As Kosovo tries to stop its sons from going off to fight in Iraq and Syria, sympathy for their cause remains strong among some hardline Muslims.
The calls stopped coming more than three months ago.
Even while fighting in Iraq and Syria for the militants of Islamic State, Musli Musliu still checked in with his family regularly. He used to post photos on Facebook, showing a beaming young man posing with his comrades. One even shows him in a sweet shop.
It was during one of those calls, in April, that he broke the news that his brother, Valon, had been killed. The two had been fighting alongside each other in Iraq when Valon died. Musli said he had buried him there, too.
Musli has since gone silent, leaving his family to wonder he has shared the same fate as his Valon.
Their brother, Selman, speaks softly when he talks about Musli and Valon outside the family home in the village of Tushile, 50 kilometers west of Prishtina. Selman says their mother is taking it hardest. “She’s suffering a lot with the loss of Valon,” Selman said.
Both Musli and Valon had embraced a strict form of Islam. Valon had gone to a Medressa and had chosen to fight to “protect the word of God,” said another brother, Muhamet, expressing pride in his siblings.
Some 150 Kosovars have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq, primarily for Islamic State, or for the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, according to the Kosovo Intelligence Agency. Around 40 have died in what has become an increasingly dangerous war, with a US-led coalition of countries now attacking both groups via air strikes.
Meanwhile, Kosovo itself is becoming more hostile to those who have fought in Syria and Iraq, or who plan to. Police have arrested dozens of people in recent weeks, including imams and others accused of helping recruit fighters.
This week, President Atifete Jahjaga appeared on Fox News Channel in the US, declaring: “We are taking this threat very seriously and our security mechanisms are working around the clock to address this challenge.”
Kosovars make up only a tiny portion of the thousands of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, far outnumbered by those coming from Western European countries, including Belgium, the UK and France. They have nevertheless become a national embarrassment for a Muslim-majority country that wants to present itself as a secular, progressive European democracy.
A particular source of embarrassment is the leader of the Albanian fighters, Lavdrim Muhaxheri, who this summer posted photographs on Facebook, appearing to show him beheading a captive, with a message encouraging others to come join the fight. It followed a video showing him delivering a firebrand speech in Arabic and tearing up his Kosovo passport.
As outrage has grown across the world at the sheer brutality of Islamic State’s campaign to establish a so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq, it has only hardened the resolve of the Kosovo authorities, and of mainstream leaders in the Muslim community. “This is the right moment,” an official in the Kosovo Intelligence Agency, said, referring to the official crackdown.
Fighters coming for years
Since the civil war there erupted in 2011, it has been remarkably easy for people to travel from Kosovo to join the fight. In November 2012, Naman Demoll became the first Kosovar to die in the Syrian civil war.
The intelligence official noted that it is cheap – requiring only about 100 euros to get from Kosovo to the war zone, with a flight to Istanbul and then a bus to the Syrian border.
The same official says the practice was long largely ignored because no special law exists barring such activities. Until recently, the Turkish authorities also did little to stop would-be fighters from entering Turkey.
The official said there had been multiple cases of Turkish authorities letting Kosovars into the country after being provided with intelligence of their intention to fight in Syria or Iraq.
As for fighters who have returned to Kosovo, the official said most of them have returned to a quiet life. But a small number have come back further radicalized, complete with combat experience and a new disdain for the state.
The official said they have disrupted three terrorist plots involving former fighters already. With a series of high profile arrests in September and August, the official says the members of two terror cells are now in custody, with a third potential cell remaining in Syria or Iraq.
The same official said he believes about 30 Kosovars are still fighting for Islamic State or Al-Nursa. But, with the authorities now arresting and prosecuting fighters, the official says it is unlikely any of them will return to Kosovo. Those remaining have effectively bought themselves a “one-way ticket,” the official said.
The town of Kacanik, near the Macedonian border, is known in Kosovo’s history as a place that put up stiff resistance to the Ottoman Empire – which brought Islam to Kosovo and ruled the Balkans for nearly 500 years.
These days, however, it is known as a centre of radical Islam and as the hometown of a large number men fighting in Syria and Iraq. Among them is their purported leader, Muhaxheri.
On a recent Friday, at afternoon prayers, few were willing to discuss those fighting in Syria or Iraq. But a young man, who refused to give his name, expressed openness to fighting for Islamic State.
“I would seriously think of going there if someone invited me,” he said. The young man says he has practiced Islam strictly for the past year-and-a-half and feels an affinity for Islamic State because “my heart feels for Sharia Law… My brother, I think ISIS is Allah’s will,” he continued.
