Nine years since March pogroms

Nine years since March pogroms

Nine years ago, on the night of March 17, in Kosovo and Metohija broke the "hunting for the Serbs."

Nine years ago, on the night of March 17, in Kosovo and Metohija was unleashed the "hunting for the Serbs". Two terrible nights began, and ethnic hatred and destructive fury were restless. Thousands of refugees, dozens of churches, monasteries, cemeteries were desecrated and destroyed.

, Contextualizing the historical background, an interesting article written by a friend of ours, Katarina Lazić, will help us to understand better in the scientific way what has really happened.

The anti-Serbian pogroms in March 2004

Sometimes we may wonder whether the spirit of the Balkan peoples has not been permanently poisoned by violence and that for them, perhaps, the only way to coexist is to constantly do the violence and be an object of it. Ivo Andrić, Znakovi pored puta

A clear purpose was behind the violence: get rid of the Serbs and other minorities remained in Kosovo, explained Human Rights Watch in a report on the March incidents.

Nineteen man and women dead, over a thousand injured, seven hundred Serb houses burned, numerous medieval monasteries damaged. Priština, Svinjare, Vučitrn, Đakovica, and Prizren: not even an inch of Kosovo was immune to the anti-Serbian pogroms that flare up in the Kosovo region on March 17, 2004.

To trigger the so-called Crystal Night was the death of the three Albanian boys - Egzon Deliu, Avni and Florent Veseli drowned in the Ibar River on March 16. The explanation given is that they have been first threatened and then chased by a group of Serbs who incited a dog against them.

In summarizing the story in front of the cameras, Fitim Veseli – the only survivor of the incident - not even once said to have been chased by the Serbs. Despite this, the Kosovar Albanians supported the thesis of the murder on ethnic grounds, despite the fact that the Unmik’s spokesman (United Nation Mission in Kosovo), Neridge Singnek had asked not to draw hasty conclusions.

About 50,000 Albanians fled the streets. Many of them were veterans of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The wave of violence started from Mitrovica. Fierce clashes were accompanied by throwing Molotov cocktails, shots, stone-throwing. The clashes then spread everywhere.

During the March 2004 riots the Devic monastery near Srbica was demolished, together with the dormitories of the monastery Sveti Arhangeli near Prizren. In the same area the church of Bogorodica Ljeviška built in the fourteenth century (also one of the Unesco’s World Heritage Sites) and the sixteenth century church of Sveti Đorđe were seriously damaged.

More than 10,000 valuable items disappeared along with the documents that were preserved in churches and monasteries. On the wall was written "Death to Serbs".

Why all this?

The Head of the Un Mission in 2004, the Danish Harri Holkeri argued that Albanian extremists had "a plan ready" and that the mission was not able to control every aspect of daily life, as it did the year before.

However, the background of what happened is much more complex. On March 16, eighteen thousand Albanians fled to the streets to protest against the arrest of four former KLA leaders accused of war crimes by the Hague Tribunal. So the March 2004 became an opportunity to challenge the Unmik mission.
Another reason was the lack of economic improvement together with uncertainties regarding the status of the region. The local parties worsen the situation defining the KFOR as an occupying power.

March 17 carried, in any case, an important message: The independence cannot wait for long.
The violence was an answer to the strategy “standards before status”, in which the international community demanded acceptable and democratic level security before ruling in favor of independence. Afterwards this strategy had to be abandoned in favor of the strategy: “status and then standards”.
The European Parliament in Strasbourg understood the message and in April 1 adopted a resolution in which called on the EU Council of Ministers to initiate the discussion on the status of Kosovo and Metohija.

The Serbian part explains that the operation Spring river was orchestrated by the National Movement for the Liberation of Kosovo (Levizja Popullore e Kosoves, Lpk) with aim to ethnically clean Kosovo and clear traces of the Serbian presence in the province. In the first phase of the operation, the task was to bring the Serbian population in the smallest possible space, and then, by threatening, to take it away from Kosovo. In the third phase it was expected to completely isolate the remaining Serbs. KFOR carried away by the Serbs Merdare border in central Serbia. The Albanians burned Serb houses.

The response of Belgrade was the Serbian government Plan drawn up on  April 29, 2004, that, on the basis of the Resolution 1244,  protects the integrity of the territory of Serbia, and is aimed to establish the legal and institutional guarantees for the Serb minority. The Plan also provided the territorial autonomy for the Serb minority and the decentralization of Kosovo.

The Albanians refused the plan a week after, explaining that it would lead to the territorial division of Kosovo & Metohija. At the same time, the Office for International Cooperation and dialogue has been opened. The real purpose of this step was, according to many, to lay the foundations for the future Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kosovo. And this move would be the first real step towards independence.

Pogroms have brought attention to the plight of minorities, and in particular on the question of the security. The fact that the soldiers of Kfor and Unmik have failed to stop the violence and destruction has been an alarming signal with consequences that is evident even today in Kosovo.

The events of 2004 are one of the answers to the question of the limited return of Serb refugees in Kosovo and Metohija.

Despite the massive amount of donations (the sum is ranging between ten and fifteen million euro) Kosovo & Metohija still do not have a democratic and multiethnic society and still the great portion of the problems remains unresolved.