Search results for 'The MESA Thought Police'

OK. Who ARE the MESA Thought Police?

28 Sep

MEast-pol(click)

Readers have wanted to know.  I explain below.

MESA is the Middle Eastern Studies Association, an organization like the AAA for anthropologists or the MLA for – well, for practically anybody these days – that brings together American scholars of the Middle East.

The Thought Police (TP), are agents of that association charged with maintaining ideological correctness and compliance among the members of their community. They are not nearly as active now as they once were, largely because the ideological and intellectual climate has changed so radically in the past couple of decades, but they are still a body to be feared and respected in my opinion.

What did it used to take for them to open a file on you? Well, almost anything. Just being a Westerner (the definition of which was random and usually made up as they went along and according to circumstances and whim) immediately made you a potential target…or looking too WASP-y…or too inside-the-Beltway…or having a high-and-tight or any similarly military haircut.  Or, even if you’re from the region, but because you’re a Near Eastern Christian, and your immediate emotional attention is automatically drawn to Christianity’s losing struggle for survival there before it’s drawn to other regional issues that may also concern you deeply, or if you even suggested that life for non-Muslims in a Muslim world was not, historically or now, always paradise, you were immediately a potential target. If, out of intellectual affinity, or just your personal affective structure as a New Yorker, you exhibited as much concern for how Zionism is bad and morally destructive for Jews as you do to the painful suffering of Palestinians, chances are there’d be a file on you. If you weren’t falling over yourself during the 90s – burdened by post-colonial guilt and the most stupid, simplistic revisionism — trumpeting the superiority of Islamic civilization and its sophistication, and proclaiming the long-buried truth that all the learning of the classical world had been preserved in Baghdad and Damascus and Cordoba…ad nauseum (yes, there, and in a dinky provincial town called Constantinople….) or if you were caught even suggesting, heaven forbid, that maybe — just maybe — Arabs had simply conquered what were already the most sophisticated and civilized parts of the Greco-Roman and Sassanian worlds, or you weren’t apologizing for the Crusades, or if you didn’t immediately accept at face value the bloated claims of tolerance — completely unsupported by the historical record — that Islam often makes for itself, you were a target. If you weren’t willing to immediately “understand” any response of the Muslim world to the depredations of colonialism-neo-colonialism as — if not a legitimate form of resistance — as at least something that needs to be seen “in the context of…” you were immediately suspect.

You don’t necessarily need to be an Arab or an Arab-American of some sort to rise in the ranks of the TP. But Turks are usually too patient and soft-spoken to be as ruthless as necessary to make effective agents, and Iranians and their South-and-Central Asian cultural protégées are usually too invested in their dignity and aloofness — the whole cult of ta’arof and tahzeeb — to get down and dirty in the way necessary. To really make it to the top of the MESA TP, that famous Arab poetic sensibility, and the ability it gives to indulge in baroque rhetorical excess and some strategically used vein-popping anger and ranting, is usually a prerequisite.

But despite having clearly inherited those ranting skills, most TP agents are, tellingly, of the more déracinés strata of the societies they come from, or are ethnic-Americans embarrassed by their parents’ white wish, so a great deal of their zeal comes from the screamingly obvious need to overcompensate. So one of the more central elements or characteristics of this sociological profile is the TP intellectual’s inability to take religion seriously into any critical calculation of events, trends and processes in the region that is his oh-so-passionate object of concern. So, if you did have a reasoned philosophical critique of Islam, and even if it were only one very small part of your much larger intellectual apprehensions about monotheism generally,* there was no possible way to engage them on that level. Because they’re really just a bunch of “more-royalist-than-the-king”, middle-class white-boys-and-girls, raised in a spiritual vacuum without the vaguest of metaphysical impulses or yearnings, they simply think of religion as epiphenomenal, in the most retrograde, reductive Marxist manner of thinking imaginable, and your “critique” would immediately be reduced to just a façade for your racism and anti-Muslim prejudice. Don’t even expect to be listened to.

What could or can they do to you? Well, if you’re not in academia yourself, aside from how generally unpleasant and abrasive they will succeed in making any kind of interaction with them, they really can’t do much. But that abrasiveness is unpleasant enough an experience to want to make the weak-kneed run and hide; and the most “weak-kneed” especially includes non-Middle-Eastern or non-Muslim academics in the field who are terrified of professional marginalization and loss of funding. Otherwise, you’ll simply be subjected to intolerable, self-righteous tirades. (One bridge over the humor-desert of Turkey that I always felt bound Greeks to Arabs was a similar sense of sardonic wit and irony and infectious jokiness – but absolute, literal-minded humorlessness is a prerequisite to being a TP agent.) You’ll be assaulted with hostile silence and disdain. If you’re not among the weak-kneed and you continue to challenge them in some way, they’ll resort to that cheapest weapon in the professional intellectual’s arsenal – the pulling of academic rank: “Do you even know anything about the Middle East, Niko?!?”  Well. Yeah. Actually habibti, for a layman, I kinda do. Or at least enough to be able to formulate an intelligent question or set of intelligent questions about certain things that you – despite your credentials – seem to be having an extraordinarily difficult time in answering. So maybe that inability on your part should be more the object of your focus and not what you’re convinced are my prejudices and hatreds. Ultimately, complete ostracism was the maximum punishment, with no regard for the social or personal intimacy previously established and which you thought might soften the tone of the discourse and make more productive talk possible. None of that mattered or came into play. How could the warmest of friendships compete with the shrill thrill and smug, self-satisfaction that being a successful TP agent gave one? No contest.

It sounds like a man’s job, but that’s deceptive. This is because at the height of the TP’s influence over its environment in the 90s, it had, as its allies, a certain kind of rough-sandpaper feminism, and that period’s politically correct pedantry, that could only be truly drawn together into a successful act of rhetorical terror by a woman, and it’s the memory of the TP women of that time that still sends chills down my spine.

Times have changed. They’re not nearly as powerful in their reach as they once were. The “events of 2001” – as I’ve taken to calling them, since all other monikers seem to me too loaded with extraneous crap — took a lot of wind out of their sails, because even they had to face (though till this day they’d down a pitcher of cyanide before they admit it) the fact of the excesses to which their political positions (“positions…” rage mostly) had been giving tacit – however indirect – approval. (And this despite the immediate – before the smoke had even started clearing — blossoming of the rich Sontagian “chickens-coming-home-to-roost” discourse that they could have taken shelter in.) At first they acted like cornered animals, lashing out and gashing and slashing in whatever manner they could. They then took asylum in the “not the right time to talk about this” position. (For those who always think it’s “not the right time” to talk about something, any time, it turns out, is the wrong time; they just want to wait until, hopefully, the issue or challenge goes away.) Eventually they grew more and more silent. And then they got jobs. And then starting hitting fifty. And probably menopause.

I don’t think about them much today. But at the height of their powers and reach back in the day they were a true terror. And I would rather have faced the Spanish Inquisition or maybe even the horrors of the Yezhovshchina, than be confronted with them and their ferocity again.

Lyubyanka_The Lubyanka, former KGB headquarters in Moscow. (click)

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* On what “my story” is religiously — a word I don’t like to use but am forced to resort to — something other readers have wanted to know…I’ll have more to say at some point soon.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

A Reader wants to know: “Who are the MESA Thought Police?! You have to tell us!”

13 Sep

Ooy.

That’s a long story.  And I’ve been off their radar for a while and not sure I wanna go back on it.

Some day soon I’ll explain.  Put “MESA Thought Police” in blog’s search box in the meantime and you might be able to piece together quite a bit.

N

Strange Border Kidnappings of Serbs in Kosovo — and some thoughts of mine

17 Jun

Kosovo_map

I haven’t written much, or anything really, about Kosovo, because of all the places I visited on this Balkans trip it was, despite its frantic, chaotic energy, not only a place that still felt deeply scarred itself, but also the place that left its deepest marks on me as well.  It’s a place that hurt me.  And it’s been hard for me to know where to begin to write about it.  An innate warmth and sympathy I feel for Serbs generally left me terribly depressed at the sad state of what’s left of Serbian life in Kosovo.  And yet, simultaneously, l was left overwhelmed and trembling at the mountain of atonement Serbs will have to seek out for themselves for the horrendous crimes they committed there, not just in the 1990s, but throughout the twentieth century, before they can really face a future with a clear conscience.

And then, I found almost all Kosovar Albanians deeply likeable.  I wouldn’t call them friendly exactly — Albanians don’t really do “friendly” — but they were…dashing, shall we say, in a particularly Balkan way that was immensely attractive and were always helpful with directions or anything else we needed while on our journey.  I’m also a sucker for physical beauty and I will swear to any God in the universe that I have never been in a country with such a rich embarrassment of gorgeous people of both genders in my entire life.

But whatever I may have felt about Kosovars, I will believe the most nightmarish things possible about the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army), a collection of Berlin club bouncers, heroin smugglers, white slave traders and mob hitmen to whom the world granted the government of an independent country on a silver platter — simply because, as is usually the case in the Balkans, the West had no idea what it was doing and just wanted the whole crazy place and its people out of its hair — while they, the KLA, continue to operate as a semi-incognito organization only slightly less criminal and murderous (and I’m not even sure about the “slightly”) than the drug cartels of Colombia or Mexico.

This story of KLA members abducting Kosovo Serbs, killing them and then selling their organs — especially kidneys — on the black market has been around for a while.  The New Yorker did a story on it back in May of 2013 (posted in full below) that seemed kind of sceptical, but this reportage (video below) by Vice News, an independent news outlet originally from Montreal now based in Brooklyn — and a serious media source we should really look out for in the future; they do great work (see 2013 article about them from The Guardian) — claims that the allegations are now being taken seriously by the Hague and the European Union.

What concerns me is why the story had been forgotten for so long and I think the answer is present and not so subtly coded in The New Yorker article itself.  For about the first, I’d say, two-thirds of the piece, the allegations against the KLA are treated as completely believable.  Then, based on the evidence of one single individual, whom the KLA claims is a Serbian plant meant to discredit it, and the incoherence of his testimony, the article does a complete one-hundred-and-eighty degree turn and suddenly all kinds of doubts are cast on the potential truth behind these KLA crimes.  And then the clear and constant bias of the Western media can be heard loud and clear: the Serb can never just be the victim.  And the not so subtle suggestion is made that these allegations against the KLA might just be another example of Serbs’ supposed pathological propensity for creating nationalist mythologies and martyrdom narratives for themselves and nothing else.

Kudos to Vice News for bringing the story to the forefront again and shame on a publication with the reputation of The New Yorker  for pandering to its readership’s expectations of who the bad guys in the movie always are.

