Report from Tetovo
The Road To War
By James T. Phillips
09 August 2001
Tetovo, Macedonia. The highway from Skopje
to Tetovo is littered with the skeletons of vehicles; hulking
masses of burned
metal and rubber that were once busses, trucks and autos.
The debris is all that remains from a gun battle yesterday
morning between the Macedonian military and Albanian rebels.
The road is now open, but most of the traffic is headed
east, away from the danger in Tetovo. Albanian rebels have
Tetovo, and all of the roads leading to the city are hazardous
to travel. The rebels, who have claimed they only want
increased rights within the Macedonian society, are creating
on the ground' which are at odds with their stated political
The once bustling city of Tetovo is now a ghost
town. When the guns begin firing, only a few people are willing
from building to building. The crack of sniper bullets
through the emptiness, and the whistling sound of artillery
shells passing overhead before they impact on Albanian
rebel positions are a reminder that, although peace negotiations
are taking place in Ohrid, war is what is happening in
South of Tetovo, on the edge of the village of Recica,
Albanian rebels have again manned barricades, firing on
military checkpoints from a distance of 100 meters. The
fighting by soldiers and rebels is closer than any peace
being negotiated by diplomats and politicians. During the
five week-long ceasefire Macedonians have tried to avoid
confronting the rebels, adhering as best they can to the
demands of NATO and the European Union. However, the killing
yesterday (8 August) of 10 government soldiers on the road
to Tetovo has incensed the citizens of Macedonia, and their
political and military leaders are now responding with
weapons instead of words.
The Macedonians, they have no mercy," said 16-year-old
Argjira Fejzulai as she huddled with her family during an
intense battle between Macedonian soldiers and Albanian rebels. "The
children hide down in the cellar when the shooting starts.
They are scared." Argjira's family lives in an Albanian
neighborhood near the frontline separating Tetovo and Recica.
weeks ago, when the rebels began creeping ever closer to
the city, the minority population of Macedonian civilians
living in Tetovo believed that they were shown 'no mercy';
they had to hide or leave their homes when the rebels attacked.
Thousands of Macedonians from Tetovo and the villages nearby
are now refugees in their own country, unable or unwilling
to return to their homes. They did not ask for mercy, only
an end to the fighting.
We are a peaceful people," said the son of a Macedonian
restaurant owner in Tetovo. "We do not want war, but
the terrorists want our land." He spoke softly, but
wanted his government to wield a big stick. "The terrorists
will run away when our army attacks."
The peace negotiators
in Ohrid have been trying to cobble together a document
that will end the fighting in Macedonia.
Only a few days ago, just before the rebel attack on the
Tetovo to Skopje highway, the negotiators from NATO and
the European Union saw the 'light at the end of the tunnel'.
An announcement was made that an agreement would be signed
next Monday in Skopje.
The facts on the ground in Tetovo,
Skopje, Prilep and other Macedonian cities, towns and villages
are the result of failed
diplomacy. The tunnel light has dimmed, and the signing
of a peace agreement between diplomats and politicians will
not stop the fighting in Macedonia if the rebels do not
their aggressive actions. Albanian rebels have taken lives
and land from the Macedonians, and a civil war is inevitable
if the rebels do not 'run away'.
Many international media
reports have denigrated the ability of the Macedonian army,
including one today by a reporter
from the BBC. He said that the Macedonians suffer from a "lack
of bravery". Unfortunately, the journalists have mistaken
a disciplined military force acting under orders to avoid
confrontation (Macedonia) for a military force acting brave
while avoiding confrontation (NATO).
The wreckage on the highway
to Tetovo will seem inconsequential if the civil war in Macedonia
explodes. The Macedonians are
a peaceful people, and they do not want war. But, if the
politicians and diplomats are not able or not willing to
end the conflict by ending the occupation of Macedonian land
by Albanian rebels, then another war will commence and there
will be carnage throughout the country.© The News Insider
2001James T. Phillips, who sent this report from Tetovo,
Macedonia, is a freelance journalist who has previously reported
on the conflicts in Iraq, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Currently,
Phillips edits the web publication http://www.warReports.com.
The use of the editorials published on this
site is free, as long as News Insider is notified and referred
to as the source of the information cited.
We believe in the free sharing of information, but we do not encourage
plagiarism. If our editorials are of use to you, please contact us to
let us know. Thank you for your cooperation.