Week 4: Conferences and Coffees

This week was a full one!

On Monday, I accompanied my boss to what's known (colloquially) as the "Palace of Justice" on the outskirts of the city. It contains almost all of the courts, clerks, judges, magistrates, and prosecutors that serve the country. To get there, we had to drive out of Pristina and through the hilly neighborhoods that border the town. The complex is one of the largest (and newest) buildings in Pristina, it was built a few years ago with support from EU funds. We were in the building to file some paperwork on behalf of one of CLARD's beneficiaries, a woman in a decade-long fight to retain legal title to her inherited property. The property was left to her by her father, and that should have been the end of the matter. However, an uncle sued her for the rights in court, and won in some of the lower courts (my boss suggested this could easily be the result of corruption in the courts, as there is no real legal basis). There are also conventional gender issues at play here; traditionally, positions in society for men and women (as with many other places and peoples around the world) were as the warrior and the homemaker. My boss thinks this is one of the reasons the uncle brought suit in the first place (and was able to get the lower court to side with him). Modern Kosovo is shifting rapidly away from these values, but as far as property (and business) is concerned, women still face huge obstacles to ownership. Unfortunately, the case is quickly exhausting its appeals process; the appeals courts have been sending it back to the lower court, but the lower court refuses to overturn itself or rule otherwise. My boss (the eternal legal aid optimist) has been fighting this case for 10 years, and this is the first time I have seen him so sad and frustrated. He feels that the remaining tendrils of corruption within the legal system are persistent, and the courts are still betraying the very people they serve. 

Here's a peek at the "palace" of justice:

Palace of Justice

The next day, I went downtown early in the morning to attend my first meeting of the International Women's Society of Pristina. I stumbled across this group online when I was looking for things to do. They are a group of women from all over the world (South Africa, Romania, the Netherlands, the U.S., etc.) who have found themselves in Kosovo for work or family or otherwise. In the span of one coffee hour, I think I joined a book club, a Spanish lunch group, and a hiking group! 

This week at work, I met another lawyer who works for CLARD (he had been away on personal matters for the past few weeks). I also spoke with a law professor who works with CLARD and specializes in property and family law. We had an in-depth conversation about the intersections between family and law, and the status of property ownership in modern Kosovo society (especially for women). I was able to continue my research on legal aid in Kosovo throughout the course of the week, when not attending meetings. On Friday, CLARD sent me to a conference on Youth and Violence run by the Equal Rights for All Coalition and other local and international partners (like the EU). There was a presentation on new research done with and about Kosovar youth and domestic violence (which is a huge problem here). The information and statistics were staggering. The researchers found that most Kosovar youth have a hard time identifying many forms of violence, and have little resources to turn to for help. There are not many educational programs for the youth on subjects relating to violence, and psychologists are rarely a consistent presence in schools (and when they are, they are viewed as a disciplinary figure). There is massive stigma associated with being a victim of domestic violence, and people have a hard time talking about it. 

Conference on Youth and Violence

Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright were in town this week, for the 20th Anniversary of NATO intervention in Kosovo. Everyone I spoke to was psyched, and Pristina shut down many of their main streets for the former President. The former President and Secretary of State gave speeches and attended the unveiling of a new monument in downtown Pristina dedicated to Madeleine Albright (Bill already has his statue here). The night they arrived, I was at the opening of a ballet performance at the National Theater. The streets were packed outside, and crowds were waiting outside the National Cathedral where Mr. Clinton and Ms. Albright were lighting lanterns with Kosovo heads of state. As we waited for a glimpse, I struck up a conversation with the man standing next to me. He was a trainer at the Justice Academy, the national training facility for prosecutors and judges. He gave me his card and offered to show me around and tell me more about their work. I of course followed up, and am meeting with him tomorrow morning at the Academy!

This weekend, I also took an (extensive) walking tour of Pristina. I knew most of the monuments and sights already, but it was great to finally understand some of the historical significance behind some of the more important ones. Another wonderful week in Kosovo has passed, and I can't wait to see what the next one brings!

My ballet tickets:

Ballet Ticket

One of the best things we saw on the walking tour was the interior of a traditional house in this region (to the left is the kitchen, and to the right is the men's sitting/entertaining room):

House KitchenHistoric House Living Room

The bazaar in the old section of Pristina:


A memorial to commemorate the fallen men and women of the region (regardless of ethnicity); the memorial is not very popular both because of the style, and because some viewed it as an attempt to erase individual identities:

Yugoslav Memorial