By Emrie Krosi
“The diplomacy of self-denial” of writer Shefki Hysa is a truthful as well as evidential presentation of a long cavalcade of sufferings of the emigrant Cham population, is a kind of development history of one of the most delicate issues, such as the Cham issue, which still squawks and cries for the denial made to it. It is a history of Cham institutions and organisms such as: Political Patriotic Association “Chameria” (Shoqata Politike Atdhetare “Çamëria”), Cultural Association “Bilal Xhaferri” (Shoqata Kulturore “Bilal Xhaferri”), “Eagle’s wing” magazine (“Krahu i shqiponjës”) etc., which are trying with all the intellectual forces to reset a justice that certain chauvinist circles are endeavoring to deny. It is a pledge and non-solution of a martyr population’s vital right. Like every population, the Chams deported violently from their homes in Chameria, have a right for property and heritage of their ancestors’ lands but years go by and nobody thinks to remedy the injustice made to them.
After the collapse of dictatorial power in Albania, Chams’ hope revived. They thought the cavalcade of their sufferings would find a solution and they would turn in their fatherland, in Chameria, where they had their ancestors’ tombs, but this “post traumatic awakening” was nothing more than another disappointment. As it seems they would have more sufferings, pain and denial…. The biggest betrayal and the most indecent disloyalty against this wound of their hope, once again hurt, was even Micotakis’ ominous phrase, in Tirana, in the spring of 1991: “The Cham problem doesn’t exist”.
Then what is Chameria?!… And what is its issue?
Chameria is still a prohibited word as “Adam’s apple” in Albanian politics dictionary, but even in the circles of Balkan and Pan-Balkan politics. Chameria is a region that everybody knows and when they have stepped in it have remained astonished by its natural as well as cultural wonders. A region that belongs to the Cham Albanians and it can’t be alienated and denied. It belongs to those who were born and grown up in that land unfairly annexed by Greece in 1913, to those who are called autochthonic Albanians of that land; maybe much before the Greeks would come from Small Asian islands, much and much before Odysseus…
Greece knows very well this fact! Then why is it afraid to admit it?! Of itself or of its history’s judgment?! The voluminous summary “The diplomacy of self-denial” gives right answers to those questions and to many others. In this book Shefki Hysa renders, including meetings and conversations, debates and replies, dialogues and clashes not only with communist regime politics but even with politicians of the post communist period such as: Sali Berisha, former president of the Republic, Ibrahim Rugova, former leader of Kosovo, with the Albanian Mandela, Pjetër Arbnori etc., etc. These vicissitudes and efforts didn’t strain him, but with the big courage and determination of a Cham, with a combative and twin spirit, with Bilal Xhaferri, his symbol and ideal leader, who was born and died as Cham, with his “silent diplomacy” he confronted western diplomacies and personalities such as Dr. Haim Reitan etc., with a unique ideal: Chameria and ethnic Albania.
In his attempts, sometimes strong and sometimes gentle, Shefki Hysa with the masters of politics and diplomacy needed a type of “deux ex machina” solution through the long journey for the defense of the Cham issue. The highest structures of the Albanian state, the Assembly of Albania, the Presidency of the Republic and The Government have been often induced to support and solve the Cham problem, for all that they have done too little or almost neither have they move a finger, or they have hampered it as in March 2004 when they disproved the Cham resolution. Shefki Hysa and his friends have knocked up to the European Parliament; have met the Commissars of Human Rights, Mr. Franco Frattini and Olli Rehn and the Euro Deputy Doris Pack (April-May 2006).
Kosova reached its independence but Chameria still nothing. The solution of the Cham problem is hampered by the circles of Albanian politics itself sold to Greeks and Serbs. Perhaps it needs to “be militarized” to realize the rights that have been violently negated to them by the zervist Greeks. Perhaps as in Kosova, “The new Clintons and Bushes of America” should return again in these lands in front of Albanian arrant politics “to order” the solution of the Cham issue. Firstly Chameria is our issue, a pan-Albanian issue, not only Chams’ issue. We need to understand that Chameria problem is all Albanians’ problem, our politics and diplomacy problem, which should learn to manifest a self-action with national responsibility rather than servile poses, as they have acted till now, only when they receive orders by big world policies.
“The Cham issue has a pan-national and pan-Albanian character”, – the former president of Kosova, Ibrahim Rugova has stated in a 1990 interview, in Tirana, for “Kombi” newspaper, – we need absolutely – he used to emphasize, – to make it part of our heart, then to propound it to the international organisms and to our well-wisher around the world and call for its solution”…
Chameria is an issue propounded for solution and time doesn’t wait. All the Albanian factors should work together to have finally a potential Albania, so it would have the possibility to convincingly compete in the civilized Europe and to achieve this we need a solution for the Cham issue, the same as Kosova that won independence. A great work is needed to realize thousands of Chams’ dreams to be not only in their ancestors’ land but dignified citizens of a united Europe too.
A lot of people say that Chameria can’t be taken away! But hope dies last! If we think as half-witted people we will never resolve Chameria problem, but if we have more courage and Albanian values, more political willing too, we will not only resolve this issue but we will be a united nation too, and will take the place we deserve in Balkan and Europe, we will be more dignified before Western Civilization, part of which the big Albanian nation is.
