REPORTAGE: A Minority Report, Kosovo Eight Years After

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

The script

Title: A Minority Report (Kosovo Minorities Eight Years After)
Written and directed by: Stefano Giantin
Production: Saputnik Film
Country: Italy
Year: 2007
Length: Approx. 52’       
 

Georgy Kakuk: What to import to Kosovo? A couple of tons of brains, and change it…

Narration: Kosovo is a region roughly the size of Cyprus, located in the south of the Balkan peninsula. It has the population of around 2,2 million, 90% of those Albanians. In 1999, the Security Council Resolution 1244 established the United Nations Mission in Kosovo. UNMIK is the UN largest peacebuilding operation undertaken. UN Mission is delegating responsibility to an extraordinary number of actors, ranging from the OSCE and the European Union to NATO. UNMIK entered Kosovo under the banner of human rights. However, UNMIK failed to organise any effective police service in its first three months of operations – a basic prerequisite for securing even the most basic human rights. In the absence of law and order, organised crime flourished and the spirit of vengeance of part of the Kosovo Albanian majority remained unchecked. Murders, kidnappings and systemic harassment provoked a new exodus of population, parallel to the return of 900.000 Albanian refugees who fled Kosovo during the war. In total, since the beginning of the international administration, around 200.000 Serbs and 40.000 Roma fled Kosovo. This documentary tells the odyssey of some of those who tried to return.

Svetlana Vasiljkovic: In Zitinje we had a car, tractor, house, cows, everything that a household should have. The war began, we left and we left everything behind, Albanians have burned our houses, destroyed it, nothing remained. We could not return. There were no conditions, there is no freedom.

Narration: The Vasiljkovic family is originally from Zitinje, a small village close to the Macedonian border. Zitinje was a mixed village until 1999, but after the arrival of KFOR troops to Kosovo, murders and harassment forced the Serbs to leave.  All 400 Serbs fled village in September that year, their homes burned despite a strong US military presence. Zitinje was not an isolated case. At the beginning of the UN mission, hundreds of villages and towns were cleansed of Serbs.

Svetlana Vasiljkovic: In 1999, they killed my father in law. He was in the field with cattle and we never had anything to do with army or police. After that they killed two men and one woman and then we left. We came here and we didn’t have doors or windows, papers were everywhere, everything was in a mess. For two years we haven’t received any aid not from Serbian Red Cross, not from UNHCR, not from any organization.

Narration: The Vasiljkovic family survived for seven years in what used to be the library of  Partes, village  just 10 kilometres away from Zitinje, their home town. This family represents just one of the hundred thousand cases of Serbs, who fled their homes in 1999, after the end of the war. Kosovo Roma shared the same destiny. They too were besieged by the post-war violence.

Patricia Waring: I think many of them were very very concerned that might be some reprisals against them in the post conflict period given the fact that they seemed to be more pro-Serb than pro-majority community so, I think that was one reason why they left.

Tahir Gusani: We were very afraid. When bombing was finished the French army came to our houses, told us to escape, telling us “Serbia, Serbia”. It meant that we should leave our houses.

Arben Begesi: I had two houses and both are destroyed. There is nothing more there now.

Samir Bajrami: We had three houses there and everything is destroyed.

Narration: According to census figures around 45.000 Roma resided in Kosovo before 1999. Around 40.000 were forced to leave Kosovo during the international administration.

Patricia Waring: What has been left within Kosovo is an appalling small number and when you consider the thriving communities before the war, the thriving Roma culture, it’s truly shocking.

Narration: The biggest Roma settlement in Kosovo was the Mahalla, located in the Southern part of Mitrovica. The Mahalla, literally “neighbourhood”, was not a traditional Roma slum.  Most of the inhabitants lived in good houses and they were well integrated into the community.

Tahir Gusani: I am from the southern part of Mitrovica.

Q: From Mahalla?

– From Mahalla, I was born there; my father was born there, brothers, grandparents, we lived there.

Habib Hajdini: That was perhaps the largest Roma settlement in Kosovo. Some 8000 people lived there with more than thousand houses.

Tahir Gusani: I had a good and solid house. They denied me of that. They took that away from me, as if they had taken my heart away.

