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Hope on the Balkans: Reports 1997
Interview with Kosova student leader Albin Kurti

From: MIR_OS@ZAMIR-ZG.comlink.apc.org
Newsgroups: yugo.antiwar
Subject: Kosova student leader Albin Kurti
Date: 14 Nov 1997

## Message from 12.11.97 was forwarded
## Origin : MIR_OS@PZ-OOST.ztn.apc.org
## Author : peaceworkers@igc.apc.org

November 12, 1997

Dear Friends,

Thought you would be interested in this interview I did with Albin Kurti, a student leader in Kosova about the student nonviolent movement there.. Feel free to publish the interview and/or share it with others. Thanks for your concern for the students in Kosova. Peace,

David Hartsough

Interview with Albin Kurti, a leader of the Students Independent Union in Pristina, Kosova (in former Yugoslavia). The interview was conducted by David hartsough, Director of Peaceworkers in San Francisco while he was visiting Kosova in mid October.

Q. Tell me who you are nd what position you play in the student movement and what you do.

1. I am Albin Kurti, and I am 22. I am a student in the faculty of Electrotechnics, in the branch: Telecommunications and computer science. Since June of this year I'm a member of the presidency of Students' Independent Union of the University of Prishtina (SIU UP), and now during the preparations and during the protests I am the spokesman (for public relations) for our students' organization and for Organization Council too, where I am a member together with 4 other students.

Q. Please give me a little background about what is happening here in Kosova with the schools and the university.

2. In the year 1989, two years after Milosevic became the president of Serbia, he abolished Kosova's autonomy. In that year and also in 1990, all around Kosova there were a lot of demonstrations against the Serbian regime, which was also firing the workers from their factories, doctors and nurses from hospitals, and forcing Albanian young people to go in the Serbian army which was fighting in the war in Croatia.
In 1991 about 27,000 students, 1,000 professors and 200 administrative workers were expelled from University buildings in Pristina. So in that year the University, all the high schools and even some of the primary schools were closed to all Albanians, and they are still closed for us. In those buildings now only Serbian pupils and students are learning and studying, even though Serbians here are less than 10% and Albanians are 90% of the population in Kosova.
Since the year 1991 the activities of our University and also all the high schools and some of the elementary (primary) schools, are continuing in private houses in very bad conditions. Now we have about 23,000 students in our University and they are in 14 faculties and 7 high schools (two year colleges) which are in Prishtina and also in six other towns of Kosova. During these six years Albanian pupils and students have lived under terror and repression, and a lot of times they have been beaten, arrested or killed by Serbian police without any cause. Now we can't wait any longer and be patient because this kind of situation is unacceptable.

Q. What are the goals of the student movement?

3. On August 10 of this year we began the initiative to organize peaceful protests with only one demand: freeing of our university buildings and premises. After a lot of working with students and meetings with different political parties, non-governmental organizations, and importantpersonalities and hearing their suggestions, we decided that we should constitute an Organization Council for protests only on the level of our University. That council has 9 members (5 students + 4 professors). We also constituted organization sub-councils on the level of the faculties and high schools, and each of them has 5 members (3 students + 2 professors). Also we have commissions for technical problems (slogans, posters etc.), for information service, our own monitoring people who are also students, and also we have commissions for medical help (first aid etc.) which is constituted from students and professors of the Medical faculty.
So we are now very strongly decided not only for peaceful, nonviolent protests but also that these protests are only students and faculty of the university. On September 15 we made our platform for the protests and now we also have our own 11 main principles and rules for students who will participate in peaceful, nonviolent, students' protests. I'm going to repeat once more that our only demand is: freeing of our university buildings. We consider that this is only a technical problem, so our demand as our students' organization is nonpolitical.

Q. What are you doing to achieve your goals?

4. We are doing a lot of preparing to maintain a high level of organization so we can make and control all the time our protests. In this way we became a real students' movement, with a great hope that with a lot of peaceful, nonviolent students' protests, we can organize great pressure on the Serbian regime, and in that way, get back in our university buildings.

