BY MEGAN ARNEY
NEW YORK - "We are here for a free Kosova and that means an independent Kosova, nothing less. We will never give up until we are free," stated Arta Haxhaj, a student at Hunter College and an organizer of a 450-strong rally and march April 24 in New York.
The protest was called by the Albanian American Student Organization, which has members at Hunter, Columbia University, Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn, and other campuses. It is at least the fifth such protest held in New York, in addition to two in Washington, D.C.
The action began with a rally at the United Nations. Participants then marched to the UN mission of the Yugoslav government.
The crowd spanned several generations of Albanians - from grade school students to veterans of the Yugoslav revolution of the 1940s. Adnan Krasniqi, a 15-year- old from the Bronx, was part of a group of high school and grade school students there. "Our country is at war for liberation," he said. "We have to do our part here." It was his fifth demonstration.
Arta Krasniqi, who came with her brother, is 13 and an veteran of about five demonstrations to "free Kosova." Arta explained that she came to the United States four years ago. In Kosova, she attended a private school in a house, where she could learn in her own language, Albanian. "If the Serbian police found out, they would've burned it down."
Rally participant Hanife Abdulai said her father, who has an ulcer, went to the hospital in Pristina, which she said has only Serbian doctors. He was supposed to go in for an operation. "Instead, he came out paralyzed." When asked why she came to the demonstration, she said, "I have all my family there and I can't stay home when they don't have health care, food, or a job." Abdulai added that she was part of demonstrations in Pristina in 1981.
`Everyone here is for independence'
After Militant reporters asked at least a dozen teenagers at the rally if they were for Kosovan independence, Arta pointed out, "Everyone here is for Kosovan independence." That became quite apparent after the speeches began, which were in both English and Albanian. "Free Kosova" and "Serbia, your time is up" placards were among those held up at the rally. Other signs reflected solidarity with the dozens of Albanians killed by Serbian police since the beginning of this year.
Several T-shirts and hats sporting UCK, the Albanian initials for the Kosovan Liberation Army (KLA) could be seen in the crowd. Many chanted "KLA, UCK," throughout the rally.
A number of people at the rally expressed displeasure with the big-business press in the United States. "The New York Times writes stuff about us that is untrue. Most papers don't tell the truth," explained Adnan. Glenda, who came with her brother Luan, said that the media "calls the Albanians in Kosova terrorists." She pointed to the crowd and said, "Each person here knows someone back [in Kosova] who is in danger, or who has been killed. We are not terrorists."
High school students also initiated chants at the rally: "Albanians united will never be defeated," "Serbia, go away, Kosova is here to stay," and "We'll give up our lives, but not Kosova."
"We can no longer sit around and let this happen to our people and our lands. The European Union and the U.S. owe us now.... They should allow the Albanians of Kosova to arm ourselves to fight for self-determination," Haxhaj told the crowd. She interrupted her speech to lead chants like, "What do we want? Free Kosova. When do we want it? Now."
"Albanians in Kosova will stay and resist, at any price," stated Bleron Baraliu, a student at Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn and the president of the Albanian American Students Organization. We should "denounce Milosevic's chauvinist policies to the world," he added.
A number of the speakers, however, and many in the crowd supported calls initiated by procapitalist forces among Kosovar Albanians for U.S. military intervention. "No Serbian hegemony will go unanswered," Baraliu said, later calling for an immediate U.S. attack on Serbia, "like they did in Iraq."
Representatives from Human Rights Watch and others who spoke at the rally echoed the call for U.S. and UN intervention. A couple of speakers, as well as a printed leaflet that was widely distributed at the rally, were anti- communist. The leaflet, produced by the Albanian-American Student Organization, asked participants to "call the U.S. secretary of state to say `I called to urge for imperative tough actions on Belgrade, to say No to a new BOSNIA!; No more serbo-slav communist hegemony in the Balkans!' "
Nearly all of the speakers called on the United Nations and the U.S. government to recognize Kosova as an independent nation. A popular chant was "USA - recognize Kosova."
The last speaker was Nazmi Sejdiu, 14, wearing a red T- shirt with the Albanian double-headed eagle emblem. Sejdiu told the crowd that he and his family had just arrived from Kosova, where their house had been burned down. He explained that many of his classmates in Prekaz had been killed. He named them one by one.
Arta Haxhaj, who was also co-chairing the rally, ended the protest by calling on everyone to become more active in fighting for Kosovan independence. "Actions, not words," she said as she and other students led the rally into the streets of Manhattan.
Rose Ana Berbeo, a member of the International
Association of Machinists in Newark, contributed to this
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home