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Posts Tagged ‘former yugoslavia

[LINK] “How an America-loving country became a jihadi hub”

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Michael Petrou of MacLean’s notes the relative success of the Islamic State in finding recruits in Kosovo.

An April report by the Kosovo Center for Security Studies (KCSS) reveals that as of January, some 232 Kosovars have joined Islamist militant groups in Syria and Iraq, a rate of 125 recruits for every one million people living in the country. This is well ahead of Bosnia, which comes in second with 85 recruits per million, and of Belgium, the third-ranked country, with 42 recruits per million.

[. . .]

According to Shpend Kursani, an external research fellow at KCSS and author of the report, most Kosovars still have a positive view of America and NATO. And yet, he says, the majority of Kosovars fighting in the Middle East have joined Islamic State, a militia whose goals include waging war on the West—raising disturbing questions about Islamic State’s ability to penetrate communities that, being broadly secular and pro-Western, would seem to have little reason to support it.

Islamic State’s recruiting success in Kosovo upsets Kosovars who are not sympathetic to the group, or to their fellow citizens who join it. “There’s a sense that people joining Islamic State are betraying in many ways the very nation,” says Florian Bieber, professor of southeast European studies at the University of Graz.

The per capita numbers don’t tell the whole story. Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliate from which it split, are Muslim supremacist outfits. Non-Muslims could never join them. When the percentage of recruits is calculated based exclusively on a country’s Muslim population, Kosovo falls lower in rank. It sends about 130 volunteers per one million Muslims in its population—far below several Western European countries, including Finland, which sends some 1,667 recruits per million Muslims, and Belgium, which sends 690.

By this calculation, Kosovo is similar to Bosnia, another Balkan nation with a large Muslim population, which sends 211 recruits for every one million Muslims living there. But Muslim Kosovars are still much more likely to join jihadist groups than Muslims in Albania and Turkey, both Muslim-majority countries. Turkey, which borders Syria and Iraq and is a major transit point for foreign fighters joining Islamic State, sends only eight recruits per million Muslims, barely six per cent of Kosovo’s rate.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 17, 2015 at 10:36 pm

[LINK] “Controversial bishop — head of his church in Canada — sent packing”

The Toronto Star‘s Jacques Gallant looks in detail at how controversies over church politics and personal behaviour have led to Bishop Georgije Djokic being removed from his position as head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Canada.

The decision came after the gathering listened to accusations for three days, and one day for Djokic’s defence, said Rev. Ljubomir Rajic of All Saints Serbian Orthodox Church in Mississauga.

The allegations against Djokic, head of the church in Canada, have not been made public. Allusions have been made to “indecent behaviour” in Serbian media, which also reported that Djokic denied the allegations.

“The bishop is about 67 years old. He had promised to retire when he reached 65, so probably the best thing he could do is to accept this (decision) and bring peace to the Serbian community by retiring,” said Rajic.

“There’s nothing wrong with retiring at the age of 65. Myself, I can’t wait for that.”

Djokic is reportedly still in Belgrade until the weekend and could not be reached for comment. He retains his title of bishop, according to church officials.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 26, 2015 at 10:33 pm

[LINK] “From pro-American to pro-Russian? Nikola Gruevski as a political chameleon”

Open Democracy’s Vassilis Petsinis looks at how Macedonia’s embattled president has managed to slip from pro-Western to pro-Russian camps because of his very neoconservative slipperiness.

Following the unrest in Kumanovo and the massive anti-government protests, FYR Macedonia has captivated the interest of the international press. The most recent mobilization has been the peak of a wave of discontent that commenced with the countrywide student protests some weeks ago. In the domestic front, opposition circles have issued a series of charges against the government led by the conservative VMRO-DPMNE such as: promotion of nepotism, unwillingness to combat corruption, illegitimate surveillance of political opponents and, on top of all, growing authoritarianism.

Meanwhile, political analysts have detected a certain rift in the relations between Skopje and the West which has resulted in the Macedonian government’s more decisive reorientation towards Moscow. Russia has pledged its political support to Nikola Gruevski’s and the two sides have extended their cooperation in energy issues and other areas of economic concern. Without neglecting the crucial impact of shifting geopolitics, this brief piece mostly concentrates on VMRO-DPMNE’s, predominantly, neoconservative agenda under the leadership of Nikola Gruevski. It also sets in a comparative context how this neoconservative platform has remained intact despite the gradual readjustment of the state’s foreign policy from Euro-Atlantic institutions towards Moscow’s orbit of influence.

In 2003, Nikola Gruevski succeeded Ljubčo Georgievski in the party’s leadership. An ambitious young politician back then, Gruevski’s main ambition was to centralize decision-making within VMRO-DPMNE and modernize the party’s structures.

The latter objective was achieved via the recruitment of a younger pool of cadres. Following a widespread trend all over Southeast Europe (e.g. Albania’s Edi Rama and Serbia’s Vuk Jeremić), the party’s central committee and later the Cabinet of Ministers consisted of young, aspiring and, often, Western-educated individuals (e.g. the Foreign Minister between 2006 and 2011, Antonio Milošoski). Moreover, Gruevski maintained the central aspects of Georgievski’s strategy of rapprochement vis-à-vis the ethnic Albanian community.

Despite this, Gruevski’s term in office has been marked by the emphatic endorsement of Neo-Macedonism to the detriment of the modernist narratives over the Macedonian ethno-genesis in the nineteenth century. The adoption of Neo-Macedonism became further institutionalized through the endorsement of grandiose architectural projects, largely inspired by classical antiquity, which commenced in 2010.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 26, 2015 at 10:29 pm

[LINK] “Macedonia, the New U.S.-Russia Battlefield”

Leonid Bershidsky of Bloomberg View reports on Western-Russian competition in Macedonia, noting that a Russian policy that depends on weak and corrupt government is fragile.