From Vice News:

“In the wake of the war in Kosovo, investigative journalist Michael Montgomery traveled to the Balkans to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Serbs. His scrutiny brought to light evidence that suggested links between a black-market crime syndicate and the upper echelon of the Kosovo Liberation Army—indicating that the end of war doesn’t necessarily mean the end of war crimes.”

 and:

The New Yorker story:

A Reporter at Large

Bring Up the Bodies

Kosovo’s leaders have been accused of grotesque war crimes. But can anyone prove it?

by May 6, 2013

Haci Thami130506_r23468_p465Hashim Thaci, the Prime Minister, helped lead the Kosovo Liberation Army during the war. He says, “The K.L.A. was big, and you always have abusers in such organizations.” Photograph by Alex Majoli.

After the conflict in Kosovo ended, in June, 1999, a tribunal in The Hague set out to punish the perpetrators of atrocities. Louise Arbour, the lead prosecutor, described Kosovo—a former province of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia—as “one vast crime scene.” Her investigators’ primary target was Slobodan Milosevic, the Serb who led Yugoslavia. Milosevic had claimed that Kosovo’s majority group, ethnic Albanians, treated ethnic Serbs like slaves, and armed forces under his control had waged a campaign of mass murder there, slaughtering more than ten thousand Kosovars. NATO, relying heavily on American forces, launched air strikes to stop Milosevic, and received crucial assistance from the Kosovo Liberation Army, the main rebel force in the region. K.L.A. scouts relayed Serbian tank coördinates to Green Berets, who passed on the information to American fighter jets. Three months after the air strikes began, Serbia surrendered. Milosevic was eventually arrested and sent to The Hague, where he died in prison, of a heart attack.

In Kosovo, meanwhile, the K.L.A. officially disbanded, but many of its members joined political parties. A party led by Hashim Thaci, the K.L.A.’s political chief, rose to power. In 2008, Thaci became the first Prime Minister of an independent Kosovo. Two years later, Vice-President Joe Biden hailed him as “the George Washington of Kosovo.”

Today, nearly two thousand people remain missing in Kosovo, a country that José Pablo Baraybar, a Peruvian who headed the U.N.’s Office on Missing Persons and Forensics, described to me as “one of the most exhumed places on earth.” DNA technology has helped investigators identify hundreds of bodies, many of them buried in mass graves. But, even in an era of sophisticated forensic science, definitive evidence can be elusive: in one case, the Serbs burned hundreds of corpses in a lead smelter.

Dozens of Serbs have been convicted of war crimes since the fighting stopped, but they were not the only ones responsible for violence. In Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, rumors circulated that, in the summer of 1999, K.L.A. paramilitaries had trucked prisoners across the border to secret detention camps in Albania, where they were tortured and, sometimes, killed. But, in public, Kosovars embraced a “silence taboo,” in the words of Vehbi Kajtazi, a journalist in Pristina. The men who led the K.L.A. remained a fearsome presence in the country, posing a threat to anyone who spoke out, and ethnic Serbs were a powerless bloc, falling to less than two per cent of the population. Unlike Argentina, South Africa, and Sierra Leone, Kosovo failed to establish its own truth-and-reconciliation commission.

The task of accounting for the missing was left largely to outsiders. One of them was Michael Montgomery, an American radio journalist who had helped expose the massacre of forty-one Kosovar Albanians by Serbian forces in the village of Qyshk, on May 14, 1999. He began amassing troubling stories involving the K.L.A. Multiple sources told him that, in the days after Milosevic’s defeat, the K.L.A. had shipped accused traitors to camps in Albania. A former K.L.A. member recalled guarding seven prisoners in the back of a van, their mouths taped and their hands cuffed, as they crossed the border. A K.L.A. driver said that he had been given orders not to hurt anyone; once his captives were in Albania, they were taken to a house where doctors were present. The driver heard that the doctors sampled the prisoners’ blood and assessed their health. Several sources implied that this caretaking had a sinister purpose: the K.L.A. was harvesting the prisoners’ organs and selling them on the black market.

Montgomery was concerned that these stories might be propaganda planted by the Serbian government, so he tracked down additional sources. Three people recalled taking prisoners to a yellow house outside the Albanian town of Burrel. Another K.L.A. driver told Montgomery that there were only two places where he “brought people but never picked anyone up”: the yellow house and a cream-colored farmhouse near the airport in Tirana, Albania’s capital. The farmhouse, he noted, had a “very strong smell of medicine.” The driver added that he sometimes heard other drivers talking about “organs, kidneys, and trips from the house to the airport.” Since the late nineteen-nineties, Istanbul—a short flight from Tirana—has been a destination for transplant tourism.

In late 2002, a K.L.A. member told Montgomery that the group had made “a fortune” by trafficking body parts, primarily kidneys. C., as Montgomery called the source, claimed that the K.L.A. received about forty-five thousand dollars per body. Most shipments involved body parts from “two or three Serbs,” though C. knew of an instance when the K.L.A. “did five Serbs together.”

In late 2002 and early 2003, Montgomery travelled with a colleague to Albania, carrying a map drawn by his informants. It directed them to the yellow house and to the farmhouse near the airport. But they didn’t knock on the doors. Montgomery thought that they needed stronger evidence before confronting the occupants. “The only way we felt we could report this was if bodies were recovered and matched with missing people,” he told me.

Montgomery decided to put his investigations aside, but he didn’t let the matter go entirely. He sent a memo to the U.N.’s missing-persons office in Kosovo, asserting that, in 1999 and 2000, between one hundred and three hundred prisoners were taken to Albania, where some were dispatched to a “makeshift clinic” that extracted “body organs from the captives.” The U.N. forwarded the memo to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, or I.C.T.Y. The tribunal, established in The Hague in 1993, was designed to bring a measure of justice to those who had suffered horrors in the Balkans. The Serbs did not see the tribunal as impartial, and they have remained hostile to it. Tomislav Nikolic, Serbia’s current President, said recently that the tribunal “was founded to try the Serbian people.” In fact, most of the convictions in I.C.T.Y. courtrooms have been of ethnic Serbs, in part because the Milosevic regime made little effort to conceal its crimes. In Qyshk, Serbian militia members responsible for the massacre left behind photographs of themselves posing with machine guns; the images were later used to identify some of the culprits.

The lead prosecutor at the I.C.T.Y. was Carla Del Ponte, an indefatigable fifty-six-year-old lawyer from the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland. She had joined the tribunal in September, 1999, and she had tried dozens of Serbs for crimes against humanity. The K.L.A., she suspected, had committed significantly fewer war crimes, but scale is not exculpatory.

Del Ponte received Montgomery’s memo as she was preparing to indict Ramush Haradinaj, a former bouncer who joined the K.L.A., rose to commander, and then went on to become the Prime Minister of U.N.-administered Kosovo. She intended to charge Haradinaj with “planning, instigating, ordering, committing, or otherwise aiding and abetting” the abuse of dozens of prisoners. The indictment also accused him of participating in “the abduction of persons who were later found murdered.” In documents sent to Del Ponte, Montgomery quoted his source C. saying that Haradinaj “must have known” about organ trafficking, in part because his brother Daut was close to someone “heavily involved” in the trade. (In 2002, a U.N. court convicted Daut, a former K.L.A. member, of involvement in the murder of four political rivals.)

Del Ponte was not alone in her dim view of the K.L.A. President Bill Clinton’s Balkan envoy, Robert Gelbard, had called the K.L.A. a “terrorist group,” and the organization had regularly been accused of gangsterism. In the late nineties, Italian police had arrested an Albanian for trafficking women and marijuana across the Adriatic Sea by speedboat; the suspect confessed to brokering drugs-for-guns deals between the K.L.A. and the Mafia. An Interpol representative, appearing before Congress in 2000, testified that the K.L.A. had “helped transport two billion dollars’ worth of drugs annually into Western Europe.” After the war, critics have alleged, many former K.L.A. members continued to nurture strong ties with the underworld.

Del Ponte knew that securing a war-crimes conviction against Haradinaj would not be easy. Insurgencies tend to be improvised affairs, without battle orders or formal communiqués. The K.L.A. prized secrecy and stealth. Looking to buttress the case, Del Ponte authorized Michael Montgomery to escort a U.N. team to the mysterious yellow house. One morning in 2004, under a low, granite sky, Montgomery, Baraybar—the Peruvian U.N. official—and half a dozen U.N. and I.C.T.Y. personnel travelled, in a convoy of S.U.V.s, down a dirt road outside Burrel. Following protocol, they brought along Arben Dyla, an Albanian prosecutor, who mocked their “silly” expedition. “There are no Serbs here,” he told the group. “But, if anyone did bring Serbs here and killed them, that would have been a good thing.” (Dyla denies making this remark.)

They arrived at the yellow house that Montgomery had seen a year earlier—only now it was white. Baraybar got close enough to determine that, beneath a thin coat of fresh paint, “the thing was yellow.”

The owner reluctantly let them inside. Baraybar, who was trained in forensic science, pulled on a white Tyvek suit and walked around the place. It smelled stale and sour. He sprayed Luminol—a chemical that causes traces of blood to glow—and identified a stain on the living-room floor. The owner explained to a translator who was part of the U.N. contingent that his wife had given birth at home; later, he said that the blood had come from a slaughtered animal. “Do you slaughter chickens in your living room?” Baraybar asked me. “It was quite bizarre.” Moreover, the stain had a square edge, as if blood had dripped off the corner of a table. “Is that proof of anything?” Baraybar said. “No, it isn’t. But it’s a clue.”

At one point, Baraybar went into the back yard, and noticed a pile of trash inside a thicket of brush. He dug past food scraps and plastic and retrieved gauze, syringes, drip bags, vials, an empty bottle of Tranxene, and an empty foil packet of Buscopan. He called a doctor at the U.N., who told him that Tranxene was an anti-anxiety drug and Buscopan a muscle relaxer and anti-spasmodic; both could be used to sedate patients. Baraybar asked the owner about the pharmaceuticals. He said that a nurse visited the house “on occasion” and doled out pills and medical supplies. Baraybar found the explanation “incoherent.” He placed the items in Ziploc bags, along with a fragment of cloth that he deemed “consistent with surgical overalls.”

There was a cemetery near the property, and when Baraybar walked over to it locals confronted him and told him to leave. The U.N. investigators decided to return to Pristina. Baraybar shipped the Ziploc bags to The Hague, and Del Ponte’s team inspected the material. Though suspicious, it wasn’t strong enough to anchor a case, and it couldn’t be connected to Haradinaj. Archivists at the I.C.T.Y. filed the objects away. Eventually, someone threw them out.

