Perspectives | Politics

Five languages in the Constitution, but only Albanian at home

By - 26.03.2021

Kosovo’s deputies should recognize children as often oppressed and violated citizens.

During the session to vote in the new Kosovo government, opposing deputies took the stand to share their critiques toward the upcoming government. Among them, there was in particular one speech that provoked reactions in the session and elsewhere, throughout the week.

Ganimete Musliu, a deputy in the fifth legislature, addressing Albin Kurti, the newly elected Kosovo prime minister, and citizens, said

“In the end, you want us to call you an Albanian prime minister, you will remain in history as the first prime minister, whose children do not speak Albanian in Kosovo and their home.”

Deputy Musliu was not the first that attempted to determine the good and bad children. She only added new ideas to what her Assembly and party colleague, Mërgim Lushtaku said before. While bad children for Deputy Lushtaku were the children raised by gay parents, for Deputy Musliu, it turns out that bad children are those who do not speak Albanian. Additionally, they both speak of bad parents. To freshen the memory, Deputy Lushtaku believes bad parents are gay parents, while Deputy Musliu, considers them as unworthy as parents whose children do not use Albanian at home. 

So, in the mind of Deputy Musliu, Kurti is less of an Albanian because according to her, his child does not speak Albanian at home. She aims to offend through this. This means that for her, since Prime Minister Kurti is less of an Albanian, he is less of a patriot and as such less legitimate to be in the post.

However, in a democracy legitimacy should not be determined by the tribal mentality of who belongs to who, nor by how Albanian someone is, but by the elections.

If Deputy Musliu has really chosen to fight the battle of the languages, then she should ask for the Kosovo Constitution to be changed. She should ask for votes to stop the use of languages other than Albanian. She should ask that anyone who does not speak the mother tongue, Albanian, to have their human rights be unrecognized. 

There are no double standards. A campaign with a mouth full of minority rights and European integration and the Parliament with racism and nationalism.

So, which is Deputy Musliu? The one from the campaign or the one from the Parliament podium? The deliberate change from the first to the second is a deception.

When she was given the space to clarify, Deputy Musliu added: “[…] I have told you several times, be careful when you touch someone’s child, the children of our leaders, who have been labeled here on this podium. Has a stork brought them, or are they from orphanages? So you have created this standard and you should be used because you will be facing this standard.”

Instead of complaining that someone doesn’t call bread, bread, or school, school, she should find a solution so that everyone has bread and school.

Initially, Deputy Musliu agrees that the rhetoric of attacking children is wrong, yet she cannot resist repeating the same thing herself. Deputy Musliu contributed to this rhetoric that turned into a standard because a standard is formed exactly through repetition. Not that we should not be used to this standard, but we should actively reject it. We should not be used to nonexistent worries. We should be used to the solution of real worries. This should be the only standard. The standard of seeking accountability from her and her colleagues by grown-ups and children as well.

Deputy Musliu did not apologize. Even if she did, an apology just to save face is not sufficient. Instead of an apology, Deputy Musliu should work so that our children have access to the right of multilingualism, which is guaranteed by the Constitution, the institution Deputy Musliu and every other deputy should be working for.

And instead of complaining that someone doesn’t call bread, bread, or school, school, she should find a solution so that everyone has bread and school.

Real worries instead of fictional ones

Here are some real issues with which Deputy Musliu can replace her current worries or any other deputy in the Assembly.

Deputy Musliu should be worried about why not all children in Kosovo cannot speak in their language or learn in their language. She should talk about schools that do not offer lessons in the Romani language, for example. To explain to us why some children enjoy the guaranteed rights by the Law on the Use of Languages, and some don’t. To talk about the parallel system of education for Serbian children. 

To talk about how, in fact, determining superiority and inferiority among people based on the language that they speak in addition to being racist in Kosovo and anywhere else, is anti-constitutional. Based on the same Constitution, Albanian is not the only language spoken in the Parliament, let alone in our homes. 

Five languages are mentioned in the Kosovo Constitution, Romani, Turkish, Bosnian (on a local level), Serbian, and Albanian (on a state level). Deputy Musliu is not criminalizing speaking in Norwegian or English, she is criminalizing speaking in any other language that is not Albanian. This is how we should understand her statement.

Racism is not cut by a knife. You cannot not be racist toward someone who speaks Serbian, Romani, or Turkish, and be racist toward someone that speaks, let’s say, Norwegian. This shows that Deputy Musliu has not internalized the acceptance of either the first nor the second languages.