The same man also drew parallels with the 1998-99 conflict, in which the Kosovo Liberation Army took on Yugoslav and Serbian forces. He says there is a similar imperative today to go to fight in the Middle East.
Mentor, a middle-aged man in Kacanik, agreed, comparing the intervention of NATO forces in Kosovo to Kosovars fighting in Syria in Iraq.
“When foreigners came to help us in Kosovo, no one complained at that time,” he said. “Now the Kosovars are doing the same thing. They are going to help liberate a people,” he said.
The Kosovo intelligence official agreed that the legacy of the war is one factor driving young Kosovars to fight abroad today.
“Most were very young when the Kosovo war happened. They want to try war – and feel it,” the official said, adding, however, that, based on the Intelligence Agency’s interviews, many come away disappointed.
For years, the leader of Kosovo’s Islamic Community, Naim Ternava, has drawn accusations of turning a blind eye to rise of extremism in the country’s mosques. Since the end of the war, strict forms of Islam, imported from and funded by the Middle East, have proliferated.
While the hardliners remain a minority among Kosovo’s Muslims, they have nevertheless become a visible and vocal presence. One of those arrested by police in September was Shefqet Krasniqi, the imam of the Grand Mosque, the largest in Prishtina.
In the wake of the arrests, however, Ternava has sharpened his rhetoric against the hardliners.
In a recent interview on Klan Kosova, Ternava warned of the rise of hardline Islam, brought in by people from outside Kosovo, “who have sown a sort of a seed of trouble.
“Now, that seed has somewhat grown up and is present. For instance, we have people who say the Kosovo Mufti is a nonbeliever because he does not grow beard,” he said. “This is not in line with real Islam; there are individuals who want to interpret Islam in very narrow terms, and to misinterpret Islam,” he added.
Skender Perteshi, of the Kosovar Center for Security Studies, blames a bad economy and a poor education system, as well as radicalised Islam, for creating the conditions that have sent Kosovars off to fight in Syria and Iraq.
He said recent police actions are encouraging. “It sends a message that the state is capable of coping with all the threats against the state, including terrorism,” he said.
It remains to be seen, however, if the crackdown stems the flow of fighters in the long term.
Muhamet Musliu remains proud of two of his brothers who went to fight in Iraq and Syria, even with one dead and another missing.
“They went to fight for Allah, to defend the words of Allah,” he said. “I wish I could go there but the moment of destiny has not come yet.”
By Nektar Zogjani, Petrit Collaku and Nate Tabak
Source: Balkan Insight
Long live the European court, the most humane court in the world!
That is why seven times as many Croat and more than ten times as many (Kosovar) Albanian war crimes suspects, in percentage terms relative to Serbs, were acquitted by the Hague Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, with Radovan Karadzic being just its latest victim. (Source via this recent infographic from Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda).
No matter that well before Srebrenica you had Sisak, where 595 Serb civilians of which 120 were women were disappeared by Croatian paramilitaries in 1991-1992. Everyone has heard of Srebrenica; almost nobody has heard heard of Sisak. The largest ethnic cleansing ...
Last week’s announcement of a record-breaking US aid package for Israel underscores how dangerously foolish and out-of-touch is our interventionist foreign policy. Over the next ten years, the US taxpayer will be forced to give Israel some $38 billion dollars in military aid. It is money we cannot afford going to a country that needs no assistance to maintain its status as the most powerful military in the Middle East.All US foreign aid is immoral and counterproductive. As I have often said, it is money taken from poor people in the US and sent to rich people overseas. That is ...
What has happened is that NATO provides cover for these transgressions of the United States government’s policy. In other words, it absolutely legitimizes what effectively is NATO aggression. Moreover, what one needs to bear in mind and what one needs to be mindful about is the fact that in Western Europe you no longer have rulers with the independence of Charles de Gaulle.
It seems that Washington, and we can use Washington, America and NATO interchangeably because NATO is dominated by the United States. It is a command structure, which ultimately is based on American military power and American military precedence. ...
Fake news has become a great problem in our life. The more so, questionable news and lack of clarity can seriously influence society and bring chaos to the minds of ordinary people.
Last week a typical event happened in Lithuania. A couple of local Lithuanian media outlets published news report claimed German soldiers raped a Lithuanian girl. The Lithuanian officials were quick to say that it was a false report. The incident was described in all popular world news sources and commented by Lithuania's and NATO's high ranking officials. The speed of spreading the news strikes. That is why Lithuanians took ...
