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Albin Beqir, Building Peace Among the Youth in Mitrovica

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

In this interview, we talk to Albin Beqir, an Albanian young person living in Mitrovica. Growing up in a divided city Alban decided to dedicate his career to improving community relations across the Bar River


Albin Beqir is a 21-year-old male born and raised in Mitrovica, a city in Kosovo that is divided by a river into two parts, South Mitrovica and North Mitrovica. The south is mainly populated by Kosovo Albanians and the north is mainly populated by Kosovo Serbs. These

two communities have had ongoing conflicts for decades but in recent years, young people in Mitrovica like Albin have decided to leave the conflicts in the past and cooperate with young people from all communities in order to create more opportunities for everybody.


Albin started doing that by joining International Business College Mitrovica (IBCM), a college known for being multiethnic and multicultural, and currently, he is working at Community Building Mitrovica (CBM) as part of the Reconciliation and Conflict Transformation (RCT) project that works towards encouraging multiethnic and multicultural cooperation.

 

How did you become involved in cross-community peace-building in Mitrovica?


Most of North Mitrovica is populated with Serbs, while I am from South Mitrovica, where most of the residents are Albanian. Because of the trauma left by conflicts and political tension, having friends from the other community is kind of rare and even something frowned upon. I was born after the war so I didn’t grow up in an environment fuelled with hatred and I wanted to make friends with everyone. In my high school, I realised that the student body was quite racially segregated: it was just Albanians being friends with Albanians and Serbs with Serbs. When it was time to go to college, I decided to join IBCM because I found out that there are people from all communities there. After joining IBCM, which is located in North Mitrovica, I made friends with lots of Serbs in the college. We share many hobbies and passion and we worked together a lot. Although our friendship was still sometimes subjected to the prejudice of others, we weren’t bothered. We created a sort of cross-communal space of solidarity through this.


What kind of local peacebuilding work have you been involved in?


I am in my last semester of college, during which I need to finish an internship, and I took up an internship at Community Building Mitrovica (CBM), which is dedicated to empower all communities and bring people together. Here there is an ongoing project called Reconciliation and Conflict Transformation (RCT). I’m involved in this project, where I do social media outreach and try to share positive messages. We try to identify people from different communities and share their stories about how they created opportunities for everyone. We’re currently hosting a writing workshop on the power of youth in peacebuilding, where young people are summoned to write about their engagement in cross-community work together. Last week, we also painted a mural under the bridge connecting South and North Mitrovica for Human Rights Day.


What do you think of young people’s role in peacebuilding in Mitrovica in the next few years?


At the moment, from my experience, I realised that people from all communities having fun together in a leisure setting is the best way of cross-community bonding. For example, more people from North and South Mitrovica become friends when they play sports together. But when I tried to propose some joint official work between the two communities, people tend to be more hesitant. I hope that in the future, young people can collaborate in a wider variety of projects. I would like to create a network of young people and increase cross-community solidarity through writing, music, and more forms of activities, whatever that brings people together.


Are there any collaborative business or entrepreneurship initiatives in Mitrovica?


Yes, this type of cross-community ties is emerging in Mitrovica as well. At CBM recently, there was an event where two business owners from North and South Mitrovica were invited to demonstrate the power of cross-community reconciliation in the business world. People realise that their businesses would have higher profit

when having customers are coming from both communities.


What is the significance of cross-community peace to you personally?


The older generation in Mitrovica and in the Republic of Kosovo suffers from post-war trauma, and they usually have bad past experience with the other community.


But the younger generation is showing the world that we are a generation for peace, not for war. We want to move forward and to develop, and we realise that conflict will not lead to development. If we, the young people, come together, we can make something good happen, for Mitrovica, for Kosovo, and for both the Albanian and the Serb communities.





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