April 11, 2011

AAOC letter to Albanian leaders

President of the Republic of Albania Mr. Bamir Topi
Parliament Speaker Mrs. Jozefina Topalli
Prime Minister Mr. Sali Berisha
For Information: The U.S. State Department

Dear compatriots:

We are writing this letter as 28 Albanian-Americans born in Chameria, expelled violently from Greece in 1944-1945. In the recent years, destiny brought us in the U.S., a country that all Albanians love and honor and heartily acclaim: “God Bless America”! With our families here, we found a second homeland that supports us and does not distinguish us neither because of our ethnic origin nor because of our religious beliefs. In this great country we learned and understood what is democracy and the real dignity of free human beings. We are physically far from our motherland, yet spiritually and by visiting, [here it is worth emphasizing that we were born in Chameria, and can only visit our homes and our properties by possessing American passports, since the 'Greek democracy’ does not allow Chams to enter there!] but also with the help of the internet we feel ourselves very close to all Albanians wherever they are.
For this reason we have founded the Albanian American Organization of Chameria (AAOC) where we pride ourselves of being Albanian Americans of Chameria. In addition to English, we teach our children, grandchildren and talk to them in the dialect of Chameria - the original dialect of Albanian. Beside our language, we never forget our inherited Albanian traditions and customs by organizing many activities through our organization. We learn and keep our songs, ancient dances and our characteristic Cham costumes. Here in America, our organization cooperates with all Albanian organizations and associations and we celebrate together and share our joys, our longing but also our concerns about our homeland.
Recently we have been very concerned about several events there that damage not only our traditions but also the future of Albania. Here in the USA, where we have the chance to live, in two state censuses, in 2000 and 2010, no one asked us what religion and ethnicity we are; without forgetting that people here come from all nations and faiths from around the world. In all of our ethnic regions, we Albanians have lived in harmony with each other, regardless of our religious beliefs. This is a very distinctive feature in which we rightfully pride ourselves before the civilized world. Therefore, we think that the inclusion of questions about one’s religion and ethnicity in the census is harmful for today and for the future of our country Albania.
We are also worried by the fact that some Greek nationalist circles sponsored also by pro-Greek elements here in America, insist unfairly on this matter, at a time where neither in Greece nor the U.S. ever asked any such questions on their official censuses. We note that a few years ago former CIA Director, Mr. Tenet openly declared that "we Greeks are born conspiracy theorists"! By looking through this perspective, we observe another Greek-American, Mr. Nicholas Gage (Gatzoyiannis), boasting about being chairman of the ghostly "North Epir" coming in and out of Albania and arousing anti-Albanian sentiments by medieval-byzantine ideas. When these anti-Albanian thoughts are expressed openly even by the official Consul of Greece in Korça, we justifiably raise the question: with the non-abolition of the Greek State of War Law (Nr. 2636/1940) against Albania, is there someone trying to put this law into action?!
Additionally, we are concerned about the fact that several days ago an elderly couple living in Albania, born in Chameria, were treated abusively by the Greek government and were denied the fundamental right of movement only because their passports listed Chameria as their homeland! Although they had bought the tickets and had regular travel documentation, and especially now that the visa regime is removed, the Greek government continues to discriminate on the basis of ethnic identity. We hope that the Albanian state you lead will use the legal and political mechanisms pertinent to these clearly anti-Albanian and repressive violations of the Greek state.
This may seem like something absurd when the two countries, Albania and Greece, are NATO members and moreover have signed the Pact of Friendship in 1996. Although we have been persecuted, killed and expelled from our homes and properties, and surprisingly even our ancestors’ graves are missing, we have and will continue to have, friendly relations between our two neighboring countries. In several visits in Chameria, we have shared stories with many cohabitants in our very own language, - Albanian. We have always lived amicably with them, and with us being of a past age, we believe that our children and grandchildren as American citizens will have the opportunity to live and enjoy our properties by also remembering us.
Therefore the respect must be mutual where everyone lives in their inherited homes and properties. When Chams are registered in Chameria, then the friendship will be strengthened and we will have a bridge of unity, honor and understanding.

Kindly and respectfully,

Albanian American Organization Chameria

Board of Directors

       CC: Department of State

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