Fitim Krasniqi, a senior in the Department of Communication in the University of Prishtina’s Technical Faculty, lives in Mitrovica and works for the Danish organization “Danish Refugee Council”. In his opinion, even though the Ashkali community to which he belongs faces many difficulties, things are “improving”.
“Many young people are being educated in different levels of education in Kosova, they are engaged in different job positions and also quite active in non-governmental organizations (NGO) as well as in different advocacy activities,” Krasniqi said for KosovaLive.
According to the 2011 census, there are 35,784 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians living now in Kosova.
Lorenta Kadriu, the director of the non-governmental organization “Raise your hand for help” based in Fushë Kosova, says that these communities live in difficult conditions, including problems they encounter in education and employment.
“The interethnic communication remains one of the biggest challenges in Kosova. This lack of communication is most apparent in the limited knowledge that young people have about each other. They live with the prejudices and stereotypes instilled in them by the society”, Kadriu pointed out.
Last summer, this organization conducted a research in “Mutual prejudices between Albanians and Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities”, with 600 respondents, 300 out of which were Albanians and 300 belonged to the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities.
Based on the research findings, the reciprocal interactions between Albanians and these communities are scarce.
Asked whether they had participated in any mutual activity, 45% of Albanians and 53% of Roma community participants gave a negative response. On the other hand, only 28% of Albanians and 15% of the members of these three communities have participated in mutual activities several times.
Donjeta Jashari, a sociologist from Prishtina, who participated in this research, indicates that along many other factors, the social status plays a crucial role.
“Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities are being prejudiced not only because of the lack of interaction or the deep-rooted preconception but also because of their looks and their social status. In a society in which economic wealth is a value you strive for, being prejudiced for belonging to a poor community is an acceptable norm,” she says.
According to the same research by the NGO “Raise your hand for help”, 44% of the respondents think that these communities are “prejudiced very much” and 16% think that they are “not prejudiced much”.
In June of 2017, The United Nations Mission in Kosova formed a group of young people from different ethnicities named “UN Youth Task Force.”
Jana Minochkina, the youth administrator and the government official of UN Mission in Kosova, says that this group of 24 young people was created because of the need for greater cooperation between young people.
“In partnership with the ‘UN Youth Task Force’ we have organized the first Assembly for Kosova’s youth, where 140 young people from different communities participated in developing several recommendations which will be sent to the institutions of Kosova, to the international organizations and to the UN itself. These recommendations portray the problems that the young people of Kosova encounter in their daily life,” Minochkina says.
In December last year, 50 recommendations from this group were addressed to the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport. The two most important requests refer to the informal education on eliminating the language of hatred between the communities and on the freedom of movement.
Jovan Zivkovic, who belongs to the Serbian community and lives in the municipality of Viti, is also a member of this group. He finished his studies at the American University RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) in Prishtina as well as in the Department of Architecture at the University of Prishtina, in his native language. Now he works as a school teacher in the municipality of Viti.
“I participate in such activities because I want Kosovar youth to become more active since 60% of the population is young and Kosova is considered one of the countries with the youngest population in Europe. Such activities bring young people together to work and to build a promising common future.”
According to Zivkovic, it is only through education that the barriers between communities can be broken and the more educated the society is, the easier it will be.
“I am a typical example. I have lived in a rural area and I decided to live in Prishtina for four years in order to be educated and have a better future. I had friends from all communities and I believe that this is one of my most valuable experiences.”
Around 100 former employees of “Sharr Salloniti” company have allegedly died as a result of working in environments with the presence of asbestos, and numerous other former employees have been suffering health consequences due to the same cause.
An environmental study, funded by the European Agency for Reconstruction, was released in 2001 that showed the presence of asbestos dust in its factory. Following these conclusions, the company was closed down by the UN Mission in Kosovo, and since 2011 has been under the liquidation process.
In 2011, former employees of the company filed complaints to the Privatization Agency of Kosovo, seeking compensation for the health damage they suffered during the time when they were exposed, unprotected, to asbestos during their work.
Bujar Gjikolli, a radiologist at the Oncologic Clinic in Prishtina, says that asbestos poses a high risk since in the long term it causes incurable illnesses, breathing difficulties, and also causes lung cancer.
