The ethnic-Albanian uprising in Macedonia

The recent developments could cut the bonds between the Albanian community and their political representation and send Macedonia into a new crisis.

The ethnic-Albanian uprising in Macedonia

Tahir Selim / Skopje

Old wounds were reopened in Macedonia recently when the courts sentenced six ethnic Albanians to life in prison for the murder of five Macedonians two years ago, leading to protests.

The protests originally began as a stand against injustive but as the issue deepened, the increasing demonstrations by Macedonia's ethnic Albanian Muslims began to take on new dimensions.

The protesters have doubts over the fairness of the trials, and accuse Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s government of stirring nationalism. The formation of the Democratic Integration Union, which allowed the anti-Macedon guerilla movement UCK to enter politics as of 2001, is also an important point worth dwelling on.

Many Albanians in Macedonia see the government as being ultra-nationalist, and feel Gruevski's government has broken down the pro-Albanian DIU, turning them into nothing more than a passive voice in parliament, despite remaining the Albanians' top party since the 2001 crisis. However, the party has struggled to defend the rights of Albanians and other Muslims in Macedonia.

The recent developments could cut the bonds between the Albanian community and their political representation and send Macedonia into a new crisis.

What is the real message of the protests?

Friday's protests in Skopje were a stand against the life imprisonment of six Albanians without enough evidence. However, there are deeper reasons for this rebellion. The first is the Albanians' loss of trust in the legal system of Macedonia. The second is the loss of trust in the government, which with its ultra-nationalist undertones seem to be leaving the Albanians out of state affairs.

Another reason is the slowing down of the process initiated by a 2001 agreement which was designed to increase the rights of minorities, which has taken a back seat under Gruevski's government, as it has been promoting Macedon dominance over all bodies and restricting Albanian freedoms. For this reason, this is not just a protest against a court ruling, but this is an explosion of pent up rage.

Furthermore, the DIU's passive behaviour amid this chaos could lead to a crisis in political representation for the Albanians. Although they may not feel represented in the court, the Albanians however have a strong representation in the Justice Ministry. Even the Justice Minister is an Albanian.

It has also been claimed that Gruevski's government has been politicizing the government appointed judiciary. All these factors prevent the Albanian lobby from gaining any influence in politics.

It could be said that the authorities are subtly preparing the ground to introduce a new discourse amid the violent clashes. By ignoring the appeals of the Albanian community, as well as the weakening of the DIU, Greuvski may face more anger from minorities in the long-term.

How should the uprising of the Muslim Albanians be viewed?

Despite the fact that the 2001 ethnic clashes between Macedonians and Albanians was halted and entered a phase of compromise, tensions still exist under a different category. Although the Ohri agreement was meant to guarantee minority rights, and has successfully decreased ethnic tensions, it has not doen enough for this multi-ethnic country.

During periods of ethnic tensions like this, the government is able to prove its genuine desire for peace by putting agreements into practice. Should it fail to do so, problems that are ignored or put to the side can give way to even bigger problems.

The growing crisis in Macedonia is directly related to the deepening and widening demands of the Albanian community, which has largely been overlooked in Gruevski's era. However, another factor adding a dimension to the crisis is the failure of the Albanian community's elite to respond to Gruevski's outbursts, leavinf the response to come from the community itself.

When there were clashes in the past, the legitimacy of the Albanian party's was tested and the Albanian community swayed towards illegal ways to seek their rights. For this reason, Gruevski needs to carefully review the dynamics and position of the DIU.

On the other hand this could be the sign of a new political dynamic in which the Albanian community will begin rising up against their own political leaders. The staunchly secular Albanian elite in Macedonia has already lost influence over the largely religious community. The Muslim Albanian community seeks a leadership that will represent them.

One thing that intrigues me is the choice of a mosque as a meeting point for the protests in Skopje.

Last Mod: 27 Temmuz 2014, 22:22
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