Women's WORLD Organization for Rights, Literature & Development
New York Times
We are writing to correct a distortion in your article on the Albanian situation in Kosovo ("New Balkan Tinderbox" March 2, 1998), which states that Ibrahim Rugova has "led a movement that has seen most ethnic Albanians boycott state institutions and organize their own schools and community services."
It is true that Albanians in Kosovo felt that the Serbian government was using the school system to repress their culture and language by forcing them to speak Serbian, despite the fact that 90% of the population speaks Albanian. They responded tay setting up their own schools. But to call this a boycott is an oversimplification, because these are the only schools where they can speak their language -- the Milosevic government closed down the old Albanian language public school system that went from kindergarten to university level. The government also padlocked all the Albanian language libraries and pulped the collection of precious historical books and manuscripts in the National Library in Pristina.
To describe such a complex situation merely in terms of security police and mountain guerrillas merely plays into the old Balkan stereotypes. A culture war is taking place in Kosovo, waged in part by scores of village women who have risked jail to set up underground libraries and schools. A call for UN peacekeepers is not enough in a culture war. We must also call for an open society and demand that the government remove its padlocks from the Albanian schools and libraries, and restore the basic democratic rights of the majority -- including the right to use their own language and sustain their own culture.
Ann Snitow, New School for Social Research
Meredith Tax President, Women's WORLD
New York NY 10001
Tel: (212) 947 2915
Fax: (212) 947 2973