Narration: The vast majority of Roma left the province. The few who stayed in Kosovo had no place to go. Therefore one of the tasks of the international community in Kosovo was to provide them with assistance.

Patricia Waring: For what was supposed to be a very short term period they were placed in three IDP camps quite close to each other – Cesmin Lug, Zitkovac and Kablare barracks.

Narration: According to UNHCR, the IDP camps were not supposed to host them any longer than 90 days.

Patricia Waring: Those camps were inadequate in terms of provision of water, in sewage, canalization and so on. They were extremely, extremely unhygienic.

Narration: Another problem was lead contamination. Lead contamination is a worldwide problem, but in Mitrovica it is particularly serious, as the city is just two kilometres from Trepca, one of the largest zinc, silver, lignite and lead mines in the whole of Europe. Camps for Roma built by UNMIK were located opposite some of the dumping grounds of the mines. The consequences of lead contamination, in particular for children, are extremely damaging. According to the World Health Organization, only a level of 10 micrograms of lead per decilitre or below is acceptable. In the three IDP camps the level measured in some children was almost four times this figure.

Patricia Waring: There are a variety of reasons for lead contamination. One of the best ways for them to make an ongoing income is to do legal lead smelting…

Habib Hajdini: It is not about us melting the lead, but about the soil, which was contaminated by the waste from the Trepca mine. In front of the camp there was some waste from before. And every time a wind blew the dust from that place ended up in the camp.

Narration: In 2006 the European Roma Rights Centre, a respected NGO, filed a lawsuit against UNMIK, alleging that the Mission had been aware of the lead poisoning in the camps since 2000. But UNMIK is officially rejecting any responsibility.

Patricia Waring: I believe that, and I came here in 2004, I believe that the degree of lead contamination was discovered after the Roma had moved there.

Narration: What’s striking is the fact that instead of the 90 days originally envisaged, Roma stayed in those contaminated camps for more than seven years. The reconstruction of the Mahalla in Mitrovica only started in 2006.

Patricia Waring: For the Roma, as a sort of forgotten, marginalized people it was only in the past year, or year and a half, that the international community has become really mobilized to work, to assist the Roma in the return to the Mahalla.

Arben Begeshi: They keep on saying the same thing and that’s been going on for the last seven years.

Tahir Gusani: We have been living in the camp for seven years. Nobody helps us and nobody comes to see how we are doing.

Narration: If we could say that the international community almost forgot the marginalized Kosovo Roma community, the situation of Serb IDPs was quite different. At least on paper. The international community has invested millions of euros in facilitating their return. Hundreds of international governmental and non-governmental organizations were engaged in the return process. But the results leave much to be desired.

Dmitry Pozhidaev: Where we were not that successful was the return of non-Albanian communities.

Georgy Kakuk: The balance at the end of the day is negative, we were unable to convince people and mass to come back to Kosovo.

Joachim Ruecker: The return process overall of course is, still too slow from our perspective, it could and should accelerate, but of course it’s important to have the right conditions in place.

Gustavo D'Angelo: The figure provided by UNHCR is it about 15.000 of an estimated 200.000 IDPs have only returned. That’s about 6% in seven years. That’s nothing.

Narration: Since 2003, various donors have invested more than 70 million euros in the return process. And the 15.000 figure is a generous estimate of the number of returnees to Kosovo. An example of this failure is a village of Zitinje. In 2004 CARE International signed a contract with the European Agency of Reconstruction for the rehabilitation of 32 Serbian houses in Zitinje, destroyed in 1999.

Gustavo D'Angelo: Zitinje is a very sad experience for us because we were very involved in this initiative.

Narration: The Vasiljkovic family, one of the potential returnees to Zhitinje, had many reservations about the project implementation.

Svetlana Vasiljkovic: They did not want to hire any Serb for the reconstruction of the houses. They said it was not safe for us to come to work on our houses in Zitinje. If it’s not safe for us to work on our houses, in our own village how can it be safe for us to go back?

Gustavo D'Angelo: The donors would never accept that. The donors would never accept it for a number of reasons. First, because there is no security that if you give them the money they would not invest the money in the house but would take it away.

