If there is in Albanian history a hero, whose legacy can be compared with Gjergj Kastriot Skanderbeg, without a doubt that person is Adem Jashari. The legendary commander of Kosovo Liberty Army has become the symbol of freedom and a figure of pride for all Albanians.  His courage, his loyalty, and his love for the motherland became the cornerstone of Kosovo’s independence, which was to come.

 Painting of Adem Jashari

Early life

Adem Jashari was born at 28 November 1955, in Prekaz, the city of Skënderaj. Looking back, even his birthday was remarkable, since he was born on the same day, Albanians celebrate their Flag National Day.

He was the third son of Shaban and Zahide Jashari, who made sure to raise their children according to the Albanian tradition and with high awareness for their national identity. Adem’s father was a teacher, therefore he had a major impact on his son's upbringing.

An important event that highly affected Adem Jashari’s life was the death of Tahir Meha, an Albanian martyr, who was killed by Serbian forces, for his national ideas and political activity. Both Adem and his brother Hamëz Jashari were in Tahir Meha's mourning ceremony, where they took an oath “We will fight till the last drop of our blood, to continue the war for freedom”. They prophesied their own destiny.

 

Political Activity

Adem Jashari continued his political activity since quite early in his life, determined to make any sacrifice needed, to overpower the Serb regime in Kosovo. In the 80s he became part of several patriotic organization of the time, that were considered to be illegal, by the Yugoslav institutions. During this time, these organizations worked very hard, for Albanians civil rights. Part of these organizations were important figures of Kosovo’s elite, such as Iliaz Kodra, Hashim Thaci, Sahit Jashari, Fadil Kodra, etc.

Adem Jashari would soon be in the spotlight, after his role in promoting and organizing of the powerful protest, that was held in Skenderaj, in 1989, after the change of the autonomy on Kosovo’s status. These were the most important years, which would have a major impact on the political events in Kosovo and in the life of the oppressed Albanian natives.

As Serbia started progressively becoming more and more aggressive towards Albanians, different Albanian organizations started working together, forming the “Kosovo Popular Movement”. The member of this movement, including Adem Jashari, would later lead the armed resistance, against the Serbian Chetniks forces. During the first years, this movement had only political character, and many were not supportive of armed resistance. But things changed quickly when all Kosovo’s institutions were closed in the 1990s, taking off all their rights, by orders of the Serbian government of the time.

As Yugoslavia was falling apart, the resistance of Kosovo started making international news.

 

Kosovo Liberty Army (UÇK )

The 90s were a difficult and dark period for Albanians, who would face discrimination and aggressive and intimidating tactics every day, in their daily life. Even the Albanian language was prohibited in schools, Albanian intellectuals were widely fired from their jobs, and Serbian police started investigating, arresting, and terrorizing pretty much anyone they would consider that was not following their ideology.

As a response to the institutionalized violence, Adem Jashari and other leaders of the Albanian resistance were determined to fight. In 1991, many Albanian intellectuals of diaspora, alongside Adem Jashari took professional military training in Tirana.  In 1992, Adem formed the first guerrilla unit, in Drenica, where they started the first armed actions.

Hero Adem Jashari in Tirana, Albania

In 1993, the Albanian resistance leaders decided to unite in one army only, which aimed to protect Albanian civilians from Serbian aggression, till the full liberation of Kosovo. Adem Jashari was voted as commander in chief, of what later was named Kosovo Liberty Army (UCK)

The Albanian armed forces started growing and getting more and more support from the civilians, as Milosevic rose to power. The Serbian forces surrounded a couple of times the Jashari’s tower, determined to arrest him, but they failed. Adem Jashari, supported by his soldiers was able to gain full control of Drenica territory. This was of course a serious threat for Serbian nationalists, who send the army against the man who was so openly defying them.

 

Heroic death

On March 5th, 1998 more than 4000 Serbian heavily armed special units, 200 armored vehicles, and tanks surrounded Adem Jashari’s house, in Prekaz. Inside were also his family and his brother’s family, Hamëz Jashari who was also one of the leaders of the Albanian Liberty Army.

The Serbia government was literally fighting against an entire family, including children, as young as seven (7) years old. For three full days, Adem Jashari and adult members of the family stood up heroically and fought against the terror.

On the first day, the woman of the family was offered the chance to leave the house, but they all refused to do so, choosing to also become martyrs for freedom. The only survivor from the brutal attack, was Besarta Jashari, Adem’s niece. “I knew they (her uncle and father) were dead when they stopped singing” – she has confessed, when testifying of the horror she witnessed when she was just a young girl. During the whole times they were fighting, Adem, his brother and the rest of the family kept singing Albanian traditional and patriotic songs.

From the Serbian attack, 59 members of Jashari’s family were murdered, including here elders, women, and children.

The graves of the Jashari family 

 

The impact on Kosovo

The attack of Jashari’s family, by Serbian officials, aimed to terrorize, scare, and intimidate natives Albanians. But much to their disappointment, the domino effect was created.

The heroic fall of Adem Jashari and all of his family at first send a wave of shock to all Albanians, but also to the international community, who started getting alarmed at what was happening in Kosovo. But soon, their ultimate sacrifice became an inspiration and it gave a major push to both political and armed resistence in Kosovo. 

Adem Jashari became much more than a leader, but also a hero, a symbol, and martyr 

The bust of the Albanian hero Adem Jashari

 

His legacy 

When Kosovo declared its independence in 2008, it was only natural to declare Adem Jashari as the official national hero of the new state. 

Jashari's complex memorial when they heroically died has become a place of pilgrimage for all Albanians, which is visited by thousands every year. The Prishtina international airport has its name, his statues are found in many cities of Albania, Kosovo, and North Macedonia.

It's very rare in modern history to find a hero with such an epic life and legacy, who fought so bravely well aware of the awaiting death, and yet he achieved to change the course of history. Adem Jashari is one of the Albanian most respected and beloved heroes, who gained his place next to some of the predominant   Albanian figures such Skanderbeg or Mother Teresa, becoming a national emblem. 

Honoring the Albanian hero Adem Jashari


Written by Eldolina Këputa

March 07, 2021