It’s always interesting, in a cringe-inducing way, to read the “traveler’s” take on Kosovo. This chick is a “feminist author and political activist,” so her ethnic identity naturally means nothing to her. Certainly not something worth defending, unlike those modern, generic, compulsory transnational values like gay and women’s rights. Not surprisingly, her observations read somewhat incoherent and self-contradictory:

Kosovo Is Not Serbia (Huffington Post, Sept. 9, By Jasmina Tesanovic)

…As one of our friends in the region put it, being an American in Kosovo is like being a pope. You will be asked all kinds of questions and told about all kind of injustices. Nobody in Kosovo has forgotten 1999, so the papal Americans are like angels of mercy with airborne bombs.

Being a Serb in a region that looks quite like Serbia, I walked around thoughtlessly talking in Serbian…With almost every Serb ethnically cleansed, there’s nobody left to speak it, just empty Orthodox churches turned into tourist attractions while the town abounds with pizza and burger joints with English-language menus…Especially notorious to me are the war crimes committed by Serbian military forces against the Albanian population, which led to the bombings by NATO in 1999.

It’s the globalized life in Kosovo that is really new — the crammed life of a young population stuck inside a frozen conflict, an ethnic canton, a tiny, not-yet-internationally recognized, European republic. Tensions abound in this little fishbowl of a country where all the great powers can look in, but none of the locals can escape. Unemployment, alcoholism, corruption, smuggling goods, smuggling people….

The shadow of another lost international regime, the Ottoman Empire, lies heavy here. There are still a few households where people speak old-fashioned Turkish, and besides, Turkey is nearby: NATO Turco-globalism, with Turkish soap operas, Turkish coffee, Turkish food, Turkish architecture and construction companies. Istanbul is the aspirational capital in southern Kosovo. If something is fancy, it’s in big-town Istanbul style.

The pride and joy of the locals is the major mosque built by the famous architect Sinan in the heyday of Suleiman the Magnificent. Muezzin towers abound in Prizren, and every one of them has a taped recital of the daily calls to prayer…The narrow streets of Prizren swarm with tourists, eating cheap, excellent street food paid for in euros. Kosovo is a NATO EU Muslim enclave; the “KFOR” units have been guarding it for the past two decades. Uniforms and jeeps mingle with the SUVs of wealthy local bosses, expensive private cars whose drivers despise the pedestrians. Modest Prizren has the pace of some much bigger city; locals seem tense and busy, and even the beggars are antic.

…Istanbul, Cairo, Baghdad are the urban shadows over this town, which is 90 percent Muslim…a projection about the Turkish soap opera industry stops them in their tracks…The coffee drinkers stop to cluster and marvel…These television dramas have fans in Greece, Bulgaria, Egypt, and Serbia, even — every district where Ottoman rule once held sway.

I myself have watched these serials, amazed and dazed. As an ex-Ottoman, ex-Yugoslav, ex-whatever-dies-next, it’s astonishing to see how much the Ottoman culture of unwritten laws, food and history persists in the 21st-century Balkans. The women in these soap operas don’t have any mild “first-world problems” — their dramatic conflicts involve child marriages, grandfathers who are tribal mafia, gangland honor killings. Some are cosmopolitan because they leave their state; others turn cosmopolitan because their empire bloodily crumbles around them.

On the way back to Serbia, there was a five-hour queue of cars on the Serbian border. Polite officers were deliberately slow, as if saying, “You wanted a border, and now you have it.” I remembered how, 100 years ago, my grandfather survived the Thessaloniki front, retreating through Albania with very few other Serbian soldiers who’d taken part in that war, far, far away from Serbia…My grandma never forgave my grandpa for fighting wars far away from his homeland as an idealistic fool. If he hadn’t come back, my mother never would have been born, and neither would I.

Time has come to quote Max Frisch, the Swiss writer in this useless, never-ending Serbo/Albanian conflict: I want to live for my country, not to die for it!

Must be nice to be above it all. And notice how the “Stop it already!” attitude we’ve come to expect from Western ignoramuses on this issue makes its entrance in typical fashion: following an illustration of Serbian bitterness or ‘misbehavior.’

Whether her title “Kosovo is Not Serbia” was meant in a political sense, or as a nutshell of her various observations about the place, I don’t know. But we already know that Turkish PM Erdogan agrees, as he made clear around this time last year:

Serbia: Turkish PM meddling with Kosovo statement (AFP, Oct. 25, 2013)

… “The declarations of the Turkish Prime Minister… represent a severe violation of international law and interference in Serbia’s internal affairs,” a Serbian government statement said. Erdogan’s comments “harm relations between Belgrade and Ankara and disturb efforts deployed by Serbia to normalise the situation in the region, notably in Kosovo,” it added.

