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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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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Book: Prof. Petar V. Grujic, KOSOVO KNOT, Pittsburg, PA: Rosedog Books, 2014, pp. 450 (available on amazon.com)



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Kosovo has been a troublesome region of West Balkan for the last half millennium. The latest events, which have resulted in NATO occupation of the southern province of Serbia, marked the culmination of the violence that includes both domestic and international agencies.

p_grujicMany authors have dealt with the Kosovo affair, but none of them endeavored to present a complete picture of the case. This book attempts to provide a broad and objective analysis of the problem from the historical, anthropological, political and sociological points of view. The emphasis is on the sociological side of the conflicts.

Only by understanding the differences of the mental structures and civilizations of the populations involved can one hope to achieve a just and sustainable solution. It is shown that the Kosovo affair is a part of the perennial issue of montagnards versus plane people.

This forms the background of the conflicts West Balkan has witnessed in the last decades. The Kosovo case cannot be considered isolated from the global political situation and this book provides bold, even provocative, examinations of the principal players from outside.

It provides also a detailed account of the political situation in Serbia for the last half century, with a detailed account of the struggle to overthrow Milosevic’s regime.

From the book review

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Albanology and political claims of the Albanians



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The interest of European scholars, primarily German and Austrian, in research on Albanian ethnical origin rose gradually during the second half of the 19th century.[1] Their interest in Albanian and Balkan studies came later in comparison with the study of other ethnic groups and regions in Europe. The reason was that Euro-centrism of the late 19th century and the early 20th century defined the Balkans and its nations as the territory and peoples of obscure identity. In contrast to the  “real Europe”, the Balkans was seen as the “Orient”, not part of Europe at all, and above all it was considered as an “uncivilized” part of the world.[2]

Nonetheless, when the studies of the Albanians began the research was focused on the relationships of  the Albanian language to other European languages. However, the first hypothesis with respect to Albanian ethnic origins was quite indistinct and very soon discarded by the majority of scholars. According to a nebulous hypothesis proposed by A. Schleicher, the Albanians originated from the Pelasgians who were supposed to be the most indigenous Balkan population, settled not only on the entire territory of the Balkan Peninsula, but also inhabited a major portion of the Mediterranean basin in pre-historic times.[3] Moreover, it was erroneously believed that Indo-European languages such as Greek, Latin and “ancient” Albanian (i.e., the Illyrian language) were derived from the ancient Pelasgian language. However, some of Albanian scholars at present still believe that this hypothesis has real scientific foundations regardless of the fact that later 19th century linguists and researchers in comparative philology undermined the “Pelasgian” hypothesis and finally at the beginning of the 20th century overturned it.[4]

The German linguist Franz Bopp was first to claim (in 1854) that the Albanian language had to be considered as separate branch of the Indo-European family of languages. The scientific foundation of the hypothesis that the Albanians derive their ethnic origin from the Balkan Illyrians based on language criteria was laid out by the late 19th century Austrian philologists Gustav Meyer. He claimed that  the contemporary Albanian language was a dialect of the ancient Illyrian language. His claims initially were based on the results of the analysis of a few hundred basic Albanian words, tracable to their Indo-European origin. Later, Albanian national workers transformed Meyer’s hypothesis into the “Illyrian” theory of the Albanian ethnic background. Meyer’s hypothesis was based on the results of his linguistic investigations and comparisons of ancient Illyrian language to contemporary Albanian. Meyer argued that the modern Albanian language had to be considered as the last phase of the evolution of the old Illyrian language. Specifically, according to him, the 19th century Albanian language was a dialect of the ancient Illyrian language.[5] However, the critical problem with Mayer’s methodology was the fact that we do not have any evidence of the ancient Illyrian language as the Illyrians were illiterate. The reconstruction of this ancient language is a matter of the science of fantasy. Nevertheless, G. Meyer, a professor at Graz University from 1880 to 1896 wrote several works in which he opposed A. Schleicher’s Pelasgian theory of Albanian origin. Mayer claimed in his works (Albanesischen Studien, Albanesische Grammatik, Etymologische Wörterbuch der Albanesischen Schprache) that Albanian language was nothing more than a dialect of the ancient Illyrian language.[6]

Meyer’s hypothetical claims were taken up by a majority of Albanian authors, primarily from Italy, who made use of them for the propaganda directed to the realization of Albanian territorial claims, especially by the Albanian nationalist movement in the coming decades. The final aim of this propaganda work was to prove, using the evidence derived from scholarly research, that the Albanians were not members of ethnic Turk, Greek or South Slavic populations, but rather members of a totally different ethnic group, which had its own language. In other words, they fought for international recognition of the existence of separate Albanian nationhood which had certain national rights, including the basic right to create their own national independent (Albanian) state. Such a national state of the Albanians would embrace all Albanian populations of the Balkan Peninsula. For instance, on May 30th, 1878 the Albanian Constantinople Committee proclaimed their desire for  peaceful coexistence between the Albanians and their Slavonic and Greek neighbors, but only under the  condition that the Albanian ethnographic lands would be included into a unified Albanian national state.

The so-called Italo-Albanians, or Arbereshi, whose predecessors emigrated from Albania after the death of Scanderbeg in 1468 to the southern Italian provinces of Puglia, Calabria and Sicily, formulated this political program for the  unification of  Albanians into a united or Greater Albania. The program underlined that the achievement of national unity and the liberation of the Albanians required their territorial unification, joint economy, joint standardized language and a pervasive spirit of patriotism and mutual solidarity. The Albanian national leader from the end of the 19th century, Naïm Frashëri (1846–1900), described what it meant to be Albanian: “All of us are only single tribe, a single family; we are of one blood and one language”.[7] It is obvious that on the question of national unification at the turn of the 20th century Albanian workers would seek an Albanian ethnic and cultural identity primarily in common language since in Albanian case religion was a divisive rather than unifying factor. Additionally, and for the same purpose of national unification, they demanded that Albanian language be written in the Latin alphabet in order to distinguish themselves from the neighboring Greeks, Serbs, Montenegrins and Ottoman lords. This was totally irrelevant to the overwhelming majority of Albanians who could read neither the script.[8] However, the national unification of Albanian people on the basis of language was not completely successful, and even today it is still difficult for the Gheg Albanians to fully understand the Tosk Albanian dialect.[9]

Endnotes:

[1] The question of Albanian ethnogenesis was first examined by Johan Thunmann (1746−1778) in 1774 (Research on history of the East European peoples, Leipzig) and Johan Georg von Hahn (1811−1869) in 1854 (Albanian studies, Jena). Both were of the opinion, but not based on any source, that the Albanians lived in the territories of the ancient Illyrians and they were natives and Illyrian in essence. Hahn thought that ancient names like Dalmatia, Ulcinium, Dardania, etc. were of Illyrian-Albanian origin. This hypothesis is fully accepted by modern Albanian linguists. For example, “The name of Ragusium (present-day Dubrovnik), which in the mouth of the Albanians was Rush Rush, shows that the Adriatic coast was part of the territory inhabited by the ancestors of the Albanians beyond the present ethnic borders. The adoption of this name by the Albanians belongs to the time since 614 B.C… I conclude that there is a continuity of the Albanians in their present territories since ancient times. The old place-names in their present form indicate that this population has continuously inhabited the coasts of the Adriatic from that time until today” [Çabej E., “The problem of the autochthony of Albanians in the light of place-names”,Buletini i Universitetit Shteteror te Tiranes, № 2, 1958, pp. 54–62]. This standpoint is usually unquestionably recognized as truth by Albanian and German researchers like Peter Bartl in his book: Albanian. Vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart, Regensburg, Verlag Friedrich Pustet, 1995 [Serb language edition: Бартл П., Албанци од средњег века до данас, Београд: CLIO, 2001, p. 15]. However, the Illyrian theory of  Albanian origin (the Albanians were considered even as the oldest European people) was created by German and Austrian scholars for the very political purpose: to unite all ethnic Albanians around the central political ideology and national consciousness [Батаковић Т. Б., Косово и Метохија. Историја и идеологија, Друго допуњено издање, Београд: Чигоја штампа, 2007, pp. 66−67; Екмечић Е., Стварање Југославије 1790−1918, II, Београд, 1989, pp. 450−455]. At that time, like today, the ethnic Albanians were divided into three antagonistic confessions (Islam, Roman-Catholicism and Orthodoxy) and many hostile clans based on the tribal origin. In fact, the German scholars invented for the Albanians both artificial tradition and artificial “imagined community” in order to be more scientifically stronger in their territorial claims against the Serbs, Montenegrins and Greeks. In this context, we cannot forget that the first Albanian state was created and supported exactly by Austria-Hungary and Germany in 1912−1913. In the other words, the Albanians have been the Balkan clients of German political expansionism in the region.   

[2] Mishkova D., “Symbolic Geographies and Visions of Identity: A Balkan Perspective”, European Journal of Social Theory, Vol. 11, No. 2, 2008, pp. 237−256.

[3] On ancient Balkan Pelasgians as the Greek tribes, see [Zorzos G., Greek Pelasgian Tribes Textbook, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2009 (in Greek)].

[4] However, even today there are many non-Albanian scholars who believe in a theory of Albanian Balkan origin as one of the oldest European nations. See, for instance [Jacques E. E., The Albanians: An Ethnic History from Prehistoric Times to the Present, Jefferson, N. Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers, 2009].

[5] Regarding the contemporary scientific results on this question, see [Hamp E. P., “The Position of Albanian”, Proceedings of Conference on Indo-European Linguistics, Los Angeles, 1963].

[6] Батаковић Т. Д., Косово и Метохија. Историја и идеологија, Друго допуњено издање, Београд: Чигоја штампа, 2007, p. 66.

[7] Gut Ch., “Groupe de Travail sur l’Europe Centrale et Orientale”, Bulletin d’Information, № 2, June 1878, Paris, p. 40.

[8] The international political aspect of the Albanian struggle for a pan-Albanian national unification into a Greater Albania is evidenced by the fact that Albanian national workers tried to obtain the support of Western Europeans by claiming that Greater Albania would be the crucial bulwark against Russian penetration to the Balkans via Russian client (Orthodox) nations and states – the Serbs, Montenegrins and Greeks. For instance, Montenegro was presented by the Albanians as “the Russian outpost at the Adriatic Sea”. The Albanian Sami Frashëri published an article in Istanbul newspapers Tercüman-i şark on September 27th, 1878 in which the borders of Greater Albania were defined by the borders of four “Albanian” provinces (vilayets) of the Ottoman Empire – Scodra, Bitola, Ioanina and Kosovo. These four provinces would be united into the so-called “Albanian Vilayet” (see figure 1). The First Prizren League, as the first organized Albanian political organization, accepted this concept in autumn of 1879 as the programe of the organization [Бартл П., Албанци од средњег века до данас, Београд: CLIO, 2001, pp. 96, 100−101].

[9] Hobsbawm E. J., Nations and Nationalism since 1789. Programme, Myth, Reality, Cambridge, 2000, pp. 52, 115. About the language basis of (non)identification among the Albanians from the beginning of the 20th century see: Durham E., High Albania, London, 1909, p. 17. On Albanian modern history, see [Vickers M., The Albanians: A Modern History, London−New York: I. B. Tauris, 2006].


2. Sotirovic 2013

Prof. Dr. Vladislav B. Sotirović

www.global-politics.eu/sotirovic

globalpol@global-politics.eu

© Vladislav B. Sotirović 2017

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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”.

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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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A short history of Kosovo-Metochia



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The region of Kosovo & Metohija (Metochia in English) was a political center of mediaeval Serbia and makes the very essence of Serbian spiritual and cultural identity and statehood since the Middle Ages up today. The biggest and the most important number of Serbian Orthodox mediaeval monasteries and churches (for instance, Gračanica, Pećka Patrijaršija, Bogorodica Ljeviška and Visoki Dečani) are built exactly in Kosovo & Metohija and the headquarters of the Serbian Orthodox Church – Patriarchate established in 1346 was located (till 1766) in the city of Peć in the western portion of the region called Metohija. The capital of Serbian Empire proclaimed in 1346 was also in Metohija in the city of Prizren which is known in Serbian history as the “Imperial city” or “Serbian Constantinople”. The term Metohija means the land in possession of the Serbian Orthodox Church and according to the archival documents c. 70% of the territory of Kosovo & Metohija was in the legal possession of the Serbian Orthodox Church till 1946 when the new Serbophobic Communist authorities, lead by non-Serb party cadre, “nationalized” the land of the church under the policy of agrarian reform and delivered it to the Albanian peasants.

However, contrary to the Serbian case, for Albanians Kosovo & Metohija is not central national land: moreover it is just peripheral for the very reason they started to settle Kosovo & Metohija from the northern Albania only after the First Great Serbian Migration from Kosovo & Metohija in 1690 during the Austrian-Ottoman War (Vienna War) 1683-1699. That the Albanians, contrary to the Serbs, are not aboriginal people in Kosovo & Metohija is clearly showing the first preserved Ottoman census (“defter”) related to Kosovo & Metohija done in 1485, i.e. only 30 years after this province became occupied by the Turks and included into administrative system of the Ottoman Empire (in 1455). By analysing the personal names and place names from this document already ex-Yugoslav linguists claimed that it is obvious that only 2% of them are of Albanian origin. However, after the First (when c. 100.00 Serbs emigrated from Kosovo & Metohija to the Southern Hungary) and the Second (during the new Austrian-Ottoman War in 1737-1739) Great Serbian Migrations from Kosovo & Metohija, the ethnic composition of the region gradually was changed for the reason that the Ottoman authorities invited neighbouring loyal Muslim Albanians (in Turkish language „Arnauts“) from the Northern Albania (the speakers of the Geg dialect of the Albanian language) to settle this region. Consequently, according to the Austrian historiography and statistoics, only at the end of the 19th c. a tiny Albanian majority became reality at Kosovo & Metohija: in 1899 it was 47,9% of Albanians compared to 43,7% of the Serbs, while in 1871 Serbian majority was clear with 63,6% of the Serbs vs 32,2% of the Albanians. According to official Serbian statistics made immediately after the Balkan Wars 1912-1913 when Kosovo & Metohija became re-included into the state territory of Serbia, it was 50% of all non-Albanians and 50% Albanians living in this region.

There are three reasons for such population change:

1) Constant Albanian immigration to Kosovo & Metohija from Northern Albania after 1699
2) Permanent Albanian terror against and ethnic cleansing of the local Orthodox Serbs (for instance, 150.000 Serbs are expelled from Kosovo & Metohija in the years 1878-1912)
3) A higher Albanian natural birth-rate in comparison to the Serbian one

Differently to the Serbian case, Kosovo & Metohija (except during the WWII) was never part of Albanian state that was, by the way, established for the first time in history only in 1912. Thus, undoubtedly, Serbs have pure historical and legal rights on Kosovo & Metohija in comparison to the Albanians (like Lithuanians on Vilnius and Trakai areas in comparison to the Poles).

Mapa_srpski_manastiri_na_Kosovu

The most important Serbian Christian Orthodox shrines in Kosovo & Metochia from the Middle Ages

Kosovo and Metohija is very fertile and clement plane (differently from mountainous Albania – that was the main reason for ethnic Albanian migrations from Albania to Kosovo & Metohija) with mild climate, reach in water resources, with high mountain chains bordering with Albania. It has been God-blessed environment for a fruitful development of the highest achievements in all cultural fields in medieval Serbia. The cultural and demographic strength of the Serbs is best illustrated by the presence of c. 1.500 monuments of Serbian culture. Numerous outstanding noble Serbian families used to live in this province (known as “Old Serbia”), as families Branković, Hrebeljanović, Musić, Vojinović, some of which were the inceptors of Serbian dynasties. In addition, a great number of Serbian 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 the noble foreign ruling families. In Svrčin castle, for example, the famous Serbian Emperor Dušan (1331-1355) was firstly crowned king in 1331, and Pauni, famous for its beauty, were favoured place of Serbian king Milutin (1282-1321) – a founder of monastery of Gračanica. In Pauni in 1342 Serbian Emperor Dušan had received Jovan VI Kantakuzin, one of the pretenders to the Byzantine throne at that time. Nerodimlja, with the strong fortress over the castle, was favourite residence of Serbian king Stefan Dečanski (1321-1331) who built up the famous monastery of Visoki Dečani in Metohija – a meeting place of western (Roman Catholic) and eastern (Byzantine Orthodox) architecture styles.

However, for the mediaeval Albanian history Kosovo & Metohija is of no importance: no one Albanian feudal lord or dynasty originated in Kosovo & Metohija, no Albanian religious shrines (churches) in Kosovo & Metohija, and mostly important, no Albanian place-names in the province. Even today, 90% of place-names in Kosovo & Metohija are of Serbian-Slavic origin – even in Albanian language the name for the province („Kosova“) has Serbian-Slavic root/origin: „Kos“ (=blackbird).

Serbian elite and minor nobility has built in the Middle Ages in this region hundreds of smaller chapels and several dozens of monumental Christian monasteries and churches. Some of them have been preserved to date, such as Patriarchy of Peć (since 1346 site of the Serbian Patriarch), Dečani, Gračanica, Bogorodica Ljeviška, Banjska, Sveti Arhanđeli near Prizren and others. Serbian churches and monasteries had been for centuries owners of great complexes of fertile land. As it is said, Metohija, the name originated from the Greek word metoh, means church land (administratively, Kosovo province is divided by Serbian authorities into Kosovo covering the eastern part and Metohija covering the western part). Highly developed economic life was an integral part of a high level of civilization attained in the medieval Serbia. The city of Prizren, for example, was a famous economic and commercial center, with developed silk production, fine crafts, and numerous settlements where the merchants from Kotor (today in Montenegro) and Dubrovnik (historically independent republic) had their houses, and in the 14th c. Prizren was the site of the consul from Dubrovnik for the whole Serbian state. And many other commercial centers such as Priština, Peć, Hoča, Vučitrn, are testifying the strength of highly developed economic life in this region. The region of Kosovo & Metohija was also famous in Europe after its very rich silver-mining centers as Trepča, Novo Brdo and Janjevo, out of which in the 15th c. Novo Brdo had become one of the most important mining centers of the Balkans and Europe. Mainly silver, but in certain extent and gold, were exported to the big European centers in great quantities especially during the first half of the 15th c. However, the Ottoman authorities totally neglected mine exploitation in Kosovo & Metohija (likewise elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire) and at such a way this very rich province did not contribute to the economic prosperity of the Ottoman citizens.

Turkish-Ottoman invasion from the mid-14th c. (1354) means a fatal turning point in the Balkan and Serbian history during the second half of the 14th c. The military advance of the Turks towards the Central Europe via the Balkans was a rather slow process. Serbian ruler prince (known in Serbian epic songs as the “emperor”) Lazar Hrebeljanović (1370-1389) and Serbian nobility in the famous „Kosovo Battle“ on June 28th, 1389 did everything to stop the Turkish invasion towards the South Eastern Europe. It was not only a clash of two armies led by their rulers Serbian prince Lazar and Turkish sultan Murat I (1362-1389), who both are killed during the battle, but also a clash of two civilizations, one Christian-European and one Islamic-Asiatic. During the Ottoman yoke in Serbian national conscience the „Kosovo Battle“ has acquired a mythical dimension of a crucial historical event (even today chronology of Serbian national history is divided into two periods: before and after the „Kosovo Battle“), greatly affecting the national identity of the Serbs. The Serbian epic poetry is very rich and the cycle of poems devoted to Kosovo & Metohija are a pearl of that treasure and moral and psychological support to Serbian people during the centuries of slavery under the Turks till the 19th c. Kosovo & Metohija have been longest under the Turkish lordship in comparison to all other ethnic and historic Serbian lands as this region became finally liberated from the Turks only in 1912. On the opposite side, in Albanian national epic poetry there are no examples of devotion to the Kosovo & Metohija land and history. However, even the “father” of Albanian national pride – the feudal lord Georgie Kastriot Skanderbeg (1405-1468, ruler of Central Albania from 1443 to 1468) was in fact of Serbian origin. Contrary to Albanian case, in Serbian national poetry we find such a great number of representatives of Serbian nobility, of Serbian castles and outstanding Serbian monasteries from Kosovo & Metohija.

The Turkish-Ottoman invasion of the South Eastern Europe including and the Serbian lands, have not only brought about the fall of Christian civilization, but is 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 took Islam (mainly voluntarily), and one part managed to emigrate north, west and to across the Adriatic Sea to Italy. Average people (the peasants) deprived from its national leaders had no option but to stick to the traditional national values. It is thanks to the Serbian Orthodox Church which managed to revive its work in 1557 (renewal of the Patriarchy of Peć by the sultan’s decree), that Serbian people kept alive the awareness of the mediaeval national state and high achievements of its civilization. Many mediaeval castles and towns were destroyed, many churches were raised to the ground, and even some of them turn into the mosques. For example, at the beginning of the 17th c., the church of the Holy Angels (Sveti Arhandjeli), where Serbian emperor Stefan Dušan was buried, that was in fact the monumental mausoleum of Emperor Dušan, was totally destroyed, and the stone of which the church was built was used for building the Sinan-paša mosque, still existing in the city of Prizren today. Bogorodica Ljeviška, the monumental church of King Milutin, in 1756 was turned into the mosque and only after the WWI it was again restored into the Christian church. Contrary, there is no one example of conversion of the Muslim mosque into the Christian church in the 20th c. when the Christians (Serbs) ruled the province.

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 17th c., and before the First Great Migration of the Serbs in 1690, due to the defeat of the Christian Europe (the Habsburg army) in the conflict with the Turks and the participation of the Serbs in that conflict on the side of the Christian Europe. After 1690 the Turks have been settled in Kosovo & Metohija’s towns and cities, but the turning point in history of Kosovo & Metohija was the fact that the Albanians have been coming from the mountains of Northern Albania to both (firstly) Metohija and (later) Kosovo. The colonisation of Kosovo & Metohija by Albania’s Albanians has been continued after 1941 up today. Surely, until the 18th c. there are no Albanians in Kosovo & Metohija in bigger agglomerations. In addition to the newly settled Albanians who were mostly Muslims, i.e. originally the Christians converted to Islam already in Albania or soon after settling in Kosovo & Metohija, it was also and the process of Islamization of the Serbs that brought about great changes in the cultural environment of the province. Many of Islamized Serbs (the „Arbanasi“) gradually fused with predominantly Albanian Muslims and adopted their culture and language. Thus, a great number of today Kosovo “Albanians” are in fact of Serbian ethnic origin. The process of Islamization and a change of ethnic structure of Kosovo & Metohija further continued at the beginning of the second half of the 19th c. when the Turks settled the Cherkeses in this province which at that time enjoyed a status of a separate Ottoman administrative unit („Kosovo vilayet“) but with a bigger territory in comparison to Kosovo & Metohija are today (including and Northern Macedonia and parts of present-day South West Serbia). Consequently, due to of all these artificial demographic changes, but also and due to high birth-rate of Kosovo Albanians, the Orthodox Serbs decreased for almost 50% of the total population living in Kosovo & Metohija c. 1900.

In the second half of the 19th c. and at the beginning of the 20th c. the Serbian middle class in Prizren, Peć, Priština and other cities was the main driving force of the urban and economic development of the province. The newspaper “Prizren” was published in both in Serbian and Turkish language. In 1871 the „Orthodox Theological School“ was founded in Prizren by Sima Igumanov. During the eighties and the nineties of the 19th c. a great number of new schools, cultural institutions and banks were founded and many of them have been sponsored by the independent Kingdom of Serbia whose consulate was established in Priština.

It was during the WWII, that the most drastic changes in the demographic picture of Kosovo & Metohija took place. In this region, which became part of Mussolini’s and Hitler’s protected Greater Albania from 1941 to 1944 (composed by Albania, Kosovo & Metohija, Western Macedonia and Eastern Montenegro), the Albanian nationalists got free hands to terrorize and exterminate the Serbs. Under such pressure no lesser than 100.000 Serbs left this region. In their empty houses about the same number of Albanians from Albania are settled (the „Kosovars“). Such policy definitely changed the balance in the Albanian favour. Thus, the first official census in post-WWII Yugoslavia (in 1948) showed 199,961 Serbs (including and “Montenegrins”) in Kosovo & Metohija and 498,242 Albanians. Moreover, the federal National Assembly in Belgrade issued a special law in 1946 according to which all expelled Serbs/Montenegrins from the region during the years of 1941-1944 are prohibited to return back to their homes under the official pretext that such move would provoke tensions between Serbs/Montenegrins and Albanians in Kosovo & Metohija.

After 1945, as a result of unbelievable demographic explosion (up today the biggest in Europe) Albanian population in Kosovo doubled till 1971. The official Yugoslav census for that year shows 916,168 Albanians living in Kosovo & Metohija, while Serb and Montenegrin (the “Montenegrins” as a separate nation from the Serbs are declared in 1945) 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 Serbophobic Yugoslav Communist authorities (lead by Austro-Hungarian Croat Josip Broz Tito who was fighting in 1914 in Austro-Hungarian uniform at the territory of Serbia) gave favour to the Albanians at the expense of Serbs/Montenegrins allowing uncontrolled settlement of Albanian immigrants from North Albania and tolerating different methods of ethnic discrimination over the Serbs/Montenegrins which made more and more Serbs and Montenegrins leave the province to seek more secured life in Central Serbia or Montenegro. The new wave of Serbian and Montenegrin exodus from Kosovo & Metohija started after mass Albanian demonstrations in 1968 in the region with a requirement to transform Kosovo & Metohija into the new (7th) Yugoslav republic in order to easily secede the region from Serbia with a final aim to include it into a Greater Albania. By the 1990s more than 800 settlements in which Serbs lived with Albanians became ethnically pure Albanian villages. From 1974 (when a new Yugoslav (con)federal constitution was adopted) Kosovo & Metohija’s Albanians got extremely huge political-national autonomy only formally within Republic of Serbia. However, it became practically an independent seventh republic within Yugoslav (con)federation having its own president, government, parliament, Academy of Science, flag, police, territorial defence and school systems and even a constitution which was in many articles in direct opposition to the constitution of the Republic of Serbia.

Monah na rusevinama crkveDestroyed Serbian Christian Orthodox Church in Kosovo & Metochia by Muslim Albanians in March 2004

In an attempt to prevent the secession of Kosovo & Metohija after pro-Greater Albanian demonstrations in this province in the spring 1981 (when Albanians openly required unification with Albania), Serbian government in the 1990 abolished only Albanian political autonomy (i.e independence) at Kosovo & Metohija. When the rebels of Albanian classical terrorist „Kosovo Liberation Army“ (established in 1995 and sponsored by the USA) began attacks on both Serbian police forces and Serbian civilians in February 1998 the Serbian government brought the army and stronger police troops to put the rebellion down. In the course of the „Kosovo War“ in 1998 and 1999 which ended by the NATO intervention against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) more than 500.000 Kosovo & Metohija’s Albanians, in order to escape from the NATO bombing and to perform a political refugee show-programme for the West) fled the province to Macedonia and Albania. After the war, despite the international presence, „Kosovo Liberation Army“ organized persecutions of Serbian, Montenegrin and all other non-Albanian population with a result that more than 200.000 Serbs and Montenegrins left Kosovo and Metohija. Only 90.000 Serbs remained living in total isolation, dispersed in several KFOR protected Serb enclaves. After the self-proclamation of Kosovo state independence on February 17th 2008 Balkan ethnic Albanians are living in two national states with a great possibility to create in the recent future a united Greater Albania following the borders from 1941-1944.

By means of the United Nations’ Security Council Resolution 1244 (June 1999), the mandate of the warrant for the effective protection of universal values of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family (which is foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the World) on the territory of the southern Serbia’s Autonomous Region of Kosovo & Metohija (in English known only as Kosovo) after the war against Kosovo Albanian secessionist terrorists (the so-called “Kosovo Liberation Army”, established, financed and supported by the USA administration) from February 1998 to June 1999 was given to the United Nations.

Responsibility for protection of human lives, freedom and security in Kosovo & Metohija was thus transferred to the international public authorities (in fact only to the NATO): the administration of UNMIK (United Nations’ Mission in Kosovo), and the international military forces – (KFOR, Kosovo Forces). Unfortunately, very soon this responsibility was totally challenged as more than 220.000 ethnic Serbs and members of other non-Albanian communities were expelled from the region by local ethnic Albanians. Mostly suffered the Serbs: it left today only 10% of them in Kosovo & Metohija in comparison to the pre-war situation. Only up to March 2004 c. 120 Christian religious objects and cultural monuments were devastated or destroyed.

The most terrible in the series of Kosovo Albanian eruptions of violence against the Serbs living in this region was organized and carried out between March 17th-19th, 2004, having all the features of Nazi organized Pogroms. During the tragic events of the March Pogrom, in a destructive assault of tens of thousands by Kosovo Albanians led by armed groups of redressed Kosovo Liberation Army (Kosovo Protection Corpus), a systematic ethnic cleansing of the remaining Serbs was carried out, together with destruction of houses, other property, cultural monuments and Serbian Orthodox Christian religious sites. However, the international civil and military forces in the region have been only “stunned” and “surprised”.

The March Pogrom, which resulted in the loss of several dozens of lives, several hundreds of wounded (including the members of KFOR as well), more than 4.000 exiled ethnic Serbs, more than 800 Serbian houses set on fire and 35 destroyed or severely damaged Serbian Orthodox Christian churches and cultural monuments, revealed the real situation in this European region 60 years after the Holocaust during the Second World War. Unfortunately, the attempts of the Serbs to call attention to the situation proved to have been justified in the most shocking way.
It is thus necessary to reiterate that ethnic cleansing of the Serbs (and other non-Albanian population) in the region by the local Albanians after the mid-June 1999 means putting into practice the annihilation of a Serbian territory of exquisite historic, spiritual, political and cultural top-level significance in terms of the Serbian nation, state and the Church, and its every-day visible transformation into another Albanian state in the Balkans with a real wish and possibility to unify it with a neighboring motherland Albania. The main geo-political goal of the First Albanian Prizren League from June 1878 is being brought to its attainment, including its implications for the Preshevo valley in South-East Serbia, Western Macedonia up to Vardar River, Greek portion of Epirus province and Eastern Montenegro.

The Albanian national movement, established in accordance with the program of the First Prizren League in 1878, is keeping on with its terrorist activities up today. It was before after June 1999 particularly active in the period of Italian and German Greater Albania from April 1941 to May 1945, when it undertook the organization of the Albanian Quisling network of agents. During this period of time c. 100.000 Serbs from Kosovo & Metohija have been expelled from their homes to addition to extra 200.000 expelled during Croat-run Titoslavia from 1945 to 1980. The process of articulation of the Albanian secessionist movement in the geo-political sense continued throughout the post-Second World War period marked by the rule of Yugoslav-Albanian anti-Serb communist partocracy. The process became particularly intense and successful in the period between 1968 and 1989. The entrance of the NATO troops in the region in June 1999 marks the beginning of the last stage of the Albanian-planned and carried out “Final Solution” of the Serbian question on the territory of Kosovo & Metohija – a “Cradle of Serbian nation”.
In the light of the main Albanian goal – to establish ethnically pure Greater Albania – it is “understandable” why it is so important to destroy any Serbian trace in the territory defined by the aspirations. Albanian terrorism has been developing for more than two centuries. It has the profile of ethnically, i.e. Nazi-racist style motivated terrorism (like Croat one), marked by excessive animosity against the Serbs. Its principal features are the following:

1. Repressive measures directed against the Serbian population
2. Carrying practical actions to force the Serbs to leave their homes
3. Devastation of the Serbian Orthodox Christian religious objects and other cultural monuments belonging to the Serbian people and testifying to its ten centuries long presence in Kosovo & Metohija
4. Destruction of the complete infrastructure used by the members of the Serbian community
5. Destruction of Serbian cemeteries

Long standing Muslim Albanian Nazi-style terror against the Serbian community in Kosovo & Metohija is a specific phenomenon with grave consequences not only for the local Serbs. It became, however, clear that sooner or later it will bring about severe problems for the whole Europe.