Narration: So, it was not really about security of the returnees, but more about the security of donors’ money. During the reconstruction CARE, like every organisation involved in return projects had to implement the so-called balancing component. The balancing component acts as a sweetener, a financial incentive to encourage the majority community to accept the reintegration of returnees. Moreover, the receiving community has a kind of veto power, the right to refuse people that are on the list for return.

Shahzad Bangash: I would not call it veto power of the receiving community. Their only concern usually is when they look at the list they want to know if somebody has been sort of collaborator during the conflict.

Gustavo D'Angelo: We have to be very honest and say that in most cases people decide to work in a multiethnic dimension because of opportunistic reasons. Because they can have access to the facilities that otherwise they would never access. It might be a better road, it might be a water system, it might be a sewage system, it might be a school or health centre or whatever.

Narration: After the completion of the reconstruction and infrastructure works, as the date to return loomed closer, problems begun.

Gustavo D'Angelo: Hate graffiti on the walls. In one instance there was a robbery in one of the houses. There was one incident of stoning of windows. We had the perception that there was resistance.

Svetlana Vasiljkovic: Three families were supposed to go back in October, and they mined a house in Zitinje. After that nobody returned – people were afraid to return.

Gustavo D'Angelo: This blasting of the house took place the day before the Serb families announced that they were returning to the community. The day before they have announced that they were moving.

Narration: Despite the bombing, some people tried to return.

Gustavo D'Angelo: In April this year two Roma families returned to Zitinje and they had to leave because they were intimidated. They were threatened and they left. And you cannot blame them. You can understand why they don’t want to return. Security is a major issue. How can you return to a village where you feel that you are not wanted?

Svetlana Vasiljkovic: They pressured us to return saying that they would give our houses to some poor Albanian families. We told them they should do that! That land is ours; nobody can take it away from us.

Gustavo D'Angelo: The problem is if the house is reconstructed and the house is not used, it passes under the administration of the municipality for some time.

Q: Immediately?

- Immediately! Yes!

Svetlana Vasiljkovic: We lost all our hope that we would ever return. – Did you have hope at the beginning? -  Yes, that’s why we stayed. Instead of buying a peace of land somewhere else, we spent all our savings during the last seven years. Now we are left with nothing. We cannot go forward or back.

Narration: So, the returnees did not return. The receiving community keeps the advantages of the balancing component, and the houses built for IDPs effectively became the property of the municipality. Why invest so much money for nothing? Are the so-called return projects just a façade for depicting a not existing multiethnic Kosovo, for giving jobs to local and international construction firms and building new roads for the majority community?

Gustavo D'Angelo: We just completed a very interesting study of the impact of peacebuilding activities in Kosovo. The results of this research are really disturbing.  What they are saying is that we are not having any impact.

Narration: The Serbian population of Zitinje will never go back to their original homes. The situation of the Roma in Mitrovica is similar. The reconstruction of the Mahalla, which has started just in 2006, is now ground to a hold because of lack of funds and political will. UNMIK just moved the majority of Roma from the three contaminated camps into a former army base in the centre of Mitrovica, Camp Osterode. According to UN Officials, 1.6 million euro was spent on this project.

Patricia Waring: Many people ask: Why didn’t you just put all that money into the building of the permanent residences at Roma Mahalla? Our answer was very simple. We know it’s going to take two years to complete the building of Roma Mahalla. We cannot have families and children living in those lead conditions for two years.

Habib Hajdini: We asked for proper living conditions here. But we did not get anything. They have put asphalt and some people think that it’s clean here. But if I have six, seven-member family and I got only one room! That’s a disaster. That influences everything, even sexual relations. You cannot do it in front of children. You need two rooms.

Narration: Tahir Gushani is one of the Roma from the Leposavic camp who refused to move to Camp Osterode.

Tahir Gusani: From one camp to another, we already have a camp here. I don’t want to go from one camp to another. I want to go from here directly to my place, where I was born.

Narration: The Roma from the Mahalla will probably stay in Camp Osterode in Mitrovica for years. The city is like a small scale Cold War Berlin, divided between North and South, Serb and Albanian, by the Ibar river. The main bridge in Mitrovica, patrolled by KFOR and police 24 hours a day, acts as a metaphor of a present day Kosovo. In this province bridges separate rather than unite different ethnic groups.

