17th of February is Kosovo’s Independence day, and today it is the 10th anniversary of declaring independence from Serbia. Here is some history of Kosovo’s NATO bombing, to celebrate Kosovo’s Independence Day:
Kosovo became part of the Former Yugoslavia, in 1918, as part of the Republic of Serbia, despite not being asked (Schwartz, 2000). Up to 1945, Yugoslavia and Albania engaged in talks to arrive at the signing of a treaty that would allow Kosovo-Albania unification. Two conferences were held in the city of Prizren in such matter. The first being held on 1-2 January 1944 decided the unification whereas the second one being held on 8-10 1945 decided that Kosovo would be part of the Federal Republic of Serbia (Pearson, 2006).
Even though Kosovo was part of the Former Yugoslavia, in 1945, the Kosovan Albanians did not profit from the same rights. Yugoslavian Partisans and different communist groups (Rankovic) constantly oppressed and committed violence against the Kosovan Albanian community, by thus causing the dislocation of 250,000 Albanians from Kosovo to Turkey. Additionally, about 50000 Albanians were killed, March 1945 (Schwarts, 2000). Due to the constant effort of the Kosovo Albanians to gain their rights of independence, in 1974 Kosovo gained the status of a Yugoslav state (MacShane, 2011).
However, during the Milosevic Era, Kosovo Albanians suffered even more. Milosevic proclaimed that Kosovo was a very important part of Serbia in a speech held in Polje where a famous Kosovo battle was held. Milosevic abolished the autonomy of Kosovo in 1989 (Macshane, 2011).
This led to multiple peaceful protests among the Kosovo Albanians, and the creation of a parallel society among their community. Albanians of Kosovo started to study in their native language, Albanian, secretly in each others’ homes and were medically treated in secret as well. A symbolic leader, Ibrahim Rugova, was born. He tried to make the international community do something for Kosovo’s case.His attempts at reaching agreements with Serbia to give the Albanians basic civil rights were met with police violence used upon peaceful student demonstrations in 1997(Schwartz, 2000).
Later on, international politicians, such as George Robertson who was the British Defence Secretary at the time, declared of the usage of violence against Kosovo Albanians. “Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic and Serbian paramilitary leader ‘Arkan’ Zeljko Raznatovic were appointed by Belgradecommand and supply units responsible for massacring and raping thousands of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo” (MacShane, 2011, p.41).
The Kosovo Liberalization Army (KLA), a guerrilla group fighting against Serbs seemed as the only hope. Their actions only made Milosevic order even more troops to go to Kosovo, which led to 200,000 Albanians being displaced and the initiation of war (Malcolm, 2002). KLA might not have won many battles, but it managed to make the international community turn their eyes towards Kosovo (Schwartz, 2000).
October 1998, Richard Holbrooke, (Dayton Accords Planner), made possible an agreement with Milosevic which led to OSCE verification missions, which led to the discovery of the Raccak Massacre. Albanians were being murdered, tortured, and raped (Malcolm, 2002).
Moreover, on 6th of February, 1999, the Macedonian U.S. Ambassador, Chriss Hill, managed to reach a meeting between Serbian and Kosovan representatives in Rambouillet, Paris, among Kosovo Albanians and Serbs representatives (Schwartz, 2000).
At first, Serbia did not agree to accept the autonomy of Kosovo, while Kosovo wanted an opportunity for independence in the future. However, Kosovo was promised NATO intervention if Serbia did not agree to sign the deal, therefore Hashim Thaci, the head of KLA at the time agreed to sign.
24th of March 1999, Kosovo was bombed by NATO forces.
10th of June 1999, Serbia was demanded to withdraw from the UN Resolution 1244.
Kosovo was able to declare independence only on 17th of February, 2008, and it still has a lot of work to do, considering that only 113 states recognize Kosovo, and it still does not have Visa Liberalizations, but it is full of young people working towards a better future.
Check this videos for more information:
Malcolm, N. (2002). Kosovo a Short History. London: Pan.
Schwartz, S., (2000). Kosovo: Background to a War, London, UK: Anthem Press.
MacShane, D. (2011). Why Kosovo still matters. London, UK: Haus Publishing.