The origins of the endowments of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the heritage of the Serbian state and nation in Kosovo & Metohija, as well in other Serbian ethnographic territories, can be traced in historical sources and other relevant documents since the Early Middle Ages. Unfortunately, throughout the course of their long history, Serbian religious (and at the same time national) objects have often been exposed to physical attacks of numerous foreign invaders including and Albanians who came to the Balkans from the Caucasus’ Albania via Sicily and South Italy only in the year of 1043. In the centuries of the Islamic Ottoman rule (1455−1912) over Kosovo & Metohija, both Serbian nation and its cultural heritage, tangible and intangible, suffered very much by both Turks and especially (Muslim) Albanians who came to this region from present-day Albania after the Great Vienna War that is finished in 1699. However, not those sufferings can be compared to the hardship borne by them since mid-June 1999, when the region of Kosovo & Metohija became turned into the first NATO’s established concentration camp and U.S. 19th c.-style colony in Europe run by both the local Albanians and their numerous fellows emigrated to Kosovo & Metohija from Albania.

It is in Kosovo & Metohija that the richest group of monuments of religious endowments bequeathed by the Christian East to the European Christian civilization can be found. According to the official inventory of protected cultural properties of the Republic of Serbia, as of 1986 and 1994, more than 300 cultural properties, belonging to the “1st and the 3rd categories”, have been granted protected status in Kosovo & Metohija. There is also a considerable number of properties having status of “recognized heritage”, i.e. preventively protected properties.

A considerable number of cultural properties in the highest categories – mediaeval monumental heritage in particular – distinctly shows that the Serbian mediaeval state (early 9th c.−1459), marked by the Nemanjić’s dynasty (1167−1371), which gave ten rulers in the course of two centuries, once (before the Ottoman rule) belonged to the developed countries of Europe. This is the heritage that continued the tradition of the Byzantine architecture: numerous religious objects and cities (for instance Novo Brdo/Novaberda) were built on Byzantine foundations, while in some of them elements of Western European mediaeval architectural styles – before all Romanesque – were incorporated in a unique, original manner. The fact that Serbian king Stephen (Stefan) Uroš III Dečanski (1321−1331) dedicated to Christ Pantokrator his great burial church in the monastery of Dečani (in Metohija near Peć), entrusting its construction to the Franciscan Vito, a member of the order of Friars Minor from Kotor, is an obvious and respectable example of an unbiast approach. The architecture of Kosovo & Metohija acquired some specific features owing to the fact that some other Serbian royal mausolea were built in this region – like burial churches of king Uroš III Milutin (1282−1321) in Banjska and emperor Stefan Dušan “Mighty” (1331−1355) in the monastery of Holy Archangels (in Metohija near Prizren) – and that the Patriarchate of Peć, an important religious centre, with church of Holy Apostles, was the burial place of the highest prelates of the Serbian Orthodox Church since the 13th c. (more than 200 years before Columbus discovered America).

It has to be clearly noted that there is no a single Albanian built mediaeval shrine or profane object on the territory of Kosovo and Metohija for the very historical reason – the Albanians did not live in this region before 1699. Even the term “Kosova” used in Albanian language is in fact of Slavic-Serbian original “Kosovo” what means nothing in Albanian language but it means a kind of eagle in Serbian (“Kos”).

Both Kosovo and Metohija have been the homeland of numerous Serbian aristocratic families like the Musić’s, Lazarević’s or Branković’s. Their estates are situated in this region. The greatest portions of Kosovo & Metohija’s land, rich in ores, belonged to Serbian rulers and to Serbian Orthodox Church. The rulers have been periodically granted to the monasteries vast estates, including villages and shepherds’ settlements (the so-called “katuni”), so that the major part of the present territory of Kosovo & Metohija was occupied with church estates – metochies. It was for that reason that the western part of this region got the name of Greek origin – Metohija.

In the centuries of the Ottoman lordship, Serbian people gathered around their churches and monasteries. After the sudden change of fortune in the war operations of the Habsburg general Piccolomini, whose military campaign against the Ottoman Empire (Great Vienna War, 1683−1699) was readily supported by the Serbian population of Kosovo & Metohija, c. 100.000 of local Serbs were forced to migrate to northern areas, across the rivers of Sava and Danube in the year of 1690 (The First Great Serbian Migration) in order to escape retaliation. In the opening decades of the 18th c., the great Ottoman Empire, together with a policy of mass settlement in the region of loyal Muslim ethnic Albanians from the neighboring mountainous and poor Albania, began to show clear signs of political and military weakening. After the First Serbian Uprising against the Turks (1804−1813), the Ottoman authorities were compelled to accept requests of European great powers, and Russia in particular, regarding protection of the Christian population in the Balkans. When two Serbian states, Serbia and Montenegro, finally managed to liberate Kosovo & Metohija and the whole region of Old Serbia (Kosovo, Metohija, Raška and Vardar Macedonia) in 1912/1913, not a single of the most important monuments of Islamic architecture was destroyed or desecrated – Bayraki mosque in Peć (Metohija), Sinan-pasha’s mosque in Prizren (Metohija), built in the 17th c. of stones and fragments of sculptural decoration brought from the ruins of the monastery of Holy Archangels near Prizren (an endowment of Serbian emperor Dušan), the Imperial (Fetih) mosque in Priština (Kosovo) or Hadum-mosque in Đakovica (Metohija).

2177800481_785277bdf2_b_KosovoA rapid process of Islamization of Christian Kosovo & Metochia after June 1999

However, the major part of Serbian Christian religious objects, which despite all managed to survive centuries of hardship and Muslim Albanian attacks, could not withstand the latest devastations lasting since mid-June 1999 when NATO troops occupied the region. Destruction and devastation of Serbian Christian cultural heritage in Kosovo & Metohija, which in NATO’s countries acquires special treatment, is unprecedented in the whole history of Europe.

The most genocidal action committed by local Albanians under the auspicious by the NATO’s troops in Kosovo & Metohija from the mid-June 1999 was the “March Pogrom” from March 17th to March 19th of 2004. These three days and nights of Albanian vandalism and ethnic cleansing of non-Albanians from the region, primarily the autochthonous Serbs, in the Nazi “Kristallnacht”-style resulted in devastation of 19 cultural monuments, 6 of which fall into 1st category – churches from the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, and 16 religious objects without heritage value, which makes a total of 35 recorded cultural properties and churches of Serb nation.

Only during the period between 1999 and 2004 (the first 5 years of NATO’s occupation of Kosovo & Metohija), in this region 15 cultural monuments from the 1st category and 23 from the 3rd category have been destroyed, which makes a total of 38 recorded cultural properties out of much more destroyed Serbian cultural properties of minor importance. The group of cultural properties at risk , i.e. preserved monuments, includes 88 properties: 31 from the 1st and 57 from the 3rd category.

After the “March pogrom” in 2004, as the most remarkable vandalistic assault of the Muslim Kosovo Albanian terrorists, the number of devastated most important cultural properties has reached 21 for the 1st and 36 for the 3rd category, which makes a total of 47 monuments and objects (end of March 2004). If we take into account all the other destroyed cultural properties, as well as ordinary religious objects, the total surpasses 140 cultural monuments, churches and other religious objects up to mid-2004.

It is clear that Europe is facing the organized and deliberate destruction of monuments and religious objects alongside with devastation of private property of Serbian nation in the cradle of Serbian civilization and history by militant-fanatic Albanians who took example of Catholic Croat-run genocide against the Serbs committed three times in the 20th century (1914-1918; 1941-1945 and 1991-1995) in Croatia, Dalmatia, Slavonia, Srem, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The aim in both cases was and is to erase any trace of Serbian Orthodox civilization and the Serbian cultural heritage westward from the Drina River and in Kosovo & Metohija. The genocide is accompanied with promotion of totally false historical data, undue claims to cultural and historic heritage belonging to other people and the changing and renaming of geographical names and toponyms. We have not to forgot that many Kosovo-Metohija Albanians took participation in ethnic cleansing of the Serbs from the Krayina region (Republic of Serbian Krayina) in Titoist-Tuđman’s Greater Croatia in 1991-1995 as volunteers or mercenaries in Croatian army or ultra-right party-military detachments. Some of these Albanians even received the rank of the generals in the Croatian Army like terrorist and war-criminal Agim Cheku who later became one of the leading commanders of the Albanian “Kosovo Liberation Army” and later the chief-commander of the “Kosovo Protection Corps” (transformed KLA). The other KLA top war criminals after the mid-June 1999 took an active part in political life in the region and one of them, Ramush Haradinaj (a leader of the “Alliance for the Future of Kosovo” and deputy-chief-commander of the “Kosovo Protection Corps”), even became “Prime Minister” of “Kosova” in 2004. Unfortunately, but not and surprisingly, such a situation in Kosovo & Metohija, likewise in Croatia, met no adequate response from the international professional circles coming from the “democratic West” with the exclusion of Serbian professionals and institutions from the heritage protection system.

During the time from the mid-June 1999 up today as the major problems in the context of protection and preservation of the Serbian Christian Orthodox cultural heritage in Kosovo & Metohija are:

• Access to cultural properties and work on their protection is impossible for the exiled Serbian experts,
• For the most monuments and objects no protection has been provided,
• Recommended regimes of protection are not being improved nor implemented,
• Measures of protection are not being put into effect, or, to be more precise, they are being implemented in a discriminative manner,
• Not a single process of rehabilitation of devastated or destroyed Serbian Christian Orthodox monuments has been initiated,
• Supervision by responsible higher rank institutions of the Republic of Serbia has been precluded,
• Vandalization of cultural properties is still occurring, but the offenders have not been condemned never mind apprehended,
• Disrespect for the international legal acts, and
• Application of a policy of “double standards” by UNMIK and NATO

Historically, Serbian Christian Orthodox artistic, cultural and religious heritage of Kosovo & Metohija (both movable and immovable properties) has been exposed to the most severe damages and devastation by local Muslim Albanians during the last 250 years, but particularly after the arrival of the civic “UN Mission in Kosovo” (UNMIK) and NATO military occupation of the region under the label of the “Kosovo Protection Forces” (KFOR) in the mid-June 1999. The territory of Kosovo & Metohija is Serbian centre of cultural, religious and artistic heritage of the highest value in European context that is, first of all, a testimony of historical presence of the Serbs, Serbian culture and Serbian civilization. This heritage belongs to the mankind and is thus worth of protection in accordance with the principle of the “European common heritage”. Salvaging and preserving the Serbian cultural heritage in Kosovo and Metohija is a great challenge and duty to be undertaken by modern and democratic Europe if it is.


Source:

March Pogrom in Kosovo and Metohija. March 17-19, 2004 with a survay of destroyed and endangered Christian cultural heritage (2004). Belgrade: Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia-Museum in Priština (displaced)

Improved and corrected by Prof. Dr.  Vladislav B. Sotirovic

Note:

The text is not approved by Noel Malcolm! We apologize for any inconvenience.

10 I morto i SerbiDestroyed Serbian Christian Orthodox Church in Kosovo & Metochia by Muslim Albanians in March 2004

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Kosovostanization



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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/

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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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Donald Trump: We created chaos, we should not have attacked Serbia!



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Donald Trump, influential billionaire and a candidate for the president of United States, back in the 1999, as a guest of the famous host Larry King on CNN, spoke about that time ongoing topic of the bombing of Serbia.

Asked by Larry King, what does he think and what would he do if he was in Clinton’s place, Trump criticized the decision to bomb Serbia.

“So, I would do something different and I know it will sound ghastly to everybody. But, look at the chaos which we created in Kosovo. I think, we can say that we lost only few people. Of course, we were in the airplanes 75 hundreds of meters above the ground and we were throwing bombs. But, look what we did to that country, to those people and how much death and suffering we have caused” said Trump.

“We should have gone there with the troops. There would be killings probably even then, but less. We would not have that chaos which we have now” said the influential republican.

“I am not sure if that is considered as our success, but I would not call that successful” explains Trump, condemning the bombing of Serbia.

“People are being expelled from their land, from the whole territory, everyone is running away from there, and nobody knows what is happening. There are thousands of dead” said Donald Trump.

We remind, Trump is against most of the US military actions, he criticized bombing and aggression against Serbia on many occasions.

Donald Trump wants to change the course of foreign affairs of the US and highlights that he would be a friend with president Putin, which sparkled great attention by the American public.


07-09-2015

Source: South Front

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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 – 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.

car dusan

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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German intelligence service had mafia dossier on Kosovan President since 2005



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The leak of a secret BND dossier on Hachim Thaci which reports that the newly-elected Kosovan President had links to a contract killer and was involved in the trafficking of people, arms and drugs is more confirmation that Western politicians have chosen to support Thaci in the knowledge of his criminal past.

Wikileaks has leaked a secret German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) dossier on Hachim Thaci that dates back to 2005, after the former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) leader had served the first of his two terms in office as Kosovan Prime Minister.

The dossier reports that Thaci, who has recently been elected president of Kosovo, was one of the leaders of organized crime in Kosovo, and part of an international criminal network with involvement in contract killings and the trafficking of people, arms and drugs.

“Kosovo is a center of organized crime that supervises criminal activity across Europe,” the BDN reports.

“Kosovo is divided into three zones of interest of organized crime – Drenica, Dukagjini (Metohija) and the north-eastern part of Kosovo around the river Lab, which are controlled by former KLA leaders. They are closely linked with the local government and Albanian politicians who also have influence in southern areas of Serbia and Macedonia.”

“The Drenica region is controlled by the so-called Drenica group organized around Thaci Hashim, Haliti Xhavit and Selimi Rexhep. This group works closely with organized crime structures in Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic,” the BND wrote.

The dossier reports that Hashim’s Drenica group of criminals established their own security forces, with the direct support of the Czech and Albanian mafia in the Czech Republic.

Tachi and Merkel

Kosovo’s National Intelligence Service (SHIK) also engages in criminal activity, the BND wrote.

“SHIK came into being in its current form in the second half of 1999 in Pristina at the initiative of Thaci … the service engages in spying, intimidation and elimination of democratic forces (via professional killers), particularly the opponents of organized crime. There are well-organized SHIK branches in the Albanian diaspora,” the BND writes, and goes on to name the leaders of the SHIK network in Germany.

The BND reveals that the Kosovan President-elect is suspected to have given orders to a contract killer called Bekimi, and has links to money laundering, fuel and cigarette smuggling through the Salbatring company in Pristina.

According to the agency’s intelligence from 2003, he was involved with wide-scale arms and drugs smuggling through a criminal network in Hamburg.

“One of the biggest financiers of Thaci and the KLA during the war in Kosovo in 1999 and the war in Macedonia was a group of organized criminals centered around Mehmeti Nazar, who lives in Dallas, Texas,” the BND wrote.

Another of Thaci’s backers is Ekrem Lluka, who is a “known smuggler of all kinds of goods: weapons, cigarettes, fuel, trucks and appliances” and suspected of involvement in the financing of Islamic terrorist groups.

​The existence of the decade-old BND dossier on Thaci is further evidence that western governments have supported Thaci’s government of Kosovo, in which he has twice served as Prime Minister, in full knowledge of his links to organized crime.

Thaci, who is currently Kosovo’s Foreign Minister, is due to be inaugurated as president of Kosovo on April 7 after a majority of Kosovo’s parliament voted for his election. Among those who congratulated him on the election were the German ambassador Angelika Viets, and her counterparts from the US, UK, France and Italy.


01-04-2016
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Washington’s bizarre Kosovo strategy could destroy NATO



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Not satisfied with having sponsored the artificial creation of Kosovo, the United States has now decided to ram the mafia state through NATO and the European Union. A new member with such characteristics is the last thing that Europe needs right now. However, it should work wonders for the consolidation of U.S. political and military agenda in the region, not to speak of the flourishing heroin trade from Afghanistan…both of which, as Engdahl points out in this sharp analysis, pose a threat to Russia and may backfire in the end.

GIF - 66.2 kbIn 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 Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in Washington where she praised the Thaci government’s 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

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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 the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (comprising Serbia and Montenegro), 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 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 Uresevic 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. [2]

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.

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Kosovo drugs

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, 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]

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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 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.


[1] RIA Novosti, “US to Help Kosovo Join EU NATO: Clinton,” April 5, 2012.

[2] Rick Rozoff, “Pentagon and NATO Complete Their Conquest of The Balkans,” Global Research, November 28, 2009.

[3] Tom Burghardt, “The End of the Affair: The BND, CIA and Kosovo’s Deep State,” wileaks.org.

[4] The Telegraph, “Kosovo’s prime minister ’key player in mafia-like gang,’” December 14, 2010.

[5] Ibid.

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

12-04-2012

Source: http://www.voltairenet.org/Washington-s-bizarre-Kosovo

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Why is Kosovo’s rebellion our war?



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“What we are really talking about is a humanitarian disaster precipitated by the cold political calculus of an autocratic leader who has pursued a political strategy against his own citizens,” said U.S. Gen. Wesley Clark, supreme allied commander in Europe.

Gen. Clark’s target was Slobodan Milosevic. Yet his words might have been used by another American general named Robert E. Lee, about another “autocratic leader” named Abraham Lincoln.

The day Clark made his statement bolstering the case for air strikes in Kosovo, the fall issue of Independent Review arrived. In a piece on Lincoln, “micromanager of the war effort,” scholar Thomas DiLorenzo describes Union tactics in the rebels’ Shenandoah Valley:

Gen. U.S. Grant “told cavalry officer Phillip Sheridan that ‘we want the Shenandoah Valley to remain a barren waste’ and famously ordered him to make sure that even a crow flying over the valley would have to pack its own lunch. … the Union cavalry went on a rampage of pillaging, plundering, burning, and the murdering of civilians that came to be known as ‘the Burning.’ As one Union soldier described the scene, ‘the atmosphere from horizon to horizon, has been black with the smoke of a hundred conflagrations and at night a gleam brighter and more lurid than sunset has shot from every verge. … The completeness of the devastation is awful. Hundreds of nearly starving people are going north.’”

Kosovo must look like that today. And what is written here is not in defense of the thuggish Milosevic or the squalid atrocities perpetrated there. But it is to raise a question: If the South’s war to break free of the Union was none of Europe’s business, why is Kosovo’s rebellion to break free of Yugoslavia America’s business?

Kosovo has belonged to Serbia far longer than South Carolina had been part of the United States when it seceded. If Lincoln had a right to launch a four- year blood bath, in which half a million perished, to recapture the South, why does Serbia not have a right to send its army to prevent the cradle of that country from being ripped away?

Comes the retort: Kosovo is 90 percent ethnically Albanian, and the majority wish to be independent of Belgrade. But a majority of Southerners wanted to be independent of a Union led by Lincoln, who had failed to win a single Southern electoral vote.

Why are we about to attack Yugoslavia? Secretary of Defense William Cohen responds, “It’s up to NATO, sooner or later, to take action. NATO’s credibility is on the line.”

But who put NATO’s credibility there? NATO is a defensive alliance, and no NATO nation has been attacked. Nor have U.S. troops been attacked or U.S. embassies bombed. Where did Cohen and President Clinton get the authority to launch air strikes on Serb soldiers operating on the sovereign territory of their own country?

Serb atrocities must stop! comes the answer, and air strikes are the way to stop them, as in Bosnia. But what ended the Bosnian war was less NATO air strikes than an invasion by a Croatian army of 100,000, which overran the disputed territory and cleansed it of Serbs, making further fighting futile. Moreover, U.S.-NATO air strikes will convince the Kosovo Liberation Army to keep fighting, adding to the war dead, and the KLA has its own history of atrocities.

In America, we used to have something called a Constitution. Before Americans could be sent to fight, Congress had to authorize a war. When did Congress authorize acts of war against Yugoslavia? And if, after U.S. strikes have “punished” the Serbs, enraged Serbs lob mortar shells onto U.S. installations in Bosnia, or blow up a U.S. embassy, or take U.N. hostages, or bring down a U.S. airliner, will Clinton and Congress accept responsibility for that?

The pictures from the latest atrocity in Kosovo were disgusting, but one could find equally disgusting photos from countries like Algeria, where the victims of five years of massacres number in the scores of thousands. Yet no one has called for air strikes there, though Algiers is closer to the United States than Belgrade.

It was pictures of a burning Buddhist monk that caused JFK to support a coup that Americanized the Vietnam War. It was pictures of starving children that sucked us into Somalia. It was pictures of the dead in the Sarajevo market, from a mortar shell, that drew us into our open-ended occupation of Bosnia that has cost $10 billion.

“It is unworthy of a great state to dispute over something which does not concern its own interests,” Bismarck observed, with the Balkans in mind. Words worth pondering, as we set out to do justice and punish wickedness with missiles and smart bombs.


By Patrick J. Buchanan – October 2, 1998

Source: http://buchanan.org/blog/pjb-why-is-kosovos-rebellion-our-war-220

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Southeastern European organized crime & extremism review




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Albanian-U.S. sponsored Kosovo Liberation Army in august 1998 with the heads of local Serb civilians

The following research is a review around the theme of Southeastern European organized crime, mainly in the period 1995-2007, highlighting the emergence of powerful regional “Mafias” with an actual global presence.

The main focus is the Albanian criminal syndicates centered on Kosovo. The research is composed by previous material of the writer, some of which was presented in international workshops.  Moreover the issue of radical Islam is being overviewed in a second part,for the same period, along with information regarding  the state of affairs of the Muslim communities in the region.

Narcotics and the emergence of crime syndicates in the Balkans

The main threat to the Balkans nowadays, is the existence of well organized criminal groups that to an extent are an integral part of the world wide “Crime Syndicates” that for the most part control the narcotics trade in our époque.  The infamous Balkan drugs route is the main path by which narcotics and specifically heroin; are smuggled to European countries. It is actually a network of contrabands, corrupted public officials and war lords that make sure that the heroin produced in Afghanistan is smoothly transferred to the European addicts.

According to the Council of Foreign affairs, Afghanistan has almost tripled its heroin production and in 2005 32,000 acres were reserved for poppy cultivation, out of 12,000 acres in 2004. This fact shows first of all failure by the NATO Forces in that country to create the necessary framework for the reconstruction process. As far as the ramifications for the Balkans are concerned, the increased profits by criminal gangs have boasted them with tremendous riches and political influence.

There are mainly two organized ethnic groups that deal most of the arrangements concerning the organized crime in the Balkans. The so-called Albanian mafia and the Turkish crime syndicates. The Albanian organized crime is very active since the collapse of the Communist rule in this country that opened the way for various indigenous gangs to spread their wings further  and take part in one of the most profitable commerce of all times, namely drugs.  A leading French criminologist Xavier Raufer has extensively dealt with the issue of the Albanian mafia. He considers the Albanians as the only true “Mafia” in the Balkans due to the peculiar social structure of their society in the Northern parts of the country “The land of the Genghis”.

An isolated society with very firm beliefs in issues of honor and manhood pride coupled with severe social problems and a culture of vendetta; has been transformed into a huge international crime network. Various reports indicate that roughly 70-80% of the heroin distributed in European is under Albanian control, a really impressive percentage for a nation of just 6 million people. Moreover in the Balkan route –In reality three distinct routes-, the Albanian mafia plays a vital role in safeguarding the interests of the world drugs trade by having its “Soldiers” and “Capos” along the way and protecting shipments from police and official interruption.

Furthermore Albania as a country is a major producer of Cannabis, which is mainly exported to neighboring Greece and Italy. The narcotic traded is placed along the trafficking and illegal immigrant smuggling operations that have seen the Albanians gaining the fame as the most powerful and dangerous criminal group in South Eastern Europe. In Greece alone the revenues from prostitution run at around 7.5 billion USD, a large portion of that being controlled by Albanian criminal groups. Trafficking of women from Albania is one of the main ways to establish a “War chest” for the organized crime, in order to invest its wealth in the drugs trade.

In essence the first stage for every respectable organized crime unit, is to establish a prostitution ring, make easily large amounts of cash, and then invest them for the drugs trade by constructing the expensive logistics bases, fake companies, pay corrupted officials and so on. Therefore when looking into the different aspects of organized criminal activity, one should note that all forms of that activity are interconnected and that each one leads to the other. That actually is one of the differences of organized crime from the other forms of criminality.

Back to the activities of the Albanian criminal groups, the recent history illustrates the existence of a hybrid criminal form, meaning the interconnection between criminal activities and terrorism. The Albanian groups that are mostly active in the North of the country have been associated with the preparations of the U.C.K guerilla forces in the late 90’s, as well as, with their arming and training. The troubling 90’s in South Eastern Europe saw the convergence of the drugs trade along with the formation of radical Islamic groups and the pervasion of corruption in the upper echelons on the countries involved. In the Albanian case the past decade it is assumed that the country is facing a virtual take over of its institution by the organized crime that in its turn has been linked with international terrorism, with Al Qaeda withstanding.

The main role of the Albanian Mafia in the narcotics trade is the one of wholesale distributor of Afghan heroine. Along the Balkan route and especially the one passing through Southern Bulgaria, FYROM; the Albanians import heroin and then dispense it to Italy, or Bosnia- Croatia to Austria and Central Europe. After 1999 and the consequent Albanian dominance in Kosovo, Pristina has become the unquestionable narcotics capital of Europe. A traditionally provisional city in the midst of the Balkans is nowadays the epicenter of all drugs deal of an area encompassing Central Europe, Balkans, and Middle East.

The lack of law coupled with the existence of a society reluctant to pursue organized crime, has created a “black hole” in the centre of the Balkans that primarily lives on criminal activities and the remittances of the Kosovo-Albanian Diaspora. The latter is strategically located in countries such as Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Denmark and dominates the European heroin trade. Despite the fact that Albanians are relatively newcomers to the European organized crime scene-Like the old-timers Sicilians, Corsicans – they have already taken over the entire European heroin market and make large advances in the sectors of trafficking, racketeering, arms smuggling and illegal gambling.

The infamous Albanian mafia is a formidable criminal network, but the existence of another one, influential as well, should be added in order to examine the whole spectrum of drugs trade in the Balkans. The Turkish crime syndicates are the undisputable partner of the Albanians. It would not be possible for the Albanians to become distributors in the first place if the weren’t able to acquire their goods from the East, and that is where the role of the Turks begins.

Turkey is a country strategically located between the East and the West. Apart from its importance in political and military level, it is also an integral part of the international narcotics smuggling. It would just be very hard for heroin to travel from Central Asia to Europe without being able to trespass Turkey, the only Asian country bordering with Europe. Turkey is a state traditionally producing Opium, for pharmaceutical purposes. In the early 70’s international pressure –Mostly from Nixon administration in the USA- obliged Turkey to enforce stricter rules for Opium production in 1974. Up until then heroin was produced in Turkey as an Opium derivative and quantities were sold to the West with the assistance of the Sicilian and Corsican mafias.

The heroin to be sold was transported with ships to Sicily, and then to Marseilles were the Corsicans had created labs for the fabrication of the commercial product. From then onwards it was transferred to New York and other USA ports where the American-Italian mafia would assure its allocation in the end-users, the heroin addicts. The forceful USA administration at that time declared a war against narcotics and obliged the Turks to seek other sources of the lucrative opium. Soon enough Turkish operational production bases were established in Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan. The war in the former during the 80’s, as well as, the resurge of the Kurdish guerilla fighting after 1984 and the Iraq-Iranian war the same period; created a convergence of political, criminal and military operations based in heroin trade.

Events such as the Iran-Contra scandal illuminate how far the heroin trade has penetrated the higher echelons of the world’s decision-making process and how it interacts with the international affairs. Moreover the effective destruction of Beirut during the 80’s collapsed the cities ubiquitous reputation as the prime port for narcotics trade and this role was overtaken by Istanbul.  The situation after the end of the Cold War in 1989, found the Turks financially strong from their trade in the previous decades and also ready enough to pursue stronger ties with the countries of Central Asia.

Furthermore the appearance of the Albanians and the civil wars in former Yugoslavia, provided ample of human resources in the Balkans, eager in getting involved in the drugs trade so as to survive financially or gain capital to achieve their political aims. Europe now already hosted considerable Turkish minorities-Especially Germany – and individuals from those Turkish communities were used to act as local retail agents for the heroin distribution in Europe.

In 1996 the Susurluk accident revealed to Turkey the extent where the Drug –Lords have penetrated the upper crust of the society and they were able to conduct their businesses untouched by the law. Even the spouse of the then Turkish Prime Minister Tancu Tsiller was  accused by the local media  for close interactions with notable underworld figures. Furthermore the accusations that the Turkish security forces were conducting drugs trade in South Eastern Turkey were in relation to the civil strife in that region because of the Kurdish fight and that presents once more that politics and criminal groups seem to go hand in hand.

The modus opperandi of the Turkish organized crime in drugs trade follows the role of the coordinator and distributor. Large amounts of heroin shipments enter Turkey each month and then delivered through the Balkan route mostly, to all over Europe. It has to be noted that the country with the largest Turkish community-Germany- is being used also as a redistribution centre. That means that when heroin reaches Germany, it is being handed out from there to the other major European markets, especially UK and Scandinavia. Moreover some of the strongest “Capo” of the Turkish syndicates resided in Germany and generally speaking this country has become the centre of gravity for the Turkish drug barons, as far as, their posture in the European narcotics scene is concerned. Further the impact of the Turkish drug lords has alarmed European security agencies due to the importance of their overall contribution in the narcotics market in the Continent. For instances since the 1970s, Turkey has accounted for between 75 and 90 per cent of all heroin in the UK. The key traffickers are Turks or criminals who operate along that route using Turkish contacts.

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Kosovo Liberation Army in 1998

The alliance of Turkish and Albanian crime groups can be explained at first glance by the cultural, religious and ethnic links –A large percentage of Turks in W. Turkey has Albanian ancestry-. Also, the tradition of the Albanians to join and serve larger ethnic groups with whom they feel to have a kind of affinity might have its explanation. The same was he case in USA and New York especially where for decades the Albanian crime syndicates tended to operate under the aegis and influence of the much stronger American-Sicilian crime corporations.

A 2006 article in Balkanalysis revealed interesting facts for the interrelation between USA domestic politics, the role of the Turkish lobby and the American foreign policy. Even though it is extremely delicate to draw conclusive explanations about the real roots of cover the organized crime activities are given; it is beyond any reasonable doubt that in the case of the Balkans the West has dramatically failed to check the narcotics flow. Despite the fact that thousands of troops, intelligence officers and police ones are based in the Balkans assigned by NATO and the EU, there has been no real confrontation with the realities of criminal syndicate pervasion in the Balkans. On the contrary in the areas where the Western presence is more powerful like in Pristina, it is exactly the stronghold areas of the mafias and their collaborators.

It is more than certain that if Western societies along with their partners in the Balkans; cannot control the narcotics trade their incompetence will certainly spill over to the overall antiterrorist security framework that they are trying to enforce. The Hybrid forms that modern crime is currently experiencing will most certainly ensure the continuous flow of capital to terrorist enterprises along with the recruitment of loyal assistants and the corruption of public officials in sensitive sectors of the public sectors. The initiatives by the heads of state of the Balkans to curb on organized crime should give the opportunity for further decisive measures. Balkans have already being developed as Europe’s soft underbelly-Not quite as Churchill imagined-  and one of the top priorities of the EU has to be the unquestionable joint effort to “close down” the Balkan route, achieving thus a real advance against terrorism in a worldwide level.

Since the end of the Communist era in the Balkans in the early 90’s, organized crime activities have soared, by expanding their activities in fields such as narcotics, trafficking, racketeering and goods smuggling. The civil wars in Yugoslavia and the continuous strife in Albania provided an excellent framework on which crime syndicates became stronger and gained political and societal clout.

The first and foremost criminal group that can be to an extent classified as a “Mafia” is the Albanian organized crime. Its geographical spread is in and between the triangle Pristina (Kosovo) – Tetovo (FYROM) and Tirana (Albania). During the 1999 and the NATO campaign against Serbia, it was a common secret amongst the members of the international community that the KLA army was financed and assisted by the organized crime that hoped to achieve a safe haven in the Kosovo area. The importance of Pristina is mainly associated with its use as a transit point in the infamous Balkan drugs route. Moreover the capital of Kosovo is a massive hideout for heads of crime syndicates across the Balkans and beyond.

