Sunday, June 12, 2005

Videotape of Serbian Police Killing 6 Muslims From Srebrenica Grips Balkans - The New York Times

SPIONICA, Bosnia, June 9 -- Safeta Muhic is glued to her television set, feverishly flicking channels for another chance to see Serbian gunmen killing her brother.

''That's my brother falling down there,'' she says, catching the tail end of a short video clip played over some news headlines.

The grainy footage shows a thin teenager with hands tied behind his back stepping in front of a gunman dressed in black. He walks forward in silence, and then two bursts of automatic rifle fire hit his back and he flops to the ground.

Her brother, Safet Fejzic, went missing in July 1995, when he was 16 and in Srebrenica. He was thought to be among about 7,000 Muslim men and boys massacred by Bosnian Serb and Serbian forces at the tail end of the war in Bosnia.

But Ms. Muhic, a 23-year-old mother of two, did not know the full details of his death until this month, after the emergence of a videotape showing the killing of her brother and five other Muslim men. Initially stunned by what she saw, she now says she cannot help but try to see his last few moments again and again.

For more than a week now, the video, filmed by a member of the Serbian police unit that committed the killings, has been repeatedly shown on television in countries throughout the Balkan region. It was first shown in court on June 1, during the war crimes trial of former President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia. In Bosnia, the tape has again brought the pain of that time to the surface for families like Ms. Muhic's. But it may be having an equally profound effect in Serbia, where the public has been reluctant to accept that their forces could have been involved in war crimes.

Since then, reporting about the video has dominated mainstream news media. Analysts say the cassette is the most significant piece of evidence to shape Serbian public opinion since the end of the Balkan wars of the 1990's. Usually only the country's more liberal news outlets carry reports about possible Serbian war crimes, but state-run television and all the national newspapers have carried pictures and articles about the killings.

One newspaper, Blic, published an article about the shock the videotape had caused among families of the police unit. The report said one girl had seen the tape on television and recognized her father among the killers. It quoted her mother as saying, ''Since then, she has not spoken a single word. She has just wept.''

''This tape has definitely had more exposure to the public than anything else I can remember,'' said Svetlana Logar, a polling expert for Strategic Marketing Research, based in Belgrade. Her company is conducting an opinion poll that will be released next week on reaction to the videotape.

While most foreign observers regard Serbia and Bosnia's Serb leadership as the main perpetrators of war crimes in that era, polls consistently show that most Serbs regard themselves as the main victims of the war. Those accused of war crimes are often presented as national heroes by the news media and the government.

After the tape's emergence, President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica of Serbia swiftly condemned the killings. Serbian authorities say five men shown on the videotape have been arrested, including the unit's commander, Slobodan Medic, known as Boca, and the police are searching for four more.

Throughout the 12-minute section of videotape that features the six prisoners, their captors joke and show no hesitation. The executions appear methodical. The four youngest prisoners are lined up, then walk forward to be shot, one by one. The two remaining prisoners, perhaps in their early 30's, are then ordered to drag the bodies to a nearby building, where they, too, are shot. Only one of them talks during the episode, to ask for some water. The cameraman takes care to film the bullets as they enter the bodies, including final shots to the head after they have fallen to the ground.

While watching the video, Ms. Muhic recognized her brother as he was ordered to get down from a military truck at the start of the section showing the prisoners. Why couldn't the cameraman have intervened to save someone? she asked, not knowing that he was also a unit member.

''I would like them to pay for what they have done,'' she said. ''I would like their families to feel the same pain that we have felt.''

Her brother's remains were recovered in 1999 and identified in 2003. But she still had no idea how he had been killed.

Ms. Logar says the message is coming at a critical time, because people were not talking about the war crimes and younger Serbians were not hearing about them.

''No one is talking here about the facts, whether or not you call them war crimes or not. People are forgetting, and few people are aware,'' she said in an interview. ''Instead, politicians talked about indicted persons and whether or not they should be transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal.''

