children and rights


from The Times ©, April 7, 1999  

Hundreds of Kosovo-Albanian Girls and Women
Raped by Serb Border Guards

Groups of silent women speak volumes, writes Sam Kiley from Kukes

"They are burning our houses and killing the men. In the town there have been many rapes, but no one will speak of it. We need to be saved before there is nothing left for Nato to worry about. Please tell the world that we are worth it, we are human beings not animals to be slaughtered," she cried.

NOT satisfied with using young men as human shields against Nato and Kosovo Liberation Army attacks, nor with shooting dead children and the burning of homes to accelerate the exodus of Kosovo Albanians, Serbian border guards have taken to adding one more atrocity - rape.
Their victims are reluctant to talk about what happens in the border post at Monice, through which more than 200,000 people have been herded over the last few weeks. But the faraway stares in their tearful eyes, their torn clothing and the despair of the families of the victims speak volumes.

Just as the extremists of Bosnia's Serb Republic pursued a campaign against Muslims which included the forced impregnation of many Bosnian women, so the border guards of Monice clearly hope to father scores of Muslim children carrying Serb blood.

According to human rights groups and investigators from the War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague, and the victims themselves, Kosovo Albanian women are being picked out at the border as they wait with their families to cross into Albania, taken to a building not far away and violated.

"There have been so many credible reports of this sort of thing that we are convinced it is part of a systematic campaign of sexual abuse. The whole level of atrocities being committed in Kosovo has overwhelmed us. We are going to have to bring in extra investigators," said a member of the tribunal team in Kukes, the nearest town to the border crossing.

The Serbs' method is simple. They select the women they fancy tormenting as they approach the final crossing point with their families, who are ordered to keep travelling into Albania.

They are then taken away, weeping and begging for their lives. Hours, perhaps a day passes for the families, and then those who survive the ordeal are sent on their way with a casual wave.

At Monice their families keep a vigil standing in silent huddles by the metal barrier. Reluctant to admit what is happening to their daughters, these members of a society who view rape as the ultimate shame for a woman, say: "We were separated, and praying that the Serbs will let them live."

When the young women are reunited with their families, there is no celebration that they have survived. They fall in silence into their parents' arms. Hiding their faces they rejoin the huge throng of miserable humanity - again in silence.

Overwhelmed by the logistics of coping with an influx of refugees which is expected to reach 250,000 in the next day or so, and climb to half a million or more, the Albanian authorities and the few aid agencies which have reacted to the Kosovo catastrophe have been unable to offer any kind of help to the rape victims.

"There is simply nothing we can do but hope that the families of the victims are strong enough and supportive enough of these young women. But if any are pregnant as a result, they face a miserable future of possible rejection by their families, or of raising a child conceived in hatred. That must be the worst thing anyone can inflict upon a woman," said a British aid worker in Kukes.
There have been reports of rape and the use of Kosovo Albanian women as sex slaves since the beginning of the forced exodus which came close on the heels of the start of Nato's air bombardments of Yugoslavia. But the latest revelations appear to carry more weight with human rights groups who stand alongside the families of abducted women and teenage girls, helpless to do anything about what they are certain is going on behind the bulletproof glass of the Monice crossing.

Young men have been spared rape, but their life expectancy behind Serb lines can be calculated in minutes. Hague investigators are looking into a number of credible reports that up to 500 men were marched into a field close to where the KLA has been fighting a rearguard action against the Serbs on the Albanian border.

Once in the field their resistance was allegedly broken down by being forced to stand in freezing rain for several hours. They were then driven like cattle back into a barn and ordered to dress in rags provided for them.

Then, at gunpoint, they were ordered to stand in front of Serb trenches while the Serb artillery fired mortars and heavier weapons at KLA positions, confident that they would not be the first victims if fire was returned.

So far, The Hague said, there had been only a handful of survivors from this latest alleged atrocity.

In Kukes, the refugees said that they were now pinning their hopes on Nato and the dim expectation of ground forces to save those still left in Kosovo.

Risolta Unico, a student from Dajkovica who crossed into Albania in her slippers, had been spared the rapists because at Qafae Prushit the border is manned by professional Yugoslav soldiers who maintain a keen-eyed watch on their Albanian counterparts.

"They are burning our houses and killing the men. In the town there have been many rapes, but no one will speak of it. We need to be saved before there is nothing left for Nato to worry about. Please tell the world that we are worth it, we are human beings not animals to be slaughtered," she cried.

When told that the US had ordered 24 Apache attack helicopters to Albania she broke into a broad smile. "First there will be helicopters, then there will be soldiers. Nato will not let us down. If they do not send troops, then what was the point of the bombing?"

The Times ©, April 7, 1999  

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata said she did not have any doubt that reports of rapes and other atrocities allegedly committed by Serb forces were true. Ogata said Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had denied the refugee reports.

CNN, April 8, 1999  

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