Furthermore the high unemployment rate in the region along with the chronic industrial decay, have forced masses of the population to remain tolerant –at beast- in the practices of illegal activity. The capital flowing from heroin trade mostly, have helped towards the revitalization of the local economies. To that point it is interesting to note that 4/5 of the heroin flowing to Europe from Asia (Afghanistan) is being transferred by Albanians that have established bases all across Europe from Oslo to Barcelona and from Budapest to Rome. The Albanian organized crime as Xavier Raufer has pointed out operates on a dual basis. That means it has also the function of a strong societal force that virtually governs peripheral areas of Albania, mostly in the North, as well as, Kosovo currently. The Albanian crime syndicates work in close contacts with their American-Albanian counterparts that are mainly located in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia. Since 1991 quite a few Kosovo-Albanians have managed under not-so-legal ways, to immigrate to USA and act as liaison with the European community.

This highly sophisticated criminal network has been able to control much of the drugs trade in Europe and also the trafficking of women and children from the Balkans to Western Europe. Both of these activities are complementary to each other and frequently criminal groups switch from one activity to the other.

The ethnic conflicts in Former Yugoslavia, provided ample opportunities for weapons smuggling that reached unprecedented proportions in 1997. The same year a civil unrest in Albania, led to the overthrow of the government and the lack of the rule of law for almost 6 months. During this period 700,000 Kalashnikov and about 200,000 Albanian passports were stolen. Consequently a large portion of the above was sold to criminal groups in the Balkans and in Europe, whilst there are many allegations of terrorist connection whereby Al Qaeda members were able to obtain Albanian passports and an easier access to the European Continent.

The Kosovo experience has been up to date, a great disappointment for the international community. The UN administered territory has not been able to withstand the all-pervading influence of the organized crime. Despite numerous acts of violence and a very high homicide rate; very few convictions have been handed out to culprits, none of those was a member of the organized crime either. Nowadays the existence of regular heroin supply from Afghanistan, and the control by the “Albanian Mafia” of the Balkan route, has enabled it to obtain a large capital base that is laundered mainly though the construction centre in Albania and the use of offshore financial centers. Actually the largest enterprise in terms of sales and profits in South Eastern Europe is the Albanian organized crime.

In the case of Greece, there is not a national organized crime network that can be classified as a national mafia one, although that does not mean that crimininal network are not indeed quite influential. Nevertheless, the perils of Balkan crime have surely affected the country in numerous ways. Apart form the current crime statistics –that show a stronger pervasion of organized crime related activities- money laundering is a present and clear danger. The spread of the Greek banking system in S.E Europe will certainly address in the near future the issue of capital transfer of criminal activities through those financial institutions.

Also the interstate relations between Greece and the other Balkan states should always take into consideration the influence of organized groups that are the 21st century non state actors. For that reason it is of outermost importance to construct in the Greek territory “An observatory of organized crime” that will act as a counselor for the Greek government-Perhaps for the EU as well- and will be compromised by experienced analysts, law enforcement agents, criminologists and international relations experts. The use of this foundation or institute would be to detect, collect, analyze relevant Balkan crime information and produce consultation. In essence an intelligence unit that will be able to predict future trends in organized activities.

Islamic terrorism and the Balkans: The perfect training ground

The emergence of radical – militant Islam during the 90’s is a very complicated issue that involves worldwide actors, social dynamics and a deep knowledge of the religious realm of the Islamic world. This article aims to present and inform for the events that shaped Islamic terrorism in the Balkans. In this corner of Europe, the past 15 years, the roots of Islamic radicalism have deepened and it is of the outermost importance to comprehend this phenomenon, so as to be able to combat it.

The beginning of the Yugoslavian civil strife in 1991 presented an excellent chance for the Mujahedin to get into Europe via the ethno-cultural conflict between Christians and Muslims in Bosnia. These religious mercenaries had proved their aptitude in war from the early 80’s when they fought the Soviet Army in Afghanistan, and managed to inflict great damages to it using Western assistance.

The West at that period, along with its regional allies, promoted the creation of the so-called “Green Arch”. That meant the creation of strong Islamic pockets in areas of Soviet influence, or in border countries that deemed important for the strategy of the West against the Soviets. Thus Afghanistan, Pakistan, Caucasus, and in Turkey (through the use of the Turkish “Hezbollah”), became radicalized during the 80’s.

What the West could not comprehend and predict at that period, is the “Genie out of the bottle” effect. Once these radicals groups gained access to armaments and training, they became autonomous and sought to create their own agenda. Therefore the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina was the trial test of their newly founded role.

In mid-1992 some 3000 -3500 Mujahedin were already present in the ranks of the Bosnian Army as volunteer forces. They retained their operational autonomy and in essence became an army within an army. Most of their forces were under the command of General Shakib Mahmouljin and their area of operations was Zenica. Soon the Mujahedin acquired the aura of the elite force within the Bosnian Muslim Army and were accounted for many atrocities against the civilian Christian population. There were instances where the guerillas didn’t hesitate in presenting publicly beheaded corpses with the heads of the victims in baskets, a tactic often used in the Ottoman period as a part of psychological warfare against the enemy.

During the Bosnian war, the Al-Qaeda was beginning to emerge as a world wide Islamic force that intended to strike the West with all means possible. One of the key elements in its success would be to get a hold of “safe havens” in Europe. The situation in Bosnia was the opportunity wanted, and soon logistic bases were established within the Bosnian territory. Moreover a campaign of recruiting Bosnian Muslims to the Al –Qaeda cause, resulted in the creation of “Islamic pockets” in the middle of the Balkans. By the end of 1995 and the subsequent Dayton treaty that ended the war; hundreds of Mujahedin fighters were permanent residents of the established Bosnia-Herzegovina state, and acquired the citizenship of that country.

The USA security agencies have revealed that two of the hijackers in 9/11 attacks, had toured the Balkans and were trained in an Al-Qaeda camp in Bosnia. In addition the explosives used in the 7/7 attacks in London came from the Balkans, an event that portrays the tremendous lack of perspective that the West had when it tolerated the emergence of such networks.

The sensitive issue of the Kosovo status is also interlinked with the presence of terrorism –Of an Islamic nature- and its ramifications are much more extended than conventionally thought. Moreover the impact of Islamic driven terrorism in the Balkans is not only restrained in the region but has global consequences, thus it needs multiparty intelligence cooperation in order to be dealt with. Worries about Kosovo morphing into a safe haven for terrorists are not without merit. After all, radical Islamic elements aided some Kosovars–and earlier, Bosnian Muslims–in the ethno-religious warfare that destroyed Yugoslavia in the 1990s. For example, Australian al-Qaeda fighter David Hicks traveled to the Balkans to join the notorious Kosovo Liberation Army. Hicks completed military training at a KLA camp and later fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan, where U.S. forces apprehended him.

The Albanian nationalism and the Islamic terrorism

As in the case of Bosnia, the Albanian Muslims (70% of the population) proved to be a magnet for the Islamists that sought to regain a foothold in Europe. The conditions by which Albania was freed by the Communist regime in the early 90’s, revealed the existence of a backward isolated country with no interaction with the rest of the world. The transition from a central command structure to that of a free market; ensured the development of multiple societal forces within the much repressed Albanian society.

In early 1994 the infamous Osama Bin Laden, paid a visit to Tirana, presumably to oversight the networking of his activities there. He came back in 1998 to oversight Al-Qaeda training camps in the Northern part of Albania, just across the borders with Kosovo. The trainers –of Arabic origin mostly- were assigned to train the newly recruits of the Usthria Climirtare e Kosoves –U.C.K- units for the forthcoming guerilla warfare against the Yugoslav forces in Kosovo.

The then Albanian Director of the Albanian secret service-SHIK-named Fatos Klosi admitted the training that took place in these camps and the existence of “Jihad warriors” from Sudan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt that were responsible for the instruction of the UCK army. To this point it is important to add to the above, the existence of the Albanian Arab Islamic Bank, that was used for the financing of terrorist activities throughout the Balkans. Various sources indicate the existence of Bin Laden’s backing in the bank’s capital, with the sum of 11 million USD.

In 1997, the financial collapse of Albania by an economic scandal that shook the country; had as a result the social unrest throughout the territory and the collapse of the rule of law. An uncounted number of armaments were stolen during the period of the riots from the Albanian’s Army caches, and the bulk of it ended in the hands of the UCK and its Islamist collaborators. Until early 1998 USA characterized UCK as a terrorist organization, due to its connection with well-known figures of the extremist elements of the Islamic world. Nevertheless, the American policy changed its direction since it deemed the existence of Milosevic more threatening at that period than the Islamic movement. During the skirmishes and fights before the NATO bombings in March 1999, the Yugoslav Army managed to inflict great damages to the Mujahedin fighters that were combating along the UCK lines. In Urocevac the bulk of them was eliminated by the Serbian Army and was obliged to retreat back in their safe havens in Northern Albania.

After the end of the 1999 war, the Mujahedin networks regrouped and started to infiltrate the Kosovo area in great numbers. That included the mushrooming of Islamic charitable funds across the region, the construction of Mosques and the radicalization of the local Albanian population and the wider Muslim populations of the ex-Yugoslavia.

It is interesting to note that the Albanian population in its majority cannot be conceived as a fundamentalist Islamic nation and the extremists are for the time being a forceful minority of that nation. The Islamic expansion in the Balkans is coupled with the existence of the criminal syndicates that are all prevalent in the Balkan Peninsula. Since the terrorist activities cannot be financed through the use of the legal free market economy, the use of narcotics and trafficking illegal trade has enabled the flourishing of the terrorist networks. The “Hybrid” organizations as the merged terrorist and criminal are named, has created the necessary framework for the Balkans to enter in one of the worst periods of their modern history. The leading criminologist Loretta Napoleoni has researched articulately the issue and offers illuminating approaches as to the extent of the infiltration of crime & terrorism in world economy.

According to her recent interview for balkanalysis.com, some 1.5 trillion USD are the revenue of the organized crime worldwide. A fair portion of that is being achieved by controlling the “Balkan drugs route” a geographical area that encompasses Kosovo, Northern Albania and Tetovo. More or less the Islamic terrorism network has located some of its bases, along the way of some of the most lucrative criminal areas of Europe. Therefore it is able to increase its revenues and finance its monstrous acts.

In spring 2001, the Mujahedin forces, once again, were brought to day-light by joining the National Liberation Army in its fight in Western FYROM. The NLA was a composition of various Albanian fractions that along with the Islamic extremists sought to prepare the basis for the disintegration of FYROM. There is a large Albanian minority in the country, which also happens to be located right in the centre of the Balkans and where the “Balkan drug route” passes by. The Mujahedin formed the majority of the 113 brigade of NLA, and were accused of many atrocities against innocent civilians of Slavic descent.

On August 2001 the Ohrid accord was signed and the conflict ceased without any real gains by the Albanian side. A month later, the attack on the twin towers revealed to the world the spread and the power the terrorist organizations have amassed, thus the “War on terror” begun and to a great extent dismantled the world wide Islamic terrorist web.

SEVEN KEY AL-QAEDA MEMBERS WHO DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY TOOK PART IN 9/11 AND ARE LINKED TO BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

Nawaf al Hazmi, a Saudi.  He was a September 11th hijacker.  He fought in BiH in 1995.

Khalid al-Mihdhar, from Yemen.  He also was a September 11th hijacker.  He also fought in BiH with the foreign mujahideen battalion in Bosnia in 1995

Sheikh Omar abd-al Rahman (convicted of the 1993 attack on the WTC) was connected with the so-called humanitarian organization TWRA, which was a cover for terrorists. Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic made personal guarantees for TWRA’s general director and personal friend Elfatih Hassanein, so he could open an account with Die Erste Osterreich Bank in Vienna, Austria in 1993.

Mohammed Haydar Zammar, who recruited Mohamed Atta into Al-Qaeda, had a terrorist base in Bosnia. Zammar is also responsible for recruiting two of Atta’s lieutenants, Ramzi Binalsahib and Said Bahaji.

Osama bin Laden received a Bosnian passport from the Embassy in Vienna, Austria. Many other Al-Qaeda members were issued B-H passports, which enabled them to continue their terrorist activities.

Abu al-Ma’ali (Abdelkader Mokhtari), a senior Al-Qaeda operative, was stationed in Bosnia until recently. Just a few years ago, US officials used to call him “Osama Bin Laden, Jr.”

Bensayah Belkacem was arrested in Bosnia in October 2001. Numbers saved in his cell phone connected him with at least one top-rank associate of Bin Laden

The “White Al-Qaeda” in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Information available to experts on international terrorism indicate that B-H is at this time one of the most dangerous countries in Europe, as it represents a nursery for potential Islamic terrorists – the so called “white” or “European” Al-Qaeda. Money from Islamic countries that is laundered through “humanitarian” organizations finances the religious education of at least 100,000 young Bosnian Muslims. In addition to such education, which follows the interpretations of Wahhabi Islam, there is another type of “training” in various officially registered camps throughout the B-H Federation. There, the young and carefully selected Wahhabis attend “additional courses” in marksmanship, explosives and martial arts. Organizations such as “Furqan,” the “Active Islamic Youth,” the “Muslim Youth Council” and others – differing only in name and primary donors, but otherwise interchangeable – teach young Muslims computer and Internet skills, so they could establish contacts with their coreligionists worldwide. Knowing all this, the former head of UN Mission in Bosnia Jacques Paul Klein recently said that some 200 mujahid’din in Bosnia did not represent a danger, because they can be easily controlled.Klein knew it would be a lot more difficult to stop the spread of young Bosnian Wahhabis throughout Europe, youths who consider Osama Bin Laden and the mujahid’din role models. Nowadays there is still a strong presence of a variety of extremist Islamic groups in Bosnia-Herzegovina, under the pretext of charity funds and related philanthropic establishments. Thus it is not of surprise that the U.K Foreign Office still warrants concern safety for every British national traveling there, especially in relation to potential terrorist incidents.

Foreign intelligence involvement in the Balkans

Since the early 1990s, Bonn and Washington have joined hands in establishing their respective spheres of influence in the Balkans. Their intelligence agencies have also collaborated. According to intelligence analyst John Whitley, covert support to the Kosovo rebel army was established as a joint endeavor between the CIA and Germany’s Bundes Nachrichten Dienst (BND) (which previously played a key role in installing a right wing nationalist government under Franjo Tudjman in Croatia). The task to create and finance the KLA was initially given to Germany: “They used German uniforms, East German weapons and were financed, in part, with drug money”. According to Whitley, the CIA was, subsequently instrumental in training and equipping the KLA in Albania.

The covert activities of Germany’s BND were consistent with Bonn’s intent to expand its “Lebensraum” into the Balkans. Prior to the onset of the civil war in Bosnia, Germany and its Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher had actively supported secession; it had “forced the pace of international diplomacy” and pressured its Western allies to recognize Slovenia and Croatia. According to the Geopolitical Drug Watch, both Germany and the US favored (although not officially) the formation of a “Greater Albania” encompassing Albania, Kosovo and parts of FYROM. According to Sean Gervasi, Germany was seeking a free hand among its allies “to pursue economic dominance in the whole of “Mitteleuropa.“

An interesting twist in the sector of intelligence operations and especially the ones described as “ Covert operations”, is the abundance of  material available and the easiness by which the USA in particular have provided access to their operational tactics. Todd Stiefler has documented that “In Kosovo, the Agency was extremely eager to publicize its covert operations”. In contrast with other similar incidents in Latin America or the Middle East; the CIA was confident enough to inform the public of operations that are not to be announced and that is an intriguing and not well answered topic.

The emergence of “Balkan Jihad” and its progress in the region

After the 9/11, a worldwide “War on terror” begun in order to disband and neutralize Islamic terrorist networks across the globe. The main focus of the largest anti-terrorist campaign in history is focused in the Middle East area, as well as in Afghanistan.

The Balkan Peninsula is the European area where this campaign has also taken place, with numerous arrests and a continuous effort into riding the fundamentalist out of the area. The question arising though, is how did the extremists gain a foothold in South Eastern Europe in the first place, and what was the reaction of the international community over the previous years.

The presence of Islam in the Balkans dates back in the 13th century.

In order to create the much needed mercenary armies, against the then archenemy, the Francs, Byzantine Emperors allowed Muslim Turks into modern day Bulgaria. They were used mainly as cavalry forces due to their excellent techniques in that kind of war. Over the coming decades the antagonism between the Francs and the Vatican from one side and the Byzantium from the other, led to the final conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Gradually virtually the whole of the Balkans came under Muslim dominance and were included in the Dar al Islam territory stretching from the Hindu river and up to Gibraltar.

In Bosnia in particular the sect of Vogomils –Eastern Orthodox sect-, converted to Islam for a variety of societal and spiritual reasons. Since the Vogomils were the affluent class of the central Balkans they soon became the ruling class over millions of Christians of mostly Slavic descent.

In Albania the Islamic takeover had a dramatic effect and in a matter of 150 years 2/3rds of the population converted from the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholicism into Islam. The main reason for such a large proselytism in Albania had been the traditional adherence towards the stronger ruler that the mountainous Albanians have showed since their early history. During the Roman Empire times, the Albanians served as elite corps in the Armies of the Emperors Empires –i.e. Diocletian was of Albanian descent- and tended to absorb the cultural and religious norms of their regional superintendents. The same was the case in the more or less Greek dominated Byzantium. As soon as the “Eastern Roman Empire” waned in favor of the Western one; there was a mass conversion to Catholicism in the early 13th century.

The historical collective path of the Albanian people can be compared with that of the mountainous Swiss that have eloquently absorbed influences and norms by the much larger and influential neighbors (Germany, France, and Italy).

It is against this historical background that the Islamic fundamentalist drama in the Balkans evolved in the 1990s. Evan F. Kohlmann, author of Al-Qaeda’s Jihad in Europe: The Afghan-Bosnian Network argues that “key to understanding Al Qaida’s European cells lies in the Bosnian war of the 1990s”. Using the Bosnian war as their cover, Afghan-trained Islamic militants loyal to Osama bin Laden convened in the Balkans in 1992 to establish a European domestic terrorist infrastructure in order to plot their violent strikes against the United States

So, the outbreak of the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992 presented an unparalleled opportunity for the international Mujaheedin to storm Europe, establish safe havens in the area and thus initiate re-conquest of regions they previously ruled. The leader of Bosnia, Alia Izebegovic was eager to obtain as much assistance as possible and didn’t hesitate in providing the necessary framework by which the Islamic ties were forged. In the same year, a variety of Islamic mercenaries flocked into the Balkans in order to support the “Holy cause”, meaning the establishment of the first Islamic state in Europe. The end of the war in 1995 saw quite a few of those mujahedin, acquiring Bosnian citizenship and establishing the first Islamic community in the village of Bocinja Donja. During 2006 and 2007, hundreds of citizenships were revoked by Islamists residing in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Nevertheless the whereabouts of most of them remain unknown, raising fears for potential terrorist acts by them in the future and in an European soil. What is more, the Novi Pazar town in Sanjak area in Southern Serbia; has become a core for Islamic fundamentalism, linked with Al-Qaeda cells. Novi Pazar is the focus of the Islamist attempt to build a landbridge from Albania and Kosovo to Bosnia. Further to the East, in southern Serbia’s Raška Oblast, are three other concentrations of Muslims: Sjenica and Pester area (lightly populated but mostly Muslim), Prijepolje (some 50 percent Muslim) and — very close to the Bosnia border where Republica Srpska controls the slender Gorazde corridor — Priboj (also some 50 percent Muslim). The land between is Serbian farmland, but the Islamist goal is to link the cities as “evidence” that the entire region is, or should be, Muslim territory. The same strategy worked successfully in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where Serbian farmers were driven off their lands during the civil war.

Just south of the Serbian area of Raška Oblast is the Montenegrin part of Raška region, where, for example, Bijeljo Polje is some 60 to 80 percent Muslim, and Pijevlja, close to the Bosnian border, is about 40 percent Muslim. These Montenegrin towns, like those of the Western Serbian Raška region, are the key to the illicit arms and narcotrafficking across the Gorazde Corridor to Bosnia

A new Islamist university has opened in Novi Pazar, ostensibly a normal college, but led by an Islamist mufti of little formal education. This modern institution — whose officials proclaim it a normal educational institution — reveals its character in its symbol: the Wahabbi/Salafi Dawa symbol, an open Q’uran surmounted with a rising sun. The university, in a renovated former textile factory, is a known center of radical Islamist thinking. A book fair held there in early October 2003 distributed very radical Islamist literature, specifically advocating conflict with the West.

The Dawa sign indicates that the university is predominantly Saudi-funded, although some Western funding is known to have been pumped into the institution, reportedly largely to undermine Serb interests in the region.

Western tolerance of Islamic radicals, however, was one of the gravest mistakes of modern times. In addition, a well organized criminal network has already been established in Sarajevo that in a large extent facilitates illegal immigration from Asia to Europe. That activity is coupled with the narcotics trade that is being supplemented by the infamous “Balkan Drug route”. It is illuminating to note that the areas from where this route is passing are under Muslim influence mostly.

The Albanian factor

Albania was under the Communist rule during the Cold War, the most isolated country in Europe. The break of the Soviet Empire unleashed forces that were kept dormant in the society for decades, and resulted to some very interesting developments. In 1992 Albania becomes a member of the Islamic Conference, an international Islamic organization. The same year as well the government of Sali Berisha, currently also a Prime Minister, signed a military agreement with Turkey, thus enacting a series of discussions in the neighboring states, around the possibility of an Islamic arch from Istanbul to Sarajevo.

One of the main reasons the Albanian officials were eager to form strong ties with the Muslim world was the hope that large investments from the Gulf would ensure the uplifting of the decaying Albanian economy. Therefore the religious sentiment of the majority of Albanians, mostly in the North, was overplayed in order to gain capital from the Islamic world. Unfortunately no serious investment initiatives were undertaken; instead the Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, found another state to expand their illegal activities. Many different and respectable sources have indicated two visits by Bin Laden in Tirana that aimed into creating an Islamic platform for the country and the construction of terrorist networks within the territory.

An Albanian called Naseroudin Albani played an instrumental role in spreading extremist Islamic values into the Albanian society. He was a fugitive from Albania since 1963 and resided in Amman-Jordan. Sources from Albania point out that Albani organized radical Sunni sects back in the 70’s in the Middle East that became the nucleus of the modern day Mujahedin. Another Albanian, the then head of the Albania’s Secret service, SHIK, called Bashkim Gazidente assisted into implementing radical Islamic agenda in Albanian domestic policies. During the 1997 Albanian riots Gazidente fled from Albania and he is said to be an instrumental part in global Islamic networks. He fled presumably to a Middle Eastern country and currently he resides in Rome-Italy treated in a local hospital due to chronic illness; according to reliable regional sources.

The Al Qaeda factor in Albania was consolidated by the creation of the Arabic-Albanian bank, in which Bin Laden allegedly invested the sum of 11.4 million USD. This financial institution acted as a front cover for the transfer of capital for Islamic activities within the country. Just before Berisha’s political overturn in 1997, another Islamic institution called “El Farouk”, acted as a recruitment agency for young Albanians, under the pretext of a charity. One of the most dramatic indicators of the degree of Islamic presence in Albania is the militant Islamic training camp just outside Tirana, the same camp on which Berisha relied in his unsuccessful 1998 coup of his rival Fatos Nano.  At this point it is interesting to note that it was a well known fact around the international community of the nexus between organized crime syndicates, terrorist cells and the KLA, operating under and with Albanian assistance. Actually Albania was mainly used as springboard to neighboring Kosovo. In April 1999, some 500 Arab Mujahedeen were smuggled into the capital of Tirana. Their mission was to conduct special operations against Yugoslav forces in Kosovo. They entered Kosovo from Northern Albania. The whole operation was led by Bin Laden’s deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The Nairobi and Tanzania bombings of 1998 shocked the US administration into taking some action, for the first time, do dismantle terrorist’s networks. Soon, the pressure fell on Albania and in the October of the same month individuals of Middle Eastern origin were rounded up and deported. The head of SHIK, Fatos Clozi, admitted for the first the existence of extremists in Albania and promised the eradication of the terrorist nucleus.

The 9/11 attacks proved to be a fatal blow for the radicals in Albania and the USA forces have more or less neutralize any remaining cells. The government of Albania, which is more than willing to become inducted in the Euro-Atlantic security framework, has ceased to seek Islamic assistance and the current Berisha’s administration has refaced its Islamic outlook into a modern European one.

Nevertheless, the Albanian-Islamic connection is now concentrated in Kosovo, the very same province NATO forces are stationed! There is an overwhelming variety of sources and reports that indicate a well established fundamentalist presence in that area. It is a common secret in the international community that the West kept a blind eye during the 1998-1999 Winter where hundreds of Mujahedin joined the UCK forces and helped it expand.  Shaul Shay describes “The [Kosovo Albanian] KLA enjoyed the support of former Albanian President Sali Berisha, who regarded the war in Kosovo as a Jihad and issued a call to all Muslims to fight for the protection of their homeland”.

At that period the means justified the end which was the disbandment of the Russian influence in the Balkans, as the Clinton administration viewed the Milosevic one. The result was a resurge of Islamic radical networks in the region, thus eliminating the beneficial results of previous actions against it. Moreover Russia managed to regroup and it is still viewed as a great player in South Eastern Europe.

The newly independent Montenegro nowadays faces a long term Islamic population bomb and it is certain that should current trends continue, in 2050 half of the population would be Muslim That is not of course a prelude of terrorism action per se, but the overall turbulent Balkan history and the existence of terror networks in nearby Kosovo do not assure a tranquil political future for the newest Balkan state.

The FYROM is also another terrain where the delicate balance between radicalism and Muslim secularism is taking place. Back in 2001, an Albanian uprising nearly resulted in the disintegration of the state although nowadays there is an uneasy stability. However any negative developments in Kosovo will affect directly the country which is also the epicenter of the Balkans by a geopolitical point of view.

Lastly the Sanjak area in Southern Serbia is a territory to watch, where the Wahhabi strain of Islam has gained tremendous influence in the local Muslim population. On March 2007 a terrorist cell was disbanded by the Serbian authorities and a terrorist plan was dwarfed at the last minute .Again Kosovo as the centre of radicalism in the Balkans could play the role of the powder keg for any developments in Sanjak, against the Serbian population in the region.

The EU strategists, whoever they may be, must become aware of the complicated Balkan reality: the region is a mostly secular one, but it has the peculiarity of hosting safe havens of terrorists and organized crime related Islamists. Most of these areas are under international protection a paradox that ridicules the entire Western anti terror campaign. Another worrying fact is the real danger of proliferation of chemical or biological weapons into the hands of terrorists, especially in the case of Albania.  Already this threat is one of the top priorities for the security services across Southeastern Europe, and Greece along with the USA, Italy, Switzerland, and the European Union; assists Albania in destroying the stockpiles of its chemical weapons. It is worthwhile to mention that the Albanian authorities had discovered 16 tons of chemicals in 2002, stored in an underground cache, but there are no verified accounts if any amount had been stolen during the 1997 riots, thus raising a question as to whether terrorist organizations already have taken hold of quantities of chemicals.

Lastly, the attack on the USA Embassy in Athens-Greece in January 2007 with an RPG weaponry, is assumed to have a Balkan-Albanian connection, meaning source it came from, the “Weapons black market” vividly active in the borderlines between Kosovo and FYROM.

Only a coordinated pan European operation would be able to eradicate this perilous condition. The bombings in Madrid and in London had a Balkan flavor in them, namely the explosives used, according to many, came from those very same Muslim pockets in the Balkans that are protected by Western armies. For the future then, Islamic radicalism in the Balkans is an X factor. What is certain though is that this factor will not be used for the benefit of the West and the only way of neutralize it is by disrupting its logistic and financial base.

The only obstacle so far for the successful inaction of a “Balkan war on terror” are the careers in various world capitals, that are related on the perception of half truths and half lies about the West’s involvement in the Yugoslav wars and the use of the Islamic X factor on them. Political ambitious, international reputations and the all pervading political correctness, hinders the right actions to be taken. Unfortunately the implications of the Western involvement have spilled-over worldwide and with dire consequences regarding the global anti-terror campaign. Shaul Shay states that “In the course of 1999-2000, several terror cells were discovered in the U.S. and Canada. Some of their members lived in Bocinja [Bosnia] or were connected to radical Islamic entities that resided there”. The West followed a contradictory stance in the Balkans where it promoted the advance of radical Islamic elements linked to terrorism, in the same period -1999- it enacted the attacks against Serbia, thus empowering the former.

A great leader once said “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject”. That surely sums up the mentality of the international officials around this Balkan “X factor”.

The Muslim minorities in the Balkans

In contemporary Europe there is a great debate on the role of Islam in modern societies and the path that the European-Muslim relationship will lead into the 21st century. The Balkans is a European area where considerable Muslim communities reside, some of them for over 700 hundred years and since the era of the Ottoman Empire.

The Balkan Peninsula was always an area characterized by continuous population arrivals and exodus due to the turbulent history of the region and because of its geopolitical disposition in the midst of three continents. Sine the fall of the Roman Empire immigration and conquest waves have over the centuries shaped the population composition of this European soil. The Slavs in the 6th Century AC, the Bulgarians in the 7th and the Turks in the 14th one, have all constructed more or less modern ethno-diversity in the Balkans.

Kosovo ISIL Ridvan Haqifi and Lavdrim Muhaxheri

Two Muslim Kosovo Albanians as the members of the ISIL in Syria in 2015

The former were able –after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 AC- to create the Ottoman Empire stretching from modern day Saudi Arabia and North Africa, right up to the infamous “Gates of Vienna” or more specifically in Klagenfurt and the Styria province. During much of the previous 6 centuries, there have been massive conversions to Islam that formatted the existing Islamic enclaves in the Balkans. The fall of the Soviet Bloc in 1989 and the civil wars in Ex-Yugoslavia; brought the remembrance of the religion wars that were a part of the Balkan history for the better part of the last Millennium.

Nowadays, all Balkan states-Bar Rumania- have Muslim minorities that are part of the social and political life of the respective states and most importantly have been often accused as acting like a “Trojan Horse” from powers seeking to exercise influence in the area.

Bosnia-Herzegovina

Bosnia was already a part of the Ottoman realm, back in 1463 and a mass conversion of the Bogomil Christian sect, endured the existence of a large and influential Islamic community in the state. This area was for centuries the epicenter of the Balkan Muslim life, since it was ideally placed in the centre of South Eastern Europe and had a viable and vibrant Muslim community. In this point it has to be noted that the Bogomils were the most affluent class of Bosnia and their adherence to Islam constituted an initiative from their part to retain their privileges and rights under the newly formed dominion.

In 1908 Bosnia-Herzegovina was annexed by the then Austria-Hungarian Empire, at the same period the idea of a united confederation of the Southern Slavs –Serbs, Croats, Slovenians- was gaining hold. The creation of Yugoslavia after WW1 didn’t resolve the wide religious and cultural gaps between Catholics, Orthodox and Sunni Muslims. The Second World War saw the alliance between the Fascist, pro-German Croatian regime of Andre Pavelic and the Muslims in Bosnia.

Actually in 1943 the latter created the 13th Mountainous SS Brigade –Waffen Gerbings Division der SS- that committed atrocities against the civilian Serbian population in a classic ethnic cleansing fashion. In 1944 a similar brigade was to be formed by the Kosovo Albanians -21st Skanderberg Brigade- that sought as well the elimination of Serbians from Kosovo-Metohija.

