bosnia report
New Series No. 9/10 April - July 1999
 
Macedonia and its Albanian population

From 1981 until 1992, every TV news bulletin began with `the struggle against Albanian nationalism and irredentism'. This means that someone who was, say, thirteen in 1981 grew to maturity with his or her head filled with the notion of an Albanian threat. This has left traces: the human psyche cannot be changed overnight. It is necessary to create a new ideological matrix which would nur ture an awareness of life in a multi-ethnic society. Over the years, however, a false picture has been created according to which Macedonia belongs only to ethnic Macedonians, while all others are either newcomers or enemies.

Given this, I can understand those young people who believe that the refugees come to Macedonia solely in order to alter its ethnic composition.

If Blaca is a symbol of the ethnic cleansing of Kosova, it is also a symbol of rejection of people on ethnic grounds. It tells me that we, Albanians from Mace donia, could also end up in a Blaca, if the current political structures had Milosevic's power.

The former rulers governed the country for eight years yet did nothing to im prove the situation. They did absolutely nothing to change the deeply rooted ethnic antagonism. [So far as the present government is concerned], some things are obvious. During the demonstrations in front of the American embassy, the po lice intervened after an hour's delay and no one was held to account for setting the building on fire. Imagine how the police would have reacted if the demonstrators had been Albanian and not Macedonian. This double standard is dan gerous for a multiethnic state. Rufi Osmani, the mayor of Gostivar, was sen tenced to seventeen and a half years in prison for displaying the Albanian flag on the town hall, and three people were killed by police during the demonstra tion there, although it was much less violent than the recent one in front of the American embassy, during which which Molotov cocktails were thrown.

Milosevic himself killed no one. As far as I know the Kosovars were killed by people who approve of his policy. It is very easy to fall into the trap of be lieving in collective responsibility, but there is no doubt that a large part of the Serbian people are drunk on chauvinism. Someone should explain how Milosevic can find so many people capable of murdering small children. Is their purpose to compromise all Serbs? TherÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ e are around 40,000 armed Serbs in Kosova today. The problem is not Milosevic, but how to overcome this chauvinistic delirium.

Kim Mehmeti is a respected Macedonian intellectual of Albanian nationality. He is a writer and editor of the Alternative Information Network (AIM). These extracts are from an interview published in the Sarajevo weekly Dani of 26 April1999; a fuller text was posted on the BI website.

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