Adem Demaci
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US troops out of Europe!
Adem Demaci
Franjo Tudjman
Alija Izetbegovic
Agim Ceku
Kenneth Bacon Lies
Marked for an Egg or red Paint
Opposition in Yugoslavia
Ibrahim Rugova
Jamie Shea
William Walker


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avgust 20, 2008

















Presumed for Dead - A True Patriot

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia--There are few ethnic Albanians who enrage Serbian nationalists more than Adem Demaci, and many would love to see him dead. Yet he refuses to leave Kosovo or even go into hiding.  Demaci, until recently the longtime political leader of the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army, is not only alive and well here in the capital of Kosovo but walks the streets each day.  He buys his vegetables from farmers at a local market and shows no fear amid the war-weary police and soldiers he passes on the way.  Demaci has found his own peace in this province of Serbia, Yugoslavia's main republic, by living with the enemy--even when arrested and threatened with shooting, as he was for a second time Tuesday.

That Demaci stays put and survives is a surprise to many, not least of all given NATO's assertions that Yugoslav forces are intent on emptying Kosovo of ethnic Albanians. He is courageous enough to take shots at all sides in the war.
The Serbs are enduring intense bombing, but their failure to compromise only brings on more ruin, while the KLA and ethnic Albanian intellectuals have failed their own people, Demaci said in an interview Tuesday.  "If you are fighting for freedom, and you are not ready to give your life for freedom, that means you lied to yourself and you lied to others," Demaci said about fellow activists. "It is obvious that you were forging false patriotism. This was the opportunity for a real patriot."

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization's biggest mistake in the conflict over Kosovo, he said, was that the alliance "chained its hands" by repeatedly threatening airstrikes if Yugoslavia did not accept a peace accord protecting the province's ethnic Albanians. The threats didn't work, forcing the alliance to launch airstrikes just to save face, Demaci argued.  "All this was done so clumsily, like when an elephant enters a porcelain shop," he added. "You cannot first say you will not send ground troops and then start bombing. That way, you not only allow the other side to survive but you are also prolonging the agony."

Separatist Served 29 Years in Jail

Demaci is easily recognized by those who hate him and what he stands for; Serbs have long associated him with what they see as the evils of ethnic Albanian separatism and terrorism.  He served three jail terms, totaling about 29 years, as a political prisoner for insisting that Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority has the right to be free from Serbian domination.  Demaci proved the strength of his convictions long ago, and without shame he could have fled March 28 when his wife joined hundreds of thousands of Kosovars who are refugees outside the province.  But the novelist who became a radical politician was never one to surrender, not to threats or punishment, not to men pointing guns and certainly not to his own fear.  He is determined to stay in Kosovo for as much time as he has left.

Demaci, who declines to give his age, lives with his 70-year-old sister, who refuses to leave Kosovo without him. She handles the cooking, takes care of the house and sometimes keeps Demaci company during his walks.
His wife decided to leave--and his sister to stay--after the March 27 funeral of human rights lawyer Bajram Kelmendi, who was slain along with his two sons after police led them away from home.  "I told her, 'Well then, sister, you must be ready to die,' because there was shooting all over. There was danger from everywhere. So first we decided we did not exist, and only then did we decide to stay.  "I told her: 'OK, sister, if we die, thank God. If we stay alive, again, thank God.' She is a brave woman, illiterate but brave, and she loves me more than herself."
Refusing to compromise on the demand for Kosovo's independence, Demaci resigned as political head of the KLA guerrillas March 2, about three weeks before NATO's airstrikes began.

