IBNA Special Report
By Edison Kurani
Martyrs’ Day in Albania served not only as a reminder to respect those who fell during the war. May 5 mostly served to provoke a debate which has continued intensively in the recent hours, as to whether the figure of former communist leader, Enver Hoxha should be honored or not.
The highest authorities of the state were divided during the May 5 celebrations. The President stayed away from the Martyrs’ of the Nation Cemetery, where the left wing honored the fallen, and the head of the state carried out a “pro American” visit. The president visited the “Feti Vogli” high school in Baldushk, in the suburb of Tirana. The President commemorated captain Feti Vogli, who fell in the line of duty in Afghanistan by serving as a peacemaker. The speaker of parliament and the prime minister went together at the “Martyrs of the Nation” where they honored the fallen ones. Meanwhile, the opposition not only honored the martyrs of the communist war, but also those who fought against communism.
Children honor with the fist, political accusations are launched
Everyone knows that honoring with the fist is a typical symbol of the communists. In Albania, this was the leading symbol in 45 years of the communist regime. Today, this gesture is used by extreme communists who are not many in numbers. In the martyrs’ cemetery in Permet, the atmosphere this May 5 seemed to be different from other years, when the right wing was in power. At the center of the cemetery there were tens of children, school students who honored with the fist the martyrs of the national liberation war.
These images sparked a political debate.
Former prime minister Sali Berisha says that the left wing turned May 5 on Enver’s day: “They celebrate by honoring with the terrorist fist”. Berisha, a former doctor and a former party official in the communist regime, who at the start of ‘90s led the anti communist protests, compared the photo that you see above with the children in North Korea. “This image comes from Northern Korea. It has not been taken from the archive of Enver Hoxha. This photo was taken yesterday in the Permet of the Renaissance People and it shows that for Rama and his neo communists, the essence of the reform in education is the return to the pioneers of Enver. This means going back to the communist fathers and communist past”.
Former speaker of parliament, Jozefina Topalli calls this “Enverism”. “Students are ordered to honor with the fist in the schools of Permet. It’s terrible that in 2014, students are forced to honor with the fist. In 2014, this can only be seen in Northern Korea”, says Topalli. She says that “as a mother, I express my utter regret for the use of children in such a cruel way”. She adds: “as a politician, I condemn the attitude of Rama-Meta government for the criminal provocation making to the Albanian society and the indescribable suffering that it has been subjected to by the harshest dictators of all times”.
Basha honors the martyrs of the war and martyrs of communism
The mayor of Tirana, who is at the same time, leader of the Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha has paid homage to the cemetery of martyrs, in order to honor the freedom heroes. “70 years after the anti-fascist war, honoring the martyrs of this war, we also recall the fact that decades were needed in order for the ideals for which they sacrificed themselves to become true. A longer time was also needed to fulfill the dream of the national freedom with the liberation of Kosovo and to guarantee the dignity of Albanians wherever they live in the lands of their ancestors”, said Basha.
As a “counterweight” toward the presence of the images of Enver Hoxha in the homage paid by the left wing majority, the opposition has brought to the attention those who fell at end of the dictatorship period. Municipality of Tirana which is led by the head of the opposition, has placed a new plaque at the location where on March 6, 1991, when the country was led by the communist regime, the 14 year old, Spartak Deliu was killed. “Like all the young people of Tirana, he had come out on the square to protest against the communist regime, which didn’t spare his life, by killing him in the heart of Tirana”, said the municipality officials.
On this May 5, Basha has paid special homage to the “Hero of Democracy”, Azem Hajdari, leader of the anti-communist movement which led to the overthrow of the 45 year communist regime.
DP: Rama-Meta’s provocations with Enver’s photo and the fist up are unacceptable
The Democratic Party criticized what it considered to be provocations by Edi Rama and Ilir Meta with the photo of Enver Hoxha and the fist lifted. Laura Vorpsi from DP said that “the majority raised its fists yesterday and knelt in front of the photo of Enver, by carrying out a repeated act, a perverse and a provoking act toward Albanian society”. For the DP, “yesterday rituals reflected the veneration of Rama and Meta toward the dictator and this is a hostile behavior against the people and the conscience of the nation”.
