Protests against sexual harassment, labour rights and educational reforms
The Social Democratic Party launched a petition demanding that the Government pardon fines imposed on citizens for non-compliance with COVID-19 measures. They prepared a draft law for the pardoning of fines imposed during the period between 15th March and 15th May 2021. SDP members collected 11,000 signatures, which is the requirement for a citizen’s legislative initiative to be presented before the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo. Thus, the draft law will be included in the legislative agenda of the Assembly of Kosovo. The draft law does not include fines imposed on political parties during the electoral campaign.
The following protests were documented during the reporting period:
- Several protests were organised throughout Kosovo against sexual harassment, by different groups and activists around the country, including: the Collective for Feminist Thought and Action, high school students in Prishtina, activists of the NGO “I Am Your Voice”, representatives of institutions and citizens in Mitrovica, young people in Peja, and gender equality rights activists in Deçan. The protests were sparked by a case of sexual harassment of a minor in school. Protesters have demanded institutional responsibility and justice for sexually abused women and girls and called for security for young girls, the implementation of genuine education policies and for the employment of social workers and psychologists in all schools. Arnela Hajra, an NGO activist, said:
“We know very well who our perpetrators are. Our perpetrators are all institutions, starting from the family, the school, the police, the highest state institutions, which continue to produce and feed criminals. We here today say that the physical, economic, psychological violence, and deep insecurity of women must end.” (translated from Albanian).
- Several marches were organised in relation to the renewed tensions between Israel and Palestine. A march in solidarity with Palestinian people was held in Prishtina organised by Collective for Feminist Thought and Action, other organisations, activists and citizens, and another in Prizren by Youth Forum of Naša Initiative. On the other hand, a march in solidarity with Jewish people was held in Prishtina.
- Residents of the village of Lower Shipshanica protested against the education reforms initiated by the Mayor of the Municipality of Kamenica. Parents of the students blocked the door of the village school, attempting to prevent municipal officials from placing materials and furniture in preschool classrooms. The Kosovo Police intervened using spray to disperse the protesters. One person was detained.
- Various strikes and protests were held by workers and labour unions regarding working conditions, such as by Kosovo Tax Administration workers, student healthcare specialists, nurses, Kosovo Lottery Workers’ Union, and others.
- The Kosovo Gastronomers Association protested in front of the government building under the motto “The summer does not bloom with a vaccine”, demanding that the government ease COVID-19 measures and permit wedding events to be held. The protest came at a time when Kosovo has continuously had a decline in the number of new cases of COVID-19, and when the Government was expected to take a new decision on COVID-19 measures.
- Two protests were organised by Kosovo Liberation Army veterans and invalids, one in Prishtina on the anniversary of the liberation of Kosovo, and the other in Obiliq to express dissatisfaction with the process of allocation of social housing apartments for these categories, threatening to call for a bigger and violent protest in the future.
- Under the motto “Together and Proud”, a pride parade for LGBTI community rights was held. The main demand of the LGBTI community is an amendment of the Civil Code to recognise marriages between persons of the same sex. Ambassadors, MPs, civil society representatives and other public figures joined the march in Prishtina.
- Representatives of the Student Parliament of the University of Prishtina protested in front of a Serbian Orthodox Church located on the campus of UP demanding action from Kosovo institutions to stop provocations from the Serbian clergy inside the University campus. The protest came after a nationalist liturgy was held in the unfinished building of the church by the Serbian clergy. They stated that having the church on campus supports a legacy of war criminals like Milosević and Arkan, and a symbol of war crimes committed in Kosovo.
- Serbs from Kosovo and Serbia gathered in Gračanica and Gazimestan to celebrate Vidovdani, a celebration in memory of the 1389 Battle of Kosovo, which Serbian history recognises as its spiritual victory, despite a great loss of Balkan forces against the Ottoman Empire. The celebration of the anniversary of Vidovdani almost always escalates in ultra-nationalist chants by Serbs. The Kosovo Police confiscated T-shirts with provocative inscriptions and flags from some young Serbs which were considered incitement to hatred. A Montenegrin Serb was detained after singing provocative ultra-nationalist songs, while police officers confiscated various knives and an iron box from young Serbs.
- Several other protests were organised by non-formal groups with different demands throughout Kosovo, such as protests against environmental pollution caused by companies, curtailed property rights, necessary infrastructure investments, municipal plans harming local villages, etc.
The Association of Journalists of Kosovo denounced the offensive and threatening language used by the husband of Anita Xhabiri, an official of the Directorate of Education in the Municipality of Prishtina, towards a journalist of the Gazeta Express after the journalist requested comment from the Directorate in relation to a report that a minor had been sexually abused by several students near a school in Prishtina. During a phone call, the husband demanded that the journalist remove the news published about his wife, threatening that if this did not happen, he would personally deal with the journalist. The suspected person behind the threats was later arrested by Kosovo Police. The Association of Journalists of Kosovo (AJK) considers that such denigrating and threatening language used against journalists violates freedom of expression and the media. The AJK invited public officials to distance themselves from insults and threats against journalists.
The AJK has condemned the invitation by the Basic Court of Gjakova to interview journalist Mentor Gjergjaj as a suspect in a case related to his article published online by Gazeta Express on 3rd May 2018. The State Prosecutor has undertaken an investigation into the criminal offence of “Unauthorised photographing and other recording” against G.A., although the respective audio recording was never published in the media by the journalist, but was handed over to the Prosecution as evidence on the threats by G.A. towards the journalist, while he was reporting from the field in Gjakova. The AJK states that the invitation violates the rights of journalists, freedom of media and freedom of expression. It invited authorities to take action within their competencies, and invited all state officials to stop pressuring and obstructing journalists while exercising their profession.
In a separate development, the Advocacy Training and Resource Center launched a report titled “Hate O Meter”, which emphasises that hate speech is present in the Kosovo media and concrete actions are needed to avoid possible hate crimes. Findings of the report, based on research for the period January to June 2019 and January to June 2020, showed that Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities are most exposed to hate speech in media articles.