croatia. The KLA repeatedly called for the “liberation” of areas of Montenegro, Macedonia and parts of Northern Greece. Thaci is hardly a figure of regional stability to put it mildly.

The 44 year old Thaci was a personal protégé of Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during the 1990s, when he was a mere 30-year old gangster. The KLA was supported from the outset by the CIA and the German BND. During the 1999 war the KLA was directly supported by NATO. At the time he was picked up by the USA in the mid-1990s, Thaci was founder of the Drenica Group, a criminal syndicate in Kosovo with ties to Albanian, Macedonian and Italian organized mafias.  A classified January 2007 report prepared for the EU Commission, labeled “VS-Nur für den Dienstgebrauch” was leaked to the media. It detailed the organized criminal activity of KLA and its successor Democratic Party under Thaci.

A December 2010 Council of Europe report, released a day after Kosovo’s election commission said Mr Thaci’s party won the first post-independence election, accused Western powers of complicity in ignoring the activities of the crime ring headed by Thaci: “Thaci and these other ‘Drenica Group’ members are consistently named as ‘key players’ in intelligence reports on Kosovo’s mafia-like structures of organised crime,” the report said. “We found that the ‘Drenica Group’ had as its chief – or, to use the terminology of organised crime networks, its ‘boss’ – the renowned political operator … Hashim Thaci.”4

The report stated that Thaci exerted “violent control” over the heroin trade. Dick Marty, the European Union investigator, presented the report to European diplomats from all member states. The response was silence. Washington was behind Thaci.5

The same Council of Europe report on Kosovo organized crime accused Thaci’s mafia organization of dealing in trade in human organs. Figures from Thaçi’s inner circle were accused of taking captives across the border into Albania after the war, where a number of Serbs are said to have been murdered for their kidneys that were sold on the black market. In one case revealed in legal proceedings in a Pristina district court in 2008 organs were said to have been taken from impoverished victims at a clinic known as Medicus – linked to Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) organ harvesting in 2000.6

The question then becomes, why are Washington, NATO, the EU and inclusive and importantly, the German Government, so eager to legitimize the breakaway Kosovo? A Kosovo run internally by organized criminal networks is easy for NATO to control. It insures a weak state which is far easier to bring under NATO domination. Combined with NATO control over Afghanistan where the Kosovo heroin controlled by Prime Minister Thaci originates, the Pentagon is building a web of encirclement around Russia that is anything but peaceful.

The Thaci dependence on US and NATO good graces insures Thaci’s government will do what it is asked. That, in turn, assures the US a major military gain consolidating its permanent presence in the strategically vital southeast Europe. It is a major step in consolidating NATO control of Eurasia, and gives the US a large swing its way in the European balance of power. Little wonder Moscow has not welcomed the development, nor have numerous other states. The US is literally playing with dynamite, potentially as well with nuclear war in the Balkans.

*F. William Engdahl is author of Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order. He may be contacted via his website, www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net

Notes

1 RIA Novosti, US to Help Kosovo Join EU NATO: Clinton, April 5, 2012, accessed in
http://en.rian.ru/world/20120405/172621125.html.

2 Rick Rozoff, Pentagon and NATO Complete Their Conquest of The Balkans, Global Research, November 28, 2009, accessed in
www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=16311.

3 Tom Burghardt, The End of the Affair: The BND, CIA and Kosovo’s Deep State, accessed in

http://wikileaks.org/wiki/The_End_of_the_Affair%3F_The_BND%2C_CIA_and_Kosovo%27s_Deep_State.

4 The Telegraph, Kosovo’s prime minister ‘key player in mafia-like gang,’ December 14, 2010, accessed in
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/kosovo/8202700/Kosovos-prime-minister-key-player-in-mafia-like-gang.html.

5 Ibid.

6  Paul Lewis, Kosovo PM is head of human organ and arms ring Council of Europe reports, The Guardian, 14 December 2010.


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Investment opportunities in Kosovo, America’s “Mafia State” in the Balkans



Kosovos-Prime-Minister-Ha-008

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 survey the author mentions the Pentagon’s list of countries that can be regarded as candidates for a quick change of leadership. On that list are Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, and Somalia. Yugoslavia was not mentioned there because by that time the undesirable regime of Slobodan Milosevic had been overthrown with the help of precision and carpet bombings.

By the way, shortly after the Kosovo operation the tired general – Wesley Clark – retired and immediately got involved in the banking business. As it appears, he invested all his savings that he had accumulated as general, receiving from 150 to 200,000 dollars annually, in the banking business. Because of that he had to earn additional money, working as a military analyst on U.S. TV channels. However, he did not lose his contacts with Kosovo, where, following the previously mentioned democratization, entrepreneurship, especially, in the field of medicine, was on the rise. And now the Envidity Company that is in Clark’s ownership has filed a request for coal mining to the Kosovo authorities. Serbia that does not recognize Kosovo’s independence says that it is determined to demand protection for the natural resources belonging to it. Nobody wants to ask for Belgrade’s permission though as was the case many times before.

Wesley Clark always had good contacts with the Kosovo “government” and its “prime minister” – the former militant Hashim Thaci. There is even a street in Pristina named after Wesley Clark. By the way, a Russian political analyst and retired colonel-general Leonid Ivashov at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic mentioned the allied character of relations between the NATO troops and the militants of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). As we can see, this cooperation has borne fruit, including both political and economic benefits, a Serbian journalist, Nikola Vrzic, says.

“It is clear that during their “cooperation” that started in 1998, they concluded business agreements. Now it is absolutely clear that the bombings of Kosovo pursued both political and economic objectives: they were aimed not only at annexing Kosovo from Serbia, but also at depriving Kosovo of its extensive natural resources. As it appears, coal is Kosovo’s main resource. Geologists say that there are other minerals there too. More prospecting for natural resources is needed there.”

Against the background of instability on the oil market, experts talk more and more often about good prospects for the development of synthetic fuel, including obtaining synthetic fuel from coal. Clark’s firm believes that it is possible to produce up to 100,000 barrels of the new source of energy daily.

The economic motives of NATO’s military games are actually not a secret. Of interest here is the fact that in the middle of the 1990s, at the very height of the fratricidal war in Yugoslavia, the NATO countries’ citizens bought property in the Balkan republic. Buyers were making preparations for a new “post-Yugoslav” reality. And Kosovo was a good training ground, an expert with the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Pavel Kandel, said in an interview with the Voice of Russia.

“Kosovo created a precedent. It was the first link in the strategy of the “humanitarian” interventions of the NATO countries led by the USA. Shortly before the Kosovo operation, at the urgent request of Washington, NATO adopted a new doctrine, which set a number of tasks beyond defence limits before the member-states of the formerly defensive bloc. To be more exact, the possibility of interference in other regions of the world under this or that pretext became possible.”

The strategy that was used earlier can be used again. Coal mining is very good but oil still has a good price. So everything continued, following the former format: Iraq, Somalia, and Libya. Something has gone wrong with Syria though. Damascus wants to develop democracy without humanitarian aid from the West. There are problems with Iran too. But economic strategists have enough patience: investor-generals are ready for investing at any time.


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Why US sees Kosovo as its 52nd state?



Bagra Kosova

BELGRADE – Amnesty of crimes during NATO aggression, bilateral legalization of Camp Bondsteel in a friendly milieu, settling the Islamic world with support to their communities in the Balkans and forcing Russia out of that same Balkans, are four reasons the US supports the independence of Kosovo, writes “Sputnik”.

Illustration - Photo: RFE/RL

Illustration – Photo: RFE/RL

On Christmas (according to Gregorian calendar) Michael Kirby shows up. Outgoing US Ambassador congratulates Serbia upcoming New Year. “The normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina implies Kosovo’s membership in the UN,” was the content of the “greeting card”.

Apart from some kind of formalization, Kirby’s statement is not new for the local public because it was earlier said that the West will do, and it does, everything to round independence of the so-called “Republika e Kosovës”. American ambassador said that his state only assists the European Union in the accession process of Serbia, and stressed that at this stage they are not insisting on anything.

But why does the US insist so much on Kosovo? Why does it treat this quasi-state as if it is its 52nd state? Why spend so many resources on the whole project?

Single shot – four birds

“America is doing it because with single shot it would shoot down more birds. Maybe four,” said for Sputnik veteran diplomat Vladislav Jovanovic.

Photo: Nikola Dimitrijevic / Tanjug

Photo: Nikola Dimitrijevic / Tanjug

By forcing Serbia to recognize Kosovo’s independence, directly or indirectly via the so-called Ischinger formula of two German states, the US and NATO would receive amnesty for the crime of aggression, ethnic cleansing of the Serbs in the province and depriving Serbia of all rights and property in this area of its territory, Jovanovic stated as the first reason.

The second reason is America’s obligation to keep its large military base Bondsteel for the needs of KFOR, said Jovanovic. With the recognition of Kosovo by Serbia, or Kosovo’s membership in the UN, KFOR would be gone and military base would be at the level of bilateral agreement with the so-called Kosovo government.