“Asbestos comes in particles which are inhaled through the air, and they end up in narrowest parts of our breathing tube, where they stop and enter the lung parenchyma, and in time cause an allergic reaction which consequently also causes fibrosis,” he says.
In 2017, 252 cases of lung parenchyma cancer, which often is related to the harmful impact of asbestos, were recorded in this clinic.
Materials that contain asbestos are water supply and wastewater pipes, roof covering plates, and other materials for interiors, such as the covers of furnaces, etc.
As a result, construction workers are most at risk of working with this material.
Untreated waste containing asbestos are found throughout our country. however, the risk that may come from this material was discovered very late.
In a short survey conducted by the “Eco-Girls” team, a number of workers acknowledged having worked on occasion with this kind of material, and that of what asbestos was and of its risks as well.
They had already been informed that this material causes cancer and that it is not used anymore. Furthermore, these workers showed us an asbestos depository not far from the heart of the town.
Speaking for KosovaLive, radiologist Gjikolli said that exposure to asbestos has long-term negative health consequences.
“… protection in the workplaces, protection from materials that contain asbestos, by using masks or other kind of protection, is the only way to keep the workers safe from illness. Changing the workplace often, ventilation, and masks are the only way,” Gjikolli says.
The Kosovo ombudsman, Hilmi Jashari, said to KosovaLive that there is no single action or strategy by which the government plans to remove asbestos from everyday use. Thus, as concerned as he was, research was launched regarding the pollution of the environment with materials and waste materials containing asbestos.
“So, this simply forced us to launch an official research project in order to inform, first of all, citizens of the risks posed by this material, and on the other hand, give suggestions to the Government and public institutions for obligations they have based on the results of the surveys,” he explains.
He says the use of this material to the extent it is in Kosovo seriously damages the health and the wellbeing of its citizens. He also says that one should not forget that what’s at stake here, is the right to live, and that it’s the obligation of the government to take measures to protect its citizens.
“No farther than here in the center, on the other side of the street, an entire space is filled with this kind of material which, as said, is health damaging,” Jashari says.
In the absence of an awareness campaign related to the harmful consequences of asbestos, the lack of knowledge of the citizens on this issue is noticeable.
In a casual survey done by KosovaLive, 64.2% of the respondents could not identify materials containing asbestos, whereas only 35.8% were able to identify them.
Almost all of the respondents (92.3%) said that they had seen roofs covered with asbestos material. Most of them suppose that better information would help them in better identifying this material.
It is interesting that 64.2% of the respondents are aware that this material can cause cancer and are aware of its negative health impact. Meanwhile, 17% of the respondents said that they know people who have worked with this material.
Arbnore Azemi, the spokeswoman of “Pastrimi” (Cleaning) company, says that they did not encounter asbestos waste during their work experience, and she adds that the responsibility with waste landfills lies with Kosovo Landfill Management Company (KLMC).
Within a larger World Bank project, this company was requested to also deal with asbestos waste. However, Albiana Avdija, the information official of KLMC, says that this company has not accepted waste containing asbestos until now, for accepting the waste is not allowed by law. She failed to provide further explanation.
Even though these companies say they have not encountered any asbestos landfills, such landfills can be found in the heart of Prishtina. There are asbestos materials stacked but also thrown all around, right in the vicinity of the train station in Prishtina. Despite our efforts, we could not find those responsible for the landfill.
This also perhaps illustrates our approach as a society towards pollution in general, and in particular regarding this dangerous material, which is banned in many world countries.
Vlora Krasniqi, student, has been volunteering for over five years. For two years she was the leader of the Local Youth Council of Action in Vushtrri and during this time Vlora alongside other youngsters from town was engaged in helping their community.
Krasniqi insists that the local activities go beyond the limits of only volunteering.
She says that Vushtrri has large number of youth organizations and a considerable number of young people who take part in volunteer work. Among others she mentions the youth organization “Lëvizja Koha” (Movement Koha) that deals with education and culture, and “Kult Studio” that deals with art and paintings.
There is no exact number of active volunteers because this constantly changes. The mobilization of young volunteers is strong and they usually are the ones who also initiate activities.
“Sometimes when there were youth problems that affected us, we were the first ones to take the initiative for it. I will mention the case of Vushtrri Fortress which was to be privatized and designated as a coffee. Civil society reacted, mostly young people with banners calling for this monument to be used as a place for trainings, seminars and any other activity”, Krasniqi says.