Del Ponte pressed ahead with prosecutions, but she discovered that it was extremely difficult to secure witnesses. A Kosovar who had testified in the murder trial of Haradinaj’s brother Daut was gunned down; an internal U.N. document noted that the Kosovar had been expected to deliver “vital” testimony in “other war-crimes cases.” Another witness told the court that “there were persons . . . whose names don’t even appear on witness lists, because they have been killed.” The I.C.T.Y. had a witness-protection program, but it was largely ineffective. Although public transcripts protected witnesses by using pseudonyms, defendants learned their identities before trials, and, during proceedings, sat only a few feet away from them. “Who were we protected from?” one witness told me. “Everyone in the court knew me.” In April, 2008, judges in The Hague acquitted Haradinaj, but they noted their “strong impression that the trial was being held in an atmosphere where witnesses felt unsafe.” (No evidence has come to light connecting Haradinaj to organ trafficking. His lawyer denied that his client had committed or sanctioned any crimes, and said that it was “false and defamatory” to suggest that Haradinaj’s acquittal was “tainted by intimidation.”)

The prosecution of Fatmir Limaj—a former K.L.A. leader and a close confidant of Prime Minister Thaci—had unravelled in similar fashion. In February, 2003, Limaj surrendered at a ski resort in Slovenia, where he was vacationing with Thaci. Limaj was accused of overseeing a detention camp, in Llapushnik, Kosovo, where prisoners were subjected to beatings, starvation, and torture. Two of his deputies were also indicted.

Del Ponte wouldn’t need to prove that Limaj wielded an axe or fired a pistol—only that he knew about atrocities and did not stop them. Her prosecution was guided by the legal theory of “command responsibility,” which dates to the fifteenth century, when Peter von Hagenbach, a governor under the Duke of Burgundy, was tried, convicted, and beheaded for presiding over the brutal occupation of a town in the Upper Rhine. “Not only was this the first recorded international war-crimes trial; it was the first recorded trial in which a commander was held responsible for crimes by his subordinates,” David Luban, an expert on war crimes at Georgetown University, told me. After the Second World War, tribunals vigorously applied the doctrine of command responsibility to Japanese and Nazi officers.

According to an internal I.C.T.Y. document from 2004, Limaj’s relatives and associates launched a campaign of “serious intimidation of and interference with potential witnesses.” Two men showed up at the house of one witness and warned him not to testify, adding, “If you make the mistake of going there, you will be dead.” Someone called the wife of a second witness and threatened, “You will be liquidated.” A third witness withdrew after a relative overheard a group of men, at a café in Pristina, saying of any people who testified against Limaj, “We will burn them, their families, and their houses.” A fourth witness refused to meet an I.C.T.Y. investigator, explaining that he “did not want to die.” Nazim Bllaca, a former K.L.A. member, told me, “This is how the Limaj case ended.” On November 30, 2005, the tribunal acquitted Limaj, though the judges observed that a “context of fear, in particular with respect to witnesses living in Kosovo, was very perceptible throughout the trial.” (A relative of one of Limaj’s indicted deputies was convicted of contempt, because he “knowingly interfered with” a witness.)

Bllaca says that he participated in more than a dozen violent acts on behalf of former K.L.A. members, including murder, kidnapping, and witness intimidation. Now under witness protection, he has testified in two cases, both of which have led to convictions. “It was very simple,” he told me. “We worked in three lanes. Kill collaborators, kill Hague witnesses, and kill L.D.K. people”—members of the Democratic League of Kosovo, the chief rival of the party led by Thaci and Limaj. In the months after the war, many L.D.K. members were murdered; one was killed at home on his couch, and another was assassinated on a street in Pristina, in the middle of the day.

In a leaked 2005 memo, Germany’s foreign spy service asserted that Haradinaj and other Kosovar leaders had inoculated themselves against criminal investigations by leveraging their connections in Kosovo’s military and intelligence agencies, and throughout the Balkan underworld. Kosovar leaders had avoided “getting their hands dirty” even as their henchmen engaged in tactics such as contract killings and bribing officials.

Last year, I met with Limaj in Pristina. He denied any responsibility for prisoner abuse. When I asked him whether he had directed his subordinates to frighten witnesses into recanting testimony, he said, with a pinched smile, “I was in The Hague. If someone here did something which was wrong, this person has to respond.” After Limaj was released from detention, Kosovars celebrated in the streets of Pristina.

In December, 2007, Del Ponte stepped down as the lead prosecutor, saying that it was “time to return to normal life.” She soon published a memoir, “Madame Prosecutor,” in which she recounted her successes in chasing Italian mobsters, Rwandan genocidaires, and Serbian generals. But she fumed about her inability to make charges stick against the K.L.A. The Limaj and Haradinaj investigations were “the most frustrating” part of her time in The Hague—and proof that “impunity shrouds powerful political and military figures” in Kosovo. She voiced her suspicion that the K.L.A. had trafficked the organs of prisoners, and offered an account of her team’s visit to the yellow house.

Del Ponte told me that “the international community” had shown a “fear-driven reluctance to apply the law” in Kosovo, adding that the United States had displayed “no political will to find out the real truths.” The K.L.A. had been a reliable ally of the Americans during the war, but it struck Del Ponte as hypocritical for the U.S. to ignore possible crimes by the group’s leaders, given the U.S. condemnation of Serbian misconduct. She also felt that allowing alleged perpetrators of war crimes to achieve leadership positions in Kosovo undermined the country’s prospects for stability.

After the publication of Del Ponte’s book, the Council of Europe decided to look deeper into the matter of organ trafficking. It assigned the task to Dick Marty, a senator from Switzerland who represented his country at the council, and who had looked into alleged human-rights abuses across the continent. His team had located C.I.A. “black sites” in Poland and Romania, and had exposed the murder of political opponents in Chechnya. Marty sent several investigators into the field. Experts in the region told him to expect a challenge, noting that the criminal networks in Albania and Kosovo were “probably more difficult to penetrate than the Cosa Nostra.”

Just as Marty’s team was getting to work, Hashim Thaci became the Prime Minister of Kosovo. In February, 2008, a month after taking office, he declared Kosovo’s independence. Joyous crowds in Pristina launched fireworks, and a giant yellow sculpture, forming the word “newborn,” in English, was installed in a plaza. Thaci stood before Kosovo’s parliament and declared, “From this day onward, Kosovo is proud, independent, and free.”

Not everyone saw Thaci in heroic terms. The 2005 German intelligence document claimed that, after the war, Thaci presided over an organized-crime empire whose leaders came from the Drenica Valley, in central Kosovo. The Drenica group allegedly coördinated its activities with Albanian gangsters throughout Europe, engaging in money laundering and maintaining links to arms and drug smugglers. According to the German report, the group kept a “professional killer” in its employ.

Not long after Thaci became Prime Minister, Lutfi Dervishi, a urologist in Pristina, began pushing to open a transplant clinic. In Kosovo, doctors need official approval to perform such operations, so Dervishi turned to a former associate, Shaip Muja, a surgeon who was working as Thaci’s health adviser. Muja made several inquiries, and in March, 2008, Dervishi opened a clinic. During the next eight months, two dozen organ transplants took place there.

That October, a young Turkish man, who had agreed to accept twenty thousand dollars for one of his kidneys, arrived at the clinic in Pristina. The kidney was removed and placed inside a seventy-four-year-old Israeli man, who had paid ninety thousand euros for it. The operations were performed by Dervishi and by a Turkish surgeon, Yusuf Sonmez, who is known in the Turkish press as Dr. Frankenstein, for his prominent role in the black-market organ trade. (Buying organs from volunteers is outlawed everywhere in the world except Iran; Luc Noël, a doctor at the World Health Organization, told me, “Human bodies should not be the source of financial gain.”)

The Turkish donor was released from the hospital while he was still woozy, and, when he got to the airport, police officers began questioning him. He said that he had donated a kidney, but the officers were suspicious and raced to the clinic, where they arrested Dervishi and his son. (Sonmez had fled.) The clinic was shut down, and Dervishi, his son, and three others (including Sonmez, who remains a fugitive) were charged with human trafficking and organized crime by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo. The trial is currently under way, and a verdict is expected soon. According to the indictment, high-ranking Kosovars were complicit in the clinic’s activities and encouraged health officials to grant a bogus license.

Two days after prosecutors released the indictment, Dick Marty, the Swiss senator, published the results of his investigation. Marty claimed that Thaci and the Drenica group, which included Fatmir Limaj, had built a “formidable power base in the organized criminal enterprises” in the late nineties, and had exerted “violent control” over the heroin trade in the region. During and after the war, Marty wrote, Thaci was the “boss” of a “network of unlawful activity”—one that included a constellation of detention camps in Albania, where some prisoners were subjected to abuse, including torture, murder, and organ harvesting. One of the “leading co-conspirators,” Marty suggested, was Shaip Muja, the surgeon who became Thaci’s health adviser. Marty identified four sites, among them the yellow house outside Burrel, that had served as “way stations” in an organ-trafficking trade. At the farmhouse near the Tirana airport, prisoners were killed, “usually by a gunshot to the head,” before “being operated on.”

The sale of organs at Dervishi’s clinic, Marty wrote, indicated that Kosovars had continued organ trafficking after the war, “albeit in other forms.” He concluded, “Signs of collusion between the criminal class and high political and institutional office bearers are too numerous and too serious to be ignored.” He acknowledged that Serbia’s campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo had been “appalling,” but insisted that the dynamic of violence was “more complex” than many had assumed: “There cannot and must not be one justice for the winners and another for the losers.”

His accusations had an explosive effect in Kosovo. Thaci called Marty’s report “an attack” on “Kosovo, the Albanian people, and me, but also against the U.S., the U.N., and NATO.” Thaci appeared on an Albanian television program and threatened to expose every Kosovar and Albanian who had assisted Marty, saying, “These individuals will be disgraced.”

In private, Thaci spoke with less bravado. He fretted to friends about whether he could still look his eleven-year-old son in the face. He summoned the American, French, German, Italian, and British envoys. “He was rocked,” Jean-François Fitou, the French Ambassador to Kosovo at the time, recalled. Thaci offered to resign if they considered him a diplomatic liability. They discussed Marty’s report. Although it was based on a sustained investigation, it did not provide conclusive details of any single crime, nor did it name sources, other than identifying them as “distinct and independent” K.L.A. insiders. Moreover, Marty’s findings carried no judicial weight. The ambassadors told Thaci that, unless hard evidence emerged, he could count on their support.

Last spring, I flew to the Balkans and visited Serbia’s Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor, in Belgrade. I traded my passport for a security badge, and was escorted upstairs to see Bruno Vekaric, a deputy prosecutor. Vekaric, a Serb who started his job in 2003, has helped secure the convictions of dozens of people for war crimes—nearly all of them Serbs. He has pursued the organ-trafficking allegations as intensely as anyone. His goal, he has said, is to find out “who committed those monstrous crimes, who was capturing and killing people for trafficking in their organs.” He is not the only Serbian government official who speaks as if it were an established fact that the K.L.A. trafficked organs. Such officials contend that the problems with securing witnesses at the Limaj and the Haradinaj trials, coupled with the discarded evidence from the yellow house, strongly suggest a coverup. Recently, Serbia’s minister of justice said that the I.C.T.Y. had “spat in the face of Serbian victims.”

