Kosovo Albanians: The Other Side
www.emperors-clothes.com, September 22, 1999

[Note from www.emperors-clothes.com. The following excerpts are taken from an interview with pro-Yugoslav Albanians, driven from Kosovo by the KLA, transcribed and edited by Greg Elich. Further editing by Jared Israel. Please feel free to duplicate. Please include all text including this note.]

Interviews are with Faik Jasari, Corin Ismali, and Fatmir Seholi, all members of the Kosovo Democratic Initiative.

Comments are by: Biljana Koteska, First Secretary of the United Nations Law Projects Center in Belgrade; Bajram Haliti, Secretary of the Republic of Serbia Secretariat for Development of Information on the Languages of National Minorities, and editor of "Ahimsa"; Jovan Damjanovic, President of the Roma organization in Yugoslavia.

Interview conducted by Barry Lituchy, Joe Friendly, Ayman El-Sayed, Ken Freeland, Jeff Goldberg and Gregory Elich, members of the North American Solidarity with Yugoslavia Delegation.

Belgrade, August 9, 1999


Faik Jasari, President, Kosovo Democratic Initiative, representative at peace talks in Rambouillet, member of the Temporary Executive Board in the pre-NATO Kosovo Government

Lituchy: Would you tell us a little bit about the Democratic Initiative?

Jasari: This is a new political party, formed only last year. Our position was for Kosovo-Metohija to stay in Yugoslavia, organize humanitarian aid for people, and oppose secession [from Yugoslavia].

Freeland: How many people does this party represent?

Jasari: We have 30,000 members. During the NATO aggression, we tried to encourage people to stay in Kosovo, not to leave. We helped people with food, medicine, blankets and so on. If anyone had trouble we tried to help.

[Since the NATO occupation began] about 10,000 members [of our party] have left Kosovo, about 20,000 remain. Many have been kidnapped or tortured by the KLA {EC Note: Kosovo Liberation Front which is now essentially running Kosovo under NATO occupation.}The refugees went to Serbia and Montenegro.

Lituchy: Are you a refugee?

Jasari: Yes, of course. I had to leave on June 18th. Members of the KLA were showing photos of my family and me to people, taking the pictures from home to home. One of my colleagues, Cafre Cuka, from Pec, was kidnapped. We still [know nothing] of his fate.

Lituchy: What did you leave behind?

Jasari: Our flat, all our furniture and belongings. My wife and I worked 34 years, now we have nothing. Nothing.

Lituchy: No assistance from the United States?

Jasari: No assistance from any organization. The government of Serbia arranged [accommodations].

Lituchy: Were any members of your family attacked?

Jasari: No one from my family. The KLA didn't have time. The KLA is looking for me, even now. If they find me, they will kill me.

Freeland: Was KFOR {EC Note: KFOR is the name for the NATO operation in Kosovo.}

Jasari: KFOR does nothing to protect us. They don't do their job.

Lituchy: Did you have discussions with KFOR?

Jasari: I sent an open letter to Mr. Kouchner [UN special representative for Kosovo] to discuss the situation in Kosovo and with my party but I received no response. Where is democracy and pluralism in Kosovo? I can't go there. I can't take part in the political process. Where is democracy?

Lituchy: Approximately how many Albanians were forced out of Kosovo by the KLA?

Jasari: About 150,000. About 200 were killed.

Lituchy: Tell us a little bit about the KLA.

Jasari: Initially the KLA was a separatist organization and then became a military organization. They killed loyal Albanians, Serbs, also Albanians who held public office.

Lituchy: What happened at Rambouillet?

Jasari: During 1998, the [Yugoslav] government tried to meet with KLA leaders 17 times, but the leaders refused. When Western countries asked Yugoslavia to meet the KLA in Rambouillet, Yugoslavia sent representatives.

Lituchy: Did they ever meet face-to-face?

Jasari: Only once, at the first meeting with Jacques Chirac.

Lituchy: An introductory meeting?

Koteska: Yes.

Lituchy: Why no negotiations?

Jasari: Our representatives tried to meet them face-to-face every day but they refused. They did only what the United States told them.

Lituchy: Did you ever walk up to one of the KLA people and say, 'why can't we discuss this?'

Jasari: We couldn't even meet them in the hotel. We only had meetings with American and British officials, their Western supervisors.

Lituchy: Whom did you meet with from the United States?

