It was 2008 when A.M. received her university acceptance letter, and decided to go out to celebrate with her friends at a bar in Pristina. The celebration turned into fear, and from that day on, she never goes out alone at night.
“In a bar in Prishtina, around 20:30 a person tried to forcefully get close to me. I didn’t accept and he got angry. I tried to call the police but with no success. Left with no other options, when he approached me again I hit him and after that action his friend came and slapped me,” A.M says.
The harassment continued after she got out of the bar, but luckily it ended because “I pretended I was calling the police and they got scared.”
Cases like this have drawn the attention of various organizations like Open Data Kosovo, Girls Code in Kosovo, and Kosovo Women’s Network. These organizations, together with 30 other women, have created an application to report sexual harassment called “EC SHLIRË” or “Walk Freely.”
Blerta Thaqi, project initiator, says that they organized nine workshops in total to create this application. For now, it can only be used in the android platform, but soon it will also be available for the IOS platform.
“Our main purpose is to raise awareness to fight this phenomenon, collecting data so then, in cooperation with the relevant institutions, we can take measures to put street lights in some neighborhoods or to add police patrols,” Thaqi says.
Kosovare Sahatqiu, one of the 30 young women who participated in creating and promoting the application, says that it appeared in the market on February 24th last year. It now has had around 1.000 downloads, and collected over 400 reports of various sexual harassment.
“The application is used by all genders, it is anonymous but the information is collected for demographic data. It is available in five languages and each user can see the types of harassment and in what places they happened most and in what circumstances,” Sahatqiu said.
Adelina Tërshani, who has been harassed in the street, says that this application has helpful functions.
“This application, that I have downloaded myself, is useful for the fact that it can measure the number of harassments in the places that they happen. In a way it is a step towards raising awareness against sexual harassment,” she says.
Girls Code in Kosovo, Open Data Kosovo and Kosovo Women’s Network don’t directly handle cases of sexual harassment. According to Kosovare Sahatqiu, they report the most dangerous cases to Kosovo Police.
According to a study by Kosovo Women’s Network published last year, 48.5% of citizens of Kosovo have experienced some form of sexual harassment.
Based on the same report, women experience sexual harassment more than men: 64.1% of women reported to have experienced sexual harassment, compared to 32.5% of men. Furthermore, individuals from 18-25 years old are more likely to report being harassed, while people ages forty-six and over are less likely to report the same thing.
Last week, when Kosovo Police informed citizens about the danger that an online game could cause, most Kosovar citizens — especially those who work outside the home — were not aware of the fact that their children could play this dangerous game.
According to Kosovo Police, on June16, 2016, after the first reports of “The Blue Whale Game” in Kosovo, six cases of children who tried to play this game were recorded. But according to police, there might be other unreported cases. Thanks to the media, who published the story of a girl from Gjirokastra (Albania), who was saved at the last moment, a very important message for parents and children was sent.
“The Blue Whale Game” is a game that is created online and is shared through social networks. Those who decide to play it must finish different kinds of tasks: watch horror movies, not sleep for several nights, or harm their body by scratching a whale into their skin, until the final level, when the players are asked to commit suicide in order to win the game.
Now, more than 130 suicide cases have been registered in Russia alone. This is an illustration of how prevalent this game is, and the risk that it poses.
This shows that the internet, social networks, and games, despite offering advantages, can become an addiction. It can also become a danger, specifically for children.
Naim Telaku, a psychologist at the Psychological Clinic “Uni” in Prishtina, says that children`s exposure to violent content makes them more aggressive.
“This content increases children’s aggression in the cognitive and emotional aspects. Of course, these behaviors start with social attraction and then regroupings in bands, up to criminal acts, in extreme cases,” he emphasizes.
According to Telaku, another danger for the minors is also the fact that around 80% of all internet content is pornographic.
According to a 2014 study by “Save the Children” and the Center for Advanced Studies FIT, in which 1,150 Kosovar children ages 9-16 years old participated, results showed that 41% of the surveyed admitted to having watched pornographic content, and 28% of them have experienced verbal violence through the internet.
Adelina Avdiu, mother of two young children, says that she tries to control her four year-old son when he`s using the phone.
“I allow him to use the phone, but I constantly check what he`s doing. I don`t allow him to watch scary things, since it happened previously that my child was scared at night,” she says.
Fourteen-year-old Era Qerimi says that she uses the internet up to five hours a day.
“I use the internet because of social networks, but I also use it to listen to music and watch movies. As for the social networks, I use Instagram up to two hours per day, whereas Facebook and Snapchat less,” she adds.
Mufail Sylejmani, a Math teacher at “Thimi Mitko” primary school in Gjilan, thinks that the increased use of social networks has a more negative impact than positive. He also thinks that it is affecting the learning process as well.
