International Alexander Langer Award 2000
Jan 1, 2006, foundationThe Scientific and Guarantee Committee of the Alexander Langer Foundation has decided to award the International Alexander Langer Prize 2000 to Natasa Kandic e Vjosa Dobruna; with a special mention to Sergej Kovaliev. These are the reasons:
In the early nineties, while the world was silent and the situation in Kosovo was becoming more and more dramatic, Natasa Kandic e Vjosa Dobruna started different initiatives which do, however, have many aspects in common. Similar is their mutual refuse of ethnic bars, their conception of identity as a mobile constellation of various, different elements, their sense of personal responsibility and their involvement in human rights, their decision deriving from their professions – Vjosa Dobruna is a paediatrician and Natasa Kandic is a sociologist - to dedicate their work of attention and care to the population. It is thanks to this involvement that they met each other and became friends, a relationship that is all the more significant if one imagines the atmosphere of ethnic hatred prevailing in the Balkans and the degradation of the political situation there. Natasa and Vjosa are not traditional militants, they are women who incarnate the capacity – which is not exclusively female but more likely to be female – of entering into relationships and starting initiatives that go beyond the old and new counterpositions.
A citizen of Belgrade, close to the Women in Black of her town, Natasa Kandic is part of a group of intellectuals who, since 1990, have been engaged in defending human rights and the victims of abuse by acting against the repressive politics of the Milosevic regime which has caused damage to the opposition and to non Serbian components, as well as against ethnic cleansing of the populations of the former Yugoslavia. In 1992 Natasa Kandic co-founded the Humanitarian Law Centre of Belgrade of which at present she is Managing Director: it is also thanks to the documentation collected by the HLC regarding crimes that took place in Croatia and in Bosnia that it was possible to establish the court in The Hague for former Yugoslavia, where the first sentences are now about to be handed down. In these years, Natasa Kandic began to visit Kosovo regularly, where besides looking for information and on the spot witnesses, she gave legal assistance and other forms of solidarity. In the meantime, the international press has reported several comments of hers. In 1996 Natasa Kandic opened an HLC office in Pristina with the particular aim of caring for Kosovo prisoners in Serbia and which continued its activities in spite of threats and restrictions imposed by Belgrade. In 1998, when Serbian repression began getting heavier, the office in Pristina published the results of the surveys they had made, which are in direct contrast to the theses spread by the Serbian authorities.
Even the outbreak of war did not stop their work. In the middle of the NATO bombardments Natasa Kandic went to Pristina by taxi several times in order to get a first hand impression of the real situation there and she risked her life by helping some people to escape from Kosovo. “This way I was able to realise myself how important it is for them that somebody from Belgrade would come over to see how they live and to stay with them” she said. Immediately after the end of the war she transferred the office set up in Montenegro to the city of Pec, she re-opened the one in Pristina, and with various lawyers continues to collect information and, above all, tries to discover what happened to those persons who have disappeared. She also is concerned about the situation of the Romani and of the Serb minority; today the HLC operates with four offices in Kosovo and one in Belgrade. Regarding the present state of Serbia and the necessary international support for guaranteeing living conditions after the destruction caused by the war, Natasa claims the necessity of supporting the opposition but also to help the entire population to find a way out of 10 years of conflict.
Recently, together with Veton Surroi, the director of the newspaper of Pristina Koha Ditore, she was awarded a prize for democracy by the “National Endowment for Democracy” in Washington.