Jasari: Ms. [Madeleine] Albright, Mr. [James] Rubin and Mr. [James] Hill. They told us to sign our names to the paper drafted by the United States. In this paper it was written that Kosovo must be a republic [i.e., independent of Serbia]. At first, they thought the delegation from Yugoslavia wouldn't go to Rambouillet. Later, they saw that wasn't true, and when they also saw that not only Serbs, but also Roma, Albanian and Egyptian representatives were in our delegation, they were shocked.

Lituchy: The Americans?

Koteska: Yes.

Jasari: There were only three Serbian representatives and one Montenegrin in our delegation.

[French Foreign Minister Hubert] Vedrine, [British Foreign Secretary] Robin Cook and Albright told secessionist Albanians in Kosovo that everything will be fine in Rambouillet, and that any agreement will be in their favor.

But they didn't ask other nationalities in Kosovo what they want. I told them that the KLA doesn't represent the opinion of all Albanian people, that there are three other Albanian political parties who have a different view, as do Romas, Serbs, Muslims and other nationalities.

They wouldn't listen.

In Paris, the representatives of Yugoslavia didn't sign the paper. Albright told them, whether you sign or not, Kosovo will be a republic. When Albright was in Kosovo, she embraced and kissed Hasim Thaci, the terrorists' leader [of the KLA].

Lituchy: Why do you think the United States launched this war?

Jasari: To establish military bases and extend its occupation of the Balkans, to dictate to all countries in Europe.

Lituchy: What do you have to say to groups and individuals who claim Yugoslavia was a police state, oppressing [Albanians]?

Jasari: It's just not true. I'm Albanian, and I have all the same rights as any Serbian. Every country must hold onto its own territory and not give it to other countries or to an ethnic minority. One third of the people in Yugoslavia are ethnic minorities. Why do we have problems only with Albanians? This problem didn't arise yesterday. After World War II, many Albanians wanted to secede from Yugoslavia; they were preparing for secession. I asked Albanians from Albania and Albanians from Kosovo, who has a better life? All the knowledge and property Albanians have is in Kosovo, not Albania. The Republic of Serbia, Belgrade, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia wanted to help them, to support them. You can find Albanian doctors, professors, engineers, and all professions. Our government wanted and still wants to provide education, to help them. Education was free.


Corin Ismali, Under-Secretary for National Social Questions in the Kosovo Executive Council, Secretary of the Democratic Initiative.

Lituchy: Would you tell us what happened after the bombing stopped in Kosovo?

Ismali: We had to leave Kosovo because KFOR didn't guarantee us freedom, peace, or the possibility to walk in the evening without being afraid of KLA soldiers.

Lituchy: Were you threatened?

Ismali: Yes, because I opposed secession.

Lituchy: Why do [some] Albanians support Yugoslavia?

Ismali: Because we want to live with other ethnic groups in Yugoslavia. We don't want to live in a country with only one ethnic group.

Lituchy: Why do some join the KLA?

Koteska: [For many] if they didn't join, they'll kill and torture them, rape their wives, daughters. They had to.

Lituchy: Would you like to return to Kosovo?

Ismali: Of course. Why not? If our army and police return, I'll go the same day. I must have peace, freedom, and no one to threaten me before I can return.

Friendly: Does the KLA give any indication of their interest in democracy, or do they tend to be more totalitarian?

Ismali: I think it won't be democracy.


Fatmir Seholi, Chief Editor, Radio/Television Pristina

Lituchy: Tell us about the media available for Albanians.

Seholi: Albanians had more media than Serbs. In Kosovo, you could find only one newspaper in Serbian but about 65 in Albanian.

Lituchy: Did you go to Pristina University [in Kosovo]?

Seholi: Yes.

Lituchy: In what language were your courses?

Seholi: Albanian.

Lituchy: Are you aware that in America, the television and radio and newspapers were regularly saying Albanians have no rights in Yugoslavia?

Seholi: I think America didn't have the right information.


Seholi: Until I arrived here as a refugee, I worked as Chief Editor at Radio/Television Pristina, in Albanian. I spoke with KFOR about a peaceful solution for problems in Kosovo.

El-Sayed: Did the United States create the KLA?

Seholi: The KLA received great support from America and Germany. According to our Secret Service, they created the KLA. But why? The United States was the leading country against terrorism, but in our case the United States supported and still supports KLA terrorism. Two years ago, on a night in January 1997, the KLA killed my father, Malic Seholi. He was called a "traitor" because he supported Yugoslavia and the Serbian government, not the KLA. He loved living with all ethnic groups in Kosovo. He was 51 years old.

The KLA told us that they did it.

Lituchy: The KLA themselves said that?

Koteska: Yes, yes.