Bondsteel-650x4331

“That base is important to them because of the ambitions the US, and NATO, have towards the Middle East and eastern area in general. Constant NATO-isation of Europe, NATO’s expansion across Europe deeper, even in the direction of the Caucasus, is not done without a major objective. The objective is in the air, it only needs to be said. The base, one of the largest they have in the world and which is very important to them, is located in a friendly milieu,” explained Jovanovic for Sputnik.

The wrath of the Islamic world

The third reason stated by diplomat Jovanovic is a very bad image of America in the Islamic world and very few arguments this state has to calm angered Islamic world. So, Jovanovic said, US decided to do so by supporting Islamic communities in the Balkans, and against the Christian Orthodox Serbia.

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“They also saw the war in BiH through that lens and to this day they give unconditional support to Islamic or Bosniak element in BiH. Aggression in Kosovo is the second goal. The third is putting Albania fully under their palm, incorporating it in the NATO and closing their eyes to its ambition to one day annex Kosovo and harbor illusions about a ‘Greater Albania’” said Jovanovic categorically.

Fourth reason is, through strengthening of the Islamic-Catholic arc in the Balkans, US disables the return of the Russian presence and influence in the Balkans, Jovanovic said.

“They know that this influence is one of the historical routes of Russian foreign policy in the Balkans. Russia is helping the Orthodox countries, first of all Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece,” explained Jovanovic.

By strengthening the Islamic – Catholic arc, as the diplomat calls it, which practically surrounds Serbia and does not allow it to play a more significant role of Piedmont for all the Orthodox elements in former Yugoslavia, Americans – with other actions they take – influence to displace the influence and presence of Russia in the Balkans.

Behind this small territory called Kosovo there are numerous large and long-term strategic and geo-strategic objectives that America has, Vladislav Jovanovic said.

No Russia in the Balkans

“It wants the Balkans to definitely become a zone of influence of the West by forcing all the Balkan countries to enter the so-called Euro-Atlantic organizations. And if they achieve it and when they achieve it, with the help of the ‘arc’, they can say that they achieved their main geopolitical goal in the Balkans, and that is to completely displace Russia,” Jovanovic is clear.

As for the Islamic world, he explains, it is very important for America to emphasize to Islamic countries the fact that America is instrumental for strengthening the Islamic element in the Balkans and strengthening that element through strengthening of their statehood.

“Let’s not forget that Western ambassadors in Belgrade have only one group of friends from Sandzak, and Sandzak is just one of the areas in Serbia. They have no other, which has to prove that they have a special interest in that area, probably within the broader picture of support to the Islamic element in the Balkans,” said Jovanovic.

All these are the reasons to expedite Serbia’s to, in talks with Albanians, through the EU, speed up the process in order to conclude a comprehensive binding legal agreement on (Belgrade and Pristina) normalization of relations. So-called recognition of Kosovo by Serbia is of no importance. The UN’s recognition of the so-called state is important. Nobody will dare to touch the member, because it is under the protection of the UN Charter, Jovanovic said.


Original source of the article: Sputnik

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Kosovo and Vidovdan after 600 Years



decani

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 1389, 600 years ago, Serbian and Turkish armies clashed on the Kosovo Field. Both the Serbian ruler Prince Lazar and the Turkish Sultan Murad I died as a result of the battle. In addition, a great number of Serbian military leaders, as well as a great number of Serbian warriors, lost their lives. Notwithstanding the fact that according to historical documents neither the Serbs nor the Turks won the battle, Serbia was so exhausted that it was unable to continue resisting the Turks’a few decades later the heirs of Prince Lazar recognized Turkish suzerainty and 5 centuries of domination of the Serbs by the Turks ensued. That long and martyrlike enslavement changed the course of Serbian history and interrupted the cultural progress of the Serbs, which was clearly evident during the rule of the Nemanja dynasty.

It is difficult to assess the importance of the Kosovo Battle for world history. Such is also the case with the battles at the Alamo or Gettysburg, which are so important for American history. However, it is undeniable that the Battle of Kosovo was exceptionally significant not only for Serbia, but also for Europe and European Christian civilization.

It is a fact that on Vidovdan, June 15, 1389, the Serbs, without help from a single European nation, defended on Kosovo Field not only the frontiers of their own territory and lives of their people, but, at the risk of losing their national independence, they also defended the interests and security of Christian Europe. In the conflict of 2 rival civilizations, the Muslim and the Christian, the Serbs checked the wave of the Turkish invasion, interposed themselves as a wall between the Turks and Europe, and enabled Europe to make preparations for its own defense. It is questionable whether the history of Europe would have been the same without the Battle of Kosovo and the sacrifice of the Serbian nation.

However, no matter how great the historical value of Kosovo and Vidovdan may be, for the Serbs they have an additional unique dimension and preeminence. Persons of non-Serbian origin may consider Kosovo as only a far-away, strange, and, even, unimportant geographical territory, and Vidovdan, June 15, 1389, as a date of a battle of which they know little or nothing. As far as the Serbs are concerned, Kosovo is their Holy Land, the cradle of Serbdom, and their inalienable, historical, national, and cultural heritage. As far as they are concerned, Vidovdan, June 15, 1389, is not just the date of a battle, but their nation’s identity, and the sacred will and testament which contains religious, ethical, and national principles for all Serbian generations from the Kosovo Battle until the present. In the national consciousness all of Serbian history is divided into 2 periods: prior to the Kosovo Battle and after the Kosovo Battle. And whereas the other battles in which the Serbs took part are mentioned only in historical textbooks, Vidovdan alone is included in the calendar, which registers holidays and the names of saints exclusively. Vidovdan alone has become a national holiday which has been observed through the centuries, and it is observed on this occasion, 600 years after the Battle of Kosovo.

As a geographical territory, Kosovo was Serbian even before the year 1389, before Vidovdan. That ownership was not marked by sticks, in the way the prospectors for gold marked their claims, nor by the deeds written in ink on paper, but by ancient and magnificent churches and monasteries and by Serbian cemeteries and tombstones. The capitals of Serbian kings and the thrones of Serbian archbishops and patriarchs were in Kosovo. Moreover, with the Battle of Kosovo, Kosovo and Vidovdan merged into a single concept and became a synonym with a specific meaning: The Serbdom. After June 15, 1389, one cannot speak of Kosovo apart from Vidovdan or about Vidovdan apart from Kosovo. They are inseparable because on Vidovdan 1389, on the Field of Kosovo, in the blood of Serbian warriors was written an indelible deed that forever confirms the Serbian ownership of Kosovo. Vidovdan commemorations, which have been celebrated annually for centuries, are reconfirmations of both the Serbian ownership of Kosovo and of the Vidovdan-Kosovo ethics, which are the core of the Serbian national image and the essence of Serbian identity.

Mapa_srpski_manastiri_na_Kosovu

It should be emphasized that the Vidovdan commemorations are not celebrations of a Serbian military victory over the Turks, for the Serbs were not victorious in the Kosovo Battle. However, it is incorrect, and even malicious, to claim that at Vidovdan commemorations the Serbs “celebrate their defeat in the Kosovo Battle.” Such a statement has no logical or historical support. According to the historical documents, the Turks had not won a victory in the Battle of Kosovo. Neither a military victory nor a military defeat are not and could not have been either the reason or the meaning of Vidovdan commemorations. On those occasions the Serbs honor and commemorate the heroes of Kosovo who laid down their lives defending their faith, freedom, nation, and country. At the same time, Vidovdan commemorations are the annual reviews of the post-Kosovo Serbian generations. They are evaluated in terms of Vidovdan-Kosovo ethics and on the basis of their reconfirmation of the Pledge of Kosovo. On Vidovdan, June 15, 1389, on the Kosovo Field, the Serbs chose once and for all their religious, cultural, ethical, and national identity. Their choice, in the form of an unwritten pledge, was handed down to all post-Kosovo Serbian generations and, through 600 years, Serbs have lived by that pledge.

In the course of 6 centuries the geographical boundaries and demographic constituency of Kosovo, as well as the political and social conditions have changed. Serbs, who represented a majority in Kosovo, have been reduced to a minority. Uncontrolled migration of thousands of people from neighboring Albania to Kosovo on one hand and, on the other, mass exodus of Serbs from that territory, because of the merciless oppression to which the Serbs have been subjected by the newcomers, especially in the period 1943-1988, has changed the status of the Serbian population from a majority to a minority. Atrocities, unheard of even in uncivilized countries, have been perpetuated against the Serbian population in Kosovo. Regretfully, biased reporting in the world press, including the American, misrepresents the situation in Kosovo. Victims – Serbs – are portrayed as oppressors, whereas oppressors – the Muslim population in Kosovo – are depicted as victims. It is incomprehensible that the freedom-loving Serbs, the allies of America in 2 world wars, are being taunted and attacked in the American press, whereas their oppressors, the former allies of Hitler and Mussolini in World War II, are undeservedly favored and supported. Thus, not only geographical territories, social and political conditions, but allegiances change, too.

