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The Women of Orahovac Answer the Colonel

A debate between the commander of the Dutch contingent of the NATO troops that control the Kosovo town of Orahovac, and three Serbian women from that town.

[23 November 1999 * Edited, 15 July 2006]


Colonel van Loon:  "It is very special what the boys and girls have done here. They have worked very hard and produced a good product." (Dutch NATO Commander Tony van Loon defending NATO's actions in the town of Orahovac, in Kosovo, quoted in the Dutch newspaper Trouw, 11-13-99)

Natasha Grkovic: "[We] want to have Russian troops come to Orahovac for obvious reasons - because it might break their hearts to see what has been done to our relatives and because of this they might do for our people normal things, just normal things, to give them food and water, freedom of movement, and they might stop the terrorist attacks. Is this desire extreme? Has the world gone mad?"

by Jared Israel

On October 23rd a mass meeting of the Dutch peace movement was held in Amsterdam. The meeting was addressed by people from various Dutch political parties, peace organizations and religious groups and by Cedomir Prlincevic, the Jewish leader expelled from Kosovo by the KLA and KFOR (NATO) this past June. (For the Emperor's Clothes interview with Mr. Prlincevic, see footnote [1].) I spoke at the meeting as well.

Mr. Prlincevic told how the KLA had expelled the small Jewish community and thousands of other people - ethnic Serbs, Roma ('Gypsies') and other loyal Yugoslavs - immediately after British NATO troops took over Pristina, capital of the province of Kosovo. I related what happened in the Kosovo town of Orahovac, as told to Emperor's Clothes by three Serbian women, members of the Women's Humanitarian Committee on Orahovac, who were trying to bring public attention to the plight of their friends and relatives, living in a state of terror, since the NATO-UN takeover in June. Mr. Prlincevic said that NATO had transformed Orahovac into a new Warsaw Ghetto.

A Colonel Defends NATO's Role in Orahovac

On November 13, the Amsterdam daily, Trouw, published a lengthy answer to our charges, based on an interview with the commander of NATO's Dutch troops in Orahovac, Tony van Loon.

The article gave one sentence to Mr. Prlincevic's accusation, that Orahovac was a new 'Warsaw Ghetto,' with Serbs confined to a small area, where they lacked basic necessities and were under constant threat of attack by the Nazi-like Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Colonel van Loon told Trouw he agreed that the Dutch and German troops had created a ghetto but argued, at length, that this was a good thing.

Trouw had previously scheduled an interview with Mr. Prlincevic and me but cancelled our interview and ran the van Loon piece instead.

Emperor's Clothes translated the Trouw piece into Serbo-Croatian and sent excerpts to the Women's Humanitarian Committee on Orahovac, in Belgrade. Below I've posted some of Colonel Van Loon's arguments with replies by Simka Kazazic and Natasha Grkovic from the Women's Committee.


Excerpts from the article, Yellow Riders, by Abe de Vries. Reprinted from Trouw.

Replies by Simka Kazazic and Natasha Grkovic.

[Note: the Dutch troops in Orahovac are called 'Yellow Riders' because of the yellow coloring on their hats.]

Yellow Riders Article: [Col. Tony van Loon says:] "If it is possible for Albanians and Serbians to live together somewhere in Kosovo then it is possible in Orahovac."

Simka Kazazic replies: Some 4200 Serbs used to live in Orahovac. Now the remaining 2400 Serbs and several hundred "Gypsies" desperately want to leave even though by leaving they would lose everything. Doesn't this show what kind of "living together" KFOR has made "possible"? Doesn't this show that KFOR has made war against a people?

Growing contact?

Yellow Riders Article: Col. van Loon says: "After five months we have renewed contacts cautiously and with hesitations, but there are growing contacts between populations. After a lot of persuasion from our side we have established meetings between directors of different businesses so that now we find the Albanian trash service is picking up the trash of the Serbs and an Albanian store brings food to the Serbian village, in the beginning with an escort but now on their own."

Simka Kazazic replies: It's news to me. I just came from a visit to Orahovac this past Saturday. The situation I encountered was in fact worse - I repeat, worse - than two weeks before. The Serbs were without electricity for six days running. They got water once every two or three days for an hour. They did receive some paprika [a commonly used seasoning] for the first time since KFOR's arrival. I believe it was brought in by a Catholic humanitarian organization. Too bad there's no food to cook it with. Security, food, electricity, communications with the outside world - all are unchanged or worse. We are thankful for the paprika.

But Van Loon says things have improved. We should contact the Orahovac Serbs at once: they will be stunned and pleased. Unfortunately they are only able to talk to the outside world on a satellite phone which KFOR lets them use one minute per person per week. (That is not an exaggeration.) So I must await my next trip to inform them of their improved conditions.