If we are careful, “The diplomacy of self-denial” is an appeal, nay a bible, a new model of policy and diplomacy making, which can very well be called “The diplomacy of prudence” of Shefki Hysa, a thing that can be distinguished in his relations with Albanian policymakers, and with his Cham, Albanian and foreign friends. “The diplomacy of self-denial” is the reflection of all the Albanian action and non-action; it is the cell of all the patriotic attempts of idealist intellectuals for the Cham issue, so it can echo inside and beyond Albanian borders. And it should echo even for those who don’t know it yet or have intentionally forgotten that an open issue exists and it is called Chameria.
What a pity when among the rows of the book, despite the battle for Chameria and the glorification of Bilal Xhaferri’s figure and his patriotic work in the dictatorial Albania and America, (this proved from interviews, memories, reportages and his friends’ and coevals’ impressions) you distinguish even traces of disloyalty, greed and reluctance to act, moreover even the obstacles and the betrayals of those that have an obligation to work for their homeland. You are deeply disgusted when those to whom our country’s destiny is confined even from the Chams’ votes, hoping that one day… “eh one day… they will turn back in their homeland to put only a bouquet in their ancestors’ tombs”, sabotage instead of resolving the problem. So, Albanian politics and diplomacy now are blind and deaf toward the Cham issue, willy-nilly you come to this conclusion.
Meantime Shefki Hysa and his friends succeeded in sending “Bilal’s last will” in the American Congress where the big politician Hillary Clinton became their spokeswoman or in Strasburg, where the Euro Deputy Doric Pack pronounced: “The Greeks ask for their minority rights in Albania, but forget that the Cham issue is like the issue of the Greeks who were deported from the Czech republic and Poland as collaborators of Hitler… The Chams must have the right to visit their native land, to visit their relatives’ tombs. None Greek can oppose the fact that Chams’ humanitarian rights should be treated, for visits in their native land and ancestors’ tombs. Regarding the property issue, Greece and Albania should sit in a conversation table and resolve this between them”… Whereas Greek-Cypriot Euro Deputy says: “… The Cham issue is a problem that exists and we should pass it”… Hereupon “war goes on”… The Chams are expecting other battles. The final battle will be there, in Chameria, where “the country used to change flavor/ heady canella smell/lamb damp smell…. – as Bilal Xhaferri used to emphasize in the poetry “Chameria flavor”…
This book is not simply a dedication to Chameria and Bilal Xhaferri but a scream that still echoes along the cities and the regions of Chameria, abandoned by their people, because they were different, because they were Muslim Chams, because the Orthodox Chams, today, are still in their ethnic lands. It is not about the religion of the Chams but about a big national problem, a problem to be put in the solution way in order that even the communication channels between Athens and Tirana can be more transparent. In his entire journey, Shefki Hysa from the beginning until the end of the book (more precisely the end will be a free Chameria with Cham Albanians) has tried to pass beyond himself with an unprecedented sacrifice, for an ideal, which is called “a prohibited apple” by many nihilists and some of them go further and say: “Chameria is a close problem”, bringing water at the grinder of young and old Greek chauvinists. But did Greece become soft and change its mind that about five hundred thousand Albanians work as cottars not only in the Cham lands but also in the entire Pelasgus – Dardanelle old space? No! Greece plays an old as well as new politics, of “bun and rod”, considering that Balkan spaces are shrinking more and more for a new diplomacy that is called Euro balkanization, and we, as Balkan’s people, should be part of it, with or without our desire.
Ismail Kadare expresses himself this way along the rows of the book: “It’s time for Balkan to recover from crimes and one of these crimes is the one that has happened in Chameria. It is the Cham drama. And in this way Balkan will prepare the way to emancipation. Only after this, Balkan can be part of the emancipated family of European countries”…Then Athens and Greece should do “catharsis” (this word derives from the antique Greek literature, from the heart of ancient democratic Athens, from Aristotle) inside themselves, accept that there is a big and unresolved problem, as the Cham issue is and not stain anymore the figure of the Chams, as if “they are trying to dissipate” their vicinity and they are enemies of peace. Who is more peace-loving than Chams? Who loves peace and civilization more than Chams? But this civilization should come from the two political poles in order that the formula of “interethnic and Balkan coexistence” could work. Encouraged by the missionary Shefki Hysa, by the Cultural Community of Chameria (Komuniteti Kulturor i Çamërisë) and “Eagle’s wing” magazine (“Krahu i shqiponjës”) which is directed by him, some of the Albanian politicians such as Arian Madhi, Ilir Meta, etc. have made efforts to awake UE for the solution of the Cham problem, but these were individual rather than institutional initiatives. “Not only world opinion but us first should be aware that this issue need to be resolved as it deserves, although the Europeanism of the Cham problem already is a concrete, big achievement, a reality not just words” – has declared the deputy Arian Madhi in the European Parliament.
So, now we have it. To make Chameria! Chameria is ours! The saying that “there isn’t Albania without Kosova and Chameria” today sounds actual more than ever. Hello Chameria! Hello!…