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(en) Feminists in the refugee camps of the Kosovars

From Yolanda R <roal@nodo50.org>
Date Wed, 7 Jul 1999 17:27:43 -0400


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Update to the letter below:  "the problem is that many facts are not
there anymore.... already some women are back. Then, the problem is that
many of them found their flats in horrible state, everything robbed,
teared, messed, taken, destroyed......  so the new  reality is there,
facing the homes  that are marked with hatred."


Notes from the trip - Macedonia
 Feminists in the refugee camps

3rd June 1999
On the road to Skopje, in front of the border people are standing and
waiting to cross. There are 15-20 of them, apparently from the near by
town, maybe from Gnjilane. I am wondering when have Belgrade citizens
seen citizens from Gnjilane, or have they ever? Serbian or Albanian
nationality? Anyway I see them for the
first time in my life. They must be Albanians. They are standing in the
darkness and waiting to cross the border. On foot. They are silent and I
can only hear baby voices. They are silent as they have never spoken
before and it looks like that suffering is far beyond those faces
standing there restlessly patient. Exiles on the border crossing
Tabanovci have different status than the bus passengers who arrived from
Belgrade.

I came to see my friends who were driven out from their homes with
machine guns and are for the time
being in Macedonia. I am going to see them, their way of life now when
only in a few days they became refugees. They are going along strange
streets, to the rented flats, in another country. Some of their stories
how did they manage to reach here are already familiar to me. Until 1992
to my friends now divided with front lines, the same story is repeating.
That we are longing for each other, that wars are separating us, that we
are eager to reach each other, to embrace in so called "third
countries", to travel for hours just to see each other. Is this our
final war?

 Cegrane

Everyone here heard for camp "Cegrane", because it is the biggest one,
it is near Tetovo, approximately 43.000 people are placed here. It is
famous because it is settled in dust and stone, convenient for lizards
and snakes. This is a hillside, just near the fertile valley where
people live, with lots of trees, water, flowers. But the camp is not in
the valley it starts just on the spot where fertile valley ends and
rocky ground starts. On the other side of the valley, on the other
foothill, smaller camp Stenkovec is situated with 30.000 people.
Today about 103.000 Albanians who were expelled from their homes in
Kosovo are placed in refugee camps in Macedonia, while more than 150.000
of them stayed in homes of their relatives or friends.
 Cegrane is a small village in the valley, where mostly Albanians live.
It's very active now. Humanitarian
agencies jeep , crowd, shops, restaurants all crowded with people.

Cegrane camp means a thousands and thousands of yellowish white tents.
You should always go uphill
till the end. Many of them are already  here for two months.
Humanitarian organizations set up water
supply, toilets, schools, hospital, warehouses, children park, food
distribution. They still don't have showers, but they have a promise to
get ones in June.
When you enter the camp you only see wires, around and inside. My
friends told me that wires are here to prevent riots.  Every camp is
wire fenced . In most of them it is a rule that refugees are not allowed
to go out unless they have a permission for that. It is a rule within
the teritory of Macedonia that refugees are not allowed to travel to
another part of Macedonia, more than two times, the third will be used
only to leave the country. Besides they can't go out and be back in
Macedonia once they left. From the Cegrane camp they can go to the near
village, to have a bath, to go to the mosque or to buy something.  Jeep
are driving up and down and the dust goes into the eyes. There is no
shade to hide. There are lot of children. UNICEF organized  tents for
school. Elementary schools have 5 shifts from 8 a.m. for two hours. In
the tents they have boards and benches. Famous actor from Pristina
children theatre "Dodona" played a performance on the rocky ground in
May. 4500 children were watching, applauding and jumping.

The Women's group Motrat Qiriazi from Pristina, in 1994 started with its
work to support girls in rural
area Has on Kosovo. In May 1999 they continued to work in Cegrane.
Feminists from Pristina and their friends from England, Sweden and other
countries organized a big tent for women only. The group for girls, the
group for women, daily meetings of local coordinators,  trainings in a
movie camera and for amateur photographer, english lessons are held
here. Two times a week here in the tent hairdressers are doing their
job. Ten feminists work there every day.

That Saturday I came and introduced myself as Marija from Italy. This
was our joint decision,
because trauma was so near and we didn't want to impose any girl to
unpleasant memories or pain.

The last week when Rada Boric, Neva Tolle i Slavica Kusic, feminists
from Zagreb, were in the
refugee camps in Albania, some girls were shivering while hearing
Croatian language.

In the camp the girls turned to me with few Spanish words, as they
belong to Post Cassandra generation. In the women's tent, after half an
hour, there wasn't any space left, everything was full, the places
around, on the floor, 120 girls from different parts of Kosovo. The tent
full of girls, lot of them cut their hair recently, lot of them are
coming to these workshops  more than few weeks, some of them are here
for the first time, incredible energy, no space left. Igballa Rogova,
feminist from Pristina, who coordinates the group activity raises the
energy: Let's shout : Vajzat = jan tforta = THE GIRLS ARE STRONG, once,
another time,
louder. What a joy !  Were we empowered as girls together with our
friends to express through our own voices? Then, talks, exchanging
information, debates on male violence and some unpleasant situation that
can occur in the camp. Then the role play is going on. How to defend
ourselves from an intrusive man? But this time a man role performed
feminist Nazlie Bala from the Pristina Women's Group "Elena". She was so
convincing and so likable that in fact everything ended in laughter and
screaming, because every one liked her way of intrusion. The girls are
laughing. It is so hot in the tent. Then they start singing. A song of
Drenica and Kosovo is a favorite one. At the end there is tape player
(with batteries). Dancing is beginning while Albanian folk music is
playing. In the middle of the day, in the middle of the tent, with no
space to move, the girls without addresses, whose parents were forced to
throw their identity cards into plastic bags when in May they were
deported to the border, with Serbian police as an escort, the girls who
are longing for their homes, the girls who were hungry and threatened
for days, the girls exhausted from being displaced from their lives,
like many other girls from Croatia or Bosnia or Palestine, here they
are, they survived and they are dancing.

 Lepa Mladjenovic

 Skopje, 15th June, 1999

Yesterday, while I was on my trip from Belgrade to Skopje for the second
time, there were a lot of cars
fleeing towards Belgrade. On the roofs and sidecars: chairs, cabinets,
matresses, carpets from Gnjilane and Prizren. This time Serbian people
are forced to displace their lives. Anti war activists from EX
Yugoslavia remember lot of these scenes back to 1991, with sadness and
anger.


 autonomous women's center
 against sexual violence

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