Tensions along the border in northern Kosovo are high after KFOR announced plans to dismantle the barricades on roads leading to the border crossing of Jarinje and Brnjak.
By Muhamet Brajshori for Southeast European Times in Mitrovica -- 19/10/11
School children joined adults in the barricades in northern Kosovo. [Laura Hasani/SETimes]
To prevent KFOR troop from dismantling the barricades, "parallel structures" have organised round the clock shifts of people to stay in the barricades. On Monday (October 17th) school children joined the adults there, raising questions about whether this violates children's rights and puts them at risk.
The first to raise the issue was the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Serbia, led by Cedomir Jovanovic.
The LDP issued a statement saying it has heard from "frightened parents from the north who say that some high school principals intend to bring students from school to the barricades, without permission of parents themselves".
"It is very dangerous and a huge psychological pressure on them. All this can lead to great tragedy and we need an urgent response. The state has to examine, condemn and to prevent these acts," stresses the LDP.
Psychologist Mirvete Kllokoti tells SETimes that institutions must act to act on the children's behalf.
"Police and KFOR should take necessary steps to prohibit the use of children as a shield for political issues. This is a violation of national and international legal acts on children's rights, and more than that, puts the children in risk when no one knows what will happen," says Kllokoti.
Security Studies Professor Avdullah Hasani tells SETimes this is not a new phenomenon.
"If you remember, when the barricades first appeared in July and KFOR tried to move further, they were prevented by children and women staying in the roads. He adds, "Some people use children and woman as a shield because they know no one would use violence or anything else to remove them from the roads, and this has a political implications, because the barricades remain, and no one wants a humanitarian catastrophe."
Goran Dimitrijevic, a resident of northern Mitrovica, tells SETimes that the children's are in the barricades with their parents to defend the nation.
"It is propaganda by Pristina that children are pressured and [are there] without parental permission. How is it 'without permission' when they are staying there with their parent? We all want to defend our nation and there is no age difference," says Dimitrijevic.
Goran Krstic, a journalist from Mitrovica, tells SETimes that even if the purpose of the barricades is just, using children should be avoided.
"The people in the barricades have legitimate reasons to stay there, but children I think are not necessary to be there, because it can risk them in this unclear situation," says Krstic.
Hasani says that KFOR and Kosovo Police will be careful given that children are involved. "Security mechanisms always analyse such situations and what can prevent them to implement the plans, and an obstacle is putting the children there, and I believe they will take care to avoid any incident which would jeopardise the children and [other] civilians at all," he says.
Kllokoti says this exposure to dangerous places and situations could be traumatic.
"This is my main concern … because this is a huge pressure on them. Their main task is to go to school and get a good education [not] to leave school for political purposes. One of the principles of education for every teacher and school dean is that politics has nothing to do with school."