17. March 2004. More than 4.000 Serbs have been left homeless, at least 100 Serbs died and around 30 churches have been either completely destroyed or seriously damaged by Kosovo Albanians.
It’s been 15 years since the outburst of ethnic Albanian violence in Kosovo on March 17, 2004, when hundred people were killed and 954 wounded and when 35 Orthodox holy sites were ruined in two days.
This pogrom got its prize a year ago on February 17th when Kosovo Albanians unilaterally – but orchestrated by western powers – declared independence of this province.
The events showed the way to all separatist movements on the globe that violence is an accepted method to attain a political goal. They also uncovered the EU’s nonexistent skills with crisis management and designing anything else than already dead road maps for conflict resolution.
Those dates are well remembered in all ethnic groups in Serbia and its separatist province, although from different perspectives. Also, the international community, especially the EU should remember them as they have lost their perspective in West Balkans long time ago.
Almost 4,000 Serbs were expelled from their homes, six town and nine villages were ethnically cleansed, 935 houses belonging to Serbs and 10 public institutions (schools, health centres, post offices…) were ruined or torched in addition to 35 Orthodox churches (total 150 since bombings 1999). March 17thviolence was a sequel to the ethnic Albanian terror and war in Kosovo, as a result, more than 200.000 refugees or better say internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the province.
March 17th showed the total failure of the international community in Kosovo. Fabricated, biased or optimistic reports were singing the praises of conflict management and progress, intelligence – lacking touch with the local community – didn’t know anything about planned terror. The response of peacekeepers and police was also delayed. The commanders were unreachable, drunk or had hangover due to the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations after buckets of Irish whiskey and Guinness.
March 17th finalized IDP* problem –
After 72 days illegal bombing campaign 1999 international community started wide housing program for refugees and IDPs and with Albanians, it was a success while Kosovo accommodated nearly half million more Albanians than before bombing (don’t ask from where those extras came). Serbs instead were afraid to move back – like it was situation also with refugees from Croatia – so today Serbia is suffering one of the biggest (326,853 refugees and IDPs) refugee/IDP problems in the whole Europe.
/ IDP – Internally Displaced Persons*/
According to statistics from the UNHCR, there are about 206,000 IDPs from Kosovo living in Serbia. This fact has mostly ignored in western mainstream media. Their attitude is understandable since this media from the very beginning had fixed their one-sided picture about good and bad guys so Serbs somehow deserved their fate. The outcome is that Serb Refugees and IDPs from Kosovo are one of the forgotten and forsaken victim groups in the former Yugoslavia.
Here is the video of the Albanians breaking the cross from the Church
and setting a fire: youtube=http://youtu.be/fkgHkxIfgBc
After pogrom 2004 new housing program was planned but it is questionable if more people from non-Albanian ethnic groups moved in or out because of lack of security. March 17th guaranteed that Serbs are not considering to come back to their earlier homes and those who still live in enclave ghettos are planning to move anytime.
However, growing frustration among Kosovo Albanians made the international community fear that March 17th pogrom could repeat again so status talks had to be continued at any (Serbian) here) thing is that the Albanian side did not see necessary to negotiate anything, but to make more request because the U.S. had already promised that Belgrade will recognize their Independence (about the whole flow of negotiations see
Picture slide of some of the over 150 Orthodox Churched destroyed with explosives, burned or turned into PUBLIC TOILETS by Albanians in Kosovo since 1999.
Here’s an extract from Peacekeeper (in an Interview with Babsi Jones made a little before Kosovo’s unilateral independence declaration)The original (in Italian) is below:
What in the end is your opinion about that area of Europe? Healed wounds or are the wounds still open? Is there still a risk for new riots?
Babsi Jones: Badly sealed wounds and a lot of wounds are still open. Also a high risk of new riots. An analysis would take pages and pages. Peace in the ex-YU republics can only be a reality by solving the Kosovo question: at the moment it’s a little narco-state that pretends to be independent and it pretends it in a brutal way: just think about the pogrom of 2004. Totally ignored by Western mass media, it has legitimated ethnic cleansing of everything non-Albanian. If the institutions in charge to solve the Kosovo question go on ignoring Belgrade’s pleas and constructive requests and go on to consider Serbs “unreliable interlocutors” (what is done already for a long time for propaganda purpose or for convenience) the Balkanic area will be once again destabilized. Maybe it’s what the powerful forces want. Nevertheless, the biggest American military base since Vietnam is located in Kosovo. A tax-free zone, a dark spot that hosts traffic of weapons, drugs and humans is a good deal for everyone….except for thousands of fugitives and “Desaparecidos of non conform ethnicity..of course!
(here is the original in Italian)
Qual è infine, la tua opinione sulla situazione attuale di quell’area d’Europa? Ferite cicatrizzate, ferite ancora aperte? Rischio di nuovi scontri?
Babsi Jones: Ferite cicatrizzate male, e parecchie ferite ancora aperte, certamente. Rischio di nuovi scontri, anche. L’analisi richiederebbe pagine e pagine; se debbo darti una risposta succinta e diretta, forse scomoda, la pace nelle nuove Repubbliche ex-jugoslave passa per la questione del Kosovo: allo stato attuale è un piccolo narcostato che pretende la secessione e la pretende in modo brutale – basti pensare al pogrom del 2004, totalmente ignorato dai mass media occidentali, che ha di fatto legittimato la pulizia etnica di tutto quello che non è albanese. Se le istituzioni incaricate di gestire il problema-Kosovo continueranno a restar sorde agli appelli di Belgrado, alle proposte costruttive di Belgrado, se continueranno a considerare i serbi “interlocutori non credibili”, come da sempre fanno per propaganda e per convenienza, l’area balcanica si troverà nuovamente destabilizzata. Forse è quello che i poteri forti desiderano. In Kosovo, dopotutto, è stata innalzata la più grande base militare americana dai tempi del Vietnam… Un porto franco, una zona scura che ospiti traffico d’armi, di droga e di uomini fa comodo a tutti, tranne alle migliaia di profughi e di desaparecidos di etnia “non conforme”, naturalmente…
Ari Rusilla – Personal Perspective in Balkans,
Truth in Media Watch
Epharchy of Ras – Prizren, Serbian Orthodox Church
Nothing against Serbia, blog