MINELRES: Advocacy Project: Serbian And Kosovar Women Unite On Religious Sites
Wed Jun 14 21:26:27 2006
Original sender: The Advocacy Project <email@example.com>
News Bulletin 65, June 6, 2006
SERBIAN AND KOSOVAR WOMEN CALL FOR AN END TO "RELIGIOUS OWNERSHIP" OF
KOSOVO'S CHURCHES AND MOSQUES
June 6, 2006, Prishtina and Washington, D.C.: Kosovo's religious sites
are not the property of any one religion or ethnic group and should be
managed by independent professionals - otherwise they risk provoking
ethnic confrontation and violence.
This is the position taken by the Women's Peace Coalition, a new
partnership between Serbian and Kosovar women peace activists that
formed in March to monitor the joint Serbian-Kosovar negotiations on
Kosovo's future status.
The new Coalition is a striking example of how women can unite around
common concerns across a bitter ethnic divide. It brings together the
Kosovo Women's Network (KWN), a grouping of 85 women's organizations,
and the Women in Black Network from Serbia. The two joined forces after
KWN and the Women in Black Network publicly criticized the UN and their
governments for excluding women from the status negotiations. (See
Advocacynet bulletin # 57, March 8, 2006).
The Coalition released its first bulletin on May 26 after negotiators
met in Vienna to review Kosovo's cultural and religious heritage. While
the Coalition agrees that all religious sites need protection, it also
insists that this will not happen if they are viewed as the exclusive
"property" of a religious or ethnic group.
The Coalition calls for the "establishment of independent professional
organizations to manage heritage sites owned by religious communities in
Kosovo" and says that "direct religious oversight would lead to further
degradation of cultural heritage."
The Coalition also warns the negotiators against using religious sites
"as instruments for gaining political clout," which it says will "deepen
divides between ethnic communities and could lead to violence."
"We are saying - don't politicize this," said Igo Rogova, Executive
Director of KWN, in an interview. Ms. Rogova added that the lack of
transparency in the negotiation process makes it hard to know exactly
what has been decided.
The Coalition will meet next on June 20 in Belgrade to review economic
issues. As the negotiations progress, the two partners expect to focus
on women's issues and return to their original complaint that women are
excluded from the negotiating process.
All seven Kosovo negotiators are men, and KWN maintains that the UN
Mission in Kosovo has a mandate under UN Security Council Resolution
1325 "to ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making
levels." Stasa Zajovic, coordinator of Women in Black in Belgrade, said
that the Serbian team includes one woman but that her "right-wing
policies" do not reflect the views of all women in civil society in
Contacted by AP, Jetemir Balaj, chief executive officer for the Kosovo
Negotiation Team, said that the seven Kosovar negotiators had been
chosen in September 2005 by the late President Ibrahim Rugova. He said
that about 22 of the team's 70 staff and working group members are
The Coalition could turn into a leading voice for inter-ethnic
cooperation, particularly if Kosovo emerges with independence from the
negotiations. Many feel that independence would cause a backlash from
Serb nationalists, who are fiercely opposed to the dismembering of
The Coalition's approach has already drawn praise from conflict
resolution specialists. "Women can have a tremendous impact on peace
negotiations," said Victoria Stanski, manager of network strategy and
advocacy at The Initiative for Inclusive Security (formerly Women Waging
Peace). "They bring an understanding of the root causes of the conflict
and focus on practical issues related to quality of life and human
Meanwhile, in an unrelated incident, KWN has criticized UN police in
Kosovo for injuring 33 women who protested the unannounced visit of two
former Serb residents to the village of Krusha e Vogel during a UN war
crimes investigation on May 25. The UN responded by accusing the women
of "attacking" the UN police and warning that Kosovars must respect the
rule of law if their demand for independence is to be credible.
KWN is a partner of the Advocacy Project (AP). AP has sent a graduate
from the American University in Washington, Barbra Bearden, to intern
with KWN this summer.
* For more about the Peace Coalition, and copies of the May 26 bulletin,
* For the KWN's open letter to the UN over the May 25 Krusha e Vogel
* For Women in Black visit
* For Barbra Bearden's blogs from Kosovo visit
The Advocacy Project is based in Washington D.C. Phone +1 202 332 3900;
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