During the Albanian Muslim secessionist and separatist war in the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija, Kosovo Serb civilians were targeted for murder and expulsion. December 14, 2010 marked the 12th year anniversary of the mass murders of six Kosovo Serbs in 1998 by Kosovo Albanian secessionists and separatists. The cold-blooded murder of the six youths was a horrific and shocking mass murder. The killers were Albanian Muslim separatists, suspected members of the KLA, which U.S. special envoy to the Balkans Robert Gelbard described in 1998 as “without any question, a terrorist group”: “I know a terrorist when I see ...
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was given a host of assurances that the NATO alliance would not expand past what was then the East German border in 1990 according to new declassified documents.
Russian leaders often complain that the NATO extended an invitation to Hungary, Poland and what was then Czechoslovakia to joint the alliance in 1997 at the Madrid Summit in contravention of assurances offered to the Soviet Union before its 1991 collapse. The alliance has dismissed the notion that such assurances were offered, however, scholars have continued to debate the issue for years. Now, however, newly declassified documents show that ...
As Turkey’s President Erdogan runs out of money, he is now, more than any time before, using religion to exploit the Balkans, especially the states that are more susceptible to Islamic influence. Bosnia is at the fore of Erdogan’s ambitious Islamic agenda, where he is sparing no political capital or financial resources, even under his current economic hardship, to assert his influence and distance the country away from the EU’s reach. Obviously, the Bosnians cannot survive simply on being devout Muslims, with the youth unemployment rate at almost 60 percent. Turkey is unlikely to economically recover anytime soon, and Erdogan’s ...
Wednesday, December 5, 2012, the Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha advocated granting Albanian citizenship to all Albanians, wherever they reside. This statement was made during a visit of the city of Vlora where the independence of the Albanian state was declared, only 100 years ago. At the time Albania had just liberated itself from Ottoman rule.
This declaration follows a separate statement, collective this time, that Sali Berisha had made with his Kosovar counterpart Hashim Thaci a few weeks ago, promising the union of all Albanians. The place was, I must say, well chosen since the vast majority of the inhabitants ...
In the Associated Press story “Albanian family honored for helping Jews”, Marcus Franklin rehashed and regurgitated the Albanian propaganda claim that Albanians “rescued” Jews during the Holocaust and played no role in the Holocaust. This is a total falsification, distortion, and manipulation of the Albanian role in the Holocaust.
The Holocaust Chronicle, researched by prominent Holocaust historians and scholars, documents that 10 to 12 Jews from Albania proper were sent to the Nazi death camp at Bergen-Belsen. This research disproves the Albanian propaganda claim that 100% of Albanian Jews were “rescued” during the Holocaust. Moreover, Harvey Sarner reported that the Ardel ...
On December 19, 2005, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the appointment of Ambassador Frank G. Wisner as the Special Representative of the US Secretary of State to the Kosovo Status Talks.
Who is Frank G. Wisner, Jr.?
If his name sounds familiar that is because he is the son of Frank Gardiner Wisner, Sr., the CIA agent most responsible for the recruitment of Nazis by the US government after World War II. A former member of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the World War II precursor to the CIA, Frank G. Wisner, Sr., was one of the most infamous ...
There was an interesting announcement recently that went almost entirely unnoticed in the Canadian media.
On June 17, Peter Szijjarto, foreign minister of Hungary’s centre-right government, made the startling declaration that his national security forces will erect a four-metre wall along the entire 175 kilometres of shared border with Serbia.
Szijjarto’s rationale for resorting to such a drastic measure results from a months-long flood of asylum seekers pouring into southern Hungary. While tens of thousands of these desperate illegal immigrants have been caught, detained and returned into Serbia, the vast majority have used the processing time for their asylum applications to simply ...
How did Russia and the West slip back into what seems like the Cold War all over again? How dangerous is the current confrontation? Should the world be ready to face a nuclear war? We ask somebody who’s renowned for his insights. World-famous academic, linguist, philosopher and political commentator Noam Chomsky is on Sophie&Co today.
Sophie Shevardnadze: World-renowned academic Noam Chomsky, Professor Noam Chomsky, welcome to the show, it’s a great pleasure to have you with us today. Now, today U.S.-Russia relations are at a Cold War low. Rhetoric resembles what we heard in the 80-s. What is the worst-case ...
If you reside in a parallel universe then welcome to Kosovo, the land of Albanianization and Islamization and all in the name of democracy. A flick back into history tells us that the Serbs were 98% of the population of Kosovo 600 years ago but today the Orthodox Christian Serbs are between 6% and 8% depending on various figures.
