Thursday, May 6, 2010

By Shefki Hysa

Chameria is our last will,
neither ground melts the last will
(Interview with Mr. Tahir Muhedini,
president of the Party for Justice and Integration)

- Where does Tahir Muhedini come from and what’s his flow in the river of life?
- I am Tahir Muhedini, born and raised in the “Ali Demi” neighborhood, in Tirana, with Cham origin. I graduated in law, I am a businessman, until the moment I accepted to be elected the president of the Party for Justice and Integration (Albanian: PDI). Now I am responsible for the direction of PDI with the single desire to protect the interests of the Cham population, to enable the return to our motherland, from which we had been violently deported. My family is originally from Paramithia, Chameria, I hope you know it. It is the area that first encountered the atrocity of the Greek chauvinists. On June 27, 1944, the zervist bands massacred about 600 men, women and children in Paramithia and from there their violence spread throughout Chameria, until all the Muslim Chams were deported from their homes and motherland. It is known that June 27 represents the day of the Greek genocide against the unprotected and innocent Cham population.

- What does the Cham issue represent for Mr. Muhedini?
- Now that you know that I am originally from Paramithia, the first Cham city that was covered in blood, was burned and destroyed by the Greek chauvinists, I believe you understand what the Cham ideal represents for a successor to that martyr country. Our ancestors have fallen in the name of freedom, of their convictions and beliefs, have been cruelly killed, though they were innocent. So, we have been unjustly massacred and deported from our land, we should have been back home a long time ago, if the Greek policy hadn’t insisted that it does not recognize the Cham problem, that this problem belongs to the historical past and other excuses like these, when it is trying hard to succeed in getting their soldiers, who came as invaders in Albania during the war and died in this land, settled in the martyrs’ cemetery. According to my opinion, we should say “yes” to the establishment of the Greek fallen soldiers’ cemeteries in Albania, but the Greek state should also remember that there is still an open problem with the Albanian state, the Cham problem and together they should do the impossible, so that our Cham ancestors may have their cemeteries in Chameria, Greece, and we will have the right to go and visit those graves, until we regain citizenship, the property rights and all human rights like all the Greek citizens. I say these because I judge that it is better not to look at the past with a darkening rationality, but to look into the future in a European way, because only this way we can make the others understand that the Chams must necessarily be given the possibility to return to their homes and territories and regain Greek citizenship, which has never been denied by them. I, personally, do not know if the tradition of last will is an element of Greek culture, just as it is in the Albanian culture, and therefore we need a way to make them know this fact. Chameria (memories, homes, land, citizenship) is the last will of our ancestors and neither the ground melts the last will...

- As you head the Party for Justice and Integration (Albanian: PDI), a relatively new party in Albanian politics, can you tell us what you intend to achieve through its program?
- The Party for Justice and Integration (Albanian: PDI) in the recent local elections, being introduced only in areas where it was known that it had its electorate and not all over Albania, managed to win a modest percentage of the Republic-level elections, but it was the first and most voted in the district of Delvina, the fourth force in the district of Vlora, the second political force in the district of Patos, the second political force in the Commune of Sukthi and some other communes. In this way, the Chams that have been neglected by all powers, are already represented by their sons, they are able to say their word. This is what the Party for Justice and Integration aims, that the Peaceable Cham Community, through a political party can be directly represented in the local political power of the Republic of Albania, as it was represented and will be later represented even by deputies in the Parliament of Albania. Now this community knows that there is an institutional “door” where they can knock, to seek or give help, taking an active role in the political life of the city, commune or municipality they belong to. I want to emphasize through this interview that this democratic and well disposed community has joined, has proposed and elected its representatives, in a democratic and statutory way, in the high political forums of the Party for Justice and Integration (Albanian: PDI) and being candidates of PDI in these local elections they were well represented in the power of local parliaments of Albania and this will undoubtedly serve as experience for the representation of this community in the General Parliament of the Republic of Albania. While in the international plan, I would like to emphasize that for the first time in history a delegation of an Albanian political party like the party for Justice and Integration, managed to express the 62-year concern of the Cham population in the European Parliament and for the first time representatives of this parliament directly heard the voice and the claims of the Cham population through a political party, which has in its main battles the democratic solution of this historical impasse, of Chameria problem.

- As far as we know, recently you have had several successful meetings in Strasbourg and Brussels over the Cham issue. Your comment about these achievements?
- Yes. Last October, a delegation consisting of representatives of the Cham Community made a visit to the European Parliament. The delegation also met with Mrs. Doris Pack, Chairwoman of the European Parliament’s Delegation for South East Europe. There was a full understanding at the meeting and in the end Mrs. Pack was given the dossier prepared over the Cham issue, comprised of international experts’ political analysis on the history and the ways of solving this problem left in silence. On October 25, Mrs. Doris Pack in the head- to-head meeting held personally with me, as Chairman of PDI, among other things promised me she would influence to make possible the return home of the Cham population and of course the honor of their ancestors’ graves. Mrs. Pack also promised me the Cham issue would be discussed in the 13th round of talks on Stabilization and Association Agreement between Albania and EU, as it has become reality and you are informed about this. She also promised she would discuss about this issue with the Greek euro deputies of the European Parliament.

- According to you which are the ways that would bring to a fair and quick solution of the Cham issue?
- Its internationalization, of course. When we were in Strasbourg and Brussels, euro deputies Marco Pannella, historical leader of the Italian Radical Party, Marco Cappato, head of the Italian Radical Party, along with other members of the Liberal Democrat Group of the European Parliament, promised us they would consider the possibility of proposing a Parliamentary Resolution, in which they would claim with emergency terms the opening of dialogue between Athens and Tirana with the participation of representatives of the Cham population and the presence of international community. While Graham Watson, Chairman of the Liberal Democrat Group of the European Parliament (Great Britain) together with Baroness Sara Ludford, member of the Liberal Democrat Group and member of the House of Lords in England, after having been informed about the case of disrespect of human rights standards for the Cham population, have promised us they would pass our dossier to the Commission on Human Rights and to the Commission on Foreign Policy of the European Parliament. To close this argument I want to say that all these successful activities constitute only the first important step toward the difficult road to realize the last will of the Cham community ancestors.

- What would you suggest politics, Albanian state and the higher institutions in the country, including President Moisiu to do to positively influence the solution of this problem?
- The Party for Justice and Integration would like to publicly ask the Albanian State institutions to verify the developments in the implementation of the Treaty of Friendship between the two countries and of course regarding the properties of all Albanian citizens and particularly of the Chams in Greece. I would like to remind the Albanian opinion, the Greek opinion and the international one that the Greek minority in Albania, after successive benefits of many properties in Albania, with the legalization policy of the actual Government, is again benefiting with no difference from that part of other Albanian citizens that illegally occupy territories. The party for Justice and Integration (Albanian: PDI) wants also to remember the Albanian state institutions that without solving these fundamental issues that concern the Cham community, no bilateral reciprocal relationship exists, but there is only a relationship based on interdependence between the one that commands and the one that only obeys.

Translated by Lorena Uliu