During the 90’s Mujahedeen from various Islamic states, fought along the Bosnian Muslims against both the Croatians and the Serbs. Numerous allegations and documents reveal a strong Jihad connection between the then Izebegovic administration and Al Qaeda operatives that sought a safe have in the centre of the Balkans and close to mainland Europe. Stephen Schwartz  notes “Muslim Bosnia and neighboring territories also face growing Islamist extremism. Wahhabi missionaries, promoting the ultraradical cult financed by Saudi Arabia, have come back to the Balkans after their expulsion from Sarajevo in the aftermath of September 11. Bosnian authorities acted then with admirable speed in cracking down on the Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia-Herzegovina, a center of al Qaeda activity”. Currently 40% of Bosnia’s population is Muslims, mainly populating the urban centers.

Serbia-FYROM-Montenegro

Serbia’s largest Muslim minority is to be found in Kosovo where over 90% of the population is of Albanian descent and Muslim in denomination. The situation after the 1999 NATO intervention has revealed a massive destruction of the Serbian Christian Orthodox heritage. Kosovo has been since the early Middle Ages a traditional Serbian pilgrimage and state epicenter. The negotiations in action concerning the status of the province have come to a halt and there is a great debate within the international community on which direction Kosovo should move on within the coming months.

The percentage of the Muslims in Kosovo was traditionally 50-60% from the Ottoman period and up until the 1950’s. The mass immigrations of Albanians from Northern Albania, the immigration of Serbians to Europe and the very high birth rate of the former; resulted in the creation of an almost homogenized Albanian-Muslim Kosovo in the course of the second half of the 20th century.  The importance of Kosovo to the Serbian psyche, stems amongst other by the greatness of its artistic, literature and architecture grandeur during the Middle Ages and under the Serbian Nemanjia Kingdom, most probably the most highlighted era in the history of the Serbian Kingdom.

Another Serbian province with large numbers of Muslims is Sanjak –Close to Kosovo borderline- that is also a habitation of Wahabbi strings as recent investigations point out.

FYROM is a state that can be characterized as a hub between Serbia, Albania, Bulgaria and Greece. Due to its unique placement it always attracted various ethnic and religious minorities, amongst them the largest would be the Muslim one. It is mainly composed by Albanians, Turks and Roma. After the 1999 war, scores of Kosovo Albanians sought refuge in FYROM thus increasing the total percentage of Muslims in the country. The 2001 conflicts between the Slavic majority of the country and the Albanian minority revealed a cultural chasm between them, as well as, he fear of the Slavs that the high birth rates of their Muslim compatriots will lead them to majority levels in the course of the 21st century. Already, grossly 30% of the citizens claim Muslim religion.

Montenegro always had a small Islamic community that has risen up considerably due to the continuous influx of refugees because of the Yugoslavian wars in the 90’s. Roughly 20% of the population is Muslim, and their vote was crucial during the independence referendum in 2006, that broke Montenegro’s ties with Serbia.

Albania

Albania is the only Balkan country that has an absolute majority in terms of Muslim citizens. Officially 70% of the population is Sunni Muslims, even though there are considerable segments of non-practicing secular ones. The main reason for such a large Muslim impact in the state is the mass conversion during the Ottoman Empire that saw a considerable stratum of the Albanian population exchanging their Christian religion for Islam in order to gain considerable advantages in the Ottoman bureaucracy and army. Actually many Turkish historical figures were Albanians, and one of them rose to become the first Pasha of Egypt; Mehmet Ali Pasha.

Albania since 1992 is a member of the Islamic conference, an intergovernmental Muslim organization and it has often become a country focused by the international community because of links by fundamentalists and members of the state apparatus.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria has a considerable Muslim minority in the southern regions bordering with Greece and Turkey. The Communist regime in Bulgaria after 1945, initiated measures that forced Muslims –Of Turkish descent mostly- to immigrate to Turkey. In the 1980’s alone 300, 000 of those were to flee Bulgaria. Nevertheless the percentage of Muslims in the country is well over 10% and they exercise significant influence in the political climate of Bulgaria. The existence of a well established Turkish-Muslim minority in Bulgaria has proved to be one of the main reasons for the Greek-Bulgaria rapprochement that enacted in the mid-70’s and continues up to date, bringing the two states with a colorful history of rivalry together; along with excellent bilateral relations.

Greece

Greece’s Muslim minority is to be found in Western Thrace, the province neighboring with Bulgaria and Turkey. The first Muslim coming from Anatolia, settled there in 1363 along with the Ottoman Turks in the first European conquest Endeavour.

In 1923 Greece and Turkey agreed to a mass exchange of populations and consequently Greeks resettled from Minor Asia to mainland Greece and vice versa. The Muslim minority in Thrace along with the Greek-Orthodox in Istanbul remained as a counterweight to its other and as a symbolic remembrance of the oldest Muslim settlement in Europe and the historical Byzantine – Christian presence in the East respectively.

The course of events though revealed a systematic extinction of the Greek-Orthodox Christians in Istanbul that number some 5,000 people down from 200,000 in the 1920’s. In Western Thrace 110,000 Muslims reside and constitute a 1% of the total population in Greece and a Quarter of the Western Thracian populous.

Future trends

In all Balkan states excluding Greece the overall Muslim population is set to increase because of very low birth rate of the Christian population –Especially in Bulgaria- and the reverse trend by the Islamic communities. Moreover an immigration movement from the Balkans towards Western Europe has actually lowered population like in Bulgaria, over the past decade or so.

The Balkans has always constituted one of the fiercest terrains of ethnic – Cultural enmity in Europe. The reasons for the above are the placement of the Peninsula close to Asia that reserved the role of the “European gatekeeper” for the whole of South Eastern Europe. One has to remember of the Kraijna border area created by the Austrians in the 17th century in order to counterweight the Ottoman forces [89. Moreover the Venetians were active in recruiting Greeks as “Stradioti” in order to combat all along the Aegean Archipelagos and the Greek coastline.

Future seems to have elements of repeating this situation due to the ongoing rivalry between West and East, a phenomenon that one can easily retrieve by reading Homer’s Iliad or by comprehending the Persians wars dated in the 5th century BC, as they were recorded by Herodotus historiography. The Balkans are the borderline area between the West and the East, where the two either meet or contest and in any case synthesize or degenerate.

In lieu of a conclusion

The overall challenges for the security and intelligence services, oriented in the Balkan region seems overwhelming, judging by the multitude of the challenges involved and the tasks needed to overcome them. The current époque has brought –Especially to Greece- the re-engineering of security policies, in order to combat non- symmetrical threats such as the ones of organized crime and terrorism. Taking into account the globalization process, the interrelation between societies and the breathtaking advancements in telecommunications and transport; it is fair to assume that certain issues should be seriously reflected upon, on a different perspective than the traditional mode.

A multiparty approach to organized crime should be form here upon the core of any intelligence activity in the Balkans. Organized crime –Along with the rest of the perils for modern societies- need measures that are up to the modern way of life and communication of ours. A parallel and well constructed method of Open Source Intelligence gathering and the operation of specialized crime intelligence units will certainly help towards the aim of curbing crime and its calamities. In addition a conclusive analysis and synthesis of the available information, without any bias; should be the core of any serious attempt into reaching viable prognosis and stall malicious situations such as terrorists incidents and further empowerment  of organized crime.

In order for the aforementioned to become a custom reality, there has to be a constructive and significant replenish of the human resources involved and an upgrade of the present era technical equipment. Therefore decisions should be taken soon enough so as to foresee any positive results, before events surpass the ability of the intelligence community to react and function properly.  The Balkan Peninsula remains more than ever “The soft underbelly of Europe”, apart from the other more conventional menaces in the wider Eastern Mediterranean area.

Bibliography:

Books & Academic literature  (For all above articles)

Alessandro Politi, “European Security: The New Transnational Risks,”Chaillot Papers, No. 29, October, 1997

Blumi Isa,”Contesting the edges of the Ottoman Empire: Rethinking ethnic and sectarian boundaries in the Malesore”, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 35, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003

Central European and Eastern Adriatic Research Group, Research & Analytical Papers “Organized Crime in Southeast Europe”, Foreign and Commonwealth Office London, November 2002

Cpt. Velko Attanassoff, Bosnia and Herzegovina-Islamic Revival, International Advocacy Networks and Islamic Terrorism, Strategic Insights, Volume IV, Issue 5, May 2005

Cviic, Christopher.  Remaking the Balkans. New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1991.

Evan F. Kohlmann, “Al-Qaeda’s Jihad in Europe“,Berg Publications,  Oxford-UK, September 2004.

Galeotti, Mark. 2001. “Albanian Gangs Gain Foothold in European Crime Underworld.” Jane’s Intelligence Review 13(11, November): 25-7.

H.T. Norris “Islam in the Balkans: Religion and Society Between Europe and the Arab World”, C. Hurst & Co, London, Jan 1994

International Crisis Group, “Bin Laden and the Balkans: The Politics of Anti-Terrorism”, ICG Balkans Report No. 119, 9 November 2001

Kaplan, Robert D. “Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History”, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1993.

M. E. Mallet and J. R.Hale, “The Military organization of a Renaissance State: Venice ca. 1400 to 1617″,Cambridge University Press,London, 1984

Maltz D. Michael , “Defining Organized Crime”, in: Robert J. Kelly et al. (eds.), Handbook of Organized Crime in the United States, Westport/London, 1994

Mark Galeotti ‘Albanian Organized Crime: The Threat to Europe,’ Cross Border Control Issue 12

Raufer, Xavier avec Stéphane Quéré. “La Mafia Albanaise, une Menace pour l’Europe: Comment est née cette Superpuissance Criminelle Balkanique” Lausanne, Favre, 2000.

Schindler John R. “Unholy Terror: Bosnia, Al-Qa’ida, and the Rise of Global Jihad”, Zenith Press, Osceola WI,July 2007

Shay Shaul “Islamic Terror and the Balkans”, Transaction Publishers, New Jersey, December2006

Schwartz Stephen, “The failure of Europe in Bosnia and the Continuing Infiltration of Islamic Extremists”, The Weekly Standard, 20 June 2005

Suha Taji-Farouki and Hugh Poulton “Muslim Identity and the Balkan State”, New York University Press, New York, October 1997 New York

Todd Stiefler, “CIA’s Leadership and Major Covert Operations: Rogue Elephants or Risk-Averse Bureaucrats?”, Intelligence and National Security, Volume 19, Number 4, Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group, London, December 2004.

Xenakis Sappho, “International Norm Diffusion and Organised Crime Policy: The Case of Greece”,  Global Crime, Volume 6, Issue 3 & 4 ,P:345 – 373 ,London, August 2004.

Material used from Open Sources Intelligence (Media, Reports, Presentations, Papers,  Quotes, Documentaries, Open Editions, Articles, Speeches, Reviews, Reports, Briefings, Hearings, anecdotal data, statistics)

Albanian-Canadian Organization

American Council for Kosovo Organization

Antiwar Organization

Association of Breton & Celtic Journalists

Assyrian News Agency

Axis Global Research Corporation

Balkanalysis News Agency

BBC News

BIA-Security Information Agency in Serbia-

Boston Globe Newspaper

Bulgarian Helsinki Committee Publications

Business Week Journal

CEMES Institute

Center for Contemporary Conflict

Centre for Drugs Research-University of Amsterdam-

Centre for European Reform

Centre for Peace in the Balkans

CERE Research Centre

Chicago-Kent College of Law and the Illinois Institute of Technology

CIA Publications

CIAO Organization

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Columbia Encyclopedia

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Publications

Council on Foreign Affairs

Counterterrorism Blog

Covert Action Journal

Der Spiegel Newspaper

DHKC Information Bureau

Drug Text Organization

European Commission -External Affairs Service-

European Communities Official Journal

EUROPOL Publications

Federation of American Scientists Publications

Foreign Military Studies Publications

Geopolitical Drug Watch Journal

German Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Global Policy Forum

Global Research Organization Publications

Jamestown Foundation

Journalismus – Nachrichten Von Heute

Hellenic Resources Organization

Independent Newspaper

Indian Ministry of External Affairs

International Herald Tribune

Interpol Publications

Inthe80′s.com

Irish Examiner Newspaper

ISSA -Defense & Foreign Affairs Journal-

Italian Parliament Publications

FBI Publications

Kathimerini Newspaper

Kokkalis Foundation -Kennedy School of Goverment-

Le Monde Diplomatique

Library of the USA Congress

Lobster Magazine

London School of Economics- Hellenic Observatory-

MSNBC News Service

NATO Publications

Observatoire Geopolitque des Drogues Foundation

Organization of Islamic Conference

Radio Free Europe

RAND Institute

Reuters News Agency

Rupert Schumann Foundation

National Post

New York Times Newspaper

Nexhat Ibrahimi

Novi Sad Newspaper

Partnership for Peace Consortium

Saudi Aramco Corporation Publications

Serbianna News Agaency

Sisyphe Organization

Strategic Culture Foundation

Strategic Insights Journal

Terrorism Monitor Journal

Transnational Organized Crime Journal

Truth in Media News Broadcast

Voice of America News Service

Washington Quarterly Journal

Washington Post Newspaper

West Network Organization

Wikipedia

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

University of Belgrade

University of Buffalo

United Kingdom – Foreign & Commonwealth Office-

United Nations Information Office in Vienna

United States Department of State

United States Senate – Subcommittee on European Affairs-

USA AID

USA Embassy in Rome-Italy

USA Navy – Naval Historical Centre Publications-

USA Pentagon Library

USA TODAY Newspaper


Footnotes for : “Islamic terrorism and the Balkans: The perfect training ground”

Strategic Culture Foundation Journal (03/04/2007), By Mikhail Yambaev, ” Kosovo-2007: Russia’s Moment of Truth”. Web Site: http://en.fondsk.ru/article.php?id=643

Congressional Research Service – The Library of the USA Congress- (26/07/2005), Report by Steven Woehrel, Specialist in European Affairs; Foreign Affairs, Defense & Trade Division. “Islamic Terrorism & the Balkans”. Website: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL33012.pdf

Strategic Insights Journal, Volume IV, Issue 5 (05/2005), By CPT Attanassoff; Bulgarian Armed Forces, “Bosnia Herzegovina: Islamic Terrorism”. Website: http://www.ccc.nps.navy.mil/si/2005/May/attanassoffMay05.asp

Ibid.

MSNBC News Service (16/06/2004), “9/11 Commission Staff Statement”. Website: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5224099/

The Irish Examiner Newspaper (14/07/2005), “Explosives used in London bombings originated in the Balkans”. Website: http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2005/07/14/story664838892.asp

Assyrian International News Agency (24/05/2007), By Alan W. Dowd, “An Independent Kosovo?”. Web site: http://www.aina.org/news/20070523100735.htm

NATO Publications (06/1998), By Kosta Barjaba, ” Albania in transition”

USA TODAY Newspaper (2002), “Bin Laden linked to Albania”. Website: http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/bomb162.htm

The center for Peace in the Balkans (09/2001), “Bin Laden’s Balkan connections”. Website: http://www.balkanpeace.org/index.php?index=/content/analysis/a09.incl

New York Times Newspaper (10/06/2000), “Stolen Albanian weapons”. Website: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A00E3DC1F3FF933A25755C0A9669C8B63&n=Top%2fNews%2fWorld%2fCountries%20and%20Territories%2fAlbania

USA TODAY Magazine; Society for the advancement of education (05/2002), By Ivan Eland, “Provoking terrorist groups”. Website: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1272/is_2684_130/ai_86062103/pg_1

Novi Sad weekly Newspaper “Nezavisni” (11/09/1998), By Slobodan Inic, “Defeat of KLA in Kosovo”. Website: http://mediafilter.org/Monitor/Mon.66/Mon.66.nezavisni1.html

Balkanalysis News Agency; Security & Intelligence Brief-Part 1 (26/06/2006), By Christopher Deliso, “Dragas pocket worries terrorism experts”. Website: http://www.balkanalysis.com/security-intelligence-briefs/06262006-dragas-pocket-worries-terrorism-experts/

The Jamestown Foundation, Terrorism Monitor Journal, Volume 4, Issue 12 (15/06/2006), By Anes Alic. “Al Qaeda’s recruitment operations in the Balkans. Website: http://www.jamestown.org/terrorism/news/article.php?articleid=2370031

The USA Embassy in Rome-Italy Publications , CRS Report (06/01/2006), By Kristin Archick (Coordinator), John Rollins, and Steven Woehrel, “ Islamic extremism in Europe”. Website: http://www.italy.usembassy.gov/pdf/other/RS22211.pdf

RAND Institute Publications, Monograph (04/1998), Chapter 3, By Phil Williams, “Transnational Criminal Networks”. Website: www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1382/MR1382.ch3.pdf

Balkanalysis News Agency (17/04/2006), Interview of Loretta Napoleoni by Balkanalysis, “Terrorist finance & the Balkans”. Website: http://www.balkanalysis.com/?p=667

Official Journal the European Communities; Council Common Position (16/07/2001), “Concerning a visa ban against extremists in FYROM”. Web site: eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2001:194:0055:0055:EN:PDF

Axis Global Research Corporation (11/10/2005), By Can Karpat, AIA Balkan section, “Political Solution and Terrorism in F.Y.R.Macedonia”. Website: http://www.axisglobe.com/article.asp?article=430

University of Buffalo; Listserv Buffalo (04/03/2002), By MILS News, “Seven terrorist killed near Skopje”. Website: http://listserv.buffalo.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0203a&L=maknws-l&T=0&P=298

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (04/2002), By Lt. Col. Harry Dinella, Policy Advisor, Western Policy Center, “Uncertainty in the Slav-Albanian Partnership”. Website: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/index.cfm?topic_id=109941&fuseaction=topics.documents&doc_id=119929&group_id=115869

University of Belgrade; Faculty of Security Studies Publications (2002), By Prof. Drako Trifunovic, “Terrorism and Bosnia and Herzegovina – Al-Qaeda’s Global Network and its influence on Western Balkans nations” P. 9-11.

Washington Post Newspaper (01/12/2005), By Rade Maroevic and Daniel Williams, “Terrorist Cells Find Foothold in Balkans”. Website: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/30/AR2005113002098.html

Ibid.

The Jamestown Foundation; Terrorism Monitor Journal; Volume II; Issue 20, (21/10/2004), By Stephen Schwartz, “Wahhabism and al-Qaeda in Bosnia-Herzegovina”.

PfP Consortium; Study Group Crisis Management in South East Europe; Vienna and Sarajevo (12/2002), By Alfred C. Lugert, “Preventing and Combating Terrorism in Bosnia and Herzegovina”

University of Belgrade; Faculty of Security Studies Publications (2002), By Prof. Drako Trifunovic, “Terrorism and Bosnia and Herzegovina – Al-Qaeda’s Global Network and its influence on Western Balkans nations” P. 16-17.

Kokalis Foundation; Kennedy School of Government; Harvard University, Paper presentation by Teodora Popesku, “Tackling Terrorism in the Balkans. Website: http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/kokkalis/GSW9/Popescu_paper.pdf

United Kingdom Foreign & Commonwealth Office (Current as of 13/05/2007), “Bosnia & Herzegovina travel advice”. Website: www.fco.gov.uk/…/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1007029390590&a=KCountryAdvice&aid=1013618385675

Quoted in Truth in Media news broadcast in  Phoenix; USA( 02/04/1999)

Covert Action Journal; No. 56.  (Spring 1996), By Michel Chossudovsky, professor at the Department of Economics at University of Ottawa, “Dismantling Yugoslavia; Colonizing Bosnia”. Website:  http://www.lbbs.org/yugoslavia.htm

Association of Breton & Celtic journalists (21/09/1998), By Roger Faligot, “How Germany backed KLA”. Website: http://www.bretagnenet.com/reporter-breton/archives/germany.htm

Geopolitical Drug Watch Journal; No 32 (06/1994). P. 4

Covert Action Quarterly Journal; No. 43, (Winter 1992-93), By Sean Gervasi, “Germany, US and the Yugoslav Crisis”

Intelligence and National Security, Volume 19, Number 4 (12/2004), pp. 632-654(23), By Todd Stiefler, ” CIA’s Leadership and Major Covert Operations: Rogue Elephants or Risk-Averse Bureaucrats?”

Chicago-Kent College of Law and the Illinois Institute of Technology (1996), ” Nationbuilding in the Balkans-History of Albanians”. Web Site: http://pbosnia.kentlaw.edu/resources/history/albania/albhist.htm

Evan F. Kohlmann, “Al-Qaeda’s Jihad in Europe“,Berg Publications, Preface, Oxford-UK, September 2004.

Kokalis Foundation; Kennedy School of Government; Harvard University, Presentation paper by Xavier Bougarel, “Islam & Politics in the Post-Communist Balkans. Website: http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/kokkalis/GSW1/GSW1/13%20Bougarel.pdf

Foreign Military Studies Publications (02/1995), By LTC John E. Sray, U.S. Army, “Mujahedin Operations in Bosnia”. Website: http://leav-www.army.mil/fmso/documents/muja.htm

Department of the USA Navy; Naval Historical Centre Publications (26/07/2005), By Steven Woehrel, “Islamic terrorism & the Balkans”. Website: http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/islamic_terrorism.htm

Ibid.

Reuters, Alert Net Service (11/04/2007), By Daria Sito-Sucic, “Bosnia revokes citizenship of Islamic ex-soldiers”. Web Site: http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L1151505.htm

Information was provided by a variety of ISSA Reports, informal journalist sources from Serbia, Albania & FYROM. The material has been made publicly else were and has not been contended for its reliability.

For extensive and sensitive information on the subject see: ISSA Special Report (17/09/2003). Web Site: http://128.121.186.47/ISSA/reports/Balkan/Sep1703.htm#App1

Council on Foreign Relations; Open Edition (13/02/2002), By David L. Phillips, “Keeping the Balkans free of Al-Qaeda”. Website: http://www.cfr.org/publication/4344/rule_of_law.html?breadcrumb=%2Fregion%2F385%2Fbalkans

European Commission; External Affairs Service (2004), “The Contribution of the European Commission to the Implementation of the EU-Central Asia Action Plan on Drugs”. Website: http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/drugs/hero.htm

Organization of Islamic Conference (2007), memberships. Website: www.oic-un.org/about/members.htm

Center for Contemporary Conflict; Strategic Insights; Volume V; Issue 4 (04/2006), Anouar Boukhars, “ The challenge of terrorism in Jordan”. Website: http://www.ccc.nps.navy.mil/si/2006/Apr/boukharsApr06.asp

ISSA Research & Analysis Corporation; Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis (16/01/2006), “Kosovo SHIK Directly Linked With Albanian SHIK Intelligence Organization”.

According to Stavro Markos, acclaimed Albanian journalist, correspondent for UK, French and Greek media.

Global Research Organization Publications (22/10/2003), By Michel Chossudovsky, “Regime rotation in the USA”. Website: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO310B.html

Federation of American Scientists Publications (1998), By Milan. V. Petkovic, “Albanian terrorists”. Website: http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/docs/980000-kla-petkovic-terror.htm

Alessandro Politi, “European Security: The New Transnational Risks,”Chaillot Papers, No. 29, October, 1997. This paper discusses analytically the strong evidence around the KLA’s tendencies towards criminal actions well before the U.S. intervention in Kosovo and with the suffice knowledge by the international bodies. ALSO see an article by the Independent newspaper (25/09/2002), “Bin Laden linked to Albanian drug gangs”. Website: http://www.thedossier.ukonline.co.uk/Web%20Pages/INDEPENDENT_Bin%20Laden%20linked%20to%20Albanian%20drug%20gangs.htm

Der Spiegel, 24 September 2001, p. 15

Federation of American Scientists Publications; Patterns of global terrorism (1998), “Europe overview”. Website: http://www.fas.org/irp/threat/terror_98/europe.htm

International Herarld Tribune (22/12/2006), “Albania seizes assets of alleged bin Laden associate”. Web Site: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2006/12/22/europe/EU_GEN_Albania_Terror_Financing.php

Voice of America News Service (08/05/2007), “Albania supports War on terror”. Website: http://www.voanews.com/english/About/2007-05-08-albania-foreign-minister.cfm

Anti War Article & Analysis Organization (19/09/2001), By Christopher Deliso, “How Islamic terrorism took root in Albania”. Website: http://www.antiwar.com/orig/deliso5.html

Shay Shaul “Islamic Terror and the Balkans”,P. 82, Transaction Publishers, New Jersey, December2006

For detailed information on terrorist sympathizers in the Sanjak area ( Names, locations), see a GIS Security Briefing: http://www.slobodan-milosevic.org/news/dfasa040307.htm (Reprint)

ISSA Research & Analysis Corporation; Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis (03/2007), By Darko Trifunovic, “Terrorism: The case of Bosnia, Sanzak & Kosovo”.

United Nations Information Service in Vienna (01/10/2004), Press Release SOC/CP/311, “UN warning on terrorism in the Balkans”. Website: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2004/soccp311.doc.htm

Washington Post (20/01/2005), By John Stilides, “Albania’s Dangerous Past”.

Boston Globe (o1/05/2006), By Jonathan B. Tucker and Paul F. Walker  , “A long way to go in eliminating chemical weapons”. Web Site: http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2006/05/01/a_long_way_to_go_in_eliminating_chemical_weapons/

Kathimerini Newspaper (07/02/2007), “ Kosovo link to Embassy strike”. Web Site: http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_politics_100012_07/02/2007_79818

Shay Shaul “Islamic Terror and the Balkans”,P. 70, Transaction Publishers, New Jersey, December2006

Of course there were interactions of a great scale between the Byzantines and the Arab Muslims well before the arrival of the Ottomans in the Balkans. For more see: H.T. Norris “Islam in the Balkans: Religion and Society Between Europe and the Arab World”, P. 43-50, C. Hurst & Co, London, Jan 1994

Nexhat Ibrahimi, “Islam’s first contacts with the Balkan nations”. Web site: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/6875/nexhat.html

The USA Pentagon Library; Selected bibliography on Balkan conflicts. Website: http://www.hqda.army.mil/library/balkans.htm

Wikipedia (2007), “Bogomils”. Website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bogomil

For an articulate description of the “ Bogomils” and their impact in the Pan-European history see: Medieval Cathares History:Short History of Bosnian Bogomils. Web Site: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Troy/9892/bhhisto.html

Serbianna News Agency (11/04/2006), By Carl Savich, “The role of the Bosnian Muslims in WW2”. Website: http://www.serbianna.com/columns/savich/077.shtml  & http://www.serbianna.com/columns/savich/006.shtml

The Counterterrorism Blog (17/08/2005), “Jihadist found a convenient base in Bosnia”. Website: http://counterterror.typepad.com/the_counterterrorism_blog/2005/08/jihadists_find_.html

Schwartz Stephen, “The failure of Europe in Bosnia and the Continuing Infiltration of Islamic Extremists”, The Weekly Standard, 20 June 2005

CIA Publications; Factbook; Bosnia-Herzegovina (2005). Website: https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/bk.html

Serbianna News Agency (23/10/2006), By Russell, Gordon “Behind Kosovo’s façade”. Website: http://www.serbianna.com/columns/gordon/004.shtml

Radio Free Europe; Background Report/253 (31/10/1983), By Louis Zanga, “Albanian Population Growth”. Reprinted by the Open Society Foundation Archives. Website: http://files.osa.ceu.hu/holdings/300/8/3/text/3-13-10.shtml

Kaplan, Robert D. “Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History”,P. 95-98 St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1993. The chapter of Kaplan on Serbia, extensively and articulately grasps the importance of Kosovo-Metohija for the Serbian nation and the consequences of a potential loose of that territory.

USA AID Organization Publications (2002), “Wahhabi presence in Sanjak”. Website: www.pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PNADC982.pdf

Indian Ministry of External Affairs Publications (2003), “Assessment of FYROM”. Website: www.meaindia.nic.in/foreignrelation/macedonia.pdf

BBC News (32/12/2005), “Muslims in Europe: Country guide”. Web Site: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4385768.stm

Wikipedia (2007), “History of Ottoman Albania”. Website: www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Ottoman_Albania

Bulgarian Helsinki Committee Publications (11/2003), “The human rights of Muslims in Bulgaria in law and politics since 1978”. Chapter 2, Paragraph 2. Web site: www.bghelsinki.org/special/en/2003_Muslims_fm.doc

Hellenic Resources Network Organization, “Presentation of the Lausanne Treaty”. Website: www.hri.org/docs/straits/exchange.html

London School of Economics; Hellenic Observatory Annual Symposium; Paper presentation, By Giorgios Niarchos Ph.D Candidate, “Continuity & Change in the minority policies of Greece & Turkey”. Website: www.lse.ac.uk/collections/hellenicObservatory/pdf/symposiumPapersonline/Niarchos.pdf

Ibid. AND Saudi Aramco Corporation Publications (08/1976), By Pamela Roberson, “Islam in Greece”. P. 26-32

BBC News (23/12/2005), “Muslims in Europe: Country guide”. Website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4385768.stm

Wikipedia (2007), “Kraijna”. Web Site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krajina, ALSO for an in-depth analysis of the ethno-religious lines during the era of the Ottoman Empire in the Northern Balkans: Blumi Isa,”Contesting the edges of the Ottoman Empire: Rethinking ethnic and sectarian boundaries in the Malesore”, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 35:P. 237-256, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003

M. E. Mallet and J. R.Hale, “The Military organization of a Renaissance State: Venice ca. 1400 to 1617″,Cambridge University Press,London, 1984


Footnotes for: “Narcotics and the emergence of crime syndicates in the Balkans”

Interpol official publication (2006), “Heroin production”, Website: http://www.interpol.int/Public/Drugs/heroin/default.asp

Council of Foreign Affairs (09/2006), by Lionel Beehner; “Afghanistan’s role in Iran’s Drug problem”. Website:  http://www.cfr.org/publication/11457/

BBC News Europe (03/08/2000), “Albanian mafia steps up people smuggling”. Website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/863620.stm

Federal Research Division, Library of Congress (12/2002), By Glenn E. Curtis & Tara Karacan. Website: http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/pdf-files/WestEurope_NEXUS.pdf

Website of  Xavier Raufer: http://www.xavier-raufer.com/

The Washington Quarterly Journal (09/1999), By Frank Cilluffo & George Salmoiraghi. Website: http://www.twq.com/autumn99/224Cilluffo.pdf

EUROPOL Publications (2005), “EU Report on drug production and drug traffiking 2003-2004. Web site : http://www.europol.europa.eu/publications/SeriousCrimeOverviews/2005/SC2Drugs-2005.pdf

CEMES Institute (2004), “Balkan trafficking report”.  Website: http://www.cemes.org/current/ethpub/ethnobar/wp1/wp1-d.htm

Sisyphe Organization (02/2005), By Prof. Richard Poulin, “The legalization of prostitution and its impact in trafficking of women and children”. Website: http://sisyphe.org/article.php3?id_article=1596

Maltz D. Michael , “Defining Organized Crime”, in: Robert J. Kelly et al. (eds.), Handbook of Organized Crime in the United States, Westport/London 1994, 21-37. ALSO for the particular Modus Opperandi of the Albanian criminal groups see: Raufer, Xavier avec Stéphane Quéré. “La Mafia Albanaise, une Menace pour l’Europe: Comment est née cette Superpuissance Criminelle Balkanique” P. 12-124, Lausanne, Favre, 2000.

United Nations Information Service in Vienna (09/2004), “Nexus between drugs, crime & terrorism”. Website: http://www.unis.unvienna.org/unis/pressrels/2004/uniscp500.html

Xavier Raufer (2002), “At the heart of the Balkan chaos: Albanian mafia”. Website: http://www.xavier-raufer.com/english_5.php

BIA -Security Information Agency- (09/2003), “Organized crime in Kosovo & Metohija”. Website: http://www.decani.org/albterrorism.html

National Post (04/2000), By Patrick Graham, “Drug wars: Kosovo’s new battles”. Website: http://www.balkanpeace.org/index.php?index=article&articleid=7582

Wikipedia (2007), “Albanians”. Website: http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albanians

Observatoire Geopolitque des Drogues Foundation; Annual Report (1996) “The World Geopolitics of Drugs”.Page 61-75.

