Kosovo: Eight years after the pogrom
Kosovo, the occupied territory - Eight years ago in a wave of violence in the occupied territories, Albanian extremists killed 19 people and destroyed 34 Orthodox churches.
More than 4,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians were expelled from their homes then. After the pogrom against the Serbs, 270 Albanians were arrested, 143 people were sentenced, mostly with money fees, a total of 67 of them sent to prison.
About 900 houses and 35 Orthodox churches and monasteries were burned, including the medieval relics, such as Virgin Ljeviska in Prizren, dating to the 14th century.
Six towns and nine villages were ethnically cleansed, Devic Monastery near Srbica burned, which has not yet been fully restored. Many cemeteries were desecrated in Kosovo and Metohija, and in the churches, a number of valuable icons and other religious relics are missing or damaged, such as books and baptisms, marriages and deaths certificates which indicate the existence of a centuries-old Serb presence in the area.
Quarters of the Holy Archangels Monastery near Prizren were set on fire. In Prizren, in addition to Virgin Ljeviska church, the Church of St. George from the 16th century was also burned. The process of reconstruction of tht Virgin Ljeviska is still ongoing, and the church of St. George after its restoration, was consecrated in Winter 2010. Only about 20 Serbs now inhabit that town. In Prizren the building of the theology school was burned and the seat of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren was desecrated.
The reason for the pogrom was the Albanian media campaign in which local Serbs were accused of chasing with dogs, across the river Iber six Albanian boys from the village of Čabar, near Zubin Potok and thus driving them to deaths.
UNMIK police investigation found that the Albanian accusations were false, a spokesman for the International Police Neridge Singh said then that "the boys who survived were under strong pressure from Albanian journalists and politicians to accuse the Serbs from the neighboring village."
Albanian extremists at first started the protests in the southern part of Kosovska Mitrovica and at dusk they started an armed attack on the Serbs in the north - where the KFOR intervened. Violence and attacks have been transferred to the south in the village of Caglavica and other settlements in the area of Pristina, a target of which were many Serbian villages and towns across the province - Lipljan, Gnjilane, Urosevac, Djakovica and Prizren.
The terror continued the next day, 18 March, when the Serbs were forced to leave Kosovo Polje, Obilic Plemetina near Vucitrn, Svinjare near Kosovska Mitrovica, while in the village of Bijelo Polje near Pec, all 28 returnees' houses and the parish house were torched .
Smaller groups of Serbs sought refuge in KFOR bases, and other in the safer Serbian enclaves. Most are still in collective centers, container settlements near Gracanica, or in other people's homes, a few have decided to return. Around 250 Serbs fled to the central Serbia.
International groups have then rated the "ethnic violence" against the Serbs in Kosovo "planned and well orchestrated," but it turned out that more than 20,000 international troops were not ready, or did not want to thwart it and prevent it.
The wave of 17th and 18 March 2004. killed 19 people, including eight Serbs and 11 Albanians - who were killed by members of KFOR in self-defense. 954 people were injured, including dozens of international troops and 72 UN vehicles were destroyed.
On the eighth anniversary of the March pogrom in the occupied territories of Raska-Prizren, Episcope Theodosius will serve memorial mass for the victims at noon in the church of St. Nicholas in Pristina.
The temple which was demolished in the pogrom and was set on fire, was restored since, and to the Serbs from the occupied territories, it is a symbol of the tragic events of 2004.
1- Tanjug agency
2- Forum 18