Parents of Albanian ISIS ‘Martyrs’ Abandoned to Grief

Hits: 693

Selim Demolli gripped the table with his hands, and his lip trembled with anger as he spoke.

The previous day he had talked to an imam about his son, who was killed three years ago in Syria. He asked the imam for a religious explanation about what happens to a dead person whose parents have not forgiven him. The answer was hard to take.

“He is not a shahid [martyr]. Those who did not get a blessing from their father cannot rest in peace. The imam even told me so. They are called ‘cursed’,” Demolli said.

Demolli’s son Burim was killed in October 2014 at the age of 31, during an offensive by US forces in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Like Selim Demolli, hundreds of family members of Albanian jihadists from Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia live under the shadow of what their relatives have done, stigmatised and hated by others, and given no official support.

More than 315 people from Kosovo, 120 from Albania and over 100 from Macedonia have joined so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq over the past few years. At least 65 of them were killed in the fighting, leaving their families in an even worse plight.

Demolli, a 67-year-old from Pristina, said that he tried to stop his son from leaving.

“I informed the police, asking them to arrest him so that he could not go there. However, he managed to escape the police search while I was not at home, and he left with his wife and with three children,” he explained.

Burim Demolli was killed two months later, and now his father is searching for the ones who were left alive, his grandson and two granddaughters, who have remained in Syria.

His daughter-in-law, Edona Demolli, 28, was forced to marry another ISIS member, whose nationality Selim does not know. A month ago, she gave birth to a baby boy. Selim can no longer speak to her or his grandchildren.

Edona Demolli’s families, who live in the remote village of Majac, in Kosovo’s Podujeva municipality, feel uneasy about her story, particularly about her forced marriage and her child.

Nevertheless, the family sent 2,000 euros to her in Syria, although they do not want to reveal how they managed to transfer the money.

On an old Samsung smartphone, Selim keeps a video recording of his granddaughters singing an Albanian song. They are in a camp in Raqqa, and shooting can be heard outside.

The road to jihad

NATO airstrikes in 1999 helped lead Kosovo, a Muslim-majority country, to independence. One of the strongest supporters of the US and the West, Kosovo is also one of the poorest countries in Europe with an unemployment rate around 40 per cent.

Nearly two decades after the war, following the establishment of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, many young people from Kosovo, some of them taking their wives and children, joined ISIS and the al-Qaeda branch, al-Nusra.

Shpend Kursani, the author of research on the reasons for Kosovo citizens becoming foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, cites the ideological and identity aspects as the main points of attraction for Kosovo Albanian youngsters to join ISIS.

“Their ideology is rather revolutionary, calling for revolution abroad, in Arab lands,” he said.

Kursani added that in Kosovo there is also an identity gap which can be exploited.

“There is a whole generation to whom their own identity is not clear anymore – are they Albanians or Kosovars, what is their flag, their symbol?” he says.

Selim Demolli said that after the killing of his cousin, Naman Demolli in Syria, Burim decided to join ISIS along with his two other cousins Fidan and Arben Demolli. Until Burim joined in 2013, he was mostly unemployed.

“Imams from Saudi Arabia would hold lectures and come to our neighborhood. Until then, Burim had been one of the followers of the imam Shefqet Krasniqi. One day he told me that he had met imams better than Shefqet Krasniqi in Pristina and they were teaching Islam accurately. I realised then that things had changed,” Demolli recalled.

After the war ended in 1999, Kosovo was flooded by Islamic organizations, most of them spreading religious propaganda under a humanitarian cloak. This was the time when some imams, originating from Saudi schools, would hold lectures in half-secret locations outside mosques.

Krasniqi, former imam at the main mosque in Pristina, is currently facing criminal charges related to terrorism. He refused to talk to BIRN about the charges.

Like Burim, a young generation of Albanians from Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania challenged traditional Islamic teaching by embracing the radical religious and political views that were taught at lectures at private mosques.

Fahrush Rexhepi, dean of the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Pristina, lecturer on the course ‘History of Religions: Islam and Europe’, said that indoctrination took place over a long period of time.

“Recruiters found suitable ground, especially amongst the younger generation, who are experiencing a deep identity crisis, feelings of hopelessness, losers, and without clear economic prospects for the future,” Rexhepi told BIRN.

Kosovo Special Prosecutor Drita Hajdari, who is leading several cases against former ISIS fighters, also blamed radical imams for grooming recruits.

“Some imams operated freely for a long time in an uncontrolled territory. They formed groups, held lectures and built camps [in Kosovo], while [officially Muslim organisation] the Islamic Community of Kosovo, kept silent. The latter put their heads in the sand and did not want to hear anything,” Hajdari said.

