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Adem Demaçi

Adem Demaçi
Born (1936-02-26) 26 February 1936
Pristina, Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Nationality Albanian
Occupation writer, politician
Known for activism for Kosovo independence, 29 years imprisonment
Political party Parliamentary Party of Kosovo (1996-98)
Kosovo Liberation Army (1998-99)
Children Abetare and Shqiptar[1]
Awards Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought (1991)

Adem Demaçi (born 26 February 1936 in Pristina) is a Kosovo Albanian writer and politician and a longtime political prisoner who spent a total of 29 years in prison for speaking out against the treatment of the ethnic Albanians in Yugoslavia as well as criticising the government of Josip Broz Tito.[2] During his imprisonment, he was recognised as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International,[3] and he is often referred to as "the Nelson Mandela of Kosovo".[2]

Early life

Demaçi studied literature, law, and education in Belgrade, Pristina, and Skopje respectively. In the 1950s, he published a number of short stories with pointed social commentary in the magazine Jeta e re (English: New Life), as well as a 1958 novel titled Gjarpijt e gjakut (English: The Snakes of Blood) exploring blood vendettas in Kosovo and Albania. The latter work brought him literary fame.[4]

Demaçi was first arrested for his opposition to the authoritarian government of Josip Broz Tito in 1958, serving three years in prison. He was again imprisoned 1964-1974 and 1975-1990. He was released from prison by new president of Serbia Slobodan Milošević.[4]

Political career

After his release, he was Chairman of the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms of the People of Kosovo from 1991 to 1995. He also served as editor-in-chief of Zëri, a magazine based in Pristina, from 1991 to 1993.[4][5] In 1991, he was awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.[4]

In 1996, Demaçi moved into politics, replacing Bajram Kosumi as the president of the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo;[4] Kosumi became his vice-president. During this time, he proposed a confederation of states consisting of Kosovo, Montenegro, and Serbia that would be known as "Balkania". His prison record gave him credibility among Kosovars, but his tenure in party leadership was marked by factionalism and a lack of action.[5]

Voice of America pronunciation of "Adem Demaci" from the region of Albania.

Two years later, he joined the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), serving as the head of its political wing.[4] In a 1998 interview with the New York Times, he refused to condemn the KLA's use of violence, stating that "the path of nonviolence has gotten us nowhere. People who live under this kind of repression have the right to resist."[6] In 1999, he resigned from the KLA after it attended peace talks in France, criticising the proposed deal for not guaranteeing Kosovo's independence. Sources stated that Demaçi had grown estranged from the KLA's younger, more pragmatic leadership, leaving him "faced with a decision of jumping or waiting to be pushed".[7]

Though Demaçi's wife left Kosovo before the war, he remained in Pristina with his 70-year-old sister during the entire Kosovo War.[2][4] He was critical of Ibrahim Rugova and other Albanian leaders who fled the conflict, stating that they were missing an important historical event.[8] Yugoslav soldiers arrested Demaçi twice, but were largely humane with him.[2]

Following the war, Demaçi served as director of Kosovo Radio and Television until January 2004. He remained active in politics, affiliated with Albin Kurti, head of the nationalist movement Vetëvendosje!.[4]

Notes and references


a.   ^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the Brussels Agreement. Kosovo has been recognised as an independent state by 108 out of 193 United Nations member states.


  1. ^ Young, Antonia. "Shkëlzen Gashi, Adem Demaçi Biography: a Century of Kosova’s History through One Man’s Life." (PDF). Central and East European Review. Retrieved 21 July 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d Erlanger, Steven (10 August 1999). "Champion of Free Kosovo Now Urges Moderation".  
  3. ^ "Kosovo hunger strikers demand release of ethnic Albanian prisoners (Pay-per-view)".  
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Elsie, Robert (2010). Historical Dictionary of Kosovo. Scarecrow Press. pp. 73–4.  
  5. ^ a b "ICG Kosovo Spring Report". International Crisis Group. 1 March 1998. Retrieved 21 July 2012. 
  6. ^ Hedges, Chris (13 March 1998). "Kosovo Leader Urges Resistance, but to Violence".  
  7. ^ "Kosovo rebel leader quits". BBC News. 2 March 1999. Retrieved 21 July 2012. 
  8. ^ Jacky Rowland (27 May 1999). "Kosovo leader calls for Nato troops". BBC News. Retrieved 21 July 2012. 
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