Among other activities Krasniqi singles out the Science and Culture Fair where innovative young people not only from Kosova but Albania and Montenegro as well had the opportunity to get together and show their skills in science and culture.
By way of local volunteering, thirty volunteers aged 14 to 22, since September have been engaged in activities to assist families in need. The activity was initiated by a student, Edina Imeri, aimed at gathering a group of young people who would work as volunteers for the benefit of the community, providing assistance to families in need, including food and clothes.
Edina thinks that young people should participate more in volunteer work and adds that helping community is a good feeling. She feels especially pleased with the visit these young people paid to kids with special needs.
“A very good feeling. Those kids are so dear, they are capable of giving honest and unconditional love. A feeling that you can not describe”, says Imeri.
At the end of January, in a cafeteria near the Vushtrri Fortress a group of young people gathered clothes for families in need. The clothes were donated to some villages of Vushtrri such as Druar and Kollë, part of them will be distributed to the “Red Cross” in Vushtrri and to the municipality of Prishtina.
The most difficult moment for Arbesa Hoxha, a student of “Eqrem Qabej” high school was when she saw the kids of these families who had no clothes.
“It was really touching to see these families in a miserable condition,” says Hoxha and adds that young people should get more involved with volunteer work.
“What may be a little from us, will mean a lot to them”, says Arbesa.
Arbër Hoxha, a student of the Faculty of Philosophy, tells us with pride that until now they helped sixteen families. Among the first activities was the visit to kids with special needs in a special classroom of “Ali Kelmendi” primary school in Vushtrri where they donated toys.
“For a few hours we spent time together with these kids and gave them toys… In a way this was an act of solidarity”, says Hoxha.
A three day activity of selling desserts took place in the center of Vushtrri. Various desserts made with love from the young volunteers were places on the wooden table. They collected 600 euro from selling these desserts, which were used to help twelve families with food and 25 kilograms of flour.
“Together we dedicated some time for it, we worked together so we could bring happiness to families in need”, says the leader of the Youth Initiative for Charity of Vushtrri (IRBV), Arbër Hoxha.
Yet another charity event was organized for a boy from the municipality of Vushtrri, who needed funds to pay for his treatment overseas.
“Initially there were doubts, since we are only a small initiative, but at the end of the day it was proven that when work starts with good will, half of the job is already finished. It wasn’t difficult because there was always great will to help the ones in need”, says Adnan Jashari, also a member of IRBV.
Even though volunteers at times were ignored by some people, most of them supported them, either financially or by donating different.
Kastriot Tahiri, a high school student of “Eqrem Qabej” says that there were other donations by citizens, with small contributions from 50 euros and up. Various Vushtrri companies had also offered help to these volunteering initiatives.
Kastriot says that no matter how little the help from their side may be, it means a lot to the people in need. According to him it is an emotional experience when you see others happy and he promises that they won’t stop.
“We need to think more about poor people, if we can help others why not act upon it. This way we can somehow cheer them up”, says Tahiri, member of IRBV.
Arbnor Hasani, student, adds that without the support of their own families when it comes to volunteer work, all this would be futile.
“My family always supported me in whatever volunteer work I engaged, as long as it was for the benefit of society”, says Hasani.
“Red Cross” that operates in Vushtrri since ’99 has gathered around 60 active volunteers ages 16 and up. Kumrije Zhabari, secretary of the “Red Cross” branch in Vushtrri, thinks that volunteers from this town are always ready to help their community. Among many youth activities she mentions the “Social Inclusion” that was held last year.
“For six months we had over 600 young people involved. Six volunteers were trained in Prishtina for different meetings and topics related to youth. We have also included different communities, the Roma community, and of course Turks and Albanians. That was something great that we have achieved. And we have seen how truly powerful volunteering is”, she says.
In the 2014/2015 school year, 45 students from the “Eqrem Çabej” gymnasium in Vushtrri dropped out of school. This school has around 1,500 students.
A direct reason why all these students dropped out of school was the massive migration of the Kosovars toward western countries at that time.
“But most of them returned as ‘repatriated pupils,’” Qendrim Uka, head of “Lëvizja Koha” NGO says.
The purpose of this NGO is to increase the level of practical work in the municipality of Vushtrri.
Apart from the drastic example from some years ago, the rate of students dropping out of primary and secondary school in Vushtrri in general does not differ much from other towns.