Narration: Though the Vasiljkovic family from Zitinje and the Roma from the Mahalla still have not returned, some people managed to go back to their homes.

Shazhad Bangash: Good afternoon Mafuz. Shazhad here! How are you? We wanted to know what could be termed as two successful and two failed return projects. So, of course I would put Babljak as one of the success stories, do you agree?

Narration: The first sign of life that we encountered entering the Serbian part of Babljak was an elderly woman sitting in front of her returnee’s house. After the destruction of the Serbian homes in 1999 and the recent reconstruction, the village changed so much that this 92-year old woman was unable to recognize her environment anymore.

Mirjana Vuksanovic: My house is in Babljak.

Q: But this is Babljak.

- Here is Babjak, but my house was over there. My house was at the end of village, not here. But then everybody left, there was nobody, and I was scared.

Narration: Rajko Denic, one of the Serb returnees was also a coordinator for return on behalf of US based NGO that implemented the project.

Rajko Denic: 46 houses were built for Serbs and 2 for Albanians. The project was entirely multiethnic.

Soeren Jessen Petersen: If this thing is coming together here in Babljak, show that return is possible, is happening, and will happen the next several days and weeks. So, Babljak is a very good example, I am seeing more and more of the good examples.

Narration: By 2005 the return project assisted 43 families in total to go back to Babljak.Since they returned circumstances have changed to great deal.

Rajko Denic: Young people cannot come back – nobody can find a job. There is no chance to work somewhere. Nobody is working the land. We are selling what we can sell, the rest is used by "them". We just watch, we don’t want to fight.

Narration: As in Babljak, the majority returnees are farmers. But farmers without land. Not because they don’t own the land, but because is often occupied illegally by neighbours. Even if returnees have access to their fields, in many cases they cannot work it, because farm machinery and livestock are often stolen.

Snezana Dubic: Except for my tractor that has been stolen, recently, two months ago, they also stole my neighbor’s tractor. If my son had a tractor, he could plough. Things would get better.

Svetlana Vasiljkovic: They are using our land, but only for grass, they don’t want to work on it.

Nikola Stojanovic: Even today they use my land and I don’t get anything for that. And nobody does anything about that.

Narration: Before the war, the Stojanovic family lived in Zegra. They owned houses and a lot of land. Now they live displaced, 5 kilometers away in Donja Budriga.

Stana Stojanovic: Both shack and bathroom are covered in cracks. You can see that. They say that they give aid. But to whom? Where does the aid go? To those skillful ones.

Narration: The Stojanovic family has managed to survive till now in a shack. Ms. Stojanovic was forced out of her job in 1999. The factory where she worked was recently privatized. As many other members of minorities, she received no money from the sale of the old enterprise, nor was she asked to return to work there again.

Stana Stojanovic: We worked until the very last day. We are workers who don’t exist. My workers booklet is still in the factory. I have no documents to prove that I worked there. I have one paper and the health insurance card.

Gustavo D'Angelo: It is by no means an accident that privatization has failed. And the few of the companies that have been sold were bought by Albanians but not because they are interesting in investing but because they are speculating. In a largely unproductive economy, speculation is what drives the economy.

Narration: Even Kofi Annan Special Envoy to Kosovo, Mr. Kai Aide, stressed the negative impact of privatization on the province’s minorities. Not only have privatization offered organized crime with opportunities to launder their money, the process has also led to discrimination in employment along ethnic lines and hampered the economical sustainability of minority communities.

Joachim Ruecker: I did not agree with this assessment in the Kai Eide report. I think you have to see that privatization is a holistic exercise.  Even if the minorities should not participate, I think they profit from growth of employment that would affect the whole economy and that will lessen interethnic tensions. This is empiric evidence.

Narration: It is evident that the Stojanovic family have not profited from the purported economic growth in the province in recent years. Not only they were frozen out of the privatization process, they are also unemployed and their properties have never been reconstructed.

Nikola Stojanovic: I went to see my property. All was destroyed. Six hectares of forest, everything is destroyed. I cried a bit.

