The Balkan Troll of the Month is an individual, a group of individuals or a media outlet that spreads hate based on gender, ethnicity, religion, or other diversity categories. The Balkan Troll is selected based on hate speech incidents identified across the Western Balkans region.
This month another femicide happened in Kosovo, the second one in less than a week. A pregnant woman was murdered by her ex-husband in front of the maternity hospital in Pristina, where she was due to give birth a few days later. This was the third femicide in Kosovo this year. In September, the woman was granted police protection, which was supposed to be in effect until March 2023, due to the reported physical and psychological violence she experienced while living with him, and he was given a restraining order. Her family reported that the victim was being harassed by him prior to the murder, however, the police claimed that she was protected.
Shortly after the femicide, Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti reacted by saying that “a life that was bringing another life was extinguished. The woman was pregnant. About 35 years old, not even halfway through her life…Two less Kosovo citizens, two less Albanians, is our enemies will be thinking.” He also blamed the citizens because they only protest for a few days, and then it is “goodbye until the next murder.” This sort of narrative places the responsibility on citizens, and the fact that it comes from the representative of the Government that has the effective power to enforce changes, makes it additionally problematic.
The president of Kosovo, Vjosa Osmani, reacted by saying “Tonight, the whole of Kosovo is crying for a woman who did not get to become a mother, for a lost daughter, for a life that was unjustly ended. Tonight, we cry for an unborn life that never took a breath, for a life that never lived.”
Both statements overlooked the huge social issue of femicide and emphasized the fact that she was supposed to be a mother as well as that she is Albanian, even though she was murdered and previously abused by her ex-husband solely because she is a woman. In this way, Kurti and Osmani either reduced a woman’s value on being a mother or used this femicide as a spin to speak against “national enemies.” This rhetoric is very concerning, especially when it comes from government officials and heads of state. Power and influence they have makes them accountable for the harmful narratives they spread. They both avoided commenting on the failure of the system that was supposed to protect this woman.
Patriarchy is deeply rooted in Kosovar society, just as it is across the region. Violence against women and femicide as the most extreme manifestation of it, has been present for a long time, however, it is gaining visibility as feminist activists took to the streets demanding justice for women.
Protests against gender-based violence have been quite frequent in Kosovo in the past two years which made the public more sensitive to this issue. However, sensationalist media reporting, hateful comments on social media, and statements coming from the government officials such as these continued to promote harmful narratives about violence against women. When reporting on femicide or other types of gender-based violence the media must follow ethical and professional standards of journalism, educate the public on the importance of the issue and report critically on harmful narratives coming from state officials, holding them accountable for their words and actions, or lack thereof.