Fortunately, Kosovo ethics remain unchanged and those values will always endure for all future Serbian generations. Those values, briefly defined, are as follows:

Uncompromising faith in God, without which there is no genuine philanthropy;

Philanthropy, as a confirmation of the professed faith in God;

Firm dedication to Christianity as it is confessed by the Orthodox Church;

Priority of the spiritual over the material;

Faithfulness to God, nation, and motherland;

Freedom as a precious value for which everything should be sacrificed, whereas it should not be sacrificed for anything in the world;

Honesty, righteousness, and love for peace – virtues to be practiced by individuals as a basis for healthy social relationships;

Placing common interest above personal interests and readiness to sacrifice for those interests;

Compassion to be extended even to enemies;

National unity as a condition for national existence.

This testament, this set of ethics of Kosovo, represents the greatest importance of Kosovo and Vidovdan.

Inseparable through six centuries, it is the reason we celebrate Vidovdan today.


By Fr. Mateja Matejic

Source: http://www.srpska-mreza.com/bookstore/kosovo/kosovo19.htm

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Coming home to roost: Kosovo sees return of locals who fought for Daesh



Kosovo ISIL Ridvan Haqifi and Lavdrim Muhaxheri

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 bin Laden visited Albania,” Drecun said. “In the meantime, radical Islamists strengthened their position in Kosovo, even gaining a certain degree of independence. We know about their contacts with the former commanders of the KLA and Kosovo Protection Corps as well as with members of Drenica Group (Drenicka grupa), a criminal organization run by Hashim Thaci.”

Drecun added that on numerous occasions, he has warned about the existence of a well-organized, trained and supplied ‘base’ of radical Islamism, jihadism and terrorism in the Balkans. So far, however, this ‘base’ was mostly used as a source of recruits for the terrorist groups.

“The presence of former Daesh militants in Balkans is a potential security threat and hints at the possibility of terrorist attacks and suicide bombings,” Drecun said.

Monah na rusevinama crkve
He added that while the current situation in Balkans remains more or less stable, Daesh militants have already listed the region and Serbia in particular among their targets during their latest video address.

It is only a matter of time before Daesh becomes ‘active’ in the Balkans, Drecun said.

Residents of the so-called Kosovo republic are statistically more likely to fight for Daesh than any European nation; The Telegraph reports that just one town of 30,000, Kacanik, managed to send two dozen local men to join Daesh’s dubious cause. The inefficient local authorities, ailing economy and soaring unemployment make this territory a fertile source of recruits for terrorist organizations.

Original source of the article: http://sputniknews.com/europe/20151202/1031128207/balkans-daesh-militants.html#ixzz3tBKY5w2i

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Sixteenth anniversary of the attack on Yugoslavia: Expulsion of Roma from Kosovo



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Once NATO’s 1999 war on Yugoslavia came to an end, units of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) poured across the border. The KLA wasted little time in implementing its dream of an independent Kosovo purged of all other nationalities. Among those bearing the brunt of ethnic hatred were the Roma, commonly known in the West as Gypsies. Under the protective umbrella of NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR), the KLA was free to launch a pogrom in which they beat, tortured, murdered and drove out every non-Albanian and every non-secessionist Albanian they could lay their hands on.

Not long after the war, I was a member of a delegation that interviewed people who had been forced from their homes in Kosovo. We heard how attacks on people often took place in the presence of KFOR soldiers, who invariably did nothing. Indeed, by all accounts, the relationship between KFOR and the xenophobic KLA was mutually warm and supportive.

Albanians who wanted to live together in a multiethnic society, or even those who held ordinary government jobs such as mailman, were not immune from attack either. We talked with an Albanian man who had been a member of the Yugoslav government in Kosovo up until the arrival of KFOR. He told us that the KLA had driven out of Kosovo 150,000 Albanians did not share its extremist views. Another Albanian we talked with in Belgrade wanted to return to Kosovo but was concerned about his safety if he did so. In time, his feelings of homesickness overcame his fear. He returned home, only to be killed in a rain of automatic rifle bullets fired by KLA soldiers who broke into his home.

Typically, refugees of the “wrong” ethnicity went largely unnoticed in the West. To learn more about the forgotten ones, we joined Jovan Damjanovich, president of the Association of Romani Organizations of the Republic of Serbia, in his office in the slightly rundown Belgrade suburb of Zemun. A passionate man, Damjanovich briefed us on how his community had fared at the hands of the Kosovo Liberation Army.
The situation of the Roma was dire. The Yugoslav government, financially strapped by harsh Western sanctions and struggling to care for several hundred thousand refugees from earlier wars in Croatia and Bosnia, was now confronted with the sudden influx of hundreds of thousands more.

We were driven to a Roma settlement in Zemun Polje, located on the outskirts of the town. Romani residents here had taken more than five thousand refugees into their homes, placing an enormous strain on the local population’s personal finances. Those who had little opened their homes to help their fellow human beings. It said much for the people here.

 Caption: Roma refugees at Zemun Polje.  Photo: Gregory Elich

The moment our cars pulled to a stop at the end of the settlement, a crowd formed around us. We interviewed a number of Roma and Egyptian refugees from Kosovo. Tefiq Krashich brought his family here from Obilich after KLA soldiers came to his house and threatened to kill his family. For two months, his family had nowhere to sleep until being taken in by a local family. They now had shelter but life remained difficult. “We have no food,” Krashich said. “We are starving. We are begging in the streets for food.”

Threats drove Pucho Rezhezha and his family from their home. After murdering Pucho’s brother, the KLA warned that they would kill everyone in the family if they did not leave Kosovo.

We interviewed a few more people, all with similar tales to tell, but emotions soon started to flare out of control, prompting Damjanovich to cut short the interviews. As our cars drove down the dirt road that ran alongside the settlement, children ran excitedly behind us, enveloped in the dust kicked up by the cars. We sped past two boys standing by the side of the road, pumping their fists in the air while chanting, “Yugoslavia! Yugoslavia!”

The next day, Damjanovich arranged for us to resume our interviews, this time in the center of Zemun. Even before we managed to set up our video cameras, we were surrounded by refugees, anxious to tell us their stories and to hear what others had to say. The weather was sweltering, and sweat poured down my back as the crowd closed around us. Estref Ramdanovich, vice president of the Roma association, informed us that out of a total population of 150,000 Roma in Kosovo, the KLA had by that point expelled 120,000. “The KLA soldiers don’t want any other ethnic group to be in Kosovo,” he explained. “Only Albanians.” Ramdanovich was one of those who had sacrificed much to help others, having taken an astonishing twenty refugees into his home.

With rising emotion, Jovan Damjanovich described the situation. “How many refugees are in the streets, in the bus stations, in the railroad stations, in the parks!” He planned to issue appeals for aid.

“Soon winter will arrive. The international organizations cannot remain blind and deaf when people are dying at their feet. It is a humanitarian catastrophe. Not only is the KLA burning houses. Not only are they expelling people. Not only are they killing many people. They want to create an ethnically clean Kosovo. We think the international community, on the basis of the United Nations Charter, has to do something. Because if there exists humanity, if there exists civilization, we cannot watch the death of a nation.”

It was no surprise to me when the so-called “international community” – a term that somehow always means only powerful interests in the United States and Western Europe and excludes the vast majority of the world’s population – continued to ignore the plight of these politically inconvenient refugees. Little more than a week after our visit to Zemun, Nusret Saiti, leader of the largest remaining Roma community in Kosovo, reported that the KLA had torched over 99 percent of the town’s Romani homes, leaving only three standing. The KLA was stripping the demolished homes for building materials, Saiti said, but NATO’s KFOR mission made no effort to stop them. In just the first year and a half alone of NATO occupation, more than 800 Roma were either killed or had gone missing, a situation which Western officials willfully ignored. Only much later, after most of the Roma had been expelled from the province, were primitive and inadequate refugee camps set up under guard within Kosovo.

We began to talk with the refugees. A soon as Yugoslav forces departed from Kosovo, the KLA showed up, they all told us. Bajrosha Ahmeti burned with anger.

“My daughter, Enisa Ahmeti, was raped by KLA soldiers. At night, we were sleeping in our house, and KLA soldiers broke in and dragged my daughter out and raped her.”

The KLA gang then forced the family from their home, without allowing them to pack. “These are the only clothes I have. I have no food, nowhere to sleep,” she told us. “Should I sleep on the street? The children awake at night, calling ‘Mama, Mama,’ and I have nothing to give them. They can’t sleep well. They can’t eat.”

 Caption: Bayrosha Ahmeti (center).  Photo: Gregory Elich

Adan Berisha told us that he and his wife were tortured by KLA soldiers. He pointed to his wife, whose face and arm were disfigured. It appeared that acid had been poured on her. But that was not the end of the family’s woes, for the KLA also murdered Berisha’s 12-year-old son. After killing the boy, the KLA soldiers threw Adnan, his wife, and grandson out of their home and began to haul away their possessions.

