The case of A.SH, whose husband died before the war, leaving her with five orphans, and who’s been excluded from inheritance not getting any single acre of land to which her husband was entitled to through heritage, has touched the whole municipality of Decan.
The fact that she has not claimed her right for her personal interest, but rather seeking the right to which family members of the deceased were entitled to, was neglected her the family of her late husband.
Now she lives in a flat with her children, and has to provide income for well-being of the family, without no assistance whatsoever, and especially none from her husband’s family.
One woman only, out of over 40 thousand inhabitants in the municipality of Decan, was given the right to inheritance from her family. Over half of Kosovo population – 51%, are women, and only 3.8% have been given the right to inheritance. Currently, only 16% of properties are registered on the behalf of women.
Aiming at increase the awareness about the inheritance rights, many non-governmental organizations, the women’s association ” Jeta” in Decan, among them, undertook different initiatives.
This association has launched a nine-month project the main focus towards respecting and recognizing the inheritance right of women.
Safete Gacaferi, founder and director of this association, says that the Kanun (Code) of Lekë Dukagjini the ancient mentality that was inherited, are primarily to be blamed, for the denial of the inheritance right of Kosovo women.
“Men are not ‘entirely aware” for women’s inheritance right, and once this is achieved, women will also claim their rights”, she says.
Acknowledging that this project only cannot radically uproot the mentality, she considers this ”only one step taken in this direction”.
A research conducted by ”Jeta” last September, shows that majority of women do not feel equal, particularly in those families with daughters only, with no sons, where the inheritance still ends up in the hand of males in the family.
According to Antoneta Avdimetaj from ”Jeta’,’ 561 women participated in this survey.
”Every third woman stated they had no knowledge of the inheritance law: around 70% of them said that in case they claimed their property rights they would suffer consequences, and only 30% of the respondents knew of some other women who owned a property on her name”, she rounds up the finding of this survey.
Musa Berisha, former head of the Council for Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms in Decan said that the Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini regards all people equal when it comes to human rights and freedoms.
“But, justice is not applied when it comes to inheritance, where women are more deprived then men, and this an inherited mentality since those times’,” he says.
However, according to him, recently we have more adequate justice, which should have exited to begin with, and women are being treated equal to men, and we’re in a way ‘overcoming that mentality’”.
Luljeta Demolli, director of Kosovar Gender Studies Centre (KGSC), says that there’s as a chain of obstacles towards fulfilling women’s inheritance rights.
”Cases are long overdue, there are cases when families do not notify about the passing of their family members who have passed away, and when they do not notify other family members when the property is being divided”, she mentions several of these obstacles, blaming it on the patriarchal culture that still reigns in Kosovo.
She says that since 2006, when this centre was established, KGSC has continually dealt with the issue of inheritance through surveys, though, in spite of hard work, very little has changed.
People are sometimes conservative, impolite, they oftentimes insult you, though there are those who respect you and are glad that there are policewomen, says a woman member of the Kosovo Police.
Many citizens, men in particular, in a way confirm the words of Nerxhivane Greiçevci, one of 1,230 women in uniform or civil staff at Kosovo Police (KP), that numbers a total of 7,800, who think that men “being physically stronger” may better perform the job of a police officer.
Many girls, on the other hand, support policewomen saying that wearing the uniform and respecting the law is sufficient for them. They consider that gender does not predetermine success in any profession, this included.
Being a policeman is very challenging, while being a policewoman is an additional challenge, for you also have to face social prejudices, especially in a place such as Kosovo, where there no policewomen existed until following the 1999 war. This started changing with the establishment of the Kosovo Police, when women began applying for the job of an officer. They have already created the Women Association at Kosovo Police (WAKP), with the aim of empowerment, and inspiring all those girls who love this profession, to join them. Since then, many of them have reached higher positions in this profession.
The criteria to get into the Police Force remain the same: regardless of gender, women as well as their male colleagues must pass theoretical, physical, and the medical test. After the training at the Kosovo Academy for Public Security (KAPS), in Vushtrri, they are supervised by more experienced police officers, prior to becoming independent police officers. Other positions come with time if one fulfils certain other criteria.