“Prohibiting the use of mobile phones in schools is the right decision, even though lately, it is being enforced less. This because the dynamic life has made the phone inevitable. However, I maintain that phones should be strictly prohibited in educational institutions and the time spent on social networks should be minimized,” he emphasizes.
In the 2014 report by “Save the Children” and the Center for Advanced Studies “FIT,” 93% of children in Kosovo use internet, and 84% of them have Facebook or Twitter accounts. This report shows that Kosovar children are more active on the internet than their peers in Bulgaria (54%), Romania (46%), or Turkey (49%). What is interesting is that 35% of Kosovar children declared that they feel very safe when using the internet, but 26% declared the opposite.
According to the Strategic Plan for the Protection of Children from Internet Risks, published in 2015 by the Office of the Prime Minister, Kosovo has specific laws against Cybernetic Crimes. The police and the judiciary have been engaged in protecting children on the internet. The Regulatory Authority of Electronic and Postal Communications is also involved.
Hamide Latifaj, a pedagogue in Prishtina, says that as a consequence of internet overuse, children can also develop health issues.
“Children usually have problems with back muscle frailty, which raises the number of thoracic and spinal cord deformities, neck pains, and then comes obesity, in other words, becoming fat. Also, the parents who are busy working, and those who have businesses, are not very dedicated to their children. They should be the initiators to do outdoor activities together,” Latifaj says.
The psychologist Telaku also asserts that internet usage, specifically by children, can cause addiction.
“Internet addiction is the condition in which the lack of internet access causes physiologic and psychic distress, which means the feelings of irritation, frustration and anxiety increase. This addiction, as any other addiction, is a disorder in itself. In this case, it is an anxiety disorder,” he says.
Mervete Hashani, now 24 years old, was forced by her family to get married when she was still a minor. She says that she didn’t want to get married that early because she had goals for the future which her parents took away her by making that decision for her.
“At 17 I hanging out with a guy. When my father found out he forced me to marry him, because according to him it wasn’t morally right to go out with a guy with whom I wasn’t married,” says Hashani.
She wanted to finish her studies and become anaccomplished teacher, but due to the low economic income of her husband’s family she couldn’t do it. Her parents didn’t help her either, to them she now was a stranger.
According to a research study of Kosovo Agency of Statistics on marriages in Kosovo, 134 women aged 16-19 were married during 2015.
Since a year earlier 95 legal child marriages were registered, whereas in 2013 a total of 105, it is apparent that this trend is not only continuing, it is actually growing. All these cases involved girls aged 16 to 17 in marriageswith older men. And all of these are, of course only the registered cases; the number of unregistered cases is hard to determine.
Mervete’s mother Z.H. considers that it is better for children to get married than to roam streets. According to her, the most important thing in a girl’s life is to create a happy family.
“My daughter was young, she couldn’t tell good from bad. We made a decision for her and look where she’s now: mother of a boy and a good spouse,” she says.
According to the Criminal Code of Kosovo, an individual who forces a child (under 18 years of age) to get married, can be sentenced from 2 to 10 years. When the parent or legal guardian violates this code and forces a child aged 14-16, the prison sentence may vary from 5-10 years and at least 15 years of prison for forcing children under 14 years old to marry. If the young couple isn’t officially married, according to the law it’s another violation that falls in the category of “co-habiting without marriage”. The same sentences also apply to parents or legal guardians who force their children to “co-habit without marriage”.
A 2012 UNFPA (United Nations Fund for Population Activities) research study about child marriages in Kosovo, concludes that 1,451 girls aged 16-19 were married in 2010, compared to only 161 boys of the same age.
“Immediate registration is particularly rare in child marriages. First, the criminal penalties mentioned above for parents, guardians, or adult spouses engaged in forced marriages make it highly unlikely that they would alert the authorities to such marriages. Second, the administrative procedures for legal child marriages, including court and forensic fees, can be both time-consuming and costly. Instead, spouse(s) often wait until they reach age 18 to register their marriage,” the report says.
Other reasons leading to child marriages in Kosovo include love, pressure from the family, woman safety, socio-economic conditions, unplanned pregnancy, peer pressure and tradition.
This phenomenon is not typical for Kosovo only. Based on statistics, every year, 15 million girls worldwide get married before they reach the age of 18, and approximately 720 million women that are alive were married before they turned 18. If this trend were to continue, the estimation is that it can reach up to 1.2 billion by the year 2050.
PRISTINA – Kosovo’s first microbrewery Sabaja, located just outside the city in Gracanica continues to find growing success as they enter their fourth year of business. Working with local restaurants, supermarkets and festivals, such as Beer Fest Kosova. Sabaja founder Alex Butler has made a name for himself and his partners in the Kosovo beer scene.