Vjosa Dobruna, a citizen of Pristina, has been participating in the non-violent resistance and in civil refusal to obey by the Kosovo people against the politics of discrimination and repression of the Milosevic regime. After losing her job in 1992, like all physicians and professors of Albanian mother tongue, she decided to get involved on the side of the Kosovo women and children and to participate in the project “Bridges of women over the borders”, which aims at creating alliances between different people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds and other diversities. In this way and thanks to the co-operation of women’s associations of Bologna she opened a “Centre for the protection of women and children” in Pristina, with special regard to the questions of health and education. When the war broke out, Vjosa Dobruna decided to transform the Centre, which is equipped with some useful instruments, into a field hospital, but she was captured and was forcibly transported to Tetovo in Macedonia. Even here, in the refugee camp, she was able to continue her work with women and children by setting up a new Centre similar to the one in Pristina devoting herself to relieving the pain of the deportees. At the end of the war she returned with the first refugee transports and immediately concentrated on the reconstruction of the essential structures necessary for living and for bringing together people in a very difficult situation, where dialogue has become impossible; her latest initiative is the establishment of a Refuge for women victims of domestic violence and exploitation.
Like many other people from Kosovo, Vjosa has experienced and suffered the crises of the non-violent strategy aroused by the lack of interest by the international community: “In that time – she says – I started to believe that there are indeed cases in which there is no alternative to armed resistance”. However, she has never ceased to work for a non-ethnically divided Kosovo, “where all people may express their own identity freely. My identity is to be a woman, a Kosovo woman, a paediatrician, the daughter of someone, and like me everyone should be free to be him/herself. Not a Kosovo of Serbs or of Albanians, a Kosovo with a sort of imaginary ethnic identity of origin, but a Kosovo of free persons, which grants peace and security to all who wish to live there in mutual respect”. Therefore the main challenge today is to create the conditions that may bring the severe tension still hanging over Kosovo to an end and stop the violence of revengeful Kosovo elements against the Serb minority.
Vjosa has recently been appointed by the UNO to promote and support a reconciliation process in her country. She is in fact taking part in the management of the Department in charge of the development of democratic institutions and of the civil society for the United Nations’ mission in Kosovo.
We trust that Natasa Kandic’s and Vjosa Dobruna’s experience may be seen not as a glorious exception that is worth celebrating, but as an attempt to find possible ways of living together for which it is necessary to face the wounds of oppression and war, however, keeping in mind those bridges, not only symbolically meant, which Alexander Langer considered essential for the future of our world.
Honourable mention to Sergej Kovaliev
Sergej Kovaliev (1930), biologist, since 1969 member of the “(Clandestine) Group of initiatives for human rights in URSS”, became editor of the magazine “Samizdat – chronicle of current events”. Arrested because of various articles, he was taken to court in Vilnius in 1975 where he was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment and three years of house arrest. Elected deputy in 1990, he was appointed by Yeltsin to the Board of the Council for human rights in 1991. Re-elected to the Duma, in 1995 he was removed from office due to his strictly contrary positions regarding the war in Chechnya. After a heart attack in 1996, he was obliged to slow down his political activities for some time, which he then resumed as a strict opponent to the second war against Chechnya. He co-operates with Elena Bonner, widow of Andrej Sacharov and others, as well as with various humanitarian associations.
His prophetic appeals in favour of a pacific solution to the Chechnya conflict have unfortunately met with no response.
The Scientific and Guarantee Committee of the Alexander Langer Foundation wishes to outline and honour the coherence of Sergej Kovaljev’s attitude by this mention as a token of appreciation for his long-lasting activity as an opponent and essential point of reference for the Russian democratic movement and for all those who are against the barbarities of nationalism and of the war in Chechnya.
The presentation of the winners of the 20 million Lire International Alexander Langer Prize will take place in Bolzano on the July 2nd, 2000 on the occasion of the “Euromediterranea” Festival whereas the official presentation of the Award is planned in Città di Castello, on occasion of the Fair of Concrete Utopia “Fiera delle Utopie Concrete” on October 8th, 2000.
The President of the Committee: Renzo Imbeni
Other members of the Committee are: Ursula Apitzsch, Anna Bravo, Elis Deghenghi Olujiae, Sonia Filippazzi, Pinuccia Montanari, Margit Pieber, Gianni Tamino, Alessandra Zendron