Mark Gjonaj Remarks at City Hall on Kosova’s 16th anniversary of indepedence

Good evening. Thank you to our hosts: Speaker Adrienne Adams, Councilmembers Holden,Carr, Borelli, Marmorato, Special guest, Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Ambassador Blerim Reka, Dignitaries from Kosova Ilir Ferati, Mayor of Istog Ali Nimanaj, Kushtrim Buleshkaj, Arben Kabashi, Driton Alihajdaraj, Deputy Ambassador of Albania to the UN Arian Spase. A special thank you to Daniel, Chief of Staff to Councilmember Bob Holden, and the NY City Council Staff. Honorees, Performers, Staff, Volunteers.

Welcome to the recognition of the 16th Anniversary of Kosova’s independence in the greatest country in the world, in the greatest city in the world, the beacon of freedom and democracy, City Hall, NYC!

We thank the United States, its allies, and NATO, for without them Kosova’s independence wouldn’t have come to be. On this 16th anniversary, we are reminded of the hurdles and challenges Kosova has faced to emerge from the war as a new country founded on the Albanian fight for freedom. This is an independence that was not won, but was paid for by decades of blood, sweat, and tears. A war in which all gave some and some gave all. We recall the heroic KLA fighters and the Atlantic Battalion, who rose to the occasion and answered the call of their motherland. Let us acknowledge commander Gani Shehu of the Atlantic Battalion. We recall the bravery of Vasfije Krasniqi, a survivor of Serbia’s use of rape as a weapon of war by the criminals Jovica Dejanovic and Djordje Bojkovic. We recall the fate of the Bytyci brothers: Agron, Mehmet, and Ylli. Three American citizens who were kidnapped, tortured, executed and dumped into a mass grave after the war by Goran Radoslavjevic. We recall the 1.5 million Albanians who were displaced and subject to ethnic cleansing, the 14,000 that lost their lives, the 20,000 raped, and the 2,000 still missing. Let us remember the pain and suffering of our people. Let us honor them and embody their legacies. Although it has been 25 years since the end of the war and 16 years of independence, Kosova still finds itself at the forefront of Serbian provocations and undermining. We are still fighting for justice against Serbian atrocities.

In 2023 alone:

On May 29, Serbia orchestrated violent protests in northern Kosova that 6 resulted in unprovoked attacks on NATO-led peacekeeping force KFOR, with over 90 peacekeepers injured.

On June 14, three Kosova Police Officers were kidnapped deep in Kosova’s territory by Serbian paramilitaries and detained on false charges. They were only released following international intervention.

On September 24, more than 30 terrorists and paramilitary units from Serbia, with an arsenal of military-grade weapons and gear, carried out a terrorist attack in Kosova that resulted in the murder of Kosova Police Officer Afrim Bunjaku, and injuries to others.

This well-prepared and Serbian supported terrorist group was led by notorious criminal, Milan Radoicic, a close ally of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Appallingly, Serbia responded to the terrorist attack by declaring a day of mourning, canceling sporting events, and lowering flags to half-mast for the deaths of three Serbian terrorists, hailing them as “martyrs”. Serbia spends $50 million dollars a year in the United States… Spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year in Europe lobbying to ensure that their crimes go unprosecuted… And these criminals are free today… While KLA heroes Hashim Thaci, Kadri Veseli, Jakup Krasniqi, and Rexhep Selimi Are currently detained in the Hague for the last three years on the basis of false accusations, with no prosecution in sight. No amount of money will ever be enough to prevent the truth from coming out. JUSTICE WILL BE SERVED.

The time has come for Serbia to pay its reparations and cooperate in bringing these war criminals to justice. The United States, its partners, and the international community must require Serbia to:

– Immediately cease all actions that undermine Kosova and the Balkans.

– Cease from protecting, aiding, and abetting those responsible for the May 29th attack on the NATO-led peacekeeping force KFOR

– those responsible for the September 24th terrorist attack

– those that used “rape as a weapon of war” to rape more than 70,000

– And the murderers of three U.S. citizens, the Bytyqi brothers.

They must:

– Make reparations for their genocides and war crimes.

– Cooperate with the prosecution of Serbian war criminals.

This is not a call for violence. This is a cry for overdue justice and closure that the people of Kosova deserve.

To the people of Kosova, “Do not fear, your day of justice will come, because you have sons and daughters in America and around the world that will never forget.”

God bless America. God bless Albania. God bless Kosova. God bless Albanians wherever they may live.

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