“We founded Sabaja is 2012, with our first brew in June 2013.” said owner and United States native Alex Butler, “My partners are both Kosovars, my wife Etida and her brother Genc Zeka.”
He met Etida back in 2009 in his hometown Rochester, New York. They were both studying for their master’s degree in business at the Rochester Institute of technology. They dated the year she was in Rochester and he and his roommate picked up home brewing at about the same time.
“Etida moved back to Pristina after graduation and I moved to Brooklyn to work in the music industry, but continued brewing. She visited me while I was there, and I had her taste a Russian Imperial Stout that I had brewed. It was a good beer, lots of chocolate and caramel notes with a little bitterness coming through.”
She told him they didn’t have beer like this in Kosovo. On the plane ride home, she decided she wanted to start brewing craft beer in Pristina, to bring something new to the market.
“The next day Etida called me on Skype and asked if I would teach her how to brew. I told her I wouldn’t teach her – that I would rather move to Kosovo and brew with her. That recipe for the first beer became our winter seasonal drink, The Winter King.” continued Butler.
He says that in Illyrian times, ‘Sabaja’ was the word for beer. More recently, the Turkish word ‘sabah’, meaning ‘morning’, has been incorporated into the Albanian language.
“It is only fitting that we consider our hand-crafted ales a new dawn for beer in Kosovo.” said Butler.
Since then, it’s been four years that Butler offers craft beers to Kosovars.
“We are the first raft brewery in the country and also the first to produce ales” said Butler.
Located near the Gracanica Monastery outside of Pristina, the small brewery offers a cozy atmosphere where all the beers are hand brewed and bottled on site.
He continued “We have three year-round beers, our flagship IPA (Imported Pale Ale), a Smoked Porter and a Session Pale Ale. We have also produced a number of limited edition beers, including the Imperial Stout, a Belgian Saison, English Ale, and Amber Ale.”
He adds that they chose to start with an IPA because it was different – something completely new, from the product itself, through the branding, and ultimately through the way they presented it.
“We then expanded to Porter to show the market that black beers could be so much more than the rare dark lagers you might find locally. We finally introduced the Session to have a low-alcohol counterpart to the Pilsners – something people could drink during a football/soccer game.”
Sabaja is available in bars and restaurants around Pristina, including Baba Ghanoush, SOMA, Dit e Nat and MIQT Pub as well as restaurants in Prizren, Gjakova and Gjilan. Sabaja is also distributed in select grocery stores around Kosovo. Butler and his wife opened a restaurant to serve their beers in as well as some traditional bar in the city center near the football stadium. The couple soon hopes to open a second location in the next year.
“The beer industry in Kosovo, and the Balkans in general, is dominated by European lagers, pilsners in particular. Our market research when we opened indicated that only 5% of the market was interested in non-lager beers,” said Butler.
Sabaja is one of three microbreweries in Kosovo, along with Grembeer and ELNOR Prishtina Brewery as well as the larger corporations, Birra Peja and Birra Prishtina.
While that number seems small, he was confident that it was enough to get them started, and to draw more people in as the brewery progressed.
Their goal is to build an industry around craft beer, the way the craft industry holds around 20% of the American market. He believes that their biggest challenge was to introduce people to a beer that defies their expectations.
Butler continued, “When all the beer you’ve ever had has been Pilsner (such as Birra Peja), the first time you sip an IPA it feels wrong. We’ve converted a lot of people over the past four years. We have customers now that tell us now that they could never go back to drinking lagers. That’s a great feeling – to have had an impact on people’s taste like that – but there’s a lot of work left to do.”
When asked of future plans for the beer and the brewery, Butler said they hope to get more Kosovars involved.
“We do have interested young people; those who know what the variety is like in the rest of the world, and especially those interested in home brewing for themselves, but it’s not exclusive to young people. A big part of our current market is also internationals in Pristina, but it’s starting to shift to a wider market and we are working to make that shift happen.”
Many Kosovars still prefer drinking Birra Peja to other alternatives. Peja is the largest brewery in Kosovo, producing their famous pilsner, a type of pale lager, which the brewery has produced since the 1970s for distribution around the Balkans.
The company also produces a premium beer and an alcohol free beer. Currently they are looking at expanding into more international markets, particularly in Western Europe and the United States, according to Board of Directors member Valon Basha.
“There hasn’t been any competition in the craft sector of the beer industry in Kosovo since we began brewing, but we are starting to see that change as new brewers are beginning to open shop.” said Butler, “While we have been carving out our little niche among the big players, like Peja, it’s hard to call it competing. They are extremely good at what they do, and we respect them for it. There’s no real way for us to go head-to-head with them, though.”