Farush Rexhepi argued meanwhile that Albanians went to fight in Syria and Iraq for ideological and political reasons, and potential recruits need strong explanations to dissuade them.

“What has been missing until now is a convincing, professional theological interpretation that participation in the war of Syria and Iraq is not jihad [an obligation] for Muslims,” he said.

Children born in ISIS camps

The Demollis currently have the largest number of relatives from Kosovo to have joined ISIS in Syria.

Nineteen members of the Demolli family currently live in a camp run by the Islamist group in Raqqa. The 20th member is a newborn child – although not a blood relation – the offspring of the forced marriage of Burim Demolli’s widow, Edona to an ISIS fighter.

According to Kosovo Police data, more than 30 children of Kosovo parents have been born in recent years at ISIS camps in Syria.

Kosovo remains a vital recruitment ground for fighters for defending the self-proclaimed ‘Caliphate’.

When the Kosovo authorities passed a law in 2014 which prohibited the country’s citizens from taking part in foreign wars, Kosovo Albanians had already risen in the Islamic State hierarchy.

Some of them, such as Lavdrim Muhaxheri, described as a ‘most wanted’ terrorist by Interpol, sent derogatory video messages back home, including a video showing the beheading of a prisoner. Muhaxheri also made another video showing him tearing up Kosovo passports.

Ridvan Haqifi, a young Kosovo imam who was promoted within ISIS under the nickname Abu Muqatil al-Kosovi, meanwhile warned in a video that “black days are coming” for Balkans.

On a September afternoon in Gjilan, the house of the former commander of the Albanian ISIS members seems to be mired in sadness, fear, and isolation.

With his back against the front door, Ridvan Haqifi’s father Isa Haqifi recalled the grief suffered by the family after he lost his three sons in Syria – Ridvan, Astrit, and Irfan. His eldest son was 25 and the youngest just 19.

The family trusted in the Islamic State so much that they sent their 21-year-old son to Syria despite the fact that he was suffering from a serious skin disease.

“Ridvan took Astrit with him, hoping to take the results of his tests to Turkey, but Astrit was the first one to die there. Afterwards Ridvan was killed, and then Irfan, too,” his father explained.

The 52-year-old avoided answering questions about his family’s relations with ISIS, refusing to discuss what his sons did. “God knows if they did right or wrong,” he said.

Anne Speckhard, a professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University, and the director of the International Centre for the Study of Violent Extremism in Washington, said that in Kosovo, propaganda was the impetus for people to join ISIS – as well as poverty.

“They believed in the Islamic State and in the promises made for a better life in the Caliphate. There was the financial reason as well. A life without many prospects is the main reason that makes them join ISIS,” Speckhard argued.

But Isa Haqifi insisted several times that his sons did not join ISIS for financial rewards.

“Does this house represent any profit?” he asked, pointing at the small dwelling behind him.

‘Keep away from them, they are ISIS’

Speckhard said that the authorities should deal carefully with families of those who were killed in Syria, especially as some have children who were born there.

“Most of them are depressed. Some share the same ideology and exalt the death of their relatives, seeing them as ‘heroes’, while in fact they were terrorists. However, most of them suffer from social stigma, which might make them vulnerable,” she explained.

Dritan Demiraj, a former Interior Minister of Albania and a graduate of the country’s Military Academy as an expert in terrorism, said that the deradicalisation of relatives of ISIS fighters remains a challenge for the authorities.

“The Albanian authorities should provide social assistance to their relatives, particularly to their children. Such service centres have been established in various countries. So it is made clear to them that they have no future with terrorism,” Demiraj told BIRN.

Otherwise, Demiraj warned, Albania again may raise “a generation which is in danger of becoming radicalised”.

In 2016, an attack on the Israeli football team during a match with Albania was prevented at a stadium of the northern city of Shkoder. The Muslim community leader in the city, Muhamed Sytari, said it was important not to blame the families of the radicals.

“Heirs of those who were involved in the conflict in Syria and Iraq need to be protected from society’s prejudice. They should not be viewed as enemies. In Islam we say that no one is responsible for another person’s guilt,” said Sytari, the mufti of Shkoder.

But the authorities have made prosecution their priority in a thoroughgoing crackdown on Islamist radicals.

Kosovo’s prosecution records has launched160 cases in relation to the wars in Syria and Iraq. Courts have often imposed harsh sentences against returnees from Syria, some of whom had come back voluntarily.

The sentences have reduced the numbers leaving, but have not totally stopped the transfer of money from Kosovo to ISIS.