“A KLA soldier gave us only three hours to leave our home. He told us he would kill us if we stayed even half an hour longer than that. Three hours to leave Kosovo. I can’t go back to Kosovo because the militias will kill me.”

Lacking money or assets of any kind, the family’s trek from the province was difficult. Drawing attention to his grandson, Adnan said,

“This little baby, who is only three months old, went four days without eating. After we escaped from the Albanians, we went to Nish, where we didn’t have any food or water to give to this little baby.”

Adnan reached into his pocket for his wallet and produced a photograph of his son. There was a painful moment of silence as we gazed at the picture of the murdered boy. Then Adnan remarked in a quiet voice filled with anguish, “Sorrow. A world of sorrow.”

Four KLA soldiers broke into the home of Elas Raqmani one morning at about 6:00 AM. Two were armed with rifles and the others with knives. “KLA soldiers took everything – all of the furniture from my home,” he recounted.

“My stove was taken out. The washing machine, refrigerator, and freezer were taken out. We were watching, but I was so sick of the sight, I couldn’t bear to watch the Albanians taking my things right out front.”

 Caption: Elas Raqmani (seated).  Photo: Gregory Elich

The intruders then ordered the family to leave. Only later did Raqmani learn that many of his neighbors were killed that day. Raqmani told us that he had worked for fifty years, and his family lived very well until the day he lost his home. His wife was now reduced to visiting the markets each day and asking for leftover vegetables.

Raqmani expressed himself with a passion that swept all before it, and strong emotions spread throughout the crowd as he spoke. “Kosovo was taken away from us. I’m not against the American people, but this decision they made strikes me as loony. The rights of every people – the Serb, the Montenegrin, and the Gypsy – have been annulled.” Angrily slapping the table before him, Raqmani exclaimed,

“People are going out to kill, but you, as an army, just sit there. Did you come here to help or to watch this circus going on? Events now are making history. It is not acceptable what the American people are doing to us. If they came to help, let me see them help. But if they did not come to help, then everyone – Serbs and Gypsies – will be stamped out! They are allowing that to be done!”

Surrounded by her young children, Ajsha Shatili told us she was forced to leave her home on June 19, only a few days after the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces.

“KLA soldiers dragged my children and me from our home and started removing all of my furniture. I called three British KFOR soldiers for help. They came but did nothing. They only told me, “Good, good. Don’t cry. It will be good.” Wiping away her tears, she told us that a KLA soldier wounded her son by plunging a knife into his back when he attempted to stop the looting. Once the KLA soldiers had taken everything they wanted, they proceeded to burn down both of her homes under the indifferent gaze of the British soldiers. Like so many others, she now owned only the clothes she was wearing when she was driven out of Kosovo. Fortunately, all of her friends and relatives managed to escape from Kosovo before being killed. “They were all afraid for their lives,” she explained. When asked what would have happened had she and her family stayed in Kosovo, Shatili answered in a voice so filled with torment that it was almost a howl of pain. “Everyone would be killed! Everyone!”

Caption: Ajsha Shatili (center).   Photo: Gregory Elich

Five KLA soldiers came to the home of Hashim Berisha in search of his brother, who was a soldier in the Yugoslav army. Hashim was ordered to produce his brother, or they would kill his entire family. He went to his sister’s house and told her what had happened. His sister then ran to report the incident at the local British KFOR headquarters, where the matter failed to interest them. They merely pointed out that she could go wherever she would like to go just so she would not be killed. The next day, Hashim surreptitiously checked on his house and saw that it had been burned down. The KLA eventually caught up with his brother and subjected him to a severe beating. He was fortunate to have survived. Afterwards, Hashim’s brother went to KFOR headquarters in Prishtina, and told them his story. But KFOR’s translator was a KLA sympathizer, and it soon became apparent that what the translator was telling KFOR bore no resemblance to his story. Having no desire to wait around to be killed, he gathered his family and left Kosovo.

When KLA soldiers looted all of the furniture from his home in Uroshevac, Abdullah Shefik knew it was time to go. Shefik collected his family and friends, eleven people in all, and squeezed them all into his van, with the few possessions they managed to fit in. They headed north to escape Kosovo, but along the route they encountered a KLA roadblock. “They were waiting for us. KLA soldiers stopped me and ordered me to leave my van with them. KFOR soldiers stood nearby when my van was hijacked, but they did nothing.” The KFOR unit was American, Shefik added, but “viewed the whole thing and said nothing.”

Bechet Koteshi told us that as soon as British and French KFOR troops entered Gnjilane, KLA soldiers rampaged through the town, attacking Serbs and Roma. “KFOR did nothing because they were on the other side of the town, but the town is not very big, so they had to know what was happening.” Koteshi was in a pharmacy when the shooting began. He departed immediately, riding his bicycle home as fast as possible. “Three hundred meters behind me was another man riding a bicycle, and KLA soldiers threw a grenade at him and killed him.” Some weeks later, Koteshi snuck back into Kosovo to check briefly on his father, who was living in a tent after his home had been torched by the KLA. “It was so hard for him because he lived in a tent with no electricity and no water. Two days ago, KLA terrorists entered the camp and shouted at them, so they fled their tents in fear.”

NATO was complicit in these acts of terror, as borne out by our interviews and those conducted by others. The role of NATO was summed up by a refugee interviewed by Roma activist Sani Rifati:

“When NATO bombs stopped falling in Yugoslavia, my family returned to Kosovo. We were watching the KLA and KFOR soldiers hugging each other and celebrating their arrival in Kosovo. At that moment I thought, this can’t be happening! Why is that KLA terrorist soldier going to hug a KFOR soldier? I realized it is going to be like hell here. Within three days, all non-ethnic Albanians had to leave Kosovo. My house was burned by ethnic Albanians in front of KFOR forces. I went to report to the so-called foreign peacekeepers that my house was burning — and one of the soldiers was telling me it’s okay. My friend’s sister was raped by ethnic Albanians, and she went to report to the KFOR officer; he was telling her it’s okay. My neighbor was kidnapped by KLA and his wife went to report that he’s gone and the officer was telling her it’s okay. KLA was taking our brothers, relatives, friends and taking them to the KLA torture rooms, and wives went to report to the KFOR officers; they were telling them it’s okay. KLA and ethnic Albanians were killing Romani people and they were telling us it’s okay. Is that really okay? We were kicked out from my home in five minutes. KLA terrorists came to my house and told me that in five minutes we must leave our home and then they’re going to burn it.”

Roma leader Jovan Damjanovich issued a statement condemning the KLA’s campaign of terror. “This state of affairs calls into question the justification for the foreign presence. The exodus of Serbs, Montenegrins, and Romanies continues on the lines of the Nazi scenario of fifty years ago, while the world looks on.” Damjanovich’s plea did not go unnoticed in the West, and he was added to the European Union and U.S. sanctions list, whose members were banned from travel and their funds held in foreign accounts seized.

We met Bajram Haliti, who had been an official in the Yugoslav government in Kosovo. In addition to his role in the Kosovo government prior to NATO occupation, he also served in the national government as Secretary for Development of Information on the Languages of National Minorities. Haliti was gentle and soft-spoken, and I took an immediate liking to this scholarly man who described himself as a humanist. Haliti was a poet, and had also published a study entitled The Roma: a People’s Terrible Destiny, on the subject of the Nazi genocide against the Roma people in the Second World War. At his home in Kosovo, his personal library contained over 500 books on the subject, from all over the world. But KLA soldiers burned down both of Haliti’s homes, and the library he had spent a lifetime collecting went up in flames. “I can’t set a price on that library,” he sadly told us.

“The Roma people are in a very hard situation,” Haliti told us.

“It is the same situation Jewish people faced in 1939. At that time, Hitler persecuted every Jew in his territory. And now we have [KLA leader and present-day Kosovo foreign minister] Hashim Thaci. Now Romani houses are burned down, and Roma are expelled by the KLA.”

At the beginning of May 1999, Haliti sent an open letter to U.S. President Clinton, calling for an end to the war. “Only peaceful means can lead to a just settlement for all national communities which live in Kosovo and Metohija.” The letter made an impression in Washington: Haliti was placed on the first sanctions list. The swiftness in which sanctions were imposed on Jovanovich and Haliti demonstrated the West’s responsiveness to the Roma people’s situation.

About the author:

Gregory Elich is on the Board of Directors of the Jasenovac Research Institute and the Advisory Board of the Korea Policy Institute. He is a columnist for Voice of the People, and one of the co-authors of Killing Democracy: CIA and Pentagon Operations in the Post-Soviet Period, published in the Russian language.