Wikipedia (2007), “Opium”. Website: http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium

FBI Publications (2002), “Report on transnational narcotics trade”. Website: http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/orgcrime/lcn/ioc.htm

Drug Text organization, Reference library, By McCoy, “Marseille: America’s heroin labatory”. Website: http://www.drugtext.org/library/books/McCoy/book/11.htm

Federation of American Scientists briefing, “Kurds I Turkey”. Website: http://www.fas.org/asmp/profiles/turkey_background_kurds.htm

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Ed. (2001-2005), “Iran-Iraq war”. Website: http://www.bartleby.com/65/ir/IranIraq.html

Charles R. Grosvenor Jr. (2007), “The Iran-Contra scandal”. Website: http://www.inthe80s.com/scandal.shtml

Lobster Magazine; Issue 30 (1995), “Persian Drugs: Oliver North, the DEA and Covert Operations in the Mideast”

German Ministry of Foreign Affairs (10/2006), “Profile of Turkey”. Website: http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/diplo/en/Laender/Tuerkei.html

DHKC Information Bureau (01/1997), “The Susurluk accident”. Website: http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/51/289.html

BBC News (06/10/2005), By Sarah Rainsford, “ Turkey at the drugs crossroads”. Web site: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4305692.stm

West Network organization (1998), “Corruption in Turkey”. Website: http://users.westnet.gr/~cgian/cillermurder.htm

Le Monde Diplomatic (07/1998), By Kendal Nezan, “Turkey’s pivotal role in international drugs trade”. Website: http://mondediplo.com/1998/07/05

Centre for Drugs Research-University of Amsterdam- (1998), By Tim Boekhout Van Solinge, “Drugs use & trafficking in Europe”. Website: http://www.cedro-uva.org/lib/boekhout.drug.pdf

Ibid

Journalismus Nachrichten Von Heute (11/12/2006), “The Highjacking of a Nation”, Quoting Mark Galeotti, a former UK intelligence officer and expert on the Turkish mafia. Web Site: oraclesyndicate.twoday.net/stories/3049459

Centre for European Reform (07/2006), By Hugo Brady, “Organized crime & punishment”. Web Site: http://www.cer.org.uk/articles/brady_esharp_july_aug06.html

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Publications, “Open Edition on Albanian people”. Web Site: http://www.thefellowship.info/Global%20Missions/UPG/Albanian.icm

CNN (26/10/2004), By Eric Pearce, “Albanian crime rings suspects arrested”. Website: http://www.mfa.gov.yu/FDP/CNN-261004_1.html

Balkanalysis news agency (30/11/2006), By Christopher Deliso, “The hijacking of a nation, part-2”. Website: http://www.balkanalysis.com/2006/11/30/the-hijacking-of-a-nation-part-2-the-auctioning-of-former-statesmen-dime-a-dozen-generals/

American Council for Kosovo organization (28/08/2006), “Text of report in English by Belgrade based Radio B92”. Website: http://www.savekosovo.org/default.asp?p=5&leader=0&sp=118

Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (11/05/2005), “Bucharest Declaration”. Website: http://www.mvpei.hr/seecp/docs/7_BUCHAREST_DECLARATION_11_MAY_2005.pdf

Subcommittee on European Affairs, Committee on Foreign Relations United States Senate (30/10/2003), Testimony by Grant D. Ashley, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigative Division, FBI, “Eurasian, Italian, and Balkan Organized Crime”. Website: http://www.fbi.gov/congress/congress03/ashley103003.htm ALSO see more on: Galeotti, Mark. 2001. “Albanian Gangs Gain Foothold in European Crime Underworld.” Jane’s Intelligence Review 13(11, November): 25-7.

CIAO organization, interview of Mark Edmond Clark in CIAO, “Terrorism and organized crime”. Website: http://www.ciaonet.org/special_section/iraq/papers/clm10/clm10.html

The Center for Peace in the Balkans (06/2003), “Humanitarian bombing vs. Iraqi freedom”. Website: http://www.balkanpeace.org/index.php?index=/content/analysis/a14.incl

Global Policy Forum (2004), “Kosovo”. Website: http://www.globalpolicy.org/security//issues///ksvindx.htm

Gus Xhudo. (1996) “Men of Purpose: The Growth of Albanian Criminal Activity.” Transnational Organized Crime. 2(1). Spring: 1-20

Website of  Xavier Raufer: http://www.xavier-raufer.com/

Wikipedia (2007), “Albanian Mafia”. Website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albanian_mafia

USA Department of State (2006), Trafficking in person’s reports”. Website: http://www.state.gov/g/tip/

Albanian-Canadian organization (2006), “Dateline of Albanian history”. Website: http://www.albanian.ca/datehistory.htm

Serbianna News Agency (19/04/2005), By M. Bozinovich, “Al-Qaeda in Kosovo”. Website: http://www.serbianna.com/columns/mb/035.shtml

Interpol official publication (2006), “Heroin production”, Website: http://www.interpol.int/Public/Drugs/heroin/default.asp

Italian Parliament Publications (29/03/2006), Report by Senator Alberto Maritati, “Organized crime in the Balkans with a reference to Albania”. Website:

www.cespi.it/Rotta/Ascod-criminalità/maritati.PDF

Open Democracy Foundation (16/08/2006), By Ilija Trojanow, “Bulgaria: The Mafia’s dance to Europe”. Website: http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-europefuture/bulgaria_3825.jsp

Information acquired through various reliable journalistic sources in Bulgaria

Robert Schumann Foundation (17/10/2006), By Corrine Deloy, “Presidential election in Bulgaria”. Website: http://www.robert-schuman.org/anglais/oee/bulgarie/presidentielle/default2.htm

Xenakis Sappho, “International Norm Diffusion and Organised Crime Policy: The Case of Greece”,  Global Crime, Volume 6, Issue 3 & 4 August 2004 , pages 345 – 373, London.

Business Week Journal (20/06/2005), BY Alkman Granitsas, “Digging for gold in the Balkans”. Website: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_25/b3938161_mz035.htm


19-05-2013

By Ioannis Michaletos

Source: Modern Diplomacy

terorista-pripadnik-ovk-uck

A member of terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army (the U.S.-sponsored) during the 1998-1999 Kosovo War

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The “Domino effect”, Kosovo, Crimea, China…



Monah na rusevinama crkve

So, how did it all begin? On 17 February 2008, the autonomous parliament of Kosovo issued a unilateral declaration of sovereignty. On 22 July 2010, the UN International Court recognized the legitimacy of the Kosovo authorities’ decision to declare independence from Serbia.

Was there really no-one around at that time who could predict, political sympathies aside, that the Kosovo precedent would lead only to regrettable results? There were in fact such people, and they warned the world. But President George W. Bush was deeply unmoved by such warnings; after all, he had followed the example of his great father in defeating Iraq, and named an aircraft carrier after him. If another member of this august family should ever come to power in the USA, then he will naturally lead another invasion of Iraq and, should the US budget allow it, will build something nice for the navy. That is the Bush family tradition – bombing Iraq and ravaging the US budget.

Only a few years ago America’s might was considered invincible, although many knew that NASA’s astronauts reached the International Space Station using Russian “Soyuz” spacecraft, and Atlas V rockets fly thanks to Russian RD-180 engines. Atlas V rockets deliver all kinds of satellites into orbit, including military ones.

Of course, it will not be a problem for America to switch to its own engines and build new manned spacecraft to replace obsolete, decommissioned shuttles. The White House is trying to impress upon people the vastness of President Obama’s power: “by sheer force of mental power, he can send an expedition to Mars, teleport billions of kiloliters of gas to Europe, and force President Putin to write a decree authorizing same-sex marriage in Russia.” Well, then, if Obama has decided to reinvigorate the US space program, one can only be glad for the country.

The problem has turned out to be that while the Obama administration was helping to establish sharia law in the countries of the Arab world, the Crimean parliament declared the republic’s independence from the Kiev junta, and the Russian bear decided to rub the Kosovo precedent in its face. It turns out that the cries of “Stop, don’t move, I’m going to use sanctions, requisitions, demonization and I can even pull the atomic trigger!” do not work on the Russian bear.

Washington has finally begun to acknowledge that what happened in Kosovo was only the first domino falling. What will happen next?

According to Gazeta.ru, the American administration has been urging Beijing officials not to adopt the Crimean situation as a model for action against their Asian neighbors. The sanctions imposed by the USA and the European Union on Russia should have a chilling effect on any fevered minds in the Chinese government who might have been thinking of using the model set forth by the Kremlin in Crimea, declared Daniel Russel, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, in a Senate committee hearing.

All one can say is: “Wow”! So that turns out to be the pedagogic principle governing America’s sanctions against the Russian Federation. The only question is, where in China did Assistant Secretary Russel find these fevered minds? It would appear that he is projecting the clinical picture which is in fact typical of the US Senate and State Department onto the leadership of the PRC. “The net effect is to put more pressure on China to demonstrate that it remains committed to the peaceful resolution of the problems,” Russel stated.

So they were just loading up on popcorn in Beijing, preparing to watch the epic tragedy “America vs. Russia: The Sanctions,” when there came the hysterical cry from the State Department: “Don’t even think about it!” What’s with all of the shouting? Just send Samantha Power to Beijing.

Events in Crimea have generated a lot of excitement not only in Washington, but in Tokyo too. “Crimea has changed the rules of the game. It’s not a salvo on some distant shore. An attempt by a rising power to change the status quo has taken place,” said Kunihiko Miyake, former adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shindzo Abe. According to Miyake, the PRC may do the same thing. The Japanese media have been vying to outdo each other in publishing stories about Beijing potentially following Moscow’s example by occupying the disputed Senkaku (Diaoyu) islands.

Here, the following facts should be noted. The company Square Enix does not want to have its well-known Final Fantasy series of games translated into Russian. Why? Because it is Tokyo’s sanction in response to Russia’s refusal to give the Kuril Islands back to Japan: “let the Russians suffer and play World of Warcraft.” If Square Enix were to have Final Fantasy translated into Russian, Moscow would enter the same parallel reality in which Tokyo now finds itself.

What is the actual existing reality of the situation?

In the first place, the population of Senkaku consists of exactly 0 (zero) persons; it has no parliament, no separatists, no terrorists, no national minorities, no gays, no US embassies, and so on. What on earth is this conversation supposed to be about? Furthermore, does China really need these islands or does it need a pretext to show the countries of Southeast Asia that the United States are far away and the Chinese dragon’s fangs have not lost their bite? Finally, Japan holds a trump card in its hands – Washington, to which the land of the rising sun is bound by an agreement on common defense.

So why did Tokyo get so frightened and go so far as to promise to give 1.44 billion dollars to the Kievan junta?

On 5 April, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel flew to Tokyo. He calmed the overwrought ally’s nerves and declared that the US would show no hesitation and fulfill all its obligations according to the 1952 mutual security agreement between the US and Japan. Why did Tokyo demand Washington affirm its obligations to its allies, what happened?

Here is where the problem lies. The government in Tokyo is perfectly well aware that when the State Department and CIA special forces organized a Fascist putsch in Kiev, they did not hold back from giving the Maidan leadership generous pledges, promises, and guarantees. Hardly in vain did the heirs of the vestigial OUN shout “America is with us!” Suddenly Crimea separates from Ukraine and enters the structure of the Russian Federation. Obama, Merkel, and the others declare that Vladimir Putin will answer for this, will regret his actions, and the wrath of heaven will be forthcoming.

So where is this heavenly retribution?

Now in Tokyo they got to thinking. The fact is that any kind of treaty is really a gentleman’s agreement, and if one of the parties is not a gentleman, the treaty is not worth the paper it’s written on. The Japanese government understands this perfectly and, it seems, is also beginning to understand that the US is no guarantor, but merely a mass media phenomenon that dreamed up a scheme to take over the world by means of television.

And Beijing? In Beijing they have, all the same, loaded up on popcorn and are sitting back to watch the tragedy “America vs. Russia: The Sanctions” straight through to the end.


About the author:

Konstantin Penzev, writer and historian, is a staff writer for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”

Source: http://journal-neo.org/2014/04/13/rus-printsip-domino-kosovo-kry-m-kitaj/

Spaljeni konaci

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Syrian rebels get arms from Kosovo and Bosnia



14690988398_9c1fbe4172_b_Islamic-State

The DEBKA website, close to Israeli military intelligence, knows well all the behind the curtain details of regional politics. A few days ago it reported about basically new turns of the way the events unfold in Syria. According to Israelis, (1) the Syrian extremists received a load of heavy weapons for the first time since the war started. The senders are the groups from Kosovo and the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina linked to Al Qaeda. The package includes Kornet and Fagot anti-tank systems delivered by the Soviet Union to former Yugoslavia in the past. The weapons ended up in the hands of extremists as a result of well-known bloody events. As to Israeli intelligence sources, the heavy weapons have been delivered from the Balkans to Syria by sea with the help of Albanian mafia, which is dry behind ears in such operations… Xenia Svetlova, a Russian Middle East expert, thinks the smuggled arms flow through the border between Turkey and Syria, no matter the Friends of Syria officially shy away from direct arms supplies to the rebels. (2)

This is the first time the Syrian anti-government forces got a substantial load of heavy arms getting around the control of Western and Arab special agencies (the foreign intelligence agencies have simply overlooked the delivery). The major part of weapons is sent to Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al Qaeda linked Islamist group.

Having received arms, the Jabhat al-Nusra armed groups risked an intervention to Lebanon and engaged Hezbollah in the Shiite stronghold of Bekaa valley trying to do away with an ally of Bashar Assad. They have become strong enough to launch offensives in some areas inside Syria. The combat actions go along with intensive terrorist activities, for instance, another bloody act took place in the heart of Damascus near the Baath headquarters, not far from the Russian embassy. It resulted in the death of dozens civilians, including many children from a neighboring school. According to the United Nations, at least 70 thousand people have lost their lives in Syria as a result of the confrontation between the government forces and the rebels. Two mortar shells exploded at the Tishreen stadium in Damascus when the athletes were training. As to SANA, a player form the Watbah football team was killed; his two fellow players were wounded.

The Middle East events could not have passed the Muslim part of the Balkans. The arms supplies to Syria are not an exception. After the guns silenced there, the radical movements and Islamist organizations started to conduct their activities under cover, but today it is coming to light. The reason is the extremists had felt comfortable in Europe till they started to be refused entry and citizenship by many countries of the continent making them go to other places. (3) In the past Al Qaeda supported the Kosovo and Bosnian brothers in faith with experienced personnel and arms. Now it wants the debts to be paid back. Al Qaeda emissaries have no intent to curb their activities in the Balkans. 

While war raged in Bosnia and Herzegovina, around two thousand militants from Arab countries went there to join the fray. Some of them had direct links to Osama bin Laden. After the war ended as a result of Dayton accords, many of them remained in the country and became the citizens. The Saudi Arabia funded King Fahd mosque in Sarajevo that is believed to be the headquarters of the Wahhabi militants. Off and on terrorist acts committed by Islamists take place in the Republic. For instance, 23-year-old Mevlid Jasarevic, came from Serbia, the southern region of Sandzak, to shoot his rifle at the US embassy building in Sarajevo. He heavily wounded a policeman. A bomb went off at the police precinct station in Bugojno, one constable died, six wounded. It was done by a local Wahhabi militant.

 Of course, the West is well aware of such activities. A NATO report devoted to Islamist threats in Europe mentions a Bosnia and Herzegovina based group called Active Islamic Youth – AIY. The Bosnian mujahedeen instruct the group members on terror, explosives handling techniques, for instance.

At the beginning of this February local Albanian radicals declared the establishment of the “Islamic Movement to Unite” or LISBA, which is considered in the West as the first really fundamentalist party in the Balkans. The party is registered and is preparing for Kosovo parliamentary elections. LISBA has a public leader, Arsim Krasniqi, though Fuad Ramiqi is widely reported to be its controlling figure. He is known to be is associated through the fundamentalist European Muslim Network, led by the Islamist media celebrity Tariq Ramadan, with the Qatar-based hate preacher Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. He has ties with the more moderate Party for Democratic Action or SDA in Bosnia-Herzegovina and similar organizations in Macedonia. Ramiqi protested against a legal ban on girls wearing headscarves (hijab) in Kosovo public schools. (4)

This is just the top of the iceberg. The radicalization of population in Kosovo is boosted by total unemployment and spreading criminality. The self-proclaimed Kosovo independence supported by the West gave little to common people, it’s no surprise they are vulnerable to Islamist propaganda. Some Kosovars are linked to arms smuggling, they act as instructors on its use in Syria enriching their own combat experience. Drug flows are already flooding Europe. In future it may be added by the re-export of war skills to defend the European Muslims rights.

The policy of the West in Syria is myopic. It goes on losing control over the events in this country. In fact it gives refuge to terrorists and faces the prospect of raging terror spilling over to Europe. Hotbeds of Islamic extremism that appeared with the connivance of the West in the former Yugoslavia are sparked again under the influence of Middle East events. Europe appears to be threatened by a big fire…

(1) http://www.debka.com/article/22773/Syrian-Islamists-meet-Hizballah-head-on-–-take-in-arms-from-Bosnia-Kosovo
(2) http://www.zman.com/news/2013/02/06/144636.html
(3) http://www.iimes.ru/?p=15671
(4) http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/kosovo-radical-islamists-new-political-offensive_701196.html

 23-02-2013

By Dmitry Minin

Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

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“Mafia State”: Kosovo’s PM accused of running human organ, drug trafficking cartel



Bagra Kosova

In another grim milestone for the United States and NATO, the Council of Europe (COE) released an explosive report last week, “Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo.”

The report charged that former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) boss and current Prime Minister, Hashim Thaçi, “is the head of a ‘mafia-like’ Albanian group responsible for smuggling weapons, drugs and human organs through eastern Europe,” The Guardian disclosed.

According to a draft resolution unanimously approved December 16 in Paris, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights found compelling evidence of forced disappearances, organ trafficking, corruption and collusion between criminal gangs and “political circles” in Kosovo who just happen to be close regional allies of the United States.

The investigation was launched by Dick Marty, the Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe (PACE) special rapporteur for human rights who had conducted an exhaustive 2007 probe into CIA “black fights” in Europe.

The PACE investigation gathered steam after allegations were published by former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Carla Del Ponte in her 2008 memoir.

After it’s publication, Ms. Del Ponte was bundled off to Argentina by the Swiss government as her nation’s ambassador. Once there, the former darling of the United States who specialized in doling out victor’s “justice” to the losers of the Balkan wars, was conveniently silenced.

A series of damning reports by the Center for Investigative Journalism (CIR), the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the BBC, confirmed Del Ponte’s allegations and spurred the Council to act.

Reporting for the BBC, investigative journalist Michael Montgomery learned that political opponents of the KLA and Serb prisoners of war “simply vanished without a trace” into a secret prison “in the Albanian border town of Kukes.”

According to sources who feared for their lives, including former KLA guerrillas, the BBC revealed that disappeared civilians “were Serbs and Roma seized by KLA soldiers and were being hidden away from Nato troops. The source believes the captives were sent across the border to Albania and killed.”

In an uncanny echo of Nazi practices during the period of the Third Reich, The New York Times reported that “captives” were “‘filtered’ for their suitability as donors, based on sex, age, health conditions and ethnic origin. “We heard numerous references to captives’ not merely having been handed over, but also having been ‘bought’ and ‘sold,'” the special rapporteur told the Times.

“Some of the guards told investigators,” the Times reports, “that a few captives understood what was about to happen and ‘pleaded with their captors to be spared the fate of being chopped into pieces’.”

Mercy was in short supply however, behind KLA lines.

The report states: “As and when the transplant surgeons were confirmed to be in position and ready to operate, the captives were brought out of the ‘safe house’ individually, summarily executed by a KLA gunman, and their corpses transported swiftly to the operating clinic.”

Once organs were removed from the victims they were auctioned off to the highest bidder and sold by a global trafficking ring still operating today.

The former prosecutor further alleged, The Guardian reported, that “she had been prevented from investigating senior KLA officials” who she claimed had “smuggled captive Serbs across the border into Albania, where their organs were harvested.”

In a classic case of covering-up the crimes of low-level thugs to protect more powerful criminals, Del Ponte has charged that forensic evidence gathered by ICTY investigators at one of the northern Albania death houses was destroyed at The Hague.

International Network

This brisk underground trade didn’t end in 1999 however, when the break-away Serb province was occupied by NATO troops; on the contrary, operations expanded and grew even more profitable as Kosovo devolved into a protectorate of the United States.

In fact, a trial underway in Pristina has revealed that “desperate Russians, Moldovans, Kazakhs and Turks were lured into the capital ‘with the false promise of payments’ for their kidneys,” The Guardian reported.

It was a “growth industry” that fed on human misery. According to The Guardian, recipients “paid up to €90,000 (£76,400) for the black-market kidneys [and] included patients from Canada, Germany, Poland and Israel,” EU prosecutor Jonathan Ratel told the British paper.

“Donors” however, were left holding the bag, lucky to escape with their lives.

At the center of the scandal is the Medicus clinic. Located some six miles from downtown Pristina, Medicus was allegedly founded by university hospital urologist Dr Lutfi Dervishi, and a former permanent secretary of health, prosecutors claim, provided the clinic with a false license to operate.

imagesTwo of the accused, The Guardian revealed, “are fugitives wanted by Interpol: Moshe Harel, an Israeli said to have matched donors with recipients, and Yusuf Sonmez, perhaps the world’s most renowned organ trafficker.”

Prosecutors believe that Harel and Sonmez are the brains behind Medicus and that Shaip Muja, a former KLA “medical commander” who was based in Albania, may have overseen operations at the “clinic.”

Muja remains a close confidante of Thaçi’s and, in an macabre twist, he is currently “a political adviser in the office of the prime minister, with responsibility for health,” The Guardian reports.

Investigators averred they had “uncovered numerous convergent indications of Muja’s central role [in] international networks, comprising human traffickers, brokers of illicit surgical procedures, and other perpetrators of organised crime.”

Besides lining the pockets of Albanian, Israeli and Turkish criminals who ran the grisly trafficking ring, whose interests might also be served in covering-up these horrific crimes?

A Gangster State, but which One?

The veil of secrecy surrounding KLA atrocities could not have been as complete as it was without the intervention of powerful actors, particularly amongst political and military elites in Germany and the United States who had conspired with local gangsters, rebranded as “freedom fighters,” during the break-up of Yugoslavia.

As in Albania years before NATO’s Kosovo adventure, organized criminal activities and “the trade in narcotics and weapons [were] allowed to prosper,” Michel Chossudovsky wrote, because “the West had turned a blind eye.”

These extensive deliveries of weapons were tacitly permitted by the Western powers on geopolitical grounds: both Washington and Bonn had favoured (although not officially) the idea of a ‘Greater Albania’ encompassing Albania, Kosovo and parts of Macedonia. Not surprisingly, there was a ‘deafening silence’ on the part of the international media regarding the Kosovo arms-drugs trade. (“The Criminalization of Albania,” in Masters of the Universe? NATO’s Balkan Crusade, ed. Tariq Ali, London: Verso, 2000, pp. 299-300)

The consequences of this “deafening silence” remain today. Both in terms of the misery and impoverishment imposed on Kosovo’s citizens by the looting of their social property, particularly the wholesale privatization of its mineral wealth which IMF economic “reforms” had spawned, and in the political cover bestowed upon Pristina’s gangster regime by the United States.

In the intervening years NATO’s “blind eye” has morphed into something more sinister: outright complicity with their Balkan protégés.

Virtually charging the ICTY with knuckling under to political pressure from the Americans, the PACE report states that “the ICTY, which had started to conduct an initial examination on the spot to establish the existence of traces of possible organ trafficking, dropped the investigation.”

“The elements of proof taken in Rripe, in Albania” during that initial inquiry investigators wrote, “have been destroyed and cannot therefore be used for more detailed analyses. No subsequent investigation has been carried out into a case nevertheless considered sufficiently serious by the former ICTY Prosecutor for her to see the need to bring it to public attention through her book.”

This is hardly surprising, considering that the ICTY was created at the insistence of the Clinton administration precisely as a retributive hammer to punish official enemies of the U.S.

Hailed as an objective body by media enablers of America’s imperial project, with few exceptions, while it relentlessly hunted down alleged Serbian war criminals–the losers in the decade-long conflagration–it studiously ignored proxy forces, including the KLA, under the operational control of German and American intelligence agencies.

The report averred that human organ trafficking was only a part of a larger web of crime and corruption, and that murder, trafficking in women, control over global narcotics distribution and money laundering networks were standard operating procedure for Thaçi and other members of the “Drenica group,” the black widows at the center of the KLA spiders’ web.

For his part, Thaçi has called the PACE report “libelous” and the Kosovo government has repudiated the Council’s findings claiming that the charges “were not based on facts and were construed to damage the image of Kosovo and the war of the Kosovo Liberation Army.”

While one can easily dismiss prevarications from Kosovo’s government, the White House role in covering-up the crimes of their client regime should have provoked a major scandal. That it didn’t only reveals the depths of Washington’s own venal self-interest in preventing this sordid affair from gaining traction.

In all likelihood fully-apprised of the Council of Europe’s investigation through any number of American-friendly moles implanted in European institutions as WikiLeaks Cablegate files have revealed, last summer Thaçi met with U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden at the White House.

Shamelessly, Biden “reaffirmed the United States’ full support for an independent, democratic, whole, and multi-ethnic Kosovo,” and “reiterated the United States’ firm support for Kosovo’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to a White House press release.

Indeed, the vice president “welcomed the progress that Kosovo’s government has made in carrying out essential reforms, including steps to strengthen the rule of law.”

An all too predictable pattern when one considers the lawless nature of the regime in Washington.

The Heroin Trail

As I reported more than two years ago in “Welcome to Kosovo! The World’s Newest Narco State,” the KLA served as the militarized vanguard for the Albanian mafia whose “15 Families” control virtually every facet of the Balkan heroin trade.

Albanian traffickers ship heroin originating exclusively from Central Asia’s Golden Crescent. At one end lies America’s drug outpost in Afghanistan where poppy is harvested for processing and transshipment through Iran and Turkey; as morphine base it is then refined into “product” for worldwide consumption. From there it passes into the hands of the Albanian syndicates who control the Balkan Route.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reported back in 1999, “Kosovars were the acknowledged masters of the trade, credited with shoving aside the Turkish gangs that had long dominated narcotics trafficking along the Balkan Route, and effectively directing the ethnic Albanian network.”

As the murdered investigative journalist Peter Klebnikov reported in 2000 for Mother Jones, as the U.S.-sponsored war in Kosovo heated up, “the drug traffickers began supplying the KLA with weapons procured from Eastern European and Italian crime groups in exchange for heroin. The 15 Families also lent their private armies to fight alongside the KLA. Clad in new Swiss uniforms and equipped with modern weaponry, these troops stood out among the ragtag irregulars of the KLA. In all, this was a formidable aid package.”

Despite billions of dollars spent on failed interdiction efforts, these patterns persist today as more than 106 metric tons of heroin flow into Europe. So alarmed has the Russian government become over the flood of heroin penetrating their borders from Central Asian and the Balkan outposts that some officials have likened it to American “narco-aggression” and a new “opium war, researcher Peter Dale Scott reported.

Scott avers: “These provinces” in Afghanistan, “support the past and present CIA assets in the Karzai regime (headed by Hamid Karzai, a former CIA asset), including the president’s brother Ahmed Wali Karzai, an active CIA asset, and Abdul Rashid Dostum, a former CIA asset. In effect America has allied itself with one drug faction in Afghanistan against another.” Much the same can be said for CIA assets in Pristina.

As the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published in their 2010 World Drug Report:

Once heroin leaves Turkish territory, interception efficiency drops significantly. In the Balkans, relatively little heroin is seized, suggesting that the route is exceedingly well organized and lubricated with corruption. … Another notable feature of the Balkan route is that some important networks have clan-based and hierarchically organized structures. Albanian groups in particular have such structures, making them particularly hard to infiltrate. This partially explains their continued involvement in several European heroin markets. Albanian networks continue to be particularly visible in Greece, Italy and Switzerland. Italy is one of the most important heroin markets in Europe, and frequently identified as a base of operation for Balkan groups who exploit the local diaspora. According to WCO seizure statistics, Albanians made up the single largest group (32%) of all arrestees for heroin trafficking in Italy between 2000 and 2008. The next identified group was Turks followed by Italians and citizens of Balkan countries (Bulgaria, Kosovo/Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and to some extent Greece). A number of Pakistani and Nigerian traffickers were arrested in Italy as well.

As has been documented for decades, U.S. destabilization programs and covert operations rely on far-right provocateurs and drug lords (often interchangeable players) to facilitate the dirty work. Throughout its Balkan campaign the CIA made liberal use of these preexisting narcotics networks to arm the KLA and then provide them with targets.

When NATO partners Germany and the U.S. decided to drive a stake through Yugoslavia’s heart during the heady days of post-Cold War triumphalism, their geopolitical strategy could not have achieved “success” without the connivance, indeed active partnership forged amongst Yugoslavia’s nationalist rivals. As investigative journalist Misha Glenny has shown,

Most shocking of all, however, is how the gangsters and politicians fueling war between their peoples were in private cooperating as friends and close business partners. The Croat, Bosnian, Albanian, Macedonian, and Serb moneymen and mobsters were truly thick as thieves. They bought, sold, and exchanged all manner of commodities, knowing that the high levels of personal trust between them were much stronger than the transitory bonds of hysterical nationalism. They fomented this ideology among ordinary folk in essence to mask their own venality. As one commentator described it, the new republics were ruled by “a parastate Cartel which had emerged from political institutions, the ruling Communist Party and its satellites, the military, a variety of police forces, the Mafia, court intellectuals and with the president of the Republic at the center of the spider web…Tribal nationalism was indispensable for the cartel as a means to pacify its subordinates and as a cover for the uninterrupted privatization of the state apparatus. (McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008, p. 27)

Thaçi and other members of his inner circle, Marty avers, were “commonly identified, and cited in secret intelligence reports,” published by the German secret state agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst or BND “as the most dangerous of the KLA’s ‘criminal bosses’.”

Trading on American protection to consolidate political power, thus maintaining control over key narcotics smuggling corridors, the special rapporteur writes that “having succeeded in eliminating, or intimidating into silence, the majority of the potential and actual witnesses against them (both enemies and erstwhile allies), using violence, threats, blackmail, and protection rackets,” Thaçi’s Drenica Group have “exploit[ed] their position in order to accrue personal wealth totally out of proportion with their declared activities.”

Indeed, multiple reports prepared by the U.S. DEA, FBI, the BND, Italy’s SISMI, Britain’s MI6 and the Greek EYP intelligence service have stated that Drenica Group members “are consistently named as ‘key players’ in intelligence reports on Kosovo’s mafia-like structures of organised crime.”

As the Council of Europe and investigative journalists have documented, northern Albania was the site not only of KLA training camps but of secret detention centers where prisoners of war and civilian KLA opponents were executed and their organs surgically removed and sold on the international black market.

“The reality is that the most significant operational activities undertaken by members of the KLA–prior to, during, and in the immediate aftermath of the conflict–took place on the territory of Albania, where the Serb security forces were never deployed.”

The report avers, “It is well established that weapons and ammunition were smuggled into parts of Kosovo, often on horseback, through clandestine, mountainous routes from northern Albania,” the site of secret NATO bases, “yet only in the second half of 1998,” Marty writes, “through explicit endorsements from Western powers, founded on strong lobbying from the United States, did the KLA secure its pre-eminence in international perception as the vanguard of the Kosovar Albanian liberation struggle.”

“What is particularly confounding” Marty writes, “is that all of the international community in Kosovo–from the Governments of the United States and other allied Western powers, to the EU-backed justice authorities–undoubtedly possess the same, overwhelming documentation of the full extent of the Drenica Group’s crimes, but none seems prepared to react in the face of such a situation and to hold the perpetrators to account.”

While the special rapporteur’s outrage is palpable, the ascension of a political crime family with deep roots in the international drugs trade and other rackets, including the grisly traffic in human organs, far from being an anomalous event conforms precisely to the structural pattern of capitalist rule in the contemporary period.

