Vicious Cycle: Kosovo’s Battered Women Syndrome

Shqipe Gjocaj Pristina, Tirana, Podgorica

Kosovo’s international isolation makes it a legal “black hole” for victims of domestic violence caught in a cycle of discrimination and double standards.

Demonstrators in Pristina express anger following the murder of Diana Kastrati, a 27-year-old student killed by her husband in 2011 after a judge rejected her request for a restraining order. Photo: Amy di Giacomo

The way she tells it, she was a familiar face at the police station in southern Kosovo where she had so often sought sanctuary from her violent husband.

She was in her early 20s when the marriage descended into a nightmare of abuse. Among other tortures, he taunted her with a pistol. One day, she got hold of the gun and took it to the station, fearing for her life.

“The policeman who dealt with me happened to be my husband’s friend,” said the woman, now 31. “He told me that if I were his wife, I wouldn’t have been able to bring the gun because he would have killed me first.”

In the end, it was she who killed her husband. She cut his throat with a razor.

Sitting in a grimy office chair in the interview room of Kosovo’s only jail for women, on the outskirts of the town of Lipjan just south of Pristina, she reflected on her 12-year sentence for murder.

Eight years and four months served, fewer than four years to go.

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