The goal of Sabaja and other microbrewers isn’t to take market share away from the major players, but instead to get more people interested in beer by offering a greater variety of really great styles. They claim they want to grow the industry as a whole, which should ultimately be good for all the competitors here, so they’re always excited to see the new brewers getting started. According to them, It means that things are moving the right direction.
“We’ve had slow, but steady growth since we started.” said Butler. “We have seen a bigger change this year in particular however and we are making our own moves to get a little more aggressive about growth. We’ll be launching a few new products this fall, geared at people that are a little more reluctant to get out of their comfort zones. Gateway beers that can introduce more people to the quality of craft beer and eventually get them experimenting with the more unexpected styles that might be a little too bold for them to start with.”
Aside from Kosovo, Sabaja also exports their beers to Croatia and hopes to expand their market into other Balkan countries.
He continued, “We’re very excited for the next few months. Hopefully we’ll be getting some more export going next year and growing our volumes, but we do aim for the stability of organic growth overall.”
Sabaja was one of eighteen beers offered at Beer Festival Kosova in July, along with top local brands such as Birra Peja, Birra Prishtina and Grand Birra. Imported brands such as Corona and Heineken also had busy booths.
“The big brands can be difficult to compete with, but Sabaja does amazing drafting and we’re always happy to work with them.” said festival organizer Leart Zega.
The festival had more than 10,000 attendees for a weekend of beer, live music and even fireworks according to Zega. Cost of entry was a euro and beers ran about the same price.
One festival goer, 20-year-old Leo Zogiani stuck to drinking Peja the first night, but said he was open to trying new beers throughout the festival.
“I like Peja, it’s a good beer, its cheap and they have it everywhere.” said Zogiani, “it’s what we’ve always drank here.”
Another attendee, Adem Musa said that after spending time abroad he was excited the festival offered different beers, both local and imported.
“I was in Germany for two years, for school.” said Musa, “It was great, the beer scene there is great, one of the things I missed most coming back to Pristina!” he laughed, “I’m glad that they have festivals like this here now, it’s not Oktoberfest, but it’s a chance for people to try new things, something they wouldn’t try at the bar or a restaurant.”
Zega added that they like to support small local businesses and develop a changing mindset for beer in Kosovo.
“We want to encourage people to try new things and create their own story,” he said.
(Elise St. Esprit was a reporting intern at KosovaLive this summer, in cooperation with Miami University in the United States.)
F.J.- a 63 years old inhabitant of Deçan, had decided to get her share of inheritance by any means, even though she had to encounter numerous hurdles, and even nowadays doesn`t have good relationship with some of her family members. They didn`t allow her even to visit them for five years.
She was the only inheritor of the family and the fortune of her departed father entirely belonged to her. Not being able to reach a common ground with her two uncles and their sons, the case ended up in court.
Even though recently there is a tendency of awareness among women in Deçan regarding their property inheritance rights, most of them still decline.
Hasan Hulaj from the Department of Geodesy and Cadastre at the Municipality of Deçan, asserts that 62 women of Deçan had made requests to get their inheritance in 2016. Whereas, in 2017 only 26 women had claimed the right to inheritance.
Sanije Thaqi from the Group of Women members of the Assembly of Deçan, explains that during a training on women`s rights to inheritance, organized by USAID, they had presented many dilemmas whether it may be dishonorable to carry over the inheritance from their father “to their husband.”
It was explained to the participants that what belongs to them by law is not “a present they take to their husbands,” but is rather used for their own and for the benefit of their children, whereas “at their husband” they may claim half of the joint fortune they gained from the moment they got married.
“The laws are favorable for women’s inheritance rights, but the patriarchal mentality still lingers on. Married women think their brothers would be mad at them, and in case something were to happen to them, they wouldn`t be able to count on them. On the other hand, some of the participants still maintained that it would be disgraceful to claim their share of inheritance from their father and ‘take it to their husband’. There were even mothers who couldn`t support their daughters since they lived with their sons and daughters-in-law,” Thaqi says.
The Group of the Women members of the Assembly and NGO “Jeta” in Deçan, claim that they are not sitting still and that they`re engaging for raising the awareness of the girls and the women in this municipality. The above-mentioned training, in which around 250 women of Deçan were introduced to their rights to inheritance, is an engagement in that direction.
“Apart from women, elementary and high school students from 12 villages of Deçan were also part of this project. The fact that there was a single woman inheritor in 2006, was a strong drive for concrete steps for raising the awareness of women. At the end of the training the number of the women who said they would pursue legal procedures to take their share of inheritance, went up to 38,” says Safete Gacaferi, founder of NGO “Jeta” in Deçan.
During the project that was implemented from September 2016 to June 2017, according to her there were indicators that there is awareness, since participating women knew that they have the right to inheritance, but they were reluctant to claim it since they did not want to disrupt relations with their families.