Seholi: The KLA said they killed more than one thousand people because they were not Albanian or wanted Kosovo to stay in Yugoslavia. And that doesn't even include members of the Yugoslav army they killed.

Lituchy: Who else from your family was injured or killed by the KLA?

Seholi: About two weeks ago, two of my brothers were tortured in Podujevo. After they beat them they let them go home. But they must call every day at 10 AM.

Lituchy: They have to call the KLA?

Koteska: Yes, yes.

El-Sayed: Do you know what torture methods the KLA use?

Seholi: What more do you want? They're killing people. By strangulation, by torture.

Koteska: In some places their torture implements were found, like those used by the Inquisition centuries ago. I think the Inquisition would say, 'These new methods are better.'

Lituchy: Why did they torture them?

Seholi: Because they stayed in Kosovo and still support the Yugoslav government. Also because they worked in our government.

Lituchy: So the KLA will not allow anybody to live in Kosovo who doesn't agree with them?

Seholi: Exactly.

Lituchy: Where was KFOR? {NATO}

Seholi: KFOR was in Podujevo while the KLA threatened my two brothers. The KLA Commander walks the streets, armed, drunk, firing a rifle in the air. KFOR does nothing.

Lituchy: Which sector?

Seholi: British and American.

Goldberg: Does anyone willingly join the KLA?

Seholi: I think many join because they're forced. If someone refuses, he's tortured or killed. They used to say, "They vanished..." People value their lives.


Seholi: I left Kosovo June 28th. The day before, I spoke with Maj. Kennedy from KFOR about the return of Albanians to the office, to work with Serbs and other non-Albanians. We formed a commission to plan programming for Radio/Television Pristina for the next five months.

We worked out a good agreement. Representatives from KFOR and the UN also attended.

We agreed that the next meeting would be the following day, at 10 AM.

We arrived at 9.

At 9:30 three or four thousand Albanians gathered in front of the station. Neither representatives from KFOR nor from the UN appeared. At 10:15, three or four hundred Albanians forced their way into the station and smashed windows and equipment. Employees were threatened and beaten.

Maj. Kennedy arrived at 10:30 and shouted at the crowd but in such a manner that it was clear he was merely posturing. He invited three representatives from the crowd inside for negotiations. After ten minutes one man came into our office and told us someone had placed a bomb in the station, so we must leave. Because of the danger, all but 15 employees left. I was one of those who remained. The KFOR Major and a Russian representative from the UN wanted us to leave because [they claimed there was] a bomb. They took us out and brought us through the crowd of four thousand. When we left the building, before we entered a KFOR car, the crowd shouted some rough things.

I couldn't go home because it was possible I might be killed. I couldn't see my own children.

Kotestka: He left Kosovo without anything.

Seholi: I know now that KFOR and the UN arranged all of this. There was no bomb.

After the NATO bombing stopped, I went with [temporary UN special representative for Kosovo] Sergio de Mello around Kosovo. The trip lasted five days. We visited almost every village and city in Kosovo and saw what damage resulted from NATO bombing and what damage resulted from gangs.

I want to point out that Mr. Sergio de Mello seemed disinterested in damage from NATO bombing. Most of those who died from bombs were in fact Albanians. In just one strike in the village of Korisa, they killed 105 people. Mr. de Mello wasn't interested.

Koteska: Most of those were little children, women, old men.

Lituchy: What did you leave behind?

Seholi: My mother and two brothers.

Lituchy: Have you heard from them?

Seholi: Yes.

Lituchy: Are they safe?

Seholi: The KLA's secret police visited my flat three times and removed all they could.

Lituchy: What do you think the future is in Kosovo?

Seholi: I think powerful Western countries have their own plans for Kosovo.

Freeland: Following up this question of the bombing of Albanians inside Kosovo, did you notice a trend of more of them being bombed earlier in the bombing vs. later in the bombing? In other words, [did you notice that the bombing was used to] attempt to get them to flee, to make it seem like something else [i.e., Serbian persecution] was going on?

Seholi: Albanians got hurt from all sides, but mainly from NATO bombing. More than 300 Albanians were killed by NATO bombings.

El-Sayed: Do you think that NATO bombed Albanians purposely, to make them leave?

Seholi: Whether that was their purpose or not, people were killed. The man who could command NATO to bomb people isn't human. After the bombing of Djakovica I saw decapitated bodies. I have pictures. It's horrible.

Jasari: Now we see that the US doesn't care about any ethnic minority. Before NATO started bombing us, they said they're protecting Albanians. If they were protecting Albanians they wouldn't be bombing them.

