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NEWS 01 Jun 17

Jahjaga Planned Visit to Serbia Meets Tabloids' Fury

A planned visit by Kosovo’s former President to Belgrade, to talk about victims of wartime rape, is meeting a bitterly hostile campaign from the Serbian tabloids.

Filip Rudic
Atifete Jahjaga. Photo: President of Kosovo official site

Serbian tabloids have prepared a bruising welcome for the former President of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga, who plans to visit Belgrade on Friday to promote a book about women who were raped during the Kosovo independence war of the late 1990s.

Anita Mitic, from Youth Initiative for Human Rights, the NGO that organised the festival, said many of the tabloid headlines were "gruesome".

A May 30 headline in the pro-government tabloid Informer read: "New Strike from the Shiptars [abusive term for Albanians]: She is Raping Serbia."

Another tabloid, Kurir, called the visit "scandalous" while several online portals have also run highly negative articles about her visit.

"It’s a terrible message to send to the public," Mitic told BIRN, recalling that Jahjaga spent much of her term as President trying to make sure the forgotten voices of women victims of the war were finally heard.

Jahjaga will speak at the promotion of the book, "I want to be heard: a book of memories with stories of women who were subjected to torture in the last war in Kosovo", which will take place at the Centre for Cultural Decontamination.

Mitic said the police had agreed to secure the Miredita! Dobar Dan festival, which runs from May 31 to June 3, at which the promotion will take place. Jahjaga will only attend on Friday.

"She was approved for entry into Serbia and our police have assumed responsibility for her safety," Mitic said.

As the first woman President of Kosovo, from 2011 to 2015, Jahjaga launched a national campaign to raise public awareness about women victims of rape, abuse and torture during the independence war from Serbia in the late-1990s.

During this period, she visited survivors of crimes throughout Kosovo, placing this issue in the spotlight, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights said.

According to the Initiative, her commitment to raising awareness about this issue has prompted many victims to seek help and not feel rejected by society.

As BIRN has reported, many women victims of the war in Kosovo have remained silent about their wartime experience owing to the stigma attached to rape in Kosovo's patriarchal society.

The planned visit is controversial in Serbia because most Serbs still strongly resent Kosovo's independence, seeing Kosovo as a historic part of Serbia. Prejudice against Kosovo Albanians remains widespread.

Serbian governments have vowed never to recognise Kosovo's statehood - although they are committed to "normalising" ties under EU auspices.

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