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'Time is so short...'
An Interview with Simca Kazazic, a member of the Women's Humanitarian Committee on Orahovac

Interviewer, Jared Israel
Translator, Peter Makara
[Posted 1 January 2000]
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Jared: Has there been any improvement in Orahovac?

Simca: There is total chaos. The German [NATO or KFOR] troops are all gone; only the Dutch remain. There was a complete turnover among the Dutch troops on Dec. 7th. A whole new group came in.

I was there Monday, Dec. 13th, before the shooting, the murder. I was allowed in at 3:30 and stayed till 7:30. It was raining and there was no electricity; we were in the dark the whole time. I didn't visit other people because my mother is sick and I wanted to be with her.

Translator: I just asked Simca whether there is a way for us to help her mother. Simca says the only way to help her mother is to evacuate her and the others or bring the Yugoslav Army back in.

Simca: I went to Orahovac on the 13th with a huge truck full of humanitarian aid [food, medicine, etc.] But how could I help her? They wouldn't let me put her on the truck. She's so sick.

I left Belgrade Thursday and returned the following Tuesday and in all that time I spent only 4 hours in Orahovac. The problem was that our lorries [trucks] with food had not been announced in advance so KFOR [NATO] made trouble. I had to wait at the border [between Kosovo and inner Serbia] for a couple of days before they let us proceed. There were seven trucks, total. Three went to Veliki Hoce, a Serbian village three or four miles from Orahovac.

Jared: A Belgian journalist said that that's a ghetto too, like the one in Orahovac.

Simca: Yes, yes. It's a big village. The noose around it isn't as tight as the one around Orahovac. But even so, there was an incident. Two Serbs went up a hill outside the village to cut some wood for winter and they were killed. That was near the end of November.

Our trucks were held outside Orahovac a very long time; the Dutch have really stepped up their inspections. They opened all food parcels, studied underneath the lorries, everywhere. They took me and the driver of the truck and the government representative and photographed us up one side and down the other and searched us, then only allowed one lorry into Orahovac. We had to wait till it had unloaded and returned. They were simply trying to make us miserable, and the succeeded.

My brother said people in the town thought the Germans were bad but now that the Dutch are alone it's clear they're worse.

The Dutch troops were so grim faced, so hostile. And yet, as I was going into town I passed a military vehicle and the soldier said "Good evening" most politely - but in Albanian. He didn't know I was a Serb, you see. My brother says the Dutch get alone fine with the Albanians. They play soccer together, joke.

While the German soldiers were there they kept barbed wire around our ghetto which meant that at least the more homicidal Albanians couldn't get in. But the Dutch removed it. They don't stop the Albanian cars to inspect them. The Albanians can drive through whenever they like.

Some Albanian women walk around freely, shouting propaganda. I heard this with my own two ears. "This is Greater Albania. There's no place for you. We're going to slaughter you all." For the sake of communication, they say it in Serbo-Croatian.

Jared: Do these women travel around in cars?

Simca: No, no, on foot. I heard this one woman right outside my mother's -

Jared: She was outside the house?

Simca: Yes, in the street. Screaming up at us. I wanted to go to the window but my mother said, "Please don't; that's how they do it. You appear at the window and then they shoot you." You know, I knew the woman who was screaming. I wanted to talk to her. She's from this family I used to know - four Albanian brothers. She's one of the wives.

Some Roma ["Gypsies"] bought some fruit and vegetables from Albanian shops to resell to the Serbs. But my mother told me that these Albanian women intercepted the Roma and took their baskets and threw all the food on the ground and said, "Not for the Serbs!" It was daylight. KFOR soldiers were watching. They did nothing.

I don't know what to say. The Serbs feel totally lost. Their agony has gone on six months and people are at the end of their -

Jared: It's beyond belief.

Simca: - rope. One woman had a nervous breakdown and was sent to a hospital in Nis [in inner Serbia]. You can get out if you have a breakdown or get shot.

I'm trying not to lose hope.

I was amazed that [UN Kosovo chief Bernard] Kouchner recently said he's going to put pressure on the Yugoslav government to reveal the location of ten thousand "missing" Albanians. How do you reveal the location of a crime which did not occur? Otherwise, he said, the Serbs have to expect revenge because, he said, Albanians don't know where their brothers and fathers are. So houses getting burned, people getting killed - it's to be expected. Such as the 70-year-old lady who was stabbed to death two days ago.

