Kosovo’s high school pupils are taught incorrect facts about what really happened during the 1999 war, says the Humanitarian Law Centre study.
The study by the Humanitarian Law Centre - Kosovo, was conducted at a number of secondary schools across Kosovo and is based on one-to-one and group interviews with children aged between 15-17 years-old about the war and its victims.
Kreshnik Sylejmani, the project coordinator, said that the findings show that pupils do not know what happened during the Kosovo war in 1998 and 1999.
“We have asked the kids about the number of killed and disappeared in Kosovo during the Kosovo war. Some children answered 250,000 victims. Their text books do not give them that information,” Sylejmani said.
The conflict in Kosovo between Serb security forces and the insurgent Kosovo Liberation Army, claimed around 10,000 victims, the majority Kosovo Albanians. The war ended after a 78-day NATO air-bombing campaign in 1999 that ousted Serb armed forces from the province, which was then put under UN administration.
Kosovo declared independence in 2008 - a move recognised by 89 UN member states, including the United States and 22 EU member states, but challenged by Belgrade.
The HLC’s round-table about transitional justice and facing the past, organized on Friday in Pristina, found that the lack of historical facts in the school curriculum about these painful events, is detrimental to children’s education and for reconciliation in the region.
During its study, the centre played tapes of war victims, describing their sufferings during the war, without revealing their ethnic background.
“Children in some regions did not even know that there were victims on the Serb side too, when they found out that the voice they were listening was of a Kosovo Serb victim. The children denied that there were Serb victims during the war, it was difficult for them to cope with the information we passed onto them,” Sylejmani added.
Shkelzen Gashi, a political scientist from Kosovo, presented his comparative study of 7th grade primary school history text books in Kosovo, Albania and Serbia.
He said that he had found a massive falsification and distortion of data, and a misrepresentation of events, in both the Albanian and Serb text books.
“Look at the famous events of 1389. In Serbia, the Battle of Kosovo is represented as a war, sanctioned by God himself. The fact that other Balkan nations also fought against the Ottoman Empire is not mentioned, " he said.
"In Kosovan books, the participation of other nations in the battle is over emphasised. Even Milos Obilic is transformed into an Albanian, and called Milos Kopiliq. He is even said to have come originally from Drenica, where our current Prime Minister is from,” Gashi added.
During his investigation, Gashi discovered that the Albanians and Serbs highlight the crimes of the other side, while remaining mute about their own. Kosovan history books fail to mention that Kosovo Serbs were killed during the 1999 war, while Serb books remain silent about the Albanians that were killed.
What he finds even more problematic is the hate speech that is used throughout the text books.
“I was horrified to find that instead of facts, figures and arguments, you find hate speech. The Kosovan books talk about state genocide against the Albanians. The Serb books, on the other hand, present the Kosovo Albanians as terrorists and fascists. These extreme views should not be found in history books for children aged of 15 and 17,” he said.
“Believe me, the history books that Hashim Thaci, Ivica Dacic and Sali Berisha read when they were in school were so much better than the current ones . At least they did not contain hate speech,” he added.