Women Peace Politics

Solidarity, sisterhood, friendship, support, and trust
Women in Black and women’s groups in Kosovo

Apartheid in Kosovo
The facts illustrate that the efforts of the Serbian regime since 1990 have led to institutional apartheid that permeates the everyday lives of Albanian citizens in Kosovo.

Our Friends from Kosovo Testify:

“Albanians are murdered in Kosovo. They are arrested, fired from work, evicted from their apartments, and thrown out of their own lives. In Kosovo, we have colonization and ethnic cleansing. I think that it is one big powder keg. We do not dare to let this powder keg to explode because we are for peace and not for war.”
(Nazlie Bala at the International Meeting of the Women in Black Network in August 1996 in Novi Sad)

“They threw us out of schools, universities, and workplaces. Why? Because we did not want to adopt their plan and program.”
(Arieta from Prizren at the same meeting)

“I thought that we could walk along the other side of Pristina’s main street, but the police only permitted us to walk along one side. The other side was reserved for Serb nationalists... I thought, ‘how long will this regime come up with different ways to prevent the Albanian people in Kosovo from achieving freedom?’”
(Nora Ahmetaj, September 1997)

Women in Black:

“In Kosovo, there is segregation and ethnic cleansing in schools, violent evictions, discriminatory changes to the legal codes, arrests and maltreatment. Organizing for justice, peaceful assembly and political work are banned.”
(March 1996)

“In the city streets, people do not dare to sing Albanian songs. The police will come and ask them why they sing. The Serbian regime does not allow Serbs to mix with Albanians in state institutions. Two million people hear a language that is not theirs when they turn on the television.”
(Lepa Mladenovic, Pristina 1996)

“Since 1991, about one thousand instructors, nearly 200 administrative workers, and nearly 27,000 Albanian students were expelled from the University of Pristina through brutal political force.”
(October 1997)

“All of one ethnic group is labeled ‘terrorists’ even though they experience much stronger state terror.”
(March 1998)

The Actions of Women in Black against Apartheid

From Many 1 to 3, 1991, the Peace Caravan traveled to Kosovo. The caravan consisted of pacifists from several Italian towns, as well as from Pancevo and Belgrade (including some of the founders of Women in Black). Over three days, numerous meetings and talks were held with the representatives of the Albanian community in Kosovo, as well as with miners from Trepca, educator, and intellectuals. Testimonies about the systematic oppression by the Serbian regime were recorded. Alexander Langer, a Green Party representative in the European Parliament, also participated in the Caravan. The Caravan represented the beginning of the cooperation between Women in Black and Kosovar Albanian civil society.

Since then, there has been an uninterrupted continuity of friendship, solidarity, mutual support, cooperation and exchange.

Since March 1995, when we carried a banner that read ‘Albanian Women are Our Sisters’ for the first time, we protested in the streets of Belgrade in all seasons, raising our voices against terror and publicly, clearly, and loudly demanding the end of terror. More than 20 times, people who passed by our protests in Belgrade and other Serbian cities tried to destroy this banner (by stepping on it, tearing it, and other methods).

“We, Women in Black, refuse to have the Serbian regime speak and act in our name. We shall continue to condemn the oppression in Kosovo; we shall continue to express our solidarity with all the victims of this oppression and support those who advocate dialogue and adhere to the principle of nonviolence.”
(March 1998)

“We believe that the basic solution is demilitarization: the withdrawal of all military and police forces from Kosovo. Without this, it is very difficult to create space for dialogue and trust.”
(May 1997)

  • Do we know what happened in Kosovo?
  • Repression of Albanian citizens in Kosovo is an injustice!
  • How much does the repression in Kosovo and Belgrade cost?
  • How many schools and hospitals could be built with this money?
  • Human rights are not a nation’s internal problem. They are an international issue.
  • Police repression does not solve problems!
(We carried these slogans on banners though the streets during the massive civil protests in 1996 and 1997 in Belgrade.)