Narration: Without even access to their land, never mind access to the labour market, minorities will soon even disappear from their ghettos. Like in Babljak.

Rajko Denic: I am not saying that it’s hard just for us. It is hard for Albanians too.There is no economical stability. Only five families remained here. Not one young person has returned. You can’t come back – whenever we think that things are ok, some incident occurs, and people are scared.

Narration: Educational opportunities for minorities also influence the age profile of those remaining. Young people don’t come back to Kosovo.

Shazhad Bangash: Usually it is the elderly people which return.  I still see some positive signs in it, because once the elderly people would return, they would reclaim their property and they would resettle there, than, of course, their younger ones would also keep coming there and in future if there is a job opportunity for them…

Narration: Minority children have still to travel for long distances in UN armed vehicles to reach schools that teach in their language.  The right to a university education is almost completely denied.

Joachim Ruecker: Well, you have the university of Mitrovica. You have bilingual university here in Pristina.

Q: In which language is the University in Pristina?

- Well, they do have classes in Serbian.

Dmitry Pozhidaev: I am not justifying the leadership of Pristina University for not having any courses in Serbian. This is not right. I am not saying this is right. But, imagine, tomorrow we introduce courses in Serbian. Do you think somebody will attend them?

Sven Lindholm: Actually, with the higher education system they’ve had greater problems than any language use. You have to look at your priorities, and what are your priorities.  Are your priorities economic development, or is your priority environment or is your priority anti-discrimination? If you are politician leader you are hopefully going to go after the ones that are hopefully the most important issues. Now, anti-discrimination sometimes goes further down the agenda.

Georgy Kakuk: Of course the Albanian majority criticizing us about the existence of the parallel structures but they didn’t take time and say “wait a minute, what the mistakes we have done?” Because not letting patients, not welcoming Serbian patients into their hospitals created the health parallel structure, not letting non-Albanian speaker students into the Pristina University created the Mitrovica university.

Narration: In the areas still inhabited by Serbs, schools and clinics, even the postal service, are still run by people, who are paid by and answer to Belgrade and not to UNMIK in Pristina. Those are the so-called ‘parallel structures’.

Shazhad Bangash: Parallel structures have not helped Serbs to reintegrate.

Georgy Kakuk: These structures are the only option for a secondary health care and the only option for higher education within Kosovo.

Narration: The parallel structures did not facilitate the integration of the minorities in Kosovo. However, they have both helped the Serbian minority in preserving their identity and language, and provide basic services like health, education, and even food in places like the IDP camp of Gracanica.

Olgica Subotic: It’s bad here too. It is as if we were in prison – you cannot open windows, it’s very cold in the winter, the bathroom is down there, we take a bath on -25°, until we get here we get sick. Now is very hot during the day and we cannot go into the container until 1 AM. It’s awfully hot. The air is stale. You cannot sleep, you leave the door open and mice get in from the field.We used to get some for a while from some organizations. They helped us. Now we get no help.

Tamara Jerman: The temporary shelters are under the responsibility of UNMIK and indeed they are the ones that are together with us looking for the durable solution. I mean we are all somehow here to assist these people to find for them the best solution.

Narration: One solution would be to provide them with at least adequate food. At the moment, the food is provided by Serbian parallel structures, but – as we could see during our visit – that’s often not enough for the people in the camp.

Olgica Subotic: In 1999 we were forced out from our work places. Than they forced us out from our homes. Albanians returned in three months, and nobody of us has returned since 1999. They told us we would be back in Obilic in 3 months. It’s been 3 years since and nobody returned.

Narration: Mrs. Subotic is one of many Serbs and Roma, who lived in the urban areas of Kosovo before 1999. In 2007, with the exception of Northern Mitrovica, practically no Serbs or Roma are left in towns and cities like Pec, Pristina, Prizren or Urosevac.

Dmitry Pozhidaev: Well, with the exception of Klina. In Klina we do have urban returns.

Shazhad Bangash: There have been some very good successes in some municipalities including Klina and Istok.

Narration: To reach Klina we travelled 70 km from Pristina, heading East. The town is one of the centres of the Albanian Catholic community. In 1999, out of a population of 70.000 people, 10.000 were Serbs, around 5.000 Roma. Mr. Mazic was the first Serb returnee.

