|Kolec P. Traboini|
Chameria Blog Editor
Gazeta "Tirana Observer" 29 qershor 2012
Shënin: Autori i shkrimit është Editor i Blogut CHAMERIA
Çameria geographically is situated on the to-day north-west Greece. This beautiful region, has a rich Albanian heritage and it was only in the 1912 that it was annexed unfairly and unjustifiably from Greece. This was the aftermath of the decision of the great powers to give Çameria to Greece, just as the great powers had made similar decisions to give Kosova and other Albanian territories to Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro.
The word Çam is an evolution of the word "t'chiam" which is the name of an ancient river passing right through Çameria (The word T'chamis appears on many ancient Roman and even Hellenic maps, indicating that the word Chameria is older than the word Epirus, and it's used only by Albanians). Another branch of this river remains to be known to this day as the "lumi i kalamait" (Kalamait River - Childrens Rivier). What's most important is that everything about Çameria is Albanian in every sense of the word. The word Çameria has more of a topological meaning, but Çams have a very strong Albanian ethnicity, tradition and customs. Çameria has a very well-defined ethno-geographical meaning, which is strongly Albanian.
A large number of Çam population is situated on the seaside and goes up to the Gulf of Preveza. Another considerable number of towns and villages are situated on both sides of the river of "kalamait". The rest of of the Çam villages and towns are situated in more remote places and often on hills and mountains.
The Greek government has been very hostile toward Çams and the main reason is the fact that Çams have a very strong Albanian identity. Another reason of the Greek hostilities is the fact that Greeks inherited a very hostile policy towards us. During the period of time, from 1854 till 1877 the Albanians of Çameria resisted successfully the attacks from Greek "Andartes". During the WWI and WWII the greek troops attacked Çameria again. The (provisional) government of Vlora (Albania) responded by sending Albanian military troops to assist the Albanian population of Çameria , but the decision of the Ambassadors Conference assigned Çameria to Greece. As a result of this decision by the great powers, Greeks forces led by the hateful figure of N. Zervas launched attackers that ended up with many innocent Albanian locals killed.
To this day, we Çams in greece are described as bad people from an increasing "suffocating" Greek propaganda based on the fact that we refuse to be assimilated as it is the case with some of "Arvanites" in south and central Greece.
The today exact number of Albanians of Çameria in Greece is approx. one million people, taking into the account some relativly newly formed Çam villages and towns elsewhere in Greece..if all the number of Albanians in Çameria is added to the number of Arvanites in other areas of Greece, then the total number of Albanians in Greece is around 3.000.000 people. However only Albanians in Çameria call themselves real Shqiptars (Albanians). Arvanites elsewhere in Greece are under greater assimilating pressure from the Greek government and Anti-Albanian Greek circles.
This section is dedicated to hundreds of thousands of Albanians from the region of Chameria expelled by force, from the Greek forces in 1944 and residing now in the Republic of Albania and in the memory of 850,000 Cham Albanians sent to Turkey during the period between 1913-44.
During the summer of 1944, the neo-nazi forces led by Zervas attacked many villages and towns of Chameria and as a result 9,000 Albanians (including children, women and old folks) were killed indiscriminately. A considerable number of Albanians were expelled and live now in the Republic of Albania. The official number of those Albanian refugees from Chameria is between 150,000 and 300,000.
Today they have formed their own Albanian patriotic and cultural association based in Tirana and which is active right across Albania. Among other they are asking from the Greek government in Athens-Greece, to be repatriated and their lands and other assets be returned to them as well as compensations for the usage of the lands for the past 50 years. Also they are rallying for the opening of Albanian schools to the Albanians living in Chameria.
The policy of expulsion of Cham Albanians from Chameria had started earlier than 1944. Greeks as well as Serbs followed the same pattern in politics with respect to Albanians. Often they had signed documents with the Turkish government for the exchange of Muslims with Christians. During all this not a single Cham Albanian was asked! As a result of such policy around 850,000 Cham Albanians from Chameria were sent to Turkey, where they are settled in the region of Asia minor in Turkey.
Prior to WWI and WWII, the population in Çameria was around 93% Albanian, the rest were other ethnic groups such as Greeks, Vlachs, gypsies, etc.. On the 19th century, 80% of the Albanian population in Çameria was of Muslim Religion (the process of conversion to Islam started in the 18th century) and a 20% Christian Orthodox, however the first world war, found the the Albanian community as made up of 50% muslim and 50% orthodox believers (this shift happened in a matter of 70 years). After the world wars a fraction of the Muslim Populations was expelled by the Greek special forces, leaving intact the mainly orthodox Albanian population (50%) and a small fraction of molsims(13%) who by now mostly converted to orthodoxy to survive. The conversion back and forth from one religion to the other, before the World War I, was common among families!
However both Albanian religious communities were extremely close to each-other before the war and to this day, the Greek government has not managed to assimilate the Albanians of Çameria. The Albanian language is spoken indoors and outdoors as much as on everyday working places, but the Greek government with very little pressure from outside refuses to recognize Albanian minority in Greece and refuses to open schools on Albanian language.
The region is officially known as Epirus by the Greek government, but on the further north western corner of Greece, every single people knows the place as Çameria. Anyone from this region stating that he or she is a Çam, makes a political statement saying that he or she is an Albanian. That's why the Greek government doesn't know officially the region as Çameria. The heartland of Çameria is also called Thesprotia.My own opinion is that this region has still an Albanian majority (since many people of other ethnic groups have emigrated away, which has compensated somehow for the displacement of some Albanians during WWI and WWII!) and all the Çams expelled unjustifiably from Greece are very welcomed by all the Albanian people here, there is a UN resolution which asks the Greek government to repatriate our brothers and sisters back to their homes, where they belong among the rest of us.
