Majlinda Aliu and Jeton Musliu, both 2010 fellows, appeared on a live TV debate show dedicated to their fellowship investigations.
They were joined by Sabri Bajgora, Kosovo’s chief imam, Nita Luci, an anthropologist and Fahrije Hoti, the head of Krusha, Kosovo’s association of widows.
The Life in Kosovo debate, broadcast on January 27, 2011 and hosted by Jeta Xharra, focused on the stories examining Balkan taboos that Aliu and Musliu researched for the 2010 fellowship programme.
Musliu investigated how Kosovan society appears to be turning a blind eye to men who temporarily divorce their wives and marry EU citizens, in order to gain residency papers. Once they have secured the right to remain in their host country, these men often remarry their original, Kosovan wife.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE TV DEBATE IN ALBANIAN
Musliu, who took third prize in the 2010 fellowship, defended his research into fake marriages. “There is no shame for those who do not care about such important topics, because we know that this phenomenon is widespread, but no one gives it attention,” he said.
Aliu was awarded first prize for her fellowship article examining why war widows in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo do not often remarry.
She told the panel that during her research, it became clear that widowed women in Kosovo and Bosnia were effectively obliged to remain single “in order to protect the morals of the family”.
Aliu had interviewed one Kosovan widow who lost custody of her child after her family in law removed the infant following her husband’s death.
The programme also featured an interview by journalist Edona Musa, who spoke with a representative of Kosovo’s widow association, Krusha, and a widower who had remarried soon after his wife’s death.
The widower, despite having found another partner soon after his wife passed away, told Musa that widows should not remarry.
Sabri Bajgora, Kosovo’s head imam, told the audience that these interviews and reports demonstrate that Kosovo’s national and religious customs are widely “misunderstood”.
He said people frequently incorrectly cited religious principles as supporting various cultural restrictions, such as the one on widows remarrying.
“Unfortunately, in most cases, these discussions refer to religious principles… [that supposedly support restrictive practices] … however, this is not true,” he said.
Nita Luci, an anthropologist, explained this harsh moral code for Kosovan widows emerged as women are seen as passing on nationality – particularly in Albanian society. Around 90 per cent of Kosovo’s 2m population are ethnic Albanian.
“It is thought that women are the ones who create national borders. Within Albanian culture, women reproduce the nation in biological ways, by reproducing key substances [such as blood and sperm],” she said.
Fahrije Hoti, herself a war widow, stressed that women should be given the chance to determine their own futures – and be allowed to remarry.
“Even if a widow decides to remarry, she should have the right to keep her children with her, but the relatives of the deceased father should be allowed to see and meet them,” she concluded.
The panel debated – among other related issues – the following questions:
• Why do husbands whose wives die marry again quickly, while society encourages women whose husbands die to wear black and not re-marry?
• How widespread is the phenomenon of marrying in order to obtain residence permits?
• What do imams in Kosovo say about this?
• How do perceptions of war widows remarrying vary between Kosovo, Bosnia and the UK?
The programme’s coverage of the fate of Kosovo’s widows generated a lot of response from the public.
The TV show host, Jeta Xharra, confirmed that one of the messages she received after the programme was from the war widow who said: “Finally, someone remembered to do a story about the long-forgotten widowed women like me.”
Xharra said: “This only shows that it would be impossible to research such sensitive stories like these ones in the normally hectic, news-chasing environment we work in a day-to-day journalism. That is why the fellowship is terribly important, as it supplies the journalists with resources and time, a whole year, to thoroughly analyse and investigate a serious topic.”
“Knowing the weak and chaotic state of the judicial sector in Kosovo, I am expecting quite a few journalists to apply with good ideas on this topic this year,” she added.
Jeta Xharra hosts the Life in Kosovo show, broadcast weekly on Kosovo’s public TV channel, Radio Television of Kosova, RTK, on Thursdays at 20:20 local time. She is also a regional editor for the Balkan Insight website and contributing editor for the annual fellowship programme.
This year’s fellowship programme is now inviting applications on the subject of justice in the Balkans. Click here for further information. (link)
In 2007, the Robert Bosch Stiftung and ERSTE Foundation initiated the fellowship programme, in cooperation with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, to foster quality reporting, initiate regional networking among journalists and advance balanced coverage on topics that are central to the region as well as to the EU
Journalists in the Balkans must now report on complex reform issues with regional and European dimensions. The fellowship provides editorial guidance, training and adequate funding to do so.
Prominent German and Austrian newspapers, Die Süddeutsche Zeitung and Der Standard, are media partners of the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence programme
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The Selection Committee is comprised of seven prominent media figures from the Balkans and Europe. Each year, committee members read, evaluate and select story proposals for the fellowship.
Editors and journalists from across the region and beyond all work together to make the Balkan fellowship a truly international experience. Scroll down this page for more information on our editorial team.