Vekaric, who had invited me to visit, excitedly led me into a boardroom, its windows obscured by venetian blinds. At the end of a table sat a man wearing a black baseball cap that shaded his eyes. Vekaric introduced him and offered to let me conduct an interview, provided that I used a pseudonym for the man, who was in Serbia’s witness-protection program.

He was thirty-nine years old, with a mustache and a broken nose, and asked that I call him Adrian. Half Albanian, he grew up in Switzerland, where he became part of a community of Albanian expatriates. In 1997, he joined the K.L.A. Upon enlistment, he said, he went off to train with the French Foreign Legion. Then he travelled to Albania. Once there, he said, he headed toward the border with Kosovo, stopping at a camp near Kukes. Michael Montgomery and Dick Marty have both identified Kukes as the site of an abandoned factory that the K.L.A. transformed into a weapons depot, a barracks, and a jail.

“I met some doctors and started training with them,” Adrian said. “They told me how to take organs out, how to put them aside, and how to transport them.” One of the doctors, he noted, was Lutfi Dervishi—the urologist from the transplant clinic in Pristina.

One day in the spring of 1998, Adrian’s commander stepped on a land mine while on patrol in Kosovo, suffering grave injuries. Adrian and five others carried him, on a stretcher, to the Albanian border, but he died along the way. A van arrived at the border to pick up the commander’s body. Adrian accepted a ride, and was dropped off near the village of Helshan, where another K.L.A. camp had been established—a few tents and a converted schoolhouse. Adrian noticed that two senior K.L.A. leaders were present: Jakup Krasniqi and Sabit Geci. Krasniqi was then the spokesman for the K.L.A., and is now the president of Kosovo’s parliament. Geci headed the K.L.A.’s military police.

This was a crucial turn in Adrian’s story. In July, 2011, a European Union court found Geci guilty of war crimes, based on evidence of prisoner abuse at Kukes and another camp, Cahan. Former K.L.A. officials had long denied the existence of detention camps in Albania, but the Geci trial proved otherwise, and marked one of the most prominent convictions to date of a K.L.A. leader. The judges rendered their verdict after sixteen witnesses, most of them former captives, testified to scenes of depravity.

A Kosovar Albanian I’ll call Enver testified about being detained in Kukes, along with his brother. They had been accused of being spies—charges that they denied. One night, the guards took Enver and his brother into an interrogation room. Enver said that Geci watched as guards beat another prisoner, clubbed him with a rubber-wrapped baseball bat, and rubbed salt into his wounds. Geci himself beat the prisoner with a crutch. He pistol-whipped Enver, and told his men to beat him with metal bars; Enver repeatedly lost consciousness, and they tortured him further by dunking his head in water. On another occasion, the guards at Kukes fitted him and his brother into bulletproof jackets and fired Kalashnikovs at their stomachs until they collapsed. Later, a guard shot Enver’s brother in the knee. Enver begged for help, but his brother bled all night and died the next day.

After saluting Geci and Krasniqi at the camp in Helshan, Adrian told me, he was summoned to the converted schoolhouse. The K.L.A. officers there knew him, and were aware of his medical training. “There were school desks, three in a row, that formed a table,” he said. Three doctors, including Dervishi, stood around the table. K.L.A. guards dragged in a young man—“nineteen or twenty years old”—and lifted him onto the desks. “I didn’t know who he was or his nationality at the time,” Adrian said. The young man’s face was covered with fresh-looking bruises.

Someone tore off the young man’s shirt and splashed rubbing alcohol over his chest. Guards grabbed his wrists and ankles. Adrian suddenly realized what was happening: the prisoner’s organs were to be harvested. He gripped a scalpel and “started cutting” into the young man’s chest. Adrian recalled hearing him scream, in Serbian, “Bože pomozi mi! Nemojte to da mi radite!” (“God help me! Please don’t do this to me!”)

“That was when I figured out that he wasn’t an Albanian,” Adrian told me. Next, he sawed through the rib cage with a bayonet. While two doctors, standing across the table, lifted the prisoner’s ribs, he carved out the heart as it was still pulsing. The young Serb died.

Adrian said that he placed the heart in a box filled with preserving liquids. He put the box in a small cooler and carried it outside to an idling green Volvo 704 sedan. He fitted the cooler into the trunk’s spare-tire cavity. The entire procedure took about forty-five minutes, though to Adrian it “felt like an eternity.” Before he left the camp, Geci congratulated him and slapped him on the back.

Six months later, Adrian said, he received orders to collect a cooler from a house outside Burrel—the notorious yellow house. Adrian said that a doctor, in scrubs, met him at the door and handed him the cooler. Adrian drove to a military airport near Tirana, where a guard opened a gate to a runway. “Then we saw a private jet,” Adrian said. “It had a Turkish flag on the back of the plane.” I now grasped why Vekaric had been so eager for me to meet Adrian: his eyewitness account filled gaps that had stymied prosecutors and investigators for years.

When I asked Adrian if these episodes had darkened his view of the K.L.A., he said that he had “made a wall” in his mind and continued fighting for the group, and for another separatist movement. But in 2002, he said, “I had a problem with my conscience.” He renounced both groups but stayed in Kosovo. Not long afterward, he said, a former K.L.A. commander retaliated by kidnapping him, beating him, and administering electric shocks. He complained to a U.N. police officer; the assailant was eventually convicted of battery. Soon afterward, Adrian said, someone tossed a grenade at his home. He went into hiding, in various Balkan countries, before finally heading to Belgrade and seeking protection from the Serbian authorities.

I asked him if he felt like a traitor.

“I’m not speaking against the Albanian people,” Adrian said. “I’m speaking against people who committed crimes. I gave up everything I had in Switzerland to fight for the K.L.A., so I am not a traitor or a spy. I’m just trying to become a good person. It’s been enough for me to hide all these things in my life. I cannot do it anymore.”

He admitted, though, that he still had some secrets. “There are too many things, too many stories, too many murders that no one has ever heard about,” he said. “Many people saw things. If all of them speak as I speak, these cases would be resolved.”

Adrian’s testimony was striking, but it also seemed to connect one too many dots. By his account, he had participated in the barbaric murder of a Serb, received praise from a notorious war criminal, taken a suspicious package from a doctor at the yellow house, and delivered this parcel to a plane bound for Turkey. And his description of the surgery seemed bizarre: why, for example, had the Serb not been fully sedated?

I decided to see how much of Adrian’s story checked out. The K.L.A. had indeed encamped in Helshan, and in 2004 prosecutors presented in court the testimony of someone who claimed that a K.L.A. veteran had beaten him and administered electric shocks; the initials of the accuser matched those of Adrian’s real name. That same year, the BBC reported that a grenade had been lobbed at the house of someone sharing Adrian’s real name. But most of the story was difficult to authenticate. Dervishi, who was under indictment, and Geci, who was imprisoned, refused to talk. Krasniqi denied ever visiting Helshan in 1998 and told me that the episode Adrian described “could only be constructed in legends and films.”

Prem Shekar, a cardiac-transplant surgeon at Harvard Medical School, told me that Adrian’s tale was medically implausible, starting with the rubbing-alcohol detail. A heart transplant requires a truly sterile environment, he said: “If you take a heart that is harvested in a contaminated scenario, the recipient will get a terrible infection.” He disparaged the notion of removing a warm, pulsing heart. Typically, the heart is injected with a cardioplegia solution while it is still inside the donor, paralyzing the organ. “Only once the heart has cooled and stopped can you take it out,” he told me. Shekar also doubted Adrian’s claim that he had sawed through the Serb’s ribs. In hospitals, Shekar said, hearts are harvested through a “midline split”; a sternal saw is used to crack the breastplate in half. Moreover, a heart can last only four to six hours outside a body. There was simply no way you could transport a heart from a remote camp in Albania to a hospital in Turkey, and then complete a lengthy operation, without the heart failing first. The surgery that Adrian described, Shekar said, would suffice only as “an extremely primitive form of torture.”

I did find Adrian’s supposed commander—the one who had allegedly stepped on a land mine—on a list of K.L.A. martyrs. But the official date of death was May, 1999, a year later than Adrian had indicated. Then I scanned the roster of K.L.A. veterans, but Adrian’s name was not on it. He told me that authorities in Kosovo were “doing their best” to erase his memory from the archives.

I interviewed Adrian four times—twice in person and twice over Skype—and the disparities piled up. Even after I notified him that the commander’s date of death was 1999, he insisted that the Helshan episode had taken place in 1998. “I saw a lot of dead people,” he replied, opening the possibility that he had mistaken the commander for someone else. Originally, he claimed that he hadn’t seen Lutfi Dervishi, the urologist, since that day in Helshan; a month afterward, he said that he had seen Dervishi “later on, way after the war,” at a reception in Kosovo.

He told me that he now lived with his wife in Belgrade; his ex-wife was in Kosovo, and was related to a “very high-level, V.I.P. person.” I tracked down one of Adrian’s relatives in Europe and called her to ask about these purported family connections. (Adrian refused to tell me his ex-wife’s name, or the names of any former K.L.A. fighters who could corroborate his story.) The woman laughed, dismissing Adrian as a pathological liar who had never belonged to the K.L.A. but had served time in Germany for dealing drugs. I discovered that Adrian also had a police record in Serbia, which included vehicle theft, threatening an official with an axe, and lying to police.

Meanwhile, Adrian, under the auspices of Serbia’s Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor, was sharing his tale with others. He got a very receptive hearing from Serbian state television, which, on September 10th last year, broadcast a ninety-minute documentary, “Anatomy of a Crime.” The opening twenty minutes featured Adrian—his face obscured and his voice distorted—describing how he cut out the heart of the young Serb. Vekaric, the deputy prosecutor, also appeared, telling the host, “We absolutely are convinced that he did what he says he did.”

The program’s message was clear: just as Serbian leaders had been held accountable for war crimes, Kosovar leaders needed to be held accountable for the kinds of acts described by Adrian. Within days, Adrian’s story was disseminated around the world, as the A.P., the Telegraph, and other media outlets published summaries of the program. An Agence France Presse report, which quoted Adrian describing how “the blood started pouring” as he made incisions in the rib cage, bore the headline “GRUESOME DETAILS ON WARTIME KOSOVO ORGAN HARVESTING.”

In July, 2010, an appeals court in The Hague granted prosecutors another opportunity to try Ramush Haradinaj, the former K.L.A. commander. (The tribunal does not prohibit double jeopardy.) Not long afterward, the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor in Belgrade notified prosecutors in The Hague that it had found a witness—one of Haradinaj’s subordinates in the K.L.A.—who had firsthand knowledge of Haradinaj’s misdeeds. That November, a prosecutor from The Hague, Paul Rogers, flew to Belgrade to meet the prospective witness.