ÇAMERIA: An Albanian Region Divided Between Greece and Albania
The Epirus, or Çameria, area in southern Albania and northern Greece has constituted the main focus of potential dispute between Athens and Tirana. The Greeks consider the southern extremity of Albania to be northern Epirus, while the Albanians consider the northwest corner of Greece to be southern Çameria. Although neither government has pressed for territorial revisions in recent memory, both regions are inhabited by minorities whose conditions and treatment have given rise to some concern and interstate discord. Claims over Çam numbers have ranged from 90,000 to over one million but are believed to be understated because Athens has not considered the local Albanians to be a separate ethnic group and has completely hellenized the majority of Orthodox Christian Albanians. They have not been entitled to any special minority rights and have been prevented from establishing any educational, cultural, or political associations inside Greece.
Since the democratic breakthrough in Albania in early 1991, the Albanian Çams organized as a pressure group within Albania on behalf of their co-ethnics in Greece. In March 1991, the first national conference of the Çameria Political Association (CPA) was held in Tirana with many of its activists drawn from the Albanian community who had been expelled from Greece after the war. The CPA intended to bring to international attention the neglected linguistic, cultural, and educational rights of Orthodox Albanian Çams who have been subjected to a Greek policy of assimilation. The group has also launched campaigns on behalf of Çam exiles in Albania. It has encouraged the expansion of contacts with compatriots in Greece, the return of exiles to their family areas, and the payment of compensation for property and land that was illegally taken from them during their expulsion.
Since 1991, Albanian activists across the political spectrum have become more outspoken on the Çameria issue vis-a-vis Greece. Historic grievances over Greek repression of Orthodox and Muslim Albanians earlier this century have been aired, and Athens has been criticized for its ongoing assimilationist pressures against Orthodox Albanians who still reside in the Çameria/Epirus region. Although the Greek authorities have denied that any Çam problem exists, Çam representatives have continued to urge the Albanian government to take up the issue with Athens at the highest bilateral levels. Excerpted from pages 185 and 186, Nations in Turmoil by Janusz Bugajski, Westview Press, 5500 Central Ave., Boulder, CO 80301-2877
* * * * * * * *
A small section of Çameria consisting of 7 villages and the town of Konispoli belongs to Albania while the rest of Çameria was awarded to Greece by the Conference of Ambassadors in London in 1913. The main Çam towns in Greece are Filati, Gumenica,Paramethia, Margellici, and Parga. In the 16th to 17th centuries, Çameria turned into an area of fierce revolts against Ottoman rule. In the 18th century, the process of forced islamization began -- part of the Suli and Parga populations fled to Greek islands to escape conversion. During 1820-1850, the region again took part in uprisings against the Ottomans. In 1854 and 1877, the population successfully resisted attacks by Greek Andartes. During the Balkan Wars, Greek troops intervened in Çameria. Military troops were sent by the (provisional) government of Vlora (Albania) to assist the local population, but the decision of the Ambassadors Conference assigned Çameria to Greece.
After WWII, the Greek government expelled by force thousands of Muslim Albanians to Turkey on the pretext that they were Turks because of their religion. At the end of WWII, the terror exercised against the local population forced 25, 000 Çams of Muslim faith to leave their homeland and seek temporary asylum in Albania. Çam dances, especially men's dances, are renowned. Some Çam dances, called Çamiko, are also used by the Greeks. Excerpted from pages 149-50, Fjalori Enciklopedik Shqiptar, Akademia Shkencave e RPS te Shqiperise, Tirana, Albania, 1985
(Translated from Albanian into English by Agron Alibali)
ANGLO - AMERICAN COMMENTS
THAT LIGHT ON THE PERSECUTION
OF THE CHAMS IN THE YEARS
1. In 1944 the Chams were evicted from
In March 1945 units of Zervas’ dissolved forces, under a certain officer called Zotos, carried out a ruthless massacre of the Chams in the Philiates area, and practically cleared the area of Albanian(Cham) minority.1)
2. Colonel Chriss Monague Woodhouse, head of the British Military Mission in
"Encouraged by the Allied Mission I headed, Zervas drove the Chams out of their homes in 1944. The majority fled to find shelter in
3. In June 1946, Joseph Jacobs, Head of the U.S. Mission in
"According to all information 1 have been able together on the Chams issue, in autumn 1944 and during the first months of 1945, the authorities in north—western Greece perpetrated savage brutality by evicting 25.000 Chatns, residents of Chameria, from their homes, where they had been living for centuries on end, chasing them across the border after having robbed them of their land and property. Most of the young people were killed because the majority of the refugees were old folk, and children"3)
1)Documents of the. British Foreign Office No.371/58479/ R 10458
2)Documents of the British Foreign Office ice, No.371/48094/544/R8 564
3)Documents of the U.S Department of State, No.84/3,Tirana Mission, 1945—1946, 6—646.
BY THE GREEK GENERAL, ZERVAS STATEMENTS
The statements made by Mr. Mitsotakis and the Greek chauvinistic clan that the Chams were collaborators of the invaders and ordinary criminals, that they were not evicted but left on their own to follow the fate of the invaders in order to escape Greek justice and so on are unfounded. The real aim of these statements is to justify the monstrous crimes and genocide against the Cham population. The violent eviction of the Cham population from its own native land, was a strategy long since worked out and applied by Greek chauvinism. This conclusion is also clearly proved by two statements of Napoleon
1. In his letter to one of his collaborators, Jani Dani Popovit, he instructs the latter as follows: "Take upon yourself the task of enlightening our compatriots on who cleared Chameria of the Albanians who had been riding roughshod on Hellenism for five hundred years on end" (See: Spiro Muselimi "Historiqi pripatiana tis Thesprotias", p.8, Salonika, 1976). The letter is dated August 4, 1993.
2. In 1950 when Napoleon Zervas was under medical care in
Patriotic -political Albanian Association" Camëria" Tirana
Patriotic -political Albanian Association" Camëria" Tirana
Honorable Mr. Jim Trafficant, Member of the Congress of the
Honorable Mr. Josef Dioguardi, President of the Albanian -American League
The Cham Community living nowadays in Albania, constituted of 3OO, OOO members, expelled violently by the Greek chauvinist since 1944 has the request to meet publicly you to present their views about solving their problems dealing with returning of them in their lands according to international laws and all other conventions and existing documents of this kind.