2015-05-02

Original source of the article:

http://www.globalresearch.ca/a-world-of-sorrow-the-tragic-plight-of-the-roma-in-the-aftermath-of-natos-war-on-yugoslavia/5446872

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Europe between “Kosovization” and “Jihadization”



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Today the Old (dying out) Continent is under multi-faced crises pressure some of them having older roots but the others are product of current political decisions and moves by the European decision makers (and those who are behind them across the Ocean).

The European oldest and mostly painful crisis-problem is a biological declination of the whole continent what from the economic point of view means, at least for the western countries, an import of a huge number of the „outsiders“ in order just to keep the same level of the economic production and national GDP. This solution of course produce as a counter effect and the problem of multicultural coexistence or integration of the „guest-workers“ into the local (Christian) society. The fact is that the process of multicultural and multiconfessional integration of the „outsiders“ already failed while at the same time the „guest-workers“ are gradually winning the biological battle against the (West) Europeans – a syndrome we can call as a „Kosovization of Europe“.

Recently emerged an extra crisis-problem for the Europeans that is a radicalization of the Islamic local communities with a consequence of facing a real Jihad war on the streets of the West Europe. The reasons for such Islamic radicalization of the local West European Muslims, who are in several countries already approaching 10% out of total population, are of different nature – from the political ideology point of view to the pure policy of revenge to the Western atrocities in the Muslim world countries in the post-Cold War era and their military occupations by the NATO’s machinery in a classical manner of the West European imperialistic colonialism from the past. Currently the West Europe is in an open struggle with the Islamic Jihadists as a matter of their revenge to the West European primitive, barbaric and dirty caricaturing of Prophet Mohammed that created a new syndrome – a „Jihadization of Europe“.

Kosovization of Europe

What is „Kosovization of Europe“ and how it works? It was for the first time mentioned in 2008 in Strasbourg when the deputy of Austrian Freedom Party, Andreas Melzer, at the European (Union’s) Parliament (the EU Parliament) in the mid-November expressed common West European fear of the „Kosovization of Europe“ syndome, taking into account the destiny of ethnic Serbs in Kosovo province and historical background of the phenomena how today Kosovo became predominantly Albanian. According to his opinion, not only Austria, but in general, the biggest part of Europe is going to experience „Kosovo syndrome“ in the next 50 years. More precisely, not only for Mr. Melzer, but for all European experts on demographic trends in contemporary Europe, it is obvious that autochtonous European population (i.e. nations) are seriously biologically decreasing in numbers while immigrants are gradually becoming more and more numerous with a tendency to become majority in the mid-21st century. For instance, according to the British state statistical department’s report several years ago, in the year of 2066 in this country has to be more immigrants than the native (UK) inhabitants.

This tendency of „Kosovization of Europe“ was exactly the main part of Melzer’s „warning message“ when he was speaking at that time in the EU Parliament on the current immigration policy by the European Union, remained his colleagues that originally Kosovo was center of Serbian medieval state with clear majority of ethnic Serbs. Here, it has to be mentioned that according to official censuses (Ottoman, Serbian, Yugoslav, the UNMIK, or Austro-Hungarian estimations) in 1455 in Kosovo it was only 2% of the Albanians (located in Djakovica area on the very border with today Albania), in 1878 30% but in 1913 50%, in 1945 70%, in 1991 90% and today 97%.[1] A. Melzer was right when he was telling in the EU Parliament that the ethnic majority in Kosovo passed gradually to the ethnic Albanian side primarily due to the Albanian (biggest in Europe) natural birth rate, but historians are obliged to stress the fact that it was done and due to the policy of ethnic expulsion of the Serbs during the Second World War (when Kosovo was part of a „Greater Albania“), as well from 1974−1989 (when Kosovo Albanians enjoyed very high provincial autonomy, i.e., independence[2]) and finally after June 1999 up today (when all Serbian state authorities left Kosovo).[3] Anyway, today the Serbs are, how Melzer said, „disappearing minority“, on their own historical land due to the Albanian natural birth rate (and ethnic cleansing policy). At this point, the issue is that almost the same natural birth rate have and immigrant Albanians in Austria and in other European countries, even now encouraged by state financial subsidies and higher salaries under the West European economic conditions. Naturally, in two generations the absolute majority of „autochtonous Austrian inhabitants“ are going to be very questioned, particularly if we have in mind that, according to the Austrian state statistic department, today 16% of Austria’s population is of the „foreign“ origin (the so called „gastarbeiters“ – „guest- workers“) with the city of Vienna with 30% of non-German native speakers.

Very similar situation is in Germany and France as well. Even ethnic Germans from Germany are making jokes concerning the new name of their country in the future: the best name candidates are like „Northern Turkey“ or the „Second Ottoman Empire“. Surely, the biggest minority in Germany today are the Turks (or the „Germans of Turkish derivation“). The term “foreigners” is synonymously used for them. According to some sociological investigations, nearly half of the Germans agree with the statements: “foreigners take away our jobs”, “they don’t want to become integrated, especially the Turks don’t want to learn German” or “foreigners make loud music, they only have pretensions and don’t want to work”, etc. Nevertheless, the German government is aware of “de facto” situation in Germany and in order to encourage the Turkish incorporation into the German society and especially to improve the German-Turkish relations, for instance, opened in Berlin the Institute for the Turkish studies in the building of the pre-WWII Yugoslav embassy. However, in 2008 the German kanzellar Angela Merkel stated that unfortunately governmental policy on “gastarbeiters’” integration into the German society failed.

Predictably, one of the biggest problems with a higher natural birth rate of the immigrants (especially the Albanians) in the West Europe is going to be in the very recent future the armed conflicts between their different tribal and criminal groups on the streets of the West European towns of course combined by the Islamic fanaticism phenomena that is currently in a very speedy process of developing as a matter of the Islamic revenge to deliberate West European Christian provocations a la „Charlie Hebdo“ and other similar actors in the same style. For example, many Albanians (and from Kosovo and from Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia) are still living according to their feudal tribal laws which includes and „bloody revenge“ as well.[4] For instance, one NGO from Albania reported in 2004 that more then 3,000 Albanian boys are hidden in their homes in order to avoid death penalty by the members from opposite tribes or „extended kinship family“. It has to be known that „bloody revenge“ practice is a duty of all members of the tribe including and those abroad (the „guest-workers“) and this duty has to be accomplished even by the next generations. There were recorded already several „bloody-revenge“ post-Kosovo independence cases by the Albanian workers from Germany who were using summer vacations to visit their families in Kosovo but and to commit „bloody revenge“ duties (the number of not officially recorded cases by Kosovo police is a matter of guessing). The same „bloody revenge“ customary law policy works and to the opposite geographic way: there are recorded cases of implementation of the „bloody revenge“ duty in the West European countries by the new emigrants or simply „tourists“, or even by those who are already for many years the guest-workers as the realization of the family or tribal „bloody revenge“ duty does not recognize international state borders.

For the matter of illustration how the „blood revenge“ works among the Albanians, we will cite the article „The Curse of Blood and Vengeance“ from The New York Times Magazine (December 26th, 1999) by Scott Anderson:

„In remote northern Albania, communal life is governed by ancient codes of honor unchanged by modern notions of rights or the rule of law. That’s why Shtjefen Lamthi was gunned down in broad daylight – and why his killer’s family will probably get theirs too, someday.

By conservative estimate, at least 200 people withnessed the murder of Shtjefen Lamhi in Shkoder, the northernmost city of Albania, early on the afternoon of Aug. 3, 1998. The 43-year-old farmer was walking south along Zyhdi Lahi Street, one of the main thoroughfares of the Rus marketplace in downtown Shkoder, his hands weighted down with plastic bags filled with his day‘s purchases. Just in front of a small tobacco kiosk at the northwest corner of Rus Square, a burly man who looked to be in his mid-30s suddenly stepped into Lamthi’s path, brought up a Kalashnikov assault rifle, shot him 21 times and walked away. None of the witnesses came forward to identify the killer. Instead, a wall of silence immediately descended. Today, 16 months later, Lamthi’s murder remains officially unsolved, despite the fact that almost everyone knows exactly who killed him. A strange event, but not in Albania“ [and among all Albanians wherever they live].[5]

Jihadization of Europe

The phenomena of „Kosovization of Europe“ is currently followed by another syndrome – „Jihadization of Europe“. Deliberate provocations by the western Christian media (like it was several years ago in Denmark or now in France and so on) of the Muslim world by very primitive and totally unsalted caricatures of Mohammed are surely with strong political support and background. The aim is to start a new crusade war against the European and other Muslims but in order to do that the action has to obtain a mass support by the European (West Christian) citizens. The easiest way to do that is to provoke Islamic radical groups to do several terror acts across the West Europe leaving dozens or more people shot dead on the European streets or squares. After several of such repeated West Christian provocations and bloody vengeance by the Muslim radicals the West European Christian masses can be coordinated to the „right“ direction of the „final solution“ of the Islamic Question in the West Europe (and elsewhere) under the motto of „Free Speech“ rights protection and of course protection of Europe from the Islamic radicalization and jihadists. However, that is not the end of the issue as the final aim of such anti-Muslim policy of provocations can be Russia, i.e. the Russian Muslim society. Russia of course as all other Orthodox Christian states, churches and societies has nothing to do with the West European „caricature barbarism“ but supposedly Russia’s Muslim radical groups can react on the same way as their West European colleagues are already doing by not making any difference between the Christian Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox believers. Such development of relations in Russia between her Muslim communities and the Christians will for sure very much destabilize the country which already is facing sanctions by the West because of the Ukrainian crisis. Exactly what a perfidiuos Uncle Sam wants.