Sh.B. 52 years old from Deçan is one of the women who willingly gave up on her share of property inheritance.
“We are three sisters and we have a brother, we never insisted on getting our share of inheritance, nor did we ever claim it even though we had that opportunity. Our father and our brother insisted that we divide the money from the village land sold, into four, but none of us sisters accepted. We`re married and have good economic conditions, and the other reason was that we are very close to our only brother. We wanted this to be a sort of gift for him and his family,” she says.
The main problem according to Sanije Thaqi from the Group of the Women members of the Assembly of Deçan, a law graduate, is that women are economically dependent since only a small portion of them work. The ones who do not work have no property on their names, and are deprived from that particular right.
“They should be made aware, given that the society neither respects them enough. By being economically dependent they are discounted, and the Kanun (Code of Lekë Dukagjini) also has its share of influencing this process,” she says.
Article 36 of chapter “Tagri i Trashigimit”, in the Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini prescribes that “Kanun recognizes only the man as an inheritor, not the woman… The woman has no right of inheritance both at her father`s and at her husband`s.”
Even though she admits a level of responsiveness among women in Deçan, she still doubts when it comes to numbers and the increased interest for inheritance among local women.
“There are many cases when women are allowed to inherit, for beneficial reasons,” she adds.
The notary, Haxhë Qorraj does not exclude cases when women are declared inheritors for there may be a benefit for one or both parties, which pushes forward the process.
“If the property is divided in equal parts, the spouses are free from cadaster fee, and this has consequently increased the interest to follow this procedure in 2016. I had more than 100 transaction contracts in my office, within a very short period of time, and 80% of the property was registered jointly,” he said.
Qorraj reminds that according to the law all inheritors, be they men or women, have equal rights to inheritance.
“Most of the women, somewhere around 85%, even though we make them aware of the importance of getting their share of inheritance, willingly give up in favor of their brothers or other inheritors. In cases that I dealt with, leaving their share of inheritance to men was not something imposed to them, but rather lack of awareness or lack of interest for what they are entitled by law,” Qorraj says.
Even though the case of F.J. from the beginning of the article, was resolved at first try in the court, she says she was forced to make some concessions and to pay all the court expenses.
“The house, the land, a large number of cattle and poultry, and a first-class forest, were not included in the property inheritance. Even though I was entitled to one-third of the entire inheritance, two-thirds of this share I gave away for one reason only, I didn’t want to disrupt relations within our family,” she says.
The number of Kosovo women employed during last year was approximately 13 percent compared to 45 percent of men employed during the respective period.
This ratio is best seen in the field of businesses and enterprises that were registered in Kosovo. Only 301 out of total 2,251 enterprises registered in the last three month of last year, had female owners.
Arlinda Syla-Hasani, is a 39 year-old owner of the restaurant and wedding hall “Villa Roneta” in Ferizaj, where the woman-man ratio in business doesn’t differ much from other towns in Kosovo.
Ten years ago, together with her husband, she opened this restaurant so she could make use of the land they owned and to fill the need for such a place.
“The business was in my name since the beginning. My husband supervises the workers given that he has a 25 year experience in this field. I always wanted to have and lead my own business, and another reason that I manage a business such as this, is my passion for cooking,” she says.
She hasn’t had any problems in her job, however, during the summer season, the fact that a woman organizes events, at times surprises some clients.
“I haven’t had anyone tell me directly that they don’t want to do business with a woman, but sometimes they ask ‘Can I speak to your husband’,” she says.
Sociologist Fadil Maloku says that some women see themselves only as a formality on the business paperwork and are afraid of society’s prejudice.
“The law prescribes and provides same rights for both genders, but the mindset in Kosovo falls behind to recognize women in business because of the prejudice that ‘women can’t run a business as well as men’ and this has made women insecure,” Maloku says.
According to a study conducted by the Kosovo Women’s Network, unemployment rate among job seeking women is 59.9%, compared to 40.7% among men.
Kosovo Women’s Network analysis indicates that it is more difficult for women to gain and keep their economic independence because they are always paid less and usually work as teachers, nurses and various positions in the service industry.
Fan violence is a characteristic of football seen in all major leagues and on the international stage. Some officials are optimistic, not seeing much chance for this in Kosovo, while others prepare for the unpredictable.
“Football is a dynamic game and you can’t ever know what will happen” in the stands,” said Fadil Vokrri, one of the football legends from the times of former Yugoslavia, and the current president of the Football Federation of Kosovo through a translator.
Kosovo currently does not host games, because it does not have a stadium ready to meet international standards. Soon that will change. A stadium in Mitrovice has been completed while one in its capitol Pristina is still under development, and a third is being built in Peja.
The head of security for the Kosovo national team, Bylent Smakiqi said there are many security measures being considered for home matches, and for the new stadiums, but did not divulge many specifics.