Enver Bajrami, spokesman of the Department of Education at the Municipality of Vushtrri, says that during 2017 only, 29 students dropped out of high school, whereas only one dropped out of primary school.
The representative of the NGO “Këshilli i Veprimit Rinor Lokal” in Vushtrri, Drita Dibrani, mentions some reasons for dropping out of school.
“Youth leave school due to economic conditions and parents’ lack of awareness to educate their children. However, we at the Local Council of Youth Acting will try hard to succeed at preventing school-dropping by our youth,” Dibrani says.
The Department for Education, according to the spokesman Bajrami, tries to convince those who drop out of school to get back to it, by talking to them and their parents.
“Each school has its team against school-dropping. At the same time, we have a team at the municipal level. Its tasks are to try to solve this problem. In case they cannot do it, they report it to us. After that, we meet and take initiatives: we visit that family and try to find a solution to get those children back to school. Last week there were two girls in one of the primary schools whom we convinced to get back to school,” he says.
There are several reasons for dropping out of school. Last year, a girl left Eçrem Çabej gymnasium in order to get married.
“Her parents came and asked for her. We were obliged to call the police, and then they interrogated her friends. After finding out where the girl was, we found out the reason why she left school,” the principal of this gymnasium, Xhevat Lahu, says.
The school which he leads had prevented a girl dropping out of school by paying her monthly travel ticket. Her family was living on social assistance and they could not afford that expense.
Milazim Hyseni, principal at “Ali Kelmendi” primary school in Vushtrri, emphasizes that in this school also there are cases of dropping out of school, even though economic conditions are not necessarily the cause.
“He (the student) had disabilities and decided to quit school. There is a special classroom with 13 pupils at our school, but the student we are talking about had other members in the family who had problems of this kind also,” Hyseni says.
By the end of last year, in the first semester, a pupil of the same school dropped out of school.
“Since the beginning of the first grade he did not attend school regularly, but somehow managed to pass the grade. He did not have any health problems or economic problems in his family. We contacted his family and talked to them, but we could not convince the pupil to get back to school,” says his teacher, Ardita Luta Bajrami.
E.G., a 17-year-old from Vushtrri who wanted to remain anonymous, says that a year ago he decided to stop attending the High Professional School, Department of Economy, because he had to work. He has two sisters who are students and his father only worked during summer for an asphalt company.
“I started only as a practice, but after two months of practice I received my first salary. I covered some family expenses with my salary and due to numerous absences I was forced to quit school,” says E.G., who currently works as a barber.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) in Kosovo asserts that in 2016/17 school year, 247,824 pupils attended primary school. Whereas, 86,447 pupils attended high school.
The percentage of the pupils who during this school year (2016/17) dropped out of primary school is 0.01, whereas the percentage of those who dropped out of high school is 1.6.
The percentage of those who drop out of primary school and high school is 0.4% lower compared to the previous school year.
Haki Ahmeti, a 57-year-old, is one of the few Kosovar citizens who has a full-time job even though he cannot see. He has been offering services as a physiotherapy technician at the General Hospital “Dr. Sami Haxhibeqiri” in Mitrovica.
When he started his job as a 21-year-old, he faced numerous prejudices and patients’ mistrust.
“The patients used to be afraid and run away, but soon they were convinced it was not the way they thought. Now I have enough patients. I get along very well with my friends. I am one of the oldest employees. We respect each other and have a good time together,” he says.
Ahmeti says that back then he had support from the state to do his physiotherapist job.
“After finishing primary school in Prizren and high school for Physiotherapy Technician in Belgrade, I paused for a year and started working in the regional hospital in Mitrovica in June 1982, where I am still working,” he says.
Even though there is no data of the exact number of blind people, or of those with damaged eyesight, around 5,000 people are registered with the Kosovo Blind Association.
On the other hand, only a few dozen belonging to this category are employed. During 2017, only one blind person was employed. He got a job in the Assembly of the Republic of Kosova, while there are only 30 other sight-impaired people who currently have different jobs in Kosova.
According to the head of the Kosovo Blind Association (KBA), Bujar Kadriu, most of the employees work as therapists, teachers, and in information technology. On the other hand, he says that the institutions do not provide enough space to increase the number of blind employees.