It will be a great honour for us if you will be ready to fix the date of this meeting soon as possible.
President of "Cameria",
writer and publicist
Taking into account the positive processes that are going on in Europe today and the efforts made by the international community, the CSCE and other organizations to guarantee the fundamental democratic national and human rights and freedoms,
Making more attainable the rights that should be enjoyed by the national minorities and ethnic groups that have remained outside borders in certain historical circumstances,
Addresses itself with great respect to the international public opjnion and organizations concerning very important problems of the Chams (cam), Chameria Albanians.
The Albanian region of Chameria or Thesprotia as it is called by the Gréèk administration, begins from the most southern part of today’s
It comprises the ‘southern part of the ethnic territories of
One people and one ethnic territory continuity is testified to by Greek authors of ancient times and also by the Great Greek Encyclopedia, as well as by many world wide known scientific authorities. This is also proved by the real presence of Albanians there and their language, culture and tradition.
The population of Chameria has been ethnically Albanian. It comprised 99% in the cities and 100% in the villages. Till the beginning of the 18th century, the population of this region was of the orthodox faith. After this period, the process of Islamization began among the Albanians. As a result of this process, according to the statistical data of the Turkish administration, 50% of the Albanian population converted to Islam and 50% kept the Orthodox faith. These figures. have been misrepresented even today, harming ethnic Albanians. The census held by the Turkish administration in 1910 testifies that in the region there were 83.000 orthodox and Muslim Albanians. While the statistical yearbook of the Greek government in 1936 shows that only 26.000 Chams lived in Chameria, it does not mention the Orthodox Albanians, because the Greek government considers them Greeks.
As a result of the 1944-1945 ethnic cleansing and genocide, 30.000 Albanian Muslims, violently expelled from the Chameria region, were received in the Republic of
There are 205.OOO members of this population, a figure which has increased because of the high birth rate of the population after the genocide.
At present, the community of native Albanians of the orthodox faith of Chameria-Thesprotia(
The demographic map of the British military mission sent, to the British government in
With the decisions of the Conference of Ambassadors in London in 1913, the region was cut off the motherland and annexed to the Greek state, despite its resistance, the native population of Chameria was subjected to a tragic fate; it was considered an Albanian ethnic minority under Greece.
The destiny of the Albanian minority of Chameria is an Albanian national tragedy not only in terms of territory, but of people as well.
THE GREEK POLICY AND OFFICIAL ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE ALBANIAN MINORITY IN CHAMERIA
After the annexation of Chameria in 1913 until today, its population during all these years under the Greek state has not enjoyed national or human rights.
•Greek official circles, sticking to the concept of absolute denial of the existence of ethnic groups on Greek territory, have followed a well-studied chauvinistic policy in. two directions:
1. Towards the Albanians of the Orthodox faith it has followed an assimilation policy denying them every ethnic, cultural or language rights, considering them Greeks and intentionally mistaking faith for nationality, an action they still apply today towards Albanians, pretending that all the Orthodox are Greeks.
2. Towards the Albanians of the Islam faith, they followed the policy of genocide, denying their nationality as well. In many cases, they have intentionally considered them as Turkish Chams and not Albanian Cham as they really are.
This strategy worked out about one century ago by Greece was achieved at the end of the Second World War, in 1944-1945, when the criminal bands of the notorious General, Napoleon Zervas perpetrated the. ethnic cleansing of the. Chameria Muslim Albanians.
1. Immediately after annexation they violently persecuted the. innocent Albanian population, perfidiously killing 72 of the most influential men of this region in 1913, in a place called Selan Paramithi (Ajdonat) who had gone there to negotiate with the Greek party. Other dozens of innocent people suffered the same fate.
To prevent persecution by the Greek government, Cham patriots protested to European circles on June 8, 1913.
2. The Chams were shocked at the Satanic attempts of the Greek government in 1923-1924 to include even the Muslim Chams among the Muslim Turks living Greece, who according to Lozana Agreement reached on January 19, 1923, between Turkey and Greece, were to be exchanged with the Greeks of Anatolia
The Greek government flagrantly violated this Agreement; it did not stick to the statement of its representative in Lozana, Kalamanos, on January 19, 1923, whoa declared that his government didn’t intend to exchange the "Muslims of Albanian origiif who, as he himself admitted, "lived in a region clearly determined as Epirus" and though they share the same religion as the Turks, they are in no way their compatriots"~2].
The Greek-Turkish Joint Commission decided on March 1924~4] not to observe any procedure or formality in the framework of the exchange of the Greek-Turkish population, towards the Albanian population of Chameria, an ethnic and historical reality, that was recognized also by the Greek party.
Contrary to historical reality and the Agreement reached, the Greek official circles imposed the exchange of( as black slaves in the Middle Ages) tens of thousands of Chams realizing at that time part of their plan for ethnic cleansing of the "minorities" in their territories.
3. With the coming to power of the Yoannis Metaxas fascist government in 1936, the situation of the Albanian population of Chameria became even more difficult. That government applied an unheard of discriminatory policy;: it continued colonization with Greeks aiming to change the proportion of the population. The name of the places inhabited by Albanians were replaced by Greek place names. It resorted to real genocide, arrests, deportation, and confiscation of property. The program stepped up further making the life of the Albanians unbearable.
4. The situation in Chameria became more troubled and tense especially on the eve of the World War II. Prior to the fascist Italian occupation of
"Acknowledging" this peace-loving gesture of the Chams, the Greek government thanked and mobilized them, but instead of arms, it gave them picks and spades to do construction work.
With this act, the Greek government showed its lack of confidence in theili overlooking their readiness and estranging them from itself; with the intention of accusing later on the Muslim Chams of being collaborators with the occupiers.
