Nightmare by Design: NATO’s Takeover of the Kosovo Town of Orahovac

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Introduction

Below are TENC’s October 1999 interviews with three Serbian women from the Kosovo town of Orahovac. They recount how, prior to the June 1999 NATO-UN takeover of Kosovo, they believed NATO’s promise that it would institute multi-ethnic harmony. They discovered too late that for NATO multi-ethnic meant rule by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

In September, TENC had published its first interview with an eye-witness to the NATO-UN Kosovo takeover: Cedomir Prlincevic, President of the Jewish community and Chief Archivist in Pristina, capital of Kosovo.

Mr. Prlincevic described how he and the rest of the small Jewish  community were driven from their homes, losing everything; how the KLA terrorists stormed through the immense housing complex where his family lived, while British NATO officers and troops just stood by, watching. [1]

In late October 1999, Mr. Prlincevic and I addressed a mass meeting in Amsterdam. There I described what three members of the Women’s Humanitarian Committee on Orahovac had told me in phone interviews, that NATO had turned their Kosovo town, Orahovac, into a brutal prison camp for Serbs and Roma (‘Gypsies’), with the KLA as prison guards.

To neutralize the effect of this public meeting, which included members of Parliament, Colonel Tony van Loon, then commander of Dutch NATO troops in Orahovac, gave an interview to Trouw, a leading daily. He dismissed our accusations, claiming that NATO had done wonders in Orahovac, so that now, “People want to go on [with normal life], a fact I have found very positive.” [2]

We sent the Trouw article to the women from Orahovac and published their replies to some of Van Loon’s statements. [2]  (Trouw then interviewed the Orahovac women as well. That, unfortunately,   has not yet been translated into English.)

Below are the original Orahovac interviews.  I have added some comments Emperor’s Clothes received from a Serbian diplomat who, in the summer of 1999, traveled to Orahovac in the employ of a European diplomatic service. He uses the pseudonym, ‘Zoran.’

To this day, while the Western media has written about the epidemic of gangsterism in post-1999 Kosovo, there has been little or no discussion of the day-to-day reign of terror against the remaining Serbs, many of whom are incarcerated in towns like Orahovac.

— Jared Israel
16 July 2006

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The Women of Orahovac

Interviewer: Jared Israel
Translator: Peter Makara

Interview #1 – Natasha Grkovic

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The first woman we interviewed was Natasha Grkovic, age 27. An Orahovac native, she studied in Belgrade until December 1998, then returned home. She was there in June 1999 when the Yugoslav Army retreated under the terms of the “peace” agreement and KFOR occupation forces arrived. (KFOR is NATO in Kosovo.)

She told us that most Serbian residents (about 3000) stayed when NATO marched in, believing there had to be some truth to NATO propaganda, hoping for the best…

* Natasha *

“Maybe a thousand or more Serbs left. Orahovac is unique in that so many did stay. That’s because we believed KFOR’s guarantees that we would be safe. When it became clear that things weren’t going to be that way, people wanted to leave but they were not allowed. In addition to the Serbs, 500 to 1000 Roma, or ‘Gypsies’, also stayed.”

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Why Serbs stayed in Orahovac

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* Natasha *

“From April on our telephone connections as well as Serbian radio and TV were cut off thanks to NATO bombing. We had little information about what was happening in the rest of the country. We heard that after the June Peace Agreement was signed there was a massive exodus of Serbs from [the Kosovo city of] Prizen and elsewhere but we couldn’t verify it so we wondered if it was true. Meanwhile, we were constantly being told by the Western media that our security would be guaranteed – for instance, by Voice of America, which we heard via satellite connections. They used phrases about multiethnic, multicultural society and their Democracy and promised first to disarm the KLA [Kosovo Liberation Army], then to establish their laws.

“The morning before KFOR arrived there was a meeting of their representatives with the Mayor, a Serb, plus other Serbs including the head of the winery. KFOR said that in two days or so life would return to normal. The next day our homes were burning.”

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KFOR (NATO) arrives, bringing the KLA and terror

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* Natasha *

“With KFOR, the KLA [Kosovo Liberation Army] came. The same day. Some of our Albanian neighbors appeared in KLA uniforms. We were horrified. Suddenly we didn’t feel safe in the mixed section of Orahovac so we moved to the Serbian part.

“As we were leaving we saw, already, Serbian houses being burned. KFOR did nothing. We complained. They said they didn’t have enough people. Soon more NATO troops arrived but the situation stayed the same for a month. Over a hundred houses were burned. And they robbed whatever they could. A few ‘Gypsy’ [Roma] houses were burned too. Twenty-five people who stayed in the mixed section were kidnapped, plus their houses were burned too.