“The institutions or the people who are responsible for the implementation of this law have not yet been able to understand the importance of its implementation. I think that this is a serious human rights violation and it is a total discrimination of sight-impaired people,” he says.
The law for blind people guarantees their protection from all forms of discrimination, abuse, insults, or ridicule, and their rights are equal with other citizens, as international standards require.
According to the law, sight-impaired people can be hired if they meet certain criteria. The medical-social commission decides on this. The very same commission decides who will receive a pension due to blindness.
Whether they are employed or not, those who are blind receive a monthly compensation of at least 100 Euro from the Kosovo budget.
Those in the first group of sight-impaired people receive 250 Euros per month. This payment includes them and their companions. Those who belong to the second group of sight-impaired people receive 125 Euros monthly compensation. Alongside this sum from the budget they also have other benefits: free public transportation, 50% discount on intercity travel as well as help for the payment of electrical energy.
The law also provides some benefits for those who hire people with disabilities, including the blind.
Kadriu from KBA is very critical regarding the implementation of the law for blind people, calling it a “zero,” especially the article which is dedicated to their employment.
According to him, the fund for people with disabilities training, which includes the blind also, foresees their employment. “…it is only a theory, it does not get implemented into practice,” even though “some of these people are ready to become a part of the labor market.”
“A considerable part of the blind in Kosovo have received various scientific titles including masters and other academic titles,” he added.
Kadriu also considers the difficulty of including blind students in regular schools to be a problem since there is a lack of staff who know Braille writing.
“The Ministry of Education did not build a suitable mechanism, nor did the professional staff of the Resource Center in Peja do something specific for these children. I think that from now on these children are not likely to receive a good education,” he says.
According to the law, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology should provide the blind with the Braille alphabet, relief writing, big font writing and acoustic and digital texts.
Ilire Lepaj, a 35-year-old woman from Prishtina a year and a half ago decided to open her own store which she named “IL Art e Zanat.” In this store, which is located in the center of the city she sells different kinds of materials with traditional motifs such as badges, bags, postcards, glasses, handmade pillows, embroidery in frames and illustrated magnets, all of her own design.
After she finished her graphic design studies at the Department of Fine Arts in the University of Prishtina, she worked in several design companies in Kosova, but not having the space to express her talent and creativity, she decided to save money in order to start a business of her own.
Ilire is one of the few women in Kosova that has her own business. She says that this business has enabled her to achieve her goal and has provided her a normal life.
From the research “Women in Entrepreneurship” that was conducted by Riinvest Institute in 2017, it turned out that only 10 % of active businesses in Kosova are owned by women. This research emphasizes that most of these businesses are small and are mainly oriented in the trade and service sector, such as beauty and hairdressing parlors.
In a survey conducted by D4D Institute (Democracy for Development), more than 53.2% of the respondents state that the reason for women’s exclusion from labor market is that they are responsible for taking care of children and elderly people, whereas 30% of them underline the lack of job opportunities as a reason for their exclusion.
When they were asked what should be done to stimulate women to become more active in the labor market, around 33% of the respondents see the equal treatment between men and women as a solution,while 25% consider that equal payment is yet another much needed solution.
Luljeta Demolli, the executive director at the Kosovar Center for Gender Studies, says that women always face numerous challenges in the labor market.
“It is very difficult to start a business with no startup capital and be financed by banks with no property as a collateral. Only 2% of the women in Kosova have bank loans where their real estate is left as collateral. Also, even when women run businesses, those are usually small ‘micro’ businesses,” says Demolli.
She adds that women often are hindered by their family members who think that women who are married and have children should only take care of them and of the housework.
Demolli thinks that although Kosova is building its tradition in promoting gender equality, in order to achieve a greater economic potential, it is still necessary to work toward a greater involvement of women in economy and to offer more opportunities for their economic empowerment.
Vesa Krasniqi, senior in the Faculty of Economics, in the Department of Banking, Finance and Accounting of the University of Prishtina, says that she wants to get involved in business in the future and that she works in that direction. She also believes that the future will bring even larger number of girls in the field of entrepreneurship.
“I want to challenge myself in business since I studied this field for three years. I have also been a part of numerous trainings thathave helped me a lot. There are many girls enrolled in the Faculty of Economics, which paves the way for a better future for girls in the field of entrepreneurship”.
In the center for mental health in the village “Lum i madh” in the municipality of Vushtrri, there are currently eleven residents that have mental development problems.
