News 04 Apr 13

Macedonians Demand Memorial for Teenage Albanian ‘Hero’

A Facebook campaign is calling on mayoral candidates in Skopje to build a memorial to a young ethnic Albanian who was killed while trying to protect his Macedonian friend from attackers.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Muhamed Ali Jashari died in 2011 trying to protect his friend

Supporters of the Facebook campaign are urging mayoral candidates to promise before the second round of local elections, due on April 7, that they will build at least a modest memorial to mark 19-year-old Muhamed Ali Jashari’s heroism.

“The preservation of the memory of the killed boy’s genuine deed, ignored by all relevant state merit awards, will contribute to unity between all the people who live in Skopje and in Macedonia,” the campaign page says.

“It will set an example to other children, an example of their peer who did not succumb to nationalistic propaganda and ethnic divisions,” it continues.

Jashari died on April 8, 2011, in the yard outside the Zdravko Cvetkovski high school in Skopje after he was hit in the chest by one of the bullies he was confronting.

According to the police report, as he was coming out of the school building, he saw his friend Darko Jancev being attacked in the yard by three bullies and rushed to help him.

The attackers, one of them a minor, quickly overpowered the two teenagers, knocking them unconscious, witnesses have told a court in Skopje during the ongoing trial of the three alleged assailants.

Jancev survived, but Jashari died in hospital later that day.

His death shocked the country, but initial calls for a tribute were soon forgotten by the authorities.

After the new Facebook initiative was launched this week, the initial responses from the mayoral contestants were positive.

“We are not familiar with the initiative but in principle we have nothing against it… the mayor will take a look at it,” said an official from the election headquarters of Skopje mayor Koce Trajanovski, who is running for a second term and leading after the first round of voting.

Trajanovski’s opponent, Jani Makraduli, also welcomed the proposal.

“The people are right to ask for some kind of remembrance… we’re asking why this was not done by the city authorities earlier,” Makraduli’s campaign headquarters told Balkan Insight.

The move comes in the midst of fragile ethnic relations in Macedonia, where Albanians make up a quarter of the population of 2.1 million people.

Its reconciliatory tone is in stark contrast to violent ethnically-charged protests which erupted on two consecutive days in Skopje last month, sparked by the controversial appointment of a former ethnic Albanian guerrilla, Talat Xhaferi, as defence minister.
The protests were attended almost exclusively by youngsters, many of them visibly minors.

In 2001 Macedonia went through a short but intense armed conflict between government forces and ethnic Albanian rebels, which ended later the same year with the signing of the Ohrid accord, which granted more rights to Albanians.

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