Kosovo Civil War Effect on Families
Global statistics point out the fact that civil wars and ethnic conflicts around the globe have been a consequence of the explosion of smoldering of historical ethnic tensions between two or more groups living in the particular region. Of particular interest are the scenarios that spurred the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the Congo’s second War between 2001 and 2003, and the Kosovo war of 1998 to 1999. All these scenarios have had analogous devastating and destructive effects on the environment, economy, population, and human rights. The Kosovo civil war of 1998 to 1999 was a result of overflowing ethnic tensions between the Serbs and Albanians in the Kosovo province of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The civil war had adverse effects on the population ranging from death, deprivation of basic needs, and rendered thousand homeless (Rummens and Seat). The focus of this paper is to highlight the effects of the civil conflict in Kosovo on families and attempts towards addressing the issue.
Background and nature of the conflict
The civil war in Kosovo is considered among the most complicated issues in the Balkans attributed to historical causes. It is a typical model of a territorial conflict whereby historical and mythological arguments were at odds with ethnic realities. Serbian settlers argued that the region surrounding Kosovo was the fountain of their cultural and religious practices as well as being the epicenter of their political activities (Mehmet & Aslihan, 167-183). In a similar fashion, the Kosovo Albanians had historical arguments on their part, they believed they were the offspring of Illyrer and hence were the natives of the country. Their arguments were supported by the demographic-ethnic statistics which showed that prior to the civil war of 1999, the region had an estimated population of 2,235,200 of which almost 90% were Albanian speakers (Mehmet & Aslihan, 167-183).
Between 1974 and 1989 Kosovo was a sovereign region governed by Albanian authorities. After losing its autonomous status in 1989, the ethnic group of Albanians encountered severe subjugation of its human rights. (Hamilton) The relationship between the Serbs and the Kosovo Albanians persistently worsened in the 1990s. Progressive violent tussles between the two communities over the control of the region necessitated the international community to call for a peace talks meeting. The meeting was held in February 1999 in Rambouillet, France (Rummens and Seat). The Serb officials sought to preserve the ancestry of their culture and religion while the Albanians advocated for the establishment of an independent Kosovo.
When a deal could not be struck, NATO countries in a bid to save Albanians from “ethnic cleansing,” initiated an air and missile assault of Yugoslavia on 24 March 1999 (Jansen). The civil war involved clashes between forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that were in control of the region prior to the war and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) which was an Albanian rebel group. The war lasted 78 days from the day of NATOs intervention and came to be referred to as the “Kosovo conflict.” It resulted in deaths and injuries to innocent civilians, destruction of property, damaging of the country’s infrastructure as well as triggering economic, social, and ecological disaster (Rummens and Seat). The civil war had far-reaching effects on demographics, especially the families where children and women were the illest affected.
Effects of the Kosovo war on Families
Since there is no one legally accepted definition of internal displacement, a general rule is applied to refer to internally displaced persons (IDPs) as those people who are in refugee-like conditions although they have not crossed an international boundary. During and after the Kosovo war numerous people and families fled their homes for safety reasons. Families were disrupted and most of them ended up in IDP camps. IDPs in Kosovo may be classified differently depending territory in which they fell; either the KLA or government held. They include (Hamilton);
- Persons still living outside in the fields or seeking shelter in the woods
- Persons housed in unsatisfactory shelters, more often than not half-finished or damaged and potentially unsafe
- Persons accommodated in good but rather overcrowded and unhygienic conditions mostly by relatives of friends
IDPs living outside and those seeking shelter in the woods were estimated at about 100,000 although other sources say that nearly ¼ of Kosovo’s population had been displaced. Internal displacement resulted in the loss of family ties, poor shelter for families, and loss of property.
Trauma and stress
During the civil war, most people and families were forced into a refuge for political and religious reasons. These people left their homes against their will, they were directly threatened and forced to leave in dangerous and stressful conditions. Most of those who sought refuge had witnessed first-hand causalities and butchering of their neighbors, friends, and family members while some of them had been victims of torture. Such events and incidents continue to cause stress and trauma to those who witnessed these atrocities against their loved ones. Furthermore, deprivation of basic needs and living in environments of deadly hatred between the ethnic groups was a challenge that caused stress and trauma to most families.
Loss of property and loved ones
The widespread destruction of Yugoslavia during the civil war resulted in numerous losses to families. Houses were torched, livestock stolen and yet others had to flee their homes without taking anything with them as they feared for their lives. According to the Family Service Association, the war negatively affected the quality of life of the entire community with the inclusion of children and the youth (Hamilton). Those whose houses were torched were faced with difficulties of re-settlement as they had lost everything they owned. Families that relied on livestock were deprived of their means of survival. Reports show that over 3000 people of all ethnicities were murdered, among these were family breadwinners.
Attempts to address the issue
Several agencies are working to address the complex situation in Kosovo. In formulating their plans, the agencies have focused on providing shelter, food and health to families. Material aid programs are directed to standard families on principles of the right to life and survival. There are also food aid programs specific to children’s needs as they have different nutritional necessities. The UNHCR in collaboration with other interested governments have taken tremendous steps supporting the return of IDPs to their homes. Some aid agencies have also undertaken to provide clean water and sanitation to the affected region as it is believed that such measures will be pivotal for IDPs to return home (Hamilton).
It has also been argued that Kosovo’s independence is a key element to the stability of the region; as a result, there have been advances towards the integration of Kosovo into the world institutions. The number of nations recognizing Kosovo’s independence has been on a gradual increase and currently sits at 69, additionally, Kosovo was granted membership in IMF and World Bank in 2009 to serve as part of the integration process (Mehmet & Aslihan, 167-183).
Hamilton, By Nathalie Man and Carolyn. “The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children: A Report on the civil war in Kosovo.” childRIGHT (1998).
Jansen, G. Richard. Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo: An Abbreviated History An Opening for the The Islamic Jihad in Europe. Informative. Fort Collins: Colorado State University, 2008.
Öcal Mehmet and Ayse Aslihan Çelenk. “Making of a New State in the Balkans: Kosovo.” Insight Turkey 12.4 (2010): 167-83. ProQuest. Web. 14 Apr. 2014.
Rummens, Joanna Anneke and Rajko Seat. Assessing the Impact of the Kosovo Conflict on the Mental Health and Well-being of Newcomer Serbian Children and Youth in the Greater Toronto Area. Toronto: CERIS Working Paper Series, 2003.