Adem Demaçi

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Adem Demaçi
Born(1936-02-26)26 February 1936
Podujevë, Yugoslavia
(now Kosovo)
Died26 July 2018(2018-07-26) (aged 82)
Prishtina, Kosovo
Burial placeThe Martyr Cemetery, Prishtina
NationalityKosovo Albanian
Other names
  • Balkan Mandela[1]
    * Baca Adem
    * Adem Dema
Alma materUniversity of Prishtina
University of Belgrade
University of Skopje
  • Activist
  • Politician
Years active1950–2017
Known forActivist for human rights
Peaceful struggle against the Serbian regime in Kosovo
Notable workGjarpijt e gjakut (English: The Snakes of Blood)
Home townPrishtina, Kosovo
Political partyParliamentary Party of Kosovo (1996–98)
MovementKosovo Liberation Army
Spouse(s)Xhemajlije Hoxha - Demaçi
ChildrenAbetare and Shqiptar[2]
AwardsSakharov Prize 1990
Human Rights Prize at the University of Oslo 1995
Hero of Kosovo 2010

Adem Demaçi (pronounced [dɛmatʃi] (About this soundlisten); 26 February 1936 – 26 July 2018) was a Kosovo Albanian politician and writer.

Early life[edit]

Demaçi studied literature, law, and education in Pristina, Belgrade, and Skopje respectively. In the 1950s, he published a number of short stories with pointed social commentary in the magazine Jeta e re (English: New Life), as well as a 1958 novel titled Gjarpijt e gjakut (English: The Snakes of Blood) exploring blood vendettas in Kosovo and Albania. The latter work brought him literary fame.[3] In 1963 he founded the underground organisation the Revolutionary Movement for the Union of Albanians.[4]

Demaçi was first arrested for his opposition to the authoritarian government of Josip Broz Tito in 1958, serving three years in prison. He was again imprisoned 1964–1974 and 1975–1990. He was released from prison by new president of Serbia Slobodan Milošević.[3]

In 2010 he received the order Hero of Kosovo.[5]

Political career[edit]

After his release, he was Chairman of the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms of the People of Kosovo from 1991 to 1995. He also served as editor-in-chief of Zëri, a magazine based in Prishtina, from 1991 to 1993.[3][6] In 1991, he was awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.[3]

In 1996, Demaçi moved into politics, replacing Bajram Kosumi as the president of the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo;[3] Kosumi became his vice-president. During this time, he proposed a confederation of states consisting of Kosovo, Montenegro, and Serbia that would be known as "Balkania". His prison record gave him credibility among Kosovars, but his tenure in party leadership was marked by factionalism and a lack of action.[6]

Two years later, he joined the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), serving as the head of its political wing.[3] In a 1998 interview with The New York Times, he refused to condemn the KLA's use of violence, stating that "the path of nonviolence has gotten us nowhere. People who live under this kind of repression have the right to resist."[7] In 1999, he resigned from the KLA after it attended peace talks in France, criticising the proposed deal for not guaranteeing Kosovo's independence. Sources stated that Demaçi had grown estranged from the KLA's younger, more pragmatic leadership, leaving him "faced with a decision of jumping or waiting to be pushed".[8]

Though Demaçi's wife left Kosovo before the war, he remained in Pristina with his 70-year-old sister during the entire Kosovo War.[3][9] He was critical of Ibrahim Rugova and other Albanian leaders who fled the conflict, stating that they were missing an important historical event.[10] Yugoslav soldiers arrested Demaçi twice, but were largely humane with him.[9]

Following the war, Demaçi served as director of Kosovo Radio and Television until January 2004. He remained active in politics, affiliated with Albin Kurti, head of the nationalist movement Vetëvendosje!.[3]


At the age of 82, Demaçi died on 26 July 2018 in Prishtina, Kosovo. His death was marked by three days of national mourning. On 28 July 2018, Demaçi was buried in the cemetery of martyrs in Prishtina, in a state funeral ceremony.

Notes and references[edit]


a.   ^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the Brussels Agreement. Kosovo has received formal recognition as an independent state from 113 out of 193 United Nations member states.


  1. ^ "Kosovars Pay Tribute To Demaci, The 'Balkans' Mandela'" (Death of Adem Demaci). RFE/RL's Balkan Service. Radio Free Europe. July 27, 2018. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  2. ^ Young, Antonia. "Shkëlzen Gashi, Adem Demaçi Biography: a Century of Kosova's History through One Man's Life" (PDF). Central and East European Review. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 May 2013. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Elsie, Robert (2010). Historical Dictionary of Kosovo. Scarecrow Press. pp. 73–4. ISBN 978-0810872318. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  4. ^ Robertson, James (18 August 2018). "From Enver Hoxha to Bill Clinton". Jacobin (magazine). Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b "ICG Kosovo Spring Report". International Crisis Group. 1 March 1998. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  7. ^ Hedges, Chris (13 March 1998). "Kosovo Leader Urges Resistance, but to Violence". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 January 2010.
  8. ^ "Kosovo rebel leader quits". BBC News. 2 March 1999. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  9. ^ a b Erlanger, Steven (10 August 1999). "Champion of Free Kosova Now Urges Moderation". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 January 2010.
  10. ^ Jacky Rowland (27 May 1999). "Kosovo leader calls for Nato troops". BBC News. Retrieved 21 July 2012.