Albanian intellectuals: Where are Gruevski and Ahmeti to defuse the people?
In the strong appeals for calm and restraint from violence coming from all sides, there is no voice of the main actors on the political scene. The NGO sector requires political leaders to come among the people. Analysts warn – the situation is fragile, but has no capacity to escalate
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co-author: Biljana Stavrova
photo from protests: Robert Atanasovski
Leaders of the Albanian political scene are in silence after the dramatic events in the Skopje municipality Gjorce Petrov. Condemnation and calls for calm of passions just arrived from the local government in the neighboring municipality of Saraj and intellectuals. None of the Albanian political parties publicly declared about the events and tensions in the Skopje municipality Gjorce Petrov. Neither the murder of young Petkovski has been condemned, nor the demolition of shops and property of innocent citizens. The exception is Bekim Murati, mayor of the municipality of Saraj, who immediately after the tragic event announced that the Council and he as mayor condemn the killing of young Angel Petkovski. Mayor Murati asked institutions to take all measures to prevent such cases, which make the situation difficult and increase ethnic tensions.
“Institutions are called to contribute this act of violence not to be repeated. We are concerned about the destruction of property of innocent citizens, which was burned and smashed by irresponsible people and hampered the free movement of thousands of citizens and tortured many innocent people”, said Murati.
The municipality Saraj requires the Ministry of Interior to take all concrete steps to detect the perpetrators who had destroyed the properties. It appealed to the citizens to refrain from activities that are contrary to law and that produce violence.
Intellectuals seek accountability from politicians and institutions
Albert Hani, civic activist, says the situation reflects the context or events that have been happening for a long time.
“This situation is reflected by violent incidents, from time to time, as a signal which indicates that the relevant institutions should deal with conflict management seriously and with greater sensibility. Also, the situation confirms the failure of governmental and non-governmental institutions, i.e. Parliament, government, judiciary, police, and especially civil society, which should take more encouraging steps towards promoting mutual understanding and building mutual trust”, said Hani.
Zekjirija Ibrahimi, a researcher at the Institute of Spiritual and Cultural Heritage of Albanians in Skopje, believes that the political elite should be more responsive to the situation. He called on religious leaders to engage in calming tensions, because only then can we hope for sanity.
“If we were in a normal country, first, MPs from Gjorce Petrov would together go to visit the family of young Angel, would condemn the event and attend the funeral. Then, the leaders of the Albanian parties, Ali Ahmeti and Menduh Thaci, would condemn the event and express condolences to Angel’s family. Thirdly, the president of the municipality of Saraj along with his colleague from Gjorce, would visit Angel’s family and go to the funeral together. Fourthly, the president of the Islamic Religious Community (IRC) together with the head of the MPC would visit Angel’s family and together participate in the funeral. Fifthly, civil society, both Albanian and Macedonian, would condemn the incident and express condolences for the victim together. Sixthly, the media would inform without ethnic cheerleading”, says Ibrahimi.
Such an attitude through Facebook was given by Arben Çejku, former Albanian ambassador in Skopje. He noted that tensions with scenes of violence in Skopje, caused because of the death of young Macedonian, in circumstances that need to be explored, should be placed under immediate control of the state. According to him, only in this way it will be allowed the justice to say its word in institutions, not on the street.
“Macedonian and Albanian political leaders should immediately engage in reduction of tensions, not religious institutions to solve it. Those who were at rallies a few days ago demanding the trust of the people should not neglect their duties and be where the people today need their word and their presence”, said Çejku. He recalls the murder in Gostivar in 2012 when two innocent young Albanians were killed, and when, as he says, none of the Albanian families affected by pain were aggressive towards their neighbors of Macedonian ethnicity and waited for justice to act.
“Albanians in Macedonia are not orphans, therefore a fair and credible trial against the accused murderer should be provided. And to ensure freedom of movement and normal life for Albanians, who want to live in a country where everyone is equal before the law and respects civil institutions”, stated Çejku.
The situation is stable, but fragile, with no capacity for escalation
The general assessment of the situation after the recent developments in Skopje settlement Gjorce Petrov, according to the head of the Macedonian Center for International Cooperation, Alexander Krzalovski is that it is stable, but fragile.
“Multiethnic relations after the 2001 conflict in Macedonia have stabilized and improved, but some questions have remained unaddressed, like education, multilingualism, etc. Especially in multi-ethnic communities as Skopje settlement Gjorce Petrov, interethnic relations and tensions always come to the surface, but without the capacity for escalation and tension, especially after the experience Macedonia had in the 2001conflict”, said Krzalovski in a statement for Inbox 7.
He points out that individual cases should be treated as such, not to be identified with the whole community just because of belonging to ethnic community. “So the population is to refrain from violent actions. It is necessary through the system of institutions to resolve such cases. With a penalty to demonstrate that there is no tolerance for such events. For example, in the case of Smikovci Lake there has been no sentence yet”, says the head of MCIC.
According to him, it is necessary to work on promoting cooperation among the communities and to have more opportunities for integration, primarily in schools.
