Exactly one day before the recent incident in Novi Sad in Serbia, I had a conversation with a close relative who told me about a similar experience he had several months ago while traveling from Austria to Kosovo. The bus route goes through Serbia and during the traveling time there are some pit stops for people to eat, or use the toilet. During one of the stops, something unpleasant had happened. Some people in the cafe, who seemed to have been drinking, started to shout to the Kosovars in the Serbian language. Normally everybody was scared. The owner of the cafe immediately informed the police, who soon arrived at the scene, outraging those who had been shouting. The police had apologized to the attendees, telling them to remain calm. The cafe owner, in addition to having regretted what had happened in his cafe, had invited everyone to stay for coffee, telling them that they are always welcomed.
The same relative (who often visits Austria) told me about another case that happened two or three years ago when the bus was broken once in the road. The passengers had to stay out in the street for a while, so they could fix it. Unexpectedly, a woman whose house was near the road where the bus broke down, had invited them to enter her home because it was cold outside, and they can wait until the bus was fixed. Truly such stories make you feel good and give hope for improvement of relations between people in the Balkans.
Nevertheless, the day after I had these conversations with my relative, the incident occurred in Novi Sad and normally I was angry and felt so sorry for victims of the attack, especially for the young man who was in a coma. I started to question, how it comes that in 2018, almost two decades after the war ended, there has not been enough progress, to guarantee the freedom of speech in the Balkan countries. Ironically, the most injured boy, the 19-year-old, was born in the year when the war ended, and his name is Çlirim, which in Albanian language it means Freedom. Yet, he was faced with an attack, violating his basic human right, the freedom of speech.
I think that for the sake of our future, and for the sake of the past, these two kinds of cases I mentioned (good and bad examples) should be considered as two plants that will continue to be present in our society. As such, we must strive to water the good plants, with human behavior, constructive approaches, condemning and punishing any damage that the bad plants cause, hoping for their disappearance in the future.
I hope that attackers of young boys will receive the deserved punishment. I wish Çlirim a quick recovery, and I hope that this symbolic name will represent soon a reality for all Balkan countries.
Let’s respect each other, starting with respecting the freedom of speech and language.
Unë flas shqip kur dhe ku të dua - vi govorite srpski kada i gde želite. Speaking our native languages must not pose a threat to our basic freedoms, less so to endanger an individual’s physical integrity!
Author: Migjen Krasniqi