Saturday, March 3, 2007

Vetevendosje's First Peaceful Protest!

Today Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) held its first-ever peaceful demonstration.  Several thousand Albanians (reported at 4000 by some news agencies) appeared at the rally chanting anti-UN slogans and waving Albanian flags.  The group continues to demand the right to hold a referendum for independence and criticizes the Kosovo government of negotiating with Serbia.
The leader of Vetevendosje, Albin Kurti, remains in jail following last month's riots were two protestors were killed after police fired rubber bullets into the crowd.  His second-in-command, Glauk Konjufca, says that they will fight any type of imposed "harmful project" where Albanians are denied the right to self-determination.

An interesting quote came out of the protest about how in touch UN employees are with the local population.  31-year-old protestor Perparim Rama said that "UN employees sit on different levels.  You can see that in the salary difference" and he goes on to say that "here the economy is going down and United Nations employees are traveling to Greece every weekend for breaks".

<soapbox>Now, these statements greatly amuse me.  Naturally if I am going to leave my home, friends, and family to go work in a place that lacks things like constant power, pretty much everyone that I know expects to be compensated!  I don't know anyone that would willingly maintain two homes (one in Kosovo and one in the home country) and that deal with less than ideal living conditions and not seek some sort of compensation.  But it's not just the internationals, the local UN employees receive very high wages compared to the others in the local economy as the jobs are considered temporary and those workers will be out of a job when the UN leaves.  As for the statements about the economy, well, the UN employees in Kosovo are a large part of the economy but you can't really expect everyone to want to stay in Kosovo on the weekends.  UN employees in Kosovo rent the flats to provide extra income at an inflated rate to the local population (yes, we know that the local population is taking us for a ride in regards to the inflated rent money.  We aren't fooled!)  We shop at the local markets, eat at the local restaurants, and patronize the local cafes.  Don't even attempt to feed me with some line of bull that the international community is not doing enough for the local economy!  Yes, the economy isn't that great but the locals can't honestly expect the international population to solve the problem for them.  We can only do so much to help you...tell your local politicians to start working less on independence and more on the social/economic problems!  As for spending weekends in Greece, heck yeah!  Judging by the fact that loads of Albanians are attempting to leave Kosovo for holidays or permanently (just check out the lines at the consular offices if you don't believe me) why on earth would anyone think that we would want to stay here if we didn't have to?!</soapbox>