On a web page profiling Dancing with the Stars’ Tony Dovolani, who is an Albanian from Kosovo, Albanian fans who take pride in their countryman’s dancing accomplishments left some comments. Interspersed between ones like “Go Albania!!!!! and WOWW Albania!!! was this one:

It is marvelous to see someone like Tony Dovolani just fly while dancing in a ballroom…wearing his national Albanian/Kosovarian outfit shows that he does not forget his native home…

I watch the show regularly, but I didn’t see Tony wearing any dead Serbs.

For the record, I am very glad that Dancing with the Stars has Tony Dovolani and am glad that he is serving as a role model for Albanians everywhere. Hopefully it will inspire more Albanians to become dancers instead of drug dealers, sex traffickers, car thieves and killers.

Here was another funny comment, from a female Albanian:

We love you Tony and I am proud to be from te same background as you. Marissa is so cute she even makes you smile all the time, just the way she does and you trying to protect her, I love it because that’s how Albanian man are, if they have you on their hands they will protect you. Keep on going both of you, can’t wait to see you again on tv.

Just the latest of a number of such articles:

Kosovo’s women suffer
Stemming domestic violence and human trafficking remains a challenge in the newly independent nation (March 10, 2008)

PRISTINA, KOSOVO — She purses her lips in a “tsk-tsk” when asked difficult questions. Questions about her life, about the husband who beats her, the father who denies her an inheritance and a place to live.

Slightly hunchbacked, her thin frame barely fills the several layers of donated clothing she wears. At 26, she looks 15. She has three children and an elementary-school education. When she showed up at the door of a women’s shelter here, purple bruises blotched her face and framed her shattered, crooked nose. Chunks of her hair had been ripped out.

“I’ve been beaten a lot,” said Fatima. “They beat me so badly the last time, I could not care for my children.”

Fatima is actually luckier than many women in Kosovo, a harsh region weighted by twin burdens of poverty and unenlightened tradition. A United Nations study in 2000 estimated that one-fourth of the female population of Kosovo suffered physical or psychological abuse; Kosovo police last year recorded 1,077 cases of domestic violence.

Fatima and her children were able to escape to a shelter, one of a dozen or so that now operate here. It has given her refuge from the violent men of her family and an alternative to an even darker fate: being sold into the expansive networks that traffic women like chattel in this part of the world.

But for every woman in Kosovo who is saved, an untold number do not make it, according to women’s advocates and social workers.

Dominated by ethnic Albanians, Kosovo broke away from Serbia last month, proclaiming itself an independent nation, with fervent backing from Washington. Among Kosovo’s many challenges, from building state institutions to combating rampant corruption, is improving its historically unjust and often criminal treatment of women.

Like much of the surrounding, rugged Balkans, Kosovo has long served as a notorious transit point for the international trafficking of women, mostly from Eastern Europe, who are forced into prostitution or slavery.

…Kosovo evolved from a transit point into both a source of and destination for trafficked women. Often, Kosovo officials and former guerrilla commanders were complicit in the lucrative trade — and the resident international community, including peacekeepers and civilian consultants, its market.

The question now is whether independence, which is still in an embryonic stage and not universally recognized, will result in a change of status for women and eradication of the trafficking networks. Or whether organized criminal gangs, with allies in the new government, will be given an even freer hand.

The first thing our government must do, and they’ve promised a lot, is to fight unemployment. The violence is linked directly to economic conditions,” said Naime Sherifa, director of the Center for the Protection of Women and Children in Pristina, the first such organization here.

Igballe Rogova, head of the Kosova Women’s Network, an umbrella coalition of about 40 groups, said she was hopeful the government, with the independence issue more or less settled [???], could put into practice laws that exist on paper.

“Today we have really incredibly good mechanisms on gender equality,” she told a European Parliament committee on women’s issues in Brussels late last month. “We have a law on gender equality, we have an office on gender equality at the prime minister level and, in every ministry, gender equality officers. We are not happy with the implementation of these mechanisms, but we are very optimistic.”

Sherifa said laws grant women the rights to own and inherit property on the same terms as men. But it often does not happen that way.

In the case of Fatima, for example, her father owns nearly nine acres of land, which he has divided among her brothers. But he refuses to give Fatima any, forcing her to live with her husband and children in her father-in-law’s tiny house. Seven people live, cramped and unhappily, in the two-room shack.

Both her husband and her father-in-law beat her, Fatima said. Her “offenses” ranged from asking for money to buy medicine for a sick child, or asking for food. Sometimes, she said, she goes days without eating. Fatima has ended up in the shelter three times in the last two years, each time after a beating so severe she could not stand the pain any longer.

More than anything, Fatima seems weary. “I just feel sorry for my children,” she said. “They see all this violence all the time. I’m afraid it will affect them.” [Indeed. This does explain…a lot.]

The bad news is the shelters are full, unable to meet the demand; abusers are rarely prosecuted, witnesses too terrified to come forward.

WOWW Albania! You rock!