PRESIDENT’S SPEECH AT THE OPENING OF THE INSTALATION “I THINK OF YOU”

For every single day of a whole month, men and women from every corner of Kosovo responded to the call of artist Alketa Xhafa-Mripa, and donated dresses for the creation of artistic installation I think of You, in solidarity with the survivors of sexual violence during the war. A call to break the silence, to fight the stigma, a call to act, a call to awareness raising and a call for acceptance.

Dear friends,

Citizens of the Republic of Kosovo,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


For every single day of a whole month, men and women from every corner of Kosovo responded to the call of artist Alketa Xhafa-Mripa, and donated dresses for the creation of artistic installation I think of You, in solidarity with the survivors of sexual violence during the war. A call to break the silence, to fight the stigma, a call to act, a call to awareness raising and a call for acceptance.

Every day we grew in numbers. We got together to remember their pain. To recognize their sacrifice. And to tell them that they are not alone.

With this piece of public art, which comes in front of us in the shape of 5000 dresses hanged at this football stadium, we communicated with each other through the universal language of art. Directly, without mediators.

Alketa’s installation gave us a lot to think about.

We sensed many emotions. We demonstrated that Kosovo has no citizens to lose. That we do not leave them behind. And that at the anniversary of liberation of our country, on this special day, we shall remain together with the survivors of this torture, survivors who continue to live with this war inside themselves. As we celebrate liberty today, we also remember the deep suffering caused by war. Because our peace shall never be complete without their peace as well.

I hope that survivors feel more relieved, more valued, because here we are. There is no us and them, We are us and we are one.

Today this football field, full with dresses, this view, is leaving me breathless. The first reason is the greatness of the issue which has been kept silent for so long. The second is the hope which arises from this solidarity, from all this support.

We found support even beyond our borders. In Tirana, in New York, in London.

We found the support of human rights activists and women’s organizations which at the very first days became the voice of the survivors and offered them their unwavering support. Sevdia, Igballja, Feridja, Mirlinda, Veprorja, Kadirja Thank You!

Support from Vlora, who donated the dress she wore when she signed the declaration of independence. From Nazlie who donated the only dress she ever wore. From Lule who sent the dress she wore when she emigrated to the US. Support from Rifat Jashari who said that it was not their fault. Support by the two women who donated their wedding dresses.

We received support from Cherie Blair and Baroness Anelay who donated dresses worn in historic occasions, inspired by the call to help the survivors of this atrocious crime all around the world and to uproot this war crime.

But, two skirts hanging here, with personal inscriptions, have touched me more than ever. “I have a bitter experience”, says the first inscription. “This skirt has a history foreclosed since spring of 1998”, says the other one.

It is exactly these two women we want to support to bring to light their experiences, to open them up, not to remain enclosed and silent. The shame does not weigh upon them, but upon those who committed those crimes on them.

They posses courage and must not be allowed to feel destitute.

Dear participants,

I am very proud to have given my support to this courageous artwork.

From this place today, I would like to express a special gratitude to the organizations which have for years cared for the welfare of the survivors of sexual violence during the war.

I would like to thank Alketa and producer Anna di Lellio, who, through this artistic installation touched many hearts and gave us a creation which makes us proud as a society.

Thank you to both of you!

Enlivening of this installation and its documentation would have been impossible without the help and the support of our partners who financially and morally supported this engagement to commence with such an important discussion.
And I would like to particularly thank the citizens of Kosovo who experienced the immense pain and suffering and yet found the way to move ahead.

And by doing this, the political, social and public discourse in handling of this issue, of treatment of the survivors of sexual violence during the war, has begun to change.

Today, I see that their stories have begun to change. By now they have started to become stories of survivors who have the support of the institutions, of the community, of the private sector, which has started to consider them as a potential for development of their companies,  and of the public sector, which sees them as partners for the overall development of the society.

There is a lot of hope in this society which embraces everyone. This is the first step. There still remains a lot to do for them.

Thank you!