Halil Hasani is convinced his four sons are alive and imprisoned somewhere in Serbia more than two decades after police and paramilitary forces took them from a village in Kosovo.
At the time, an armed uprising by ethnic Albanian separatists had led to a bloody Serb crackdown, an international humanitarian crisis and a NATO bombing campaign in Kosovo, then a Serbian province. The 1998-1999 war left more than 10,000 people dead and 6,500 missing. Forensic scientists are still searching for hidden graves.
Hasani, 74, keeps four pictures always close to his heart, one for each of his missing sons. Fadil, then 32, Gazmend , who was 24, Armend, age 20, and 15-year-old Hasan were seized on June 8, 1999, the day before Serbia signed a deal with NATO to withdraw from Kosovo.
It’s been almost 21 years, but their father has not lost hope of seeing them again. The list of people officially considered missing in Kosovo from the war is down to 1,641 names. Hasani complains that Kosovar authorities are not doing enough to find and free his sons.
“According to the information I have, they are alive,” he said.
Moving bodies of ethnic Albanian fighters and civilians from Kosovo was an apparent attempt by the regime of late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic to hide the massacres and other crimes committed by his troops and Serb police. Several mass graves with bodies of ethnic Albanians were discovered in Serbia after the war.