However, in order to convince the society of their skills, and that they deserve the job of a police officer, Kosovo women had to work harder, given the environment where gender prejudice is still around.
“We do not want them to be merely women, but women who meet the criteria”, says colonel Taibe Canolli, who is the principal of Division for Personnel and Administration (DPA).
Canolli who also chairs the Women Association at Kosovo Police, says that this association, only of its kind in Southeast Europe, has two focuses: the empowerment of the women employees, and raising the awareness towards increasing the number of women in the Kosovo Police through equal gender competition.
In order to help each other, WAKP organizes trainings for women so they can be informed on all the procedures they have to go through, thus be better prepared prior to the announcement for higher job positions.
The number of boys and girls cadets at the KAPS also differs. There were no admissions during this year, but a total of 19,736 new cadets, 1.235 out of them women, applied a year before. Aiming at raising the number of women in WAKP and KAPS, WAKP decided to organize campaigns in secondary schools.
Canolli considers that women officers in the Police are needed in order to have gender diversity, which is essential for such an institution, particularly in cases of domestic violence.
“The presence and the commitment of women helps Kosovo Police be one of the most trusted institutions”, says she.
The occupation of a police officer has no strict working hours, one may have to work overtime and also the night shift. Since this requires a lot of sacrifice, many women were forced to give up their jobs, according to the report on the position of women in Kosovo Police, published by Human Rights and Gender Equality office within the Kosovo Police, in 2010. Now, new moms within the Kosovo police force are relieved from the night shift until the child reaches a certain age.
There are on average 105 boys on every 100 girls born in Kosovo, whereas last year this “girl-boy” difference was even more favorable for the boys.
The statistics, however, gives a different picture: women make up 51% of the overall number of the Kosovo’s population -1.739.825, while 49% are men.
Visare Mujku-Nimani, who headed the research conducted by the Kosovo Agency of Statistics (KAS), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Market Research Agency INDEX Kosova, concluded at the end of this project that “there was a chronological discrepancy between girls and boys in Kosovo”. This, according to her, indicates that in Kosovo “there’s a stronger preference for boys, which implies the existence of sex-selective abortions…”
L.H. 35 years old, mother of three, two boys and a girl, says that the abortions she had were for a single reason – she was carrying a baby girl.
“I had two sex-selective abortions. I took this decision in agreement with my husband, and now we are blissful for we have the family we’ve always wanted”, says L.H.
Gynecologist Suada Latifi from the University Clinical Centre of Kosovo says that sex-selective abortions are not widely spread in Kosovo.
Department of Gynecology in the Ferizaj Hospital claims that sex-selective abortions something their staff rarely encounters. According to nurse Suzana Ferati, even when these abortions happen, they are performed in private clinics.
“Albeit I am against sex-selective abortions, me and the staff may perform this when both parents agree, and when this is in accordance with the law”, she says.
H.F. from the municipality of Ferizaj, was only 25 years old when she had her first child, a girl who today is a student. This was her first joy, though not shared by others. “If only she were a boy” was what she heard instead of “congratulations”.
“I aborted four girls because my husband and his family wanted me to have a boy, and we could not afford having too many children”, says H.F.
Today, 47 years old, she says that if it was up to her, she would have kept all of those girls, believing that a family can be brought up without a boy, too.
Besa Ismaili-Ahmedi, a professor at the Faculty of Islamic Sciences says that sex-selective abortions are a disturbing phenomena in our society.
“It’s a highly disturbing phenomenon, even though it is not very widely spread in Kosovo; Islam considers it as one of the greatest sins, even in a single case”.
According to the laws of Republic of Kosovo, abortion is legal if performed until the tenth week of pregnancy, as well as on the 16th week, in exceptional instances, when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.
Teenager A.R from Bardhosh in the municipality if Prishtina, experienced a situation which she will never forget for the rest of her life.
She ended up in hospital after being physically assaulted by the person whom she was romantically involved with, and had a three year love affair. Never in her life had she expected something like that from the person she loved the most.
Interviewed by KosovaLive, under the condition of anonymity, she speaks of being physically assaulted on numerous occasions following her engagement.
