Sevdije Ahmeti Kosovo Activist Died Today
Today a great activist has left us. Sevdije Ahmeti was an instigator and pillar of the women’s rights movement in Kosovo. Among Kosovo’s earliest advocates of women’s rights as human rights, she was a leader, an activist, a feminist, a writer.
Towards the beginning of her women’s rights activism, as Editor and Chief of the National and University Library, Sevdije wrote articles that countered the negative stereotypes of Kosovar Albanian women, then portrayed in Yugoslav media. In 1989, she was a motor behind efforts to start the Independent Women’s Association.
After being dismissed from her job on 23 July 1989, she began working for the Council for Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms and preparing reports on rights violations perpetrated against women for Amnesty International. She sought to shed light on gender-based rights violations and fought against “the way in which women are marginalized due to big politics,” as she said. Sevdije also worked with the Mother Teresa Association and on campaigns to promote the importance of vaccinations.
In September 1993, she co-founded the Centre for Protection of Women and Children (Qendra për Mbrojtjen e Grave dhe Fëmijëve), which quickly became a safe haven for women. She continued to meticulously document human rights abuses affecting women and children in Kosovo. This included submitting evidence of sexual violence and maltreatment perpetrated against women in Bosnia and Croatia, as they became refugees in Kosovo, to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Sevdije forged alliances with women’s rights activists around the world, building transnational support for addressing the plight of the people of Kosovo, particularly women. She maintained a journal of women’s activism and rights violations, emailing regular updates to more than a thousand contacts around the world. Even amid persecution by the Serbian authorities, Sevdije refused to be silenced, crossing borders at personal risk to make Kosovar women’s voices heard at various international conferences. In September 1995, she served as the Coordinator of the Women in Conflict Eastern Europe Community Caucus at the NGO Forum during the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China.
From 1996 through 1998, Sevdije was among the women instigators of massive public protests against human rights abuses in Kosovo. She travelled to war-affected regions, assisting civilians who had been forced from their homes.
After the war, Sevdije turned her attentions to assisting women and children in Kosovo affected by domestic violence and trafficking, opening Kosovo’s first overnight women’s shelter. From 2001, she led efforts to bring attention to the taboo topic of rape as a weapon of war used in Kosovo. She was a vociferous advocate for justice for women who suffered sexual violence during the war, supporting some of the first and only women to testify at The Hague for this heinous crime. She also documented and sought justice for trafficked women and children. Writing about the Centre’s work, she published some of the first information ever available about gender-based violence in Kosovo.
Meanwhile, Sevdije fought for women’s rights to participate in Kosovo’s state-building process and for humanitarian aid to reach those most in need. She voraciously resisted the promotion of patriarchy by United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) officials in Kosovo. As a member of the Kosovo Transitional Council, she advocated for the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights be included in Kosovo’s Constitutional Framework. Together with other women’s rights activists, she pushed effectively for the electoral quota that has furthered gender equality within the parliament and municipal assemblies.
The Kosovo Women’s Network has been honored to have Sevdije serve as a member of our Board of Directors for several years. Her insight, intellect, tact, and fortitude have motivated us. Her spirit shall live on among us, in the lives she changed, the rights she fought for, and the inspiration that she gave us all.
Her funeral will be at 14pm on 20 November 2016 in Prishtina.