News 10 Jun 15

Kosovo Reburies Albanian Hero Isa Boletini

Isa Boletini, a military leader and national hero in Kosovo and Albania, was reburied at a ceremony in his home village in northern Kosovo, almost a century after his death.

Petrit Collaku, Una Hajdari
Boletini's coffin in the Kosovo parliament. Photo: BIRN.

Boletini, an Albanian nationalist fighter who helped to lead military struggles against the Ottoman Empire and Serbian and Montenegrin forces in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was reburied at a ceremony in the village of Boletin, in the northern part of the divided town of Mitrovica, on Wednesday.

Hundreds of people attended the reburial which followed a public tribute at Mitrovica’s football stadium, where senior officials including Albanian President Bujar Nishani made speeches.

“It’s a special honour to be invited to this historic ceremony because today history is being rewritten by ending the journey of Isa Boletini, who is coming back to a free Kosovo, as he wanted while he was alive,” Nishani said.

Kosovo’s Prime Minister Isa Mustafa said Boletini inspired people to fight for the freedom of Albanians in the 19th century.

“Isa’s generation fought for the dream of freedom for all Albanians,” said Mustafa.

There was also a ceremonial session of the Kosovo parliament in Boletini's honour on Tuesday.

Xhavit Haliti, a member of the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo, said at the parliamentary tribute that "it is a great privilege to be able to honour [his] memory".

“Isa Boletini deserves the respect of all Albanians and his grave will be turned into a shrine for all the Albanians in the Balkans,” he said.

Dozens of admirers also attended the open session of parliament.

Neriman Braha from Pristina said that Boletini fought to have Kosovo united with Albania and that his dream must be fulfilled.

“He had this famous saying: ‘I am well when Albania is well.’ But Albania continues to remain as it was since the time he was killed. He will rest peacefully only in one united country, as he dreamed of it,” Braha told BIRN.

Qazim Ferizaj came from Tropoje in Albania to pay homage. “Isa Boletini united all the Albanians,” he told BIRN.

In the days before the parliamentary session in Pristina, Boletini’s remains were taken on a tour of other Kosovo towns including Prizren, Decan/Decane, and Skenderaj/Srbica.

Boletini was killed in a fight in Montenegro in 1916 and buried in the capital Podgorica. In 1998, his remains were exhumed and brought to Mitrovica, where they were kept in the town’s mosque.

They were removed in 2011 - largely for security reasons in Kosovo’s troubled north - and sent to the department of forensics in Pristina, where they were kept until this year.

A decision last month to rebury Boletini in Vlore, made by Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci and Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama, sparked negative reactions among Kosovo Albanians.

The Boletini family agreed first to rebury him in Vlore but then reversed their decision.

The honouring of Boletini was condemned by Serb minority MPs in Kosovo, who boycotted Tuesday’s parliamentary session, calling it a provocation.

Aleksandar Jablanovic of the Civic Initiative Srpska said it showed “a lack of consideration for the feelings” of Serbs in Kosovo.

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