The last time was the worst and most “meaningless”. The violence, she says, started when her 19 year old boyfriend accused her of not “being capable of cooking as his mother”.
Unlike from other women who encountered violence but had no other choice but to remain with their husbands, she feels “fortunate” to have had the support of her family. Her engagement ended immediately after this act of violence.
What A. R did not do was report the case, not even to the police.
From January to September 2016, 819 cases of violence against women were reported, 640 out from which involved women as victims.
The number of unreported cases, such as the one involving A. R. remains unknown.
However, according to the official statistics, the number of women who report violence to the police is on the rise recently.
Kosovo Police Press Office confirmed for KosovaLive that 1.038 cases of domestic violence, were reported during 2015, and 869 were reported by women as victims.
They experienced violence in various ways such as: intimidation, physical injury, assault, insult, psychological violence, etc. The age of women also differs.
Not all cases are reported to authorities. There are many cases that remain within the walls. It may turn out that those cases outnumber the cases reported. Consequently, numbers regarding this issue are never accurate.
Statistics show that 62% of the citizens have experienced domestic violence during their lifetime, 68% out of them are women.
Yet another concern of the women who were abused is their new place to live. Many of them do not have support by their families, so they have to seek shelter at respective state institutions, only 8 functioning in Kosovo.
Adelina Berisha, researcher with Kosovo Women Network, expresses great concern when it comes to the functioning of these shelters.
“Women, victims of abuse, can stay there only 6 months. Also, they are not allowed to be accompanied by their sons over 12 years old, though this does not apply for girls”, says Berisha.
Shukrije Gashi from the nongovernmental organization Partners Kosova says for KosovaLive, that this organization focuses on the economic empowerment of women: providing them with communication skills, drafting projects and collaborative planning.
Gashi insists that “laws are there but women do not know how to claim their rights”.
Even though these cases are being reported to the police, the perpetrator is kept only 24 to 48 hours in custody, and then released.
According to Adelina Berisha violence does not know profession nor geographical region.
“A lot of women were mistreated by husbands, who were highly educated. There are cases in rural areas that ended with fatality involving women who suffered high degree of violence,” she said.
When it comes to the role of media in reporting the phenomenon of religious extremism, as if a the assessment prevails within civil society: media is the one that has given a powerful alarm that something very precarious was taking place in Kosovo.
Arbana Xharra, an experienced journalist and editor-in-chief of daily newspaper “Zëri” says that she began dealing with religious extremism long before this issue became on of the main topics in the media.
While acknowledging the lack of respective surveys on this sensitive issue of religious extremism, she insists that this should be reported by those knowledgeable and mindful of the issue.
In other words, those who are familiar with this field, otherwise a different connotation may be delivered, and the public may be misinformed.
“Media is not the one to be blamed, but rather the government that has not provided the journalists with sufficient information”, says she regarding potential cases of misinformation or misinterpretation.
For Skënder Përteshi, researcher from Kosovar Centre for Security Studies (KCSS), media played a double, at times, even a negative role.
“Media has given more space to terrorists to promote hatred, to spread as much as possible their propaganda, and to recruit our citizens, than providing that other proper counter-message against violent extremism and radicalism,” he said.
Sociologist Sibel Halimi considers that there can be no precise assessment of the positioning of the media, due to different approaches within it in dealing with religious extremism.
Upholding the lack of sensitivity in reporting, she says that apart from a small number of media that dwelled more seriously and adequately in this issue, there were others that misinterpreted and misused it for the sake of their own calculations and sensationalism.
“A cooperation between the media and organizations that deal with religious extremism would be an extremely important combination toward joint coordination mainly in prevention, rather than producing sensationalism and causing fear and panic among citizens,” she concludes.
Serbeze Haxhiaj, a reporter of the public broadcaster Radio Kosova, who also has dealt with this issues, considers the role of media an important factor in the fight against extremism.
“Taking the overall picture of the reporting in the media, I can say that the threat from extremism was reported,” she says, not denying the fact that professional ethic had been abused at times during reporting. “There were also nuances of a sort of islamophobia, though to a smaller scale.”
