By Arben Fetahi, former director of Inter-ethnic Project Gostivar and newspaper Monitor
Gostivar,15 March 2012
Ten years after the Albanian rebellion against the Macedonian state, violence between Albanians and Macedonians brings the country back on CNN and De Volkskrant. Mirjana Najcevska, also a former partner of IKV, plays an important role in the public debate following the violence.
A banal conflict about a parking place resulted with two dead and one arrested. Following the official report released by Macedonian police, two Albanians were killed by their Macedonian neighbour, a member of the Macedonian border police. This happened on 28 February in the city of Gostivar, 60 kms south-west fromSkopje.
Later that day, the spokesman of the Macedonian Ministry of Interior, Ivo Kotevski, described the incident as self-defense. This statement was interpreted by most Albanians as an attempt of the Ministry of Interior to protect the killer. It also confirmed their fears that the police do not treat Albanians and Macedonians equally.
Gostivar’s citizens protested in the next two days asking for the resignation of the Minister of the Interior, Gordana Jankullovska, and her spokesman Ivo Kotevski. The protest on 29 February was more spontaneous, but the next-day protest was organized by the Municipality of Gostivar. The windows of several shops and businesses, owned by Macedonians, and the building of the Municipal Court were damaged by protesters. Protests were organized in Skopje as well, demanding the resignation of the Interior Minister and civic and independent control over the Macedonian police.
The next incident, excarbating the inter-ethnic tensions inMacedonia, occurred in Skopje, where a group of Albanian high schoolstudents were beaten in a city bus on 7 March. They were attacked by a group of masked Macedonians armed with baseball bats. Fifteen students were transported to the local hospital, three of them in a critical condition. At least 7 persons were arrested by Macedonian police the following days.
A violent response came soon. Two young Macedonian girls were attacked in Tetovo and some shops owned by Albanians in Skopjewere demolished. Local and national media as well as opposition parties are reacting based on their ethnic background. More flagrant were the comments by Dragan Pavlovic, editor of TV Sitel and daily newspaper “Vecer”. In his comment he called Albanians “inferior people”, concluding that Albanians are responsible for the latest developments in Macedonia. Albanian media and human rights defender Mirjana Najcevska asked the General Persecutor of the Republic of Macedonia to bring charges for provocation of inter-ethnic intolerance and hate speech. Najcevska has asked citizens to support her online petition for criminal charges against Dragan Pavlovic Latas (www.kvadraturanakrugot.crnaovca.mk).
In order to avoid gatherings of people, all sport events that were scheduled for this week in Tetovo and Gostivar region have been postponed. Governmental parties, VMRO-DPMNE (ethnic Macedonian) and DUI (ethnic Albanian), called for calm and asked people to believe that police and other institutions are working to find the guilty independently of their ethnic background.
At the moment the streets of Tetovo are empty after nine in the evening due to current tensions. The family of the police officer was moved from Gostivar for security reasons. Apart from that the atmosphere in Gostivar seems normal. Hopefully the situation will further calm down soon.