Shortly prior to the occupauon ot Greece by Italy, the Greek authorities, out of fear for what they had done towards the unprotected Cham population, deported the men from 14 years old and more to concentration camps on the isles of the Aegean Sea, the islands of Medilin, Hio and Corinthus, etc.
On the way to the concentration camps the Greek official circles created the psychosis that they were prisoners of war who had killed the sons of the Greek people, thereby hiding the truth that they were innocent people forcibly torn away from their homes and from the war front.
During the exile in the camps of the Mathausen type, the Chams were illtreated and physically liquidated, meanwhile, in the Chameria region there were only unprotected women, old folk, children, subject to killings, robbery and rapes by Greek criminal gangs.
L. Stavrianos, The Balkans Since 1453,
Council, dated 29.11.1924, in Journal Officiel de Ia SdN:4 October 1924, Process-Verbatix du Conseil. Annexe 689 pp
UNHEARD OF GENOCIDE AND EVICTION OF ETHNIC ALBANJANS FROM THEIR HISTORICAL
The criminal bands of Greek chauvinism resorted to cruelest atrocities in this region. The cruelty committed against this population were beyond imagination. They included killings, rapes, inhuman treatment, such as cutting different body organs, the nose, ear, etc. massacred women, babies and pregnant women. More than 600 men, women and children were killed within 24 hours in the town of
There were hundreds of other unidentified and missing persons. During 1944-1945, the Greek chauvinists perpetrated massacres, acts of robbery and rapes against the Albanian population of Chameria; 2900 young and old men, 214 women, 96 children were massacred, 745 women were raped, 76 women abducted, 32 children, younger than 3 years were massacred, 68 village were razed to the ground, 5800 houses and sites of worship were burned down or destroyed, all the furniture houses and 84752 kilos of olive oil, 67434 quintals of corn, 4453 work animals, domestic animals were stolen. The terror was of such proportions that the Albanian Muslim population had to leave their ancestral land for
EFFORTS TO INTERNATIONALIZE THE CHAM QUESTION
EFFORTS TO INTERNATIONALIZE THE CHAM QUESTION
After their violent expulsion, the Cham immigrants who had Greek citizenship and Albanian nationality, were immediately organized in
The new Albanian government after the war took the Cham issue to the Peace Conference in
The miserable situation of the Chams and their demands were also presented to the Paris Peace Conference (1945) by the then Albanian Foreign minister.
As well as this, many attempts to internationalize the question and to secure the support of the Allied Powers were made by the Cham National-Liberation Committee, as the most direct representative of the Cham population.
Many memorandums and telegrams of protest were sent to the Allied Powers and relevant for as to the General Assembly of the United Nations in London and New York, to the Council of the Allied Foreign Ministers in London and Mosóow, to the San Francisco Conference, to the governments of Great Britain, United States of America, to the House of Representatives ‘in Washington D.C., to London and Moscow, to the Mediterranean General Staff; etc.
These demands were not supported or answered. No support or answer was given even by the representatives of the British, Russian and Yugoslav missions that took part in the second Cham Congress held in Vlora-Albania (September 194.5) and saw for themselves the catastrophe of this population.
The international Investigation Commission of the United Nations, during the verification of the tragedy on both sides of the border, drew the proper conclusions in 1946-1947, replete with real facts and evidence about the massacre and painfuI tragedy of the Cham people.
After this, only the international fora, after having specified the displaced Cham population as immigrants, gave an economic aid of about 1.2 million dollars and other material aid for thousands of Cham refugees who had no bread and no home.
THE 1947 -1990 ENIGMATIC SILENCE
At a time when the Chams hoped for a solution of their legitimate rights, their attempts were ensued with total silence. The 1947-1990 period is one the most grave acts of this tragedy, because that was done by the Albanians themselves. It is the state of the antinational, communist dictatorship of E. Hoxha itself that kept silent. Such silence is still a mystery.
THE GREEK OFFICIAL ATTITUDE AFTER THE EXPULSION OF THE MUSLIM ALBANIANS OF CHAMERIA
As a result of this assimilation and discriminatory policy, it was impossible for them to assert themselves in Chameria.
2. After 1945, the action to change the demographic structure of Chameria and it colonization with Greeks, Arumuni and gypsies began.
3. The property of the expelled Chains was given by the Greek government to new settlers without the legal right of ownership.
4. The present Greek government follows a discriminatory policy towards the Chams in
5. The Albanian place names were replaced with Greek place names.
THE DEMOCRATIZATION PROCESS IN
The victory of democracy and the destruction of the communist system in
As e result of pluralism, on January 1991, the "cameria" Patriotic-Political Association was created in continuation of the efforts and aspirations of the martir population of Chameria.
The Chameria question is part of the program of most of the political parties in’ Albania, which are trying to solve it in accordance with the spirit and standarts of the international human rights documents of the UN, the CSCE and the Council of Europe.
First of all, the "Chameria" Association as well as the Albanian democratic government have asked the Greek state and government to settle this outstanding problem, judging that the bilateral way is the most efficient manner to deal with it. So far, the Greek government and its high officials have adopted a negative attitude.
According to the Greek official stand, the Muslim Chams will not be allowed to return to Greece "because they have collaborated with the Italian-German invaders during the Second World War and as such they are criminals of war and are punished according to Greek laws" (Statement ,of Prime Minister Mitsotakis, in Tirana, May 1992)
1940-1941: Internment of all male persons from 16 to 75 years of age, started by the Metaxa regime two months before
During the internment, 450 people died of tortures.