Jared: In Orahovac?

Simca: No, in Djakovica. Nearby. Fifteen miles.

So I don't know what's going to happen with these poor souls in Orahovac. Kouchener's statement was like advance justification for a slaughter. Are all the Serbs going to be murdered or go insane?

Translator: I believe they're trying to step up the psychological war to produce Serbs to testify in a "war crimes" show trial. They haven't gotten any willing witnesses, so they're turning up the heat on those poor people to get some to break and agree to be witnesses.

Simca: Yes. Yes I think so too. There was a building, a store before the war, but now just a building. So the Serbs where gathering there, using this place, playing cards with candles on the table because there was no electricity, just, you know, to be together to lessen the misery of this miserable situation. And some Albanians just walked in and machine-gunned the card-players and threw two bombs and walked out. Nine people were wounded. One died.

Jared: Was that Zoran Vuksovic?

Simca: Yes. I knew him well. He was my friend.

Jared: I'm so sorry.

Simca: Three people were gravely wounded, five lightly. But it was a large building and in other parts there were women and children. Luckily they weren't attacked. It was 7:30 when that happened. It's dark by then. They just walked in.

Jared: Like gangsters.

Translator: Or perhaps the real gangsters are the ones defending this ghetto. Or more accurately, not defending it. If they were defending it they wouldn't let thugs come in and kill.

Simca: It even happens in broad daylight. Albanians just drive through. KFOR does nothing.

I don't know what's going to happen. We were hoping that when the new group of Dutch troops came on December 7th things would be better. But in fact it seems that every new group is indoctrinated first.

These [troops] are young people; they may not be twenty years old yet, perhaps not shaving. They are not experienced. Who knows what craziness they are told about Serbs? They have such fierce looks on their faces. Fear and hatred.

I had some hopes. I always had hopes that things would change, but…Now I don't know. I don't know.

Jared: My expectation when we last spoke was that we here in the West, in the US and Europe, would have accomplished more by now than we have. I thought we would have been able, by now, to send a delegation to Orahovac. That hasn't happened. We have to find ways to bring this situation to people's attention more effectively.

Simca: Please don't misunderstand - I wasn't - I wasn't accusing you and the other people when I said that I'm disappointed. I thought that KFOR would act more reasonably. But the situation is getting worse - you can understand - it's my family. I'm of course subjective.

Jared: Well the way things work in this world is that the squeaky wheel gets the oil. So we have to squeak a lot more, get people's attention.

Some good things have been done. Orahovac has been raised in the English Parliament by Alice Mahon, the MP. Tony Benn, also an English MP, has raised it with the British Foreign Office. It has been reported - your interview was carried, quite accurately, in the Dutch press. There is activity in the Euro parliament about this. But much more needs to be done. Your interviews have been read all around the world.

We need to make clear to people that this is a scandal. A horrible political scandal. The NATO governments are all involved: first the Dutch and German governments, also the British, because they're in Pristina, the Americans, Kouchener from the UN - he's apparently quite cozy with the US command - they all have dirty hands. Let's shine more light on this subject. Let them explain this outrage.

Simca: When I look at these tough Dutch soldiers…their faces are so grim. What have they been told about us?

Jared: I would like to be a fly on the wall during their training. Did you see what happened at the demonstrations in Seattle?

Simca: Yes I saw on TV. I said to my husband. "Look! Democracy!"

Jared: Some people pointed out that U.S. Federal officials had training sessions with the Seattle police. They told these cops they expected seven of them to be killed by the demonstrators. Then they let them loose on those kids.

Simca: Perhaps they're telling the Dutch troops the same sort of things about us. Perhaps.

I am very much concerned for the people in Orahovac. About half are left. They're freezing; they're half-starved; they're virtually without electricity and they're being attacked by Albanians without interference from KFOR. Will they all be slaughtered? They are half-crazy from all this. Two months with no help from outside.

This convoy is the first help in two months. Time is so short.

***

  • Coming soon: interviews with three members of the convoy from Orahovac, attacked in Pec.

***

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