Here we can not forget a crucial point of the Islamic political ideology concerning the „national identity“ question: all Muslims around the world are belonging to a single „Mohammed nation“.[6] As religion (Islam) is the only national identity factor for all Muslims the result is that any ethnolinguistic difference on the national base is not allowed. It means, for instance, that the Muslim Albanians are firstly the Muslims and than the Albanians, etc. The crux of a matter is that the Muslims around the globe are seeing the West European „caricature barbarism“ provocations as something that really deserves an Islamic „bloody revenge“ and that is a duty by all Muslims regardless on their ethnicities. Therefore, mini, regional or private and party’s Al-Qaedas are already growing rapidly. Protests against „caricature barbarism“ are spread out all over the world from the Sanjak region in Serbia and quasi state of Kosovo via Kurdistan to Pakistan involving different etnicities of the Muslim believers. For instance, the Sanjak region Muslims (the Bosniaks as they identify themselves) in Serbia are not the Turks or Arabs; they are in fact the South Slavic Serbs but of the Islamic faith like the Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina as well. But all of them are now getting closer to each other making a single Islamic front against all Christianity just because of the West European Christian barbaric and primitive caricaturing of Mohammed.

Nevertheless, the western creators of a new crusade wars against the Islam did not took into consideration one important security factor coming from the side of radicalized Jihad fighters: the „White Al-Qaeda“.[7] Namely, for security officers in the West European or any other western country is not so big challenge to discover a real members of any Islamic terror groups who are of the Arabic or other non-European ethno-racial origin using a simple security principle that potentially every Arab can be a terrorist. The real trouble comes true when they have to deal with the real Muslim terrorists but of the European ethno-racial origin like of the Albanian or Bosnian-Herzegovinian as they look like as „normal“ Europeans being dressed in the European clothes and sharing modern European pop-culture, etc. For instance, it is impossible to differentiate the Bosnian Muslim from any other Slav taking into account ethno-racial (biological) characteristics and even the native language is not playing any important role in this case as the majority of the West European or the U.S. security officers can not differentiate the Bosnian (in fact the Serbo-Croat or Yugoslav) language from the EU/NATO Polish, Slovak, Slovenian or Czech languages. That the „White Al-Qaeda“ already works on the ground shows several either planned (in the Washington subway) or committed (at the Frankfurt Airport) terror acts organized by the Islamic radicals during the last five years originally coming from ex-Yugoslavia. The current provocative situation with Charlie Hebdo and similar „caricature crusades“ will surely just multiply such cases in the recent future. The only question is: Who needs Charlie Hebdo? (and „Jihadization of Europe“).

2. Sotirovic 2013Prof. Dr. Vladislav B. Sotirović

www.global-politics.eu/sotirovic

globalpol@global-politics.eu

© Vladislav B. Sotirovic 2015

____________________

Endnotes:

[1] The first official Ottoman Kosovo census data, covering today Kosovo’s 70% of territory, done in 1455, is up to now the most important and reliable historical and statistical source on Kosovo during the first years of the Ottoman rule. According to the Yugoslav scientific experts, the analysis of the names and surnames from this census book (Defter) it is clear that in Kosovo at that time lived only 2% of Albanians and all of them in the area of Djakovica that is a town very close to the border with the present day Republic of Albania. The rest of Kosovo population was composed by overwhelming Slavic (Serb) majority (Oblast Brankovića. Opširni katastarski popis iz 1455 godine, 1, Orijentalni institut u Sarajevu, Sarajevo, 1972 [Šabanović H., (ed.), Monumenta Turcica, Historiam Slavorum Meridionalum Illustranta, Tomus tertius, serija II, Defteri, knj. 2, sv. 1]. Original census book is in the Turkish language and archived in Istanbul).

[2] The Autonomous Province of Kosovo from 1974 till 1989 had its own President, Government, Parliament, Constitution (not by all Articles in accordance with Serbia’s Constitution), police forces, territorial defense forces, Academy of Science and Arts and the Prishtina University. On the federal level Kosovo’s vote was equal with all other votes by all six Socialist Republics and the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina with the veto rights power. In practice, Kosovo at that time was enjoying the same level of political-administrative independence as all other Yugoslav republics and Vojvodina province. Nevertheless, the fact was that autonomous provinces in the post-1945 Yugoslavia were created only within Serbia. Such “privileged” status, however, no single other Yugoslavia’s republic enjoyed. Such asymmetric federation was probably very unique case in history of applied federalism. On the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, see: (J. R. Lampe, Yugoslavia as History: Twice There Was a Country, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000; J. B. Allcock, Explaining Yugoslavia, New York: Columbia University Press, 2000; А. Н. Драгнић, Титова обећана земља Југославија, Београд: Чигоја штампа−Задужбина Студеница, 2004 [in original: Alex N. Dragnich, Tito’s Promised Land Yugoslavia]; L. Benson, Yugoslavia. A Concise History, New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2004).

[3] March Pogrom in Kosovo and Metohija. March 17−19, 2004. With a Survey of Destroyed and Endangered Christian Cultural Heritage, Belgrade: Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia−Museum in Priština (displaced), 2004; Д. Т. Батаковић, Косово и Метохија. Историја и идеологија, Друго допуњено издање, Београд: Чигоја штампа, 2007; H. Hofbauer, Eksperiment Kosovo. Povratak kolonijalizma, Beograd: Albatros Plus, 2009 [in original: Hannes Hofbauer, Experiment Kosovo. Die Rückkehl des kolonialismus].

[4] The customary laws are still followed to various degrees by many Albanians in all lands populated by this ethnolinguistic nation in the Balkans but more and more and in those European countries in which the Albanians today live. The fact is that these laws have survived very much, and even in many cases replaced, the implementation of either the Ottoman or later the Albania’s and Yugoslavia’s laws. This fact attests their importance for the Albanian society everywhere. The issue is that in these customary laws a settlement of accounts between the families by the “bloody revenge” was regulated and fixed. The most important and even today mostly influential written form of the Albanian customary laws is a codex by Lekë Dukagjinit (Sh., Gjeçovit, Kanuni i Lekë Dukagjinit, 2014).

[5] According to (P. V. Grujić, Kosovo Knot, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: RoseDog Books, 2014, p. 424).

[6] On political Islam, see: (M. Ayoob, The Many Faces of Political Islam. Religion and Politics in the Muslim World, The University of Michigan Press, 2008; K. Hroub (ed.), Political Islam. Context versus Ideology, London: The London Middle East Institute, 2010; F. Volpi (ed.), Political Islam. A Critical Reader, New York: Routledge, 2011; P. Mandaville, Islam and Politics, London−New York: Routledge, 2014).

[7] On Al-Qaeda, see (J. Burke, Al-Qaeda. The True Story of Radical Islam, London−New York: I.B. Tauris, 2014).

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Kosovo’s mafia: How the US and allies ignore organized crime



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Part 1

Region:
In-depth Report:
 
Kosovo's Mafia: How the US and Allies Ignore Organized Crime

Hashim Thaci, From Madeleine Albright (1999) to Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton (2010)

PRISTINA, Kosovo — It was the fall of 2000, just over a year after the end of the war in Kosovo, when two NATO military intelligence officers produced the first known report on local organized crime, painting the former political leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), Hashim Thaci, as having “established influence on local criminal organizations, which control [a] large part of Kosovo.”

The report, the existence of which has not been previously reported, was widely distributed among all NATO countries, according to former NATO sources interviewed by GlobalPost. And year after year as the nascent democracy of Kosovo struggled to move forward and Thaci rose to political prominence, more detailed allegations and intelligence reports, totaling at least four more between 2000 and 2009, would name Thaci, these sources add. The reports were widely available to U.S. and NATO intelligence officials, and at least two were readily available on the internet. In one 36-page NATO intelligence report obtained by GlobalPost, Thaci merits a page to himself with a diagram linking him to other prominent former KLA members who are themselves linked to various criminal activities that include, extortion, murder and trafficking in drugs, stolen cars, cigarettes, weapons and women.

A diagram from a NATO intelligence report detailing alleged links between the current prime minister of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, and other people alleged to be involved in organized crime in Kosovo.

Today, Thaci is the prime minister of Kosovo. In fact, he was just recently re-elected to his second term.