Erdogan told a cheering crowd on Wednesday that “Kosovo is Turkey and Turkey is Kosovo,” emphasising the two nations’ shared history and culture. He was accompanied by his counterparts in Kosovo and Albania, Hashim Thaci and Edi Rama, respectively.

Turkey was among the first countries to recognise Kosovo’s independence.

It was also the first to tell Kosovo that, thanks to Turkey’s efforts, Pakistan would be recognizing its statehood; in fact, Kosovo is Turkey so much so that they were assigned the same Pakistani ambassador:

Pakistan recognises Kosovo (Dec. 24, 2012)

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday officially recognised Kosovo as an independent state…. “The Government of Pakistan has decided to accord recognition to the Republic of Kosovo. The decision has been made in accordance with aspirations of the people of Kosovo,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.

Pakistan is the 98th country among 193 UN-member states to recognise Kosovo, which declared independence on Feb 17, 2008.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to Turkey has been accredited to Kosovo as the country’s envoy.

Turkey has played a major role in convincing Pakistan to recognise Kosovo. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan informed Kosovar Prime Minister Hashim Thaci about Islamabad’s decision even before it was officially announced.

Islamabad had supported Kosovo’s cause in the United Nations. However, it always shied away from officially recognising it because of implications of such a move. The unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo was seen as a precedent for resolving ethnic conflicts on considerations other than territorial integrity of countries. It was also feared that the Kosovo principle could at a subsequent stage be applied to other separatist movements.

Kosovo as Turkey also can be seen in Kosovo’s language treatment:


Overcoming language barriers in Kosovo
(SETimes.com, Aug. 27, 2012)

…Albanian and Serbian are the official languages in Kosovo, and Turkish is in official use in the municipalities of Prizren, Gjilan and Mamusha…Nesa Milojevic, a Kosovo Serb from Kamenica, said[,] “…I see many times that the words [in Serbian] are written with grammatical mistakes and sometimes they sound funny…It might seem unimportant for the others, but being a Serb, those mistakes take your eye immediately.” …Shukran Bejtullahu, a member of the Turkish minority, says Turkish is not much used in Pristina in institutions or on official documents, “but it is much better in Prizren… [where] all institutions have their names written in Turkish as well.” […]

Serbia condemns Turkish PM Erdoğan’s remarks (Hurriyet Daily News, Oct. 25, 2013)


Kosovar Prime Minister Hashim Thaci (R) and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, inspect an honour guard in Pristina’s main airport in Slatina on Oct 23. AP Photo

Serbia has condemned statements made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a speech given in Kosovo on Oct. 23…. “In the Republic of Serbia, such statements cannot be received as friendly. They depart from assurances that we get in contacts with Turkey’s top officials,” the Foreign Ministry said, according to the Serbian news agency Tanjug.

Erdoğan had given a speech during his visit to Kosovo’s Prizren, in which he said, “Kosovo is Turkey, and Turkey is Kosovo.” The prime minister further added that the two nations, Kosovo and Turkey, shared the same history and civilization.

“The town of Emperor Dusan [the greatest ruler of medieval Serbia] is probably the least adequate place for such statements. Everyone in the world knows that Kosovo is a Serbian word, and Serbia’s territory, even those who recognized that quasi-state,” the ministry said in a press release…

Serbia waits [for] an apology from Turkey, Davutoglu says no (The Journal of Turkish Weekly, Oct. 30, 2013)

…A couple days ago, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said he won’t take part in a Balkan initiative with Turkey….President Tomislav Nikolic on Saturday expects an apology for the “scandal” …He is pulling out of the initiative which [is] led by Turkey…on post-war Balkan stability. On last Sunday morning, Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Davutoglu called his Serbian counterpart Ivan Mrkic…Davutoglu claims that Serbia’s Media focuses on just one sentence of Erdogan and he stated that Erdogan’s Kosovo remarks [were] misunderstood in Serbia. Furthermore, Davutoglu emphasized the importance of tripartite talks between Bosnia, Serbia and Turkey in the phone call. Davutoglu indicates in his press statement that Turkey is not going to apologize because he says there is nothing serious for an apology.

Of course, Davutoglu may be holding a grudge because he still thinks the Bosnia death toll was three times what it was. Given that this Washington Post article last year was co-written by him and Bosnia’s foreign minister — both of them, uncannily, believing the death toll was triple what it was — we are reminded that Turkey and Bosnia, too, are one: “…After three years of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the death toll was more than 300,000….”