He quit after criticizing KLA guerrilla leaders such as Hashim Thaqi for accepting a peace agreement being negotiated in Rambouillet, France. The plan called for Kosovo to be given interim self-rule within Serbia for three years under the protection of about 30,000 NATO troops.  Earlier during the Rambouillet talks, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright phoned Demaci thinking she could persuade him to get the KLA to compromise. He reportedly hung up on her.
Since the Rambouillet accord left the question of Kosovo's independence unresolved, Demaci saw it as a sellout. The Yugoslav government considered the peace offer a violation of its national sovereignty and refused to sign it. So NATO began bombing.  Thaqi recently declared the Rambouillet accord dead. Thousands of ethnic Albanians continue to flee as Yugoslav forces combat KLA units in the province. And Demaci feels more vindicated with each day that the death toll rises.

In the early days of NATO's airstrikes, Serbian police, soldiers and paramilitary forces rampaged through the capital and forced thousands of ethnic Albanians to leave on trains and buses.  As the chaos spread across Kosovo, NATO officials insisted that several ethnic Albanian leaders had been killed; since so many Serbs despise Demaci, he was widely presumed to be among the dead.
But several people whom NATO had listed as having been killed eventually showed up alive in refugee camps across the border in Macedonia and Albania or elsewhere in Europe.   Rumors persisted that Demaci was alive in Pristina, along with other ethnic Albanian leaders such as Fehmi Agani, an elderly politician with much more moderate views than Demaci's.

He continues living quietly in his neighborhood in Pristina, free to go where he wants and speak as he chooses.  He agreed to the interview on Tuesday only if he could first do his morning shopping at the vegetable market.  With his bag full of onions, butter, lettuce and radishes, Demaci sat on a bench outside an apartment building in central Pristina and explained why he stayed when so many others fled, offering a philosophy that seemed to mix fatalism and Eastern religion.  It should seem strange only to those still bound to their egos, people who see themselves as separate from the universe rather than merely pieces of the energy that exists in all things, he explained. Some call that energy God, others Allah or something else altogether, but accepting that you are part of it is the key to beating fear, Demaci said.   "We are on our way to perfection, and in that process there are clashes, there are collisions. There is fire, wind and such. That is how everything is cleansed. Unfortunately, this part of the Balkans is the most backward in this sense," he said.   "People in Europe are laughing at the fact that we're now beating and butchering each other like yellow ants because they have forgotten about these problems," he went on. "Unfortunately, we have to get through this disease in such a tragic way."  Even though about 80,000 ethnic Albanians still live in Pristina--by some estimates, half the number who were here before the NATO bombing began--Demaci turns heads when he walks through the city, stopping frequently to chat with friends or supporters who weren't sure he was still alive. As Demaci spoke about the ways of the universe and war on the wooden bench, several police and regular soldiers walked by without paying him much attention.  But 40 minutes into the conversation, three reserve soldiers came along and were so angry at seeing Demaci with two reporters that they led all three off to a nearby command post on suspicion of spying for the KLA.
Within minutes, more senior officers had arrived to take over. As the situation worked its way up the chain of command and the reservists calmed down, they explained why they were so angry.
KLA guerrillas had killed a brother of one of the reservists and skinned the body for added effect, an officer explained.  Demaci, the easiest target for revenge, was cornered, sitting with his shopping bag on his lap.  Before the aggrieved reservist was ordered to leave, he jabbed a rubber truncheon just under Demaci's chin and shouted at him. Demaci did not flinch and smiled back.  "You skinned my brother!" the soldier screamed. "You should get a bullet in the head for that!"

'So Go Ahead and Shoot Me'

"You have the gun, I don't," Demaci replied calmly. "So go ahead and shoot me."
After the reservists had gone and various authorities had discussed what to do, two Serbian guards chatted with Demaci, offering a soft drink and cookies, which he politely declined, and laughed at one of his jokes.  Within a couple of hours, the party was released with handshakes and apologies. A plainclothes police officer drove Demaci and the two reporters to a hotel so that they could continue the interview in private.

Finally, Demaci walked off into central Pristina alone, an elderly man dressed elegantly in a suit and tie, a brown trench coat and silk scarf, bringing home the vegetables for his salad.