Miodrag Mazic: We left our houses. I was among the last ones. Fortunately I was their favourite repairman in this neighbourhood. I repaired cars, to be exact. I was affordable and I did it cheaply.  For three and a half years we were displaced in Kosovo Polje. Next year we moved around Serbia – without anything on our own – and Montenegro… We couldn’t manage there.

Narration: The Mazic family also lived in an IDP camp in Kosovo, waiting for the green light to return.

Miodrag Mazic: We waited in Bica in some sort of – it’s not nice to call it concentration camp – it’s more of a reservation. We lived there for 1 ½ year, next to the Italian base, surrounded by barbed wire.

Narration: After a year and a half in the camp, the international administration decided that the conditions were finally in place for return.

Miodrag Mazic: They always say that the 24 persons who returned to Klina returned spontaneously, unorganized, and we still suffer because of that.

Tamara Jerman: These are the people that have not entered into some kind of procedure already in the place of displacement but decided on their own to show up on their doors and then of course to start with the reconstruction of their houses usually and therefore, they are sometimes maybe the weakest.

Dmitry Pozhidaev: Nobody will be waiting for returnees here with a package of offers – here is your job, here is your apartment, here is the school for your kids, here is this, here is that.

Miodrag Mazic: The Guardian newspaper wrote about us and even that did not change anything. Still nobody helped us repair our houses. What excuse is there to say that there is no money for repairing of our houses, so we can live our lives with dignity? How are we to attract other people to come back? They keep telling us that there is no money. I would ask them, if there is money for them. Surely they live in normal living conditions, so why can’t they set something aside for us?

Narration: What makes life even harder for returnees like Mr. Mazic and his wife is that they have almost no access to information sources in the Serbian language. That’s a big problem for people who try to rebuild their lives in a social and political environment that, from their perspective, has changed markedly in the last seven years.

Miodrag Mazic: We don’t get any newspapers or magazines We can hear Serbian on TV only for 15 minutes and just to spite us they call it Bosnian language. Even so, I still think that it’s a shame that we have only 15 minutes per day. We are so isolated that we have to go to bed at 8 PM whether we feel like sleeping or not and get up at 8 AM because we have no reason to get up earlier. We would be just wasting the woods.

Narration: Newspapers in Serbian are brought once a week to the enclaves by UN buses, like in Upper Orahovac, where around 500 Serbs live in a completely separate part of the town, in literally a ghetto. UN buses also offer minorities a chance to move within Kosovo. With police escort they feel safer then when they travel alone.

Narration: Despite these many problems, the Mazic family nevertheless returned to Klina. But the tale of most of the Serbs and Roma who fled urban areas after 1999 is very different.

Dmitry Pozhidaev: With regard to Pristina, the pre-conflict population of about 40.000 dropped down to about 100 Serbs, here, in Pristina. These departures were associated with the sale of their properties. So, now the return of Serbs to Pristina is quite problematic.

Verica Ristic: I lived in Pristina until 1999. I am a Math teacher. My husband and I decided not leave. We didn’t have any reason to leave. We never did anything bad to anybody and we decided to stay.

Stanka Kujovic: My name is Kujovic Stanka, Krstic at birth. I was born in a village nearby Pristina. It doesn’t exist anymore. I lived in Pristina, I got married there, my child was born there. I had a modest, normal life.

Verica Ristic: On a daily basis relatives and friends who stayed were kidnapped and killed. We had threats; every day we were given deadlines to leave.

Stanka Kujovic: One evening they attacked me. As I opened the door when my neighbour was leaving, one of them grabbed me by the hair, then they barged in, looking for money and weapons, then they started beating me, till I was unconscious. They took all the money and jewellery, I had some golden jewellery, and they took everything what was worthy. I remained unconscious… but I don’t want to speak about the rest.

Verica Ristic: When we decided that night to leave Pristina we called our Albanian friend who started working as real estate agent. Although that was not selling. It was literally giving it away.

Stanka Kujovic: They attacked me twice again, the third time I had to escape with only what I was wearing. On August 1st 1999 they forced me out. I didn’t know where to go. Then I came back to Pristina – whatever happens, happens. I lived in a room where only one mattress could fit in. I stayed in Pristina for seven years.