Besa Ismaili, lecturer and vice-dean at the Department of Islamic Studies acknowledges the big role of the media, but adds that they could help in improving the image that has been created if they covered the activities of Islamic Community.
Media, according to her should look into matters much closely, be more professional, while “some media were irresponsible in what they did”.
”You can’t write a story from your office chair and not talking to the Muslim community; you cannot write on Islamic Community without talking to anyone from Islamic Community. Even worse when writing on girls with Hijab without sitting down with them and talking, not even knowing them. Whatever question they (media) have, we’re ready to answer, and they don’t need to assume or give this issue a global discourse”, says Ismaili.
One positive role that media played, according to Përteshi from KCSS, is reporting on the arrests, and further explaining the risks and threats from violent extremism and radicalism.
As well as debates organized with theologians who are versed with this issue.
Burim Ramadani from Security Policy Research Center (SPRC), who researched on extremism, says that media played an extremely positive and important role, though we can’t say that their completed their duty, because of the long-term challenge of this ideology.
“Through reporting we should help expose this propaganda made by ISIS and other organizations that have created a connection with the public, created quite an advanced propaganda”, he states.
But, sometimes an unexpected, maybe even opposite effect, could be achieved
“Media has served the message to our citizens, or better said, to those who have embraced that ideology and have joined the conflict. Videos that were published on daily basis on the bombing of Assad, had an impact among youngsters who concluded they should go and protect the Muslims ,” Përteshi from KCSS said.
This did not happen only with the Kosovo media, but could rather be regarded a global trend that spread even among top world media, according to him
Videos that were published in Albanian, and remained as top news in our media for a long time, had a strong impact on spreading the ISIS propaganda, says Përteshi.
Kosova is among those countries where marriages between people of the same gender are legal, while homosexuality still remains a taboo. When members of LGBT community decided to raise their voice on this topic, they faced severe physical violence from a particular group of people. These attacks served to raise the awareness of other people regarding the threats that this community in fact encounters.
The continual work of several organizations and the LGBT community, made more people to openly declare their homosexuality. Even though this community remains vulnerable, significant steps have been undertaken toward creating an environment that acknowledges their rights.
Online newsmagazine Kosovo 2.0 decided to break the silence of LGBT community in 2012 by publishing an entire edition about sex. This edition, among others, dealt with the problems of the LGBT community; difficulties they face when expressing their homosexuality, and the violence they encounter. Consequently, there were many disagreements, and members of the LGBT community were not only threatened, but also physically attacked during the launching of the Kosovo 2.0 magazine, at the Youth Pallace, in downtown Prishtina, capitol of Kosovo.
Cristina Mari, a journalist and program manager with Kosovo 2.0. says that there were many comments after the publication of that particular edition.
“Some were coming from people not even aware of the degree of homophobia in Kosova, but there were also many who threatened us, calling us a LGBT community organization”, says Mari.
According to a report by “Youth Initiative for Human Rights” (YIRH) from November of 2013, there is a general lack of information, trainings and awareness on issues pertaining this community.
Lendi Mustafa, a member of this community, says that even though they have to keep secret the location of parties and events they organize, the protection of police last only until midnight.
Despite the fact that Kosovo Police had several trainings in 2007, they were not prepared for the likes of those 2012 attacks. Kosovo Police claims that following that incident, they had many trainings from the Organization for Protection of Rights of LGBT Community ‘QESH’. They also participated in the European Union sponsored project against homophobia and transphobia, in order to gain a positive and professional approach while dealing with incidents where LGBT community members are included. Trainings were also held in Netherlands.
QESH, CSGD, and CEL have various cultural activities that support the LGBT community. Every year, QESH organizes “Diversity Week” with different activities such as conferences or exhibitions regarding this community, in the course of four days.
“Last year we organized an evening during which we expressed our talents, aiming at saying that we are not identified as an LGBT community, only”- says Lendi.
During this year’s ‘Diversity Week’, “QESH” has also presented its report on the experiences of the LGBT community in Kosova. In 2014 they conducted a survey with 203 persons, and in 2016 interviewed 83 members of this community.