Of course, the Kosovo Serbs became a minority because of the ravages of the Ottoman Empire, dhimmitude, Islamization, and Albanian support of fascism during the German Nazi period. Communism in the old Yugoslavia was the final nail in the coffin because Albanian long-term objectives ...
Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!
Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest.
Donate to Support Us
We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
In front of socialist era high-rise blocks, Bill Clinton waves to the Kosovars. Kosovo Albanians built the statue in the capital, Pristina, in gratitude for the bombing of then Yugoslavia by NATO in 1999, which a few years later led to independence.
U.S. and Albanian flags flutter alongside each other on the rooftops. In no other Muslim country in the world is the United States as popular as here in Kosovo. On the square in front of the statue, young women stand around in their skirts and head scarves.
This is one facet of the young state. The other is only a ...
I was sickened to hear and watch the events occurring in France. Part of that was for the immediate families, friends and neighbors of those so needlessly killed. Another part was the fear factor, not fear of terror or for myself but fear for how the powers that be would ratchet up the security control within their own societies by using their own biased racist fear factors in order to rationalize it to control their own populations. A wider perspective is the sick feeling of realizing that humanity in general is capable of producing such atrocities.
The latter is where a ...
The consumption of history seems to be more widespread than ever: from general-interest history magazines and historical dramas and documentaries to historical fiction, popular history seems, well, unprecedentedly popular.
The evolution of the TV historian reflects this trend: where once real working historians who had written serious books hosted television programmes, these days they are as likely to be photogenic media presenters with minimal, if any, actual history qualifications.
The attraction of history and being a historian are not hard to work out. In the public imagination, historians are usually considered to be intelligent, objective people, if a little eccentric, who tell ...
Churchill once said that in war the truth is so precious it has to be surrounded with a bodyguard of lies. In Germany over the last two months one clearly saw the fabrication of such a bodyguard.
Even as air attacks proceeded against civilian targets—destroying factories, electricity works, refineries, bridges, streets, railway lines and apartment blocks— German government representatives spoke of a ” humanitarian action ” . Despite the fact that the NATO attacks unleashed the massive wave of refugees and reduced towns and villages in Kosovo to ruins , it has been maintained to the very end that the aim ...
In 1389, the Turks wanted to magnificently celebrate the first hundred years of their Ottoman Empire, which had a Sultanate at the time. Their plan was to go to war, to conquer the Serbian Empire and defeat its Army in Kosovo, and to mark the anniversary in a glorious way. The Turks started from Anatolia and headed to the Balkan peninsula via Kosovo, Belgrade, then over Drina, upstream Sava river, then to the South towards the Adriatic sea and then, go back home via Zeta and Raška. They wanted to make their sultanate an intercontinental empire. The battle against the ...
The legal and diplomatic argumets for granting “Kosova” indepence, whether “supervised” or unsupervised, are totally spurious and unfounded. There is no basis in international law or international agreements or the UN Charter for dismembering Serbia by allowing a minority population to secede. The only argument is the argument of force, “the spoils of war”, seeing Kosovo as a spoil of war. This is the only “argument”. But since this is an unpalatable and unconvincing argument, it must be buttressed and camouflaged with the discredited and disproved “genocide” construct, which acts as a convenient obfuscating smokescreen. This argument runs as follows: ...
The Hague Tribunal: Only the Serbs are Prosecuted
Why are We Sending $38 Billion to Rich and Powerful Israel?
NATO — Private Club оf War Criminals
Mass Murders of Serbs in Kosovo Town of Pec in 1998
Newly Declassified Documents: Gorbachev Told NATO wouldn’t Move Past East German Border
Turkey’s Political Agenda in the Balkans: Erdogan’s Islamic Influence in Bosnia
Greater (Islamic) Albania: United States Project against the Orthodox World?
The Albanian Role in the Holocaust
Who was US Special Representative to Kosovo Frank G. Wisner?
Ukraine could Learn from Kosovo’s Troubles
Chomsky: NATO is a U.S.-Run Intervention Force
Orthodox Christian Ghettoization and Anti-Serb Clampdown in Kosovo
Kosovo’s Path from Secular Nation to Europe’s Jihadist Stronghold
How Holocaust Revisionists Remake History as Nationalist Sham
German Interests in the War Against Yugoslavia
The Geopolitics of the Kosovo Battle (1389)
Kosovo: The Spoils of War