In spite of U.S. officials knowing about the numerous and detailed allegations against Thaci and many of his former colleagues in the KLA, he has remained a valued ally of successive U.S. administrations. It is unknown which U.S. officials have seen the reports. But a NATO diplomat said it was common knowledge that Thaci is suspected of criminal activity: “Whenever you looked at him always in the briefings it was ‘suspected of organized crime.’”

And when asked if he heard the accusations against Thaci and others over the years, Daniel Serwer, a former senior American diplomat in the Balkans and now a senior fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said, “Absolutely. It’s been a common allegation.”

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright publicly embraced Thaci. Former President George W. Bush hosted him in the Oval Office. Vice President Joseph Biden also welcomed him to the White House, in July. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited him in Kosovo as recently as the fall.

“I want you to know, prime minister,” Clinton said to Thaci, during her visit to Pristina on Oct. 13 last year, “that just as we have been with you on the hard road to independence, we will stay with you. We are your partners and we are your friends and we are very committed to your future.”

Serwer said that Clinton has “certainly heard the allegations against them … . We all heard them.”

Kosovo, a fledgling democracy that the United States and NATO together helped liberate and then create in a globally popular war that was partly framed by the United States and its allies as a war of humanitarian intervention, is now hamstrung by corruption and intimidation.Thaci and many of his fellow Kosovo Albanian guerrilla leaders who were key U.S. and NATO allies in the 1999 war have clung to power and are facing numerous allegations of criminal wrongdoing. In a country whose very existence was fuelled by the West’s concern for human rights, many citizens are afraid to criticize a prime minister and his allies, who stand accused of routinely violating human rights.

Based on three months of reporting, involving dozens of interviews with politicians, former KLA members, diplomats, former NATO soldiers, political analysts and officials, GlobalPost has found that concerns about criminality among Kosovo’s ruling political class went largely ignored by the United States, NATO and the United Nations over the past 11 years — and in some cases U.S. and U.N. officials thwarted criminal investigations into former senior KLA figures. That, according to many of these people who have played a part in Kosovo’s recent history, was because the United States, NATO and the United Nations believed that keeping the peace in Kosovo between its ethnic majority Albanians and minority Serbian population — and Serbia itself — was a priority that outstripped all other concerns, including allegations of horrific human rights abuses.

At the same time, the KLA were cast as Kosovo’s heroes and its leaders emerged from the war with unparalleled political popularity and power, which limited the options of the United States and other NATO countries in finding effective partners in Kosovo. “It’s very easy to be holier than thou but in the end in places like this you’re going to meet people who are not good,” the NATO diplomat said. “If they were good people then probably they wouldn’t be in power or you wouldn’t have a problem with the country in the first place. It’s the price of doing business.”

Thaci has not been charged in a criminal case, but the timeline of the mounting allegations against him reveal that U.S. and NATO officials knowingly supported him and other Kosovo leaders who were purportedly involved in serious crimes right from the start of the Kosovo conflict.

“Americans and those who were in charge had access to this and other documents,” said a Western diplomat with knowledge of the region, referring to the intelligence report that is marked on every page as being for the viewing of the United States and NATO. Four other diplomatic, military and intelligence sources confirmed the documents were seen by U.S. officials.

Referring to the 2000 report, a former NATO intelligence officer in Kosovo who had access to a wide array of information relating to organized crime said that the United States and other NATO countries “did nothing after its publication, which made me disappointed and disheartened.”

Florin Krasniqi, a Brooklyn-based businessman who raised large amounts of money for the KLA and shipped high-powered rifles from the United States to the KLA, said he has personally complained to senior State Department officials about corruption and crime at the top levels of government in Kosovo but he said he is routinely dismissed.

“You can be corrupted as hell,” Krasniqi said, “but as long as you keep the stability you are a friend.”

Krasniqi, who was recently elected to the Kosovo parliament, described his former KLA comrade Thaci as “the head of the mafia here.”

Thaci is a telegenic, commanding figure who speaks passable English. He first became close to American officials during peace negotiations in France in March 1999, prior to the outbreak of war.

“I don’t think there’s any escaping the fact that these allegations have been around for a long time and in order to put them to rest there has to be a serious investigation,” said Serwer. Thaci, whom Serwer knows, “would like it to just go away. But I don’t see how it can go away.”

Some of the longstanding suspicions about Thaci and his associates were brought into stark and public focus in December when a Swiss senator named Dick Marty published a report under the auspices of the Council of Europe, a respected human rights organization, accusing Thaci and other prominent former KLA commanders of being involved in numerous crimes, including trafficking in human organs harvested from people who were allegedly killed for that purpose.

Then-State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley responded to the release of the report in December, saying that “any evidence and sources cited in this report should be shared with competent authorities to conduct a full and proper investigation.”

But beyond that, administration officials are reluctant to discuss why successive American governments have backed Thaci even though every administration since Bill Clinton’s has had access to the detailed allegations of Thaci’s alleged ties to organized crime.

The U.S. ambassador to Kosovo, Christopher Dell, declined numerous requests for an interview. A spokeswoman agreed to accept questions for a possible response from Dell, but then he declined to answer any. State Department officials, including former ambassador and current Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Tina Kaidanow, also declined to comment. Other officials and former officials declined to comment, including Secretary of State Clinton, former Secretary of State Albright and Albright’s former spokesman Jamie Rubin.

A spokesman for Thaci also declined numerous requests for an interview, saying that Thaci was too busy. Thaci also did not respond to written questions. Thaci is threatening to sue Marty over the report. Thaci has called the report “scandalous” and has said that its aim was “to devalue both the KLA and the independence of Kosovo.”

Criminal investigations

Beyond intelligence reports and mounting allegations, several criminal investigations of Thaci’s allies were known to U.S. officials — and three are a matter of public record.

GlobalPost has obtained a case report from the now-defunct U.N. mission in Kosovo’s War Crimes Unit, dated May 20, 2008. The case report describes how, shortly after the war, German NATO soldiers found and released 14 people who were being illegally detained by the KLA in the city of Prizren in southern Kosovo. They also found the body of an elderly Kosovo Albanian man who was still handcuffed. He “showed signs of having been beaten,” the reports reads.

Among those named as suspects in the report is Kadri Veseli, who is considered by many in Kosovo to be Thaci’s closest ally. Veseli was chief of SHIK, the KLA’s intelligence service, an organization that continued to exist and operate without legal sanction until 2008, and possibly exists to this day. In addition to Veseli, other senior KLA commanders and Thaci allies, including Azem Syla, Sabit Geci and Fatmir Limaj, are also named as suspects in the report.

None have ever been charged in relation to the alleged crime in Prizren. But Syla, Geci and Limaj have also been subject to other criminal investigations.

Syla was arrested by police in late 2009 and questioned about whether he was involved in ordering SHIK hitmen to kill a political opponent. Syla has not been charged in the case, whose star defendant is likely to be a self-professed SHIK assassin named Nazim Bllaca.

Limaj, another senior former KLA leader and Thaci’s former minister of transporation, was charged with war crimes in mid-March by EULEX, a mission of the European Union that works with Kosovo officials on enforcing the rule of law.

Last year EULEX investigators raided and searched Limaj’s homes and places of work. He has not been indicted but many observers in Kosovo believe he is, or was, under investigation for massive corruption related to road construction contracts as well as war crimes. (Limaj was acquitted of war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.)

Geci is currently on trial, charged with war crimes by EULEX prosecutors. The EULEX investigation into Geci features Thaci in a cameo, GlobalPost has learned. Prosecutors and witnesses allege the during the war Geci ran a prison in the KLA headquarters in the town of Kukes. In the prison, prosecutors and witnesses say, Geci tortured numerous Albanian prisoners suspected of being collaborators or political opponents of the KLA.

In an interview, one of the estimated 20 survivors of the prison said that he saw Thaci present at the prison. The man, who says Geci tortured him and murdered his brother, has agreed to testify in Geci’s trial but requested anonymity before agreeing to an interview.

“I saw Hashim Thaci with my own eyes,” said the man, acknowledging that it was possible that Thaci did not know the prisoners were being tortured at the KLA base. But, the man said, the prisoners were held in a room with a large window and “he could see us.”

The man said he has told EULEX prosecutors about seeing Thaci at the prison camp. EULEX prosecutors declined to discuss the case.

If a reckoning of some senior KLA leaders is perhaps beginning with Geci’s trial, it has been too long in coming, critics say. Among those critics are people whose job it was to investigate and prosecute criminals in Kosovo after the war.

Protected by the United States?

One of the most frustrating examples of American power in the capital Pristina, say current and former U.N. officials and Western diplomats, was the influence American diplomats exerted over the supposedly independent U.N. prosecutor’s office in Kosovo.

“There was interference by the U.S. mission [to Kosovo] preventing effective investigation and prosecution of senior Kosovo officials,” said a U.N. official, who is in a position to know about the details of the United Nations’ law enforcement efforts during the time that it administered Kosovo, from 2000 to 2008.