Rogers approached the meeting with caution: it seemed unusual for a crucial witness to emerge five years after the indictment. He was also concerned about the possible bias of the Serbian government. But he assigned the witness a number, Eighty-one, and heard him out. In the summer of 1998, Eighty-one said, three men—one Serb and two Roma—were arrested by the K.L.A., accused of collaborating with Serbia, and thrown into a basement near the village of Jabllanice, in southern Kosovo. Haradinaj came to check on the captives. For the inspection, the three prisoners were taken into a courtyard. A Haradinaj lieutenant, nicknamed Toger, sliced off one of the Serb’s ears, while another lieutenant, nicknamed Maxhup, beat the Roma men with a baseball bat. Later, Eighty-one said, Toger cut out one of the Serb’s eyeballs with a knife.

Rogers noticed some inconsistencies in Eighty-one’s narrative, but people often waver when relating disturbing memories. Certainly, the account conformed to suspicions that prosecutors in The Hague had long held about K.L.A. leaders. And so, in November, 2011, Eighty-one flew to The Hague to testify, and underwent ten hours of direct examination in the courtroom.

Haradinaj’s lawyer, an Englishman named Ben Emmerson, leafed through a stack of Eighty-one’s previous statements. “The first account you gave to the prosecution was that only one of the boys’ ears was cut off and that it was cut off by Maxhup and that it was the Roma’s ear,” Emmerson said. “The second account you gave was that only one of the boys’ ears was cut off, but that it was cut off by Toger and that it was the Serb boy’s ear. . . . Now you’re saying two ears were cut off—one of a Roma and one of the Serb.” Emmerson also said, “I appreciate that it’s difficult for you to keep up with the various versions that you’ve given—but that’s because you’re making them up.”

At one point, Eighty-one blamed poor translation for the confusion. Emmerson produced a copy of a document that Eighty-one had signed earlier, attesting to the accuracy of the translations. “This is theatre!” Emmerson said. “The reason why you can’t keep them straight is because they’re all inventions.”

During closing arguments, Rogers conceded that Eighty-one’s testimony had been a disaster, and requested that the judges “ignore that evidence” while contemplating their verdict. Emmerson, in turn, said that Eighty-one was “so slippery with the slime of dishonesty that one felt the need to wash one’s hands.”

A few days later, Emmerson told me he was certain that Eighty-one had been “actively tutored” by Serbia’s intelligence agencies. Last November, Haradinaj was acquitted a second time; the judges cited Eighty-one’s “unreliable” statements as a factor.

Reading the transcripts of Eighty-one’s testimony, I noticed several similarities between him and Adrian. Both had offered unusually detailed accounts of K.L.A. savagery. Both had spent considerable time in the company of Serbian officials. Both had grown up in Switzerland. Both had a rap sheet in Serbia. In their testimony, both emphasized the importance of rank and mentioned saluting K.L.A. leaders—observations that could help prosecutors make a “command responsibility” argument.

I also learned something about the 2004 case in which Adrian had apparently testified to being kidnapped and abused by the former K.L.A. soldier. In March, 2007, the Supreme Court of Kosovo had ordered a retrial, arguing that the accusations were not “in any way corroborated by evidence.” Three years later, the prosecution withdrew its charges. At the time, the case had seemed another example of K.L.A. fighters evading accountability. Now it seemed one more instance of fabulation by Adrian.

Many questions remained. Had the Serbian government, frustrated with its inability to find conclusive evidence of Kosovar organ trafficking, deliberately planted a false story? When, and why, had Adrian begun working for Belgrade? Had his criminal record made him vulnerable to exploitation by the Serbian government? And why, if he was a trained Serbian asset, was he so incompetent?

Then, there was the role of Bruno Vekaric, the prosecutor in the Belgrade office. In his country, he told me, he had been criticized for prosecuting mainly Serbs and for his coöperation with The Hague. Was Vekaric hoping to demonstrate his patriotic credentials by advancing Adrian’s story? When I asked Vekaric if he had been duped by Adrian or was complicit in his fiction, Vekaric responded, “Maybe he is a liar. But in this organ-trafficking story I am sure he is right.”

When I last spoke with Adrian, over Skype, I asked him to confirm that he was also known as Eighty-one. He put on a blue baseball cap and tugged it over his eyes. Pushing himself away from the table, he mumbled something, in Serbian, to a female handler off-screen. She appeared in the frame and said, “He does not want to speak anymore.”

Forensic police procedurals like “C.S.I.” are predicated on the idea that every murder leaves behind a trail of evidence, however faint. In reality, some crimes prove impossible to trace. Conspiracies are hatched in dark rooms; corpses are dissolved in acid; witnesses take secrets to their graves.

Several K.L.A. leaders have survived repeated prosecution. After Fatmir Limaj, Thaci’s confidant, was acquitted in The Hague, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo charged him with torture and prisoner abuse at a second camp. Prosecutors had persuaded a former guard, Agim Zogaj, to talk. At the camp, Zogaj had kept a diary that contained the names of prisoners. According to a report in Koha Ditore, a Kosovo daily, a “plus” or a “minus” sign beside the name signalled whether the prisoner had been freed or executed—in some cases, on Limaj’s orders. But in September, 2011, a month before Limaj’s trial began, Zogaj was found hanged in a park in Duisburg, Germany—an apparent suicide. The judges declared the diary inadmissible and acquitted Limaj. In November, 2012, however, the judges reversed their decision on the diary, and a retrial is expected to begin soon. Limaj is currently under house arrest in Pristina. A spokesman for the E.U. justified Limaj’s detention by citing the risk that he might tamper with evidence.

A senior E.U. war-crimes investigator told me he was certain that “criminality in Kosovo has not been accounted for.” Yet Serbia’s efforts to promote Adrian’s story had clearly backfired: such tactics only made it easier for the lawyers representing K.L.A. leaders to protest that their clients were victims of slander. Michael Montgomery said that Bruno Vekaric’s office in Belgrade had, in its investigation of organ trafficking, “gone out of its way to screw up everything.”

Nevertheless, the E.U. investigator told me, “With the appropriate degree of rigor, I remain convinced, it is possible to account for the most severe crimes in Kosovar Albanian factions, the K.L.A., and their affiliates, even the most complex criminal conspiracies to traffic human beings for organ extraction.” In August, 2011, the E.U. formed a “special investigative task force” to sort out the organ-trafficking saga once and for all—including the possible role of Kosovo’s leaders.

The E.U. has put an American prosecutor, Clint Williamson, in charge of this effort. Before taking the job, Williamson, a former United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, examined the material gathered by Dick Marty’s team, and concluded that a full-scale investigation was merited. Williamson, an experienced diplomat, knows Kosovo well, and a decade earlier he had worked in The Hague, helping to draft the indictment against Milosevic. It would be hard to depict him as inexperienced or partisan.

Williamson set up his office in Brussels, in a nondescript E.U. government building that is protected by twenty-four-hour surveillance and a secure communications network. He told me that the failure to have a proper reckoning in Kosovo had left a “dark cloud” over the Balkans. He plans to finish his probe in 2014.

Court records pointed to glaring oversights in some previous prosecutions of K.L.A. leaders. For example, a witness in the trial against Sabit Geci—the military-police chief convicted of abuses at Kukes and Cahan—testified that one of Thaci’s top advisers had driven him to Kukes, but the judge dismissed the comment, saying that the adviser was “not a defendant in this trial.” Why hadn’t the prosecutor pursued this potential link between Thaci and Kukes?

There were other possible leads. A former detainee in the Cahan camp has said that guards there “put guns at our heads and made us beat, shoot, even sodomize other prisoners.” He noted, “Our torturers were our fellow-Albanians, the K.L.A., who were supposed to be fighting for our freedom.” The detainee, who remembered Limaj giving orders, said that, at one point, Thaci came in, looked at the prisoners, and “saw that we were tied up, injured, and in such a dirty place.” Thaci and Limaj “knew exactly what they were doing to us.” Parts of the detainee’s story eventually appeared in Le Monde, but prosecutors have not picked up the thread. (At least one other witness has placed Thaci at a detention camp: Enver, the prisoner accused of spying, recalled seeing Thaci at Kukes, wearing civilian clothes.)

In 2011 and 2012, Williamson travelled to Albania. He told me that he considered Albania, not Kosovo, the “single most important operational zone” for the K.L.A.’s alleged crimes. One place of particular interest is the farmhouse by the airport—the spot where, according to Marty, kidneys were removed from prisoners who had been shot in the head. (The owner of the farmhouse, which is in the village of Fushe-Kruje, denies any wrongdoing; he filed a claim to sue Marty for defamation, but the claim was thrown out.)

Williamson admits that the chances of finding a “smoking gun” are slim, since so much time has passed since crimes allegedly occurred. If corpses had to be moved, or videotape destroyed, it was probably done years ago. Without physical evidence, Williamson will have to rely almost entirely on testimony. He noted, “It’s one thing for people to talk to Marty or talk to a journalist. It’s quite another to participate in a criminal investigation where you ultimately have to go into a courtroom and point your finger at very powerful people.” That said, Williamson spent several years working in the Justice Department’s organized-crime-and-racketeering section, and he had found that, with the right combination of incentives, protective measures, and appeals to conscience, “even the most intractable insiders will turn witness.”

Last year, I met Prime Minister Thaci in his office, on the second floor of a drab fourteen-story tower in central Pristina. Jean-François Fitou, the French Ambassador to Kosovo, had told me that Thaci was “the Mick Jagger of the K.L.A.,” and Thaci is indeed dashing, with a clean smile, carefully groomed hair, and a buttery complexion.

Within the K.L.A., Thaci had been known as the Snake—a reference to his slippery evasion of Serbian authorities. The nickname, it seemed, was still appropriate. “Until the war broke out, the Serbs wanted to imprison me,” he said. “In wartime, they tried to kill me. After the war, they tried to compromise me, to destroy my reputation.” Thaci denies having ever been connected to a criminal syndicate and says that he was unaware of any prisoner abuse.

At one point, the conversation turned to Sabit Geci. Germany’s spy agency reported that Thaci had maintained “very good contacts” with him, but Thaci disputed this, saying, “To be frank, he was not my friend.” As we talked about Geci’s crimes, Thaci’s face turned the color of gravel and his smile contorted, as if he could taste his reputation souring on his tongue. “The K.L.A. was big, and you always have abusers in such organizations,” he said. It was almost five o’clock, and many of his aides and assistants had gone home for the day. He sank into a black leather chair and unfastened the top button on his shirt.

If Williamson found conclusive evidence that the K.L.A. had trafficked the organs of prisoners, Thaci said, “that would leave the worst legacy for Kosovo and our people.” But “never did something like this happen” with his knowledge. “That’s why I gave my full support to the task force,” he said. “In order to have the truth prevail.”

