Status: occupied territory
Population: no reliable figures (no official data exists for ethnicity in Greece) but best estimate for people who speak the language and/or have an Arvanite consciousness is 200,000
Area: approximately 10,000 square kilometres
Language: Arvanitika (dialect of the Albanian language) and Greek
Religion: Muslim and Orthodox
UNPO REPRESENTATION: Democratic Foundation of Chameria
The Democratic Foundation of Chameria (DFC) has been a Member of UNPO since June 2017.
Chameria is a centuries-old territory inherited and inhabited by the Cham people, an Albanian-speaking ethnocultural group also referred to as Arvanites. The majority of the land was incorporated into to the Greek State by the Conference of the Ambassadors in London in 1913, without the consultation or agreement of the Chams and with a small section of the land becoming part of the newly formed country of Albania
Cham people today are seeking the right to return to Chameria by being granted Greek citizenship, whilst keeping citizenship of the countries in which they currently reside. They are also calling for the recognition of their status as a minority group. The restoration of their right to property is another main concern of the Chams, as Muslim Chams have seen this alienated by the Greek government since the early 20th century, following the signing of the Turkish-Greek peace agreement and the 1923 population exchange between the two nations. Muslim Chams, in particular, have been persecuted by the Greek government from this period onwards, being expelled from Greece following World War II (WWII).
The Cham people have a unique language, culture, tradition and ethnicity that distinguishes them from the Greeks. Yet their language, Arvanitika, has no legal status in Greece and is not taught at any level of the educational system.
UNPO MEMBER PERSPECTIVE
The Democratic Foundation of Chameria aims at the recognition of the right to repatriation for those who want to return to their indigenous lands. It advocates for the Chams to be recognised and protected by the international community and for their human, political and cultural rights to be respected. The purpose of the DFC is to protect the interests of Cham-Albanian residents and former residents of Chameria.
The Muslim Cham population who fled to neighbouring Albania or further afield to Turkey or the United States are still being penalised for the events of World War II (WWII), during which a proportion of the Muslim Cham community, following a history of discrimination, joined the forces of the German-Italian army against the Greek state. For this, the Muslim Cham community was heavily punished and special Greek laws were implemented that rescinded the Greek citizenship of the Muslim Cham population. Today, Muslim Chams are unable to return and live in their ancestral home of Chameria as they continue to be denied Greek citizenship.
Furthermore, any land or property owned by the Chams before WWII became the property of the Greek state and was redistributed to Greek citizens. The restoration of both citizenship and property rights is an aim of the DFC.
The Orthodox Chams, who were allowed to remain as citizens in Greece, have been subject to assimilationist policies by the Greek State in order to dilute Cham culture within Greece. This has led to a deterioration of culture and most notably the traditional language spoken by the Cham people, as this language is forbidden or discouraged within most cities and institutions.