From: Alice Taylor
School Children Dressed as Communist Pioneers Spark Fury among Albania’s Former Persecuted

Those persecuted by Albania’s communist regime have spoken out after photos of school children dressed in communist-era attire while celebrating the 79th anniversary of the establishment of a partisan battalion caused controversy over the weekend.

Albania’s communist regime was born out of partisans that fought against fascist forces such as Italy and Germany that tried to control Albania during World War II. The regime went on to torture, imprison, kill, starve and persecute tens of thousands of people. Thousands more were persecuted throughout the country. Today over 6000 people are still missing.

The photos showed groups of school children wearing red scarves around their necks, the same as the youth ‘pioneers’ did during the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha.

Reactions were swift, particularly those from survivors of prison and labour camps. Journalists and activists, they condemned children being used as propaganda.

One activist, Aulon Kalaja, compared the children to “pioneers of Enver’ and called the activity “criminal”.

“I think the text of history should be revised so that generations are acquainted with the crimes of the red terror. Down with communism,” he said.

Current Albanian school textbooks do not paint an accurate picture of the horrors of the communist regime, and many students have little to no idea what happened during the almost 50 years of authoritarian rule. Furthermore, there is no official monument for the victims, and there has been no state apology.

Professor Ermal Hasimja said anything to do with glorifying communism should be removed from the education system and that the communist indoctrination of children must be prohibited.

“Shame on the state that tolerates them,” he said.

President of the Union for the Integration of Prisoners and Politically Persecuted of Albania, Besim Ndregjoni, called on Prime Minister Edi Rama and Minister of Education Evi Kushi to distance themselves from the event and dismiss those involved in organising the event.

“Symbols of communism appear in Cerrik, where students were forced to wear a pioneer scarf. The activity shows hatred, not peace. Rama must distance himself from ideological manifestations…Kushi must apologise and dismiss the school principal,” he said.

Albanian governments, both socialist and democratic, have been criticised for failing to help the country reconcile with its past. Since the fall of communism over 30 years ago, victims are yet to be fully compensated, much land has yet to be returned to its rightful owners, and the bodies of thousands are still missing. There have also been few prosecutions of those involved in crimes against citizens, and ex-communists continue to hold positions of power in both government and the judiciary.