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Kosovo: selective silence or something else?

One may call it selective silence. I call it fascism.
Once upon a time everything was quite simple and self-explanatory. The public knew who bad guys were. Once upon a time human rights activists knew very well what they should protest against. Just five years ago there was a hot topic for all western media: humanitarian crisis in Kosovo. We were reading, watching and listening to horrific never-ending stories of gang rapes and mass murders perpetrated by Serbs. By that time the international community was already prepared to this sort of information. Anti-Serb campaign started soon after the beginning of the war in Croatia. It was far too easy: Serbs are bad, all others are good (or not as bad as Serbs, depending upon circumstances). Just keep it simple and the whole world knows what is going on.  

Kosovo is not a big deal anymore. Having looked through Yahoo! headlines a couple of days ago I discovered that stories from Kosovo were far behind the Iraqi war on terrorism, US presidential elections and the issue of gay and lesbian marriages. CNN just briefly mentioned Kosovo uproars in its world news report. Well, I guess I should not have been surprised. Sure, gays and lesbians have the right to get marriage and the right to be heard, US presidential candidates have the right to explain their views to the US and international public.

Serbs do not have right to live and practice their religion on their own land.

Who cares about Serbs after all? Serbs are evil. It is a postulate.  

Since the end of the World War Two there were no particularly serious military conflicts in Europe. This peaceful state of affairs ended up after the collapse of Yugoslavia. Soon after unhappy events had happened the whole world had a chance to see the new evil. In the whole chain of occasions the people quickly forgot the simple principle: there are no good and bad nations, there are good and bad individuals. 

The wars in Croatia, Bosnia, an armed conflict in Kosovo and NATO bombings provided hundreds if not thousands of jobs for various kinds of writers, reporters and political analysts who played a major role in forming international opinion in respect of the former Yugoslav republics. One of the most prolific and successful Balkan writers was Tim Judah. His books “The Serbs. History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia” and “Kosovo: War and Revenge” instantly became authoritative sources of information on recent Balkan wars. Trying to explain the nature of Serbs and Serbia’s “sad present in the light of its past” the author comes up with an example of a famous Serbian (Montenegrin) poem “The Mountain Wreath” or “Gorski Vijenac” (Serbian) by Petar Njegos, a Montenegrin prince. The poem tells about the historic happenings of the end of the 17th century known as "the exterminations of the Turkish converts." The main outcome of the author’s reasoning was: only mentally crazy nation may glorify such deeds and consider the mass killings of one religious group an act of heroism. Tim Judah however overlooked the fact that the history of every nation is in a certain way based on wars against others, particularly on wars against those considered oppressors. The whole Jean d’Arc legend is based upon the war against the British. I would not go so far as to call the French an insane nation though. Tim Judah was just one of the many proponents of Anti-Serb hysteria and by all means not the worst one. He was just one of the myriad of contributors to “insane nation” myth.  

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Sheffer called burning down Serbian churches and expelling Serbs from their homes where the lived for centuries “a very bad thing”. His further message to Serbs was to be self-restrained and avoid any violence.  

Jaap de Hoop Sheffer could have used stronger terms to describe the current situation in Kosovo but why should he? 
Who cares about Serbs? Serbs are mentally sick. Just read Tim Judah’s books. 

Walking along a Danube embankment in the city of Novi Sad with a Hungarian friend of mine we were talking about some insignificant stuff that pals normally discuss at 11 p.m. “Serbia seems nice and the people are so extraordinary friendly”- she said to me, suddenly. “I did not expect this. I watched some footages from Serbia before, our TV always showed Albanian women who were raped by Serbs, they looked terrified,” she added a few seconds later.  

 For the period between the 17th and the 19th March more than 20 Orthodox churches and monasteries were set on fire. Some of them were built in the 14th century and protected by UNESCO. More than 3 000 (three thousand) Serbs had to leave their homes.  

Harri Holkeri, Kosovo’s UN administrator, said attacks “came so suddenly the security forces were not in the right place at the right time”.  United Nations condemned violence in Kosovo. What else could they do? Condemnation is already too much.
Who cares about Serbs? Serbs are rapists. Just watch TV to understand this.  

During last ten years the whole world has been learning by heart only one phrase: “Serbs are bad”. It turns out they finally succeeded. No one seems to be disgusted by the fact that for the past several days thousands of Serbs were expelled from their homeland and many Orthodox churches were destroyed. An average American is more concerned about same-sex marriage than about burning Orthodox churches. An average British is more interested in Kylie Minogue-Oliver Martinez relationship than in thousands of Serbian refugees.

Nobody talks about ethnic cleansing or genocide this time, ethnic cleansing simply does not apply to Serbs; they are the ones who ethnically clean others but not the ones who get ethnically cleaned. Nowadays there are just ethnic clashes between “the majority Muslim Albanians and the Orthodox Christian Serbs” as Reuters say.

I just wonder how one should call well-planned and systematic attacks against ethnic and religious minority as well as persistent destruction of religious objects?  

It is pretty simple though.

This is just fascism, mere fascism, no more, no less. If you say the others are inferior just because they belong to a particular nation it is fascism. No doubt about that. If no one is going to do anything about current Kosovo crisis it means they deny Serbs the very basic human rights: the right to human dignity and the right to life just because they are Serbs.

 I do understand that very few actually expected this. People in the United States and the EU get used to receiving information about barbaric acts committed by Serbs and do not want to learn about crimes committed against Serbs. As I have said it was all too simple before and it is a bit more complicated now. Perhaps the rest of the world does not believe Serbs can suffer as much as other nations. It may also be they think Serbs deserve current sufferings and that the situation in Kosovo is getting better in any case. I remember very well a talk with a young intellectual from Czech republic right after the NATO military campaign against Yugoslavia. He was arguing that NATO military intervention was inevitable. He admitted some “collateral damage” had been caused to the country but said that it had been necessary to prevent further harm and stop humanitarian catastrophe.

Or they do not have an opportunity to learn more about the genocide that is going on in Kosovo now. 

Looks like just very few of us are appalled at the images of Serbs leaving their homes and blazing Serbian churches. The rest of the world does not want to see these images or does not want to believe them. They are ignoring the truth.  

One may call it selective silence. I call it fascism.

Igor Motsnyi

Lawyer, (LL.M in European Community Law, Leiden University, the Netherlands)

Especially for “PRAVDA.Ru”.

Click here to see photos of ethnic conflict in Kosovo


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