June 27, 1944
Gumenice and villages:
Filat and villages:
Filat and villages:
Deaths in internment:
Deaths en route (diseases and afflictions): 2 400
Victims (total): 4 700
Raped women: 475
Kidnapped women: 76
villages / burnt houses
Parge, Preveze, Arta Paramithi, Margellic: 21 / 2300
Gumenice: 26 / 2300
Filat: 44 / 1200
Total: 91 villages / 5800 burnt houses
RELIGIOUS OBJECTS BURNT DOWN:
Gumenice and villages :25 "
Filat (town) 2 "“ (villages):22 "
Total: 102 mosques
Large scale plunder of agricultural and livestock products, as well as more than 46 000 sheep and 5 137 cattle
This is a false and an untrue "hypothesis".
- To consider the Chams criminals at a time when they have shed their blood together with the Greeks for liberation is a political-diplomatic crime.
* The Chams did not collaborate with occupiers of any kind; they are their victims.
* If Chameria had some "collaborators" (a common phenomenon for all the states under Nazi-Fascist occupation during World War II, what about the 30.000 such people in Greece, with general Ralis at the head. Nobody accuses them in
* It is a historical fact that the Chams were the first to take part in the Greek resistance against the invaders (together with ELAS and EAM).
* Documents that testify to the undeniable truth of the Cham tragedy, do exist.
* There are documents of the German state which prove that Napolon Zervas, one of the persons, most responsible for the genocide against the Chams, was a collaborator of the German Gestapo.
The Greek official stand does on honour to the Greek democratic government, which has signed all the international documents on human rights, we don’t blame it today for this tragedy, but it is not human to be a partner of the authors of gravest tragedies in Europe, following World War II, by using false accusations in order to hide the truth.
THE CHAM TRAGEDY MEANS:
* ETHINC CLEANSING
* RELIGIOUS WAR
* VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
A PROBLEM THAT MUST BE SOLVED
The Albanian martyr population of Chameria wants that today’s Europe of human dimension, all the international fora, all European political-diplomatic circles, the USA and other countries, the Greek government and people support and help meet its legitimate human demands:
1. We request that the Greek Democratic government as a member of the European Community, as a state that has signed all International Acts on Human Rights and respect for national minorities, recognizes our denied rights
2. We request that the Greek state and government should accept the historical reality of the Cham question.
3. It should recognize the civil and legal rights of the Albanians evicted from their own territories in 1944-1945, as well as their right as legitimate owners of the property they have been robbed of.
4. We request that the Greek state and government should allow and make possible the free movement of this population to visit its ancestors’ land.
5. On February 2, 1943, at Markat (Konispol), the Chameria umt was formed Later on, it grew in size and assumed the name of the "Chameria" battalion, composed mamly of partisans from the Chamena province.
6. In the spring of 1944, in the
7. Albanians from the Chameria province took part in all the formations of the Albanian National Liberation Anny.
8. Fighting formations composed of Albanians from the Chami minority fought such battles against the Nazi-fascist occupiers inscribing glorious pages in the history of the Greek and Albanian peoples as:
- The 55 day long battle against German forces in August 1944 m the Konispol region on the border between
The battles along the Skolim-Filat-Gumenica-Janina line.
Many Albanians from Chameria shed their blood in these battles, giving their lives on the same trenches as the Greek partisans for their joint liberation. They were, just to mention a few, the hero of the Albanian people Ali Demi, Bido Sejko, Muharrem Myrteza, Ibrahim Halluni, Husejn Vejseli and dozens of others who fell on the Qeramica Pass, in Konispol and in many other battles that were fought at that time.
The attitude adopted by the Greek officials, including the present-day official authonties of Greece, to the effect that the Chami people were collaborators of the Nazi-Fascist occupiers, hence, they were war criminals, negates all this contribution of the Albanians of Chameria, slinging mud at the blood they shed for the liberation of the two, Albanian and Greek, peoples. This Greek accusation which is made in an effort to justify and disguise the truth about the Chami tragedy and the ethnic cleansing against the Albanians of Chameria at the hands of Greek theocratic chauvinism in the 1944-1945 period, does not bear scrutiny, it does not hold as an argument either in time and runs counter to the historical truth. In so doing, the present Greek government becomes an accomplice of the authors of the crime and genocide against an innocent and defenseless population.
ACTIVE PARTICIPATION OF THE ALBANIANS OF CHAMERIA IN THE FIGHT AGAINST THE NAZI-FASCIST INVADERS DURING WORLD WAR II - AN INCONTESTIBLE HISTORICAL TRUTH
Chameria and the Chams contributed to the great antttascist war physically, materially and morally; they unreservedly joined total war the occupiers.
1. It were the Chami patriots of Konispol, Filat such as Bido Sejko, Nakije Sejko and Muharrem Demi, Sami Murati from Spatar, Maze Hodo from Koska who, together with other patriots of the Chameria province, called on the people on April 7, 1939 to fight arms in hand against the fascist occupiers by laying ambushes at the Bogaz Pass, at a time when the Greek frontier authorities, under instructions of their government, rejected the request to let the passage of the forces that would fight against the occupiers to both sides of the Greek-Albanian border, with the excuse that they did not want to aggravate relations with fascist
2. The appeal for struggle of the Greek government to the Greek citizens, met immediate positive response from the Albanian population of Chameria, who ‘expressed its readiness to line itself up alongside the Greek people in order to cope with the common threat. The Greek government of loanis Metaxa responded to the readiness of the Albanian population to fight with neglect and increasing disbelief. At the meeting on the eve of the declaration of war by fascist
3. In early 1942, an illegal group of anti-fascist resistance was organised at Filat.
The group also comprised such well- known anti-fascist fighters as Vehip Demi, Mustafa Sulo Dauti, Dervish Dojaka, Sami Alushi, Tahir Demi, Muharrem Demi, Rexho Huso, Vehip Huso and others.
4. In March 1943, the Chami fighting unit set up at Filat and a Greek unit formed the first mixed partisan formation, the second fighting formation in
EFFORTS TO INTERNATIONALIZE THE CHAMI ISSUE
1. By the end of September 1944, at the Shales conference (Konispol), considered at that time the first Congress of the Chami refugees, the Chamis in exile raised their voice calling for cooperation against the occupi&s and the injustice committed by the Greek monarcho-fascists against them.