Macedonia is a poor, landlocked Balkan country of about 2 million. To the Kremlin, it’s also the newest front in an ideological battle, with the U.S. fomenting regime change to counter Russia’s influence. As is often the case, that view is correct to the extent that Russian interests are aligned with those of a corrupt authoritarian ruler.

[. . .]

As for Macedonia, two months after the Turkish Stream plans were broached, the opposition leader Zoran Zaev started publishing secret recordings of officials’ conversations. Zaev said the recordings, made by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s government as part of a sweeping surveillance operation, were handed to him by a whistleblower. The frank, and sometimes coarse, conversations cover a lot of ground, from violence against political opponents and electoral fraud to the purchase of a Mercedes for Gruevski using the Interior Ministry as cover (the interior minister, who has since resigned, is heard discussing the massage function of the car’s rear seats with the chief of intelligence, who has also quit in disgrace).

Macedonians were not amused, and even the country’s Albanian minority, which had never made common cause with the Macedonian opposition, joined huge rallies in the capital, Skopje. Last weekend, tens of thousands of protesters turned out in the town center, which Gruevski recently decorated with kitschy neoclassical buildings and statues at a cost the tiny nation could ill afford. On Monday, the prime minister, who has been running Macedonia for almost 10 years, staged his own counter-rally. He called the intercepts “a great lesson” and denounced Zaev as a foreign puppet with a “script writer,” and called on supporters to “imagine a prime minister brought to power by foreign services.”

To Team Putin, this is familiar ground: Events are following the same course as in Ukraine in 2013 and 2014, when Viktor Yanukovych’s corrupt regime was ousted by a popular uprising. The Kremlin believes the U.S. fomented similar revolutions in Georgia in 2003, in Ukraine in 2005 and in Moldova in 2009 and made several less successful attempts to bring down pro-Moscow regimes in former Soviet countries. Waves of regime change such as the Arab Spring also fall under Putin’s definition of U.S.-engineered revolutions. The word he uses to describe them is, curiously, the same as Gruevski’s description of the incriminating recordings: “a lesson” for Russia on what to avoid.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 22, 2015 at 10:11 pm

[LINK] On the voiding of the treason conviction in Serbia of Draza Mihajlovic

The National Post shares Jovana Gec’s Associated Press article noting the latest development in the Serbian, and former Yugoslavian, history wars. For the record, I’m inclined to think he probably was not worse than many of his opponents. (For whatever that matters.)

A Belgrade court on Thursday quashed the treason conviction of Gen. Draza Mihailovic for his collaboration with Nazis during the Second World War, politically rehabilitating the controversial Serbian guerrilla commander almost 70 years after he was sentenced and shot to death by communists.

For decades, Mihailovic’s fate has fueled division in Serbia, where many see him as a hero who died for political reasons.

The Higher Court of Belgrade said Thursday that the verdict from July 1946 is now “null and void.”

The ruling was met with a thunderous applause by dozens of Mihailovic’s supporters who filled the courtroom. Dozens more flag-waving nationalist supporters and leftist opponents of Mihailovic gathered outside and were kept apart by riot police.

[. . .]

Supporters of Second World War Yugoslav communist partisans maintain that Mihailovic collaborated with the Nazi occupiers, and non-Serbs in the former Yugoslavia have accused his troops of atrocities.

[. . .]

As a Yugoslav royal army officer, Mihailovic launched a resistance movement in 1941 against German occupation, before turning against communist guerrillas later in the war. When the Second World War was over, he was jailed and sentenced to death in a hasty trial. He was buried in an unmarked grave.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 15, 2015 at 11:27 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • blogTO notes an upcoming group photo of prominent Toronto musicians.
  • Centauri Dreams speculates about the sort of starship a Kardashev II civilization would build.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze has a couple of papers noting the interactions between hot Jupiters and their parent suns.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on Russian nuclear submarine advances.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that same-sex marriage in Slovenia is safe and observes the advance of civil unions in Italy.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes how revitalizing neighbourhoods can lead to complicated politics, politely put.
  • Marginal Revolution considers ways to improve the allocation of water in drought-hit areas like California.
  • The Numerati’s Stephen Baker wonders if Apple might be able to regain its lost customers.
  • Torontoist approves of a Haitian restaurant in a Scarborough strip mall.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the complexities of language policy in the former Soviet Union, looks at the institutionalization of Islam in the Crimea, and examines the issues of self-identifying Ukrainians in the Russian Far East.

[LINK] “US moving to deport Bosnians over war crimes: report”

Al Jazeera reports on the impending mass deportation of Bosnian immigrants–Bosnian Serbs, I’m guessing–for their involvement in the Srebrenica massacre.

U.S. officials have identified about 300 Bosnian immigrants who they believe concealed their involvement in wartime atrocities, including the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, and are trying to deport at least 150 of them, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

The immigrants were among refugees fleeing the violence in Bosnia after a war that erupted in 1992 with the collapse of Yugoslavia. The number of suspects could eventually be more than 600 as more records from Bosnia become available, the newspaper reported.

“The more we dig, the more documents we find,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement historian Michael MacQueen, who has led many of the agency’s war crimes investigations, told the Times.

Many of the Bosnian suspects were former soldiers, and they include a Virginia soccer coach, an Ohio metal worker and four Las Vegas hotel casino workers, the newspaper said. Some are now U.S. citizens, it said.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 7, 2015 at 12:33 am


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