OSCE HDIM 2004 - Report by MHRMC and Vinozhito
5-15 October, 2004
The following interview with Edmond Temelko, president of the Macedonian organization “Prespa” in Albania, outlines the precarious position of the Macedonian minority in Albania. It appeared in the Macedonian weekly, “Makedonsko Sonce”, on June 15, 2001.
"The plight of the Macedonians in Albania is already known. Macedonians in Albania are discriminated against and the government continues to unrealistically present their numbers. Albania recognizes that on its territory live only 5,000 Macedonians. But we alone, as Macedonian organizations in Albania number 120,000 Macedonians who are members of our organizations, or if we investigate there are perhaps more then 350,000 Macedonians in Albania."
"According to the Albanian Constitution, the minorities are allowed 60% education in their mother language. But this is not happening. There are Macedonians who live in other parts of Albania who do not have the right to get an education in their own mother language, the Macedonian language. They do not have schools. But even where we have schools, there is very little. For example in the village of Pustets there is elementary education from first to fourth grade in Macedonian and one course in Albanian. What happens between fifth and eight grade? Only three courses are in Macedonian, and the history in taught only in seventh grade and only for one hour. But the worst of all is that although the kids study in Macedonian, the literature is not original. The Macedonian grammar is translated from Albanian grammar. This is one of our complaints. We demand that the children by educated with original Macedonian textbooks."
"The Albanian press has branded us a potential hotspot. After a peaceful protest, they began to treat us as terrorists, although nobody rose a gun to fight in Albania. All we did is sent a call that we are fighting for our rights through the institutions of the system. For example, we publicly proclaim that we do not like the Constitution of Albania. Why? In article 20 it is written that in Albania exist minorities whose cultural identity should be guaranteed and preserved. But which minorities are these? Let it say: Greek, Macedonian, Vlach, or Roma minority. The Albanian government is afraid of this because if this is written, i.e. if a real analysis is conducted, Albania is a multiethnic state. If you enter inner Albania, there live 40-45% of the minorities. There are Greeks, Vlachs, Macedonians, Roma. This is what the Albanian government is afraid of and this is why it conducted such census. This census was regularly conducted in only one village. It is discrimination and because of it Macedonia will have to develop a clear strategy for the plight of the Macedonians in the neighbouring countries."
The four Macedonian organizations in Albania, Mir (Peace), Gora, MED (Macedonian Aegean Society) and Prespa, boycotted the 2001 census in Albania because there was no option for “Macedonian” in the census list. The Albanian government continues to minimize the actual number of Macedonians, and other minorities, in the country and in 2003, the Association of Macedonians in Albania (consisting of the four organizations) will conduct their own census of the number of Macedonians in Albania. It is estimated that this number is between 120,000 and 350,000 while the Albanian state only officially recognizes 5,000. Because of irregularities and intense minority complaints, the Council of Europe has also recommended that Albania conduct a new census.
The Use of Macedonian Names
The Albanian state pressures Macedonians to use Albanian names while forbidding the use of traditional Macedonian names. They frequently impose Albanian names on Macedonian children in their continued attempts to assimilate the Macedonian minority.
Macedonian Church in Pustets
The Macedonians in Pustets, Mala Prespa are building a Macedonian Orthodox Church and have requested that a Macedonian Orthodox priest bless the church. In September 2003, an Albanian priest tried to perform this ceremony but the local Macedonians refused. A few weeks later, the Albanian priest returned with approximately 40 police officers and forcibly entered the church. The Macedonian minority’s wishes must be respected and the Albanian state should cease its discrimination against the Macedonian minority.
Macedonian Media in Albania
Access to public media in Albania for ethnic Macedonians is almost non-existent. There has never been a Macedonian language television program in Albania and there is only one five-minute weekly Macedonian language radio program on Albanian radio. In the economically ravaged village of Pustets, Macedonians opened a private radio station in 2002. It operates from 7:00am to 8:00pm daily provided there is electricity in the area. Financial constraints have threatened the existence of the radio station since it opened.
Macedonian human rights organizations have published various Macedonian language newspapers over the past decade only to see them fold due to financial difficulties. The only one still in existence is a quarterly newspaper published by the Prespa organization.
Arrest of Macedonian Activists and Students
Albanian authorities have intimidated, threatened and pressured ethnic Macedonians to stop their activism and promotion of Macedonian human rights. In August 1995, upon returning to Albania, six ethnic Macedonian students who studied in Skopje, the Republic of Macedonia, were arrested by Albanian secret police. The names are as follows: Hamlet Shebroja, Sokol Cvarku, Sabri Hodja, Balbona Musliu, Blerin (last name unknown), and Evis Halili. The students were interrogated and the secret police demanded to know the reasons why they studied in the Republic of Macedonia, who “convinced” them to go there and study in the Macedonian language, what connections they have with Macedonian leaders in Albania and in particular the president of MIR, Kimet Fetahu, and whether they have contact with Macedonian secret police. They tried to pressure them to become Albanian informants.
In a sweep later the same year, leading Macedonian human rights activists Kimet Fetahu, Spase Masenkovski and Eftim Mitrevski were arrested and interrogated. They were also threatened and pressured to stop their activism. Another Macedonian activist, Vita Koja, was warned by her relatives about the impending police action, went into hiding, and avoided arrest.
Expulsion from Work
In April 1995, all Macedonians were expelled from the police force and armed forces. Not a single ethnic Macedonian is employed by the police or army to this day. Macedonians have been fired from other jobs simply based on their activism and promotion of human rights for the Macedonian minority in Albania.
President, Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada
Address: P.O. Box 44532, 2376 Eglinton Ave. East, Toronto, Canada M1K 5K3
Tel: 416-493-9555 Fax: 416-412-3385
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: www.mhrmi.org
Rainbow – Organization of the Macedonian Minority in Greece
Address: Stephanou Dragoumi 11, P.O. Box 51, 53100 Florina, Greece
Tel, Fax: ++ 23850 46548
Email: email@example.com; Website: www.vinozito.gr
For more information, please contact the Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada or the following organizations of Macedonians in Albania:
President - Kimet Fetahu
Rr. “Prokor Muzeqari”
P. 31/1/1, Tirana, Albania
Association of Macedonians in Albania (consisting of MIR, Prespa, Bratstvo, MED)