Amid the ruins in Kosovo, destroyed by mortar and artillery, Besarta Jashari, 11, laid still, pretending to be dead. Serbian-dominated Yugoslav forces wearing black masks had been searching door to door looking for the targeted Jashari family when they found her. The Serbian police claim that the Jashari family returned fire. No bodies were found. Later, Besarta told the Serbian attackers that she was from a different family. After four hours of interrogation, they let her go. The Yugoslav Interior Ministry claimed the Jashari family were allied with the Kosovo Liberation Army, a revolutionary group fighting for the creation of an independent Albanian state in the ethnically Albanian Yugoslav region.
The Jashari family was not the first family targeted by the Yugoslav Serbs. Previous reports claimed members of another family were presented for burial — with their eyes gouged out and their skulls crushed. The recent Serbian assault has left 5,000 ethnic Albanian refugees in Kosovo without food or medicine. In quiet protest, numerous Albanians stood in front of the United States Information Service, the only permanent foreign diplomatic presence in Kosovo. The demonstrators wanted the fighting to stop.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is meeting with German and French leaders, as well as the pope, to discuss expanded peacekeeping operations and new sanctions to stop the fighting from spreading throughout the Balkans. The governments of Russia, France and Germany are non-committal and worry about a new wave of refugees. The United States and others supported Kosovo’s autonomy even after Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic took it away at the start of the Yugoslav civil war. Milosevic irately claims what is happening is none of the world’s business. For now, at least, the conflict is mainly an internal Yugoslav matter, and doesn’t immediately threaten regional peace. That could change, though, quickly and dramatically.
Greece, a Yugoslav ally, has warned the United States not to engage in any military action, and criticized political and economic sanctions against Belgrade as interference in an internal manner. Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano is openly appealing to the international community for help on behalf of Kosovo’s Albanian minority. If Albania and Greece enter the fray, they will do so on opposing sides.
Many Americans hoped the Dayton accords would settle the Balkan crisis. The current fighting in Kosovo serves as a grim reminder that the conflict is far from over. Unfortunately, Dayton put an end only to the immediate fires of war. The effects of earlier fighting in Croatia and Bosnia can be felt in Kosovo. The Serbian minority in the region is mostly a transplant, made up of Serbs who fled former Yugoslav provinces during the wars and had to be resettled quickly. The fighting there now threatens both to escalate and to spread. If Greece enters the conflict, or uses the incident as an excuse for adventurism in neighboring Macedonia, the NATO alliance would be threatened. The world, especially the United States, must pay attention to the Kosovo crisis. The work of ending war in Europe is unfinished, and Balkan ghosts will probably haunt the world for years to come.