Issue 231 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published June 1999 Copyright Socialist Review

Stop Nato's War

Letter from Belgrade

You will not read this letter in the pro-war press. Nato would rather pretend that these sentiments do not exist among the people it is bombing

Letter to Albanian friends from non-governmental organisations
"We are writing to you in these difficult moments of our shared suffering. Convoys of Albanians and other citizens of Kosovo, among whom many of you, were forced to leave their homes. The killings and expulsions, homes destroyed and burnt, bridges, roads and industrial buildings demolished, paint a sombre and painful picture of Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro, as in indicating that life together is no longer possible. We, however, believe that it is necessary and possible.

The better future of citizens of Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro, of Serbs and Albanians, as citizens of one state or closest neighbours, will not arrive by itself or overnight. But it is something we can and must work on together, as we have many times in the past, not so long ago. We know that it will now be very difficult and sometimes very painful. The example of the German-French postwar reconciliation and cooperation could serve as a model and stimulus.

In the sake of future life together, the pain of crime has to be revealed so that it is, with forgiveness, remembered. This tragedy, yours and ours, personal and collective, is a result of a long series of erroneous policies of the most radical forces among us and in the international community. The continuation of these policies will take both Serbs and Albanians into the abyss. Also, the road of collective guilt is a road of frustration, continuation of hatred and endless vengeance.

That is why this road has to be abandoned. Our first step of distancing from hatred, ethnic conflict and bloody retaliations is a public expression of our deepest compassion and sincere condemnation of everything that you and your fellow citizens are experiencing.

As citizens of Serbia, we today suffer destruction and casualties as a result of Nato bombing, armed conflict in Kosovo and long lasting economic and social tumbles under the burden of the dictatorship's deadly policies. Ethnic cleansing, Nato bombing and armed conflict should stop because they are not contributing to the solution of the Kosovo crisis but are only making it deepen. There should be no more casualties. All refugees should be allowed to return safely to their homes and live in the manner appropriate for free and proud people.

We are convinced that together we will find strength and courage to step on the road of peace, democracy, respect of human rights, mutual reconciliation and respect. Dialogue, political negotiations and peace process have no alternative. For all of us, it is the only way out of the war conflict. It is the safest way to secure the return of refugees to their homes, to renew normal life and activities and find a solution to the status of Kosovo.

In order to make this happen, we have to join our efforts to end the war conflict, revitalise the peace process and reconstruct, economically and democratically, the development of Kosovo, Serbia and the entire Balkan region. We are convinced that by joining forces we can contribute to the reaching of a just and rational political solution to the status of Kosovo, and build confidence and cooperation between Serbs and Albanians."

Signed by: Association of Citizens for Democracy, Social Justice and Support for Trade Unions, Belgrade Circle, Centre for Democracy and Free Elections, Centre for Transition to Democracy, Centre for Policy Studies, Civic Initiatives, EKO Centre, Belgrade Women Studies Centre, European Movement in Serbia, Forum for Ethnic Relations and Foundation for Peace and Crisis Management, Group 484, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, The Student Union of Yugoslavia, Union for Truth about Anti-Fascist Resistance, VIN-Weekly Video News, Women in Black, YU Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights, Nezavisnost Trade Union Confederation, Centre for Women's Studies.

Not polls apart

A recent survey reveals the extent to which people in Yugoslavia were opposed to the Milosevic regime before Nato's bombing started. The survey of 1,000 people was undertaken in the spring of 1998 in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (comprising Serbia and Montenegro) and formed part of a comparative study with ten other eastern and central European countries.

Results showed that over two thirds (some 69 percent) did not trust the government, compared to 20 percent that did. Some 62 percent distrusted Milosevic, compared to 37 percent in other countries who expressed distrust in their presidents.

The people of Yugoslavia were the least nationalistic among all countries surveyed. Contrary to the image of the Serbs as being the natural supporters of Milosevic, a breakdown by nationality and region showed a very different picture. Only 21 percent of Montenegrins surveyed were in the group most strongly opposed to the Milosevic regime, compared with 54 percent of the people in Belgrade, 52 percent in Vojvodina and 46 percent in central Serbia. The strongest opponents of the Milosevic regime were young, educated urban dwellers. This group was the most likely to support reforms in all eastern and central European countries.

What effect has the bombing had on these attitudes? The survey's authors reach their own damning conclusions: 'Colleagues in Yugoslavia inform us that [the bombing] has had the effect of destroying the opposition and of rallying support around Milosevic which, as we have seen from the data, was formerly lacking.'
Peter Morgan
Poll by Claire Wallace and Christian Haerpfer from the Institute of Advanced Studies in Vienna

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