October 26, 2010 – Washington, D.C. – The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) expressed its deep concern today over the decision of the Government of Albania to eliminate sections in its upcoming Census forms designated for declaring a person’s specific minority status. The original version of the draft Census form included selection options for all minorities in Albania, including Macedonians. Albania’s government agency responsible for the Census has removed these categories and, instead, has made available only the options of “Albanian” and “Other”.
“The Macedonian minority in Albania is an integral part of Albanian society, and Albanian authorities have a duty to uphold the rights of the Macedonian minority and other minorities in the country,” UMD Board Chairman Stojan Nikolov stated. “Albania, a NATO member and European Union aspirant, should work to strengthen its democracy in line with the principles of NATO and the EU.”
The Macedonian minority is only recognized by the Government of Albania in the Municipality of Liqenas (Pustec in the Macedonian language) — in an effort to ghettoize the Macedonian community. However, large ethnic Macedonian populations also exist in other parts of Albania, especially the Golo Brdo and Gora regions. In 2009, the Albanian Foreign Ministry’s Commission for Minority Issues published a report stating that there are only 4,148 Macedonian identifying citizens of Albania. The foregoing figure is not credible, as it flies in the face of non-Albanian government sources and minority representatives, who place the Macedonian minority at well over 150,000. The Macedonian minority in Albania in large part lives in poverty with little access to basic necessities of life, including access to properly maintained roads, healthcare, and education. UMD President Metodija A. Koloski visited the Municipality of Liqenas/Pustec in December 2009 and witnessed firsthand the poverty of the Macedonian minority.
Earlier this year, Albanian Ministry of Interior officials and police took outrageous actions to forcibly stop the study of the Macedonian language in regions outside of the Municipality of Liqenas/Pustec — in particular in the Golo Brdo region — declaring the study of the Macedonian language illegal. The officials intimidated local Macedonians in the Golo Brdo region villages and have continued such actions since then, including threatening parents and teachers, and beating students. Macedonian minority representatives even received threats that they would be “physically eliminated”.
UMD believes that this misconduct by the Government of Albania is just its most recent effort to deny Macedonian identifying citizens of Albania their basic human rights and, as such, to further assimilate them. UMD calls upon the Government of Albania to make every effort to respect the civil rights of their Macedonian and other minorities, and to abide by the principles outlined by the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, which it ratified in 1999. Furthermore, UMD calls upon the Government of Albania to cease all intimidation of students studying the Macedonian language (as well as their parents and teachers) in the Golo Brdo region (and elsewhere in Albania) and to offer access to Macedonian language instruction in the public school system. Finally, UMD asks Albania’s neighbors, as well as other countries with which Albania has relations, to hold Albania accountable for its mistreatment of the Macedonian minority in Albania.
On a related note, it is instructive that while the Government of Albania treats its Macedonian identifying citizens in the abhorrent manner described above, the Government of Macedonia takes a very different approach to its Albanian identifying minority: it guarantees full civil rights, including the right to study Albanian up to a University-level education, and to check off “Albanian” in the upcoming April 2011 Macedonian Census.
Founded in 2004, United Macedonian Diaspora is a leading international non-governmental organization addressing the interests and needs of Macedonians and Macedonian communities throughout the world.
UMD’s headquarters are located in Washington, D.C., and it has representatives serving Macedonian communities around the world, including Brussels, Canberra, Chicago, Detroit, Kiev, London, Los Angeles, Melbourne, New York, Ottawa, Paris, Perth, St. Petersburg, Stuttgart, Sydney, Toronto, and Vienna.