Kosova: A Timeline

By Khalid Baig

"The West's position is more in favor of the Serbs than the [Kosova] Albanians. Because the West recognizes the border of Serbia as untouchable and, as a result, will never allow the independence of Kosova. This is also the position of the Pope." [Franc Perko, Archbishop of Belgrade in a frank interview with Italian newspaper "Avvenire," 18 May 99.]

Confused about what is really going on in Kosova? Here are important milestones on the road leading up to the current situation.

1389 – Sultan Murad I defeats King Lazar who was leading a coalition of Serbian and Christian Albanian army in the battle of Kosova. Serbia accepts suzerainty of Caliphate. A Serbian, Milosh Obilich, stabs Sultan Murad with a poisoned dagger after gaining access on the pretext that he was a deserter.

1453 – Sultan Muhammad Fateh conquers Constantinople. Kosova becomes province of Caliphate.

1467 – Albanian kingdom comes under direct Caliphate control. Enjoys internal autonomy.

1521 – Sulaiman the Magnificent conquers Belgrade.

1600-1700 – Albanians convert to Islam in huge numbers as they come in contact with Muslims from Turkey and elsewhere and find Islam's teachings attractive. Many Serbs migrate to Hungary.

1877-1878 – Russo-Turkish war. Ottoman Empire loses Bulgaria, Montenegro, and Serbia.

1912 – First Balkan War. Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and Greece (including 20,000 American Greeks) gang up on Turkey. Serbs occupy Kosova. Ottoman Empire loses practically all of its European holdings. A period of oppression of Muslims begins.

1937 – Vasa Cubrilovic authors the secret memorandum "Expulsion of Albanians," advocating forced removal of Muslims, who are 90% of the population, from Kosova.

1945 – Churchill gives Kosova, along with Macedonia, Slovenia, and Croatia to Communist regime of Josip Tito in Yugoslavia. A reign of terror starts for followers of all religions, especially the Muslims.

1945-1951 – Thousands of Muslims from Kosova are murdered and many more are expelled to Turkey after being labeled as Turks.

1968 – First pro-independence demonstrations by Muslims in Kosova, many arrested.

1974 – Yugoslav constitution declares Kosova an Autonomous Province within Yugoslavia. It is a Constituent Unit of the Yugoslav Federation with its own constitution, parliament, government, judiciary, and police force. Kosova has a representative and a one voice vote in a rotating eight-member Yugoslav Presidency.

1980 – Yugoslav leader Marshal Josip Broz Tito dies. Serbs begin the campaign to re-take Kosova, and return it to its former status, a mere province of Serbia.

1981 – The students at the University of Prishtina begin rioting in defense of all Albanian national rights. Over 300 Kosovar Muslims killed.

1981-1989 – Serb campaign against Muslims intensifies. Thousands of children are poisoned by the food given to them at their schools. Pregnant women receive injections of drugs, which create deformity in newborns. Mysteriously, hundreds of Kosovar Albanians rank-and-file of the Yugoslav military begin to "commit suicide," and are sent to their families in coffins for burial. More than 600,000 Kosovars, nearly one-third of the Albanian population, go through police hands. More than 7,000, receive jail sentences for up to 20 years for their participation in protests and demonstrations. Waves of massive demonstrations by dissatisfied Albanians are mercilessly crushed by Serb police using military tanks.

The Serb communist leader Slobodan Milosovic begins calling nationalistic rallies of thousands of Serbs. He lays blame for the Serbs economic troubles on the Albanians and their constitutional status. In a speech before a Serb crowd in Kosova, Milosovic incites them by saying: "This is your country...Yugoslavia does not exist without Kosova...Yugoslavia and Serbia are not going to give up Kosova."

March 1989 – Milosovic introduces constitutional changes to abolish Kosova’s status as an Autonomous Province, while Serb police using military tanks, surround the Kosova Parliament, and do not allow 115 members of the Assembly of Kosova to vote.

1990 – Milosovic abolishes the Assembly of Kosova and dissolves its government. The courts are abolished, Muslim employees are fired en-masse, and the economy is destroyed. Soon unemployment rate in Kosova reaches 85%.

