“They were killed in the middle of the day, in their own homes, in their own beds…” – This was the powerful statement of former president Jahjaga’s opening speech that shook hearts at the conference on the 5th day of Femart Festival.
This particular conference was unlike the rest, as it was guided by a sensitive topic that was very dear to each and every one of those present, “Justice for murdered women as a result of domestic violence”. So many women have faced fatal endings because of domestic violence from their husbands in their very own homes, sometimes even in front of their children.
Jahjaga continued to critique the justice system in Kosova by saying, “What kind of justice did we give those women, when we couldn’t even find enough evidence to prove the main suspects guilty, guilty of murdering at least 5 women.”
And this was the real scenario in Kosovo where, amongst others that are unknown to the media, 5 women were murdered and their murderers where never found guilty. Jahjaga brought the attention back to these cases and tried to stress the importance of a better justice system.
“The woman is the pillar of a healthy society”- she said, in a call for unity amongst citizens against domestic violence.
As the conference continued, moderated by Ariana Qosaj – Mustafa, other speakers were invited to share their thoughts, experiences and expert knowledge on the case.
Sevdije Morina, the Deputy Chief State Prosecutor, after briefly informing the audience on the laws in Kosovo, continued to talk about how little domestic violence is reported.
“The place where the victim should be safest, is not at all safe” she said. Morina continued to stress the fact that in Kosovo, domestic violence is usually kept between the walls of a home. “[The victim] doesn’t even have the courage to speak out” she said, also mentioning that the reasons for such a behavior are far more complex and different than simply the justice system and mentality.
Annete M. Fath – Lihic, the representative for the European Union’s office in Kosovo, stated that the first challenge in Kosovo right now is to find out the real picture of the phenomena (of domestic violence). She also stated some potential reasons for domestic violence, such as “gender inequality at all levels, notions and attributes that consider women inferior and the role of men as the holder of power and social and economic dependency of women.”
Igballe Rogova, a well-known activist, noted a very interesting aspect of organizations in Kosovo after the war: “everyone was dealing with women and children, no one thought about dealing with the men.” And this seemed to be quite true, also alluding to the statement moderator Qosaj had made, that we “look at the consequences now, rather than working on prevention”. After the war, according to Igo – as Rogova is often called, no one was dealing with veterans or working with the men who had been in some form part of the war.
She mentioned one example of domestic violence, where a young woman was shot and killed in the middle of a street. “It wasn’t domestic violence anymore, it was murder” – said Igo, as the audience painfully and unhappily. She finished by saying that “It’s time that we say STOP to the killings”, followed by a loud and support-filled applause.
Another notable speech from the conference was that of Vjosa Osmani, MP. The intelligent Osmani, who although a little sick, shared a chilling experience she had in the start of her career, as an introduction to the fact that people need to get out of their “bubble” and become aware that there are horrible things happening in our country. She criticized the institutions for their silence and their lack of immediate action in cases of domestic violence. Referring to the same case earlier, of the girl who was killed in broad daylight, and referring to the other women killed as a result of domestic violence, Osmani said that such cases of domestic violence are the same as breast cancer – if detected early and precautions are taken, death can be prevented. She said that if the “institutions took immediate action and precautions, those women would still be alive today” – a thought that everyone in the room has thought for the past few years in regards to these events.
Among the other memorable speeches during the conference, the most heartbreaking moments were those nearing the end, where family members of the women who had been killed as a result of domestic violence had come to share their stories. These family members were fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers of these women. Tears filled the room as they shared their most heartfelt experiences with the unfair justice system.
One person, who was the father of one of the victims, finished with the most painful message. He said that “I have made peace with what has happened to my daughter. She is gone. I have four other daughters. I don’t want something like this to happen to either of them, or to any other girl.” – A message that brought an air of unity in the room.
It seemed that everyone who was in that room that day experienced something unlike ever before. All of us understood that we needed to come together and protect every daughter, sister, mother or aunt in Kosovo. Domestic violence should not be kept between closed doors, and we should help victims become aware that it is okay to speak out. Justice is needed for the women murdered as a result of domestic violence.
Written by Vesa Prapashtica