Q. Tell me about your demonstration Oct.1. What happened?

5. Without taking into account the suggestions and warnings of foreign high diplomats that we should postpone the protests until October, 15 we decided that we would begin our demonstrtions on October 1 as we had planned because by the Law of our University, October 1 is the day when the academic year begins. On October 1 we organized peaceful, nonviolent protests in Prishtina and also in 6 other towns: Mitrovica, Peja, Gjakova, Prizren, Ferizaj and Gjilan. We planned to hold a march in which students and professors of our University would be dressed in white shirts, and all of them were wearing badges on which was the emblem of the University of Prishtina and the name of the faculty to which student belonged. Albanian people were supporting us by staying on the sidewalks along the planned route of our march and being all the time quite and silent. Students were holding up in the air banners with the approved slogans including "PeacefulFreeing of University Buildings and Premises, Hello Europe, Where Are You?, and Breath as we do! Students". There was no shouting, yelling or whistling from our side.
After we marched about 300 meters from the place that we gathered, a large police force blocked the road. We were standing there about one hour and then a police tank started to move forward with the appaarent intention to drive over us because we were about only 3 or 4 meters away from the tank and from the cordon of the police forces. As we planned ahead of time, all the students and professors sat down on the road as an act of nonviolent resistance. We the Organization Council and also the Rector of our University Professor Dr. Ejup Statovci who is also a member of the Organization Council, were on the first line of the march and we were sitting for only few seconds and then, were beaten and arrested. Also I want to add that the police attacked us without giving us any kind of prior warning or ultimatum. They took us to the police station, beat us again and we were interrogated for about two hours. Afterward they freed us, but they dispersed the other students, using police clubs, tear gas, and a lot of brutal violence. There was no provocation from our side. That day in Kosova were more than 500 people were injured, mostly students.

Q. Tell me about your commitment to active nonviolence and nonviolent discipline. How did you come to that commitment?

6. In our protests we have been nonviolent, even when the police attacked us. Also we had our monitoring people with red ribbons on their arms, and people whose duty was to observe the situation and they were wearing blue ribbons. They have do an excellent job. All the students and professors are respecting the decisions of the Organization Council and the monitoring people. Also the nonviolent guidelines are very helpful.

Q. How are students and others here in Kosova feeling about the student movement so far?

7. The students are feeling strong and committed to the nonviolent way to achieve our demands. We also have a great sympathy from our people here and from the international public opinion.

Q. What are your movement's plans for the future?

8. We will continue with our peaceful, nonviolent, students' protests, until we achieve our goals.

Q. What message would you like to share with people in the international community about the situation here and about your movement?

9. Our message is that we believe that nonviolent protests and nonviolent movements are the greatest invention of this century, and that we hope our protest will be supported by the international community.

Q. What kind of support can people in other parts of the world give to the student nonviolent movement here?

10. The best thing would be if different organizations, universitites, and associations would send their representatives to visit us in Kosova. In that way they can see with their own eyes our commitment to nonviolence and our demand for respect for our basic human rights. In addition, it would be good if all the people who want to help us could help educate others in their countries about our situation and our nonviolent movement. They can send us letters of support, organize teach ins, seminars, and meetings about Kosova's problem and our protests. Also there are many ways they can show solidarity with us without coming in Kosova like for example: sending letters to different government officials in their countries requesting that they support us.

Q. Are you interested in students and others from other countries coming to support your movement?

11. During the preparations for the last protest on October 29, we met with a lot of students' organizations and we received a lot of support letters from them. Some students, for example in Austria, organized protests in their countries to show solidarity with us. If others around the world show their support for us, it will be better for us.

Q. What kind of things can people who come here to support do?

12. They can meet both with student leaders and with ordinary students, talk with them and we can organize meetings and seminars with them. Also they can inform themselves about our situation and make pressure on the regime which is applying police repression against us.

Q. How did you keep such strong nonviolent spirit and discipline in your action?

13. We are keeping a strong nonviolent spirit and discipline because we are spending a lot of time on preparations, we have a high level of organization, we are commited to nonviolence and we respect our nonviolent guidelines, we organize a lot of gatherings and meetings with students.

Q. What has motivated you personally to get involved in this movement and tell me more about your interest in nonviolence.

14. Resisting oppression without fighting back, gathering all the people and creating a sense of community which is built in peace, and also maintaining nonviolence even in the face of police violence are some of the elements which attracted me to think that with the use of nonviolence, we can achieve a lot. Recently thanks to our friend, David Hartsough from the US, we gathered a lot of books about nonviolence and some videos with which we are starting a nonviolence library which will be available for all students.

Q. Anything else you would like to say?

15. It is important to create a mechanism which will maintain nonviolent resistance and in that way create the rythm for organizing nonviolent protests until the university is open for all students. This is the main purpose of our nonviolent movement.

Q. Why did you and the other students decide on nonviolent action as a means to reopen the university to all students?

16. We, Albanian students are not asking that when we get back to our university buildings, the Serbian students should leave. On the contrary, we are requesting that this basic human right of education which is guaranteed with international acts and conventions, be respected for all the people and nationalities in Kosova. Between war and giving up is a great space with a large number of possibilities of how to win, and the biggest one is building a nonviolent, peaceful movement.

For more information, see our web site Students' Protests in Kosova:

Live photoes from protests of October 29 are on:

Letters of support to the students in Kosova can be sent to: upsup@albanian.com and letters of protest can be sent to
President Slobodan Milosevic at Tolstoyeva 33, 11,000 Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

721 Shrader St.
San Francisco, CA 94117 USA
Phone and fax 415-751-0302
email PEACEWORKERS@igc.apc.org

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