The Kosovo War, 25 Years Later: Things Fall Apart

by Doug Muir on January 15, 2024

Part 3 of a series on the Kosovo War.  Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

So, Adem Jashari. Very short version: he was a guerrilla leader / local strong man.  He lived in a region of Kosovo that was already challenging for the Serb authorities — rural, rugged terrain, and 100% ethnic Albanian. And in March 1998, the Serbs decided to make an example of him. They came into his village with hundreds of troops, surrounded his house, and just shot everyone in sight. They ended up killing about 60 people: Jasheri, almost his entire extended family, some of his guerrilla comrades, and some unlucky souls who just happened to be there.

This was intended as a show of force. It backfired spectacularly. Kosovar Albanian society was socially conservative and extremely family-oriented, so the idea of wiping out an entire extended family was utterly horrific. Also, say what you like about Jasheri, he and his group went out heroically — surrounded, guns blazing, fighting to the last. So Jasheri became an instant martyr, and his death became the incident that flipped Kosovar Albanian society from unhappy and restive to full-blown rebellion. The Serbs didn’t realize it at the time, but they’d tossed a lit match right into a pool of gasoline.
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