“What we have uncovered” Marty informs us, “is of course not completely unheard-of. The same or similar findings have long been detailed and condemned in reports by key intelligence and police agencies, albeit without having been followed up properly, because the authors’ respective political masters have preferred to keep a low profile and say nothing, purportedly for reasons of ‘political expediency’. But we must ask what interests could possibly justify such an attitude of disdain for all the values that are invariably invoked in public?”

Marty need look no further for an answer to his question than to the “political masters” in Washington, who continue to cover-up not only their own crimes but those of the global mafias who do their bidding.

As we have seen throughout the latter half of the 20th century down to the present moment, powerful corporate and financial elites, the military and intelligence agencies and, for lack of a better term, “normal” governmental institutions are suborned by the same crooked players who profit from war and the ensuing chaos it spawns to organize crime, thereby “rationalizing” criminal structures on more favorable terms for those “in the loop.”

In this regard, the impunity enjoyed up till now by Thaçi and his minions merely reflect the far-greater impunity enjoyed by the American secret state and the powerful actors amongst U.S. elites who have profited from the dirty work allegedly performed by Kosovo’s Prime Minister, and others like him, who are counted amongst the most loyal servants of imperial power.


About the author:

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, his articles can be read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily, Pacific Free Press, Uncommon Thought Journal, and the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press and has contributed to the new book from Global Research, The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.

Source: http://antifascist-calling.blogspot.lt/2010/12/mafia-state-kosovos-prime-minister.html

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Europe’s “Little Guantanamo”: Why the U.S. wants Serbia to give up Kosovo



Bagra Kosova

The U.S. military base in Kosovo was constructed in 1999 without consulting with the government of Serbia and is the largest U.S. military base built outside of the U.S. since the Vietnam War. The site was apparently used for extraordinary renditions and has been referred to as a “little Guantanamo”.

This is a very little known fact as NATO, the U.S., the European Union and the West are in the process of forcing Serbia to effectively give up Kosovo, and indicates the real motive for the West’s support of the Kosovo Liberation Army which it had deemed a terrorist organization in the past.

Rick Rozoff, the owner and manager of Stop NATO spoke about this and more in an interview with the Voice of Russia.

Hello! This is John Robles, I’m speaking with Rick Rozoff, the owner of the stop NATO website and international mailing list.

Robles: Hello Rick. How are you?

Rozoff: Very good John. Thanks for having me on.

Robles: It’s a pleasure to be speaking with you. How much importance would you give to the 200 US-NATO troops being stationed in Italy? And why US-NATO troops? These troops are being stationed for possible operations in Libya. How do you think that reflects on the operations to remove Muammar Gaddafi by the US?

Rozoff: It’s a continuation of that policy, of course. And as it is now, you know, two years ago and two months, 26 months ago that the military campaign against Libya was launched, initially, as we have to recall, by US Africa Command (AFRICOM) that began it for the first 19 days and then it was taken up by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for six months thereafter. And this was meant to signal and meant in fact to be the first activation of AFRICOM as a war-fighting force on the African continent, and also NATO’s first open military incursion into Africa and certainly not the last. This was meant to be an opening salvo and not an isolated incident.

What is significant about the impending deployment of what is minimally, and I think we should emphasize that, 200 US Marines, and some reports estimate up to 500, these are members of what the US Marine Corps refers to as the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force that only recently was moved into Spain, and then it is being transitioned from Spain into Italy for use in North Africa. So, I think we can see the push to the south and the east, to employ State Department slogan or expression of few years ago, where the US is going to deploy very shortly four guided missile cruisers to the Naval Station Rota in Spain, a Marine expeditionary strike force, really, of the sort we are talking about going to the Sigonella base in Sicily.

This is the same base that the US has another Marine Corps detachment already deployed to. And this is actually a separate one that has already been assigned to the same naval station Sigonella. We should also recall that in the beginning of this year, in January, the governor of Sicily put a stop to plans that the US had for putting a satellite surveillance facility in Sicily, on the island.

You know, big plans are afoot and the US was going to move in something called the Mobile User Objective System, global satellite facility, to Sicily. That seems to have been stopped but troops are coming in, with the avowed purpose, John, of intervening in Libya – Benghazi or elsewhere – as the U.S. sees fit.

Robles: What exactly is that system that you just mentioned?

Rozoff: The photographs I’ve seen of it suggest that it truly is mobile, I mean it is something comparable to some of the Patriot Advanced Capability missile systems that the US has put in Poland and Turkey and Israel. It is described as being a satellite communication system. I’m not sure what precisely it was meant to monitor in Sicily, but I would guess the entire Mediterranean Sea, perhaps most notably part of the eastern Mediterranean. But as to the precise range and purpose of the missile system, I’m not familiar with that.

Robles: I see. So, this is some new technology?

Rozoff: Yes. There are similar ones, that are called Mobile User Objective Systems, deployed in Australia, as well as in the US states of Hawaii and Virginia. But I’m not sure how they are integrated with other military capabilities.

Robles: What else has happened with NATO in the last month that you think our listeners should know about?

Rozoff: They’ve had a series of meetings of foreign ministers, of chiefs of defense staff and others in recent months. The focus, according to NATO of course, is wrapping up the Afghan mission which I don’t think will ever be definitively finished. But the drawing down or the eventual phased withdrawal from Afghanistan, the continuation of the operation in Kosovo, the Serbian province (the province wrenched from Serbia), and continued naval operations in the Mediterranean Sea, what is called Operation Active Endeavour, and ongoing, presumably permanent, naval operations in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, so-called Operation Ocean Shield.

So, NATO is still in ways that we have discussed on many an occasion in the past continuing permanent military operations way outside the area of the North Atlantic Ocean, ultimately globally. Nothing outstanding in any particular regard but the continuation of these policies.

Robles: How many bases was NATO going to leave in Afghanistan? And what can you tell us about Kosovo, can you give us some details on that as well?

Rozoff: The statement about the US maintaining military bases in Afghanistan after the complete withdrawal of US-NATO troops, well, we can’t say complete – I mean there are estimates that as many as 14,000 US NATO troops will stay in the country – but after the bulk, at one time 152,000 US and other NATO troops, in Afghanistan are withdrawn, according to President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan the US has clearly indicated to him, I think the word “demanded” would not be too strong a word, that the US or the Pentagon wants to maintain nine military bases inside the country. And they are situated in the north, south, east and west, and that is near the borders of the former Soviet Central Asian Republics, but also Iran and Pakistan, and in some cases not terribly far from the narrow strip of land that connects Afghanistan to China.

And they include of course the major, arguably, at any point in future, strategic air bases like Bagram and Kandahar and Shindand and elsewhere in the country. As we’ve talked about on many occasions, I think any sensible person has figured out that the US and its Western allies don’t intend to vacate the South-Central Asian region in the imminent future, if at all.

Robles: You just mentioned Karzai. I was just reminded about his recent revelation that he’d been receiving garbage bags full of money from the CIA for over a decade. Can you comment on that as far as NATO goes? And regarding US-NATO troops, do you think there is any specific reason why only US-NATO troops are going to be staying in Afghanistan?

Rozoff: Let me start with the second one first because I think it is the easiest. The facts are fairly incontestable, It is not going to be only US troops. The US will maintain nine military bases evidently, that’s what it intends to do. But NATO itself is transitioning from what is currently known as the International Security Assistance Force, initially it was presented, if you can believe this, under the rubric of a peacekeeping force in the early part of this century, and it quickly devolved into a warfighting force and to a combat force. And once that mission, ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), is finished, then NATO will continue in Afghanistan training the Afghan National Army and other security personnel basically to be a Western proxy army in the South-Central Asian region. That’s the easy part.

The question about Mr. Karzai being lavished with a good deal of American largesse, that shouldn’t surprise anybody. It is to be assumed, I suppose, that the US buys off foreign leaders, certainly those it’s implanted in power, like Mr. Karzai, who is not a foreigner, is not an alien to American shores. One of his brothers for example ran, for years, a restaurant pretty much in my neighborhood here in Chicago. And the family, I’m sure, already has mansions set up in this country to flee to when they have to and to take as much of the CIA cash as they can with them back home – repatriate it if you will.

Hilari i Taci dve bagre

Robles: You mentioned Kosovo a few minutes ago. You said that NATO had met regarding Kosovo and KFOR. Anything new there?

Rozoff: The US and its Western allies, in the latter case I’m talking about people in Brussels whether they are wearing the European Union or the NATO hat, it doesn’t seem to matter much, but I’m sure they employed all their typical subversive powers of persuasion to convince the coalition government in Belgrade, in Serbia, to acknowledge the independence of Kosovo, if not formally, practically. And NATO has pretty substantially withdrawn its troops in Kosovo because they turned the province over to their proxy forces there, the former leaders of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, whose leaders are heading up the Kosovo Security Force, which is a fledgeling army being trained by NATO.

So, once the country is turned over to surrogates, the NATO troops can clear out and go on to the next war zone which is effectively what happened since 1999. At one point, in June of 1999, there were 50,000 troops in Kosovo under NATO command or under KFOR, the Kosovo Force. And that number has dwindled down to perhaps a tenth of that right now. But the US still maintains Camp Bondsteel and Camp Monteith. The first, Camp Bondsteel, is reportedly the largest overseas U.S. military base built since the war in Vietnam. And there is no indication that it intends to vacate that base. As to what it is doing with it, that’s a question worth pursuing.

Robles: Where is that base?

Rozoff: In Kosovo.

Robles: And you say that’s the largest foreign base that the U.S. has?

Rozoff: What I’ve read and, given the acreage, the size of the base, it seems to be the case. It is the largest base that the U.S. has built overseas since the war in Vietnam. Since the 1960s.

Robles: And that’s in Kosovo?

Rozoff: That’s in Kosovo. It was constructed in 1999, I think it was with Kellog, Brown & Root, that built bases almost everywhere else. It’s in Kosovo and it is a fairly mammoth complex. Camp Monteith is a sister base considerably smaller than Bondsteel. But Bondsteel, which is by the way named after a US serviceman who was killed in Vietnam, there’s been speculation that Camp Bondsteel could have been used for extraordinary renditions during the so-called global war on terrorism.

There’s also been discussion from the sources in Russia amongst other places that should the US want to deploy strategic resources in Camp Bondsteel. And by that we mean either interceptor missiles or perhaps even nuclear weapons. Who would be the wiser and who in the inner circle of Hashim Thaci in Pristina would say “no”.

Robles: When was this base built?

Rozoff: In 1999 it was constructed and it’s been operating ever since. So, you are talking about 14 years now. And there is no indication, you know, unless you accept the US and NATO line – matters have been stabilized in Kosovo and they are going to step down troops, again, which I think they have I think about 90% of the initial deployment, amount of troops rather, 50,000 troops have been withdrawn but Camp Bondsteel – is still there. It is in the eastern part of Kosovo. And in addition to being a US military base it is also NATO headquarters for what’s called Multinational Brigade East.

I am looking at the exact size of the place: it is 955 acres. That’s pretty sizeable. And it was built on Serbian land without consulting with the government of Serbia. I guess the KLA official in Pristina rubber stamped it. By August of 1999, two months after the US and other NATO troops came into Kosovo, the construction of the base was pretty much under way. Apparently 52 helipads were constructed and shortly thereafter franchise restaurants were added.

Robles: Right there at the beginning, was it like that it was already constructed as if it would be a permanent fixture?

Rozoff: By all indications exactly that. I cannot see what the motivation would be to build something that large which is still operative to this day…

Robles: You said they had “franchise restaurants” and things like that in there?

Rozoff: I’m looking at it on the computer now. You know, Burger King, Taco Bell and so forth built in there. Gymnasiums, health clubs. It is a whole city practically. And evidently, somebody with the Council of Europe, Álvaro Gil-Robles (There’s a name for you, John!), human rights envoy to the Council of Europe, referred to Camp Bondsteel in 2005, and this is a quote, as a “smaller version of Guantanamo” after visiting the facility. So, evidently the US did use it for extraordinary renditions, and so-called black operations or black sites.

Robles: So, that would give us a very, very, very clear and undisputable reason why the West is so interested in guaranteeing the independence of Kosovo.

Rozoff: Right. And that was the statement made by many of us who opposed the war against Yugoslavia in 1999. When the US constructed that base, it was almost began immediately after NATO coming into Kosovo, that it was ex post facto proof that the US had military designs in the region and that the war against Yugoslavia was simply an opportunity to expand its military into the region.

Robles: I see.

Rozoff: Which in fact is what has ensued.

You were listening to an interview in progress with Rick Rozoff the owner and manager of the stop NATO website and mailing list.

You can find part 2 on our website at english.ruvr. ru

Stop NATO e-mail list home page with archives and search engine:
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/stopnato/ messages

Stop NATO website and articles:
http://rickrozoff. wordpress. com


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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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Criminal Kosovo: America’s gift to Europe



Bagra Kosova

U.S. media have given more attention to hearsay allegations of Julian Assange’s sexual encounters with two talkative Swedish women than to an official report accusing Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaci of running a criminal enterprise which, among almost every other crime in the book, has murdered prisoners in order to sell their vital organs on the world market.

The report by Swiss liberal Dick Marty was mandated two years ago by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Not to be confused with the European Union, the Council of Europe was founded in 1949 to promote human rights, the rule of law and democracy and has 47 member states (compared to 27 in the EU).

While U.S. legal experts feverishly try to trump up charges they can use to demand extradition of Assange to the United States, to be duly punished for discomfiting the empire, U.S. State Department spokesman Phillip Crowley piously reacted to the Council of Europe allegations by declaring that the United States will continue to work with Thaci since “any individual anywhere in the world is innocent until proven otherwise”.

Everyone, that is, except, among others, Bradley Manning who is in solitary confinement although he has not been found guilty of anything.  All the Guantanamo prisoners have been considered guilty, period. The United States is applying the death penalty on a daily basis to men, women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan who are innocent until proven dead.

Embarrassed supporters of Thaci’s little self-proclaimed state dismiss the accusations by saying that the Marty Report does not prove Thaci’s guilt.

Of course it doesn’t.  It can’t.  It is a report, not a trial.  The report was mandated by the PACE precisely because judicial authorities were ignoring evidence of serious crimes.  In her 2008 memoir in Italian La caccia. Io e i criminali di guerra (The Hunt. Me and the War Criminals), the former prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, Carla del Ponte, complained that she had been prevented from carrying out a thorough investigation of reports of organ extraction from Serb and other prisoners carried out by the “Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)” in Albania.  Indeed, rumors and reports of those atrocities, carried out in the months following the occupation of Kosovo by NATO-led occupation forces, have been studiously ignored by all relevant judicial authorities.

The Marty report claims to have uncovered corroborating evidence, including testimony by witnesses whose lives would be in danger if their names were revealed.  The conclusion of the report is not and could not be a verdict, but a demand to competent authorities to undertake judicial proceedings capable of hearing all the evidence and issuing a verdict.

Skepticism about atrocities

It is always prudent to be skeptical about atrocity stories circulating in wartime.  History shows many examples of totally invented atrocity stories that serve to stir up hatred of the enemy during wartime, such as the widely circulated World War I reports of the Germans “cutting off the hands of Belgian babies”.  Western journalists and politicians abandoned all prudent skepticism regarding the wild tales that were spread of Serb atrocities used to justify the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia. Personally, my skepticism extends to all such stories, regardless of the identity of the alleged perpetrators, and I have refrained for years from writing about the Albanian organ transplant stories for that reason.  I never considered Carla del Ponte a reliable source, but rather a gullible and self-aggrandizing woman who had been selected by the U.S. sponsors of the ICTY because they thought they could manipulate her.  No doubt the sponsors of the Tribunal she was working for, which was set up by and for the United States and NATO allies in order to justify their choice of sides in the Yugoslav civil wars, would have called a halt before she could stray from her assigned path to stick her nose into crimes committed by America’s Albanian protégés.  But that does not prove that the alleged crimes actually were committed.

However, the Marty report goes beyond vague rumors to make specific allegations against the KLA’s “Drenica group” led by Hashim Thaci.  Despite refusal of Albanian authorities to cooperate, there is ample proof that the KLA  operated a chain of “safe houses” on Albanian territory during and after the 1999 NATO war against Serbia, using them to hold, interrogate, torture and sometimes murder prisoners.  One of these safe houses, belonging to a family identified by the initial “K”, was cited by Carla del Ponte and media reports as “the yellow house” (since painted white).  To quote the Marty Report (paragraph 147):

“There are substantial elements of proof that a small number of KLA captives, including some of the abducted ethnic Serbs, met their death in Rripe, at or in the vicinity of the K. house. We have learned about these deaths not only through the testimonies of former KLA soldiers who said they had participated in detaining and transporting the captives while they were alive, but also through the testimonies of persons who independently witnessed the burial, disinterment, movement and reburial of the captives’ corpses (…)”

An undetermined but apparently small number of prisoners were transferred in vans and trucks to an operating site near Tirana international airport, from which fresh organs could be flown rapidly to recipients.

“The drivers of these vans and trucks – several of whom would become crucial witnesses to the patterns of abuse described – saw and heard captives suffering greatly during the transports, notably due to the lack of a proper air supply in their compartment of the vehicle, or due to the psychological torment of the fate that they supposed awaited them” (paragraph 155).

Captives described in the report as  “victims of organised crime” included “persons whom we found were taken into central Albania to be murdered immediately before having their kidneys removed in a makeshift operating clinic” (paragraph 156).

These captives “undoubtedly endured a most horrifying ordeal in the custody of their KLA captors. According to source testimonies, the captives ‘filtered’ into this final subset were initially kept alive, fed well and allowed to sleep, and treated with relative restraint by KLA guards and henchmen who would otherwise have beaten them up indiscriminately” (paragraph 157).

“The testimonies on which we based our findings spoke credibly and consistently of a methodology by which all of the captives were killed, usually by a gunshot to the head, before being operated on to remove one or more of their organs. We learned that this was principally a trade in ‘cadaver kidneys’, i.e. the kidneys were extracted posthumously; it was not a set of advanced surgical procedures requiring controlled clinical conditions and, for example, the extensive use of anaesthetic” (paragraph 162).

Skepticism about liberation”

The Marty report also recalls what is common knowledge in Europe, namely that Hashim Thaci and his “Drenica Group” are notorious criminals.  While “liberated” Kosovo sinks ever further into poverty, they have amassed fortunes in various aspects of illicit trade, notably enslaving women for prostitution and controlling illegal narcotics across Europe.

“Notably, in confidential reports spanning more than a decade, agencies dedicated to combating drug smuggling in at least five countries have named Hashim Thaci and other members of his “Drenica Group” as having exerted violent control over the trade in heroin and other narcotics” (paragraph 66).

“Similarly, intelligence analysts working for NATO, as well as those in the service of at least four independent foreign Governments, made compelling findings through their intelligence-gathering related to the immediate aftermath of the conflict in 1999. Thaci was commonly identified, and cited in secret intelligence reports, as the most dangerous of the KLA’s ‘criminal bosses’” (paragraph 67).

The leftists who fell hook, line and sinker for the “war to rescue the Kosovars from genocide” propaganda that justified NATO’s debut as aggressive bomber/invader in 1999 readily accepted the identification of the “Kosovo Liberation Army” as a national liberation movement deserving their support.  Isn’t it part of romantic legend for revolutionaries to rob banks for their cause?  Leftists assume such criminal activities are merely a means to the end of political independence.  But what if political independence is in reality the means to sanctuarize criminal activities?

Assassinating policemen, the KLA specialty prior to being given Kosovo by NATO, is an ambiguous activity. Is the target “political oppression”, as claimed, or simply law enforcement?

What have Thaci and company done with their “liberation”?  First of all, they allowed their American sponsors to build a huge military base, Camp Bondsteel, on Kosovo territory, without asking permission from anyone. Then, behind a smokescreen of talk of building democracy, they have terrorized ethnic minorities, eliminated their political rivals, fostered rampant crime and corruption, engaged in electoral fraud, and ostentatiously enriched themselves thanks to the criminal activities that constitute the real economy.

The Marty Report recalls what happened when Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, under NATO threat of wiping out his country, agreed to withdraw from Kosovo and allow a U.N. force called KFOR (quickly taken over by NATO) to occupy Kosovo.

“First, the withdrawal of the Serb security forces from Kosovo had ceded into the hands of various KLA splinter groups, including Thaci’s “Drenica Group”, effectively unfettered control of an expanded territorial area in which to carry out various forms of smuggling and trafficking” (paragraph 84).

“KFOR and UNMIK were incapable of administering Kosovo’s law enforcement, movement of peoples, or border control, in the aftermath of the NATO bombardment in 1999. KLA factions and splinter groups that had control of distinct areas of Kosovo (villages, stretches of road, sometimes even individual buildings) were able to run organised criminal enterprises almost at will, including in disposing of the trophies of their perceived victory over the Serbs” (paragraph 85).

“Second, Thaci’s acquisition of a greater degree of political authority (Thaci having appointed himself Prime Minister of the Provisional Government of Kosovo) had seemingly emboldened the “Drenica Group” to strike out all the more aggressively at perceived rivals, traitors, and persons suspected of being “collaborators” with the Serbs” (paragraph 86).

In short, NATO drove out the existing police, turning the province of Kosovo over to violent gangsters.  But this was not an accident.  Hashim Thaci was not just a gangster who took advantage of the situation.  He had been hand-picked by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and her right-hand man, James Rubin, for the job.

“You ought to be in movies…”

Until February 1999, Hashim Thaci’s only claim to fame was in Serbian police records, where he was wanted for various violent crimes.  Then suddenly, at a French chateau called Rambouillet, he was thrust into the world spotlight by his American handlers.  It is one of the most bizarre twists to the whole tragi-comic Kosovo saga.

Ms Albright was eager to use the ethnic conflict in Kosovo to make a display of U.S. military might by bombing the Serbs, in order to reassert U.S. dominance of Europe via NATO.  But some European NATO country leaders thought it politically necessary to make at least a pretense of seeking a negotiated solution to the Kosovo problem before bombing.  And so a fake “negotiation” was staged at Rambouillet, designed by the United States to get the Serbs to say no to an impossible ultimatum, in order to claim that the humanitarian West had no choice but to bomb.

For that, they needed a Kosovo Albanian who would play their game.

Belgrade sent a large multi-ethnic delegation to Rambouillet, ready to propose a settlement giving Kosovo broad autonomy.  On the other side was a purely ethnic Albanian delegation from Kosovo including several leading local intellectuals experienced in such negotiations, including the internationally recognized leader of the Albanian separatist movement in Kosovo, Ibrahim Rugova who, it was assumed, would lead the “Kosovar” delgation.

But to the general surprise of observers, the seasoned intellectuals were shoved aside, and leadership of the delegation was taken over by a young man, Hashim Thaci, known in law-enforcement circles as “the Snake”.

The American stage-managers chose Thaci for obvious reasons.  While the older Kosovo Albanians risked actually negotiating with the Serbs, and thus reaching an agreement that would prevent war, Thaci owed everything to the United States, and would do as he was told.  Moreover, putting a “wanted” criminal at the top of the delegation was an affront to the Serbs that would help scuttle negotiations.  And finally, the Thaci image appealed to the Americans’ idea of what a “freedom fighter” should look like.

Albright’s closest aide, James Rubin, acted as talent scout, gushing over Thaci’s good looks, telling him he was so handsome he should be in Hollywood.  Indeed, Thaci did not look like a Hollywood gangster, Edward G. Robinson style, but a clean-cut hero with a vague resemblance to the actor Robert Stack. Joe Biden is said to have complained that Madeleine Albright was “in love” with Thaci.   Image is everything, after all, especially when the United States is casting its own Pentagon superproduction, “Saving the Kosovars”, in order to redesign the Balkans, with its own “independent” satellite states.

The pretext for the 1999 war was to “save the Kosovars” (the name assumed by the Albanian population of  that Serbian province, to give the impression that it was a country and that they were the rightful inhabitants) from an imaginary threat of “genocide”.  The official U.S. position was to respect the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia.  But it was always quite obvious that behind the scenes, the United States had made a deal with Thaci to give him Kosovo as part of the destruction of Yugoslavia and the crippling of Serbia.  The chaos that followed the withdrawal of Yugoslav security forces enabled the KLA gangs to take over and the United States to build Camp Bondsteel.

Cheered on by a virulent Albanian lobby in the United States, Washington has defied international law, violated its own commitments (the agreement ending the 1999 war called for Serbia to police Kosovo’s borders, which was never allowed), and ignored muted objections from European allies to sponsor the transformation of the poor Serbian province into an ethnic Albanian “independent state”. Since unilaterally declaring independence in February 2008, the failed statelet has been recognized only by 72 out of 192 U.N. members, including 22 of the European Union’s 27 members.

EULEX versus Clan Loyalty

A few months later, the European Union set up a “European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo” (EULEX) intended to take over judicial authority in the province from the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) that had ostensibly exercised such functions after NATO drove out the Serbs.  The very establishment of EULEX was proof that the EU’s recognition of Kosovo’s independence was unjustified and dishonest.  It was an admission that Kosovo, after being delivered to KLA bands (some in war against each other), was unable to provide even a semblance of law and order, and thus in no way prepared to be “an independent state”.

Of course the West will never admit this, but it was the complaints of the Serb minority in the 1980s that they could not count on protection by police or law courts, then run by the majority ethnic Albanian communist party, that led to the Serbian government’s limitation of Kosovo’s autonomy, portrayed in the West as a gratuitous persecution motivated by racial hatred of Hitlerian proportions.

The difficulties of obtaining justice in Kosovo are basically the same now as they were then – with the difference that the Serbian police understood the Albanian language, whereas the UNMIK and EULEX internationals are almost entirely dependent on local Albanian interpreters, whose veracity they are unable to check.

The Marty Report describes the difficulties of crime investigation in Kosovo:

“The structure of Kosovar Albanian society, still very much clan orientated, and the absence of a true civil society have made it extremely difficult to set up contacts with local sources. This is compounded by fear, often to the point of genuine terror, which we have observed in some of our informants immediately upon broaching the subject of our inquiry.

“The entrenched sense of loyalty to one’s clansmen, and the concept of honour … rendered most ethnic Albanian witnesses unreachable for us. Having seen two prominent prosecutions undertaken by the ICTY leading to the deaths of so many witnesses, and ultimately a failure to deliver justice, a Parliamentary Assembly Rapporteur with only paltry resources in comparison was hardly likely to overturn the odds of such witnesses speaking to us directly.

“Numerous persons who have worked for many years in Kosovo, and who have become among the most respected commentators on justice in the region, counseled us that organized criminal networks of Albanians (‘the Albanian mafia’) in Albania itself, in neighbouring territories including Kosovo and ‘the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’, and in the Diaspora, were probably more difficult to penetrate than the Cosa Nostra; even low-level operatives would rather take a jail term of decades, or a conviction for contempt, than turn in their clansmen.”

A second report submitted this month to the Council of Europe by rapporteur Jean-Charles Gardetto on witness protection in war crimes trials for former Yugoslavia notes that there is no witness protection law in Kosovo and, more seriously, no way to protect witnesses that might testify against fellow ethnic Albanians.

“In the most serious cases, witnesses are able to testify anonymously. However, it was made clear to the rapporteur that these measures are useless as long as the witness is physically in Kosovo, where everybody knows everybody else. Most witnesses are immediately recognised by the defence when they deliver their testimony, despite all the anonymity measures.”

“There are many limitations to the protection arrangements currently available, not least because Kosovo has a population of less than two million with very tight-knit communities. Witnesses are often perceived as betraying their community when they give evidence, which inhibits possible witnesses from coming forward. Furthermore, many people do not believe that they have a moral or legal duty to testify as a witness in criminal cases.

“Moreover, when a witness does come forward, there is a real threat of retaliation. This may not necessarily put them in direct danger, losing their job for example, but there are also examples of key witnesses being murdered. The trial of Ramush Haradinaj, the former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, well illustrates this. Mr. Haradinaj was indicted by the ICTY for crimes committed during the war in Kosovo but was subsequently acquitted. In its judgment, the Tribunal highlighted the difficulties that it had had in obtaining evidence from the 100 prosecution witnesses. Thirty-four of them were granted protection measures and 18 had to be issued with summonses. A number of witnesses who were going to give evidence at the trial were murdered. These included Sadik and Vesel Muriqi, both of whom had been placed under a protection program by the ICTY.”

Europes Dilemma

Naturally, European accomplices in putting the Thaci gang in charge of Kosovo have been quick to dismiss the Marty report. Tony Blair apologist and former Labour minister Dennis MacShane wrote in The Independent (UK) that, “There is not one single name or a single witness to the allegations that Thaci was involved in the harvesting of human organs from murdered victims.”  To someone unfamiliar with the circumstances and with the report, that may sound like a valid objection.  But Marty has made it clear that he can supply names of witnesses to competent judicial authorities.  Thaci himself acknowledged that they exist when he stated that he would publish the names of Marty’s witnesses – a statement understood as a death threat by those familiar with the Pristina scene.

terorista-pripadnik-ovk-uck

One of the most prominent Europeans to hope that the Marty report will disappear is the French media humanitarian Bernard Kouchner, until recently Sarkozy’s foreign minister, who officially ran Kosovo as the first head of UNMIK after the NATO occupation. Contrary to Kouchner’s protests of ignorance, the UNMIK police chief in 2000 and 2001, Canadian Captain Stu Kellock, has called it “impossible” that Kouchner was not aware of organized crime in Kosovo.   The first time a reporter queried Kouchner about the organ transplant accusations, a few months ago, Kouchner responded with a loud horse laugh, before telling the reporter to go have his head examined.  After the Marty report, Kouchner merely repeated his “skepticism”, and called for an investigation… by EULEX.

Other NATO defenders have taken the same line. One investigation calls for another, and so on. Investigating the charges against the KLA is beginning to look like the Middle East peace process.

The Marty Report itself concludes with a clear call on EULEX to “to persevere with its investigative work, without taking any account of the offices held by possible suspects or of the origin of the victims, doing everything to cast light on the criminal disappearances, the indications of organ trafficking, corruption and the collusion so often complained of between organized criminal groups and political circles” and “to take every measure necessary to ensure effective protection for witnesses and to gain their trust”.

This is a tall order, considering that EULEX is ultimately dependent on EU governments deeply involved in ignoring Kosovo Albanian crime for over a decade.  Still, some of the most implicated personalities, such as Kouchner, are nearing the end of their careers, and there are many Europeans who consider that things have gone much too far, and that the Kosovo cesspool must be cleaned up.

EULEX is already prosecuting an organ trafficking ring in Kosovo. In November 2008, a young Turkish man who had just had a kidney removed collapsed at Pristina airport, which led police to raid the nearby Medicus clinic where a 74-year-old Israeli was convalescing from implantation of the young man’s kidney.  The Israeli had allegedly paid 90,000 euros for the illegal implant, while the young Turk, like other desperately poor foreigners lured to Pristina by false promises, was cheated of the money promised.  The trial is currently underway in Pristina of seven defendants charged with involvement in the illegal Medicus organ trafficking racket, including top members of the Kosovo Albanian medical profession.  Still at large are Dr. Yusuf Sonmez, a notorious international organ trafficker, and Moshe Harel, an Israeli of Turkish origin accused of organizing the illicit international organ trade.  Israel is known to be a prime market for organs because of Jewish religious restrictions that severely limit the number of Israeli donors.

The Marty Report notes that the information it has obtained “appears to depict a broader, more complex organized criminal conspiracy to source human organs for illicit transplant, involving co-conspirators in at least three different foreign countries besides Kosovo, enduring over more than a decade. In particular, we found a number of credible, convergent indications that the organ-trafficking component of the post-conflict detentions described in our report is closely related to the contemporary case of the Medicus Clinic, not least through prominent Kosovar Albanian and international personalities who feature as co-conspirators in both.”