Teaching of Albanian language and its use as a medium of instruction are banned. All schools in the Albanian language are closed down. The Albanian University in Prishtina, the only institute of higher education in Kosova, is closed. All the University buildings and state financial support are given to Serbs for only Serb use. The entire Albanian-speaking media (radio, television, and press) is silenced. Health services, cultural institutions, and all state funds destined for Kosova are usurped.

June 1991 – Yugoslav Federation is dissolved.

December 1991 – European Community establishes an Arbitration Commission, chaired by French Robert Badinter to make decisions regarding recognition of its former constituents as independent countries. The Commission accepts the applications of Slovenia and Croatia without a hitch. Bosnia is asked to hold a referendum since "it is not clear what its people want." Kosova has already held a referendum in which 85% voted for independence. But its application is rejected. Only Albania recognizes Kosova as an independent country. Muslim countries also fail to offer recognition to Kosova.

1992 – Ibrahim Rugova, who advocates a non-violent path to independence, is elected president of Republic of Kosova. For his Gandhian policy toward the extremist Milosovic, Rugova gets lot of praise –– but nothing else –– from the West. Still, he puts all his hopes in Western help.

March 1992 – The referendum for Bosnia is held.

April 1992 – The results of referendum are announced. 99% of ballots are cast in favor of independence. Bosnia is given recognition but the delay proves devastating. Serbs have been preparing to slaughter the Muslims and their operation coincides with the recognition.

1992-1995 – Extremist Serbs carryout genocide (which is euphemistically called ethnic cleansing) in Bosnia. Serb aggression is aided by the imposition of an arms embargo, enforced by NATO soldiers in UN uniform. The embargo works to keep the victims unarmed so their slaughter could be facilitated.

Serbia is kept from attacking Kosova by President Bush (1992) and again by President Clinton (1993). Spreading the war front to Kosova, where 91% population is Muslim and which is not land-locked like Bosnia, might help the Muslims at this time.

1995 – Srebrenica. UN forces declare it a protected and demilitarized zone and disarm Muslims. They leave when Serbs arrive who massacre all 9000 of the male population.

1995 – Talks are held at Dayton, Ohio to resolve the Balkan crisis. Kosova is kept out of Dayton talks. (Its inclusion at this time could strengthen the Muslim position).

Dayton accords ensure that no independent Muslim state can be established in Bosnia. Bosnia-Herzegovina is divided into a Serb entity and a Muslim-Croat federation. Real power now lies with the High Representative of European Community, while IMF and World Bank take total control of its economy. The governor of the Central Bank of Bosnia is a Frenchman named by the World Bank.

1996 – Pro-independence Kosova Liberation Army emerges as a spontaneous reaction to Serb barbarism, and claims responsibility for bombing police targets. The Western media and virtually all Western leaders show hostility to the KLA right from the beginning.

1997 – The rag tag KLA gains popularity. It reaches a strength of about 30,000 and controls 40% of Kosova. It also establishes a functioning government that provides health, education and other facilities. About 300,000 to 500,000 expatriate Albanians (mostly in Germany) pay 3% of their income to the government to finance all its activities. The Ghandian philosophy of Rugova costs him public support.

1997 - 1998 -- As the Serbian offensive increases, US State Department spokesman James Jolly claims the increased presence of the Serbian army on the Albanian border is "legal and legitimate." US special envoy for the Balkans Richard Holbrooke speaks of his fears of a "Ho Chi Minh Trail" for arms from Albania to Kosova.

Feb 23, 1998 – U.S. special Balkans envoy Robert Gelbard visits Belgrade, praises Milosovic for his new cooperation in Bosnia and brands the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) "without question a terrorist group." Immediately, Serb operations against KLA go in high gear.

March 1998 – Dozens killed in Serb police action against suspected Albanian freedom fighters.

April 1998 – 95 percent of Serbs reject international mediation on Kosova in referendum. International sanctions imposed against Yugoslavia.

May 1998 – Milosovic and Rugova hold talks for first time that go nowhere. Albanian side boycotts further meetings.

September 1998 – Serbs attack central Kosova, where 22 Albanians are found massacred. U.N. Security Council adopts resolution calling for immediate cease-fire and political dialogue.

October 1998 – NATO allies authorize airstrikes against Serb military targets, Milosovic agrees to withdraw troops and facilitate the return of tens of thousands of refugees. Belgrade agrees to allow 2,000 unarmed monitors to verify compliance.

