Droves of citizens are streaming through the Kosovo assembly to pay homage to Adem Demaci, a longtime human rights activist and former political prisoner who passed away on Thursday.
Clutching flower bouquets and waiting in line to write final farewell notes, citizens gathered at the Kosovo Assembly building in Prishtina to pay respects to Adem Demaci, a Kosovo Albanian political activist and prisoner of conscience who passed away on Thursday at the age of 82.
Friends, colleagues, politicians and the general public who held him dear exited the building in tears while holding his books and and wearing pins bearing his portrait. Glistening in the sun, state flags were flying at half-mast after President Hashim Thaci announced that the country would observe three days of mourning in honor of Demaci, and bury him with the highest state honors.
Among those attending was Prishtina Mayor Shpend Ahmeti, who said that it is a time of sorrow for the whole Albanian nation.
“Baca Adem is a symbol of selfless sacrifice, he was not concerned with himself, but only with the national interest,” Ahmeti said, using the endearing Albanian term bac, a colloquial term for elderly men. “Whenever we think we are tired of working too much, thinking about the deeds of people like Baca Adem will remind us that some people dedicated their whole lives to this country.”
During the Yugoslav regime in Kosovo, Demaci spent a total of 28 years behind bars in multiple prisons around the federation for promoting rights and self-determination for Albanians in Kosovo. Demaci was in and out of prison between 1958 and 1990.
In the early 1990s Demaci headed the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedom, KMDLNJ, which monitored and reported human rights abuses in the country during Milosevic’s regime. Sami Kurteshi, a Vetevendosje MP who was the executive secretary of the Council between 1992 and 1996, said that Demaci was a colossus of freedom.
“He was the link across two centuries for the efforts to achieve freedom in Kosovo. I grew up with his name, with the ideas that he reflected. We were friends and associates,” he said.
Throughout his life, Demaci authored many books, most notably his 1958 novel Gjarpijte e Gjakut (The Snakes of Blood) about blood feuds, which was banned by the communist regime. He was also the president of the League of Kosovo Writers between 2005 and 2007. Shqipe Hasani, member of the League, said that his legacy is spotless.
“He was a phenomenal person… his death is difficult for the whole Albanian nation. Yet, he died honorably, knowing the current circumstances and situations [in the country],” she said.
In the late 1990s, Demaci headed the political branch of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, and became a spokesperson for the guerrilla group during the Kosovo war. He distanced himself from the group after representatives of the KLA accepted the Rambouillet conference deal in 1999.
The Kosovo assembly building will be open for the general public until 8:00 pm on Friday. Demaci will be buried at the Martyrs’ Cemetery in Prishtina on Saturday. – The funeral cortege will depart from “Salla 1 Tetori” at 11:00 am and drive through central Prishtina before reaching the burial ground.
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