Ermira Mehmeti – Macedonia

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

It is said about her: “Ermira Mehmeti saw the opportunity to help rebuild the country, starting from rebuilding the relations between ordinary people from grassroots level to the top. It was an opportunity she did not miss”.

Vecer, Macedonia: Media boycott against Democratic Union of Integration, by FOCUS News Agency, Sept. 29 2007. Skopje – As a sign of protest against Tuesday’s incidents when in the Macedonian parliament a security guard of the Democratic Union of Integration /DUI/ attacked a journalist of the A1 television channel Lirim Dulovi, all journalists, photo reporters and operators boycotted on Friday the protest staged by the DUI in Skopje under the motto “Stop state violence”, the Macedonian Vecer newspaper writes. What is interesting is that Ahmeti’s party had found out about the media intentions beforehand, and had hard tried to dissuade them. Ahead of the protest DUI Spokesperson Ermira Mehmeti promised to the journalists they would receive an apology and asked them not to leave. Still the media did not give up their intention and left the protest the moment when the latest acts of violence against media representatives were condemned, and the apology was made in Albanian only, the Vecer notes. The newspaper adds Lirim Dulovi had asked through the media DUI leader Ali Ahmeti to publicly condemn the attack. (full text, Sept. 29, 2007).

Ermira Mehmeti - Macedonia 60p.jpg.

Ermira Mehmeti – Macedonia

She works for the Democratic Union for Integration (see them on wikipedia).

Ermira Mehmeti is the spokesperson for the Democratic Union for Integration, which emerged following the 2001 conflict in the country. Its leaders are those who fought for more rights and equal treatment of ethnic Albanians and Macedonians. Ermira is working to bring together youth of the two major communities that were in conflict. Her message is that peace and democracy are the crucial values that can bring the country into Europe, that diversity makes the country stronger and should be the corner stone of this young democracy and that reconciliation must be promoted.

Ermira Mehmeti is the symbol of young and emancipated Albanian women living in Macedonia with clear perspectives on their future. She has become the voice of moderation of the young educated generation of ethnic Albanians living in Macedonia. The myth of the uneducated and primitive Albanian community living in the country was broken as she emerged on the political scene.

Ermira is the daughter of a retired lawyer and a social worker working for the Macedonian Red Cross. Her father was a political prisoner in the times of the Communist regime in the Former Yugoslavia. Her mother has spent her life helping those in need, especially families that need social assistance and children without care.

Currently (2005), Ermira is finishing her legal studies at the South East European University in Tetovo, Macedonia. She has committed her time and energy to work in the post-conflict Kosovo as well as contribute to the peace process in Macedonia.

In Kosovo, Ermira Mehmeti served as one of the main interpreters for the International War Crimes Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia, providing assistance during the drafting of witness statements to be used in the case against Slobodan Milosevic. For over a year, she has been engaged with the European Community Humanitarian Office (Echo) in provision of assistance to the families in post-conflict Kosovo. In 2001, Ermira worked as a reporter for the Associated Press news agency and as the main English-Albanian interpreter during the peace negotiations held in Ohrid, which resulted in the Framework Agreement that put an end to the conflict in Macedonia. In 2002, she was hired by the Democratic Union for Integration to work as the spokesperson for the party, a job that she has been doing ever since.

In Ermira’s part of the world, securing peace is one of the biggest concerns. She belongs to a generation that has grown up with images of bloodshed, forced expulsion, mass graves and rapes shown on TV every day. She belongs to a generation that has learned well the political vocabulary of conflict prevention and securing peace. It is an issue she has grown up with. She has been a witness of the break up of what used to be one country, one ideology, and one mentality. She has been a witness of what used to be the language of tolerance and mutual understanding, turning into the language of hatred and killings within seconds. Her generation is a generation of peace agreements. The words “peace agreements,” “negotiations,” and “peace process,” do not belong to distant places. They have turned into reality, into an obligation to fulfill, into responsibility to understand, into commitment to bring forward. The process of restoring peace to them has become the nature of work, a culture of living. Surrounded by countries and places where peace is still very fragile, they have learned and recognize the advantages of such a process. However, they also recognize the agony caused by being constantly tied or conditioned by provisions that represent a peace agreement.

If someone were to ask Ermira Mehmeti to describe peace, she would really have a hard time. Her main dilemma is how to understand peace. Peace has different phases. The first phase is the process of restoring it in the immediate post-conflict period, which is mainly characterized by efforts to restore rule of law and order and building confidence between the parties of the conflict. The second phase is the strengthening of peace, which follows the confidence building and goes further on to institution building, strengthening democracy, respect for human rights, all followed by the implementation of the peace agreement, if one is reached.

Ermira comes from a part of the world that has seen some of the worst horrors since World War II. The community she represents, the ethnic Albanians in Macedonia, is an oppressed and discriminated community, still suffering the consequences of the old communist regime of the Former Yugoslavia. Many internationally recognized analysts have said that one of the key reasons for the breakup of former Yugoslavia was the unresolved question of ethnic Albanians who lived in the federation.

