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Monday and Tuesday in Kosovo - 29 and 30 March 1999

I reached Pristina before nightfall. I could not get to the HLC office. The building is opposite the Police Department and prison and the front entrance was locked. Someone inside said, "We don't know you and we won't open the door." By his accent, I knew the man was Serb and he must have known by mine that I was Serb too. I knew that the residents were Serb and Albanian and I saw their determination to allow no strangers into the building as the good side of Pristina. I went round the back and saw guards at the entrance of the neighboring building. Several men were standing behind neatly stacked sandbags, I spoke with them and learned that they were Serb and Albanian residents of the building and that they were guarding their homes. They had agreed that Serbs would defend Albanians from the police, the Albanians would defend Serbs from the KLA and all would defend themselves from paramilitaries and other bands. When air raid warnings are sounded, everyone goes down to the shelter except those standing guard.

From there I went to Nora's. I had just arrived when a weeping neighbor rushed into the apartment: "They have taken our car." Three men in police uniform had come, she said, forced open the car door and drove it away. "Better the car than your son," said Nora's father. I dialed over 20 phone numbers. Most phones were not working. It was quiet until 4 a.m. Then there were explosions, followed by silence.

When day broke, I went to see some friends. The Keljmendis phone was cut off. Bajram Keljmendi's shingle was still on the door of his law office. Neighbors told me they hadn't seen his wife Nekibe since the burial of Bajram and their sons. I asked them to give her my regards. Then, together with Nora, Arsim a relation of Fehmi Agani and a driver from Belgrade, I made my way to Dragodan, Fehmi Agani's neighborhood. When we reached it, we were stopped by police. They asked to see our papers and when they saw that Nora and Arsim were Albanian, the one in charge ordered them out of the car. I got out too, saying we all worked for the same organization and were looking for a friend. The officer replied that Albanians no longer worked in Serbia and should be on their way to Macedonia. I asked since when police had the authority to fire people and he yelled at me to get back in the car and shut up. I sat on the seat, leaving the door open and my legs outside the car. He slammed the door against my legs, saying Serbia was being ruined by such Serbs. The one in charge called someone over his Motorola. This lasted about 10 minutes and then he waved us on. We made our way back to the center, hardly believing that we had got off so lightly. We drove through side streets to the Suncani Breg district. On the way, we saw wrecked and looted stores and kiosks. We found Vjollca but she was determined to stay with her family in Pristina. We were driven away by her Serb neighbor. "What kind of gathering is this? No loitering! Albanians, inside your homes!" he said.

In all-Albanian districts, we encountered groups of people discussing what to do: should they make their way to the border or stay until the police ordered them out of their homes? Some told me no more than 1,000 people were left in Pec, those who managed to get out of the column the police and military escorted to the Montenegrin border. None of them knew if it was true that Fehmi Agani had been killed, not even his relations. They had heard the report on CNN. Nor was there any reliable news of Baton Jakdziju, the editor of Koha Ditore. People kept to their homes. Only the bravest went to see relations who live near by. Only a few phones were working.

The streets of downtown Pristina were almost deserted. People were in their apartments or the stairways of their buildings. In one of these buildings, we spoke to residents and found Mentor He was just about to leave for the border. Everyone we spoke to was in a panic. With one exception, an Albanian, who calmly repeated he would not leave his home until he was thrown out. An elderly Serb woman came in and stopped for a moment to chat with her neighbors. She too appeared to be fearless.

We started out for Macedonia, in two cars, at about noon. It's 75 kilometers to the Djeneral Jankovic crossing. Several cars coming from side streets joined us. When we were on the road to the border, there were hundreds of cars behind us. The plan was to get to the border, wait until Ariana and Mentor had crossed and then Nora and I would make for Belgrade. Three kilometers from the border, the column stopped. Rumors flew around that the border was closed, that police were taking cars, that they were separating out the men... The sight of police with masked faces in the column frightened us and we decided to return to Pristina. No one prevented us. People asked us what was going on and we tried to persuade them to go back home. But only a few cars followed us. As we drove back, we saw that there were more than 2,000 cars in the column. We also saw groups making their way on foot, all gripped by a terrible fear.

We got back to Pristina, dropped off Ariana and the others and I, Nora, her brother, and Mentor headed for Belgrade. I was afraid of what would happen at police checkpoints. The first was just outside Pristina on the road to Gnjilane. Our driver asked a policeman if the road to Gnjilane was open. "Depends on the name," was the reply. The officer checked the driver's papers and let us through. The driver's papers were examined at the other checkpoints too and we were allowed to continue. Soldiers at a military checkpoint 10 kilometer outside Pristina asked to see all our papers. There were no problems. We reached Belgrade at about 10 p.m.

Yugoslavia Human Rights Flash is an Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) bulletin containing the latest information on human rights in Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro. Only reports received by the HLC offices in Belgrade and Pristina are published.

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