News 13 Jan 15

Kosovo Minister Urged to Quit for ‘Savages’ Statement

Calls have increased for the resignation of Kosovo minister Aleksandar Jablanovic after he described Albanian protesters who rallied against Serb pilgrims at Orthodox Christmas as ‘savages’.

Petit Collaku, Marija Ristic
Pristina, Belgrade



Aleksandar Jablanovic, Kosovo’s minister for communities and return. Photo by BETA.

The Albanian Students Union on Tuesday joined calls for Jablanovic’s dismissal as Kosovo’s minister for communities and return, accusing him of making a “fascist statement that stressed chauvinism towards Albanian people”.

The union, an umbrella group for all student unions in public universities in Kosovo, also called on the state prosecution to issue a warrant for Jablanovic’s arrest for ethnic hate speech.

“Such statements reopen wounds and inter-ethnic hate caused by neighbouring Serbian people,” it said in a statement.

Jablanovic made his comment on the eve of Orthodox Christmas, January 6, after about 100 Kosovo Albanian protesters rallied against Serb pilgrims from Belgrade who tried to visit an Orthodox church in Gjakova/Djakovica.

Kosovo police arrested two members of the nationalist Vetevendosje Movement opposition party for throwing ice at a bus carrying the pilgrims, who decided to call off their visit after the attack.

“Savages in Djakovica have ruined the [Christmas] holiday for people who came to their houses that were burned [after the war in 1999],” Jablanovic, a member of the Srpska Lista bloc, which is part of the governing coalition in Kosovo, said in response.

Gjakova/Djakovica was the scene of heavy fighting between Yugoslav forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army during the war, when the majority of Kosovo Albanians were expelled and many civilians killed.

Protest in Gjakova/Djakovica on Sunday. Photo by BETA.

The Vetevendosje Movement accused him of insulting war victims and held a protest in Gjakova/Djakovica on Sunday, with demonstrators carrying placards with the slogan “Jablanovic Non Grata”.

The protest was attended by local mayor Mimoza Kusari-Lila, who has also asked Prime Minister Isa Mustafa for Jablanovic’s dismissal.

“What happened in Kosovo in 1999 is known by the whole world and in particular by those living in Europe, not to mention the Balkans,” Kusari-Lila said.

Jablanovic responded by saying that he was only criticising the protesters who attacked the pilgrims’ bus and did not mean to offend ordinary people in Gjakova/Djakovica.

“I have respect for the victims on both sides and to be honest, I didn’t know about such catastrophic losses in Djakovica during the bombardment. I have learned this after this statement from some of my Albanian friends,” he told media.

Nysrete Kumnova, head of a missing persons association called Mother’s Calls, said that Jablanovic’s statement was derogatory and warned Kosovo’s premier to sack the minister or face protests.

“He called us beasts,” Kumnova said.

The Serbian Association of Victims however defended Jablanovic, saying that “he was not thinking of the whole Albanian nation” when he made his controversial statement.

“Minister Jablanovic was revolted by the attack on a bus with pilgrims,” the association said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Hague Tribunal has convicted six senior Serb officials of crimes against Kosovo Albanians in Gjakova/Djakovica - Nikola Sainovic, Dragoljub Ojdanic, Nebojsa Pavkovic, Sreten Lukic, Vladimir Lazarevic and Vlastimir Djordjevic.

Following the signing of Kumanovo agreement which ended the conflict, all Kosovo Serbs were expelled from the Gjakova/Djakovica area and their homes burned. Many Serbs who were killed in the period after July 1999 are still listed as missing.

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