This population is made up of nearly 3 million people, whose basic human rights were restricted and who were treated differently, just because of their different culture, history, customs and traditions, in the 1980s and 1990s. These ethnic Albanians mobilized themselves and organized political unrest or rebellion, which in the late 1990s culminated with an armed insurgency aimed at confronting the former Yugoslav regime, which was dominated by ethnic Serbs.

The story in Macedonia was very similar. The Albanian community there, representing around one third of the population, was constantly subject to discrimination and maltreatment by the State of Macedonia, which became independent following the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. Ethnic Albanians suffered discrimination especially in higher education; they were virtually denied access to urban areas and left to build their lives in villages. They were barred from jobs in the state administration. The dissatisfaction that grew among them erupted in 2001, when the Albanians took up arms to resist the conservative forces in the country.

The conflict ended following the signing of the Framework Agreement (Ohrid Agreement) in August 2001. The Agreement represents a set of political and socio-economic rights for the members of non-majority communities that live in Macedonia. Its implementation started immediately after the signing and goes on to date. The political process in Macedonia is a process of peace building.
People have often asked Ermira why is she doing all this? It is not an easy question to answer. At the age of 25, she has witnessed some of the country’s most important historical events. Ever since the outbreak of the conflict in early 2001, she has been deeply involved in crucial moments for the future of her country. She has tried to contribute in any way she could in the overall efforts to prevent more bloodshed in the Balkans and move faster towards a peace agreement.

Currently, she is a spokeswoman for Democratic Union for Integration, the political party that was founded after the conflict and whose main agenda is the implementation of the Framework Agreement, as a key condition to restore and secure long-term peace and stability in the country. She decided to engage in politics because she believes that she has been given a rare chance not many young people are given in their lives: the opportunity to do something specific for the well being of the country. Rebuilding the country, starting from rebuilding the relations between ordinary people from grassroots level to the top, she believes is an opportunity one should never miss. Making peace in an ethnically mixed country is not an easy process, especially when the conflict was between the members of the different ethnic groups and because peace agreements are never perfect for either of the parties.
Since 2002 when the Democratic Union for Integration was formed and the peace process was still at a very early stage, she has observed a positive change in the internal affairs of the country. The animosity and hatred of the past are no longer present among people. The political arrangements are proving functional and provoking social cohesion among the population.

In this whole process her role has been sensitive and complex. She is seen as the “image” that represents yesterday’s rebels in a moderate, modern and constructive sense. Her mission has been to convey the message that since 2001 Macedonia is building a new reality. This new reality is based on the spirit of the Framework Agreement, which aims at creating equal political and legal status to the members of all different communities that live in the country. The new reality in Macedonia also aims to show that all citizens can be loyal to their country, provided that they all enjoy the same treatment by its institutions.

Ultimately, the post-conflict Macedonia aims to become an environment in which all can live equally and in which the rights that ethnic communities are guaranteed by the Framework Agreement in no way limit or reduce the rights that the majority population has enjoyed for decades. She passes on these messages daily as spokesperson of the political party currently in power.

In spite of her responsibilities at school and at work, Ermira Mehmeti has also been the main supporter of her family. Her older brother suffers a very difficult eye condition and is almost blind. Her father, having spent over five years in communist prisons, has suffered a nervous stroke, which has left him half paralyzed. (1000peacewomen).

She says: “Ky është një program që Departamenti amerikan i Shtetit organizon për vizitorë nga vende të ndryshme të botës, me qëllim që personat e dalluar në sfera të ndryshme në vendet e tyre, të vijnë e të njihen për së afërmi me atë se si funksionojnë Shtetet e Bashkuara. Këtë vit ambasada amerikane në Shkup përgatiti një program për zëdhënësit e partive politike, që ata të njihen me çështjet politike, ekonomike dhe sociale këtu në Shtetet e Bashkuara. Ne do të qendrojmë për tri javë, do të zhvillojmë vizita këtu në Uashington, pastaj do të udhëtojmë për në Dallas të Teksasit, pastaj shkojmë në Feniks të Arizonës, në Burlington të Vermontit. Vizita jonë përfundon në Nju Jork dhe prej andej kthehemi në Maqedoni”. (full interview text, Febr. 18, 2004).

Macedonia Court Bans Display of Albanian Flag: Macedonia’s Constitutional Court has decided that legal provisions that allow the use of the Albanian flag outside some public buildings are unconstitutional. The Court’s conclusion means that the Albanian flag can no longer be displayed on a permanent basis alongside the Macedonian flag in front of municipal buildings in areas where ethnic Albanians make majority. (full text, 25 Oct. 2007).

links:

Social Democratic Union of Macedonia;

Univ. at Buffalo, listserv;

Kosovo Radicals Draw a Blank in Macedonia, Sceptical response to plans by Vetevendosje to open branches in Macedonia, 02 March 2007;

Transitions online;

RM Digest.

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