QESH agrees that there have been positive changes toward creating a safe environment for the members of this community. While 60% of the respondents from the 2014 survey stated to have been discriminated at least once, in 2016 this number was lower than 53%.
However, according to this report, with the rising visibility of the LGBT community, there was an increased fear of discrimination within the sample in this survey. While in 2014, 65% of the interviewees had stated that they were scared of discrimination, in 2016 this number reached 60%.
Sociologist, Linda Gusia says that the work of different organizations indicates a mobilization, albeit we can still be considered a homophobic society.
‘However, recently more people openly talk about their sexuality. The reason why a part of the society does not accept this as an inevitable phenomenon is because homosexuality has been kept hidden, though the truth is that there is a degree of homosexuality in each society”, adds Gusia.
According to Ledi, the attitude of the media has changed lately. They are using a more acceptable vocabulary, and are more neutral regardless of their personal views regarding this community.
Marches organized in Prishtina are some other steps that have been taken in supporting this community. Politicians, among them, Hashim Thaçi, Atifete Jahjaga, and Ulrike Lunacek participate in the last march. According to Gusia, these marches help the LGBT community for they show support and tolerance.
The Head of Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), Ms. Alexandra Papadopoulou, met today for an introductory meeting the Constitutional Court President Arta Hajrizi-Rama. They discussed the importance of continued support between the judiciary and EULEX, noting that the rule of law is the key to the success and prosperity of Kosovo’s European aspirations.
“EULEX stands ready to support the independence of the Constitutional Court and provide assistance that will further strengthen this institution,” said Ms. Papadopoulou.
The outgoing Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Jean-Claude Schlumberger, hosted today the chairpersons of the Association of Journalists of Kosovo, Shkëlqim Hysenaj, and of the Journalists’ Association of Serbia registered in Kosovo, Budimir Ničić, to donate 50 sets of vests and jackets bearing the word ‘PRESS’.
During a time of recurring protests in which journalists face difficult situations and in some cases have suffered injuries, the journalists’ associations requested the Mission provide them with protective gear. These vests and jackets will help journalists to report safely by distinguishing them from the crowd.
“Journalists in Kosovo do not have an easy job, and are often challenged to the extent that they face serious situations. The work of journalists becomes even more dangerous when reporting on protests and violent demonstrations. To be able to report more safely, they need to be identifiable,” said Schlumberger.
Schlumberger encouraged the chairpersons of journalists’ associations to continue to support the work of media and safety of journalists in the future. “Today we are providing you with vests and jackets with visible “PRESS” insignia. I hope they will help you in your work, but at the same time I also hope there will not be many such occasions for you to report from,” added the Ambassador.
In the coming months, the OSCE Mission will provide journalists’ associations with a Guide on Safety of Journalists during Reporting on Protests, with advice and know-how to report from protests and violent demonstrations. The guide will help journalists avoid injuries and/or damage to equipment while working.
The OSCE Mission in Kosovo is mandated with the protection and promotion of human rights, democratization, and public safety sector development. It helps safeguard freedom of the media and freedom of expression and supports media development.
After two and a half years an EU Office funded project “Support to Strengthening the Mechanism for Implementation of Social Services Decentralisation” has come to an end. The project was a complex undertaking to help central and municipal institutions to improve the quality of social services delivered to those in need as well as prepare grounds for effective decentralisation of social services in Kosovo. The main partner and beneficiary of the project was the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare (MLSW).
“Sustainable growth and social consensus requires a broad range of services that help those in need to overcome difficulties they face. Social services are based on core European values including solidarity, dignity and respect for human life. You can judge the quality of the society on the way it takes case care of its weakest. The EU will continue to support Kosovo authorities and Civil Society to achieve in this sector,” said Deputy Head of Cooperation, Libor Chlad.
The European Commission has stressed for several years now in its Reports for Kosovo the need for Kosovo to move on with decentralisation of social services and encourages the competent institutions, particularly the municipalities, to fulfil their obligations with regard to the delivery of quality social services to those in need.
In particular, the project strengthened the implementation mechanisms required to meet the objectives for social service delivery, social service standards as well as monitoring and evaluation of social services provision and secondly to build capacity and resources and support the development and implementation of local strategies and action plans for social service provision at municipal level. By helping the Ministry to meet these objectives, the EU funded project has in fact facilitated implementation of actions defined in the Ministry’s Sectorial Strategy 2009-2013.