This center was founded with the intention of integrating people with mental disabilities into society. To build this center, more than 160,000 Euro was invested in 2016. The treatment at this center has been successful this far, although there are individuals who haven’t been able to socialize for decades.
The village where this center was going to be built was not friendly and welcoming at first. On the contrary, residents protested because they thought they might have problems with the unpredictable behavior of the residents at the center.
Today, the village sees this center and its “residents” differently.
Lutfi Thaqi, resident of the village, believes that these individuals are not harmful to society.
“They are people too, they are our people. They don’t do anything. Perhaps there is a better place for them to be. I don’t know how they came here but they do no harm. We don’t have problems with them. They are not aggressive. God made them this way, and we can’t lose them,” says Thaqi.
Tahir Krasniqi, director of the center, says that a lot of people seek treatment at this center, and its residents are aged from 18-65.
“We have an agreement with the retirement home. They take our residents when they turn 65,” says Krasniqi, adding that this enables them to free a space for another resident.
Unfortunately it doesn’t happen. “People who come here don’t leave,” he says.
According to him, the staff of the center prepares these individuals to continue their lives with their families and to become part of society again.
The center has committed staff and is currently working over its capacity, which is taking care of 10 individuals at most.
Despite the increase of social awareness toward this social category, people still hesitate to report mental disabilities because of the social stigma that follows them.
Eroll Venhari, former director of the department of Health and Social Welfare in the municipality of Vushtrri, confirms the struggle institutions have had while dealing with the hesitations of families to report these individuals.
Venhari sees gaps in communication between families and the municipality, and blames the latter less.
“…you can’t take any measures without the family’s cooperation,” he says.
He adds that therefore, not every case can be sent to court, where it would be decided whether the individual needs care.
The hesitation of families is not the only problem. A good example would be a family in the village Mihaliq, who have hereditary mental problems and hired a caretaker. When the court and the municipality decided to take charge, Venhari says that the caretaker hid the papers, because of personal benefits.
Residents of this center are usually individuals rejected by their family.
“Individuals who come to this home have no fees. For this reason we want people with no family care, who have nobody who takes care of them,” says Krasniqi.
The residents have different activities at the center: gardening, cleaning tables or yards, and other activities, in order to make them feel safer and to gain trust in the staff of the center.
As one of the first activities to try to integrate these individuals in society, the staff sends them to the shop to buy something symbolic.
“Every time they go out, even if it is for 2-3 minutes, it is a great joy for these individuals,” says Tahir Krasniqi, the director of the Center for Mental Health.
In Kosovo’s law on mental health it is stated that this law aims to protect and promote mental health, prevent the problems associated with it, guaranteeing the rights and improving the quality of life for persons with mental disorders. This law defines procedures and conditions for the protection of mental health by providing health care, the proper social environment for people with mental disorders, and preventive policies for the protection of mental health.
According to the Kosovo Agency of Statistics, during 2016, a total of 61,865 individuals have sought help at all seven service centers for mental health that exist in Kosovo. At the same time, there have been 8,458 home visits and 22,872 day stays that have been recorded.
Ferat Spanca’s apartment was broken into while he and his family were at a celebration.
“That night I hid an amount of money in my apartment. That night, around midnight, someone had broken into my apartment and found all the money. They also stole my wife’s gold jewelry, which was worth 2,000 Euros. The police came immediately when I called them. They did their job but the thief was never found. It has been years and nothing has come of it. All of my wealth, worth 38,000 Euros, disappeared in an hour,” says Spanca.
Thefts that are occuring often are concerning the citizens of nearly every municipality of Kosovo. They are not only happening to private houses but gas stations and bank branches as well.
Statistics from the Kosovo Police mention 2,985 thefts, the majority of them – 2,788, are severe and happened in the first half of 2017. Different equipment is used for theft: screwdrivers and scissors come in handy for breaking or cutting locks, breaking doors, walls or windows…
During the last nine months of 2017, in the municipality of Vushtrri, 209 thefts have been recorded.
Avni Zahiti, spokesman for the Kosovo Police in the region of Mitrovica — which includes the municipalities of Zveçan, Zubin Potok, Leposaviq and Skenderaj — says that in the municipality of Vushtrri in 2017, from January to September, 117 reports of theft were made in houses and apartments, while 89 cases were from businesses.