“We have not discussed in detail yet…but of course the stadium will have all the security criteria needed to meet what UEFA asked for.”
He added that “more details will be provided later on when we get closer to the finish line… There will also be a tour” of the stadium upon completion. He said that “we will fulfill all the criteria needed.”
The security equipment and UEFA procedures can be put in place, but questions always remain about other measures, including how to control the attitude and behavior of fans.
For the games in Kosovo, Vokrri outlined the general security precautions. Before each game the security estimates the safety level, they call the police who stay outside. They only come in the stadium in dangerous circumstances, a riot, for instance. They check for sharp objects at the entrance, no weapons are allowed. Security officials are planning to install metal detectors at the Pristina stadium as developments progress. The only active precautions against violence are the security guards who monitor the fans from the crowds and the police who can enter the stadium when needed.
They also take precautions to limit provocative chants such as the one that resulted in the fine Kosovo received recently.
“We stop all kind of political banners and racism” Smakiqi said. “We try to stop them at the gate.”
In the case of a fan with a racist or politically provocative banner, the fan will be kicked out if possible but “it may be difficult to get in between 2,000 fans, that might cause a bigger problem” he said.
“But if the chance is there you will try to remove it… and let the team concentrate on football and take the precautions for the next match.”
On the topic of racist behavior he was clear though, “political is serious but racism is something we cannot accept.”
Right now, Kosovo national team plays in Albania, when the Albanian team has away games.
During their games in Albania, the security is handled mainly by the Albanian police and a security company in coordination with Smakiqi and Kosovar security officials.
It was in Shkodra, Albania that Kosovo was fined 30,000 Swiss Francs for fan participation in a racist chant as video footage captured Kosovar and Croatian fans chanting “Kill the Serbs”.
These are concerns in every country where football is a major sport. But for a new nation like Kosovo, with a strained budget, who was only recognized by FIFA and UEFA in May 2016, costs could pose a problem.
Belligerent fans and nationalism is a problem for many countries. In Ireland a person used to be unable to walk down a Protestant street wearing a Celtic jersey for fear of being physically attacked. It was the riots at a Red Star Belgrade V. Dinamo Zagreb match in 1990 that presaged the collapse of the Yugoslav state. Ever since, football in Balkan countries has seen multiple episodes of nationalist violence.
In 2014, Croat and Bulgarian fans threw flares and bombs at each-other in the stands as riots broke out. A Levski supporter then raised a banner that read “Serbs on a rope” as Croatian fans applauded. That same year, someone flew a greater Albania flag during an Albanian match against Serbia, in its capitol Belgrade, before a Serb player ripped the flag down, which led to clashes between the two clubs players. Fights also broke out in a Bosnian football match between Sloboda and FK Sarajevo in 2016, which Balkan Insight reported as “common”.
The Croatian club Hajduk was also recently fined for racist chants against Serbs while they played the Bulgarian club Levski. And just a few days ago, fans from Hajduk and Everton clashed at a match in England.
The Independent recalled in 2013 a fan’s comment before a Croatian club played a Serbian one for the first time since the 1991 war between the two countries.
“The majority of people don’t care about football, it’s about hatred,” the fan said.
Politics is very much present, not just in Balkan football but European football in general. The general trend of nationalist violence and chants at football games can be seen across the continent.
Not everybody believes these trends will reach Kosovo in any serious way however.
Officials in Kosovo remain hopeful that fan behavior at their matches won’t be much of a problem.
“The fans are usually educated and they don’t do much.” Vokrri said. “But you can never know when things will get heated.” He continued, saying the team “haven’t had much problems” and in the case of troublesome fans, the referee can ask the police to kick them out”.
Vokrri used the example of the “5 or 6 fans” who chanted “Kill the Serbs” at the recent match with Croatia. Kosovar authorities “got the names of fans who did that and they won’t be allowed in the next games” he said. As for the political climate that underpins the violence at Balkan football matches and around the world in general, this “won’t be a problem” he said.
The worse he expected from fans was “maybe cursing or something like that, but nothing serious.”
When asked about matches against states that may not recognize Kosovo he argued that nationalist tensions wouldn’t play a role.
“Maybe if you play Serbia, but not for states that don’t recognize Kosovo.”
Kosovar National Team manager, Bajram Shala similarly said “We didn’t have this issue until now. We organized 3 games as a host against Croatia on 6th October of last year then we had the games against Iceland and Turkey and we didn’t have these kind of problems with our fans.”
“No, actually we are not worried, because we have very cultured fans. They know how to support our team, they know how to help us and they are not with us to make problems. They are with us to support us, so we are not worried about this at all,” he added.
Some are more worried than others. Shala said “we do know the situation and all the things Kosovo has been through and we know countries who are against our independence and that could make it a high-risk game.”