But EULEX prosecution of the Medicus case does not automatically mean that the European judicial authorities in Kosovo will pursue the even more criminal organ trafficking denounced in the Marty Report.  One obstacle is that the alleged crimes took place on the territory of Albania, and so far Albanian authorities have been uncooperative, to say the least.  A second inhibition is fear that the attempt to prosecute leading KLA figures would lead to unrest.  Indeed, on January 9, several hundred Albanians carrying Albanian flags (not the Western-imposed flag of Kosovo) demonstrated in Mitrovica against the Marty report shouting “UCK, UCK” (KLA in Albanian).  Still, EULEX has indicted two former KLA commanders for war crimes committed on Albanian territory in 1999 when they allegedly tortured prisoners, ethnic Albanians from Kosovo either suspected of “collaborating” with legal Serb authorities or because they were political opponents of the KLA.

A striking and significant political fact that emerges from the Marty report is that:

“The reality is that the most significant operational activities undertaken by members of the KLA – prior to, during, and in the immediate aftermath of the conflict – took place on the territory of Albania, where the Serb security forces were never deployed” (paragraph 36).

Thus, to a very large extent, the Serbian province of Kosovo was the object of a foreign invasion from across its border, by Albanian nationalists keen on creating “Greater Albania”, and aided in this endeavor by diaspora lobbies and, decisively, NATO bombing.  Far from being an “aggressor” in its own historic province, Serbia was the victim of a major two-pronged foreign invasion.

America’s disposable puppets

NATO could not have waged a ground war against Serbian forces without suffering casualties.  So it waged a 78-day air war, ravaging Serbia’s infrastructure.  To save his country from threatened annihilation, Milosevic gave in.  For its ground force, the United States chose the KLA.  The KLA was no match for Serbian forces on the ground, but it aided the United States/NATO war in peculiar ways.

The United States provided KLA fighters on the ground with GPS devices and satellite telephones to enable them to spot Serb targets for bombing (very inefficiently, as the NATO bombs missed almost all their military targets).  The KLA in some places ordered Kosovo Albanian civilians to flee across the border to Albania or to ethnic Albanian parts of Macedonia, where photographers were waiting to enrich the imagery of a population persecuted by Serb “ethnic cleansing” – an enormous propaganda success.  And crucially, before the NATO bombing, the KLA pursued a strategy of provocation, murdering policemen and civilians, including disobedient Albanians, designed to commit acts of repression that could be used as a pretext for NATO intervention.  Thaci even boasted subsequently of the success of this strategy.

Thaci has played the role assigned to him by the empire.  Still, considering the history of American disposal of collaborators who have outlived their usefulness (Ngo Dinh Diem, Noriega, Saddam Hussein…), he has reasons to be uneasy.

Thaci’s uneasiness could be sharpened by a recent trip to the region by William Walker, the U.S. agent who in 1999 created the main pretext for the NATO bombing campaign by inflating casualties from a battle between Serb police and KLA fighters in the village of Racak into a massacre of civilians, “a crime against humanity” perpetrated by “people with no value for human life”.  Walker, whose main professional experience was in Central America during the Reagan administration’s bloody fight against revolutionary movements in Nicaragua and El Salvador, had been imposed by the United States as head of a European mission ostensibly mandated to monitor a cease-fire between Serb forces and the KLA.  But in fact, he and his British deputy used the mission to establish close contacts with the KLA in preparation for joint war against the Serbs.  The grateful gangster regime has named a street in Pristina after him;

In between receiving a decoration in Kosovo and honorary citizenship in Albania, Walker took political positions that could make both Thaci and EULEX nervous.  Walker expressed support for Albin Kurti, the young leader of the radical nationalist “Self-Determination” movement (Vetëvendosje), which is gaining support with its advocacy of independence from EU governance as well as in favor of “natural Albania”, meaning a Greater Albania composed of Albania, Kosovo and parts of southern Serbia, much of Macedonia, a piece of Montenegro and even northern Greece.  Was Walker on a talent-scouting mission in view of replacing the increasingly disgraced Thaci?   If Kurti is the new favorite,  a U.S.-chosen replacement could cause even more trouble in the troubled Balkans.

The West, that is, the United States, the European Union and NATO may be able to agree on a “curse on both their houses” approach, concluding that the Serbs they persecuted and the Albanians they helped are all barbarians, unworthy of their benevolent intervention.  What they will never admit is that they chose, and to a large extent created, the wrong side in a war for which they bear criminal responsibility.  And whose devastating consequences continue to be borne by the unfortunate inhabitants of the region, whatever their linguistic and cultural identity.


About the author:

Diana Johnstone is author of Fools’Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions.

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Kosovo and systematic persecution by KLA



Tachi and Merkel

The former Yugoslavia was engulfed by many conflicts and ethnic and religious differences tore away at the very fabric of this nation. Like all wars, atrocities took place on all sides but the mass media in general focused on Serbian atrocities, while neglecting brutal crimes committed against the Serbian community. This certainly applies to the glossing over of war crimes done by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

However, more and more evidence is coming to light about brutal KLA death camps and killing people for organs. Therefore, will former KLA members be charged with war crimes and will the “real truth” be told about international collusion? If not, then where does this leave Kosovo?

Before focusing on this important issue I fear a major cover-up. After all, the American version of history is that Kosovo should be independent because Albanians suffered greatly, therefore, Serbia does not have a moral right to keep Kosovo under Serbia.

Yet, if it comes to light that the KLA killed mainly Serbians, and also fellow Albanians, Roma, and other minorities, then where does this leave the American, British, and the Albanian version of events?

Remember, we are not talking about massacres taking place by opposing armies; on the contrary, we are talking about the KLA killing civilians for organs and for other brutal reasons.

Also, since the ending of the conflict it is clear that countless numbers of Christian Orthodox Churches have been destroyed and non-Albanian culture is on the wane. Added to this, thousands of people have been killed by Albanian nationalists and innocent Serbians, Roma, and others, have “been killed in silence” because it doesn’t suit the interests of America, the United Kingdom, and other nations who supported the KLA.

thaci_civilian_w_soldiers-kla-kosovo-uck-guardian

The BBC, a very liberal British network, highlighted the brutal deeds of the KLA during the airing of “Crossing Continents” and “Newsnight” which was broadcasted on April 9, 2009. Paul Mitchell, BBC correspondent, states that this provides “another side to the conflict which the world was not supposed to see.”

If we take this further, it also undermines the claims of America, the United Kingdom, and other nations who support the independence of Kosovo. After all, the findings show “a dirty covert war” and it raises further important questions, for example, how did the KLA develop overnight and where did they obtain their military hardware from?

However, I do not want to get bogged down by the justifications of either side in this article. Instead I want to focus on the disturbing findings of the BBC and others who hope to bring to light the past evils of the KLA.

Once more, before delving into this I wish to state that all sides in this conflict committed atrocities be they Albanian or Serbian. Also, the brutal civil wars which took place in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo, witnessed many massacres and like all wars, you have no pure side because war always leads to atrocities and often it is the civilian population which is victimized the most.

Therefore, this article is not intended to be anti any one single ethnic group and of course many Albanians in Kosovo were also victims. Each ethnic and religious group suffered pain, irrespective if Orthodox Christian or Muslim, or if Serbian or Albanian.

However, the mass media mainly gave a one sided point of view, and this point of view was anti-Serbian. Yet the findings by the BBC and others highlight a different story and one which continues to be mainly ignored. This applies to the brutal killings and torture of innocent Serbians by the KLA and others were also murdered by this terrorist organization.

Yes, I stress terrorist organization for one simple reason. Throughout all of the civil wars in the former Yugoslavia it was clear that many Muslims remained in Serbia, after all, the Muslim community in Serbia is part and parcel of this independent nation which is multi-ethnic and multi-religious.

However, did the KLA protect Serbian Orthodox Christians, Roma, and other minorities? The answer is clearly no. Instead the KLA used a reign of terror against all minorities and persecuted fellow Albanians who were deemed to be traitors. Therefore, the KLA was a terrorist organization and clearly this organization was involved in major criminality including the killing of innocents in order to sell organs.

In the article written by Paul Mitchell, a former KLA prisoner states “I’ve seen a lot, people beaten, stabbed, hit with steel pipes, left without eating for 5 or 6 days. People had bullet proof vests on and were shot to see if it was working, thrown into tombs, beaten up and killed.”

The former KLA prisoner continues by saying “What can you feel when you see those things?” he added. “It’s something that is stuck in my mind for the rest of my life. You cannot do those things to people, not even to animals.”

Another Albanian who is suffering the aftershocks of this brutal conflict also bravely speaks the truth. He highlights that he drove trucks with prisoners who were shackled and he stresses that the majority were Serbian civilians and not only this, he drove them from Kosovo to Albania. He continues by stating “I was sick. I was just waiting for it to end. It was hard. I thought we were fighting a war [of liberation] but this was something completely different.”

KLA sites of systematic torture and killings were based throughout Kosovo and also in parts of Albania. For example Kukes and Burrel in Albania were used by the KLA with regards to military training, obtaining weapons, and for other factors. This in itself raises the role of Albania and NATO nations which took part in the bombing of the former Yugoslavia.

9 Samodreza

However, getting back to Kukes and Burrel and systematic torture and killing of innocents, it becomes apparent that these sites witnessed many barbaric atrocities. The International Centre for the Red Cross obtained information about brutal murders in Burrel in 2000. This applies to being informed by KLA fighters who stated that Serbian civilians were killed in 1999 in Burrel and these killings had an economic motive because organs were removed and then sold abroad.

Of course, this information would be very troubling for both America and the United Kingdom, because both these nations had sold the war in the disguise of “good” versus “evil.” However, if the good side, the KLA, is involved in killing civilians for harvesting organs and then selling these organs on to other nations, then what does this make America and the United Kingdom?

Also, the hard sell by America, the United Kingdom, and other nations who support independence, is that independence is justified on the grounds of Serbian atrocities. Yet if the KLA was found to be involved in killing civilians for organs then “the spin machine” collapses and “democracy” rings hollow.

The role of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) is also criticized because of deeds which took place. UNMIK’s former head for Missing Persons and Forensics, Jose Pablo Baraybar, comments that “There were people that are certainly alive that were in Kukes, in that camp, as prisoners. Those people saw other people there, both Albanians and non-Albanians. There were members of the KLA leadership going through that camp. Many names were mentioned, and I would say that that is an established fact.”

More alarming, Baraybar openly admits that UNMIK was fully aware that the KLA had many detention centres and this in itself should have warranted a major investigation. Yet, claims Baraybar, “no proper investigation was ever carried out.”

Sian Jones, Amnesty International spokesperson was more scathing because Jones states that UNMIK “chose not to investigate.” Jones also adds that there were “lots of allegations, lots of victims but little true justice.”

Therefore, it is clear that important vested interests have a need to cover-up the real truth behind “this dirty war.” The United Nations, NATO, the role of Albania and major political leaders in nations like America and the United Kingdom, all come out of this in a terrible light. Also, it raises the issue of “war crime tribunals” and fairness and this terrible and tragic conflict questions the morality of major nations and institutions.

The issue of Kosovo remains because the majority of the international community does not recognize Kosovo to be an independent nation. If the truth really “came to light” and a full and major investigation took place, then clearly you would have many disturbing findings. However, world leaders from major nations do not have to worry about war crimes, and this is the problem, you still have a world of “real power” versus nations of “limited power” and we all know that the outcome is dependent on this sad reality.

The real tragedy of Kosovo, like all civil wars, is that innocents died on all sides. Yet it is clear that a major investigation is needed because killing innocents for organs is truly barbaric and you have enough evidence that this did take place. So will this disgraceful chapter come to light or will it be brushed under the carpet because of power politics?

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If we judge past history then it would appear that it will be brushed under the carpet. However, when major powers want to ignore issues like this, it is truly sickening and the role of the mass media in general is also a loser because not enough was said or done at the time of this conflict. Once more the propaganda machine of “the rich and powerful won” and the real losers were the innocents on all sides.

However, one story was told, that of the persecution of the Albanians; but the other story, the persecution of Serbians, Roma, and other minorities remains untold. Yet the story of death camps and killing innocents for organs must be told and a true investigation is needed and this applies to everything and not just minor people who took part in this brutal war.


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Why US sees Kosovo as its 52nd state?



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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.

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“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 drops poisoning from terrorist charges



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The group of suspected terrorists arrested near Pristina in July will go on trial charged with preparing terrorist acts – but not with attempting to poison the city’s water supply.

Kreshnik Gashi, Labinot Leposhtica BIRN Pristina

Terror suspects on the lake case are escorted by the Kosovo police. Photo: BIRN

Six men arrested in Kosovo at a reservoir near the capital in July will shortly go on trial in connection with terrorist acts.

However, initial allegations that the men intended to poison the water supply for the city of Pristina – claims that provoked a media frenzy in the country – do not feature in the prosecution’s indictment.

After an almost six-month investigations, special prosecutor Drita Hajdari said that no evidence of poison had been found.

“The only objective of the terrorist group [those arrested] was to read an oath [of allegiance] to the terrorist organization, ISIS,” it said.

Police on July 11 announced that they had arrested the suspected terrorists near lake Badovc, after finding them in possession of an ISIS flag and military uniforms.

The arrests prompted speculation that the men intended to poison the water supply to Pristina, which prompted the water company to stop the supply from the lake until analyses proved there was nothing wrong with the water.

As the hype in the local media on the matter persisted, the police placed the lake under a 24-hour watch.

While the prosecution has accused Besnik Latifi, Gazmend Haliti, Betim Ibërdemaj, Milazim Haxhiaj and Enis Latifi of preparing terrorist acts – the sixth suspect is charged with assisting their escape – the acts in question do not include poisoning.

The prosecution says that the five went by the lake to record a propaganda video which was to contain “their sworn allegiance to the leader of the terrorist organisation ISIS.

“To produce the video, the accused were equipped with a Kalashnikov, military uniforms, masks and an ISIS flag,” the indictment adds.

The sixth man, Fehmi Musam, is charged with helping the defendants escape from the scene in his taxi. Lake security personnel stopped the men before they were able to shoot the video.

The prosecution says the suspects wrote an oath in Arabic, proclaiming their total obedience to ISIS chief Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

The trial of the suspects is to start on December 23 in Pristina.


Original source of the article:

http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/kosovo-prosecution-finds-no-proof-of-isis-poisoning-the-lake-12-11-2015

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Albanian jihadist’s easy passage to Syria’s brutal war



ISIL Army

A former Islamist fighter in Syria recalls why he went to Syria, how easy it was to get there – and why he would go again, if he could.

Aleksandra Bogdani, Flamur Vezaj BIRN Tirana

90 Albanians went to Syria between 2012 and 2014 to take part in what they believed was a holy war. Photo: BIRN

On his first trip abroad, he left with 400 euros in his pocket, a printed map from the internet and the belief that he was fulfilling his destiny in eyes of Allah. The destination was the frontline of the war in Syria, but his jihad ended faster than it started.

Two years later, in a bar full of people in his hometown in northern Albania, Ebu Merjem stands out with his long beard and his trousers cut short above the ankle.

He does not like the attention he attracts and chooses a half-empty corner of the bar to explain what that pushed him towards a far-away war.

 “If I had the chance, I would go even today and fight in Syria,” Ebu Merjem says. “It was God that created jihad and you have to love something that God loves,” he added.

The 37-year-old unemployed father-of-two has been a practicing Muslim for 17 years.

He is one of 90 Albanians who went to Syria between 2012 and 2014 to take part in what they believed was a holy war.

Since the Syrian conflict began, ten Albanian jihadists have lost their lives there. Thirty others returned home before the adoption of a law that criminalizes participation in conflicts abroad.

According to documents obtained by BIRN, nearly 50 Albanian jihadists identified by the security services are still fighting in Syria.

Albania is a Muslim majority country with a long tradition of interfaith coexistence, and few understand why local Muslims like Ebu Merjem have traveled to fight in Syria.

Merjem has lived all his life in Albania, but believes his homeland is wherever there are Muslim believers. If his Muslim brothers are being attacked, even if they are thousands of kilometers away, he feels it his duty to protect them.

 “My brother is the American, Syrian or French Muslim. My enemy may even be my brethren,” he says.  “This has nothing to do with nationality or blood. I went there for my faith and my biggest regret is that I couldn’t experience war,” he added.

The road to Syria

The majority of the Albanian jihadists became part of the Jabhat al-Nusra front, a branch of Al-Qaeda. Photo: BETA/AP

Syria was the last country in the Middle East to be engulfed by the wave of anti-government protests in spring 2011 known as the Arab Spring. The conflict there soon took the nuances of a civil war.

The involvement of militant Islamic organizations in this war and its geographical proximity to Europe soon turned Syria into a hub for jihadists from all over the world.

The use of the internet and social networks directly from the battlefield popularized calls for jihad, especially in Europe where a considerable number of second-generation immigrants from the Middle East have embraced religious extremism.

From the beginning of the conflict until now, over 12,000 foreigners from 81 countries have joined militant organizations fighting in Syria. Nearly 3,000 are believed to have come from Western countries.

Ninety of these fighters are Albanian followers of the Salafist brand of Islam, preached on the fringe by imams, often in isolated mosques whose legal standing the official Muslim Community of Albania questions.

These believers started to show up in force at Tirana airport in the autumn of 2012, where they declared they were travelling to Turkey for health reasons. From Turkey, the jihadists jumped the border illegally into Syria and landed in the war.

The head of Albanian League of Imams, Justinian Topulli, lists several reasons for the involvement of Albanian Muslims in the war in Syria.

He says they felt a form of religious solidarity with the Syrian Muslims in their struggle against Bashar al Assad’s dictatorship, but it was also a way of escaping the Albanian reality, in which many Muslims do not feel comfortable.

Another no less important reason, according to Topulli, is the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of religious texts about the Apocalypse, which some preachers mistakenly tie with current events in Syria.

In contrast to Topulli, Ebu Merjem believes that a Muslim’s highest purpose is the sacrifice of jihad.

“A man must seek the eternal. One day we will all die, but to die as a Muslim martyr is the highest death of all,” says Ebu, sounding very convinced.

This is what he was looking for when he went to Syria on November 17, 2012, with three other believers from Albania.

For three months he went from one camp to another, but he never got the opportunity to go to the front even for a day, which disappointed him deeply.

He returned on February 2, 2012, a few days after two of his other comrades also returned home. The fourth member of the group, Denis Jangulli, was killed on the first day he went to fight against the government forces of Assad.

Many things have changed since then, both in Albania and Syria. The Albanian police have either arrested the religious leaders of the Albanian fighters in Syria or they are on the run.

After turning a blind eye to the Albanian jihadists traveling to Syria for a long time, the authorities opened an investigation in December 2013.

On March 11,a joint operation by the Serious Crimes Prosecution Office, the National Intelligence Service and the police resulted in eight arrests and warrants being issued for five others.

On August 19, Albania passed a law that mandates jail sentences of up to 15 years for anyone who gets involved in the Syrian conflict or who recruits people to take part in the war.

Two of the suspects detained in the joint operation were imams, accused of organizing the recruitment of the jihadists.

Genci Balla and Bujar Hysa used to preach jihad in two mosques; one located in a suburb of Tirana and the other in the village of Mezez, a few kilometres from the capital. Some more isolated cells were identified in Leshnicë, near Pogradec, the city of Elbasan, the town of Cerrik and the village of Dragostunje, near Librazhd.

The third organizer was Gerti Pashaj, a student radicalized in Turkey, who is thought to have acted as a guide for the Albanian jihadists seeking to reach the war front.

Ebu Merjem denies having been recruited or paid by any of them. He says he went to Syria of his own free will and adds that Denis Jangulli helped him only with the details of the trip.

He describes Jangulli, who was killed, as a brother and as a devoted believer who spoke four foreign languages and had strong connections in Kosovo and Macedonia.

Ebu Merjem cannot speak any foreign language and only embraced Islam after getting in touch with two Albanian students who had studied religion in Saudi Arabia.

The cleric Justinian Topulli says a lack of understanding of Islamic text is the main reason why so many Albanians that have gone to fight in Syria, believing they are engaging in holy war.

Topulli explains that while a good Muslim must fulfill the commandments of the Koran, armed jihad is not one of them.

“Armed jihad is not an individual obligation either for Albanians or for the others, but for communities and countries if they have the possibility to do something in this case,” he said. “Our jihad is to help our country and family to deal with the problems of our common home, called Albania,” Topulli added.

Forced oath of allegiance

The journey to Syria for jihadists is a simple one. Photo: BETA/AP

According to Ebu Merjem, the journey to Syria for jihadists is a simple one. They travel to Istanbul, buy a bus ticket worth 80 euro to the border town of Rehanlia and find a man there to jump the border.

He describes the region between Turkey and Syria as easy terrain for would-be jihadists; dozens of young people from France, Sweden, America or Belgium go in and out from a fence, which is the only barrier between the two countries.

Smuggling jihadists from one side of the border to the other is no different from the other kinds of human smuggling.

Ebu Merjem says he gave a Turkish shepherd a few euros to help him cross the border mostly because he was afraid he would spy on him rather than show him the way.

After they crossed the border, Ebu Merjem and his comrades sought the city of Aleppo, which has been the scene fierce fighting between government forces and rebels since the start of the conflict.

However, the Albanians got stuck for a long time in the camps in Tal Rifat, a town in the Aleppo region controlled by the Al-Nusra front, a branch of al-Qaeda.

The Albanian jihadist were eager to reach the front but underwent a series of background checks by leaders of the foreign jihadists. “They looked at as with suspicion and gathered our passports in order to verify us. We didn’t like this but they were afraid of infiltration,” Merjem says.

The Albanian jihadists stayed for the first 10 days in a house and were then sent to a real training camp. The camp was also in the region of Tal Rifat. This time, they stayed in a luxury home occupied by the radical Islamic group, a phenomenon that the media call the “5-star jihad”.

They spent their days studying the Koran and were trained to use Kalashnikovs or snipers. “We also used to run a little but it was no big deal. The lack of weapons was the main problem and none of us had 1,500 dollars to buy a Kalashnikov,” he said.

According to the Albanian prosecution file obtained by BIRN, the majority of the Albanian jihadists became part of the Jabhat al-Nusra front, a branch of Al-Qaeda. Some arrived there as part of a Turkish extremist group, Murat Gezenler, while the Albanians from Macedonia fought under Chechen fighters.

However, in a chaotic civil war this configuration changed over time. By 2013, most of the Albanians had gathered in a brigade of 45 to 50 persons on the outskirts of Aleppo led by Numan Demolli, from Kosovo, and, after he was killed, by Lavdrim Muhaxheri.

Until ISIS emerged, they stayed under the protection of Al-Nusra. Today, most of the 50 Albanians remaining in Syria are fighting with Islamic State.

In his interview for BIRN, Merjem says they couldn’t stay in the camp unless they swore an oath to Al-Nusra. If they had not done so, their presence there would have become even more suspicious and unwanted.

“The people from Jabhat al-Nusra came and asked us to swear an oath to them but we didn’t do that,” he says.  “We told them that we were sworn to Allah and were there to help the Syrian people,” he added.

During his three months stay in Syria, Merjem had another problem. He had not got his mother’s permission to engage in holy war. This is a big concern for believers, because jihad is seen as invalid if it is undertaken without a parent’s permission.

After his mother refused to give her permission, Ebu Merjem decided to return to Albania. During this period, his fellow Albanian jihadist, Jangulli, was killed in an attack outside Aleppo.

“I was saddened because I would miss a friend; at the same time I was also happy because God received him as a martyr,” Merjem recalled.

Merjem returned to Albania on February 2, 2013. Since then, the authorities have not allowed him to leave the country.

He keeps informed about everything happening in Syria and now question some of the actions of the Islamic State.

Merjem says that the war is causing death on all sides, endless atrocities, including the crimes that “the Muslim brothers” of ISIS are displaying with pride in social media. But still he does not like it when their crimes are judged by non-believers.

“They are shedding a lot of blood in the name of religious misunderstandings and misinterpretation of the Koran,” he says. “Even scholars have talked about this. But we don’t want their mistakes being judged by anyone else except Muslims,” Merjem added.

European Union countries and Europol suspect that former jihadists like Merjem pose a threat to European security.

In the West, the de-radicalization of the jihadists is often compared to the rehabilitation of alcoholics or drug addicts.

Albania’s authorities are uncertain how to best respond to this threat. Since adopting the law that penalizes involvement in the war in Syria, the government has set up a massive antiterrorism structure to monitor its citizens that have returned home.

But Prime Minister Edi Rama believes that Albania is no more exposed to Islamic radicalism than other countries. “This risk is everywhere, just like Ebola,” said Rama in an interview.

The Albanian police told BIRN that jihadist returning from Syria do not pose a particular threat to the country, although their social isolation may become problematic in the future.

Topulli, from the League of Imams, agrees, arguing that the integration of these people back into society is the challenge lying ahead. He urges the authorities to show caution and avoid using repressive measures that could add to tensions.

“The people who returned from Syria are part of us and must be treated like all normal people so that they do not feel like strangers in this society,” Topulli said.

Merjem confirms that he doesn’t quite fit into Albanian society. Because of his faith, he has had to quit one job after another and he often finds it difficult to support his family.

He does not believe in the Muslim Community, the state or the international community. He thinks they collaborate all to interfere with his Muslim brothers in Albania and the world.

He would rather live in a remote land than Albania, if he could find spiritual peace there. “If they established a good Islamic state in future, I would choose to live there. People like us feel despised here,” he concluded.


Ebu Merjem is the religious name of the interviewee after he returned from Syria. Mejrem agreed to give this interview to BIRN in November 2014, without revealing his real identity.

Original Source of the article: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/albanian-jihadist-s-easy-passage-to-syria-s-brutal-war-11-25-2015

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Syrian rebels get arms from Kosovo and Bosnia



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The DEBKA website, close to Israeli military intelligence, knows well all the behind the curtain details of regional politics. A few days ago it reported about basically new turns of the way the events unfold in Syria. According to it, the Syrian extremists received a load of heavy weapons for the first time since the war started. The senders are the groups from Kosovo and the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina linked to Al Qaeda. The package includes Kornet and Fagot anti-tank systems delivered by the Soviet Union to former Yugoslavia in the past. The weapons ended up in the hands of extremists as a result of well-known bloody events. As to Israeli intelligence sources, the heavy weapons have been delivered from the Balkans to Syria by sea with the help of Albanian mafia, which is dry behind ears in such operations…

This is the first time the Syrian anti-government forces got a substantial load of heavy arms getting around the control of Western and Arab special agencies (the foreign intelligence agencies have simply overlooked the delivery). The major part of weapons is sent to Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al Qaeda linked Islamist group.

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Having received arms, the Jabhat al-Nusra armed groups risked an intervention to Lebanon and engaged Hezbollah in the Shiite stronghold of Bekaa valley trying to do away with an ally of Bashar Assad. They have become strong enough to launch offensives in some areas inside Syria. The combat actions go along with intensive terrorist activities, for instance, another bloody act took place in the heart of Damascus near the Baath headquarters, not far from the Russian embassy. It resulted in the death of dozens civilians, including many children from a neighboring school. According to the United Nations, at least 70 thousand people have lost their lives in Syria as a result of the confrontation between the government forces and the rebels. Two mortar shells exploded at the Tishreen stadium in Damascus when the athletes were training. As to SANA, a player form the Watbah football team was killed; his two fellow players were wounded.

The Middle East events could not have passed the Muslim part of the Balkans. The arms supplies to Syria are not an exception. After the guns silenced there, the radical movements and Islamist organizations started to conduct their activities under cover, but today it is coming to light. The reason is the extremists had felt comfortable in Europe till they started to be refused entry and citizenship by many countries of the continent making them go to other places. In the past Al Qaeda supported the Kosovo and Bosnian brothers in faith with experienced personnel and arms. Now it wants the debts to be paid back. Al Qaeda emissaries have no intent to curb their activities in the Balkans. 

While war raged in Bosnia and Herzegovina, around two thousand militants from Arab countries went there to join the fray. Some of them had direct links to Osama bin Laden. After the war ended as a result of Dayton accords, many of them remained in the country and became the citizens. The Saudi Arabia funded King Fahd mosque in Sarajevo that is believed to be the headquarters of the Wahhabi militants. Off and on terrorist acts committed by Islamists take place in the Republic. For instance, 23-year-old Mevlid Jasarevic, came from Serbia, the southern region of Sandzak, to shoot his rifle at the US embassy building in Sarajevo. He heavily wounded a policeman. A bomb went off at the police precinct station in Bugojno, one constable died, six wounded. It was done by a local Wahhabi militant.

At the beginning of February 2013 local Albanian radicals declared the establishment of the “Islamic Movement to Unite” or LISBA, which is considered in the West as the first really fundamentalist party in the Balkans. The party is registered and is preparing for Kosovo parliamentary elections. LISBA has a public leader, Arsim Krasniqi, though Fuad Ramiqi is widely reported to be its controlling figure. He is known to be is associated through the fundamentalist European Muslim Network, led by the Islamist media celebrity Tariq Ramadan, with the Qatar-based hate preacher Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. He has ties with the more moderate Party for Democratic Action or SDA in Bosnia-Herzegovina and similar organizations in Macedonia. Ramiqi protested against a legal ban on girls wearing headscarves (hijab) in Kosovo public schools.

This is just the top of the iceberg. The radicalization of population in Kosovo is boosted by total unemployment and spreading criminality. The self-proclaimed Kosovo independence supported by the West gave little to common people, it’s no surprise they are vulnerable to Islamist propaganda. Some Kosovars are linked to arms smuggling, they act as instructors on its use in Syria enriching their own combat experience. Drug flows are already flooding Europe. In future it may be added by the re-export of war skills to defend the European Muslims rights.

The policy of the West in Syria is myopic. It goes on losing control over the events in this country. In fact it gives refuge to terrorists and faces the prospect of raging terror spilling over to Europe. Hotbeds of Islamic extremism that appeared with the connivance of the West in the former Yugoslavia are sparked again under the influence of Middle East events. Europe appears to be threatened by a big fire…


23-02-2013

Original source of the article:

http://orientalreview.org/2013/02/23/syrian-rebels-get-arms-from-kosovo-and-bosnia/

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Greater Albania: A United States project against the Orthodox world?



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Wednesday, December 5, 2012, the Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha advocated granting Albanian citizenship to all Albanians, wherever they reside. This statement was made during a visit of the city of Vlora where the independence of the Albanian state was declared, only 100 years ago. At the time Albania had just liberated itself from Ottoman rule.

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This declaration follows a separate statement, collective this time, that Sali Berisha had made with his Kosovar counterpart Hashim Thaci a few weeks ago, promising the union of all Albanians. The place was, I must say, well chosen since the vast majority of the inhabitants of Kosovo today are of Albanian origin, which has not always been the case.

During the Balkan War in 1913, Serbs still constitute the majority of the population. In 1941, Kosovo is attached to the Greater Albania (already) fascist Italian protectorate. After the war, Tito would prohibit Albanian immigration since Yugoslavia, according to him, could be strong only if Serbia were as weak as possible. In 1974, it is he who attributes to Kosovo autonomous province status which would be removed by Slobodan Milosevic in 1989, while the Serbs already composed no more than 15% of the population.

When in 2008 Kosovo declares independence, nearly a decade after the Western military intervention, few commentators call attention to the dominant “Albanity” of this new small state. On the contrary, it is a time of real celebration for that supposedly oppressed people who finally gained freedom. In most Western countries and the European Union, the recognition is instantaneous, without any question being raised about the treatment of the Serb minority and the future that awaited it, despite the terrible precedent of 2004, when Christians were victims of pogroms, burned down churches, and the violation of their most basic human rights. It is true that Europe, sorry the European Union, at that time had other priorities: the essential organization of gay pride in Belgrade.

It took only 4 years for the farce of Kosovo’s independence to finally emerge publicly. Only 4 years for the Albanian Prime Minister to prove the Serb nationalists right when they consistenly maintained that it was not Kosovars (the inhabitants of the Kosovo region being Serbs) they were facing but well and truly Shqiptars, in a new episode of the ancient conflict in the Balkans that has pitted for nearly 6 centuries the Orthodox Slavs against the sons of the Ottoman Empire converts.

