NATO's war against Serbia was over on June 17th 1999. It was here where local Albanians witnessed the discrimination perpetrated by international aid agencies and the UN organizations. Why should the Roma be respected by those who won the war? A pattern that was then followed in many other parts of the world where “humanitarian actors” where involved.
By 2009 over 150,000 Roma and Hashkalija have fled Kosovo, their ancestral homeland for the past seven hundred years. There are today still 20,000 trying desperately to stay. Despite the UN's declaration of preparing a multi-ethnic society and the claim of NATO and KFOR to protect everyone, the results only pointed to be a policy of genocide, a genocide of the Roma and Hashkalija in Kosovo.
It is worth to remember that just one day after war was over the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, and their Albanian supporters began unhindered terrorizing the Kosovar Roma / Hashkalija communities throughout the province, “liberated” by NATO. This ethnic cleansing operation, that left more than 48.000 houses systematically destroyed and 200.000 Roma/Hashkalija expelled from their homes went unpunished till today. All the month after the war peace keeper of NATO, UNO and OSCE turned a blind eye on these atrocities that have become a kind of standard now in 2009.
During month in many villages and towns, all Roma homes had been destroyed. Families whose Roma ancestors arrived here as early as 1320, or Hashkalija whose oral traditions recount an even older history, have not only been made homeless, but also over 150,000 have had to flee to other countries. Today, 10 years after this expulsion, no one has returned due to a lack of support by the “Humanitarian Community”. Is this phenomena based on ignorance or shame? Or is has this become a tool of “friendly” straightening policies towards minorities to avoid clashes in “liberated” countries?
In order to justify these attacks, the KLA and their supports have labeled all Roma and Hashkalija as having collaborated with the Serbs. Despite the fact that no evidence on the ground has supported these allegation to today's date. Like in Iraq chasing former member of the Bath party, or “Taliban” in Afghanistan, KFOR and the UN police have had received many requests to detain Serbs suspected of atrocities during the war, but no Roma or Hashkalija have been mentioned in these reports. ICC investigator sweeping into Kosovo, busy to produce evidence of war crimes, that had been committed against ethnic Albanians, kept a blind eye on crimes that actually happened in front of them. They never filed on reports about the crimes Albanian's committed directly in front of them.
The ethnic Albanians dislike of Roma / Hashkalija goes back many years before the war. When the Albanians first started to demonstrate back in 1969 against Serb rule in Kosovo, the Roma / Hashkalija community refused to join this demonstrations. While the Albanians wanted independence, the Roma / Hashkalija were still too far down the economic scale to think of that luxury. All they wanted were jobs and education. When they finally achieved those two things under Tito, they were so grateful they thought they were being patriotic Yugoslavians by not taking the street. The Albanians have resented the Roma / Hashkalija ever since.
Although over 70% of Roma / Hashkalija had high educational degrees and most of them held good jobs during the years preceding the war, the Albanians today try to drag up the old stereotypes: lazy, dirty, worthless, homeless. Under the chairmanship of Bernhard Kouchner as High Representative of Secretary General Kofi Annan, the failure of Untied Nation not to combat this “ethnic cleansing”, was rarely reported in the media and so was the change to learn from experiences made for integration of Roma communities.
Just in the very first few weeks of the arrival of KFOR, the NATO led peacekeeping mission, about 40,000 Roma / Hashkalija where made homeless and went totally unpunished. The typical operation for cleansing a neighborhood of Roma has been for a couple of local KLA soldiers to accompany several Albanians to a Roma home and then threaten them with death if they were still living there the next day. NATO commanders and UNHCR were fully aware of this crimes.
Knowing there will be no protection by international peace keeper, usually the Roma homeowner didn't wait, but left immediately, many wearing only their pajamas. Their homes were then burned. If the home was in a good area, the rubble was soon bulldozed away and a new home built on the site for a local high-ranking Albanian official. No one was spared. Not the retired, not the invalids, not the blind who of course could not be labeled collaborators.
The EU force arriving in late 2008 in Kosovo to replace UNMIK has to take over this heritage of failures to protect. Their arrival indicates that results of the ethnic cleansing operation during the past ten years will be swept under the carpet. The reality for Roma today in Kosovo is they can not venture outside their own village without being kidnapped or killed, are always turned down by Albanian hospitals, can not attend Albanian schools, do not have jobs.
Relief of sheer unbelievable value given by the international community was never reaching Roma in Kosovo because they had been discriminated by the major aid agencies that are mainly run by local Albanians. Since the war began 1999, over 90% of all Roma / Hashkalija communities have been refused aid by agencies such as Mother Teresa, and ironically by Islamic Relief, although all Roma and Hashkalija remaining in Kosovo today are Muslim while those followers of Christian faith fled to neighboring countries. Even an international aid agency with a renowned reputation such as Oxfam has not escaped this discrimination being practiced by its own local Albanians “experts” in Prishtina.