The late-afternoon sun slanted across the room. “I give my full support to justice,” he added. “I will be on the side of justice, no matter who is on the other side.”

Regaining his color, Thaci said, with a grin, “The only laws I have violated were Milosevic’s laws. And I feel very proud of that.”

PHOTOGRAPH: Magnum

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

From Alex Shams @seyyedreza “…after homes of some members of Alevi religious minority community marked on anniversary of a 1970s pogrom”

24 Nov

Screen Shot 2017-11-24 at 5.04.42 PM

Below I’ve pasted a Twitter / email war I had with some AKP idiot a couple of years ago.  Long, but worth it, and/or at least see video at the end:

The Turkish Islamist’s frightening animus toward Alevis

19 Sep

Teomete” , a dude with whom I had a Twitter fight a few years ago over Turkish Alevis and Syrian Alawites, happily climbs out of the drainage pipe to show his true AK-fanatic’s colors (please check out his Twitter page with Erdoğan portrayed as a Cross-bearing, flogged and martyred Jesus Christ).  In response to my take on the AL Monitor’s piece Why are Turks flocking to Greece? he cheers us up today with this:

2h2 hours ago

Replying to

:) Apiece (of shit) written by filthy sectarian pseudo Turk,Safavid Alevist shiite for a sym-sectarian Asadist shiite news portal

My Shia sympathies have been made clear pretty often, but my spiritual sympathies — buoyed by personal love-friendship experiences — for Alevism, the only genuinely hip form of Islam, are even stronger.  “Teomete” is scary, but can someone tell me what about makes him a “Safavid sectarian” for the gentleman?  Is it just his name?  Is he known as an Alevi journalist in Turkey?

Below are cut and pasted my posts with my exchange between Teo-jaan and me from 2015, where I point out that the added hatred for Alevis on Turkish Fundies’ part comes from the fact that they so often overlap with Kurdish-Zaza speakers.

Enjoy.  And if Teo-jaan responds I’ll let you know and please just follow him on your own on Twitter because I won’t be responding.  Δεν μπορώ να ασχολούμαι.  But he’s interesting, both in discussion with me and on his Twit page, for how modern he is in terms of mastery of internet language and slang, or in the photo of his puppy (doesn’t he know keeping dogs as pets is haram?) and what a reactionary, nationalist, neo-pious creep he still is in all his ideas and everything else.  Social media changes nothing, liberates nothing, problematizes nothing; it just gives you a bullhorn.

**************************************************************************************

Syrian Alawites and Turkish Alevis closer than I thought

5 Aug

From The New York Times:As Syrian War Roils, Sectarian Unrest Seeps Into Turkey”

As Syria’s civil war degenerates into a bloody sectarian showdown between the government’s Alawite-dominated troops and the Sunni Muslim majority, tensions are increasing across the border between Turkey’s Alawite minority and the Sunni Muslim majority here.

Many Turkish Alawites, estimated at 15 million to 20 million strong and one of the biggest minorities in this country, seem to be solidly behind Syria’s embattled strongman, Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey’s government, and many Sunnis, supports the Syrian rebels.

The Alawites fear the sectarian violence spilling across the border. Already, the sweltering, teeming refugee camps along the frontier are fast becoming caldrons of anti-Alawite feelings.

“If any come here, we’re going to kill them,” said Mehmed Aziz, 28, a Syrian refugee at a camp in Ceylanpinar, who drew a finger across his throat.

He and his friends are Sunnis, and they all howled in delight at the thought of exacting revenge against Alawites.

Many Alawites in Turkey, especially in eastern Turkey where Alawites tend to speak Arabic and are closely connected to Alawites in Syria, are suspicious of the bigger geopolitics, and foreign policy analysts say they may have a point. The Turkish government is led by an Islamist-rooted party that is slowly but clearly trying to bring more religion, particularly Sunni Islam, into the public sphere, eschewing decades of purposefully secular rule. Alawites here find it deeply unsettling, and a bit hypocritical, that Turkey has teamed up with Saudi Arabia, one of the most repressive countries in the world, and Qatar, a religious monarchy, both Sunni, to bring democracy to Syria.

The Alawites point to the surge of foreign jihadists streaming into Turkey, en route to fight a holy war on Syria’s battlefields. Many jihadists are fixated on turning Syria, which under the Assad family’s rule has been one of the most secular countries in the Middle East, into a pure Islamist state.

More:

The Alawites here are worried they could become easy targets. Historically, they have been viewed with suspicion across the Middle East by mainstream Muslims and often scorned as infidels. The Alawite sect was born in the ninth century and braids together religious beliefs, including reincarnation, from different faiths.

Many Alawites do not ever go to a mosque; they tend to worship at home or in Alawite temples that have been denied the same state support in Turkey that Sunni mosques get. Many Alawite women do not veil their faces or even cover their heads. The towns they dominate in eastern Turkey, where young women sport tank tops and tight jeans, feel totally different than religious Sunni towns just a few hours away, where it can be difficult even to find a woman in public.

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Turkish Alevis and Syrian (or Lebanese…or Turkish?) Alawites — a Twitter exchange

13 Sep

I recently stumbled on a tweet on my account that I had somehow missed from August 2012 about an article from the Times around that time (As Syria War Roils, Unrest Among Sects Hits TurkeyAugust 4, 2012   The post — mine — was called: Syrian Alawites and Turkish Alevis closer than I thought”  (August 5th, 2012 on the Jadde)

I’ll just paste the Tweet exchange all here even if it’s kind of messy-looking:

 

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Alevis and Alawites addendum: a “p.s.” from Teomete

14 Sep

“My rejection to the article of just was bcoz of their evil mind on manipulation by distorting the fact about Alevis +

It’s natural 2 call & ask editorial 2 make correction when they lied or manipulated the facts. U and yr country shld do diz too

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Yeah.  Well.  I don’t have a country, abi.  I’m the citizen of a couple.  And I’m kind of an honorary-guest-citizen of — I think, at last call — about twenty-seven others.  But they’re not mine.  And they don’t belong to me any more than I belong to them.  And I certainly wouldn’t be caught dead running around hiding the truth about any of them and calling it “lying” and “defaming” if others state that truth clearly.  And that’s one thing I honor American society and Protestant conscience and self-examination for having taught me.*  Greeks call what you do “hiding behind your finger.”  In Spanish they have the more poetic phrase: “The sun can’t be blocked with one finger.”

In this blog post of mine:Magnificent Turks’ and the origins of this blog I talk about several Greek brothers who actually think just like you, a Turk.  Imagine.  They think that if you don’t speak the historical truth that it’ll go away somehow.  They think that if you speak that truth it’s because your intent is “evil” — just like you do.  They tell you to “go fuck yourself” when you speak the truth — which you don’t do because you’re Turkish and polite, which I appreciate, and not a foul-mouthed Neo-Greek who thinks he’s oh-so-clever-and-articulate because he’s always got three or four nasty epithets ready on the tip of his tongue to hurl at you.  And they call you κομπλεξικό — that you’ve got ‘neurotic hang-ups’ to translate roughly — because you say and write things that “aid and abet the enemies of our fatherland.”  Who’s got the hang-ups there: me or someone who walks around in 2014 AD using the term “enemies of our fatherland” is up to you to decide.  But I can put you in touch with them if you like, because you all think exactly the same.

Here’s my one country:roosevelt-avenue-jackson-heights-little-india-micro-neighborhoods-nyc-untapped-cities-brennan-ortiz

Photo via Netizen. (click)

…and as you can see most people here have better things to do than be thinking about your kind of närrischkeit.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

* As an ESL teacher in New York City’s CUNY system for over ten years I frequently had the experience of my foreign students simply left perplexed that Americans were constantly rehashing and criticizing their history.  I’d read the devastating attack on American self-righteousness and paranoia that is Arthur Miller’s Crucible with my students; then we’d read his thorough moral trashing of American capitalism in Death of a Salesman.  Then show them Apocalypse Now and parts of the Burns’ documentaries, Eyes on the Prize or New York: A Documentary Film or even South Park’s Team America: World Police or the brilliant documentary about Iraq by Charles Ferguson, No End in Sight; if I were still there I would be taking them to see Twelve Years a Slave.  Till finally a Brazilian girl said to me: “I dunno, teacher…if you came to my country to study Portuguese, no one would ever tell you that anything bad ever happened in Brazilian history…” both amused and baffled at her own observation.

Checking out this post on the nationalism of little countries might add another dimension to this.

***************************************************************************************

More on Alevis and Alawites…or Alevis and Kurds…or Iraqi Kurds…or…Christian Kurds…or Assyrians…or…

27 Sep

A video interview from 2011 of a smart, cute, articulate Kurdish guy from near Maraş that’s a good primer, as it claims, on all the intricacies of the above.

Note the graphic at around 5:08: “Alevi = Alawite”.  And then the interviewer pops the million-dollar question: “So, who are you loyal to?  You’re an Alevi Kurd from Turkey.  Where do your loyalties lie?” — that kind of nails the whole issue on the head.  Because, not being the sharpest tool in the shed,  he doesn’t realize that the Kurdish guy never even gives him an answer.  Because there is none.  Because the question betrays, again, the Westerner’s incapacity to understand that multiple identities can co-exist in not just one nation or one community, but in a single individual.  And you can tell that the interviewer is getting bombarded with a complexity that he can’t even begin to make sense of — largely because he’s trying to make some sense of it in all the wrong ways.

Sad, prescient comment at the end concerning Syria: “It’s going to be a disaster.”

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

The Turkish Islamist’s frightening animus toward Alevis

19 Sep

Teomete” , a dude with whom I had a Twitter fight a few years ago over Turkish Alevis and Syrian Alawites, happily climbs out of the drainage pipe to show his true AK-fanatic’s colors (please check out his Twitter page with Erdoğan portrayed as a Cross-bearing, flogged and martyred Jesus Christ).  In response to my take on the AL Monitor’s piece Why are Turks flocking to Greece? he cheers us up today with this:

2h2 hours ago

Replying to

:) Apiece (of shit) written by filthy sectarian pseudo Turk,Safavid Alevist shiite for a sym-sectarian Asadist shiite news portal

My Shia sympathies have been made clear pretty often, but my spiritual sympathies — buoyed by personal love-friendship experiences — for Alevism, the only genuinely hip form of Islam, are even stronger.  “Teomete” is scary, but can someone tell me what about makes him a “Safavid sectarian” for the gentleman?  Is it just his name?  Is he known as an Alevi journalist in Turkey?

Below are cut and pasted my posts with my exchange between Teo-jaan and me from 2015, where I point out that the added hatred for Alevis on Turkish Fundies’ part comes from the fact that they so often overlap with Kurdish-Zaza speakers.