2. A commission of the Chami Anti-Fascist Council was sent on October 30, 1944 to
3. On October 30, 1944, the Chami Anti-fascist Council senf a vote of protest to the government of the Greek National Union, the Mediterranean General Command, the allied governments, the Central Committee of EAM, against the attrocities of the Greek fascists in Chameria.
4. On May 9, 1945, the Chami Anti-fascist Committee sent the Allied Military
Missions the copy of the telegram addressed to the president of the San Francisco Conference as regards the rights of the Chami people under the Atlantic Charter.
5. On June 25, 1945, a Telegram of Protest against the massacres in Chameria addressed by the Chami Anti-fascist Committee to the Democratic Government of Albania, the Allied Military Missions (British, American, Soviet, French, Czechoslovak), the Yugoslav Legation, the Albanians in the USA, Italy and Bulgaria.
6. Memorandum to the Allied Foreign Ministers' Conference in
7. On September 23, 1945, the Second Chami Congress held in Viora, sent a memorandum to the London Conference, requesting that the Chami issue be taken up for discussion and those who caused the bloodshed be condemned.
8. Telegram to the JJNRRA General Headquarters by the Chami Anti-fascist Council asking relief (September 25, 1945)
9. Aide-memoire to Mr. Hutchinson, Labour deputy (
10. Memorandum to the United Nations Assembly by the Chami Anti-fascist Council on the 11th of January, 1946.
11. Memorandum to the United Nations Assembly in
12. Memorandum by the Anti-fascist Committee of the Chami refugees to the Investigation Commission of the United Nations Security Council on the inhuman treatment of the Albanian minority of Chameria in
We, the Anti-Fascist Committee of Cham immigrants in
In pursuit of the protests and appeals that we have addressed to the Great Allies and the United Nations, we ask for justice with regard to the following:
For 32 years in succession, Greek chauvinist and reactionary cliques, in brutal violation of every humanitarian principle, and in total disregard of international treaties, have carried out a policy of extermination toward the Albanian minority in
Beginning with the Greek occupation of Chamëria on February 23, 1913, the gang of Deli Janaqi, incited and assisted by the local authorities, massacred without cause whatsoever 72 men, in the brook of Selani, district of Paramithia.
This massacre marked the beginning of the drive to exterminate the Albanian minority, and made clear the orientation of Greek policy toward our population.
The hounding, persecutions, imprisonment, internment, tortures, and plunder carried out on the pretext of disarming [the population] in the years 1914-1921, the terrorist actions of outlaws, and the provocations of Gjen Baire in 1921, reveal the reality of the sufferings to which our population was subjected during the Greek occupation.
Koska, Lopsi, Varfanj, Karbunari, Kardhiqi, Paramithija, Margëllëçi, Arpica, Grykohori, and others, are some of the villages that paid an especially high price as a consequence of the terror.
In 1922-1923, the Greek authorities decided to displace the Moslem element of Chamëria, in exchange for the Greeks in
But despite the intervention of the League of Nations, and the solemn commitments undertaken by the Greek Government in
The government in
Entire families were forced to abandon their birthplace and migrate to
Under these circumstances, we did not enjoy any national rights, not even the use of our mother tongue. Fanaticism and ignorance were given support, instead of developing our national culture and stimulating progress. Instead of opening schools, they subsidized religious clubs in the Arab language. Ninety-five percent of our population remained illiterate. The
In the war against Fascism, and more precisely at its conclusion, the reactionary Monarcho-Fascist forces of Llakë of Suli, which were created by the reaction to serve the occupier under the command of General Napoleon Zerva, turned on and treacherously massacred the Moslem Albanian inhabitants of Chamëria.
At that time, when the troops of ELAS [National Popular Liberation Army] and our troops were committed to fighting the Germans, the leadership of EOEA [National Troops of Greek Guerrilas], in league with the Germans, maneuvered to gain positions to fight a civil war. And when our forces, in keeping with the spirit and decisions of the protocol of Kasartë (Sarafis-Zerva), August, 1944, implemented the orders of the Joint Command in pursuit of the Germans, General Napoleon Zerva, commander of the resistance forces in Epir (ELAS – EOEA), gave orders to massacre the innocent population of Chamëria.
The massacres in Chamëria were a flagrant violation of humanitarian principles, and a shameless disregard for the principles and the nature of the Anti-Fascist struggle. The massacres in Chamëria were a result of the collaboration and agreements with the Germans, who in the process of retreating, let Zerva’s forces take their place. Here is a concrete example of the collaboration between Zerva’s forces and the Germans. Theodhor Vito, the commander of the Zerva forces in the district of Filat, met the commander of the retreating German forces on September 22, 1944 in the
The forces of the X th Division of EOEA, under the command of Col. Vasil Kamaras, and specifically the XVI th Regiment of that division, which was led by Kranja and his aides Lefter Strugari, attorney Stavropullos Ballumi Zotos, the notorious criminals Patazejt and others, entered the town of Paramithia on June 27, 1944. Contrary to their promises and the agreement arrived at between mufti Hasan Abdullaj, on the one hand, and Shapera and the Bishop of Paramithia, on the other, who acted as agents of Zerva, the most ignoble massacres were set in motion. Defenseless men, women and children became targets for the Greek Monarcho-Fascists. The number of the massacred in the town of
On July 28, 1944 the forces of Regiment Nr. 40, commanded by Agores, entered Parg and massacred 52 men, women and children.
The forces of EOEA under the command of Theodhor Vito, Ilija Kaqo, Hristo Mavrudhi, Hristo Kaqo, Hari Dhiamanti and others, first encircled the town of
Other families were wiped out, including parents, children and babies in their cribs. Women and young girls were raped. Hundreds of declarations by those who survived, describe the killings and endless suffering. They make plain the crimes and aims of the Monarcho-Fascists in Chamëria.