Shala said Kosovar fans are not less nationalistic than fans of other Balkan countries.
“We feel our pride when we wear our jersey, our Kosovo jersey… It’s much more than a football team,” he explained.
Smakiqi laid out the security concerns in more detail. He separated the matches Kosovo would face into three categories.
“Is it high risk, low risk, middle risk. The games Kosovo has previously played, have been ‘low risk matches,'” he said.
The security on previous matches was good and of course for security in matches in the future… there will be trained security who can handle these kind of situations.”
As far as what constitutes a high risk or low risk match, according to Smakiqi, it depends on “what nationality the team you play against” are.
He used the example of England in the EURO 2016 cup.
In “Euro 2016, you had matches where England played against countries where fans were quite explosive… it depends on the atmosphere,” he said.
Shala spoke of the potential risk of playing a team like Montenegro where Albanian nationalists would have a good chance of confronting Serb nationalists though he found no reason to be concerned.
“I don’t think that would be a high-risk game. We don’t have many problems with Montenegro. It would be a middle risk game.”
Smakiqi saw a cause for alarm in nationalism in football matches. “Every country has their own hooligans” but that they “should not mix politics and football.”
“We try to avoid and not think politics when we play football” he said.
(Austin Langdon was a reporting intern at KosovaLive this summer, in cooperation with Miami University in the United States.)
As a young girl, M.K. from Prizren dreamt about being a professional hairdresser who would work with famous singers.
Today she`s 21, lives in Peja and doesn`t work. She hasn’t completed even the primary school.
She tells KosovaLive that she lives a “more quiet life”in an apartment, because currently she`s in a relationship with a married man, who is financially supporting her.
But, still a young woman, she has an entire life full of disappointments and challenges behind her.
Realizing she`s an adopted child at age12, sent her to the “street” where she often had relationships with unknown and older men.
“The street wasn`t a ‘safe house’ for me either, since there I found my biggest misfortune. I got raped by a man I never denounced and never saw again,” she says.
As an adolescent, M.K. had ran away from home and from her adopting family, and had ended up in Therandë.
There she met an older man, who first offered her a shelter. Later on, this turned into a relationship that lasted about two years.
“I ran away again from by boyfriend and got a job in a casino. There I heard that my cousins from the adopting family were coming to get me. I decided to escape again, this time to Peja,” M.K. explained.
The “escape” of this time was different; it transformed M.K.,an attractive brunette into a willing, individual worker of sex, charging high fees for her services, for five years in a row.
“I had few abortions and gave no birth. In addition, I gained some new habits. I used to spend all the money I earned on gambling and alcohol,” she said.
She says that she is bisexual, too and during the time as a sex worker, she had intimate relationships with women, as well.
If it weren`t for her habits, she could spend all her life with the money she earned as a sex worker, she says.
“Currently I don`t need to work because I have a good standard of living, and I consider that with all the headache caused by my ‘profession’, I wouldn`t be capable for any other job,” she says.
When alone, she remembers her family whom she has no contacts for years, her childhood and everything about it.
“I miss them, even the narrow street which I ran away from, though life has taken a different direction now,” she says.
Until some time ago, her clients were her only company. Currently she also has two friends who try to help her find a safer way for the future.
One of them if S.H., a 40 year old hairdresser from Peja who says that for a long time encouraged her to continue her studies.
“She is very intelligent and has made quite a lot of money as to pursue her education, get married and create a healthy family. During the time she worked in that ‘profession’, I always told her that the world doesn`t turn around you, when people satisfy their lust, you will always remain in the street,” explains she.
But, according to her, she rarely paid attention to this kind of advices.
“At times I thought she understood me, but she didn`t at all. I stopped advising her. However, she continues coming to me since I never judged or despised her. I gave her advice as I would do to any other woman,” she concluded.
Her other close friend, B.H., a 38 year old housewife from Peja, says she understands that M.K. does not repent for doing “that job” for five years.
“…now I know she quit it. There were times when she phoned telling me she is alone or drunk, and I went to see her. There were more times taking her to the hospital after learning her father had passed away,” she tells.
Brikenë Bunjaku, a psychologist at “Labyrinth” center in Prishtinë, which mainly treats drug addicts, does not exclude the possibility that M.K. had been a sex worker in order to sustain herself.
“Just as I am a psychologist by profession, she also was in that profession so she could survive. I fit to the therapeutic process my patients go through, whereas she fits the needs of her clients. She might have liked her profession for she met new people and got close to them. Maybe she was convinced she couldn`t earn the same money if she had any other profession,” Bunjaku said.
Kosovo Police asserts that only in the first six months of this year, it has identified 71 bars suspected of human trafficking.
