Police Attempt to Detain Government Critic American-Albanian Professor Shinasi Rama

Albanian police attempted to detain Professor Shinasi Rama at Tirana Airport last evening upon his arrival in the country from US and through Turkey. Rama is now in Albania and says that he fears for his life. He suspects that the police attempted to intimidate him because of his political engagement and amid the ongoing political crisis in Albania.

Shinasi Rama is a naturalized US citizen of Albanian origin. He was one of the leading voices against the communist regime during the Student Movement of December 1990 that ignited nation-wide protests resulting in the collapse of the regime. Rama went to US as a political refugee and is now a Clinical Professor of International Relations at New York University. Professor Rama has been a staunch opponent of the political establishment running the country since the fall of the communist regime, harshly criticizing parties both on the left and right in his research, op-eds and interviews.

Yesterday, the Albanian police took Rama away from the rest of passengers and attempted to detain him claiming that he was being deported from Turkey to Albania.

On his route from US to Albania, Rama had stopped over for one night in Turkey. He used his Turkish visa to stay in Istanbul and had no issues whatsoever with the Turkish police. Rama wrote on Facebook that if Turkish authorities wanted to deport him, they would have deported him to the US and not to Albania, and they would have done so while he was in Turkey.

After boarding the Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to Tirana and upon requesting to change seats, Rama was assigned the Exit Emergency Door seat. Turkish Airlines use this seat for deportees, whenever there is one or more.

Upon landing, the Albanian police publicly called his name in the bus carrying passengers from the airplane to the airport entrance, and took Shinasi Rama away. They showed him a list of passengers in which his name had the “deportation” note on the side.

Rama suspects that he was assigned the Exit Emergency Door seat on purpose and not by coincidence. The other person who was being deported from Turkey to Albania was taken to Rama’s seat instead.

The police officers demanded to take him to the police station unless the Turkish Airlines staff clarified the situation. The representative of the airline claimed that it was a mistake and that there was only one single person to be deported that day, and that person was not Shinasi Rama.

The professor was given no explanation why his name was in the list of deported persons.

On his Facebook account, Professor Rama wrote that “this grave incident that cannot be other than an intentional brazen effort to intimidate me”, and gave the following interpretation to the incident:

“[…] I seriously doubt that this was a purposeful tactic to detain and control me at least for the night. Albania is a country that is undergoing through a deep political crisis. My visit to Albania, which was planned months ago, […] coincides with the massive protests organized by the opposition, or the so-called opposition. This massive confrontation is expected to happen in two days and it could have grave political consequences.

Although I was not planning to go to that protest, let me emphasize strongly that I was not planning to go and join this other gang, I am extremely concerned that my visit caused them to worry so that they would use such an intimidation tactic. […]

Yet, this incident was such that I have come to fear greatly for my life while in Albania. […] I refuse to become an accomplice by not doing the right thing and not helping my people in any way I can.”

The unprofessional behavior of Albanian border police often results in intimidating and causing fear in travelling citizens. Few weeks ago, Exit published the troubling experience of an American citizen at the Airport of Tirana. However, given Professor Rama’s political engagement, his case and account of events raises concerns on the potential political implications of the police attempt to detain him.