May 04, 2001

Perspective on the position of Albanians in Macedonia: an interview with the Albanian Representative

Qenan Sheji: 4 May 2001

"Slavic Macedonians have successfully created a chronic tradition of cleansing 'their' country from ethnic minorities"

Q: Mr Sheji, how would you describe the current situation there?

A: Albanian cities and villages are under control of the Slavic Macedonian leadership. Recently a Slavic High Council has been established with the main objective to pure Macedonia from non- Slavic Macedonians. Ironically, as it is suppose to be a peoples' representative body. They call us “shiptars” and shout “death to the shiptars” (Albanian Macedonians).

Q: What role does the security apparatus play in this regard?

A: In my view the army of Macedonia is really the “secret service” of the state, keeping a close eye on the moves the people make, attempting to fully control the people. This is manifested in almost all spheres of social life. Albanians have no right to free and equal education; when caught demonstrating against the state, practising the right to freedom of expression, their property is deliberately damaged or burnt down. The state allows only Slavic Macedonians to own weapons, leaving ethnic minorities vulnerable to repressive actions. Just look at the actions of the radical Minister of Home Affairs Boskovski, mobilising and arming Slavic Macedonian police reservists.

Q: How can the European Community help the Albanians?

A: By, for example, establishing an independent university. Slavic Macedonia forbids Albanians to have their own free and independent universities. Also by recognising diplomas obtained from universities in Albania, as currently only 3% of Albanian students in Macedonia are allowed to enter universities there. Thousands of Albanian school leavers have a bleak future in Macedonia. This kind of repression is a disgrace. Because they cannot obtain a decent job, Albanian students and graduates are forced to leave their country where they work. More than 60% work abroad and when they wish to visit their families they regularly experience deliberately created difficulties with passport control etc.

Q: How can peace and political stability be achieved?

A: The only way to get peace is to change the constitution allowing equal protection by the rule of law. Also Slavic Macedonians need to accept that other cultural peoples also live in Macedonia; that they also have a right to equal treatment, protection and opportunity. The EU should pressure Slavic Macedonia in a way that they would be forced to change the constitution, allowing for the recognition of a multi-ethnic state. NATO should not wait too long to intervene as in the case of Kosovo. We need a political will to reconcile and to compromise.

Q: Your views on the threat of civil war and the role of relevant parties?

A: By instigating a civil war, the Slavic Macedonians would be able to continue ethnic cleansing. Their plan is for the Albanians to be restricted to only three cities. In this way the Albanians would be dependent on the Slavic Macedonian rulers who would use the surrounding areas for tourism and agriculture. If the international community continues to keep its eyes shut for the actions of the Slavic Macedonians, it will be very difficult for the Albanians to effectively promote their case. At this moment, Albanians have only 2.4% representation in parliament. The Greeks support the Slavic Macedonians by sending them bullet-proof vests. The Ukraine supported them by sending helicopters. The USA supported them with money. A clear similarity exists with the (previous) situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina (former Yugoslavia). The Western community does not want war, does not want to cooperate with governments that violate human rights etc, but its actions do in effect (unintentionally) support the oppressors. The more Albanian refugees are leaving the country, the better for Slavic Macedonians attempting ethnic cleansing.

UNPO Secretariat assistance:

The Media and Information Centre was instrumental in dispatching a statement on the deteriorating situation in Macedonia and the position of Albanians there. The statement was sponsored by Qenan Sheji, Erkin Alptekin, and Wolf Mannens, a Dutch lawyer and friend of UNPO. Copies were send to the Office of the UN Secretary General, the Council of Europe, EU Parliament, NATO, the US Secretary of State, as well as to various media agencies.