Authorities in Kosovo and Albania have developed counter-terrorism strategies, but reintegration of those who went to fight then returned remains a difficult task. Their families meanwhile have not been given any assistance.

Governments in both countries face the prospect of more jihadists coming home, bringing their ideology and combat training with them. The Kosovo government’s anti- extremism strategy outlines support and monitoring for returnees who cannot be jailed, but not for their family members.

“In its programme, [Kosovo Prime Minister] Ramush Haradinaj’s government has foreseen additional measures, including soft ones such as the establishment of a division within the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the prevention and reintegration of those radicalised,”Haradinaj’s office told BIRN by email.

Speckhard argued that prosecution should not be the only solution to stop the number of jihadi fighters from increasing.

“Conviction is inevitable, but for those who have no blood on their hands, it would be better to impose suspended sentences and to enroll them in reintegration programmes with an Islamic counter-message. Many of them can be rehabilitated, but some cannot, and they need time in prison,” she said.

Some parents are also ashamed of what their sons did. Depressed, living in poverty and near isolation, they also have to carry the stigma of having a son who will forever be labelled a terrorist.

Selim Demolli recalled how quite often, people have pointed him out accusingly. “There were even cases when they said, ‘Keep away from them, they are ISIS,’” he said.

Isa Haqifi, the father of Abu Muqatil al-Kosovi, who threatened his homeland with terror, said that the ones left behind were being made to suffer.

“This youngest son of mine completed primary school with excellent marks, but they would not admit him to enroll at medical school. Why? They know why; I also know,” he said.

His son then grabbed his arm, trying to make him stop talking to BIRN’s reporter.

Pointing at the neighbours’ houses and yards, the 15-year-old boy said: “They can all see us.”


Originally published on 2018-01-15

Authors: Serbeze Hoxhiaj, Elvis Nabolli

Source: Balkan Insight

Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest.

Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!

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.

[wpedon id=”4696″ align=”left”]

