Sevdije Ahmeti- a powerful voice for the protection of women’s rights

“I will not be modest. I am a radical feminist. From scratch, we created a movement based on the needs of women. We started with women’s rights. We gathered a time when we would be accused by politicians. Ibrahim Rugova said it was not the time to fight for women’s rights, it was the time for national rights. We did both at the same time, underground or openly… and that was radical”.

“If you said you were a feminist in the 1990s, you were automatically called a lesbian. We had conflicts [between women], but we supported each other. Women never decided for war. And women were always active in peace and conflict resolution”.

These were the words of Sevdije Ahmeti, one of the activists for women’s rights in Kosovo, a movement that started in Kosovo in the 1990s alongside the demand for freedom and independence.

A woman who never got tired, a long-time humanist and women’s and human rights activist, she became a powerful voice for the protection of women’s rights, especially for women who were raped during the war.

After being fired from her job from the National Library of Kosovo on 23 July 1989, she began working for the Council for Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms, preparing numerous reports on violations of women’s rights for Amnesty International.

This also included providing evidence to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for sexual violence and mistreatment against women in Bosnia and Croatia, when they sought refuge in Kosovo.

Sevdije Ahmeti, together with Vjosa Dobruna, founded the Center for the Protection of Women and Children in 1993., an organization which did not only help mothers and children but provided significant help also in documenting the tortures that the Serbian authorities inflicted on Albanians in general, and women and children in particular.

After the war, Sevdije Ahmeti was one of the first to initiate the issue of survivors of sexual violence in the recent war in Kosovo.

Activist Melihate Juniku shared a few words about Ms. Sevdije, stating that her immense courage, combined with her experience and the information she had, made her an exceptional woman.

Melihate also shared some stories with us about Sevdije.

“On 16 March 1998, one of the most massive women’s protests in Kosovo was organized, with around twenty thousand people joining the March for ‘Bread for the Children and Women of Drenica’. One of the leading women was Sevdije Ahmeti, along with girls and women from across Kosovo. The aim was to inform the international decision-makers that Drenica and the entire population of Kosovo were in danger and that urgent international protection was needed. This protest had a great impact and received widespread media coverage, both domestically and internationally”, she said.

Sevdije Ahmeti’s impressive work on human rights caught the attention of Colby College in Waterville, Maine, USA. In 2001, the OAK Institute for Human Rights invited her to be a fellow and lecturer.

As an activist and humanist, Sevdije Ahmeti worked tirelessly with the KWN, contributing support, solidarity, and knowledge that inspired our work. She was also a member of the Board of the KWN.

To commemorate the feminist and humanist Sevdije Ahmeti, the Kosovo Women’s Network gives, for five years now, the annual award for activist women with her name.

Sevdije Ahmeti was born in 1944 in Gjakova and passed away in 2016 in Prishtina.