31 October 2006

Sacrilege near the Memorial to the Kosovo Battle Knights

Digging up Gazimestan Hill*

*Kosovo Field - or literally the Field of Blackbirds - is a famous medieval battlefield in the Serbia's southern province of Kosovo. It stretches from the provincial capital of Pristina to Mitrovica in the north. On June 28, 1389, St. Vitus Day, a coalition of Christian forces led by the Serbian Prince Lazar and his knights fought on this field the invading Ottoman army of Sultan Murad and his vassals. Both the Prince and the Sultan died in the battle. The Serbs consider the battle as one of the most important events in their national history and the Church venerates Prince Lazar as a Martyr Saint. The location where the final battles were fought is called Gazimestan . On the Gazimestan hill a  Memorial tower of Kosovo Battle Knights was constructed in memory of the fallen heroes. The entire area is considered as the most sacred Christian Orthodox site. The legend says that the meadows around the tower still hide the bones of Lazar's brave knights.
KIM Info Service, October 3, 2006

According to information obtained by journalists of KIM Radio from Caglavica, major construction work has been going on for the past few weeks near the monument to Kosovo heroes in Gazimestan near Pristina. According to eyewitness testimony, the work, which is being done by a Kosovo Albanian company, has arrived to almost one hundred meters from the memorial, next to which stands a KFOR security checkpoint. Intensive work is being done with construction machines on leveling the land and constructing buildings whose purpose is presently unknown.

Likewise, construction of some kind of industrial facility began a month ago near the town of Velika Hoca at a distance of 1.5 kilometers from the Orahovac-Suva Reka road. Officials in the Orahovac municipal administration advised that will be a factory for producing cardboard boxes. The consensus among the Serbs in Hoca is that this building will cause serious damage to the appearance of the environment and the town itself, the location of 12 medieval Serbian Orthodox churches. At the same time, KIM Radio learned that an Albanian businessman has already purchased an existing plastic products factory located even closer to town. On the day of purchase an Albanian flag was hoisted over the factory, practically at the very entrance of the only remaining Serb village in Orahovac municipality.

According to information obtained by the KIM Info Service there are plans to build a large hotel in immediate proximity to the monastery of Gorioc, not far from a large swimming pool that was built without a license. As a result of similar intentions at the end of 2004, when an Albanian businessman wanted to open two factories and a marble mine near the monastery of Visoki Decani, the UNMIK administration proclaimed it a protected zone, the first of its kind in Kosovo, prohibiting construction of private and industrial buildings in order to preserve the monastery complex and the natural beauty of the Decani canyon. Since them there have been multiple attempts and demands to obtain permission for individual projects whose realization has been prevented thus far by the UN administration.

According to report by KIM Radio from Caglavica, a UN official from Pristina who wished to remain anonymous stated that Albanian businessmen want to take advantage of the period until the status of protected zones around Serbian cultural and historical buildings is defined in order to illegally build industrial and other facilities near those monuments, and privatize existing Serb- or socially-owned property.

The recent construction work near Gazimestan, Hoca and certain monasteries has caused tremendous concern among Kosovo Serbs, since everyone knows there are plans that within the framework on the future status of the Province these landmarks are to become protected zones where urbanization and industrial construction will be prohibited in order to preserve the unique cultural and natural environment. Unfortunately, the nonexistence of urban plans and failure to respect the law in individual municipalities have resulted in a comprehensive flourishing of illegal construction. Construction is going on everywhere without licenses and without urban plans. Especially worrisome is the fact that the building of such objects in immediate proximity to Serbian cultural and monuments is an obvious planned attempt to obstruct the preservation of these cultural and natural sites, something upon which not only the Serbian Government but all the countries of the Contact Group, which have made negotiations on cultural heritage a priority, are insisting.