Cham families today highlighted the lack of awareness, reflection and condemnation of the crimes that the communist dictatorship inflicted on them over the course of 50 years.
In an event organized as part of Remembrance Days , representatives of Cham families who were persecuted by the regime said that little has been said about their suffering. In the 30 years since the end of communism, some said they had still not located the remains of family members.
“There is so little talk about what happened to the Cham before and during the dictatorship, as the younger generations are not very aware,” said Jonila Godole, director of the Institute for Democracy Media and Culture, organizer of Remembrance Days.
“The Albanians of Chameria were persecuted even though they were anti-fascist and among the first to establish partisan gangs and fight the invaders,” said Dritan Sejko, president of the Chameria Association.
“The persecution began with the name change of the Chameria partisan group to Thanas Ziko [a Greek minoritarian]. Repression intensified in the 1950s with the seizure of documents and the abolition of citizenship. Later it was passed to those who founded the gang like Rexho Plaku, Teme Sejko etc, with the infamous trials against the so-called “Cham Group” – said Dritan Sejko, who stated that after this period, all Cham families suffered discrimination, persecution and numerous imprisonments.
Altin Hoxha, from the Information Authority on Former State Security Documents (AIDSSH) found that to date over 100,000 pages of documents held by the Security have been discovered. He said that during the dictatorship, Cham Albanians were given a combined total of 1500 years worth of prison sentences and 25 death sentences, while dozens died in prisons and today have no marked grave.
Hektor Sejko, nephew of Teme Sejko, indicated that the regime never told them what happened to their relatives.
“Today Tema Sejko, Taho Sejko, Sulo Sejko and Sokol Sejko have no grave,” said Hector sadly, insisting that “today their stories must be understood and remembered.”
Agim Plaku and Shkelqim Jahaj also told of the gruesome persecutions that the Konispol Chams suffered after the war even though they fought against the invaders. Ahmet Mehmeti spoke of the persecutions suffered by the writer Bilal Xhaferri.
“In Bilal’s file, I was able to find over 400 pages of documents. Security had engaged 18 associates against him, about 60 family members had been examined and 83 others had been implicated in the surveillance. This shows the amount of persecution Xhaferri suffered, only because he was a writer and did not move from his word, “Mehmeti said.
“The communist regime persecuted over 200 Cham families for absurd reasons. However, 30 years after the collapse of the dictatorship, the division with the past remains a problem for Albania, “said Party of Justice for Integration and Unity (PDIU) leader Shpetim Idrizi, who insisted that “the history of the dictatorship that stripped Albanians of patriotism, belief in God and every human value, must necessarily be faced.”
Various political initiatives have been created in Albania over the last 30 years to prosecute the crimes of the dictatorship. But, as Idrizi put it, they have either been obstructed or forgotten, adding that the early ’90s trials focused solely on economic abuse and not crimes.
In 2018, dozens of families still searching for their relatives’ remains signed an agreement with the government and the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) but this agreement has dragged on with no concrete results.