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INFO   :::  Region > Kosovo - PAGE 1 > Securitizing Kosovo through radicalism


Securitizing Kosovo through radicalism

Erdoan A. Shipoli

May 31, 2016, The Huffington Post

There is an unexpected movement to bring Kosovo into the radicalism discussion in the American media. Recently, there have been many articles, news, and reports on the increase of radical fractions in Kosovo. One of the most controversial ones was the New York Times article on “How Kosovo was Turned Into Fertile Ground for ISIS.” While the article was widely shared in social media, it was also widely criticized by experts of the Balkans, both local and international, and the government of Kosovo.

It is difficult to understand this movement of international attention to Kosovo and ISIS. Yes, Kosovo is a very tolerant Muslim-majority country, and yes, Wahhabi factions have been a problem after the 1999 war; but they have never found a fertile ground and they have always been rejected by mainstream society. Moreover, what they called a “pipeline for jihadists,” it is reported that even the Kosovars who went to fight in Syria, which are of a similar percentage of other European countries’ nationals, have flown to Turkey from the airports of neighboring countries.

Now that the Middle East is securitized and that Turkey is in the final stage of securitization; securitization-obsessed journalists, analysts, and politicians have turned their eyes towards the Balkans, and especially the newly founded country where the approval rating of the US, Britain, and Germany, is above 90% in all the post-war polls. Kosovo has been the target because it also is the clearest success story of American intervention abroad: no American soldier died in combat, genocide was prevented, and although problematic the state formation is ongoing.

The main problem with this narrative is that it serves the purpose of the small group that wants to radicalize the Muslims worldwide. Anyone who is curious about Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) will learn that poverty is not a driver for recruitment. While the Saudi money was given to families who lost everything in war, the percentage of these families being radicalized, or even worse going to fight in the Middle East, is insignificantly low.

Claims about Kosovo being a hotbed for extremists goes beyond being inaccurate into being dangerous. Firstly, it undermines the government’s and international community’s ongoing work in identifying and taking actions against ISIS fighters and recruiters in Kosovo; and secondly, these portraits of Kosovar Albanians as “brainwashed by Saudi propaganda” denies their agency of thinking and the ongoing struggle of Albanians to rebuild their tolerant faith after communism. Such narrative only increases Islamophobia, which brings another type of racism.

According to the latest reports by Kosovo officials and civil society, while the approval rate of American and European foreign policy is still above 90%, in 2015 the number of Kosovar fighters in Middle Eastern wars has decreased by 80% and there is no case reported in 2016.

The anti-Saudi hysteria in the US is one of the causes of this securitization movement. But, it has no factual base in Kosovo and it is not an exaggeration to claim that Saudi sympathy is higher among white American non-Muslims than Kosovar Albanian Muslims.

Another reason for the securitization of Kosovo, to my analysis, is the criticism of the American foreign policy. While American foreign policy was a mess during the Bush administration, and the Obama administration has had very little success in making up the failures of the previous administration, Kosovo is one of the success stories of American foreign policy. In this regard when American foreign policy is criticized then Kosovo becomes a target and it is securitized by radicalism. Securitizing Kosovo has more to do with criticizing American foreign policy than Kosovo per se, but these actions have negative effects.

Most importantly this loud “radical Islam” exaggeration perfectly serves the corrupted elite in Kosovo, to distract people from corruption and criminal scandals they are involved in. Local and international journalists can do a better and easier job if they look at the corruption and criminal scandals of the political elite, who have been jeopardizing the fate of a nation with the youngest population. Kosovo has one of the most educated young generations, but it also has the highest rate of unemployment. Many youngsters choose Europe and America for their education due to the inefficiency in Kosovo’s educational system. While the government can be highly criticized for inefficiency, they have successfully tackled the prevention and fighting CVE in Kosovo.

Government officials and political elite have used this narrative to please the European Union and the American diplomats and politicians. Most of EU reports on Kosovo have highly criticized crime rate and corruption, but the government has failed to address these issues. Instead, they use the “radicalism threat” narrative to cover up for their inefficiency to tackle corruption and crime.

In this picture, securitizing Kosovo through radicalism, which it has been in steep decline for the past two years, brings great damage to the newly founded state’s image, isolating it further: making it more difficult to get the Schengen visa liberation regime, preventing foreign investments thus increasing unemployment, and addressing worrisome problems, such as corruption, government inefficiency, unemployment, and crime. I must conclude by Dr. Daniel Serwer’s –one of few Balkan experts that remained in DC—, remarks, “What we need to do … is to continue to help ensure the success of Kosovo’s democracy and economy, as well as its application of the rule of law. Despite the Times’ [sic.] front-page article, Kosovo is one of the last things Americans should have to worry about.”



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