“Slowly we realized the extent of the mistake we’d made in not leaving. Every day KFOR offered new excuses for not protecting us. They said: ‘We can’t put guards in front of every house. We can’t give every Serb an armed guard.’

“The KFOR checkpoint is close to the [Serbian] ghetto. KFOR guards the entrance and exit to this Serbian area. Plus there are barricades, which the Albanians put up. First you hit KFOR and second you hit the Albanian barricades. KFOR supplied tents for the Albanians who are sitting on those barricades. And they ran electric wiring into those tents to provide current.”

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From the report from Zoran, the diplomatic aide

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* Zoran *

“Albanian roadblocks outside Orahovac are [set up in] former German/Dutch fortified checkpoints. I can not imagine that Albanians could have taken control of those without [KFOR’s] tacit approval – or instigation. The organizing committee at the roadblocks is armed. Heavier weapons are kept in hundreds of tents erected around the barricades – supposedly for women and children. Muscular men in sport suits patrolling the site carry small firearms under their jackets.”

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Conditions in the ghetto

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* Natasha *

“We were kept in this Serb enclave. My parents can come out on the streets but that’s dangerous; two people were wounded just being outside the house. Those who have tried to escape simply disappeared.

“There is no phone service to Belgrade. The only food is from humanitarian sources. One ‘Gypsy’ tried to ship food from the Albanian to the Serbian section; some extreme Albanian group told him, ‘No food for the Serbs!’ Near the beginning we would send some Albanian kid to buy stuff for us. But the kid would be beaten up and they would tell him ‘Don’t do that again!’

“The ghetto is 500 yards, squared. Water is erratic: once in three days for two or three hours.

“During the first days there were lots of reporters. Later there were fewer; I spoke to a Reuters’ journalist twice. The second time he said the first interview had been all censored and crossed out.”

* More from Zoran *

“In the first days after KFOR’s arrival, five Orahovac Serbs were killed and ten abducted under the watchful eyes of German troops. Serbs aren’t even allowed to go to the market or grocery store 50 meters away. The considerable Gypsy population, together with the Serbs, suffers equally.”

* Natasha *

“The only thing that KFOR did was organize a shipment of bread to the Serbian part. They were very proud of it. We only see KFOR in the street; there are no meetings. The Albanians are in charge. They took everything. You occasionally have small KFOR patrols but Headquarters is in the Albanian section.”

* Zoran *

“In Orahovac itself the former police station has been turned into a KLA HQ. The local KLA commander, the man who runs this town, is a mass murderer named Ismet Hara, responsible for last year’s abductions and brutal killings of over 60 Serbian civilians from Orahovac (the bodies of most are still missing), some of whom – it is reasonably believed – he personally executed.

“Serbs say they recognize many local Albanians in the ranks of the German KFOR. Probably KLA members recruited in Albania…KFOR denies this…I’ve personally seen KLA Commanders with their escort – all [illegally] armed – entering KFOR bases with KFOR ID cards and never a delay.”

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De-fanging the victim

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* Zoran *

“Early in the KFOR/KLA occupation, Dutch/German Baklava Units gave local Serbs 24 hours to hand in all their weapons. (Note that the KLA has been given 3 months and still counting….) The naïve Serbs complied. A few weeks later, the Dutch/German troops entered the Serbian quarter in broad daylight, fired some warning shots over the heads of Serbs who were gathered near a church and dragged people from their houses. Serbian witnesses say they grabbed people by the hair and pulled them out while kicking them…

“The Dutch/German troops arrested the Serbian Mayor and two other Serbs, accusing them of ‘war crimes’. There is no credible evidence to support these charges, though the Albanian side has spread rumors that documents discovered in a cellar of one house implicated the Mayor.”

[I asked Natasha about Zoran’s remarks. -JI]

* Natasha *

“Yes, that arrest was spectacular, just like that. I heard that KFOR had masks. They arrested the doctor and the Mayor [and a restaurant owner.] They accused them of war crimes.

“Nine people were seized altogether. The second group of six was just ordinary people. They had been working with the International Red Cross, which wants to evacuate old and sick people. The six were told they could leave. Then KFOR arrested them at the checkpoint.”

* Zoran *

“From reliable international sources I learned the arrests are an attempt to turn these people into ‘important witnesses’ in a made-up war crimes case against Serbs, not because of real evidence.

“Here’s the strategy: first they isolate the Serbs, then they wear them out, then they kick them out – after extracting the people Albanians accuse of being ‘war criminals’. To this end, they come up with all kinds of justifications for keeping the last remaining Serb civilians in this monstrous new ghetto.”

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Revealing incidents

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