Chameria, how it should be

Arben Çokaj

By Arben Çokaj

Inspired from the book “The Diplomacy of Self-denial” of the writer Shefki Hysa
Many times in life, we confront irresistible challenges. Efforts for existence seem impossible and the human being surrenders to the destiny. Generally, the ill-fated man believes in the destiny more than them who are successful. But nobody survives without efforts. The prophet used to tell everybody “sow”, when they asked him how the weather would be that year. And you are going to reap what you have sown.

The Cham issue has been impossible for more than a half century. The communist regime entombed it and the most distinguished part of those Chams that were violently deported to Albania, was aggressively victimized by the wild Albanian regime, too. Albanian people, which escaped from Kosova to the Albanian “paradise” of that time, had the same destiny. As their expectancy was too big, they couldn’t recover from the desperation and so they were sent in prison for agitation and propaganda.

Diplomacia e vetëmohimit

Bilal Xhaferri, the most distinguished Cham writer, had the same destiny. His father was murdered by the communists, when Bilal was just a little child. The communist regime was too cruel to deal with – it could kill you for a word. And Bilal was obliged to escape as the only way to continue his life. He created a distinguished literary work and directed for years “Eagle’s wing” (“Krahu i shqiponjës”), an Albanian magazine in USA. This magazine symbolized Chameria and it continues being published in the post-communist Albania by the well known Cham writer and patriot Shefki Hysa, director of the Cultural Association “Bilal Xhaferri”.

A few weeks ago, Shefki Hysa published an excellent book: “The diplomacy of self-denial”, which raises many important issues of the Cham developments and author’s personal attempts to keep up the Cham issue, the spirit of a maltreated, outraged and massacred population.

An unprecedented genocide was practiced over the Cham population at that time, when the Greek state didn’t recognize people’s rights and freedoms. The terrible crimes of Zerva bands and more, and the silence that the communist regime imposed in Albania, has been enough to press down the Cham
population, especially that part of people, which was violently urged to migrate into Albania. It was difficult for the Chams to awake and the difficulties continue even today, after 18 years of democracy, because the politics of the Greek state and Albanian state, too, couldn’t converge in a political solution for Cham’s properties. When a right is denied for4 a long time, it’s difficult to win it
completely. Forgetting this issue was intentional and continues being so.

There are Chams in Albania and abroad, distinguished for their achievements in life. Chams are organized in associations, political parties and so on, and they are asking for their rights, which were negated to them in decades. They want back their property in Chameria, in that northwestern part of the neighboring country Greece, where the Chams have their lands. The Greek state isn’t yet
predisposed to accept the historical truth, although the Cham issue is known by the Greek historians and it is known by the international diplomacy, too, especially by the western countries, by USA and the European Union, which has even initiated a resolution in support of the Cham issue.

The well-known Albanian analyst and politician Arben Xhaferri, who has the same surname of the big Cham writer, would define: “there are nations, which produce history, as well as nations, which produce chronicles”. It is needed a high conscience and a common organized work, “selfless”, as the Cham writer
and activist Shefki Hysa describes it, in order to transform the chronicles into history. The Chams have their own history; they should begin to promote it more, until they achieve the desirable results.

Despite the numerous difficulties, Chams today have the possibilities to impose on the Greek state the recognition of their rights, as a social group, not only individual issues. They will achieve this only by means of a good organization and a non-manipulative conscience. Cham’s properties are occupied by
other people, some of whom Greeks, which came back from Turkey, after the Second World War. This is a social problem for Greece, too, that must give back to the Albanian Chams their properties, which have been used by the Greeks for decades.

Seeing that the Greek state is totally lacking in desire and the problems that can be created in the Greek society with the return of Chams in their own lands and territories, a better organization is nothing less than necessary to make their rights a reality. Chams should take control of their destiny.

The Albanian state is overmuch corrupted, incapable and liable risking helping in this issue. We can all remember the lacking affinity and the lack of interest that the Albanian state showed toward Kosova issue. The Albanian diplomacy pronounced some words only when Kosova’s people gained the western
sympathy.

The election of a black man, president Obama, in USA, gets us back into retrospective, to witness what the Black Americans have suffered in centuries. The Black Americans were slaves and only after a civil war between north and south, they could get free of slavery. Racism and harassment continued and they were too severe until the beginning of the past century. But their efforts made this possible, that gradually, through sufferings, maltreatments, murders and racism, they could succeed in winning their rights and today the American President is a black man, with the slogan “Yeas, we can!”. The Black Americans touched their dream, because they could.

And what about Chams?! If Chams work with a high conscience and with a contemporary organization, where everybody gives his contribution and the contributions are not misused, but they are efficiently used, in order to achieve high intention for the materialization of their dream, in order to get back to the ancestor’s lands and to take the inherited properties, then, they would be able to reach what today seems impossible. And Chams have an extraordinary example for this, Kosova.

I was once in Fushë-Krujë to the dentist. I was trying to explain to a man from Kruja, that Kosova was going to win independence one day, but he objected. “It will never be independent!”- he said. And I added: “Kosova will become independent for those who worked and believed that it can be independent. You will see that!” We were lucky enough to have US President George Bush in Albania and in Fushë-Krujë, where he announced that Kosova will be an independent country. The independence was reached with hard work and sacrifices and it will be kept such is with efforts.

In their fair attempts, Chams should focus on finding a political and spiritual leader, like Kosovars did with Dr. Ibrahim Rugova. They should pay a symbolic contribution (Kosovars emigrants paid 3% of their salary) for this common organization, because without money no work can be done in the present-day chancelleries. And they should become aware of the reality that surrounds them, because no one can help them more than themselves.

“The diplomacy of self-denial” can become a solution key, if a good part of the Chams work and sacrifice their time and just a little from their fortune, as the patriot Shefki Hysa does, for this common and fair issue. Successes don’t come by themselves – they come only if we work to realize them.

Published in Albanian newspapers: Shqip, 25.01.2009, Standard, 25.01.2009, TemA, 29.01.2009

Translated by Lorena Uliu

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