Natasha replies: I spent two months in Orahovac after KFOR came in; then I escaped. I have been back since, under special arrangement. So I can testify first-hand that Serbian people are not allowed to walk to the store. Van Loon claims Albanians are delivering food to Serb villages? He is making it up. The only food Serbs get is from humanitarian relief groups.

If van Loon is telling the truth about Serbian leaders meeting with Albanians, it is unknown to the Serbs. These leaders must have been elected by KFOR. The legitimate Serbian representative [the Mayor] was arrested and is being held in a KFOR prison with no legal representation.

Social interaction

Yellow Riders Article: [As evidence that inter-group relations are improving, Van Loon says:] "Once again, some Serbs are phoning their Albanian neighbors, for example to ask if someone might have put a land mine in their house or their back yard…. People want to go on [with normal life], a fact I have found very positive."

Simka: I had to read this statement twice. This is KFOR 's example of improving relations? Calling up your neighbor to ask if by chance he planted a landmine? Most encouraging.

Before KFOR came to Kosovo we had a fairly normal existence. It got worse in July of 1998 when the KLA attacked, and there has been tension since - but nothing like the sheer terror and privation our families face now.

Natasha Grkovic replies: My family and I fled our mixed neighborhood after KFOR and the KLA marched into Orahovac. Shortly after that, I called my old phone number. An Albanian answered the phone and we spoke. This Albanian patiently explained that the KLA had given him our house and furniture, so what did I want? Was this conversation between a Serb and an Albanian a "positive" sign, an example of "people wanting to go on?"

War crimes? Or preparation for a show trial?

Yellow Riders Article:  "We have a pretty good picture of the war crimes that have been committed here," said van Loon, with his maps and his organizational plans. "Most investigation is done by forensic teams from the Yugoslav ["War Crimes"] Tribunal, Scotland Yard, the German Secret Service and our own Disaster Identification team. If people say it is not true [ that most of the 400 bodies are civilians], that in fact they are dead UCK [KLA] fighters - they are simply wrong. We have found them [dead UCK fighters], but in small numbers."

Simka: All I can say is: Serbs in Orahovac did not commit war crimes. Nor did the police or Yugoslav troops. KFOR has kept our relatives bottled up for five months while it conducts this charade of "investigation" precisely because they have no evidence. None. If they did have evidence, they would have been through in a few days. The idea here is to break people's morale so that some may be used as "witnesses" against arbitrarily-chosen "war criminals." Six of the people they arrested were picked up at a KFOR checkpoint after the International Red Cross negotiated their release from the ghetto because they were ailing. They were a random group, selected by the Red Cross! Amazing coincidence that all are dangerous war criminals, isn't it?

In Orahovac and neighboring towns not one single mass grave has been found. Some sporadic cases of murder may have happened during the bombing - remember there was a war going on against the KLA and some bad things happen in every war, and in particular in a war where common people are forced to defend their bare existence, their homes and their property.

Prlincevic vs. van Loon

Note from Emperors-clothes: Trouw refers to a statement made by the Kosovo Jewish leader, Cedomir Prlincevic.

Yellow Riders Article: The leader of the former Jewish community in Kosovo, Cedomir Prlincevic, said recently at an Amsterdam conference that the Dutch military has created a new Warsaw ghetto. [In reply] Lt. Colonel Van Loon said: "They are in a ghetto. I am not going to deny that. We guard the inhabitants; that is correct."

Simka Kazazic replies: Van Loon says he guards us. Later he says he restricts us because we're harboring war criminals - suggesting he won't let us go until we give up these non-existent people. Which is it? Protection or punishment?

The Warsaw Ghetto happened during World War II under Nazi tyranny. We Serbs know all too well the history of WWII because close to a million of us were murdered, alongside our Jewish countrymen, in fascist death camps in Yugoslavia. The Orahovac Ghetto is happening at the threshold of 21st century in so-called free, democratic Europe.

"They are allowed to leave, but..."

Yellow Riders Article: [Van Loon:] "Their liberty of movement will of necessity have to be limited until the situation has been normalized. They are allowed to leave but we cannot immediately give them [armed] convoy protection; obviously, I would say, because we are investigating whether there are war criminals among them. They know who the criminals are but they won't tell us."

Natasha Grkovic replies: Would it not be logical that if there were any Serbian war criminals in Orahovac they would have run away before KFOR came in? And why are they [KFOR] not letting the children go? Are they war criminals as well? And by the way, isn't holding Serbs against their will, under the worst possible conditions including near-starvation and the constant danger of attack, depriving them of property, arresting them without even a pretense of legality - don't these things constitute war crimes? KFOR should arrest themselves.

War crimes were committed in Orahovac by the KLA in July of last year. They attacked the town, kidnapping over fifty civilians. Most were dragged off the street or from their homes. One was my school friend, Srdjan Vitosevic. He was on his way to the neighborhood pharmacy to buy medicine for his new baby. Will KFOR discover the bodies of these kidnapped people and use their poor bones as evidence of Serbian war crimes?