“We do not support the repression of Albanian students that the Serbian regime carries out in our name.”
(October 1997)

“We support the demands of the Independent Student Union of the University of Pristina in their entirety and express our admiration for the students’ consistent commitment to nonviolence.”
(December 1997)

“We express our support for the firm commitment of the Albanian citizens in Kosovo to struggle nonviolently for their human and citizens’ rights. We continue to publicly condemn the political repression of the Serbian regime in Kosovo.”
(February 1998)

“Crimes against civilians were carried out and society needs to respond.”
(Sonja Biserko)

“Albanian people are treated by foreign police not even as third class citizens, but as livestock.”
(Natasa Kandic)

“Women’s groups from Belgrade collaborate with women’s groups in Kosovo and that is one part of women’s peace politics.”
(Stasa Zajovic, at a public panel discussion at the Center for Cultural Decontamination, Belgrade)

In September 1998, the Serbian regime prohibited an international antiwar meeting in Kosovo, which was organized by Women in Black and Amnesty International. On the same day (September 19), antiwar meetings were held worldwide.

“I confess that I am opposed to the political repression, apartheid, and war of the Serbian regime against Albanian citizens in Kosovo.”
(October 1998, from the performance I Confess in Republic Square in Belgrade on the seventh anniversary of Women in Black)

Women’s Solidarity against Violence in Kosovo, Apartheid, Terror and War

“In Pristina, I met fantastic women who, despite police on every corner, without citizens’ rights, without many women’s human rights, despite thousands of examples of maltreatment and oppression, some without passports, without public places to assemble, without desired feminist literature in their language, work from day to day and organize women, with courage and tenderness. I pledge to support them however is necessary, and to record their courage. Today, I have not written about it, but I dream about the day we will proclaim it to everyone. There is so much which that I cannot say, that I must keep in secret biographies about feminists in Kosovo.”
(Lepa Mladenovic, September 1996)

“In Novi Sad, I met women from all over the world. I met wonderful and smart women from the former Yugoslavia. I was inspired by the solidarity and sisterhood among women from the former Yugoslavia and the world.”
(Nora Ahmetaj, 1996)

Nonviolent Opposition in Kosovo

“We always find creative forms even though we are prohibited from everything, including walking. People are afraid, but they still walk.”
(Albin Kurti, October 1997)

“We don’t want to defeat our opponents, we demand respect for human rights.”
(The Independent Student Union of the University of Pristina, October 1997)

“Nearly 30,000 women from Kosovo participated in the general protest on March 25 in Pristina.”
(March 1998)

Women in Black’s Announcement about the Negotiations in Rambouillet

“We support the peace negotiations in Rambouillet as a means of putting an end to the armed and other conflicts, killings, massacres, and kidnappings.”
(February 1999)

Bombing and Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo

“Bands of escaped criminals and paramilitaries roam the streets. They raid houses, expel people, kidnap them, and murder them.”
(Nora Ahmetaj, March 1999)

“We maintained constant telephone contact with activists in Kosovo, with our friends during the whole period of ethnic cleansing and bombing.”
“Around 800,000 Albanians were banished from Kosovo during the ethnic cleansing in the spring of 1999.”
“Stop the Balkan revenges!”
(Women in Black, March, April, May and June 1999.)

Support for Activist Work in Exile, in Tents in Macedonia, 1999

‘In a tent full of girls from burned down villages in Kosovo, Igballe Rugova and Nazlie Bala play, and the entire tent rings because girls yell, “Vajzat jan tforta,” girls are strong. The girls laugh and their heads are not bent down. Igballe yells, “Let’s do it another time!” and the tent echoes with the sound. If the hills could remember, the sound of free breathing would be engraved in them.

The Support of Women in Black for Albanians in Politically-Motivated Trials in Serbia

“Flora Brovina was sentenced to 12 years hard labor without being proved guilty. Give the poet Flora Brovina a pencil!”
(the poet Radmila Lazic, December 1999)

“We are all Flora Brovina – freedom for Flora Brovina!”
(A Women in Black appeal, May 2000, supported by nearly 30 NGOs from all of Serbia)

“My homeland is where I have friends, where my poems are read.”
(Flora Brovina in her trial in Nis, December 1999)

We offered support to each other. We visited, became friends, sang, and danced.
We cried together, consoled one another, and learned from each other.
We wrote to each other, creating an alternative history, making plans and becoming in May 2006:

The Women’s Peace Coalition, an independent citizens’ initiative based on women’s solidarity that crosses national, ethnic and religious boundaries and barriers.

The Women’s Peace Coalition supports a just and lasting peace, the inclusion of women as equal partners in the peace building process, emphasizing that women are not only victims of war, but active participants in the peace movement.

Sisters for peace, dreams and disobedience to the patriarchy

The Women’s Peace Coalition is comprised of The Kosova Women’s Network and Women in Black—Serbia.

Prepared by Staša Zajović and Miloš Urošević
Women in Black
Belgrade, August 2006

Print   Email