Here are some examples:
Sanie Bollati of Paramithia was burned alive with gasoline, after her breasts were cut off, and her eyes were plucked out. Ymer Murati was murdered and his body was chopped up in Paramithia.
In the house of Sulo Tari had gathered more than 40 women. Çili Popova from Popova, wearing a military uniform, and a group of soldiers, entered the house, seized the prettiest women and girls and began to rape them in another room. The screams of the girls and the women were deafening. This debauchery continued all night. Seri Fejzo, Fizret Sulo Tare and others, were victims of their baseness.
Hilmi Beqiri of Filat was wounded in front of his family and left there, as the attackers took off. Wanting to shelter him, the family brought him over to dentist Mavrudhiu. He kept him for a few hours, but later sent word to have him taken away. The family then took him to Stavro Muhaxhiri, after which they went over to Shuaip Metja, where many other families had gathered. Andartët [Greek irregulars – Translator’s note] were informed about this, and they went over and seized him, and after pulling his gold teeth with pliers, killed him.
Malo Muho, an 80-year-old man, who had been ailing for four years, was butchered with a hatchet in front of his wife. His brain splattered on the lap of his wife, who gathered them together, and after covering him with a quilt, ran away.
Abdyl Nurqe was seized in Spatar and taken barefooted to Filat, where he was dragged through the streets of the town, and finally killed in front of the house of Nidh Tafoqi.
The family of Lile Rustemi from Sullashi, numbering 16 persons, most of them children, was totally wiped out, without anyone being able to survive.
Xhelal Miniti of Paramithia was beheaded with a bayonet over the body of mufti Hasan Abdullahu.
Sali Muhedini, Abedin Bakos, Muhamet Pronjë and Malo Sejdiu had their fingers, nose, tongue, and feet cut off, and while they screamed with pain, andartët of Zerva sang the song of their commander, and rejoiced as they witnessed this scene of terror. In the end, they hung them with butchers’ grappling irons.
Following is the declaration of Eshref Himi, a resident of Paramithia, concerning the massacres in Paramithia:
“On Tuesday, June 27, 1944, at 7 in the morning, the Greek Monarcho-Fascists entered Paramithia, commanded by Col. Kamora, Major Kranja, Captain Kristo Stavropulli, an attorney; Captain Lefter Strugari, attorney; sub-lieutenant Nikolla Çenos, and others. As soon as they entered the city, the order was given that no one should leave, because no one’s honor, liberty or property would be threatened in any way. Immediately in the afternoon, there began the arrest of men, women and children, and thievery as well. By next morning all the men were murdered.
“After imprisoning me for four days, they let me go, so as to bury the dead. On the site called ‘The Church of Ajorgji’, I was able to identify five of the bodies. The others were beyond recognition, on account of the tortures inflicted on them. The five victims I was able to identify were: Met Qere, Sami Asimi, Mahmut Kupi, Adem Beqiri, Haki Mile. Two days later, they sent me over to ‘Golataj’, near the house of Dhimitër Nikolla, where they had murdered 8 people. I could not recognize them, because they had cut them to pieces. All around there were corpses of people. A woman by the name of Sanie Bollati was subjected to frightful tortures and burned alive with gasoline. This tragedy took place on Wednesday, while on Friday morning her body was moved away, covered with a blanket by her mother and two townspeople, and placed in a cellar by order of the Monarcho-Fascists, who would not let anyone to see her. The wretched woman died there five days later. By then, her cadaver was full of maggots.
“All of the things I declare here, I have seen with my own eyes. At first, I hid for five days on top of a ceiling, but was arrested by the Monarcho-Fascists and turned over to Major Kranja who, after questioning me briefly, ordered that I be imprisoned. In prison I found 380 persons, including women and children. One hundred twenty of those died of starvation. Four persons and me were in prison for 15 days, after which they transported us to Prevezë, and from there to Janinë, where we stayed for 40 days. There we were subjected to indescribable tortures. We were freed after the arrival in this town of troops of the EAM [National Liberation Front].”
Dervish Sulo from the
“In the morning of a Saturday in September, 1944, the entire population gathered in front of the (Spatar) village mosque. The soldiers began seizing and raping women, girls, and even old women. Paçe Çulani, 50 years of age, was raped, her hair was cut and even her ears, and finally she was killed in her own orchard, in the vicinity of Muço. In our house was installed the family of Sako Banushi from Skropjona, which numbered eight women, men, and children. After raping the women, whose breasts were pierced with knives, all were massacred….
“In the house of Damin Muhameti, 5 women and 3 children were killed….In the house of Fetin Muhameti, Hane Isufi and another woman were tortured and raped….
In the house of Dule Sherifi, they cut off the heads of 80-year-old Sulejman Dhimicë and his wife. In the house of Meto Braho, 20 persons, including men, women and children, were burned alive….Kije Nurçia, 70 years of age, was knifed to death….In the vineyard of Zule and the garden of Avdyl Nurçe, I saw 20 people who had been massacred….In the house of Haxhi Latifi, the daughter of Haxhi Gulani was raped, while in the dwelling of Mejdi Meto, Hava Ajshja was raped, and Nano Arapi was both raped and killed.”
According to statistics available to date, the victims and the missing among the Albanian minority in
Filat and vicinity, 1, 286; Gumenicë and vicinity, 192; Paramithia and vicinity, 673; and Magellç and Parg, 626. This was the fate of all those who were unable to flee Chamëria, with the exception of a few women who are today living witnesses of the chilling massacres in Paramithia, Parg, Spatar, and Filat. The words that come from their mouths make clear the naked criminality and barbaric acts, organized by the Greek Monarcho-Fascist reaction in Chamëria.
This carnage, inspired by the basest sentiments of chauvinistic and religious hatred, resulted in the displacement of nearly 23,000 Chams, who afterward found shelter in
A total of 68 villages with over 5,800 houses, were seized, destroyed and burned down.