Enjoy.  And if Teo-jaan responds I’ll let you know and please just follow him on your own on Twitter because I won’t be responding.  Δεν μπορώ να ασχολούμαι.  But he’s interesting, both in discussion with me and on his Twit page, for how modern he is in terms of mastery of internet language and slang, or in the photo of his puppy (doesn’t he know keeping dogs as pets is haram?) and what a reactionary, nationalist, neo-pious creep he still is in all his ideas and everything else.  Social media changes nothing, liberates nothing, problematizes nothing; it just gives you a bullhorn.

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Syrian Alawites and Turkish Alevis closer than I thought

5 Aug

From The New York Times:As Syrian War Roils, Sectarian Unrest Seeps Into Turkey”

As Syria’s civil war degenerates into a bloody sectarian showdown between the government’s Alawite-dominated troops and the Sunni Muslim majority, tensions are increasing across the border between Turkey’s Alawite minority and the Sunni Muslim majority here.

Many Turkish Alawites, estimated at 15 million to 20 million strong and one of the biggest minorities in this country, seem to be solidly behind Syria’s embattled strongman, Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey’s government, and many Sunnis, supports the Syrian rebels.

The Alawites fear the sectarian violence spilling across the border. Already, the sweltering, teeming refugee camps along the frontier are fast becoming caldrons of anti-Alawite feelings.

“If any come here, we’re going to kill them,” said Mehmed Aziz, 28, a Syrian refugee at a camp in Ceylanpinar, who drew a finger across his throat.

He and his friends are Sunnis, and they all howled in delight at the thought of exacting revenge against Alawites.

Many Alawites in Turkey, especially in eastern Turkey where Alawites tend to speak Arabic and are closely connected to Alawites in Syria, are suspicious of the bigger geopolitics, and foreign policy analysts say they may have a point. The Turkish government is led by an Islamist-rooted party that is slowly but clearly trying to bring more religion, particularly Sunni Islam, into the public sphere, eschewing decades of purposefully secular rule. Alawites here find it deeply unsettling, and a bit hypocritical, that Turkey has teamed up with Saudi Arabia, one of the most repressive countries in the world, and Qatar, a religious monarchy, both Sunni, to bring democracy to Syria.

The Alawites point to the surge of foreign jihadists streaming into Turkey, en route to fight a holy war on Syria’s battlefields. Many jihadists are fixated on turning Syria, which under the Assad family’s rule has been one of the most secular countries in the Middle East, into a pure Islamist state.

More:

The Alawites here are worried they could become easy targets. Historically, they have been viewed with suspicion across the Middle East by mainstream Muslims and often scorned as infidels. The Alawite sect was born in the ninth century and braids together religious beliefs, including reincarnation, from different faiths.

Many Alawites do not ever go to a mosque; they tend to worship at home or in Alawite temples that have been denied the same state support in Turkey that Sunni mosques get. Many Alawite women do not veil their faces or even cover their heads. The towns they dominate in eastern Turkey, where young women sport tank tops and tight jeans, feel totally different than religious Sunni towns just a few hours away, where it can be difficult even to find a woman in public.

**************************************************************************************

Turkish Alevis and Syrian (or Lebanese…or Turkish?) Alawites — a Twitter exchange

13 Sep

I recently stumbled on a tweet on my account that I had somehow missed from August 2012 about an article from the Times around that time (As Syria War Roils, Unrest Among Sects Hits TurkeyAugust 4, 2012   The post — mine — was called: Syrian Alawites and Turkish Alevis closer than I thought”  (August 5th, 2012 on the Jadde)

I’ll just paste the Tweet exchange all here even if it’s kind of messy-looking:

 

**************************************************************************************

Alevis and Alawites addendum: a “p.s.” from Teomete

14 Sep

“My rejection to the article of just was bcoz of their evil mind on manipulation by distorting the fact about Alevis +

It’s natural 2 call & ask editorial 2 make correction when they lied or manipulated the facts. U and yr country shld do diz too

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Yeah.  Well.  I don’t have a country, abi.  I’m the citizen of a couple.  And I’m kind of an honorary-guest-citizen of — I think, at last call — about twenty-seven others.  But they’re not mine.  And they don’t belong to me any more than I belong to them.  And I certainly wouldn’t be caught dead running around hiding the truth about any of them and calling it “lying” and “defaming” if others state that truth clearly.  And that’s one thing I honor American society and Protestant conscience and self-examination for having taught me.*  Greeks call what you do “hiding behind your finger.”  In Spanish they have the more poetic phrase: “The sun can’t be blocked with one finger.”

In this blog post of mine:Magnificent Turks’ and the origins of this blog I talk about several Greek brothers who actually think just like you, a Turk.  Imagine.  They think that if you don’t speak the historical truth that it’ll go away somehow.  They think that if you speak that truth it’s because your intent is “evil” — just like you do.  They tell you to “go fuck yourself” when you speak the truth — which you don’t do because you’re Turkish and polite, which I appreciate, and not a foul-mouthed Neo-Greek who thinks he’s oh-so-clever-and-articulate because he’s always got three or four nasty epithets ready on the tip of his tongue to hurl at you.  And they call you κομπλεξικό — that you’ve got ‘neurotic hang-ups’ to translate roughly — because you say and write things that “aid and abet the enemies of our fatherland.”  Who’s got the hang-ups there: me or someone who walks around in 2014 AD using the term “enemies of our fatherland” is up to you to decide.  But I can put you in touch with them if you like, because you all think exactly the same.

Here’s my one country:roosevelt-avenue-jackson-heights-little-india-micro-neighborhoods-nyc-untapped-cities-brennan-ortiz

Photo via Netizen. (click)

…and as you can see most people here have better things to do than be thinking about your kind of närrischkeit.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

* As an ESL teacher in New York City’s CUNY system for over ten years I frequently had the experience of my foreign students simply left perplexed that Americans were constantly rehashing and criticizing their history.  I’d read the devastating attack on American self-righteousness and paranoia that is Arthur Miller’s Crucible with my students; then we’d read his thorough moral trashing of American capitalism in Death of a Salesman.  Then show them Apocalypse Now and parts of the Burns’ documentaries, Eyes on the Prize or New York: A Documentary Film or even South Park’s Team America: World Police or the brilliant documentary about Iraq by Charles Ferguson, No End in Sight; if I were still there I would be taking them to see Twelve Years a Slave.  Till finally a Brazilian girl said to me: “I dunno, teacher…if you came to my country to study Portuguese, no one would ever tell you that anything bad ever happened in Brazilian history…” both amused and baffled at her own observation.

Checking out this post on the nationalism of little countries might add another dimension to this.

***************************************************************************************

More on Alevis and Alawites…or Alevis and Kurds…or Iraqi Kurds…or…Christian Kurds…or Assyrians…or…

27 Sep

A video interview from 2011 of a smart, cute, articulate Kurdish guy from near Maraş that’s a good primer, as it claims, on all the intricacies of the above.

Note the graphic at around 5:08: “Alevi = Alawite”.  And then the interviewer pops the million-dollar question: “So, who are you loyal to?  You’re an Alevi Kurd from Turkey.  Where do your loyalties lie?” — that kind of nails the whole issue on the head.  Because, not being the sharpest tool in the shed,  he doesn’t realize that the Kurdish guy never even gives him an answer.  Because there is none.  Because the question betrays, again, the Westerner’s incapacity to understand that multiple identities can co-exist in not just one nation or one community, but in a single individual.  And you can tell that the interviewer is getting bombarded with a complexity that he can’t even begin to make sense of — largely because he’s trying to make some sense of it in all the wrong ways.

Sad, prescient comment at the end concerning Syria: “It’s going to be a disaster.”

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

“When Western evil is fused with Arab stupidity…”

29 Nov

Iraqi TV Host Breaks Down in Tears at Plight of Christians

And a super-outspoken (now that he’s safe in Erbil) Bishop from Mosul: “..Western evil is fused with Arab stupidity…”

Might wanna retake a look at my Who are the MESA Thought Police?:

“…or if you were caught even suggesting, heaven forbid, that maybe — just maybe — Arabs had simply conquered what were already the most sophisticated and civilized parts of the Greco-Roman and Sassanian worlds…”

And yes, “kanun,” law, is a Greek word.

Oh, yeah.  And so is “kalam,” pen…

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Turkish Alevis and Syrian (or Lebanese…or Turkish?) Alawites — a Twitter exchange

13 Sep

I recently stumbled on a tweet on my account that I had somehow missed from August 2012 about an article from the Times around that time (As Syria War Roils, Unrest Among Sects Hits TurkeyAugust 4, 2012   The post — mine — was called: Syrian Alawites and Turkish Alevis closer than I thought”  (August 5th, 2012 on the Jadde)

I’ll just paste the Tweet exchange all here even if it’s kind of messy-looking:

Turkey and religious freedom: Wooing Christians — “We are ready to face the past, to make amends.”

23 Apr

From the Economist:

“IT IS well known that Kurdish tribes took part in the mass slaughter by the Ottomans of around 1m Armenians in 1915. “Collaborating Kurdish clerics pledged that anyone who killed an infidel would be rewarded in heaven with 700 mansions containing 700 rooms, and that in each of these rooms there would be 700 houris to give them pleasure,” says Mala Hadi, an Islamic sheikh in Diyarbakir.

The sheikh is among a handful of local leaders seeking reconciliation with the Kurdish region’s once thriving Christians. “We are ready to face the past, to make amends,” promises Abdullah Demirbas, mayor of Diyarbakir’s ancient Sur district. To atone, Mr Demirbas has been providing money and materials to restore Christian monuments in Sur. These include the sprawling Surp Giragos Armenian Orthodox church where, until recently, drug dealers plied their trade amid piles of rubbish. It is now squeaky clean and even boasts a new roof.”

Here’s a website with some beautiful pictures of the church: http://www.futurereligiousheritage.eu/february-2012-restoration-of-dyarbakir-surp-giragos-armenian-church-dr-f-meral-halifeoglu/ 

This is a story that made me cry — I wish I could say I don’t cry easily.

