Illustration by Jeta Dobranja for BIRN.

Involvement of Youth in Crime and Extremism in Kosovo: Community Challenges and Solutions

Involvement of youth in Kosovo in various criminal offences such as theft, physical violence, acts with religious motives, and incitement of hatred has highlighted the need at the municipal level to work more with Local Safety Councils for Community Awareness but also awareness regarding the new strategy against extremism.

Three minors were arrested by the Kosovo police on March 15 on suspicion of having set fire to two court offices in the Municipality of Kacanik. The motive is unknown.  

The Mayor of the Kacanik Municipality, Besim Ilazi, told “Kallxo Përnime” TV program on March 22 that, while the police are handling the case, the phenomenon of minors being involved in violent acts has not yet been a topic of discussion within the community safety mechanism.

“This is the first case of this kind,” Ilazi declared, explaining that “in the Community Safety Council we deal with different themes and different forms of extremism, radicalism, but we have not had such cases in Kacanik until now”.

Last year, Kosovo municipalities’ Community Safety Council meetings addressed a number of issues which were believed to be negatively affecting students in school, including bullying, drug use and gender-based violence. Religious extremism, which primarily reaches students via social media, was not one of the primary issues addressed by the Community Safety Council meetings in 2023. 

Ilazi added that, in accordance with new guidelines from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Local government, the number of Community Safety Council meetings will be halved from 12 to six meetings per year.   

The Director of the Community Security Division within the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Labinot Sadiku, said that the number of annual meetings was halved at the request of the municipal mayors.

“In some municipalities, the non-attendance of members has been reflected because the CSC is conditionally composed of two pillars, one that is appointed based on official duty and the other representing the community who have no contract with the  municipality and lack finances,”  Sadiku stated.

The Coordinator for the Community Safety Council in Drenas/Glogovac, Laureta Thaqi, explained that the six meetings per year are mandatory, but, depending on circumstances, the number can also increase.

“In this council, we try to identify the problems related to the community and not just identify and discuss them because discussion alone is not enough,” Thaqi stated.

In December 2023, a Christmas Tree was set on fire in the courtyard of the Municipality of Han i Elezit/Elez Han. This sparked a debate in Kosovo about whether the religious community and the state had successfully combated religious radicalization.

Kosovo’s national government approved a strategy for The Prevention and Combating of Terrorism in July 2023. Through this strategy, the local level is obliged to address a range of activities outlined in the strategy against extremism and terrorism. It also includes addressing new forms and global trends of extremism, political and nationalist currents.

The Mayor of Kaçanik has not yet seen the new Strategy against extremism and, according to him, “there are no specific guidelines detailing what forms of extremism could pose a risk to a municipality like Kacanik”. 

“These topics have been discussed very little with us. We have no guidelines, we have not received any guidance. I can say that these topics are unknown.”, Ilazi further stated.

According to Laureta Thaqi, the new Counter-Terrorism Strategy has been “discussed only in general terms, but not for individual cases.”

“We have sought more cooperation with the parents’ council, with class representatives, strengthening the mechanism between the municipality and schools as mainly young people are at risk, we are trying through various activities to involve them in youth activities,” Thaqi emphasised.

Labinot Sadiku, an employee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, believes that, at the municipal level, “they (municipal employees) are informed about the trends and new forms of extremism although there are no clear guidelines for them yet.”

The Mayor of Kacanik explained that in the past the municipality has dealt with cases related to the departure of citizens to conflict zones in Syria and Iraq, “there have been a variety of events, but lately, there have been no new cases”,  adding that lectures have also been held in mosques by imams.

“We have cases where the parent has been atheist and the child has gone to the other extreme. I don’t know where they found inspiration,” Ilazi added.

and 25/03/2024 - 14:30

25 March 2024 - 14:30

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