“The motive for theft is to gain wealth. They are not focused on something while they steal. They take everything that ensures them income,” says Zahiti.
Milaim Zhegrova, a resident of Vushtrri, says that lately this phenomenon is worrying the citizens.
“The phenomenon that is happening in Vushtrri is quite concerning. This is because the lives of families that are targeted by these criminals are endangered. Every citizen, from families to neighborhoods, education institutions, and religious institutions need to give their best in order to teach new generations not to steal. At the end, legal measures should be taken for those who steal.”
Considering the fact that thieves are usually younger individuals, a professor of sociology at the University of Prishtina, Artan Krasniqi, says that the families and their cooperation with competent institutions have an important role in decreasing this negative phenomenon.
“…youth’s perspective should also be considered, how the government organizes that perspective and what expectations they have for themselves. Stealing is an individual act more than it is an act of a specific social category. It means that even rich people steal but they steal more, they steal on paper, and poor people steal a chicken. So stealing does not depend on what social category you belong to,” says Krasniqi.
Justice institutions play an irreplaceable role in preventing this phenomenon.
According to the spokesman Zariqi, the situation in Vushtrri is considered calm and manageable since the police have access to every town.
“There are enough police patrols for the safety of Vushtrri. The number varies from day to day depending on the occurrences of the day,” he says, adding that the police increase their patrolling during celebrations and events when the chances of robbery are higher.
According to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kosovo, whoever takes the property of another with the intent to unlawfully appropriate it for himself, herself or for another person shall be punished by a fine and by imprisonment of 3 up to 12 years.
Forty youngsters, 20 Albanians and 20 Serbians, are learning the English language, near the bridge of the “Ibër” river. Since the end of war, the bridge separates the northern part of Mitrovica with mostly Serbs living in it, and the western part of Mitrovica with mostly Albanians living in it.
This 2-year foreign language course, which Mitrovica`s youth refer as CBM (Community Building Mitrovica), also has mixed staff from both communities. During the first year of work, CBM had two offices – one in north Mitrovica, and the other in south. The staff communicate in English; the language they are jointly teaching to youth from both sides of the bridge.
The initiative to soften the relationship among Serbian and Albanian was initially supported by the Embassy of Netherlands, while in the recent years it is also supported by the European Union, and additionally from the Institutions of Kosovo.
According to the director of CBM, Afërdita Sylaj, the main purpose of the project is building a dialogue and contact and also building trust between the two sides, “a trust which the war of ’98-99’ destroyed.”
“The generations that are born after the war do not have much knowledge about the ethnic problems of the Kosovar and the Serbs. They have learned their prejudices mainly from their relatives,” Sylaj says, and she adds that through activities she has initiated like organizing summer camps, they are aiming to eliminate prejudices and create a friendly relationship between the communities.
This is also the aim of the “Rock School,” which since 2008 acts as a gathering place for those who like rock music, which has been cultivated in Mitrovica for years. For years in row, the Women`s Center has been functioning in the “Minatori” neighborhood in north of Mitrovica, and also had an office in the southern part.
The bridge has divided both communities since 1999, and it is still a reminder of the late history of this city.
Natasa Saveljic, a project coordinator at CBM, thinks that the difference in the ethnic relationships before and now is noticeable, but…
“…concretely, people`s circulation from south into the northern part is smaller, whereas people`s circulation from north to south is much more noticeable. However, enabling people to pass over the bridge increases the circulation in both sides on the town,” she says.
According to her, by the passing of time, one can notice that serbian students have surpassed the old mindset of the fear they went through and the traumas of the after-war period.
Her colleague Sylaj also says that since 2011, the situation in Mitrovica is improving, despite the division of the city.
“There were problems and many incidents in the past, but now they have been reduced. The situation is more calm and youth can go to the northern part and talk Albanian freely,” she says.
Lulzim Hoti, the director of “7 Arte” Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), says that they support young artists, no matter what their ethnicity or religious belonging.
“…We have tried to engage the youth as much as we can, organize activities which help promote cultural values and various talents in several fields of art and culture.”
They are making efforts also to talk to the parents, who have often been an impediment to youth`s participating in these joint activities.
“We cannot say that we have achieved a lot since politics determines whether Serbs will participate in such activities or not. And… since politics determines that, it is impossible for us as organizations to make any more positive or concrete steps in this direction,” he expresses.
