Kosovo Albanians denounced recent attacks on Serbian cemeteries calling the vandalism "uncivilised" and an attempt "to inflame good relations among communities."
By Ivana Jovanovic and Safet Kabashaj for Southeast European Times in Belgrade and Pristina -- 21/02/13
More than 200 gravestones were damaged during the attacks in Kosovo in late January. [Safet Kabashaj/SETimes]
Albanians in Kosovo are expressing indignation over the attacks at Serbian cemeteries that took place across the country. In most places, the gravestones were displaced and damaged, but in the village of Priluzje, central Kosovo, a blast demolished three tombstones.
People on both sides agree that these kind of actions can strain the good relations in diverse communities, and everything should be done to prevent it in the future.
"I feel so sorry for anyone who has been hurt during 1998 and 1999 in Kosovo, but these dead people did do anything bad to them!" said Ljiljana Nedeljkovic, 62, from Belgrade.
"Our society aims for different standards, better levels of tolerance, understanding and respect, but regrettably some terrible acts of individuals, such the attacks on cemeteries, are moving us all a way back," Pristina resident Elez Morina told SETimes.
The attacks occurred in late January, right after Serb authorities removed a monument honouring Albanian guerilla that fought Serbian forces in 2001 from Presevo, an Albanian dominated city in southern Serbia.
"Some elements perhaps attacked cemeteries in revenge, but it's sad that these tools [methods] are still in use," Driton Rrezja, a chemist from Prizren told SETimes.
Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci also denounced violations, and the government allocated 97,000 euros to repair the damaged gravestones.
"This is the amount of money needed according to all reports on the damage presented by local authorities' assessments," Lumnije Demi, the head of press department in the local government administration ministry, told SETimes.
Demi said the government will establish a committee to assess the damage and draft a plan to repair the damaged gravestones.
"It is not only a matter of material damage but also the fact that attacks on holy sites and cemeteries undermine confidence in local institutions and seriously damage the image of Kosovo in the world," Father Sava Janjic, Abbot of Serbian Monastery Decani in Kosovo, told SETimes.
Some citizens think that NGO and international communities should also get involved to resolve these issues.
"NGOs could have a key role! They have expertise and international support and they should get closer to the people on both sides and find a way to explain the consequences of vandalism on social and emotional level," Predrag Djordjevic, a chemistry professor in Belgrade, told SETimes. He added that government, police and international forces should be responsible for the security.
Ljuba Nacic son's grave in Plemetin was one of 200 tombstones that have been damaged during the attacks.
"Why? Who needed this? He was with no one in hostile relations," said Ljuba stressing that all of her neighbours, including Albanians, came to the cemetery immediately after the attack to express their condolence and show solidarity.