Albania’s Chams want Greek apology for wartime expulsion

Members of the Albanian Cham community protest against Albania-Greece talks, in front of Greek Embassy in Tirana, Albania. (Reuters)
Updated 24 February 2018
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Albania’s Chams want Greek apology for wartime expulsion

TIRANA: Albania’s Cham community, expelled from Greece after World War Two, asked Greece on Saturday to apologize for what they called a genocide against them and permit them to return to the area in northern Greece from which they were removed.
Greece, which dismisses the Cham issue as non-existent, and neighbor Albania have started talks on a number of issues including their borders and a state of war law still active in Greece since Italy invaded it from Albania in World War Two.
The talks are intended to reach agreements by Orthodox Easter on April 8 to ensure Albania has no obstacles in its path to the start of accession negotiations with the European Union, of which Greece is a member. Both are members of NATO.
The Chams are enraged that their demands are being neglected and at the idea that Tirana and Athens could agree to drop terms like Cameria and Northern Epirus, respectively the name Albanians use for lands in Greece and Greeks for lands in Albania.
Addressing a rally of a few thousand Chams at the gate of the compound where the Greek Embassy is located, Shpetim Idrizi, the leader of the Cham party, said they wanted first “an apology for thousands of Chams killed at home, not in the battlefront.”
“We Albanians of Chameria do not want a revenge, we do not want a change of borders, we want an apology so we can be able to forgive and the two peoples can live peacefully and we can return to live in our homes. We are peaceful,” Idrizi said.
“We want to get back to our homes, to get back the status we had before we were violently removed. We do not ask for our properties, we want our homeland, and our homeland is Cameria,” Idrizi said to applause from the peaceful crowd.
Demonstrators held up placards reading “Chameria Genocide; We will never forget.”
Idrizi dismissed allegations by Greece that the Chams collaborated with the Nazis, and pointed to large photos held aloft by supporters purporting to show the collaboration of Greek wartime leaders with the Nazi occupiers.
After two rounds of talks between the foreign ministers of Greece and Albania, Greece’s Foreign Ministry “categorically” in late January denied statements by Albanian officials that the Cham issue had been included in the talks.
“It is one thing for the Albanian side to want to raise the issue and another for the issue to be accepted for discussion,” it said. “We call on the Albanian side not to raise issues that hinder the sincere and constructive dialogue that is under way.”


Arrests follow rape of Indian anti-trafficking activists

Updated 8 min 35 sec ago
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Arrests follow rape of Indian anti-trafficking activists

  • At least 60 NGOS in four networks are working on a memorandum asking the state to protect activists
  • More recently it brought in the death penalty for those who rape children under the age of 12 following a national outcry over the gang rape

NEW DELHI: Police have made a series of arrests in connection with the abduction and rape at gunpoint of five anti-trafficking campaigners in the central Indian state of Jharkhand early this week.

Khunti police station officials, where the incident happened, told Arab News that three people have been arrested, including the head of the school where the play was being performed. 

Police superintendent Ashwini Kumar Sinha said a leader of a local movement called Pathalgadi instigated the accused, saying that the play performers were against the movement and should be taught a lesson. 

Pathalgadi is a political movement whose followers recognize their village councils as the only sovereign authority and views all outsiders suspiciously.

Activists working in the area say the incident has left them shocked and worried for their safety.

Earlier this week, nine activists were abducted while performing a street play in Kochang village and driven into a forest, where they were beaten and the women raped.

The activists were from the nonprofit organization Asha Kiran, which runs a shelter in the Khunti district for young women rescued from trafficking. Activists say that while such incidents are rare, the abductions have shaken the community.

“There is definitely fear now,” said Rajan Kumar, of Sinduartola Gramodaya Vikas Vidyalaya, a nonprofit group campaigning against people trafficking in the district. 

“But people have to work. We need to do more to take members of the village council into our confidence.”

Rajiv Ranjan Sinha, of the Jharkhand Anti-Trafficking Network, a coalition of 14 organizations, said the incident has frightened everyone.

“We’ve never had to face this before,” Sinha said. “But it will definitely have an implication. New people will be scared to go into the field.”

On Saturday, several non-profit organizations called for a silent protest march at 10 a.m. in the state capital Ranchi on Sunday.

At least 60 NGOS in four networks are working on a memorandum asking the state to protect activists and to take seriously the issue of violence against women.

“We are not only NGO workers, but we are female also,” a spokeswoman said. “There is a lot of fear among workers now.”

India has a poor record of sexual violence against women — at least 39,000 cases were reported in 2016, the latest government data available. Activists say many more incidents go unreported.

The country changed its rape laws and introduced Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences legislation after the rape and murder of a 19-year-old student in December 2012 in the Indian capital.

More recently it brought in the death penalty for those who rape children under the age of 12 following a national outcry over the gang rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in the northern state of Kashmir.

The girl was kidnapped, drugged and raped in a temple where she was held captive for several days before being beaten to death.