Simka Kazazic replies: It is simply not true that the Serbs of Orahovac "are allowed to leave." I can say this with full responsibility because during three visits to Orahovac the Dutch KFOR troops would not allow me to take out my sister and her three children. Last time a German major openly told me that if I put them in the van in which I came to Orahovac he would not provide military protection for us although the military escort was there and would be provided if I did not try to take the children out. When I asked why he answered that he "can not guarantee security." After repeatedly asking how come he can provide security to me but not to my sister and her children (I said: "Is a bullet selective so it would skip me but hit my sister?") he said that he has orders to protect only the people that came to visit Orahovac. He had orders not to protect those who would leave.

School books and escorts

Yellow Riders Article: [Van Loon:] "Nevertheless, [i.e., despite KFOR restrictions on the movement of Serbs] small groups frequently go to Serbia for their salaries and lately, for example, to collect some new school books. And we give them an escort and later we pick them up again."

Simka Kazazic replies: As I said above, Serbs cannot leave Orahovac - not even in small groups - when they want to. They can only leave if and when the NATO occupiers decide to let them leave. And as for "escort" - look what happened to those poor people in the Serbian convoy from Orahovac attacked a few weeks ago in the Kosovo town of Pec. The KFOR escort and the Italian police assigned to Pec just stood (or sat) by while the Serbs were viciously beaten and their cars and possessions - everything! - stolen and burned. Only 2 or 3 of the Dutch troops did anything, and even they did not use their weapons. Obviously, this is KFOR's "mandate." Serbs are disposable.

If KFOR plans to set up a school for Serbian children (when? now? far into the school year?) how will children attend? In bullet proof jackets? Flack helmets?

These people live corralled in 400--500 square meters. They don't have the most basic necessities - how could they worry about school?! The colonel tells us a cruel fairy tale.

The problem of water supply

Yellow Riders Article: Through so-called "social patrols" the so-called Yellow Riders [Dutch troops] know what is going on in the population. They discovered in this way that the Serbian children needed vaccinations and that the water pipes in their area, which is at a very high elevation, wasn't functioning very well because the pressure was too low.

Simka Kazazic replies: The Dutch "Yellow Rider social patrols" should be re-named: "Yellow Riders of the Apocalypse." They are in a hurry to vaccinate because the Serbs, due to terrible living conditions, are contracting contagious diseases. The "Yellow" troops fear they may get sick, hence the vaccinations.

Natasha Grkovic replies: The Serbs get electricity and water by teaspoon. Some every third or fourth day.

Simka Kazazic: Concerning the matter of water: Orahovac is not a wilderness. Nor is it Mount Everest. The town solved the minor problem of getting water to elevated areas decades ago. Shortages used to occur only during summer when some people used too much water for their gardens, just as in towns elsewhere in the industrial world.

So the "water problem" has nothing to do with elevation. The reason Serbs are not getting water is that the KLA Albanians are in control of the water supply and they switch off the supply going to the Serbian Ghetto.

Extremist Ghetto Residents

Yellow Riders Article: When the Dutch recently tapped the telephone lines in Orahovac they made a very interesting discovery. "There are still real extremists among the Serbs [said van Loon.] Some of them make phone calls to the Albanians and threaten them: 'Wait till the Russians come and then we'll get you.' Very clumsy."

Simka Kazazic replies: What phone lines? I do not even want to comment on this statement. Not even a small child would believe it.

Natasha Grkovic replies: Living the way the Serbs are, without basic necessities, under occupation by a hostile army in a town controlled by the racist UCK [KLA], with our Albanian friends afraid to acknowledge us, a person would have to be insane to be making threatening phone calls to Albanians.

Our desire to have Russian troops come to Orahovac is for obvious reasons - not because we want to attack anyone but because it might break their hearts to see what has been done to our relatives and because of this they might do for our people normal things, just normal things, to give our people food and water, freedom of movement, and they might stop the terrorist attacks. Is this desire extreme? Has the world gone mad?

Just a few weeks ago five men tried to slip out of Orahovac and they disappeared. So many Serbs and Gypsies have disappeared. People have been wounded by snipers walking outside their own homes. Colonel Van Loon mocks us with lies.

Yellow Riders Article: Van Loon will leave Orahovac without regrets. "It is very special what the boys and girls have done here. They have worked very hard and produced a good product."

Simka Kazazic replies: Under KFOR rule, a large number of Serbs have been kidnapped, murdered, some 136 Serbian houses have been burned to the ground, nine Serbs have been arrested and more than 1200 succeeded to run away. He has much for which to be proud.


[1] For the interview with Cedomir Prlincevic, the Jewish leader expelled from Pristina (Kosovo) by the KLA and NATO, see Driven from Kosovo at

[2] For our first interview with the women from Orahovac, which tells how they were fooled by NATO promises, see Save the families: The women of Orahovac speak at


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