Perhaps the worst offender of all was UNHCR: Their policy towards the Roma, the UNHCR should be looking after, can best be described by an incident that happened at a briefing back in September 1999, when UNHCR was asked how they were preparing for one of their displaced persons camps for the winter. At a meeting attended by KFOR, ICRC and other, the UNHCR director of the Roma camp in question said: "We have no plans for them for the coming winter. We just hope they will disappear." For such evaluation this young Italian post graduate, now a UNHCR protection officer, was raising an income of several thousand US$ for herself.
And disappearing, well, Roma and Hashkalija were fleeing first to Macedonia till it closed its borders to Roma and Hashkalija. It never crossed the mind of representatives of the international community that Roma were just seeking to survive the draconian measures of UNHCR. At this notorious UNHCR IDP camp in Kosovo, just outside Prishtina, there had been recorded deaths in only because the UN police and the camp management refused to take sick Roma children Albanian hospitals at night.
In one incident, at 1:30 in the morning, a UN policemen refused to take a pregnant woman to hospital although her water had already broke and she was having contractions every two minutes. He told the aid agency worker who was on night duty that, "the gypsies have a tractor in camp. They can take her on the tractor."
10 years after the war in Kosovo we saw the same pattern unfolding in Pakistan, Afghanistan, in Iraq, Syria, in Israel, Gaza. Expulsions under the presence of International Non-Governmental- and UN Organisations have become some kind of normality for minorities on their long path of migration.
Most people associate the French Riviera with wealth, sunny blue skies and the Mediterranean sea. But not so far from the pebble beaches and luxury hotels there exists another form of life more down to earth and little to do with the glitz and glamour of the region.
It's a world apart that has existed for centuries in the hillsides of Biot, a medieval village, which in ancient times was once a major center fabricating pottery jars, and today is renowned for its creative bubble glassware.
The name Biot originates from Italian. “It means two times eight,” said 67 year-old Mr Gavino Pellegrino, whose ancestors came from Italy. His parents and grandparents were farmers. They owned land stretching over a few hectares. Much of the land has been sold, but on one particular corner of land Mr Pellegrino has preserved especially to cultivate his vegetables such as tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes, as well as strawberries. It's a pastime which Mr Pellegrino enjoys doing for pleasure, but on Saturday and Sunday mornings, you can find him in Old Antibes where he sells his produce in the marketplace.
Despite it being a drought season this summer, Mr Pellegrino remains unperturbed by the lack of rainfall, simply for reason the Alpes-Martimes has the good fortune of being naturally supplied with underground water, which lies hundreds of metres beneath the volcanic layers of rock. But what is even more auspicious is that Mr Pellegrino himself was born with a gift to detect underground water sources by just using two olive tree branches.
He said, “The branches have to be fresh. If there is water in the ground, they move upwards towards the chest . If there is no water the branches stay in the same position. It's all due to the magnetic field underground.”
Mr Pellegrino is the 5th of ten children. His wife Isabel said that her husband was one of very few people in the region who today took the time to grow plants and vegetables. He is using organic seeds to grow the vegetables and is using manure from the nearby horseback riding club in his hotbeds.
The hillsides which were once covered in olive trees and flowers have now been replaced by apartments, villas and office buildings. Do the Pellegrino's have regrets? “No”, answers Madame Pellegrino spontaneously, “the tourism created an international climate and out of it we now have Sophia Antipolis were our children are working.” Sophia Antipolis is a High-Tech Park where 25.000 people are working in research and financial service companies. Some faculties from Nice University moved also to Sophia Antipolis. It is a coexistence of various ways of life.
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The morning light in November is very soft.
It is the right place and the best time to relax in the morning at 7:00. Birds have few natural enemies and are not gunned down by ruthless guys.
The Camargue is located south of Arles, France, between the Mediterranean Sea and the two arms of the Rhône River delta. The eastern arm is called the Grand Rhône; the western one is the Petit Rhône.
The Camargue is home to more than 400 species of birds; its brine ponds provide one of the few European habitats for the greater flamingo. The marshes are also a prime habitat for many species of insects, notably (and notoriously) some of the most ferocious mosquitos to be found anywhere in France. It is also famous for the Camargue Bull and the Camargue Horse.
The flora of the Camargue is specially adapted to cope with the saline conditions. Sea lavender and glasswort flourish, along with tamarisks and reeds.
Officially established as a regional park and nature reserve in 1970, the Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue covers 820 km² that are some of the wildest and most protected in all of Europe.
A roadside museum provides background on flora, fauna, and the history of the area.
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