Verica Ristic: It’s beautiful that we are so close to Pristina, we can smell the air and see its lights.

Dmitry Pozhidaev: Most of Serbs in Gracanica haven’t been here in Pristina for the past seven years. And it’s just a ten, fifteen minutes ride from Gracanica to here. They say they just don’t have any reason to come to Pristina, they have no wish to come to Pristina.

Stanka Kujovic: I am empty inside. Physically I am here but my soul is in Pristina.

Verica Ristic: We have passed through Pristina in OSCE car three times in the last year. We never set foot there; we just saw it from the car.

Narration: Although Mrs. Ristic can just see the lights of Pristina, Mr. Mazic’s future is decidedly darker. Today, Mr. Mazic and his wife manage to survive with the money earned from renting out two rooms in the house they once built for their son. But the price they pay for that income is high. They live almost hidden in the backyard of the property in order to avoid damaging the business of an Albanian who rents one of the shops.

Miodrag Mazic: This is how we live. There is a Chinese and an Albanian shop here. We cannot show up there. I make screens for them not to see me because they won’t have customers. Nobody would come into their shops. I am not damaging their reputation and they work normally.

Narration: Mr. Mazic was a well-known car mechanic. Today, solely due to his ethnicity, nobody visits his workshop.

Miodrag Mazic: Nobody can come. Some sort of threat exists, and everybody knows how good mechanic Mazic was.  It’s a pity that you can’t come and get your car fixed cheaply. We could earn something and survive but they just can’t com.

Narration: Not only this band of pensioners is suffering because of the boycott. Not even basic security can be taken for granted.

Sven Lindholm: If you are looking at crimes statistics, for Kosovo itself, it can be compared to any other society in the world and its relatively safe here.

Joachim Ruecker: Yes, there is an exaggeration. Actually, Kosovo has a lower crime rate than quite a few countries elsewhere, including Western Europe. You must see the figures. The potentially ethnically motivated crime rate in Kosovo is going down continuously and that’s only the potentially ethnically motivated crime.

Miodrag Mazic: We are constantly threatened. Why it has to be that way. They throw explosives and stones at our houses. This is not supposed to happen in this new democracy.

Habib Hajdini: We asked about security and freedom of movement. We were told to create that freedom ourselves.

Olgica Subotic: We don’t ask for anything special, just a basic security, freedom of movement.

Narration: There have been hundreds of attacks against the Serbian community in Kosovo, with the aim of intimidating and forcing the remaining few non-Albanians to leave the province. Once they leave the ghetto, the risk increases.

Shazhad Bangash: The Serbian minority community in Kosovo, they hesitate to freely move but unless they try to freely move there will be no freedom of movement. Some amount of risk has to be taken.

Dmitry Pozhidaev: It’s lack of desire to actually exercise whatever freedom of movement there might be.

Narration: According to UNMIK, freedom of movement in Kosovo is a question of will rather than question of minorities not being able to exercise this right.

Narration: To the casual visitor, Kosovo appears to adhere to the values of liberal tolerance in the name of which the West engaged with the province in 1999 conflict. But if that visitor leaves the cities and comes across the numerous abandoned Serbian villages, would come face to face with the depressing reality of life for minorities in Kosovo in 2007. Extremists have even targeted the dead, vandalizing graves and tombs.

Verica Ristic: Many of the tombstones are destroyed, many of them are damaged, the cemetery is mostly covered in weed, people cannot find their family tombstones.

Narration: If the international administration cannot even protect the dead no wonder that living have so little confidence in new Kosovo institutions. The only functioning and truly multiethnic authority in the province appears to be the organised crime gangs who have taken the advantage of UNMIK’s precarious grip on the province.

Gustavo D’Angelo: Organised crime is very difficult to quantify but everybody knows the importance of the organised crime as a fuel for the Kosovo economy.

Albert Moskowitz: Let’s talk about organised crime and danger to… We are finding out that it is difficult to attract people because they are afraid. Everyone knows everybody, you can’t keep a secret here, you can’t protect anybody here.

Narration: Minorities have little trust in Kosovo’s legal system. Most of reported crime remains unsolved.