Below we list some of the results of the project:
The combination of institutional capacity building and human resources capacity building has successfully provided a strong foundation for the future development of a quality service system capable of meeting the needs of the population of Kosovo.
The ancient history of Kosovo is often fiercely debated, which often leads to anger, confusion and division. Professor Edi Shukriu, a member of the Academy of Science and Arts of Kosova, is doing her best to set the record straight.
Born in Prizren to a Catholic mother and a Muslim father, Shukriu has always been aware of the many layers of culture in Kosovo, and she refuses to give one narrative more credence than another.
“Everyone from Kosovo likes to start from ‘O’. This is problematic for archaeology,” Shukriu said.
She pointed out that “Kosovo” is the Serbian spelling for the country, so some people tend to focus on history in the context of Serbia and Kosovo, not what came before.
But Shukriu said ample evidence has been unearthed in fieldwork and research by her, and by others, that show the cultural history of Kosovo is substantial, and transcends any modern debates. Shukriu has studied the civilizations of Rome, Illyria, Dardania and Turkey — all predate, by the more than a millennium, the cultural claims, myths and struggle for ownership of history between ethnic Albanians and Serbs.
“In general, I like heritage. I was never educated to separate one heritage from another. Albania is my heritage, Serbia is my heritage, and Rome is my heritage too,” Shukriu insisted.
Shukriu’s father was a director of archaeological studies in Prizren. Her house was near Sinan Pasha Mosque and Prizren fortress. Her home also was very old and had had many previous residents before she was born.
“It was a combination of my father’s influence and growing up in a city with a rich history that motivated me to study archaeology.” Shukriu explained.
Shukriu is a respected academic around the world. She has authored and co-authored many books and academic journals, along with published works of poetry and creative writing. Today, however, Shukriu has her mind strictly on archaeology for Kosovo and answering the questions surrounding these ancient sites.
Ulpiana, on the edge of Prishtina, is an ancient site that has been known for nearly 60 years, and Shukriu has invested many hours there.
The Ulpiana dig dates from the Roman and Byzantine eras. It functioned as a Roman Empire crossroads, especially leading to the east, and later was a crossroads on Byzantium’s route west.
The site was near a prominent mining area known for its precious metals, stones and fertile land. During the Roman occupation, Ulpiana was one of the most traveled routes between Rome and Constantinople, according to the site’s project director, Milot Berisha.
Berisha explained that until Shukriu and her team arrived at Ulpiana in 2006, there were “systematic excavations of a preventive character,” done by the government in the days of Tito and Milosevic. Finding any type of historical evidence that refuted the Serbian historical narrative of Kosovo during those years was a potential problem.
One site in the vicinity of Prishtina is a prime example of the preventive excavations. The Tjerrtorja, where the iconic figurine of Prishtina’s goddess was found, was first excavated in 1953. After the goddess and a few other smaller pieces were discovered, the land was quickly privatized and a textile factory was built over the excavation site. Neither Berisha nor Shukriu believe that there will be any further excavation of the Tjerrtorja, since the factory still stands on the site.
The Tjerrtorja is not an isolated example.
Many excavations were halted throughout Kosovo, meaning much of the country’s history remains unseen and unstudied. Berisha noted that during the war, most Kosovar archaeologists were kept on the perimeter of any type of dig that happened under Serbian occupation, and weren’t allowed to examine any of the findings. That was one of the main reasons that sites like Ulpiana remained mostly untouched for more than a half century.
Berisha was studying at a university in Tirana at the time of the war. Shukriu, on the other hand, found herself in the middle of the conflict. She was teaching at the University of Prishtina at the beginning of Serbia’s increased dominance of Kosovo. Shukriu recalls many professors, herself including, getting fired for refusing to teach under Serbian curricula. Shukriu said she was also beaten by Serbian police.
“They hit me on the hands and struck my body with clubs. I was bleeding and had several bruises. We were still very calm and peaceful, to save things from happening again,” Shukriu said.
