Creative Courage

The world lost a crucial opportunity to support the massive nonviolent movement in Kosovo and Yugoslavia before the conflict erupted into the tragic war engulfing the entire region. Part of the problem was that media did very little to tell about the nonviolent movement that was taking place.

Kosovo was an autonomous region from 1974 to 1989. The 80-percent ethnic Albanian population lived almost as first-class citizens alongside the Serbs there. Albanian and Serbian were the official languages and both were taught in schools and the university. Albanians held about 90 percent of the key positions in the society. The rights of all people were guaranteed regardless of nationality. In 1990 Slobodan Milosevic abolished Kosovo’s autonomy and subsequently the Kosovo parliament, and 80 percent of the Albanians were fired from their jobs. These included teachers, professors, judges, media workers, medical workers, and police.

In response to this tragic affront to their status as citizens of Yugoslavia, the ethnic Albanian population began a large-scale, sustained nonviolent struggle demanding their rights as citizens and a return to the autonomy guaranteed under the 1974 constitution. This nonviolent movement continued from 1989 through the spring of 1998.

First, thousands of lead miners marched from their mines to the Kosovo capitol in Pristina. Hundreds of miners—who worked in a lead mine nearly one mile underground with temperatures surpassing 120 degrees—later went on a hunger strike that lasted more than a week. Through 1991 hundreds of thousands of Kosovars marched nonviolently in the streets of Pristina and other cities of Kosovo demanding a return to autonomy and respect for their rights as citizens.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 1999
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