As an aspiring socio-cultural anthropologist (specifically medical anthropologist), being in Kosovo is quite the experience. The Republic of Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008. Since then, slightly more than half of the countries in the United Nations have recognized Kosovo’s independence.
Its status continues to be contested as Kosovars cannot obtain a Kosovar passport. As a new nation that is nearly 90% Albanian and 10% Serbian, I find the culture to be one that has yet to be defined. As a republic that is 11 years old, most identify with their ethnic group and usually do not simply refer to themselves as Kosovars. Most identify as Kosovar Albanians or Kosovar Serbians.
(Jashari family compound attacked during Prekaz Massacre on March 1998.)
On Saturday, July 6, I visited the site where the Prekaz Massacre occurred. This site was an attack lead by the Special Anti-Terrorism Unit of Serbia to attack leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Between March 5- March 7, 1998, the Special Anti-Terrorism Unit killed 58 people, including KLA leader and co-founder, Adem Jashari. The only survivor was Adem Jashari’s brother, Hamëz Jashari’s daughter Besarta Jashari. The family is buried at a memorial that is near the family compound.
(Photos of the Memorial Complex Adem Jashari in Prekaz, Kosovo)
Borders are social constructs that have caused many conflicts worldwide. Border disputes still occur today and many lives have been lost to protect a line that may be labeled as arbitrary. With territory comes great power and excessive power can lead to nationalistic policies that affect many lives. Kosovo is unique in that it lies in the intersectionality of being both an independent state and a disputed territory. I have only been in the Balkan region for two weeks now and I sense the tension that still lingers in the region.
I was ashamed and embarrassed by my lack of knowledge of Kosovo because I had never learned about it in school before, especially since the conflict ended in 1999. This is during my lifetime. I took a world history class and the Kosovo or Bosnian Wars were never mentioned. The love that Kosovars have for Americans and the investment that the United States has made in Kosovo, makes it well worth to be taught in schools in the U.S. I talked to other students in the program and they also were not taught about the conflict.
I believe that learning about the peacekeeping efforts between Kosovo and Serbia is important because the war was preventable. The Holocaust should have been the last genocide to ever occur, but yet death due to petty human indifferences such as religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, and mental health status, still, happen.
As George Santayana once said, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. The Kosovo war ended 20 years ago. The Holocaust ended 74 years ago. What are we learning as an international community of global citizens about human rights abuses? Conflict is inevitable, but I believe that there are some measures that can be taken before conflicts turn into a war. Governments fight, but civilians always suffer and pay grave consequences. In my human rights course, I learned about how there are 1648 missing persons from the war and many women were raped by members of the Serbian military. The pain lingers in the hearts and minds of Kosovars.
What I have come to learn about borders and territories as it relates to conflict is that no person can be neutral in the conflict. All ethnic groups in the Balkan region have committed human rights abuses and dialogue is important to prevent war from happening again. World peace is often romanticized in society, but viable peace is much more attainable than world peace. As I continue with the program, I will continue to study the conflict in this region while looking at all parties involved without praising one group over the other.