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NEWS 02 Jun 17

Kosovo Rounds on Serbia for Refusing Jahjaga Entry

Kosovo's Minister for Dialogue, Edita Tahiri, has accused Serbia of violating the Brussels agreement on officials’ visits by refusing entry to ex-President Atifete Jahjaga, where she had hoped to promote her book on wartime rape victims.

Perparim Isufi, Filip Rudic
BIRN
Pristina, Belgrade
Atifete Jahjaga. Photo: Facebook

Kosovo's Minister for Dialogue, Edita Tahiri, has asked the European Union to intervene after the country's former president was denied entry to Serbia on Thursday to promote her book on wartime rape victims.

Tahiri on Friday said Atifete Jahjaga had respected all the procedures provided by the Brussels agreement on officials’ visits and that her “cultural and humanitarian” visit to Belgrade to highlight “the tragedy of Kosovars who survived wartime rape by Serbian forces” should not have been blocked.

The act shows that Serbia is not ready to face its past and is not ready for peace, justice and neighbourly relations with Kosovo, which is a key objective of the EU-facilitated dialogue, the ministry said.

Jahjaga on Friday took to Facebook to call the ban on speaking at the launch of the book “I Want To Be Heard”, which collects stories of rape survivors, as part of the “Mirëdita, Dobar Dan” festival, absurd.

She said that despite the ban, her office and festival officials had been in constant communication with the festival to ensure her eventual presence at the event.

“Admission of the truth on the crimes committed in Kosovo is the only way for two societies to move forward,” Jahjaga added.

“I have no illusions that Serbia's current officials will change their approach toward Kosovo because they are continuing the policy of the 1990s, a time when they were protagonists themselves,” Jahjaga said.

Praising the organizers of the festival, Jahjaga said they were clearly resolved not to allow “their [future] and the whole region’s future to be held hostage by these leaders who want to hide the truth”.

Anita Mitic, from the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, YIHR, the NGO that organized the festival, told BIRN on Friday that they are still working on possibly bringing her to Belgrade on Sunday.

"She is willing to come, but Serbia must guarantee her safety,” she added.

The YIHR group says police have offered no explanation for stopping Jahjaga at the border on Thursday. Serbian police also haven't immediately responded to a request for a comment.

"The entry ban ... is the consequence of political decisions made at the highest levels," YIHR said in a statement, adding the incident has "only confirmed the importance and need for a more intense and meaningful cooperation," the group told the Associated Press.

The Serbian police were not immediately available for comment.

Jahjaga had intended to speak at the promotion of her book on wartime rape survivors, which will take place at the Centre for Cultural Decontamination on Friday.

One far-right Serbian group, Zavetnici [Oath Keepers] had warned that it would stop the book promotion, calling it “another humiliation of Serbian citizens and the entire Serbian nation”.

Zavetnici and other rightists disrupted another event held during the Miredita! Dobar Dan festival on Thursday.

Kosovo's independence - and the subject of Serbian atrocities there - remain a sensitive issue in Serbia, especially among nationalists who insist that Kosovo is still part of Serbia.

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