The official said that the senior Kosovo politicians were being investigated for being allegedly involved in organized crime, and that U.S. officials prevented searches of the suspects’ homes and in one case were involved with U.N. officials in preventing a sentence from being carried out. The U.N. official said that these phone calls were “well known” and deeply frustrated many of the international prosecutors who were working for the United Nations and wanted to prosecute these Kosovo officials.

On June 14, 2008, the most senior U.N. official in Kosovo, Joachim Ruecker, issued an executive decision suspending the prison term of a former KLA commander named Sami Lushtaku, who had been sentenced to a total of 11 months in prison. Lushtaku was mayor of a town named Skenderaj, where support for the KLA is strong. In his order, which GlobalPost has obtained, Ruecker notes that Lushtaku’s sentence would make him legally ineligible to be mayor and “such an outcome would be politically highly sensitive at this stage and contrary to the public interest.” It is unknown if American officials influenced Ruecker’s legal decision, but a former senior NATO official in Kosovo said that CIA officials in Kosovo had tried to prevent NATO soldiers from arresting Lushtaku prior to prosecution.

Other officials and former officials confirmed that the United States protected some senior political figures, including former KLA leaders close to Thaci, for the sake of creating the impression that Kosovo was a stable country with strong local leaders. The same officials and former officials said that other NATO and U.N. officials were often complicit in suppressing investigations, although many others were angry at the blocked investigations.

“When we talked to them [the former KLA commanders who are still very influential in Kosovo today] we all knew they lied to us and they knew that we knew they were lying but there was not much we could do thanks to politics and their patrons in D.C.,” a former NATO intelligence official who worked in Kosovo told GlobalPost. “They freely run prostitution, petrol smuggling, money laundering, racketeering, intimidation of LDK people [members of a rival political party, the Democratic League of Kosovo]. They get away with murder.

“The Americans were not making criminal investigations easy,” the former NATO intelligence official said. “In a couple of cases that I know of they wanted investigations to freeze because that ‘was not the right time to do it,’ according to them, so they just pulled the plug and there was nothing that we could do. It concerned the big fish.”

A former international monitor with connections to the U.N.’s mission in Kosovo said: “It got to the point where some of my prosecutor friends were told not to do this. One can understand if someone says wait. They might be told hold for a while. But for people to just flat out say ‘don’t you do this ever’ and to treat the prosecutor’s office as an extension of the political office — that’s where lines get blurred.”

The former monitor sat in on meetings involving U.S. diplomats in which they and U.N. officials discussed whether political considerations should prevent certain political figures from being investigated or arrested.

The sense that Thaci and his close associates are protected and untouchable has created what many observers in Kosovo describe as a sense of hopelessness. Thaci is building a large house in the capital, Pristina, and even if the money for the construction comes from legitimate sources many ordinary Kosovars, who are the poorest people in Europe, see the house as a symbol of arrogance and corruption.

“To me this is absolutely reprehensible,” Serwer said.

It is highly unlikely that Thaci would ever be prosecuted by a Kosovo court. “The police, public prosecutors and courts are erratic performers, prone to political interference and abuse of office,” the non-partisan International Crisis Group wrote in a report last year, echoing a view shared by many Kosovars, foreign governments and aid groups.

A GlobalPost reporter interviewed Kosovo’s chief of police, Reshat Maliqi, and asked him why he had not initiated an investigation into Thaci or ordered his officers to search for evidence, given the numerous allegations against the prime minister. “We didn’t try,” Maliqi said, “because someone needs to knock on my door” bringing evidence.

If anyone is to prosecute Thaci it would almost certainly have to be international prosecutors. Since 2008 EULEX has been the most powerful judicial force in Kosovo, which declared independence the same year. Thaci’s opponents and critics hope that EULEX prosecutors will aggressively investigate the prime minister.

A Western diplomat based in Kosovo confirmed to GlobalPost that EULEX had been quietly investigating Thaci for some time. And in January EULEX announced its prosecutors had opened a preleminary investigation into the organ-trafficking allegations in Marty’s report.

There are signs that Thaci’s friends in Washington are becoming increasingly embarrassed by the swirl of corruption and crime that surrounds him and other former KLA commanders.

When Thaci visited Biden in July, Biden was all smiles in public with Thaci but “hammered” him about corruption in their private meeting, according to someone with knowledge of the meeting. Thaci agreed with Biden that there was a problem and said he would try harder to stop corruption and crime in the Kosovo government.

And if Thaci wants to visit the United States again it is now unlikely that he would ever be able to obtain a U.S. visa other than a diplomatic visa, which grants him immunity, U.S. government sources told GlobalPost. The United States does not generally allow foreign nationals into the country when there are unresolved allegations of human rights abuses against them. Thaci has told associates that he is now concerned about traveling overseas because he fears being arrested in a foreign country.

Thaci remains by far the most powerful politician in Kosovo. But if the United States were to withdraw support for him, or for his country, Kosovo would be plunged into political chaos that some people believe would lead to the break-up of the country. Such chaos also comes with a danger of resumed ethnic hostilities.

“At one point the United States is going to say you don’t deserve a country,” said Engjellushe Morina, executive director of the Kosovo Stability Initiative think-tank in Pristina. “Some of Kosovo will go to Albania and some will go to Serbia. It would be a disaster for that to happen. We so badly wanted a state and we didn’t know how to run a state.”


The authors:

Jovo Martinovic contributed to this story.

Matt McAllester, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and long-time foreign correspondent, is a regular contributor to GlobalPost’s “Special Reports.” McAllester and Jovo Martinovic have both been reporting on war crimes and organized crime in the Balkans for over a decade. Their work includes investigations of Serbian war crimes during the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo and the GlobalPost exclusive on the Pink Panther jewelry thieves.

Original source of the article:

http://www.globalresearch.ca/kosovo-s-mafia-how-the-us-and-allies-ignore-organized-crime/24050

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UNSC concerned over violence in Kosovo, US: What we saw in Djakovica unacceptable



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NEW YORK – Members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) welcomed the announced resumption of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina scheduled to take place on February 9 and 10 in Brussels, while expressing concern over the violence that broke out during the recent protests in Kosovo.

Јужна Косовска Митровица 2015 новембар

“With respect to the protests, let’s be clear: All citizens have the democratic right to protest, but violence is illegal and unacceptable. We condemn all acts of vandalism to public and private property and the intimidation of journalists and TV crews,” United States Ambassador to the United Nations David Pressman said during the debate on Kosovo late on Friday.

The use of violence against religious pilgrims, as we saw in Djakovica on Orthodox Christmas, is clearly unacceptable, the US ambassador added, referring to the stoning of a bus with displaced Serbs from Djakovica on their way to attend a church service and visit the graves of their loved ones.

The visit to Kosovo by Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic in January is regarded as another step toward the normalization of relations, Pressman said.

The US representative commended Belgrade and Pristina for their commitment to the dialogue and expressed hope that the Monday’s meeting in Brussels will lead to concrete progress.

Michael Tatham of United Kingdom also expressed concern over the violence during the recent demonstrations in Pristina, and urged Kosovo authorities to do all they can to avoid violence and escalation.

The UK Ambassador to the UN wished success to Belgrade and Pristina in the forthcoming meeting in Brussels, noting that “continued progress at working level will be vital”, and stressed that “the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia is integral to both countries’ European Union accession paths“.

He welcomed the formation of the new government in Pristina as an important step forward , noting that the new administration should focus on economic development, the rule of law, ensuring greater independence of the judiciary and tackling organized crime and corruption. He also encouraged all countries that have not yet recognized Kosovo to do so.

The representatives of United Kingdom, France and the Russian Federation underlined the importance of setting up a specialized court for the crimes committed by members of the former Kosovo Liberation Army in Kosovo.

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said that in the previous period no progress was made in Kosovo in the fields of judiciary, the fight against corruption and organized crime, adding that interethnic tensions still exist.

In this respect, he pointed to the ongoing desecration of Orthodox monasteries, and the stoning of the bus with Serb passengers in Djakovica.

He added that Moscow is concerned about the participation of Kosovo Albanians in the jihadist movements in Iraq and Syria.

Churkin stressed that Russia’s position on Kosovo remains unchanged, and that UNSC Resolution 1244 is considered as the key document.

Liu Jieyi, representing China, said that Beijing supports the territorial integrity of Serbia and the continuation of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina with an aim to find a sustainable solution.

Rafael Dario Ramirez Carreno of Venezuela reiterated that the international principle of territorial integrity must be respected and expressed support to the continuation of the dialogue, in order to reach a solution that would be acceptable for both sides in KiM.

The representative of Spain Roman Oyarzun Marchesi pointed to the recent protests and attacks on monasteries of the Serbian Orthodox Church, adding that it shows that full reconciliation between communities has not been achieved.

It is important to make fast progress in three areas – judiciary, property rights and full implementation of the Brussels Agreement, he said.


07-02-2015

Source: http://inserbia.info/today/2015/02/unsc-concerned-over-violence-in-kosovo-us-what-we-saw-in-djakovica-unacceptable/

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