I have received my fair share of criticism over the last few days- firstly, apparently being a foreigner in another country means that I am not allowed to have an opinion on how things work, and secondly, the fact I write a popular blog extolling the virtues of Albania as a country means I am betraying this by passing any kind of criticism.
The problem I face is that Albania is my home- I have chosen to live here, I am marrying into an Albanian family and will raise an English-Albanian child here. As such, as well as the fact I contributed healthily to the economy and I like to think, society as well, gives me every right to call out an injustice when I see it. This does not mean I am partisan and it does not mean I am betraying myself or anyone else, in fact it means quite the opposite.
When I call out corruption, when I criticise a politician or institution for not abiding by the rules, I do so because I love Albania and I think that Albanians deserve better.
What I saw on Saturday was a protest turned on its head- I saw tactics deployed that I have seen deployed before in other countries- namely, riling up the crowd, failing to stop a few people from being vandals, and then reacting with undue and extreme pressure to silence it. I saw a whirlwind of propaganda before and after, pushed out through diplomatic missions, agencies, and English- speaking Albanian Twitters, and I then saw the brutal arrest of individuals not involved in violence and the harassment of their families.
Since then, the propaganda has kept coming and notably the US Embassy, which as a diplomatic mission has no right to interfere in or pass comment on the legal, political, or democratic functions of its host country, has been regurgitating social media posts that sound like they have come directly from the Rama administration. The criticisms of the US Embassy stating that PD members resigning from their posts is “undemocratic” shows just how biased that they have become. The fact that they failed to stand up for the infringements on freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly as well as the constant stream of illegalities that plague the country smacks of bias- something they are duty bound not to have when working in a diplomatic capacity on foreign soil. I have to wonder what their motives are for these outbursts? Is their failure to speak up on a whole range of other issues and protests due to lack of information and prevalence of ignorance, or are they towing a line that has been fed to them as a part of an agreement with the government? One has to seriously wonder.
Whilst, the Tirana prosecutors swooped into action with unprecedented efficiency on Saturday afternoon, rounding up protestors (both innocent and guilty of vandalism), they seem to be dragging their heels when it comes to charging those implicated in colluding with criminals to buy votes during the last elections.
I don’t care which party is in power, and I don’t care who did what last week/last year/ five years ago/20 years ago, what I care about is what is happening now and what will happen in the immediate future. Right now, what we are witnessing and the way this country is being dragged into the gutter is not tolerable. After almost 30 years of ‘freedom’ Albania finds itself once again in the grip of an omnipresent and omnipotent power that wields unchecked power and quells any sign of resistance through unlawful means. Maybe you think this sounds dramatic, but as an outsider looking in, unaffected by years of partisan influence this is both what I see and what I fear.
The Rule of Law and human rights are flaunted at every level of authority and it breaks my heart to hear of the constant injustices that befall friends, colleagues, family members, and even people that I have never met.
Albania deserves better and this is a fact that transcends political ideologies or loyalties. It deserves stability, an end to impunity, and the chance to find itself and then fulfil its potential, without paying the price of being nothing more than a vehicle for criminality and corruption. The country needs to be reclaimed by the people who love it and have its best interests at heart, not those who are seeking to fill their boots with as much money as they can before their time in the seat of power is up.