Ljiljana Smajlovic, a political commentator and writer for the weekly magazine Nin in Belgrade, said the tape had brought a sincere sense of outrage in Serbia. She also said the tape may provide momentum for the arrest of one of The Hague's leading war crime suspects and the man suspected of orchestrating the Srebenica massacre, General Ratko Mladic, the commander of the Bosnian Serb army at the time.

Apart from the shock caused by the videotape, closer scrutiny of the unit behind the killings has also undercut the popular image many Serbians have held of their fighters, who have often been praised as valiant defenders of the homeland.

That view is born out in the killing tape and in another tape of the unit that is making the rounds on Serbian television. Both begin with a Serbian Orthodox priest blessing the forces and saying, ''The Turks are rising again. They come to take our sacred places,'' a reference to Serbia's former occupation by the Muslim-dominated Ottoman Empire. After the video emerged, the Orthodox Church condemned the killings.

The unit involved in the taped killings, called the Scorpions, was formed in 1991, at the start of Serbia's war with Croatia. Its official purpose was guarding Slavonian oil centers. But in operation, said the chief Serbian war crimes prosecutor, Vladimir Vukcevic, ''they were organized ad hoc to do dirty work.''

Over the next decade, the group fought in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995 and in Kosovo in 1999, by which time it had been incorporated into the Serbian police service.

In addition to the men now being sought in the videotaped incident, another former member is on trial in the killing of 14 people, including seven children in Podujevo, a town in Kosovo, in 1999.

While the tape has brought outrage, it has also brought defensiveness. In Sid, a town in northwestern Serbia that is the home of most of the men shown taking part in the killing, many people expressed ambivalence. ''Maybe the tape was doctored,'' said a betting shop worker, 29, who refused to give his name. ''You don't know what those Muslims had done, either. It was war. You can't put all the blame on one side.''

The tabloid Nacional echoed that sentiment, publishing a front-page picture on Thursday of what it said was a Serbian soldier being executed by a Muslim. The headline read, ''Here's a Serb.''


Chris Blaku said...

The sheer arrogance and indifference of the Serbian population can only be equated with the most extreme forms of mass delusion. Even among Germany in World War 2, there was a large sentiment of doubt and guilt during and after the Holocaust. However, in Serbian circles it is nowhere to be found. This sort of behavior is thought to be characteristic of Milosevic-era Serbs, but that is hardly the case.

Chetniks (extremely nationalistic Serbians, responsible for the war crimes spoken of today) have been around in full swing since the independence of Serbia from the Ottoman Empire. They were created through false mythology and rewritten history courtesy of the Russian Orthodox Church, a tool of the state. The Russians wanted a clear gateway into the Balkans to have access to the Sea, as the Caucus states were giving them trouble. The aforementioned false history was based loosely on Serbian tales of Knez Lazar (actually merely a nobleman), and his large batallion of Serbian troops (numbering less than the Albanians and Croatians). Also mythological is the idea that the Kingdom of Serbia stood together against the Turks. Upon Stefan Destan's death in 1355, the Serbians only took 9 years to destroy what was created. In the time of the battle of 1389, Serbia was divided among petty lords, such as Lazar, who was merely a Knez (nobleman). The mythology of this time extends, as claiming that the Serbians fought bravely... Which they did. However, they fought on the side of the Ottomans. The main reason for the loss of the Balkan peoples to the Ottomans was due to the betrayal of the large contingent of Serbian troops, under the command of Knez Lazar's cousin, Lazar Brankovic, who defected to the Ottomans at a decisive point in the battle. Also, the most well covered territories of Ottomans in the Balkans were the slavic states. They were extremely peaceful, and Serbia could be called autonomous for most of the period, experiencing almost no suffering at Turkish hands due to frequent intermarrying of Serbian nobles with Ottoman nobles. Beyazid was married to the sister of Stefan Lazarevic, which prompted Serbians to fight on the Ottoman side in 1395 (only 6 years after the battle of 1389), in Nikopolis. So the Serbs in that time can generally be regarded as traitors to the Balkans, and to their own kind in many cases. The Turks experienced the toughest rebellion amongst the Albanians, as Ottoman records will always note. The loss of two Sultans to Albanian hands, as well as countless Pasha's (generals), enraged the Turks time and time again, eventually leading to a period of Islamization, where national identity was startingly preserved.

