During the ceremony for the New Year’s decoration at the Pazari i Ri three days ago, Mayor Veliaj could not resist again playing the role of the hero carrying Tirana ahead, while fighting the numerous cruel enemies hindering him in his heroic path.
Targeting his “next enemies” – the protesting inhabitants of the Astir area at the Ring Road, whose houses he unjustly and illegally plans to demolish – in a heroic and triumphalist stand, Mayor Veliaj said that three years ago citizens had had the same reaction against the development of the Pazari i Ri, but those who protested back then now savor the fruits of municipality’s work.
In order to reeducate his citizens, Veliaj told the morality tale of Ylli Hidri, “a sworn enemy” and one of the entrepreneurs at the Pazari i Ri who had strongly opposed the area’s redevelopment project, but who now owns one of the most successful enterprises in Tirana, thanks to Municipality’s project for redeveloping the Bazaar.
I remember when we started the work at the Pazari i Ri. Ylli is smiling now but one and a half year ago we had such a fight with Ylli that it makes the one at the Ring Road seem nothing to us.
Ylli also used to say “we’re gonna die here, you’ll have to tread on my body, blood will spill here, I’ll defend it [my property] with arms.” However, here we are today! Not only did we become friends with Ylli, brothers, but we are also co-organizers of many beautiful things happening here.
Here is the example for all those who like Ylli did one and a half year ago, making noise and a mess, blocking any investment: Ylli is better off today, the Bazaar is better off today, Tirana is better off today.
Astir will be better off tomorrow, the Outer Ring Road will be better off, Tirana will be better off, and the whole of Albania passing there will be better off.
If there is anything we have learned from the past, it’s this: Every time there is work being done in Tirana, there is a party inciting quarrels, but every time quarrels are surpassed and the work is done, the whole city profits. The Pazari i Ri profited, the Boulevard profited, the [children park at] the Lake profited, [they profited from] all investments we made at the Ring Road.
However, this story of the heroic mayor is completely transformed and far from truth. It is true that Ylli Hidri had a shop in the Pazari i Ri area and initially opposed demolitions. However, he soon turned into an important client of Erion Veliaj, which explains mayor’s love-filled language in his story about Hidri. Veliaj has put the municipality, municipal police, and public funds at Hidri’s service, in violation of the right to property of five other families and abusing public funds while demolishing buildings hindering the view from Hidri’s green villa.
The Facts behind Veliaj’s “Morality Tale”
Ylli Hidri started his fish business in late ‘90s but he became notorious when in 2011 he shot with a gun at PD mayor candidate in Dajti Municipality, Besim Kuka. Kuka run against PS candidate Kujtim Qefalia, brother of PS MP Xhemal Qefalia and Ylli Hidri’s brother-in-law. Hidri run away from the crime scene immediately after the gunshot incident. When police stopped him, they couldn’t find any guns in his car, so he was let free and the case was closed.
Kujtim Qefalia was the Mayor of Dajti Municipality from 2007 until 2015 when Dajti became part of Tirana Municipality. During that period Ylli Hidri received a license to operate the buses of the Tirana-Dajti route.
After the 2011 local elections, Hidri opened his first restaurant in the Pazari i Ri area. In an interview for Dritare.net, Ylli Hidri says:
On 1 December, 2011, I opened my first restaurant. At the former market there was the meat market and next to it were I [my business]. After discussions I decided to give the place a simple name, just “The Fish Market” (Markata e Peshkut).
In 2015, Tirana Municipality started the project for the development of the area, which Hidri says he initially opposed:
In 2015, when the project for the Pazari i Ri area reconstruction was introduced, we were given the order to leave the place. I didn’t want to leave place as I had a three-year-long investment there and was afraid my I would lose my clients if I changed the place. That’s why I clashed with police.
Then he tells how he bought the villa, which was turned into the restaurant Veliaj praises as successful. Hidri has made two statements on how he bought the villa:
On the official website of the Markata e Peshkut restaurant, he says: “Recently, he told me that a villa in the Pazari i Ri area is empty and sold,” implying that Mayor Veliaj informed him about a vacant villa on sale in the Pazari i Ri.
However, in the interview for Dritare.net, Hidri says:
Some time ago they told me a villa in the Pazari i Ri was vacant and for sale. I liked it very much, and I didn’t want to leave the Pazari i Ri, so I bought it even though reconstruction in bazaar had just began and it was risky how it would go on.
The villa Hidri is talking about had previously been a kindergarten, and in the early ‘90s it was returned to its original owners. For many years it had not been used. In 2015, Hidri asked the owners to buy the villa after having learned about municipality’s project for area’s redevelopment, which would increase the real estate value around it.
However, the villa was surrounded by five shops owned by five other families that hindered the view from it. Ylli Hidri decided to demolish these shops. In his words:
The villa was surrounded by five shops. In order to open up the place, I asked the Municipality to come and demolish them.
The statement sounds absurd given that the Municipality cannot demolish people’s properties just because Hidri didn’t like them. Nevertheless, the Municipality of Tirana demolished the shops so as to clear the view for Ylli Hidri, thus violating the right of owner families.
Back then these families denounced the unjust demolition of their properties. The owners Merita Bollati, Doloreza Qoli, Emanuela Kaimi, Sana Velaj, and Bajame Koçi told FaxNews they had been threatened by Ylli Hidri after refusing to sell their shops to him.
”He threatened to take my life, right in the middle of Pazar. I will slice your belly open – he told me,” said Ms. Qoli, adding that police were present to file the case but they deleted the camera recording of the testimony.
The owners filed reports to police but had not reply. They filed complaints to municipality as well, but didn’t hear back from them either, which showed once again on whose side Mayor Veliaj stood.
Once the shops were demolished, Hidri got public funds through the municipality for his villa’s facade reconstruction, which had been included in area’s redevelopment project.
In March, 2017, Veliaj inaugurated the reconstruction of Pazari i Ri and Ylli Hidri started operating his new business, now without shops hindering his view and with a new facade made with public funds.
Yesterday Mayor Veliaj called Hidri his “sworn enemy” saying that “Ylli as an entrepreneur is better off because Pazari i Ri is better off” – all this thanks to Municipality of Tirana’s work. In fact, today Ylli Hidri and his business are better off only because the Municipality of Tirana and Erion Veliaj bowed his demands, in violation of other owners’ rights and abusing public funds.