Former prime minister, Pandeli Majko, socialist MP, was among those who honored with the fist. He says that this honoring should not have been misunderstood. “For those who are surprised as to why we have raised the “fist” at the Martyrs’ Cemetery, I say that it was the symbol of the national unification against the invaders of the country. Those who fell used it as a symbol of the effort for which they gave their life”, says Majko.
Rama-Meta do not comment, SP-SMI lawmakers speak
Rama and Meta were together to honor the martyrs of the war, but they didn’t issue any political messages which related to the debate in question. Nevertheless, MPs have issued declarations.
SP: Ylli: The figure of Enver Hoxha should be reviewed. DP: Forget it
Fidel Ylli is a former sportsman, current MP of the Socialist Party and businessman. He’s one of the first ones to break the silence and praise the figure of Enver Hoxha. Nevertheless, he says that “it’s not normal for an MP of the Socialist Party to bow in front of a former dictator”.
Mr. Ylli suggested today that history should be reviewed, by saying that Enver Hoxha also has positive qualities. “We must condemn him for what he has done, but that period also has its good and bad things, therefore it must be said that several things are not that bad, as opposed to the current time. Let us leave it to historians to review history”.
DP doesn’t share the same opinion with the left. According to this party, “Rama-Meta are using every opportunity to rehabilitate and bring back to our life the most cruel dictator of the east, who deprived an entire nation from the most basic human rights and liberties and divided our country from the European family by driving it to hunger”. The Democratic Party also has a warning for the left wing: “Rama and Meta must not dare to make Enver Hoxha part of the protocol and public scene just because they govern the country. The glory days are long gone and they leave quickly when the people are touched where they should not be”.
SMI, Luan Rama: Big celebrations on the 70th anniversary
This end of November marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Albania from the Nazi-fascist invaders. The right wing has never celebrated November 29th, considering it as a date made up by Enver Hoxha. The Socialist Movement for Integration has long appealed for a greater attention to be shown by the state for all the references of the Anti-fascist National Liberation War and of the partisan heroism. SMI demands solemn celebrations on November 29, but so far, nothing has been done. SMI lawmaker, Luan Rama criticizes the state indifference: “The special state commission appointed for the celebrations of the 70th anniversary must not continue its passive behavior but act and take measures in order to correct and enable the Martyrs’ Cemetery and monuments of war to decently reflect the heroism of those who no longer live”, says he.
Martyrs’ Cemetery, but whose martyrs?
The Martyrs’ Cemetery was built after three years of hard work in 1971 in the suburbs of Tirana. This cemetery hosted the remains of 800 people who were killed in the war led by the communists of Enver Hoxha. The cemetery symbolized the place where 28 thousand martyrs rest. This is the number of the martyrs fallen during the war which was declared by Enver Hoxha. A figure which used to like a lot to Enver Hoxha, as he made a comparison: “A martyr for every square kilometer of Albania”.
According to the regulation which has not changed even today, the cemetery may only host those who were killed during the war from April 7, 1939 until May 6, 1945.
But, after the ‘90s, these cemeteries also hosted people who had died in other periods. They have been buried in these cemeteries for the values that they bear toward the nation. But, historians say that this is the wrong step. They suggest it’s not appropriate to also burry in this cemetery police officers who have fallen in the line of duty or people who have fought against communism.
Former minister of Foreign Affairs and prominent writer, Prof. Dr. Paskal Milo says that this cemetery had a particular mission. “Like many other things in Albania after the ‘90s, there have been speculations with the Martyrs’ Cemetery too. This cemetery was built with a special scope and to give a special message to Albanians. This is a cemetery for the ones that have fallen in the Second World War alone”, says historian Milo. He suggests that the construction of a Pantheon would solve this problem.
The other historian, Nevila Nika, former general director of the Archives, shares the same opinion as Milo for the construction of a pantheon. She says that the martyrs of the nation deserved to be buried in a separate location in order to honor what they did for their country.
“The construction of the Martyrs’ of the Nation Cemetery was a decision which was welcomed and a fair one, even though at the end of the day, those who gave their life for the freedom of the country deserved to rest in a place separated from the others. Later on, there were changes, because several individuals with other contributions were taken there. It’s now time to also have a Pantheon”, says Nevila Nika. /ibna/