Also to be noted, the hero of the battle of 1389 was an Albanian named Milos Kopili, or perhaps Copal. His name was never recorded in Serbian Church documents because he was most likely Catholic (which would make him Albanian). However, travellers and Ottoman records record his name and his deed and liguists agree that the name is derived from the Albanian word "kopil", one who is smart, cunning.

Add all of this together and you reach a conclusion on the state of hypnosis the Serbian people are in. The patriotic Serb media and brainwashing of students in Serb schools must be marginalized. The victim mentality, coupled with strong religious sentiment is no different than the Jihad schools of western Pakistan.

The world must bring to an end Serbian aggression, an aggression so strong it promted us to reconsider the use of the term "genocide", time and time again.

Chris Blaku said...

Also noteworthy, in Ottoman times the Patriarch of Pec, the revered Serbian site, was given virtual autonomy within the Ottoman empire. Furthermore, the Turks gave them full authority over the Christians in the region, be they Catholic or Orthodox. The Albanian Catholic priest of Shkoder, Andre Bogdani, wrote to Venice that the mass atrocities spoken of were committed not by Turks, but by Orthodox Serbians in the name of their Church, with full approval from the Porte. The fact that the Serbian Church in Kosova was given virtual autonomy within the Ottoman Empire, as if it was a state, is startling. The only conclusion that can realistically be reached is one that puts Serbian cooperation with Ottoman forces at such a height that the rewards were unheard of.

How interesting, the "victims" of the Turks were actually bed buddies with them? Wonder what that would do to the Chetnik psyche.

Chris Blaku said...

The hero of 1389, Milos Kopili, killed the Turkish Sultan, Murat I, who was only the third Ottoman sultan. Pretending to be a traitor, he snuck across the lines and took his blood.

The reason this is extremely worthy of noting is because Murat I's son, Beyazit marries the daughter of Knez Lazar, the leader of the Balkans in the battle of 1389. Furthermore, that leads to cooperation between Lazar's son Stefan and the Sultan, Beyazit, which lead to the fall of army of Sigismond of Hungary on the Danube to a coupling of Ottoman and Serb forces. It is important to note that this battle was a crusade called on by Pope Boniface IX, at the urging of King Sigismond of Hungary. So the Albanians defended Christianity, and the Serbians fought against it.

Again back to the battle of 1389, if the Serbians fought the Ottomans out of sheer patriotic and nationalistic identity, as is assumed by Serbian history, then why fight on the side of the Ottomans only 6 years later? Moreover, on the side of the Ottoman general that executed Knez Lazar, who lead those same troops?
The scope and magnitude of the arrogance in Serbia's history at this time is unparalleled.

Worse than this is the West's ignorance in bringing these things to light.

Anonymous said...

Good points here Mr. Blaku. I would like to add that Serbian king also delayed Scanderbeg from lending a hand to John Huniades, who subsequently experiences a major defeat at the hand of the Turks. The Serb king of course had married off his daughter to the Sultan and Serbia during the uprising of Scanderbeg and Huniades was a very peaceful place. These two military leaders were the major hurdles to the openess of Europe and not Serbia as some like to claim.

Chris Blaku said...

None can claim that Serbia had anything to do with halting the advance of the Ottomans in Europe. If anything, Serbia helped the Ottomans move forward, as they enjoyed their autonomy and religious rights within the Empire. As said earlier, the autonomy of Albania was not recognized, however the autonomy of the Serbian Orthodox Church was. As was their authority over Christian peasants, and brutality encouraged by the Porte. The clear tactic here was to discourage Catholicism amongst Albanians in favor of Serbian Orthodox, which would lead to slavization, or to send them to Islam, which would lead to Islamization, both roads pointed to assimilation for the Albanians... It is a miracle heritage and culture were preserved to this extent.