October-December 1998 – U.S. envoy Christopher Hill tries to broker political settlement. Scattered daily violence undermines fragile truce.

December 1998 – Yugoslav troops kill 36 KLA soldiers. Six Serbs killed in a cafe, prompting widespread Serb protests. Fighting in north kills at least 15.

Jan. 15, 1999 – 45 Muslims slain outside Racak.

Jan. 29, 1999 – Serb police kill 24 Muslims in a raid. Western allies demand warring sides attend Kosova peace conference or face NATO airstrikes.

Feb. 6-17, 1999 – First, inconclusive round of talks between Kosova Albanians and Serbs in Rambouliett, France.

February-March 1999 – Serb forces sweep through Macedonian border region, digging in across from where thousands of NATO forces are gathering and bombard KLA positions in the north. Freedom fighters launch several attacks on Serb extremists.

March 18, 1999 – Kosovar Muslims are forced to unilaterally sign a peace deal at Rambouilett, France, calling for a "broad interim autonomy" and 28,000 NATO troops to implement it. This autonomy is less than what they had in 1974 and much less than what they want and legally deserve now: independence. The deal also requires them to disband the KLA. Serb delegation refuses even this favorable deal and talks are suspended.

March 20, 1999 – International peace monitors evacuate Kosova, as Yugoslav forces buildup and launch offensives against freedom fighters. NATO aircraft and ships ready for possible bombardments.

March 22, 1999 – U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke visits Belgrade to warn Milosovic of airstrikes unless he signs peace agreement. Milosovic refuses to allow NATO troops in Kosova.

March 23, 1999 – Holbrooke declares the talks have failed. NATO authorizes airstrikes. Serbia declares state of emergency.

March 24, 1999 – NATO airstrikes begin. NATO declares that it is not going to be the Air Force of the KLA, the only force on the grounds that can challenge Serb extremists if given weapons and support. It also announces that it will not introduce its own ground troops, thereby giving full license to Serb extremists to carry on their operation against Muslims.

The airstrikes do not target the extremist Serb troops active against the Muslims who now go in full force in their operation. The NATO operation contributes to the catastrophe in several predictable ways. First, the bombing requires the removal of the international observers and relief workers whose presence provided some restraint. ("The Serbs were spring-loaded to go when the last observer left Kosova," said a NATO intelligence official quoted in the Washington Post (11 April 1999.) Second, the bombing solidifies internal support for the extremist regime. Third, under the cover of a full-scale war, mass atrocities become easier. Fourth, NATO continues to enforce the arms embargo to deny the Kosovars the ability to defend themselves on the ground.

April 1999 – More than 600,000 Muslims are forced out of their homes in the first two weeks of NATO operation. Thousands of Muslim males are murdered. Thousands of Muslim women are violated in a repeat of the atrocities committed by the same thugs in Bosnia a little while ago. Entire villages are burned and properties are looted.

The Albanian government appeals to the West to arm the KLA, but State Department spokesperson James Rubin says the US had made it clear that it continues to oppose arming or training the "rebels." Albania also raises the issue with NATO commander Wesley Clarke, who refuses, citing the arms embargo placed on Yugoslavia as a barrier to such a move.

Privately NATO warns the KLA not to accept any military help from any Muslim sources. Under that threat volunteers who came from Muslim countries to help defend them are turned back.

May 1999 – After two months of non-stop bombardment by NATO, the number of Serb troops in Kosova increases from 40,000 to 55,000. More than a million Muslims have been expelled. Not one Serb operation against Muslims has been stopped by NATO action. There is no loss of Serbian operational effectiveness. Muslim Refugees keep on leaving Kosova for neighboring countries.

Milosovic is indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for war crimes. The Tribunal issues warrants for his arrests, but nobody expects that he would be arrested, tried, or punished.

Talks continue to find a political solution between NATO, Russia, and Serbia. Nobody represents the interests of the victims in these talks. All parties have already agreed that Muslims will be denied their right to self-determination, just as they have been denied their right to self-defense.

June 1999 – Agreement is reached between indicted war criminal Milosovic, NATO and Russia. Kosova will remain a part of Serbia and its people will be disarmed. The "Final Solution" for the Balkan Muslims is unfolding. Although the Serbs and the NATO powers appear to be on the opposite sides of the conflict, they are pulling the boat in the same direction from opposite banks of the river.