READ MORE!
Euromaidan Ukraine Today
Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!Donate to Support UsWe 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.[wpedon id="4696" align="left"]SaveSave
READ MORE
Martin Luther King Survived Shooting: He was Murdered in Hospital
Let us Commemorate Martin Luther King Day, January 15 2018. This article was first published by  GR on September 5, 2016"For one bright moment back in the late 1960s, we actually believed that we could change our country. We had identified the enemy. We saw it up close, we had its measure, and we were very hopeful that we would prevail. The enemy was hollow where we had substance. All of that substance was destroyed by an assassin’s bullet". – William Pepper (page 15, The Plot to Kill King)The revelations are stunning. The media indifference is predictable.Thanks to the nearly ...
READ MORE
Europe Between Two Fires
Being attacked from two sides simultaneously (terrorism and Russian threat) Europe has to decide what to do first: to counter terrorism or increasing Russian might. Choosing the priority is the most difficult challenge for the European States today. But Europe should make choice because states' budgets are not bottomless. It is obvious, that as soon as the terrorism problem comes to the fore, NATO (first of all the US) diverts attention to other matters, such as the necessity to boost defence expenditures because of Russia, Syria, Afghanistan and other "annoying" countries. It can be easily explained by the burden the country has ...
READ MORE
Who Rules America: Globalization and Geopolitics
The prophets and forecasters for the coming year have already set out their global vision ranging from rising economies to catastrophic global wars.I want to argue from a different perspective, focusing on the increasing subdivision of markets, the deepening autonomy of political action from economic development, the greater threat of military interventions and increasing political accommodation.  I believe that we will experience a radical making and remaking of political and economic integration, East and West, within and without nations states.  ‘States Rights’ will re-emerge as an antidote to globalization.  Big countries will compete in regional wars with limited commitments but ...
READ MORE
The Worst Mistake in U.S. History
The worst mistake in U.S. history was the conversion after World War II of the U.S. government from a constitutional, limited-government republic to a national-security state. Nothing has done more to warp and distort the conscience, principles, and values of the American people, including those who serve in the U.S. military.A good example of how the national-security state has adversely affected the thinking of U.S. soldiers was reflected in an op-ed entitled “What We’re Fighting For” that appeared in the February 10, 2017, issue of the New York Times. Authored by an Iraq War veteran named Phil Klay, the article ...
READ MORE
Understanding Jewish Power: Who has Helped Create a War-Addicted America?
I recently was asked to speak at an online conference entitled Deep Truth: Encountering Deep State Lies. My panel addressed Understanding Zionism: Deconstructing the Power Paradigm and my own topic was How Jewish Power Sustains the Israel Narrative. Working on my presentation, I was forced to confront the evolution of my own views on both the corruption of government in the United States and the ability of powerful domestic lobbies to deliberately distort the perception of national interests to benefit foreign countries even when that activity does terrible damage to the U.S. My personal journey began half a century ago. I ...
READ MORE
Poland and Lithuania are Escalating Events in Belarus as they did with Maidan
On August 9 [2020], presidential elections were held in Belarus with five candidates bidding to be head of state. According to the Central Election Commission, the incumbent president, Alexander Lukashenko, won in the first round with over 80% of the votes. Mass protests began in Belarus right after the announcement of the preliminary election results. People went to the streets, expressing their dissatisfaction with the results of the elections that they believe were unfair. Mass protests turned into riots and there were clashes between rioters and the police. Many people were detained and injured, and two protestors died.Representatives of the ...
READ MORE
America Celebrates Memorial Day
Wednesday, May 30th, was Memorial Day in the United States. The commemoration began in 1868 shortly after the American Civil War, when townsmen in several communities came together to decorate the graves of the fallen on the last Monday in May. The practice began in the northern states but soon spread to the south and the annual remembrance ceremony soon took on the name Decoration Day. As wars proliferated in the twentieth century the commemoration eventually lost its association with the Civil War and was increasingly referred to nationally as Memorial Day, eventually becoming a federal holiday. The American Civil war ...
READ MORE
Putin is Defeating More than ISIS in Syria
Russia and its President, Vladimir Putin, a little more than a year ago, in July 2014 were the focus of attention in Europe and North America, accused, without a shred of forensic evidence, of shooting down an unarmed civilian Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine. The Russians were deemed out to restore the Soviet Union with their agreement to the popular referendum of Crimean citizens to annex into the Russian Federation and not Ukraine. Western sanctions were being thrown at Russia by both Washington and the EU. People spoke of a new Cold War. Today the picture is changing, and profoundly. ...
READ MORE
The Croatian National Revival Movement (1830–1847) and the Serbs (IV)
Part IPart II Part IIIThe Croatian (Illyrian) Revival Movement until a victory of the national (South Slavic) language (1847)The Austrian Emperor, Ferdinand V (1835–1848), on January 11th, 1843 issued the order of prohibition of the use of the Illyrian name and the Illyrian coat of arms. The prohibition was officially justified with the explanation that such a measure was necessary for the purpose to restrain further political struggle and attacks from the Illyrian Party against the mađaroni and the ethnic Hungarians in Croatia-Slavonia. At the same time, the Ottoman authorities required from the Habsburg Emperor to forbid the public use of ...
READ MORE
From Cold to “Hot War”? Operation Barbarossa II
I stated some months ago, while assembling a criminal dossier against the NATO powers for the ultimate war crime of aggression, that the build-up of NATO forces in Eastern Europe, particularly American, concentrated on the Baltic states and Ukraine, presaged hybrid war operations against Russia leading to a general war. This build up of forces and ancillary developments I termed Operation Barbarossa II in light of the remarkable similarities to the build up of forces by Nazi Germany for the invasion of the USSR in 1941 which the Germans code-named Operation Barbarossa. Events have only confirmed my views.The degradation of ...