Read the whole story from the Economist here: http://www.economist.com/node/17632939  The story then goes on to talk about relations with the Syrian Christian community in southeastern Turkey, especially the conflict surrounding the Syrian monastery of Mor Gabriel, since the Armenian community that the Kurdish sheikh would like to make amends to has been practically non-existent outside Istanbul for a good century now.  Some photos of Mor Gabriel:

I keep looking for a story — because there’s definitely one there — about Syrian Christians among the refugees flowing into Turkey from Syria.  But there may not be that many, since for the most part they’ve been pretty passive in the whole conflict, nervously afraid of change as all minorities are, and maybe passively siding with the Alawite regime for fear the Sunni resistance will turn religious in ways uncomfortable for them.  And yet Homs and Hama, two of the Assad regime’s most brutalized targets, are among the largest and most ancient Christian communities in the country.  In William Dalrymple’s From the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East: http://www.amazon.com/From-Holy-Mountain-Journey-Christians/dp/0805061770/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335220105&sr=8-1 he describes the Christians of Syria as the most happy, confident, open, and optimistic about their future of any of the Christian communities of the region, even those that constitute a larger percentage of their country’s population, like those of Lebanon or Egypt (on Lebanon, he has a kind of sensationalist chapter on Maronite “savagery,” which reminds me of a lot of Western journalism about Serbs, or older travel accounts of Albania, and pretty much tows the standard line that if they, Maronites, are on their way out demographically and politically, it’s their own fault.)  That optimism on Syrian Christians’ part must certainly have changed.  And if they were going to flee, it would be to their pretty numerous co-religionists in Turkey, wouldn’t it?

I always wanted to know what percentage of Arabs in southeastern Turkey were Christian and could never find any definitive information on it.  But if there were that many, they probably wouldn’t have to be fighting such an outnumbered battle to protect the property of one of their main religious centers.

Anyway, kudos to the sheikh, Demirbas, and I guess guarded kudos to AK leaders too; I think their concern for issues like this might actually be genuine; I mean Hillary talked about the Chalke seminary when she was in Turkey last and they didn’t freak out.

I have a few acquaintances who would roll their eyes at this post, irritated, along the lines of: “So many people being killed and you’re only concerned about Christians…”  No, I’m not just concerned about Christians.  But — shout out to the MESA thought police — I’m not going to waste any more time arguing my basic non-sectarian ethics either.

As a final note: the great villain here is not Assad, but his prime backer, Vladimir Putin, the last twentieth-century totalitarian dictator of the twenty-first century and a Chekist murderer and Stalinist criminal on all levels.  Be afraid of him — very afraid.  Recent NYRB article about him: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/apr/26/vladimirs-tale/

 

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Good Slate piece: “The Shunned Muslim Journalist Wajahat Ali wrote about Israeli settlers…”

22 Jun

Interesting question some ways through about who does or doesn’t have “skin in the game.”

Are the MESA Thought Police still on it?  Rah! Rah!

I’ve never heard of this guy or any of these guys or these organizations, but I can’t disingenuously say that: “…I have no skin in the game.”

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Turkish Jews: A Spanish right of return redux

15 Oct

istipol-synagogue-istanbulİştipol in Istanbul

When I first came across this idea of that Spain was granting Sephardic Jews Spanish citizenship I was mildly condescending, thinking that it was the most pointless kind of Western guilt for the past and that maybe Europe had better things to think about.

Then a friend sent me this article about the shrinking Jewish community of Istanbul from Young Turkish Jews trickling away from shrinking community from the Times of Israel:

Turkey’s economic boom in the first decade of the 21st century has slowed, and its currency has lost 20 percent of its value against the dollar in the past year alone.

As tuition prices in Turkey’s increasingly competitive universities have skyrocketed in recent years, the quality of education lags behind schools in western Europe, the United States and Canada.

Like many middle-class Turks, Turkish Jews have contributed of the country’s brain drain.

“There’s no doubt anti-Semitism is a motivating factor,” said Louis Fishman, an assistant professor at Brooklyn College who has split his time in the last decade between New York, Istanbul and Tel Aviv. “But there are other groups [in the Jewish community] that are leaving because they’re part of the middle class, they can go to school in the US and get a job abroad.”

T., a 30-something resident of Istanbul who, like other Turkish Jews, preferred to speak anonymously for fear of backlash, works in a multinational company, which he said offers many Turks a means of emigrating with financial security.

“Almost all my friends think about what to do next,” said T., especially after the 2010 and 2014 anti-Israel uproar in Turkey. “Even though we are staying here, everyone is thinking of their next move.” He said that in the past five years he’s noticed a marked rise in Jewish emigration from Turkey.

Another indicator of the anxiety pervading the community is the number of Turkish Jews who have jumped at the opportunity to acquire Spanish citizenship. The vast majority of Turkey’s Jews are descendants of Spanish exiles who were welcomed into the Ottoman Empire.

Earlier this year the Spanish government announced its intention of extending citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled in 1492. Shortly thereafter 5,000 Turkish Jews — roughly a third of the community — applied for dual citizenship, potentially opening the doors to life in Europe, according to a recent Financial Times report. [my emphasis]

I don’t know why this idea — that Spanish citizenship would open the doors to life or work anywhere in the European Union — completely skipped my mind; it’s the reason that I got my Greek citizenship (along with a little bit of a more personal tug, granted…)  Maybe it’s because all discussion of the issue was focused on the Israelis that would be granted citizenship and I totally forgot about the only real Jewish community in the Muslim world (aside from Iran) that still exists.

Still, the article gives you enough to worry about in terms of minority life in Turkey: the people who wouldn’t go on record for the writer is just one.  And, I wonder if having dual citizenship is actually allowed in Turkey and if you’re not setting yourself up for trouble.  In 1964, Turkey expelled all Greeks who held both Greek and Turkish citizenship from Istanbul, in such an over-night fashion that it effectively meant confiscation of their property as well.   Next time you’ve found the perfect Airbnb space in Pera or Tarlabaşı, ask the owner if he knows anything about the building’s history.

Below is my first post on “Spanish right of return” and below that a 1964 article from The New York Times article on the Greek expulsions.

Turkish synagogueMembers of Turkey’s Jewish community pray at Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul on October 11, 2004, during a ceremony to mark the official reopening of the synagogue (AP/Murad Sezer)

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A Spanish right of return for Sephardic Jews?

9 Feb

Boy, that’s a wild idea…

And I can’t help but think it’s EU-ish political correctness taken to the point of silliness.  Don’t you folks have a few other things to think about right now?

0c31974ca5f645249430604e4820ceee_18

“Why make a fuss about Spain’s ostensible effort to atone for bad behaviour, even if it’s about 524 years too late?” asks this Al Jazeera article about the Spanish offer, as it also examines some of the other complexities, ironies and…hypocrisies…behind the whole notion:

“To be sure, atonement in itself is far from fuss-worthy. Goodness knows this world could use more apologies, reparations, and truth-telling – and in fact, 1492 is not a bad place to start.

“That year happens to be rather synonymous with the decimation of indigenous populations in the Americas in the aftermath of a certain nautical expedition, authorised by the very same Ferdinand and Isabella who expelled the Jews from Spain.

“This is not to say, then, that the repercussions of centuries-old injustice aren’t alive and well; it’s merely to point out the ironies of an international panorama in which Mossad officials are granted additional homelands in Spain while Palestinians languish in refugee camps for nearly seven decades.”

And just another thought: it could hypothetically mean a minor flood of Sephardic Jews from Argentina, say, or other Latin American countries, looking for better economic possibilities.  But in Spain?  At this particular moment?  I think the days of heavy Latin American emigration to Spain have been put on hold for a while.

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ISTANBUL, Turkey, Aug. 8 —Harassment and deportation of Greek nationals in Istanbul in retaliation for Turkish set­backs on Cyprus was declared today “an open policy” of the Government.

Unless a solution to the strife between Greek and Turkish Cypriotes is found soon, the Greeks here fear that their community, once numerous and prosperous, will be dispersed before winter.

“The pressure on the Istanbul Greeks will be gradual,” said a spokesman for the Foreign Min­istry in Ankara.

Tactic Held Ineffective

Sources close to Premier Is­met Inonu said the Government believed “pressure on Greek na­tionals” was the only way left to Turkey to force Athens and the Greek‐dominated Cypriote Government to accept a satis­factory compromise.

Istanbul’s Greeks have many Turkish friends who believe the new tactic will prove as ineffec­tive as it is harsh. The consen­sus among the Greeks them­selves is that Turkey is using Cyprus as “an excuse to do what they have long wanted to do—get us out.”

This week 58 more Greeks were added to nearly 1,000 who had been deported on short no­tice since March.

New lists are expected within a few days, and the 9,000 re­maining Greek nationals are sure their days here are num­bered. Turkey has canceled, effective Sept. 15, a 1930 agree­ment under which Greeks have been privileged to live here.

There is fear now in the hearts of 60,000 Turks of Greek descent, They, too, complain of harassment, “tax persecution” and ostracism, although Premier Inonu has declared repeatedly that these minority nationals will not be discriminated against.

In the business districts of Istanbul, many Greek‐owned shops may be seen under pad­lock. They were closed on Government order or because the owners were summarily or­dered from the country. Wives and other dependents are in many cases left destitute.

Many Born in Turkey

Every morning large numbers of Greeks crowd into the arcaded foyer of the Greek Consulate to ask help and advice. Some ac­cept an emergency dole provided by the consulate; others are well dressed. Some are old and frail.

Most of those deported so far were born in Turkey, according to the consulate, and many had never been to Greece. They have no particular place in Greece to go, and they say they have no idea what to do when they get there.

Greeks scan the Istanbul newspapers for published lists, fearing they will find their names. When they do, they go to the police to be fingerprint­ed, photographed and asked to sign deportation statements. They are given a week to leave the country, and police escorts see that they make the dead­line.

Asset Sales Difficult

Families of deportees protest that it is impossible to sell businesses or personal property in so short a time. “Few want to buy from us, and no one wants to pay a fair price,” one victim said. A deportee may take with him only his cloth­ing, 200 Turkish lira (about $22) and his transportation ticket.

At first the Government de­nied that these deportations had anything to do with the dispute over Cyprus. AU the deportees were charged with “activities harmful to the Turk­ish state.”

The Greeks have found wry humor in this claim. According to a source close to the con­sulate, the deportation lists have included the names of six per­sons long dead.

There have been 121 deportees more than 70 years old and 20 over the age of 80.

Many charges have been raised against the Greek aliens: smuggling money out of the country, for example, or evad­ing taxes and military duty. The Turkish authorities say the Greeks have invested their wealth abroad and that this has damaged the Turkish economy.

Wealth Put at $200 Million

Turkish estimates of Greek wealth here have gone as high as $500 million. But recently this figure has been reduced to $200 million. Greeks say the Turks “reduced their inflated estimates when they realized that someday they might have to settle for properties taken from us.”

They blame Turkey for not having offered better invest­ment opportunities.

In addition to abrogating the 1930 agreement on residence, trade and shipping privileges, Ankara has suspended a 1955 agreement granting unrestricted travel facilities to nationals of both countries. A number of Greeks caught outside Turkey when this suspension took ef­fect are reported to be unable to return.

More seriously, Ankara re­cently decided to enforce strictly a long‐overlooked law barring Greek nationals from 30 professions and occupations. They cannot, for example, be doctors, nurses, architects, shoe­makers, tailors, plumbers, caba­ret singers, ironsmiths, cooks or tourist guides.

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