An account of the damages reveals that the Monarcho-Fascist forces of Zerva seized the following assets left behind [by the Chams] in Chamëria: 17,000 heads of sheep and goats, 1,200 heads of cattle, 21,000 kv [kuintals – 1 kv. equals 100 kg. – Translator’s note] of cereals, and 80,000 kv of [olive] oil; plus the product of the year 1944-1945, which totaled 11,000,000 kg. of cereals, and 3,000,000 kg of [olive]oil. During the emigration, 110,000 sheep and goats, and 2,400 cattle died or were lost. This shows clearly the economic catastrophe that befell our people, which was forced to take the roads of immigration with only the clothes on their back.
This catastrophe happened because our people, together with the Greek people, fought alongside the EAM, rather than jump in the camp of the collaborationists who were allied with the occupiers. Chamëria contributed materially and morally to the great Anti-Fascist war. Hundreds of young Çams joined the ranks of ELAS, when EAM sounded the alarm for freedom. With the broadening of the Anti-Fascist war against the German occupiers, the population of Chamëria threw itself unreservedly in the war against the occupier, and formed the Fourth Battalion of the XV th Regiment of ELAS. Out of the small population of Chamëria, stepped forward over 500 troops who fought with determination against the Nazi-Fascist occupiers and the traitors in the camp of Zerva.
The blood of the national hero, Ali Demi, and of the martyr Bido Sejko; and the blood of martyrs Muharrem Myrtezaj, Ibrahim Hallumi,Hysen Vejseli and others, that was shed together with that of the Greek Partisans at the
In Chamëria at the end of the war, the troops commanded by General Napoleon Zervas operated in our districts and villages not as liberators, but as executioners and sworn enemies of the Albanian element.
In accordance with the Agreement of Caserta (Sarafi – Zervas) in August, 1944, the troops of the resistance were placed on a common front against the Nazi armies, under a joint command, in designated operational zones. This agreement was violated in Chamëria. Zerva’s troops compromised with the Germans, and attacked our troops and obstructed the activity of the IV th Battalion of the XV th Regiment in the zone of Filat. The operations and massacres in the district of Filat are directly connected with this situation, and in open contradiction to the trust and spirit of cooperation established in
A Commission of the Cham Anti-Fascist Council was dispatched to
Following the operations of December, 1944 and the liberation of Chamëria from the Zervist occupation, a portion of our population was repatriated and settled in the district of Filat. Then, on March 12, 1945 government forces of the garrison of
In the wake of our immigration to
Responding to this situation, the UNNRA Mission in
Even in these conditions, the Cham immigrants continued to contribute more and more to the Front. At the Conference of Shalës (Konispol), held at the end of September, 1944, the voice of the Chams in exile was raised strongly in favor of collaboration against the occupier, and the injustices of the Greek Monarcho-Fascists.
At the Congress of Vlorë on September 23, 1945 the Cham delegates, who represented all the groups of Cham immigrants in Albania, spoke against the massacres that Greek Monarcho-Fascists had perpetrated among them, and demanded by means of memoranda addressed to the London Conference, an inquiry into their problem, and the condemnation of those responsible for the pointless bloodshed and immeasurable sufferings in Chamëria. The Congress concluded with a resolution summarizing all of its proceedings.
While in exile, we have many times addressed appeals to the world, regarding the rights that have been denied us, and asked for repatriation.
On October 30, 1944 the Cham Anti-Fascist Council addressed a protest note to the Greek Government of National Unity, the Mediterranean Chief-of-Staff, the Allied Government, and the Central Committee of EAM, discussing the barbaric actions of Greek Fascists in Chamëria.
On May 9, 1945 the Cham Anti-Fascist Council dispatched to the Military Missions a copy of the telegram addressed to the President of the Conference in
On June 27, 1945 telegrams of protest by the Cham Anti-Fascist Council, against the massacres in Chamëria, were addressed to the Democratic Government of Albania, the Allied Military Missions including the Soviet, the English, the American, the French, and the Czechoslovak; the Yugoslav Legation, and the Albanians in
A memorandum was addressed to Mr. Hutchinson, Labor [Party] Deputy in
Telegrams were addressed to the General Directorate of UNRRA, by the Cham Anti-Fascist Committee (9/25/1945), asking for aid.
A memorandum was addressed to the Presidency of the Conference of Allied Foreign Ministers in
A memorandum was addressed to the Assembly of the United Nations in
A memorandum was addressed to the United Nations Assembly in
We are victims of the Monarchist regime that reigns in
For two and a half years now, we roam
Our travails in exile have been, and continue to be without bounds. Thousands have perished owing to the situation that has come into being.
Despite our protests and the rights to which we are entitled, we continue to live in exile, while the Greek Government, without any justification, is busy quartering alien inhabitants in our Chamëria, in order to prevent our return.
In the name of our people, we protest once again against all these things, and present before the Investigating Committee of the UNO Security Council, the [issue of the] tragedy that has taken place in Chamëria, drawing attention to the barbaric acts carried out with the intention of wiping out the Cham people.
We stress the need for a speedy resolution of the Cham problem, and being persuaded that our demands will be met, we set them forth, as follows:
1. That immediate steps be taken to prevent the settling of foreign elements in our homes.
2. That all Chams be repatriated.
3. That all our properties be returned [to us] and all damages to real and moveable properties of ours be compensated.
4. That assistance be given to rebuild our homes and resettle [our people].
5. That steps be taken to insure the benefits that derive from international treaties and mandates, such as the security of civil, political, and cultural rights, and the security of the person.
6. That all persons responsible for crimes committed be tried and punished.
With our most distinguished considerations:
THE ANTI-FASCIST COMMITTEE OF CHAM IMMIGRANTS
Taho Sejko Kasëm Demi Rexhep Çami
Tahir Demi Vehip Demi Dervish Dojaka
Translated by Peter R. Prifti from the original Albanian document, published by Dr. Agron Fico in Diaspora e Rilindur (