“Here it is the opposite and therefore not contributed to the construction of hegemony in society. It is easy to be strong in your own community, but when at work or at school you face the members of other entities you go into conflict easily. The lack of opportunities for integration creates parallel worlds. For example, why, as a second language, kids at school do not learn some of the languages of smaller ethnic communities, Albanian, Turkish, Bulgarian, but learn German and English”, he says.
Zmijanac: Young people identify with the murdered boy and fear for themselves
Dragi Zmijanac, director and founder of the First Children’s Embassy in the World Medjashi, believes that as it is a murder of a young boy it is understandable that many of the protesters are young people, minors who are angry at what is happening and who want to express their anger.
“They identify with this boy who was a victim and sympathize with him and fear for themselves and their future to live in an environment where their life and safety can be called into question. But it is also an expression of fear, for themselves, their peers and future. Whether fans, members of groups or spontaneously gathered through social networks, young people have the democratic right of association, freedom of expression of their own opinion and requesting protection from the state before the worst happens. Young people have the right to express outrage and concern for their safety and security regardless of ethnic, religious or any other affiliation”, said Zmijanac regarding the protests in Gjorce Petrov, attended by 15- year-old juveniles.
According to him, it is another thing how they express anger and concern about the threat to their life and property from various criminal gangs and criminals who kill innocent citizens, who are victims of not only criminals, but also non-functional protection of young people’s lives.
“It results in rage and anger and after it appears, it is difficult to articulate and instead of being demonstrated before the institutions of the state obliged to prevent violence, it focuses on people and their property from other ethnic groups, which because of the criminals from their ranks, all become potential victims”, said Zmijanac.
He believes that the solution is not in responding to violence with violence, but violence prevention and targeting police towards putting crime into control, prevention programs with youth who have started criminal activities.
MOF: Stop for the chain of violence!
Youth Education Forum (MOF) condemns the murder of young Angel that took place in the settlement Gjorce Petrov and sympathizes with his family, relatives and friends. “This act of violence must not be tolerated and perpetrators should be appropriately punished through trial”, said Marjan Zabrcanec of MOF.
From MOF they call for understanding, clear-headed actions and diffusion of tensions and violence which further escalated in the streets of Gjorce Petrov. Young people not to perceive ethnic differences as the reason for killing and not to respond with violence against innocent citizens and their properties. Therefore we urge the police force to refrain from violence against young people and ensure a peaceful terrain without brutal behavior, in order not to bring additional tensions.
Zabrcanec addressed the strongest appeal to the decision makers in the country. “We demand an urgent response and call for peace by leaders of all political parties, holders of positions in institutions, Prime Minister and President. The silence of institutions leads to speculations and dissents among the public, so their clear and public reaction is necessary”, they say fromMOF.
Helsinki: Nationalist propaganda brings only short-term political goals
“Reconciliation will not happen until public officials, regardless of their ethnicity, refuse to jointly rise above their party interests and continue with nationalist propaganda that only results in achieving short-term political goals”, said the Helsinki Committee for Human rights.
Helsinki Committee expresses serious concern for the escalation of hatred on ethnic basis as a result of killing young Angel Petkovski.
“In the past two years the Committee has repeatedly appealed that youth violence and hatred escalate and there is no noticeable downward trend. On the contrary, the number of incidents, injuries and violence among young people of Albanian and Macedonian ethnic community is growing”, it is said in the Helsinki Committee statement.
Helsinki Committee concluded that on this occasion initiators of these events are young people, including minors. This organization refers to the attempt of the police to enforce censorship in the media taking away journalistic recorded material from the protests:
“Although the police mostly adequately dealt with the angry crowds, the committee was notified by several journalists of seizure of photos and video material taken during the protests. Such treatment at the time of arrest of several participants of the protest is a flagrant violation of Article 16 of the Constitution of RM which guarantees freedom of public information, receiving and conveying information and prohibits censorship”.
How did Albanian language media report?
Albanian language media reported on the event, giving emphasis to the destruction of Albanians’ property in Gjorce Petrov and harassment of citizens near the settlement. The portal ALMAKOS in the article entitled “The crowd on the bridge in Skopje Saraj left after the imam’s appeal”, reported on the Albanians’ meeting at the Saraj Bridge regarding tensions in Gjorce Petrov. According to the portal, following the imam’s appeal, the citizens, who were in large numbers, went to their homes. PORTALB reported in an article headlined “Panic among the Albanian population, men guard the property”. According to this medium, in the Nerezi settlement in Skopje, men gathered deployed at the beginning of the settlement in order to prevent the Macedonian crowd of protesters that was trying like mad to enter Albanian settlements. Alsat M had a title “The murder is being disclosed, vandals are sought who demolished facilities”.
Many media gave meaning to the statement of Naser Eshtrefi’s lawyer Rubin Dvojakov, who for the newspaper “Koha” said that “the knife which killed Angel Petkovski belongs to the victim and Nasser defended himself”.
It should be noted that the portal “Republic” in Albanian unlike the same in Macedonian wrote a lot about the incidents in Gjorce Petrov, with emphasis on the Albanian perspective of events.