The inspectors have closed 34 bars, and identified 389 women related to trafficking activities. Out of them, 238 were citizens of Albania, 137 citizens of Kosovo, and 14 others from countries such as Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Moldavia.
During the inspections, 16 victims of trafficking were identified; 15 out of them citizens of Kosovo, and one of them from Albania.
During the respective period, 97 individuals were arrested for criminal act of trafficking.
In the last two years there were no recorded cases of abandonment of young children.
“Mainly 1-2 day old babies are abandoned,” says Vebi Mujku, the director of the Center for Social Work in Prishtina.
While young children can find a shelter at their relatives; their grandparents, their uncles or aunts, small children end up in shelters.
According to Lutfi Bislimi, official for family shelters and custody at the Ministry of Work and Social Welfare, during 2016 – 36 children were abandoned in Kosovo.
Usually children are being abandoned by young mothers because of unwanted pregnancy, abuse with narcotic substances, but also because of health or economic problems, etc.
At the Center for Social Work in Prishtina they also mention cases of abandonment of children with disabilities.
Faik Hoti, head of the Division for Public Communication, emphasizes that the Ministry of Health is informed of the cases of the abandonment of newborn babies by their parents for different reasons, through the Clinic of Gynecology and Obstetrics and the Neonatology, both part of University Clinic Center of Kosova. Children, who are abandoned at the hospital, after a period of medical care, find shelters or are placed with foster families.
One of the shelters for abandoned children is also “SOS Fshati” (SOS Village), which serves as a shelter for children who come from throughout Kosovo through Centers for Social Work. They remain there, until the adoption phase or until reunion with their biological family.
Ora Bytyçi, head of the program of “SOS Fshati”, says that currently there are around 66 children in this shelter.
“Toddlers’ program ‘Dielli’ (The Sun) is a part of ‘SOS Fshati’, which has capacity for 18, and where 16 toddlers are sheltered at the moment,” she says.
“SOS Fshati” has three houses, in each of them there is the so-called “SOS Nëna” (SOS Mother), who is trained up to one year. Each mother has to take care for six toddlers, while the so-called “SOS Tezja” (SOS Aunt) helps her as well.
“SOS Fshati has seven SOS families. After starting their life at ‘SOS Fshati’, these families, gradually move into the community, so that these children could live like any other child. They are part of the community of up to six members,” Bytyçi said.
Currently, there are 14 children at the “Youth House” who are being prepared for independent life, through a youth program, while a total of nine children are still in the process.
“These children go to school like every other child, are engaged in different courses, and at the libraries. Their realize their wishes based on their talents, until they become independent, find a job and can take care of themselves. At the moment, three youngsters have become independent,” Bytyçi said.
In cases when children have lost the care of their parents, or have for a specific reason decided not to live with them anymore, the personnel makes sure they keep in touch with their biological families, since it is a part of their identity.
They are offered a family environment until the adoption phase or until they reunite with their biological family.
“They should be aware of their family tree,” Bytyçi added.
While the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology hasn’t spoken about the possibility of incorporating Albanian language in university curriculum, the students see it essential because, according to them the language in their writings needs to be of an adequate academic level.
XhenetaSalihu, a freshman at the Faculty of Philology, Department of Journalism, where there’s no course of Albanian language, considers this necessary for at least one academic year, “since there’s a lot of writing in our department, and spelling plays an important role in our work.”
Her colleague from the same department Albulena Demaku, shares the same opinion.
“It is essential to incorporate the course of Albanian language in the university curriculum, since in all our writings, spelling arises as a stumbling block .”
AfrimHoti, spokesperson of the University of Prishtina Rectorate, says that in case of the official initiative for the incorporation of Albanian language to the university curriculum, it will need to go through the evaluation procedures, as all other courses in the process of accreditation.
“(However) we consider that the required level of competence of Albanian Language should be achieved in pre-university education,” he says.
FluturaÇitaku, a retired Albanian language professor at the Faculty of Philology, also agrees with the unsatisfactory use of the standard Albanian language by students.
Thus, according to her, an initiative from the University of Prishtina for the inclusion of the course of Albanian language in curriculum in each department, was considered as an important and necessary step.
“I think that incorporation of the Albanian as a course should be mandatory, and be treated more seriously,by engaging the competent individuals, in other words Albanian language experts, because, there were cases when professors of literature with inadequate academic qualifications were hired as lecturers,” she says.
Furthermore, she considers that it would be helpful if special courses were organized for the UP teachers and the management,including those in administration.
“I say this judging by the numerous documents we receive every day from those working in the administration, written in a very low standard Albanian,” Çitaku says.
The first step in incorporating Albanian language as an elective course in the University of Prishtina, according to her, should be in the interest of students, which could serve as a survey to determine whether students are interested to acquire the needed language level.