“Serbs still haven’t asked for forgiveness… but the war was not one-sided. There were Albanians killing Serbs who had nothing to do with the deaths of families, and there were Serbian students with knives calling for the death of Albanians at the University of Belgrade,” Shukriu explained.
Immediately after the 1999 war, Shukriu worked in the government with the intention of creating the framework of positive reactions between Serbs and Kosovo Albanians.
“We wanted to respect democracy, and respect what the Serbians had,” she said.
Shukriu was a member of the Assembly of Kosovo for eight years, co-chair for the department of culture for UNMIK for two years. For four years, she also served as the President for the Committee of Culture, Youth, and Sport of the Assembly. She was the founder of the Women’s Forum of the Democratic League of Kosovo and currently serves as the Democratic League’s Vice President. Due to Shukriu’s political connections, she has been able to get the Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sport to support the various archaeological expeditions.
“Dr. Shukriu is an example of someone who used their political influence for good,” said Berisha.
In 2006, ground was broken at Ulpiana. Shukriu and her team began unearthing the ancient Roman and Byzantine municipium, near the ethnic Serb enclave of Gracanica.
Ten years later, Berisha and his team have uncovered several different structures at the excavation site. They have found a basilica with an octagonal baptistery, another basilica that was fortified at some point, city walls, city gates, large burial grounds, bones, and more.
“Only 3 percent of the city has been uncovered. There is still a lot of work that we have to do over the next few months,” explained Berisha.
The site is under the protection of Serbs, though this is not an issue as Berisha and other archaeologists at the site speak Serbian and even employ Serbians to help with the excavations. The project is fully funded by Kosovo’s Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sport. In fact, the Minister Kujtim Shala has been to the Ulpiana site several times.
“He expects great results from this place,” said Berisha, smiling as he stared out at the diverse group of people actively working to uncover and restore beautifully preserved masonry and floor mosaics.
“Our goal is not to say one group is right about history and the other is wrong, we are simply trying to uncover the truth of what life was really like before our ancestors showed up. Roman history is everyone’s history,” Berisha added.
“Serbian culture and Albanian culture cannot be divided,” Shukriu said, explaining that there is too much work to do and so much to discover, it is possible for cultures to coexist in peace, no matter what bad blood lingers from the past. “The war is over. It has been over. We need to focus on bringing people together,” Shukriu added.
“We have not wanted to politicize the site. The Minister likes that we are promoting a ‘common heritage’ among the people,” according to Berisha.
Thanks to their efforts at repairing relations between ethnic groups has, the Ulpiana site has had “multi-ethnic camps” during the past three years. These camps bring together Serbs, Albanians, Roma, Gorani.
“The workers here have no problems with each other. I can speak clearly to all groups represented at our site, and as you can see they have all done great work,” Berisha said, pointing to the revealed ruins.
The problems lie with natural obstacles. Water and erosion have worn most of the ancient Roman ruins away, so Berisha and his team are working against the clock to preserve the site, since only 3 percent has been discovered.
Berisha is working with the Ministry to make the Ulpiana site into Kosovo’s first archaeological park. He hopes that it will be ready to be open to the public by the end of autumn.
Shukriu wants to see more cooperation with businesses and specific archaeological excavations, in order to generate more notice and interest.
“We had wanted to build a hotel nearby Harilaq, since it is so close to the airport. We had hoped that people would stay at that hotel and want to go see Harilaq since the two would have been so close,” she explained.
Despite some initiatives not going as originally planned, Shukriu, Berisha, their students and volunteers, are diligently laying the framework of an accurate and evidence-based historical narrative.
“Milot is very passionate about the site. He comes here even when people aren’t working. Cold or hot, he is here. He is very dedicated, it is an inspiration to all of us,” said Arianit Buqenca, a professor of archaeology in Prishtina.
“Dr. Shukriu is one of the best minds that Kosovo has,” added Valon Shkodra, a former student of Shukriu who is a curator at the Ethnological Museum of Kosova in Prishtina. “She is strong and she can work with many different people.”
(Houston Vick was a reporting intern at KosovaLive this summer in collaboration with Miami University in the United States.)