It's clear the Serbian fairy tales never had any reality to them, as is now apparent. The Serbian's claims that they are war heroes shy too far from actuality that it is laughable to most. The Serbians have started four wars in a decade, and lost every single one. Now they've adopted the victim mentality, despite having the blood of nearly a million on their hands.

What's worse is the lack of condemnation on behalf of the world. The ferocity of the world's wrath against Hitler and Nazi Germany deserves repeat in the Balkans against the Chetniks of Serbia. In the place of punishment however, Europe stands by and articulates the rights of the oppressive Serbians and to this day no nation aside from Albania, has claimed Kosova's independence as the right step. It will be the United States, who moved forward alone in recognizing the state of Israel, to recognize Kosova's independence first.

Kosova's independence is the first of many rights to correct the wrongs of 1878 and 1913. Those who gag at the idea of a "greater" Albania should be glad the Albanians do not demand what is rightfully theirs, 90% of the Balkans.

Anonymous said...


The resason why everyone speaks of Nazi Germany so much is that whether we want to admit it, most of us look up to Germany and it's a pitty in some sense and disappointment that Hitler took over. But Germans are another planet, Serbia is barbaric.

Chris Blaku said...

You raise a good point. However, it is commonly interpreted to be behavior of the Milosevic regime and uncharacteristic of Serbs to behave this way. The reality must be brought to light, and the barbarism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries noted. The ferocity with which the Greek, Serbian, Montenegrin and Macedonian regular and irregular forces (all encouraged, armed and trained by their respective governments) acted is without peer in modern history. Virtually entire villages were pillaged, their inhabitants banished, raped, or murdered in the name of a false history and borders that never existed. The extent of Albanian inhabited lands in the Balkans went as north as Nish in Serbia and encompassed half of modern day Greece.

It is important to note the manner in which these nations went about dealing with the rebellious Albanian population. The Greeks, particularly barbaric, expelled millions of Albanian Muslims from the territory of Janina to Turkey, and even won international praise for it. They claimed they were Turks, left over from the day of the Ottoman. The world took the bait, and Turkey inherited cheap labor, and both countries benefited from receiving world grants because of their charitable work with refugees. The larger portion of Orthodox Albanians in present-day Greece were displaced into Central and Eastern Greece, where they were Hellenized (Albanian is not a recognized language in Greece, despite having existed there since the beginning of time and representing 15% of the population). Albanian Muslims remaining were killed and also driven into Albania en masse.

Serbia acted with similar barbarity, as did Montenegro, who we will speak of in tandem due to the similarity with which they acted. Serbia's plan to follow Greece in sending Albanians to Turkey under the cover of Turks was interrupted by World War 2, but resumed in the 60's. Nearly a million Albanian Kosovars are documented to have been expelled to Turkey, where over three million Albanians live, not counting Ottomonized Albanians, whose numbers surely number into the tens of millions. Serbians were particular with torture, rape, and cold blooded murder with the Albanian citizens of lands they annexed. Montenegro was responsible for much betrayal and bloodshed with Albanian highlanders, first arming them and encouraging revolt against the Turks, then invading Albania as the Turkish army left.

The stories of atrocities deserve a volume all their own, let alone a long blog on a website. Point is, Serbians have been a bloodthirsty people since their independence of the Ottoman Empire. Perhaps even before then, yet that would be harder to document. It's hard to document history properly when the Serbian government destroyed Albanian documents and artifacts that would represent any other history but their own. And a pity that modern day "Historians" actually fall prey to this childish trick, and write all about Serbia's mythology and avoid Albania's reality.

Anonymous said...

I hope you end up studying History. It suits you and you have a passion for uncovering the truth. I agree with you 100%. But we Albanians are partially to blame. We have not worked hard enough to preserve our own history. I hope the new generation will focus on bringing the truth back where it belongs.

I wish you the best in your work.


Anonymous said...

That's why the internet is here :)

Bye bye Serbia!

Anonymous said...

Thanks guys for the very interesting historical facts (especially Chris).

Keep up the good work


Chris Blaku said...

Quick correction, the name was Milesh Kopili, different from Slavicized Milos.