Making Histories Mar24 2016,
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Amsterdam

Hans Aarsman on teargas in the parliament of Kosovo

Chemical toilet
A cloud of teargas interrupts a voting session in the parliament of Kosovo. Pristina, 19 February 2016, photo Armend Nimani

In terms of the democratic process, things are not going well for the parliament of Kosovo. The issue is not a lack of proposals to vote on, or a lack of parliamentarians who support a proposal and raise their hand accordingly. It is the clouds of teargas smoke that fill the parliament chamber every time a proposal is put to vote.

This time some parliamentarians keep raising their hand, but most of them leave the room coughing. The voting session is a failure. Just like many other sessions since this whole thing started in October last year. People have also been using pepper spray and some throw eggs, depending on what is available. But teargas is the weapon of choice.

“Every single time it is the opposition ranks the teargas rises from.”

Kosovo is ungovernable. Security guards have so often seen billowing clouds of teargas during a parliamentary vote that they have begun to see the smoke and the vote as interchangeable. They have decided to start wearing gas masks. When voting begins they wear them as they stand in front of the Kosovo’s seat of government, so as to be able to evacuate the parliament quickly and efficiently in case of a gas attack.

But they have gone even further still, believing there is a connection between the teargas clouds and the opposition since every single time it is the opposition ranks the teargas rises from. This time it was the corpulent man in black sitting before the guard with the waving tie. In this moment he is being pulled out of his seat by his jacket. Eleven guards are present to escort him out of the room.

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For a moment let’s not get distracted by the political and historical backgrounds of these events. Let’s aim for the practical solution. Would it be an idea to thoroughly search the members of opposition before they enter the parliament? The thing is: the security guards already do this, with security gates and hand scanners. Still teargas grenades explode during voting sessions.

How about not permitting the parliamentarians to leave the room after they have been searched, even if they really have to go to the toilet? Everyone who has seen The Godfather 2 knows how easy it is to hide a teargas grenade behind the water tank in the toilet the day before. For the occasional opposition member who just has to go, security has installed a chemical toilet. One seat of the opposition and a writing table out, right where the fat guy is sitting, that’s all the room you need. And it doesn’t smell as bad as a teargas attack.

Every week Hans Aarsman applies his detective-like analyses to a press photo for the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant. During the Dutch Presidency of the European Union (taking place in the first half of 2016), he will inspect European press photos and kindly share his observations with the New Europeans.

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