The aim of the US was clear: to create a Greater Albania, to sever Kosovo from Yugoslavia. The Western countries have military bases in Albania. They want to expand throughout the Balkans and have a controlling influence in other countries. Unfortunately, our Albanian people are the victims of that, also of Albanian terrorism.

[KLA leader] Hasim Thaci was in the US and other Western countries, not in Kosovo. He came to Kosovo after NATO bombing ceased, and after our army left Kosovo. What kind of Albanian is that who doesn't protect the Albanian people? We, as Albanians, together with the other nationalities, protected everyone in Kosovo. Regardless of whether he is Albanian, Egyptian, Serb or Turk, he's a human being who lives in Kosovo.

The US used the Albanian people as the excuse for aggression and perhaps they will again. KFOR and the United States can't guarantee in Kosovo. They can only guarantee that terrorists walk armed through cities and villages and act without restraint. When someone reports that someone is killed or kidnapped, they do nothing to stop such actions. Many KFOR soldiers support the KLA.

Lituchy: How many Albanians live in Serbia?

Jasari: In Belgrade alone you can find about 80,000, many as long as twenty years. They have rights, they work, they have offices, no one bothers them.

Jasari: According to the Serbian Constitution, everyone has the same rights. It doesn't depend on nationality. After the visit of Mr. [Bob] Dole and [Joe] DiGuardi [in 1990] some Albanians started pushing for a Greater Albania. They [i.e., the U.S. government] promised a Greater Albania, providing support, both monetary and other.

Friendly: What is your comment on the allegations of wrong-doing by the Serbian military in Kosovo? How would you compare that with what NATO did. Is there some basis for the allegations that the Serbian army was wantonly killing villagers, or were they actually after the KLA?

Jasari: It's not true. It's propaganda. The Yugoslav army never attacked anyone in Kosovo. They only defended themselves.

Lituchy: An argument certain U.S. officials made was that the US had to go to war because these people couldn't live together. Comments?

Jasari: There was no reason to bomb us. We lived together. Why didn't the United States influence the KLA to negotiate with our government before Rambouillet?

El-Sayed: When you met Albright [at Rambouillet], why did she say they were in Kosovo? Did she say the Yugoslav army was killing innocent civilians?

Jasari: She told me that. I told her, "Don't speak from your imagination. Do you have some facts? We have facts that this isn't happening." But she said, "We don't need facts." You couldn't say anything to her.[Now] Albanians have lost everything. They no longer have property, accommodations. They have a Narco-Mafia [the KLA]. Kosovo is [or was] multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious. Unfortunately, these days Serbians, Romas ("Gypsies"), Muslims, Egyptians, Albanians who don't support the political aims of the KLA have fled. One only one ethnic group will live in Kosovo.

Lituchy: Are you getting help right now from abroad?

Jasari: None.

Lituchy: What kind of help can Americans give?

Seholi: Any kind: food, medicine. Clothes, because winter will come.

Lituchy: Is there an Albanian Yugoslav organization we can deal with directly?

Jasari: It is best to deal through the International Red Cross or the Yugoslav Red Cross. But when you send help, arrange to whom the aid should go, otherwise it may be diverted to the terrorists.


Haliti: Do the US and the 19 countries who bombed us know that Hasim Thaci's [KLA]army has no ethnic groups but Albanians? They said the reason they bombed us is because there is no multi-cultural life in Kosovo.

Lituchy: Did American human rights officials ever contact you?

Seholi: No, but I had a conversation with Mr. Jerzy Dienstbier from the UN human rights organization.

Jasari: There was one visit from the United States called the Mission of Peace, before the war. We spoke with a Colonel Robert from that group. They asked about the situation and our rights and listened to us. But the other delegations came with their own opinions, to support the terrorists. They never told the truth back in their countries. Some delegations visited only Albanians who supported terrorism, never our side. I want to travel to tell the truth about what has happened.

Seholi: One day before I left Kosovo, a woman came to my flat and said that if I told people my father was killed by Serbs I could have a high-ranking position in the KLA.

The United States is heavily involved with the KLA, they work closely together. Why didn't the United States do anything many months ago, when the KLA was killing citizens of Kosovo? The US took measures only when the KLA was about to be destroyed. What can one think when one sees Madeleine Albright, President Clinton, [KLA leader] Hasim Thaci together, and Albright gives Thaci a kiss? We accuse Mr. Clinton for the crimes Thaci has committed, not only to Albanians in Kosovo but to all ethnic groups. Mr. Clinton is indirectly connected with the murder of my father.

* End of interview *

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