Stanka Kujovic: I turned to the municipality, police, UNMIK, to everyone. All that was in vane, nobody ever contacted me.

Albert Moskowitz: I am aware that there has been a lot of criticism about either the lack of investigations and prosecutions or at least the insufficient number of them. People have to be realistic about how successful you can be in these cases.

Narration: UNMIK is always reluctant to define any crime against minorities in Kosovo as interethnic. They’d rather describe the situation in terms of a perceived lack of security. Nevertheless, even UNMIK cannot deny that the 2004 March riots have set back the returns process several years if not irreversibly. In March 2004 Kosovo was shocked by intercommunal violence.  The frustration of the Albanians’ demand for self-determination erupted both against UNMIK and against members of minorities. 935 houses belonging to minorities were completely destroyed, around 40 churches, monasteries and public buildings associated with minorities were torched, more than 4.100 Serbs and Roma became displaced. Everything happened before the eyes of UN, UNMIK Police, KFOR, and the Kosovo Police Service.

Harri Holkeri: The violence was the worst possible message.

Olgica Subotic: The mob came, they were between 7 and 77 years old. They had sticks and Molotov cocktails. The houses were set on fire with people inside. When we saw the entire Obilic on fire, we decided to leave. We didn’t take anything with us. There were many armoured vehicles of KFOR and UNMIK, but nobody went out on the street to at least fire a warning shot, to make that mob go away. Nobody. In Pristina they brought in Father Miroslav. He was hidden in the cellar, all dirty; his clothes were all torn up. That was also very hard for me to see.

Biserka Ivanovic: This is not 21st century, I am afraid to say.

Narration: The role of KFOR during the March riots was heavily criticized. Minorities accused the Kosovo Force of failing to protect them. German magazine Der Spiegel accused the German military of cowardice, in respect of its object failure to protect the Kosovo’s vulnerable minority communities.

Lt. Gen. Holger Kammerhoff: I have given the commanders of my multinational brigades the authority to use proportional force necessary to ensure the safety of our soldiers, to protect the innocent people of Kosovo and re-establish the freedom of movement of all in Kosovo.

Cpt. Heinz Nitsch: For sure if there is a crowd, especially if the children are in front, you would not use your shot weapons, of course. That’s a no-go.Obviously they were just for the destruction of Serb property, as you can see just here in the back. Here in Prizren to my knowledge no Serb was hurt. They all could leave, they got some deadline of few minutes to go and, well…

Narration: In many cases KFOR troops simply abandoned properties belonging to the Serb or Roma that were supposedly under their protection. The most notorious example of this was when German KFOR troops abandoned the ancient monastery of the Holy Archangels, near Prizren, during the riots. The leaders of the mobs requested KFOR leave, openly revealing that they wanted to burn the monastery down. KFOR complied with this polite request.

Cpt. Heinz Nitsch: You always have to ask the question what are you here for? Are you here to protect the people or are you to protect the walls. And of course the decision was to protect the people, so they evacuated the monks and then the monastery was empty.

Narration: The walls that captain Nitsch refers to are, among others, the walls of the Church of the Virgin of Lyevisha, dating from 14th century. This church is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage monuments. Other UNESCO’s sites, such as the monastery of Decani and the Patriarchate of Pec, were saved by other KFOR troops, such as the Italians. A determined show of force with tanks and heavy weaponry saved the treasury from certain destruction.

Narration: The events of March have had far-reaching consequences for Kosovo’s minorities. One of the worst was the death of the ideal of a multiethnic Kosovo.

Narration: It is difficult to leave Kosovo without a sense of pessimism. Living a privileged life in secured, gated compounds and air-conditioned ivory towers, it is perhaps no wonder that the super-annuated international bureaucrats in Pristina cannot fully appreciate the bleak existence of those marooned in somewhat less salubrious ghettoes. For the Serbs, Roma, Ashkali, Egyptians, Gorani and Croats, in essence, human rights remain an abstract, redundant words, an apology for failure.

Jean- Marie Guehenno: This is not our future as international civil servants, this is the future of the people of Kosovo and we must never forget that.

All Rights Reserved. © Saputnik Film 2007