READ MORE
How Kosovo was Turned into Fertile Ground for ISIS
Every Friday, just yards from a statue of Bill Clinton with arm aloft in a cheery wave, hundreds of young bearded men make a show of kneeling to pray on the sidewalk outside an improvised mosque in a former furniture store. The mosque is one of scores built here with Saudi government money and blamed for spreading Wahhabism — the conservative ideology dominant in Saudi Arabia — in the 17 years since an American-led intervention wrested tiny Kosovo from Serbian oppression. Since then — much of that time under the watch of American officials — Saudi money and influence have transformed this ...
READ MORE
Bipartisan Neocons Infesting Washington: What Prospects for America?
US duopoly power replaced the eras of Jefferson, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. No JFKs exist, President Kennedy as we recall was a peacemaker assassinated for opposing war, urging nuclear disarmament and the normalization of relations  with the Soviet Union.   New Deal, Fair Deal and Great Society programs are heading for history’s dust bin. Bipartisan neocons infesting Washington want social justice ended, neoliberal enslavement replacing it, fascist police state harshness enforcing it.America is a gangster state, criminals running it – beginning in the 1990s under Bill Clinton, hardened under George W. Bush, institutionalized under Obama, certain to worsen no matter who succeeds him.US ...
READ MORE
Anti-Serbian Collaboration Between Tito’s Partisans and Pavelić’s Ustashi in World War II
Partisans and Ustashi together in Bosnia, 1942Article by Vladislav B. Sotirovic: “Anti-Serbian Collaboration Between Tito’s Partisans and Pavelić’s Ustashi in World War II”, Balkan Studies, Vol. 49, 2014 (2015), ISSN (print) 0005-4313, ISSN (online) 2241-1674, Thessaloniki, Greece, pp. 113−156© Vladislav B. Sotirović 2015Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest.Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!Donate to Support UsWe 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.[wpedon ...
READ MORE
Flying Missiles over Japan
SaveOrigins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest.Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!Donate to Support UsWe 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.[wpedon id="4696" align="left"]
READ MORE
U.S., U.K., & France, Certainly Committed an International War Crime against Syria on April 14th, 2018
It is now clear that on 14 April 2018, the three Governments of U.S., UK, and France, fired over a hundred missiles against Syria, on no more 'justification' than staged videos that had been done by those regimes' own proxy boots-on-the-ground fighters in Syria, who are trying to overthrow Syria's existing, non-sectarian Government and replace it by a Sharia-law regime that would be selected by agents of Saudi Arabia's ruling family. In other words: the fighters whom the U.S., UK, and France, had been arming and training, had themselves created this pretext of a faked 'gas attack' having been perpetrated ...
READ MORE
Remembering Jasenovac: The lesser Recognized Concentration Camp
While the numbers are not as high as Auschwitz or Treblinka, Jasenovac was notorious for its cruelty and the high number of young children who were victims.April 22 is a date that binds two groups of people who shared the same tragic fate. It is the date that commemorates the revolt of the prisoners of Jasenovac, the death camp that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews, Serbs and Roma.While the numbers are not as high as Auschwitz or Treblinka, Jasenovac was notorious for its cruelty and the high number of young children who were victims. The saddest ...
READ MORE
The Roots of the Current Crisis in the Middle East
It is now fully five years since the greatest upheavals in the modern history of the Arab World started in Tunis. Always impressed by the latest events, we tend to forget the deep roots of the current violent struggle. But unless we confront the causes, there is little chance that the symptoms will be healed.(A partial version of this article in Spanish was published earlier in Free Haifa)The wave of refugees that has reached Europe and the terror attacks in Paris reminded many people in Europe and beyond of the crisis in our region – but at the same time ...
READ MORE
A Telling Comparison: Israel versus North Korea
Missing from corporate media accounts is what causes the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK aka North Korea) to be singled out for opprobrium for what, essentially, is developing a deterrent against any entity that would attack it.A comparison with how the United Nations deals with North Korea vis-à-vis another member state state, Israel, is instructive.Israel occupies Palestinian territory; destroys Palestinian olive groves and poisons Palestinian sheep; sprays Palestinian homes with sewage; sabotages Palestinian water supplies; cuts off power to Palestine; terrorizes Palestinians for hours at checkpoints, including the sick, infirm, and pregnant women, some who are forced to give birth ...
READ MORE
The Destabilization of Macedonia? A Greater Albania and the Process of “Kosovization”
IntroductionThe last open armed conflict in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – FYROM (former Socialist Republic of Macedonia as one of six federal republics of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) in May 2015 was just an expected continuation of constant tensions between the ethnic Albanians and the Macedonian Slavs during the last quarter of a century.[i] However, these tensions are time to time transformed into the open armed conflicts of the Albanian extremists, usually coming from Kosovo, with the Macedonian security forces.The most notable conflict incidents in Macedonia after the Kosovo War in 1998−1999, when the Kosovo Albanians ...
READ MORE
Euromaidan Ukraine Today
Martin Luther King Survived Shooting: He was Murdered in Hospital
Europe Between Two Fires
Who Rules America: Globalization and Geopolitics
The Worst Mistake in U.S. History
Understanding Jewish Power: Who has Helped Create a War-Addicted America?
Poland and Lithuania are Escalating Events in Belarus as they did with Maidan
America Celebrates Memorial Day
Putin is Defeating More than ISIS in Syria
The Croatian National Revival Movement (1830–1847) and the Serbs (IV)
From Cold to “Hot War”? Operation Barbarossa II
How Kosovo was Turned into Fertile Ground for ISIS
Bipartisan Neocons Infesting Washington: What Prospects for America?
Anti-Serbian Collaboration Between Tito’s Partisans and Pavelić’s Ustashi in World War II
Flying Missiles over Japan
U.S., U.K., & France, Certainly Committed an International War Crime against Syria on April 14th, 2018
Remembering Jasenovac: The lesser Recognized Concentration Camp
The Roots of the Current Crisis in the Middle East
A Telling Comparison: Israel versus North Korea
The Destabilization of Macedonia? A Greater Albania and the Process of “Kosovization”
FOLLOW US ON OUR SOCIAL PLATFORMS
Share