However, neither he nor the volunteers of the joint activities with the Albanians and Serbs are not giving up in front of politics.
Being conscious that they cannot gain success without cooperation with Serbs, Hoti started organizing joint activities with Global Initiative in Mitrovica – The Way Out, among them Green Fest as well, which has existed for seven years as a traditional music festival. The festival is followed by public debates in which public figures talk to the youth.
The volunteer Donjet Bislimi considers that the rapport between communities, even though not excellent, are however “good.”
“Since we all are from Mitrovica, we all belong to the same city, we are neighbors, we live together and share the same problems, and the integration in each other`s life is necessary,” this youngster from Mitrovica says.
S.L., a 17-year-old high school student, will never forget the horror she went through when she was 8 years old, when a young man age 20 harassed her.
It happened in the entry of the building in which she lived. He asked her to help him find a friend of his who supposedly lived in the same building. As she was young and naïve, she decided to help him. But some minutes afterward, she faced the fear that would follow her throughout her life.
“After we climbed two floors, I stopped to tell him that I couldn`t help him anymore but when I turned by head I was speechless. The unknown man had taken out his genital organ and while looking at me he said ‘come and touch it.’ I was shocked and started running downstairs and luckily he did not come after me,” S.L. says.
A.L., the father of the girl, says to KosovaLive that he found out what happened around one hour later, thus not being able to react immediately and identify the person. They did not report the case to the police due to the impossibility of providing a detailed description of the perpetrator.
“We have been afraid for a long time that the person who harassed our daughter would come to our building again and commit another act. Both of us [the girl’s parents] tried to help our daughter as much as we could, in order for her not to have consequences following her all her life,” A.L. says.
Vahide Morina, a psychologist at the Foundation Together Kosovo (FTK), located in Prishtina, gives advice on the web-page www.nukjevet.net for youth aged 12-25 and the problems they face. Among others, she helps them with professional instructions regarding trafficking, sexual abuse and sexual harassment. During the last two years, she also helps them in the field of reintegration in society.
She says that the term “sexual harassment” includes each unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal touching which makes a person feel sexually uncomfortable. Sexual harassment aspects may include sexual comments, physical gestures, showing pornographic content to someone without their consent and spreading sexual rumors about others.
“While rape victims know exactly what is happening to them and how they are being mistreated, sexual harassment victims are often confused and insecure relating sexual harassment experience. This due to the fact that sexual harassment might happen very quickly or as a series of events during a long period of time,” Morina says.
Signs of depression, giving up on their daily activities, avoiding socialization, and sleep disorders are some of the changes harassment victims exhibit. They can also have severe consequences as: high stress levels, anxiety, or panic attacks. Sexual harassment can also impact the way how they perceive things. They may consider their environment negative and hostile.
Morina says that since 2010, when “Nukjevet” was created, they have answered more than 21,000 questions from Kosovar youth. 179 out of the overall number of questions were relating to sexual harassment and sexual violence. The Non-Governmental Organization FTK, founded in 2009, has respected the principle that the identity of those who asked for help should remain anonymous, and emphasizes that the advice is free.
The sociologist Ferdi Kamberi states that the complexity and sensitivity of the issue are some of the reasons that sexual harassment cases remain silent. He says that Kosovar society oftentimes is not ready to report the cases to the police, but adds that even if they do so, the minors’ sexual harassment is stigmatized.
“The problem grows bigger especially in rural area where society has a more patriarchal mentality; people know each other better, and there are less opportunities to report these cases,” Kamberi says.
There is not a unique database with exact statistics of minors` sexual harassment cases in Kosovo, but according to information from some NGOs and the Kosovo Police, these cases are not rare.
For example, in the “Ec Shlirë” application, from 2016 until now, 21 cases of harassment have been reported. Out of them, four individuals were 14 years-old, two were 15 years-old, nine others were 16 and nine other people were 17 years old. In 2017 only, 47 cases of sexual harassment were reported to the police, even though it is not specified how many cases were minors.
Seven years ago, 27 local and international NGOs created the Coalition of NGOs for Child Protection in Kosovo (CNCP). As a project funded by the European Union, from 2016, CNCP has published data regarding children’s rights violation. Among the data presented was that of public service institutions in which 41 Kosovar children were identified as victims of several forms of violence, mistreatment and sexual abuse.