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In October 1999, the U.S. General and NATO Supreme Commander Wesley Clark (far right) meets with the head of the UN mission in Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner (second from left), and KLA leader Hashim Thaci (far left). Today, as Prime Minister of Kosovo, Thaci is accused in a report of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to have participated in the trafficking of organs taken, inter alia, from Serb prisoners by men of the KLA

Western support for the creation of Kosovo and hostility against Serbia may seem completely inexplicable. Yet from 1991 to 2008, U.S. strategists have been led by a single logic: the destruction of Serbia, to debilitate her as much as possible for the inevitable historical moment in the future when she would again turn to Russia.

Of course, it was necessary at the same time to also devitalize Russia. If, from 1991 to 2000, a military and media war was waged against Milosevic’s Serbia with the aim of annihilating it, an economic and moral war was being unleashed against Yeltsin’s Russia. The crusade against the communist world has turned into a crusade against the Orthodox world, and essentially against its most sovereign political nerve center: Russia.

The theoretician of Russia’s containment in Eurasia, Zbigniew Brzezinski, said himself in 2007 that “After the collapse of the USSR, the main enemy of the USA will be the Russian Orthodox Church.” The creation of Greater Albania can probably be seen in this historical and geostrategic light. It is like tossing a new match, one that could create a spark and start a new fire in the Balkan inferno. This fire would result in the further weakening of Europe, but also deepen the destabilization of the Orthodox world (Macedonia, Greece, Montenegro, Serbia …) and curb its rapprochement with Russia. Indirectly, it is Russia’s influence in Eastern Europe that would be challenged, and therefore its rapprochement with Western Europe. In doing so, the United States would once again achieve their primary objective: to prevent a rapprochement between continental Europe and the Catholic and Orthodox worlds.


By Alexandre Latsa
Original source of the article: http://www.voltairenet.org/article177054.html

5 velika albanija diaspora

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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Kosovo: Europe’s “Mafia State”: Hub of the EU-NATO drug trail



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Kosovo’s Prime Minister Accused of Running Human Organ, Drug Trafficking Cartel

In another grim milestone for the United States and NATO, the Council of Europe (COE) released an explosive report last week, “Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo.”

The report charged that former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) boss and current Prime Minister, Hashim Thaçi, “is the head of a ‘mafia-like’ Albanian group responsible for smuggling weapons, drugs and human organs through eastern Europe,” The Guardian disclosed.

According to a draft resolution unanimously approved December 16 in Paris, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights found compelling evidence of forced disappearances, organ trafficking, corruption and collusion between criminal gangs and “political circles” in Kosovo who just happen to be close regional allies of the United States.

The investigation was launched by Dick Marty, the Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe (PACE) special rapporteur for human rights who had conducted an exhaustive 2007 probe into CIA “black fights” in Europe.

The PACE investigation gathered steam after allegations were published by former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Carla Del Ponte in her 2008 memoir.

After it’s publication, Ms. Del Ponte was bundled off to Argentina by the Swiss government as her nation’s ambassador. Once there, the former darling of the United States who specialized in doling out victor’s “justice” to the losers of the Balkan wars, was conveniently silenced.

A series of damning reports by the Center for Investigative Journalism (CIR), the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the BBC, confirmed Del Ponte’s allegations and spurred the Council to act.

Reporting for the BBC, investigative journalist Michael Montgomery learned that political opponents of the KLA and Serb prisoners of war “simply vanished without a trace” into a secret prison “in the Albanian border town of Kukes.”

According to sources who feared for their lives, including former KLA guerrillas, the BBC revealed that disappeared civilians “were Serbs and Roma seized by KLA soldiers and were being hidden away from Nato troops. The source believes the captives were sent across the border to Albania and killed.”

In an uncanny echo of Nazi practices during the period of the Third Reich, The New York Times reported that “captives” were “‘filtered’ for their suitability as donors, based on sex, age, health conditions and ethnic origin. “We heard numerous references to captives’ not merely having been handed over, but also having been ‘bought’ and ‘sold,’” the special rapporteur told the Times.

“Some of the guards told investigators,” the Times reports, “that a few captives understood what was about to happen and ‘pleaded with their captors to be spared the fate of being chopped into pieces’.”

Mercy was in short supply however, behind KLA lines.

The report states: “As and when the transplant surgeons were confirmed to be in position and ready to operate, the captives were brought out of the ‘safe house’ individually, summarily executed by a KLA gunman, and their corpses transported swiftly to the operating clinic.”

Greater Albania

Once organs were removed from the victims they were auctioned off to the highest bidder and sold by a global trafficking ring still operating today.

The former prosecutor further alleged, The Guardian reported, that “she had been prevented from investigating senior KLA officials” who she claimed had “smuggled captive Serbs across the border into Albania, where their organs were harvested.”

In a classic case of covering-up the crimes of low-level thugs to protect more powerful criminals, Del Ponte has charged that forensic evidence gathered by ICTY investigators at one of the northern Albania death houses was destroyed at The Hague.

International Network

This brisk underground trade didn’t end in 1999 however, when the break-away Serb province was occupied by NATO troops; on the contrary, operations expanded and grew even more profitable as Kosovo devolved into a protectorate of the United States.

In fact, a trial underway in Pristina has revealed that “desperate Russians, Moldovans, Kazakhs and Turks were lured into the capital ‘with the false promise of payments’ for their kidneys,” The Guardian reported.

It was a “growth industry” that fed on human misery. According to The Guardian, recipients “paid up to €90,000 (£76,400) for the black-market kidneys [and] included patients from Canada, Germany, Poland and Israel,” EU prosecutor Jonathan Ratel told the British paper.

“Donors” however, were left holding the bag, lucky to escape with their lives.

At the center of the scandal is the Medicus clinic. Located some six miles from downtown Pristina, Medicus was allegedly founded by university hospital urologist Dr Lutfi Dervishi, and a former permanent secretary of health, prosecutors claim, provided the clinic with a false license to operate.

Two of the accused, The Guardian revealed, “are fugitives wanted by Interpol: Moshe Harel, an Israeli said to have matched donors with recipients, and Yusuf Sonmez, perhaps the world’s most renowned organ trafficker.”

Prosecutors believe that Harel and Sonmez are the brains behind Medicus and that Shaip Muja, a former KLA “medical commander” who was based in Albania, may have overseen operations at the “clinic.”

Muja remains a close confidante of Thaçi’s and, in an macabre twist, he is currently “a political adviser in the office of the prime minister, with responsibility for health,” The Guardian reports.

Investigators averred they had “uncovered numerous convergent indications of Muja’s central role [in] international networks, comprising human traffickers, brokers of illicit surgical procedures, and other perpetrators of organised crime.”

Besides lining the pockets of Albanian, Israeli and Turkish criminals who ran the grisly trafficking ring, whose interests might also be served in covering-up these horrific crimes?

A Gangster State, but which One?

The veil of secrecy surrounding KLA atrocities could not have been as complete as it was without the intervention of powerful actors, particularly amongst political and military elites in Germany and the United States who had conspired with local gangsters, rebranded as “freedom fighters,” during the break-up of Yugoslavia.

As in Albania years before NATO’s Kosovo adventure, organized criminal activities and “the trade in narcotics and weapons [were] allowed to prosper,” Michel Chossudovsky wrote, because “the West had turned a blind eye.”

These extensive deliveries of weapons were tacitly permitted by the Western powers on geopolitical grounds: both Washington and Bonn had favoured (although not officially) the idea of a ‘Greater Albania’ encompassing Albania, Kosovo and parts of Macedonia. Not surprisingly, there was a ‘deafening silence’ on the part of the international media regarding the Kosovo arms-drugs trade. (“The Criminalization of Albania,” in Masters of the Universe? NATO’s Balkan Crusade, ed. Tariq Ali, London: Verso, 2000, pp. 299-300)

The consequences of this “deafening silence” remain today. Both in terms of the misery and impoverishment imposed on Kosovo’s citizens by the looting of their social property, particularly the wholesale privatization of its mineral wealth which IMF economic “reforms” had spawned, and in the political cover bestowed upon Pristina’s gangster regime by the United States.

In the intervening years NATO’s “blind eye” has morphed into something more sinister: outright complicity with their Balkan protégés.

Virtually charging the ICTY with knuckling under to political pressure from the Americans, the PACE report states that “the ICTY, which had started to conduct an initial examination on the spot to establish the existence of traces of possible organ trafficking, dropped the investigation.”

“The elements of proof taken in Rripe, in Albania” during that initial inquiry investigators wrote, “have been destroyed and cannot therefore be used for more detailed analyses. No subsequent investigation has been carried out into a case nevertheless considered sufficiently serious by the former ICTY Prosecutor for her to see the need to bring it to public attention through her book.”

This is hardly surprising, considering that the ICTY was created at the insistence of the Clinton administration precisely as a retributive hammer to punish official enemies of the U.S.

Hailed as an objective body by media enablers of America’s imperial project, with few exceptions, while it relentlessly hunted down alleged Serbian war criminals–the losers in the decade-long conflagration–it studiously ignored proxy forces, including the KLA, under the operational control of German and American intelligence agencies.

The report averred that human organ trafficking was only a part of a larger web of crime and corruption, and that murder, trafficking in women, control over global narcotics distribution and money laundering networks were standard operating procedure for Thaçi and other members of the “Drenica group,” the black widows at the center of the KLA spiders’ web.

For his part, Thaçi has called the PACE report “libelous” and the Kosovo government has repudiated the Council’s findings claiming that the charges “were not based on facts and were construed to damage the image of Kosovo and the war of the Kosovo Liberation Army.”

While one can easily dismiss prevarications from Kosovo’s government, the White House role in covering-up the crimes of their client regime should have provoked a major scandal. That it didn’t only reveals the depths of Washington’s own venal self-interest in preventing this sordid affair from gaining traction.

In  all likelihood fully-apprised of the Council of Europe’s investigation through any number of American-friendly moles implanted in European institutions as WikiLeaks Cablegate files have revealed, last summer Thaçi met with U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden at the White House.

Shamelessly, Biden “reaffirmed the United States’ full support for an independent, democratic, whole, and multi-ethnic Kosovo,” and “reiterated the United States’ firm support for Kosovo’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to a White House press release.

Indeed, the vice president “welcomed the progress that Kosovo’s government has made in carrying out essential reforms, including steps to strengthen the rule of law.”

An all too predictable pattern when one considers the lawless nature of the regime in Washington.

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The Heroin Trail

As I reported more than two years ago in “Welcome to Kosovo! The World’s Newest Narco State,” the KLA served as the militarized vanguard for the Albanian mafia whose “15 Families” control virtually every facet of the Balkan heroin trade.

Albanian traffickers ship heroin originating exclusively from Central Asia’s Golden Crescent. At one end lies America’s drug outpost in Afghanistan where poppy is harvested for processing and transshipment through Iran and Turkey; as morphine base it is then refined into “product” for worldwide consumption. From there it passes into the hands of the Albanian syndicates who control the Balkan Route.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reported back in 1999, “Kosovars were the acknowledged masters of the trade, credited with shoving aside the Turkish gangs that had long dominated narcotics trafficking along the Balkan Route, and effectively directing the ethnic Albanian network.”

As the murdered investigative journalist Peter Klebnikov reported in 2000 for Mother Jones, as the U.S.-sponsored war in Kosovo heated up, “the drug traffickers began supplying the KLA with weapons procured from Eastern European and Italian crime groups in exchange for heroin. The 15 Families also lent their private armies to fight alongside the KLA. Clad in new Swiss uniforms and equipped with modern weaponry, these troops stood out among the ragtag irregulars of the KLA. In all, this was a formidable aid package.”

Despite billions of dollars spent on failed interdiction efforts, these patterns persist today as more than 106 metric tons of heroin flow into Europe. So alarmed has the Russian government become over the flood of heroin penetrating their borders from Central Asian and the Balkan outposts that some officials have likened it to American “narco-aggression” and a new “opium war, researcher Peter Dale Scott reported.

Scott avers: “These provinces” in Afghanistan, “support the past and present CIA assets in the Karzai regime (headed by Hamid Karzai, a former CIA asset), including the president’s brother Ahmed Wali Karzai, an active CIA asset, and Abdul Rashid Dostum, a former CIA asset. In effect America has allied itself with one drug faction in Afghanistan against another.” Much the same can be said for CIA assets in Pristina.

As the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published in their 2010 World Drug Report:

Once heroin leaves Turkish territory, interception efficiency drops significantly. In the Balkans, relatively little heroin is seized, suggesting that the route is exceedingly well organized and lubricated with corruption. … Another notable feature of the Balkan route is that some important networks have clan-based and hierarchically organized structures. Albanian groups in particular have such structures, making them particularly hard to infiltrate. This partially explains their continued involvement in several European heroin markets. Albanian networks continue to be particularly visible in Greece, Italy and Switzerland. Italy is one of the most important heroin markets in Europe, and frequently identified as a base of operation for Balkan groups who exploit the local diaspora. According to WCO seizure statistics, Albanians made up the single largest group (32%) of all arrestees for heroin trafficking in Italy between 2000 and 2008. The next identified group was Turks followed by Italians and citizens of Balkan countries (Bulgaria, Kosovo/Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and to some extent Greece). A number of Pakistani and Nigerian traffickers were arrested in Italy as well.

As has been documented for decades, U.S. destabilization programs and covert operations rely on far-right provocateurs and drug lords (often interchangeable players) to facilitate the dirty work. Throughout its Balkan campaign the CIA made liberal use of these preexisting narcotics networks to arm the KLA and then provide them with targets.

When NATO partners Germany and the U.S. decided to drive a stake through Yugoslavia’s heart during the heady days of post-Cold War triumphalism, their geopolitical strategy could not have achieved “success” without the connivance, indeed active partnership forged amongst Yugoslavia’s nationalist rivals. As investigative journalist Misha Glenny has shown,

Most shocking of all, however, is how the gangsters and politicians fueling war between their peoples were in private cooperating as friends and close business partners. The Croat, Bosnian, Albanian, Macedonian, and Serb moneymen and mobsters were truly thick as thieves. They bought, sold, and exchanged all manner of commodities, knowing that the high levels of personal trust between them were much stronger than the transitory bonds of hysterical nationalism. They fomented this ideology among ordinary folk in essence to mask their own venality. As one commentator described it, the new republics were ruled by “a parastate Cartel which had emerged from political institutions, the ruling Communist Party and its satellites, the military, a variety of police forces, the Mafia, court intellectuals and with the president of the Republic at the center of the spider web…Tribal nationalism was indispensable for the cartel as a means to pacify its subordinates and as a cover for the uninterrupted privatization of the state apparatus. (McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008, p. 27)

Thaçi and other members of his inner circle, Marty avers, were “commonly identified, and cited in secret intelligence reports,” published by the German secret state agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst or BND “as the most dangerous of the KLA’s ‘criminal bosses’.”

Trading on American protection to consolidate political power, thus maintaining control over key narcotics smuggling corridors, the special rapporteur writes that “having succeeded in eliminating, or intimidating into silence, the majority of the potential and actual witnesses against them (both enemies and erstwhile allies), using violence, threats, blackmail, and protection rackets,” Thaçi’s Drenica Group have “exploit[ed] their position in order to accrue personal wealth totally out of proportion with their declared activities.”

Indeed, multiple reports prepared by the U.S. DEA, FBI, the BND, Italy’s SISMI, Britain’s MI6 and the Greek EYP intelligence service have stated that Drenica Group members “are consistently named as ‘key players’ in intelligence reports on Kosovo’s mafia-like structures of organised crime.”

As the Council of Europe and investigative journalists have documented, northern Albania was the site not only of KLA training camps but of secret detention centers where prisoners of war and civilian KLA opponents were executed and their organs surgically removed and sold on the international black market.

“The reality is that the most significant operational activities undertaken by members of the KLA–prior to, during, and in the immediate aftermath of the conflict–took place on the territory of Albania, where the Serb security forces were never deployed.”

The report avers, “It is well established that weapons and ammunition were smuggled into parts of Kosovo, often on horseback, through clandestine, mountainous routes from northern Albania,” the site of secret NATO bases, “yet only in the second half of 1998,” Marty writes, “through explicit endorsements from Western powers, founded on strong lobbying from the United States, did the KLA secure its pre-eminence in international perception as the vanguard of the Kosovar Albanian liberation struggle.”

“What is particularly confounding” Marty writes, “is that all of the international community in Kosovo–from the Governments of the United States and other allied Western powers, to the EU-backed justice authorities–undoubtedly possess the same, overwhelming documentation of the full extent of the Drenica Group’s crimes, but none seems prepared to react in the face of such a situation and to hold the perpetrators to account.”

While the special rapporteur’s outrage is palpable, the ascension of a political crime family with deep roots in the international drugs trade and other rackets, including the grisly traffic in human organs, far from being an anomalous event conforms precisely to the structural pattern of capitalist rule in the contemporary period.

“What we have uncovered” Marty informs us, “is of course not completely unheard-of. The same or similar findings have long been detailed and condemned in reports by key intelligence and police agencies, albeit without having been followed up properly, because the authors’ respective political masters have preferred to keep a low profile and say nothing, purportedly for reasons of ‘political expediency’. But we must ask what interests could possibly justify such an attitude of disdain for all the values that are invariably invoked in public?”

Marty need look no further for an answer to his question than to the “political masters” in Washington, who continue to cover-up not only their own crimes but those of the global mafias who do their bidding.

As we have seen throughout the latter half of the 20th century down to the present moment, powerful corporate and financial elites, the military and intelligence agencies and, for lack of a better term, “normal” governmental institutions are suborned by the same crooked players who profit from war and the ensuing chaos it spawns to organize crime, thereby “rationalizing” criminal structures on more favorable terms for those “in the loop.”

In this regard, the impunity enjoyed up till now by Thaçi and his minions merely reflect the far-greater impunity enjoyed by the American secret state and the powerful actors amongst U.S. elites who have profited from the dirty work allegedly performed by Kosovo’s Prime Minister, and others like him, who are counted amongst the most loyal servants of imperial power.

About the author:

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, his articles can be read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily, Pacific Free Press, Uncommon Thought Journal, and the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press and has contributed to the new book from Global Research, The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.


22-12-2010

Original source of the article: www.globalresearch.ca

Illustrated by Vladislav B. Sotirovic

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German documentary film on Kosovo in 1999: “It began with a lie”



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A German documentary film about the false pretext and German propaganda used to exert and sustain public support for illegal NATO aggression against Serbia and Montenegro in 1999

Tachi and Merkel

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Kosovo Albanian “Skanderbeg SS Division”



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The historical and political precedents for the creation of a greater Sqiperia or Greater Albania was set during World War II when the Kosovo and Metohija regions along with territory Southwest of lake Skutari from Montenegro and the western region of Southern Serbia, or Juzna Srbija (now part of Macedonija), were annexed to Albania by the Axis powers led by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, under a plan devised by Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler to dismember and to destroy the Serbian Nation and people, which the Germans and Italians perceived as the main threat to the axis powers and to the Third Reich in the Balkan.

On April 7, 1939, Italian troops invaded and occupied Albania forcing the Albanian ruler King Zog I Ahmed Bey Zogu, to flee to Greece. Italy formally annexed into the Kingdom of Italy under the Italian king Victor Immanuel and established a military government and viceroy. The Italian began a program to colonize the country when thousands of settlers emigrated to Albania. An Albanian Fascist Party was established with Albanian Black skirts based on Italian models. The Albanian Army consisted of three infantry brigades of 12 000 men.

On October 28 1940, Italy invaded Greece from Albania with 10 Italian divisions and the Albanian Army but were driven back.

Germany sought to assist the Italian-Albanian offensive by operation Alpine Violet, a plan to move a corps of tree German mountain divisions to Albania by air and sea. Instead German built up a heavy concentration of the German Twelfth Army on the northwest Greek Border with Bulgaria, from where the German invasion was launched.

On April 6, 1941, Nazi Germany and the axis powers invaded Yugoslavia, Operation Punishment, and Greece forcing the capitulation of Yugoslavia on the 17th, and Greece on the 23rd. Yugoslavia was subsequently occupied and dismembered. The Axis powers established a greater Albania or greater Shqiperia at the expense of Serbia and Montenegro. Territory from Montenegro was annexed to Greater Albania. From Serbia, the Kosovo and Metohija were ceded to greater Albania, along with the western part of Southern Serbia (Juzna Srbija), now part of Macedonia, an area which was part of Stara Srbija (Ancient Old Serbia). This Kosovo-metohija region and the surrounding territory annexed to Greater Albania was called “New Albania”.

To create an ethnically pure Shqiptar Kosovo, which Albanian called “Kosova”, the Shqiptari (Albanians) launched a widescale campaigns of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Ethnic Serbs in the Kosovo-Metohija regions were massacred, and their homes were burned, and survivors were brutally driven out and expelled in policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

The Balli Kombetar (BK or National Union) was an Albanian nationalist group led by Midhat Fresheri and Ali Klissura whose political objective was to in incorporate Kosovo-Metohija into a Greater Albania and to ethnically cleanse the region of Orthodox Serbs

The Abanian Committee of Kosovo organized massive campaigns of ethnic cleansing and genocide against the Orthodox Serbian inhabitants of Kosovo- Metohuja. A contemporary report described the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Serbs as follows:

Armed with material supplied by the Italians, the Albanians hurled themselves against helpless settlers in their homes and villages. According to the most reliable sources, the Albanian burned many Serbian settlements, killing some of the people and driving out others who escaped to the mountains. At present other Serbian settlement are being attacked and the property of individuals and of communities is either being confiscated or destroyed. It is not possible to ascertain at the present time the exact number of victims of those atrocities, but it may be estimated that at least between 30.000 and 40.000 perished.

Bedri Pejani, the Muslim leader of the Albanian National committee, called for the extermination of Ortodox Serbian Cristians in Kosovo Metohija and for a union of a Greater Albania with Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Rashka (Sandzak) region of Serbia, into a great Islamic state. The grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin El Husseini was presented to Pejani a plan which he approved as a being in the interest of Islam. The Germans however rejected the plan.

On September 3, 1943, Italy capitulated by signing an armistice with the Allies. The German were now forced to occupy Albania with the collapse of the Italian forces. The Germans sent the 100th Jaeger Division from Greece and the 297th Infantry Division from Serbia and the German 1st Mountain Division to occupy Albania. These troops were organized into the XXI Mountain Corps which was under the command of General Paul Bader.

Additional security forces for the interior were needed, however, to free up Germans troops for defense of the coastline. The decision was made to form an Albanian SS mountain division for this purpose. In April in 1944, recruitment for the Albanian SS division began under direction of the newly formed Albanian Nazi party, which has been formed through the efforts of Ernst Kaltenbrunner. Acting upon instructions of Reichsfuehrer SS Henrich Himmler, the SS main office ordered the formation of an Albanian volunteer mountain division on April 17, 1944. SS Brigadefuehrern and Generalmajor of the Waffen SS Josef Fitzhum, who Headed the Higher SS and Police Command in Albania, oversaw the forming and training of the division.

The SS high Command planed to create a mountain division of 10.000 men. The Higher SS and Police Command in Albania, in conduction with the Albanian National Committee, listed 11.398 possible recruits for the Waffen SS mountain division. Most of these recruits were “kossovars”, shqiptar Ghegs from Kosovo Metohija in Serbia. The Shqiptar Tosks were found mainly in southern Albania. Most of the Shqiptar collaborators with the nazi forces were theNazi forces were the so-called Kossovars, ethnic Shqiptars from the Kosmet of Serbia. The Nazi German-sponsored Albanian gendarmes, special police and para-military units were made up by Kossovars. The Kossovars were under the direct control of the Albanian Interior Minister Xhafer Deva.

The Skanderbeg Division was formed and trained in Kosovo and was made up mostly of muslim Shqiptar Kossovars. There were only a small number of Albanians from Albania proper in the division. The Skanderbeg Mountain Division of the Wafen SS was thus essentially a Kosovo or Kosmet Division. The Division was stationed and operated in Kosovo and other Serbian regions almost exclusively.

Of the 11.398 recruits listed for the Division, 9.275 were ascertained to be suitable to draft in the Waffen SS. Of those suitable to be drafted, 6.491 Albanian were chosen and inducted into the Skanderbeg Division. To this Albanian core were added veteran German troops primarily Reichdeutsche from Austria and Volkdeutcshe officers, NCOs, and enlisted men, transferred from the 7th SS Mountain Division “Prinz Eugen” which was stationed in Bosnia-Hercegovina. The Kosovo Albanian 21st Waffen Gebirgs Division der SS “Skanderbeg” consisted in total of 8.500 – 9.000 men of all ranks. The 6.491 Shqiptar recruits were assembled at depots in Kosovo where the formation and the training of the division began.

The official designation for the division was 21 Waffen Gebirgs Division der SS “Skanderbeg” (Albanische Nr 1). The SS Main Office designed a distinctive arm patch for the division, consisting of a black double-headed eagle on a red background, the national symbol of Albania. The word “Skanderbeg”, embroidered in white, appeared above the eagle and was warn on the left sleeve. The right collar patch consisted of a helmet with a goat’s head on top, the helmet supposedly worn by George Kastrioti Skanderbeg, after whom the division was named. The Shqiptars recruits in the division wore a white skullcap, the national attire of the Shqiptar Ghegs. The SS main office also issued gray skullcaps with the Totenkopf (death’s head) insignia sewn on the front below the Hoheitszeichen (the national symbol of Nazi Germany, consisting of a white eagle over a Nazi swastika).

Division was named after George Kastrioti, or Gjergj Kastriota, also as Kastriotis (1405-1468), national hero of Albania, who fought for the Ottoman Turks. As a child, Kastrioti was given as a hostage to Sultan Murat II to be brought as a Muslim at Adrianople (Edrine). Kastrioti became an officer in the Ottoman Turkish army and led the Turkish forces in many victories over Christian troops. Murat II was impressed with his valor and bravery in his battle for Islam and gave him the name Iskander Bey in Turkish, from “Iskander”, Aleksander the Great, or prince Aleksander, and “bey”, master. The name was shortened to Skanderbeg, beg being the local variant of bey. Later Kastrioti renounced Islam and converted to Christianity and attacked his former Ottoman Turkish masters. He captured the Albanian capital Kroja from the Turkish governor and proclaimed a revolt against the Turks in 1442. Sultan Mohammed II sent Turkish armies to defeat the renegade Kastrioti, but he was able to defeat Turkish forces, wich besieged Kroja but could not capture it. Kastrioti died in 1468. Kroja surrendered in 1479 and the Turks occupied Albania.

The Albanians in the Skanderbeg Division were mostly Muslims, of the Bektashi and Sunni sects of Islam. The division contained several hundred Albanian Catholics, followers of Jon Marko Joni.

The first commander of the Skandereg division was SS Brigadefuehrer Generalmajor of the Waffen SS Josef Fitshum, who commanded the division from April to June 1944. After the Juli 20, assassination plot against Hitler, Fitzhum was appointed supreme commander in Albania. In June, SS Stardentenfuehrer August Schmidhuber was appointed division commander, a post would hold until August 1944. On June 21, 1944, Schmidhuber was promoted to SS Oberfuehrer and later in the war, he would be promoted to SS Brigadefuhrer. SS Oberstrumbannfuhrer Alfred Graf commanded the reorganized remnants of the Skanderbeg Division from August 1944, to may, 1945.

The Shultzstaffel or SS was created in the period 1923-1925 and was initially known as the Stosstrupp (Shock troop) “Adolf Hitler”. On Januari 16, 1929, Hitler appointed Heinrich Himmler leader of SS, Reichsfuehrer SS. The SS was envisioned as an elite troop of the Party, a praetorian bodyguard to Hitler and the Nazi leadership. The SS was a formation “composed of the best physically, the most dependable, and the most faithful men in the Nazi movement. In 1940, combat units of the SS were formed, collectively termed the Waffen SS. Approximately 30-40 Waffen SS divisions were formed during the war, divided into three groupings, Waffen divisions made by Germans, those made up of ethnic Germans outside the Reich, and those made up of non-Germans. “Divisions der SS”, Divisions of the SS.

On September 27,1939, Reichsfuehrer SS Heinrich Himmler as Chief of German Police consolidated the Gestapo, Kripo, and SD under an SS Main Office of Reich Security, or the RSHA. The RSHA was the actual body entrusted with the overall administration of the final solution at the Jewish Problem, what became known as the Holocaust. The SS Economic and administrative Main Office or WVHA, run the concentration camp system. Nazi concentration camp personnel and guards, althout not under the command of the Army or the Kommandoamt der Waffen SS, neverthless, wore Waffen SS uniforms and received Waffen SS paybooks. Reichfuehrer SS Heinrich Himmler oversaw a program that resulted in the extermination of millions of men, women and children. Himmler was the Arhictect of genocide and of the Holocaust and the Wafen SS was his “private army”, the black angels”.

In Jun,1944, The Skanderbeg Waffen SS Mountain Division engaged in large-scale field maneuvers in the area between the towns of Berane and Adrijevica in Monte Negro (Crna Gora). Garrisons of Skanderbeg division were established in Kosovo towns of Pec, Jakova, Prizren, and Pristina. Further training of the division continued in August as new recruits were inducted in the division. An artillery battalion of the division, consisting of two batteries, was located in Gnjilane.

The first major action of the division occurred in August, 144 in Kosovo. In September, 1944, the Skanderbeg division occupied the Southern Serbia (Juzna Srbija) region now part of the communist created republic of Macedonia, and helped to garrison the region. The Skanderberg division was ordered into the areas surrounding the towns Skoplje (or Skopje), Kumanovo Presevo and Bujanovac. Sanderbeg operated in Stara Serbija (old and Ancient Serbia) region, in the towns of Pec, Gnjilane,Djakovica, Tetovo Gostivar, and Kosovska Mitrovica, then part of Kosovo Metohija and Southern Serbia.

In November, 1944, when the German armies in the Balkan were retreating from Yugoslavia and the Balkans, the Skanderbeg division remnants were reorganized into Regimentegruppe 21 SS Gebirgs “Skanderbeg” and was transferred to Skoplje, according to one account of the movements of the Battle group. This SS Kampfgrupe “Skanderbeg”, along with the prinz Eugen Divisin, defended the Vardar valley. The battle group “Skanderbeg” and Prinz Eugen held the Vardar area because it was the sole corridor of escape for the retreating German armies in Alexander Loehr’s Army Group E, which was retreating from Greece and Aegean Islands.

3. regrutacija za SS Skenderbeg diviziju Kosovo april 1944

The Skanderbeg Battle Group along with the Prinz Eugen Division retreated to the to the Brcko region of Bosnia-Herzegovina by mid-january 1945. At this time the remaining Skanderbeg personnel were incorporated into the 14th SS Volonteer Mountain Infantry Regiment of the 7th SS division Prinz Eugen. The remnants of the Skanderbeg Division fought in this formation until the end of the war, retreating to Austria in May, 1945.

The Skanderbeg division engaged in a policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide against the Serbian Orthodox Christian populations of the regions under occupation by the division in Kosovo Metohija, Montenegro, and southern Serbia. Balkan Historian Robert Lee Wolff, in the “Balkans in Our time”, described the genocide committed against Kosovo Serbs by the Shqiptar 21st Waffen Gebirgs Division der SS Skenderbeg as follows:

In the regions annexed by the Albanians, their so-called Skanderbeg division, made up of members of the Albanian minority in Yugoslavia, massacred Serbs with impunity.

Historian L.H. Stavrianos, in “The Balkan Since 1453″, described the genocide committed against Orthodox Serbs by the Shqiptar Skanderbeg Division in these terms: Yugoslav Albanians, organized in their fascist Skanderbeg Division, conducted an indiscriminate massacre of Serbians.

The Skanderbeg Division played a role in the Holocaust, the genocide if European Jewry, by rounding up scores of Kosovo Jews in a group roughly 500 persons deemed enemies of the Third Reich when the division occupied Prizren in Kosovo Metohija. The division sought to create ethnically pure Kosovo, ethnically cleansed of Orthodox Serbs, Jews and Gypsies the untermenschen (subhuman), who were targeted for