Deputy Musliu should talk about the stigma toward the speakers of other languages, not reinforce it. She should talk about bullying in schools, instead of promoting it. But, when she believes that not speaking Albanian a weakness, then she indirectly encourages bullying, already present, toward those who do not speak Albanian. 

Bullying is a real problem. A study by the Kosovo Pedagogical Institute, conducted in 2015 in nine municipalities and which included 380 high school students, shows that half the students in the survey have declared that they were called offensive names and laughed at by others on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis. 

Deputy Musliu should talk about children who cannot go to school because they are poor.

Deputy Musliu should recognize another real problem is children’s confrontation with mental health and those with disabilities and daily difficulties that come as a result of the state’s forgetfulness. In 2020, Sebahate Hajdini Beqiri from the Down Syndrome Kosova organization told K2.0 how her organization risked the closing down of their activities because of their financial instability. 

In the same report, Rasmije Krasniqi, from the Hadër organization, a center for children with disabilities, tells how the center is kept alive by donations from abroad while she calls for the government institutions to help her to continue the work. While Deputy Musliu is worried about how children do not speak Albanian, she should tell us exactly what she will do during her mandate for these children. 

Deputy Musliu should also know that children do not have access to preschool education. Deputy Musliu should tell us what is her program to allow children access to preschool education when according to the Coalition of NGOs for Child Protection in Kosovo (KOMF), only 6% of children aged 0-4 years old are included in preschool education. The European Commission Report in 2020 attributes the low results in PISA to the lack of involvement of children in preschool education.

Deputy Musliu should talk about children who cannot go to school because they are poor. She should talk about extreme poverty. About the childhood that is denied to Roma, Egyptian, and Ashkali children, since they, as children, bear the responsibility of providing for the family.

Child labor is forbidden by law and International Conventions. Why are children working, and why exactly Roma, Egyptian, and Ashkali children? Deputy Musliu should tell us why in 2018, according to the result of Child Protection Index 2018 released by KOMF, the state has completed only 16% of the potential actions that the organization has considered as effective measures in fighting negative types of child labor and street work. 

Further, in 2017, the Kosovo Police identified 351 beggars for K2.0. Most of them were children and the majority of children were part of the Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian minorities. She should talk about these children, who cannot even be children. And here, there is a correlation between not speaking Albanian and oppression — the less Albanian you speak, the more oppressed you are.

Since she is worried about children, she should be properly worried about them. To recognize them as citizens that are oppressed and not as useful instruments to hurt and measure egos by. We need political maturity and not tribal governance.

Children are state citizens

All children are children. They should not be someone’s, or a  deputy’s, to be recognized as such. They are state citizens and as such should be recognized by those elected by citizens.

Let’s not wait for today’s children to grow up to show their opposition. Let’s oppose today what was said in the March 22 session. Children should grow up with a plurality of issues and at least somewhere, to have it written that what was said at the Parliament should not have been said in the first place, but since it has been said — it is being opposed.

Parliament’s grown-ups who hold nationalist and racist trials for children, forget that children will grow up knowing that in addition to their needs and well-being being ignored, they are spoken about only intending to provoke someone else.

It is us, former children, who will not enter the nationalism and racism game, but oppose it from its roots.

At the moment, we grown-ups who were children not so long ago should be the testimony that neglected children remember. That children who were excluded sometimes, do not exclude today. The testimony that formerly instrumentalized children do not instrumentalize today. That we are former children and we recognize, know, accept that while there are Albanian children, there are Roma children as well. Serbian children. Bosnian children. Egyptian children. Norwegian children. Kosovar children. Albanian and Serb children. Roma and Bosnian children.

We must be the children that loudly refuse the division that is felt in the Parliament, in our many languages, and with our selected words. We chose the words before languages. And when our languages are violated and excluded, we come together. 

We are the children of that time, that today must abnormalize exclusive rhetoric, so today’s children have other battles to fight. We are the present that should be more open, better. 

It is us, former children, who will not play the nationalism and racism game, but oppose it from its roots. Fundamental opposition is not done by seeking proof that someone who is accused of not speaking Albanian, in fact, speaks Albanian. This is only a continuation of the vicious circle that reproduces divisive rhetoric. 

We have to pave the road for a discourse that recognizes children within the efforts for a good life for them as citizens and not a discourse that closes them in pathetic contours, and essentially racist. We should not respond to racism with racism.

It is important not to let words slip. Language is important. Especially when someone’s language becomes a reason to oppress someone or praise someone else.

Feature Image: K2.0.