The demons of Serbian nationalism are on the loose again, this time in the overwhelmingly Muslim province of Kosova. With their blood lust not nearly satiated in Bosnia even after three years of macabre killing rituals, they have now turned their wrath against the defenceless people of Kosova.
The killings have been going on since February when the Serbian war machine, rested and replenished from its rampage in Bosnia, trained its firepower against the Kosovars. Aware that they will be met only by rhetorical volleys and loud belches from the west and the hand-wringing of an impotent Muslim world, the Serbs have unleashed their forces against the civilian Muslim population. According to most conservative estimates, 800 civilians have been killed and another 300,000 made homeless. The actual casualty figures are nearly twice as high.
In scenes reminiscent of the genocide of Muslims in Bosnia, Serb forces using heavy guns and tanks have rampaged through the Kosova countryside in a scorched-earth policy terrorising civilians, burning houses and torturing their victims to death. The Serbs, gripped by a nationalistic frenzy, have not spared even the dead. Bodies have been horribly mutilated.
One such massacre came to light on September 28, two days after it was perpetrated in the tiny village of Gornji Obrinje. Women, children and elderly made up the 34 civilians slaughtered by Serbs in this central Kosovar village. This latest massacre was perpetrated even as the Serbs announced an end to their genocidal campaign amid threats by NATO leaders to scare the Christian war criminals with air strikes.
The civilians, all Muslims of Albanian origin, were shot at point blank range as they attempted to flee. Fifteen members of the Deliaj clan who sought refuge in a gorge were all shot and killed at close range. They appeared to have run straight into a Serbian attacking force. Sadri Deliaj, 56, who managed to escape the Serbian raiding party, said he heard shooting and the screams of women and children in the gorge as the family was mowed down.
Zahide Deliaj, 27, was shot in the face. Her two daughters, seven-year-old Gentiani and five-year-old Donieta, were both shot in the head and found lying just behind their mother. Similar treatment was meted out to 27-year-old Mejhane and her four-year-old daughter Menduhije. Lumnije Deliaj, who was seven-month pregnant, was tortured before being killed. Her stomach was ripped open with a knife. There was no trace of her unborn child, definitely dead but where his tiny body was thrown away, no one knows. Sadri described the heart-wrenching screams of Lumnije as the Serbs ripped her stomach open.
Diplomatic monitors also reported finding the mutilated bodies of an elderly couple. ‘The man [Pajazit Deliaj] was decapitated, his brain removed and left ‘displayed’ beside his wife’s corpse,’ the monitors said in their report. Hava Deliaj, 68, had her throat slit and the Serbs attempted to cut her left foot off. Unable to finish the job, they left it beside her.
Those who were too weak to escape were not spared either. ‘Three men - including Fazli Deliaj, the 95-year-old patriarch, who was paralyzed - were burnt to death by Serbs who torched the building,’according to a front page report by Jane Perlez in the New York Times on September 30.
Thousands of Muslims driven from their homes by the rampaging Serbs, have sought refuge in the forests. Their number is believed to be 70,000. Those unfortunate to fall into the hands of the marauding Serb forces are executed. The survivors also do not escape unscathed. With the ferocious Balkan winter approaching, many will freeze or starve to death in the open, a deliberate Serb policy to depopulate the Kosova countryside.
In Golubovac, 13 men between 18 and 35 years of age, had their eyes gouged with farm-rakes before being lined up against a fence and shot. Others were clubbed with spades. Traces of blood were found on the farm implements lying nearby. Reporters were able to see pools of blood as well as 80 empty bullet cartridges at the site.
Amid all the killings, western officials including Britons and Americans, have issued ringing calls for the Serbs to behave. It is like telling a prostitute to improve her morals. British prime minister Tony Blair said on October 1 that the Serbs must know that the threat of the use of force is serious. The Serbs know all too well how serious this is. From 1992 to 1995, the Serbs repeatedly heard such ‘threats’ from the west in Bosnia. Ultimately, the Serbs got what they wanted: a dissected Bosnia with a separate Serb republic.
Bosnia was an independent country, recognised by virtually the entire world. It was even admitted as a member of the UN yet the Serbs were busy raping, killing and mutilating people there. Kosova is considered a ‘province’ of Serbia. How credible can western threats of any military action be?
The UN security council which met on October 1 to condemn Serbian crimes, failed to agree on any specific action beyond empty threats. NATO members France, Germany and Italy are opposed to air strikes without security council authorisation and given Russia’s opposition, this is unlike to materialise.
Even if the council were to pass a resolution, it will be two weeks before any strikes are carried out. One cannot help comparing this inaction in Kosova with the strikes repeatedly launched against Iraq, or against Sudan in August, without any security council backing or even proof of wrongdoing.
In the meantime, more civilians will be murdered. Yugoslav deputy prime minister, Vajislav Seselj, a war criminal who gained notoriety in Bosnia, openly threatened to attack western soldiers should any air strikes be carried out against Serb forces or airfields. ‘We might not be able to shoot down each one of their planes, but their soldiers will be our enemies everywhere in the world and they will be exposed to our attacks wherever they are within our range,’ the New York Times quoted him on October 2 carrying an Agence France Presse report.
While the war criminal Seselj may not get a chance to kill western soldiers, Serb forces will continue to kill innocent Kosovars in the macabre way that has become their speciality as the massacre at Gornji Obrinje has shown.
Muslimedia: October 16-31, 1998