It’s been seven years since the murder of Aristotelis Goumas, a crime that encapsulates the struggles of the Greek Minority of Albania.
His “crime” was that he was speaking Greek, his mother-language, in his restaurant at Himara, an Albanian city of Greek population at southern Albania.
His murder by the Albanians uncovered only a part of the not known until then covert tactics of the “velvet ethnic cleansing” that is under way as we speak by the Albanian state against the indigenous Greek Minority.
The following text tells a story the West needs to hear…
On August 13, 2010, the news blasting from the much afflicted and heroic Himara struck with horror, grief as well as with abhorrence Hellenism throughout the world. A gang of Albanian youngsters in cold blood killed a 37- year-old Northern Epirotan young man, Aristotelis Goumas, because he dared to speak Greek inside his own shop Several incidents of verbal violence as well as of frays by indignant Albanians sticking around the area threatening and writing insolent graffiti on the walls of houses and shops run by Greeks have been recorded in the last few years. Similarly during the last 3 elections when the whole Albanian state mechanism attempted to debase the Himarans’ voting will it in turn wielded thuggery and truculence. However in this case provocations resulted in a tragic incident.
According to Himarans’ Union information, groups of hecklers had arrived in Himara from August 9. They created repeated incidents, mistreated the locals, locked with some of them and in several instances threatened them with knives on the ground that Greek language was spoken by Himarans.
Himarans had arraigned the incidents to the police while they expressed their wish to press charges against that specific group of Albanians but the police commanding officer not only did he preclude them from doing so but instead he verbally vituperated while assisted by his policemen slightingly ousted them.
Awhile before midnight (August 12-13) in Kampi of old Himara, while there were still quite a lot of people outside, that gang insulted Aristotelis Goumas. Reacting to repeated humiliation and agitations he tried to take them away calling them to resolve the “issue” a little farther out. Aristotelis’ parting from his fellow-villagers was taken for as an innings by the perpetrators. They offensively drove their car at him and instantly after that ran over his body.
That unprecedented incident (as Albania was thought to have been relieved of such practices lately) became the last straw for wrathful people of Himara. Since the ancient times an intractable and sturdy people who endured untold hardships by Hoxha’s communist regime, without giving up their Greekness, they could not tolerate such an atrocious crime in times of supposed democratic freedom.
Upon that outrageous assassination unrest and rage burst out in the area. Himarans barred the Avlona-Agioi Saranda national route, that goes through the main tourist area in Albania. Their wrath overflowed when the Albanian media attempted to present that murder as a car accident. Such joint and dynamic response causing an unprecedented traffic jam for 14 hours pointed that incident along with the murder out to prime news in the Albanian media and suddenly the Albanian state had to deal with a crisis that was getting out of its hand.
Of course the Northern Epirotan political bodies responded swiftly, with OMONOIA, the Central Association for Human Rights (K.E.A.D.) and other organizations condemning the assassination and what preceded it, protesting in the international fora about the ethnic pogroms against Himarans and seeking an exemplified punishment for the culprits. At the same time Greek prefects in the region of Northern Epirus moved onto closing their regions’ services down for 1 hour in memoriam of Aristotelis. We reckon that the minority bodies could have reacted even more dynamically as the only protest was organized by the Himarans’ own initiative without OMONOIA playing a leading role. We also regard that Aristotelis ought to have been honored officially by the minority’s leadership at a burial service.
Moreover in that case for the first time, the Archbishop of Tirana and of all Albania Mr. Anastasios, while in Dropolis, condemned that murderous act by the following rebuking statement:
“With great grief I feel compassionate to the deep sorrow inflicted by Aristotelis Goumas’ assassination in Himara, praying to God to repose his soul in peace. Such undue acts of violence, totally condemnable by every sensible person, are posing a menace of dynamiting our congruous co-existing that all Albanian citizens have contended for. Moreover they are risking to setoff conflicts and hatred in the wider region.
At this crucial point it is required composure, avoidance of taking the law into our hands, quest about truth and enforcement of justice. It is also imperative that honest efforts be enhanced towards respect of freedom of the person and generally of all its human rights”.
In Greece, where already on the eve of the National-Religious holiday (August 15) everything ran out of steam, there was a fear that that horrible crime would have been put away due to the seasons’ indolence and to the ordinary remission of the Greek state. However all Northern Epirotan associations and bodies (the part that private Internet sites and blogsots played was very important at this point) since early morning they began storming the Greek media with press releases and reports from Himara. The incomprehensible and savage incident of the assassination of a Greek who was just speaking his own language shook Hellenism throughout the world. The reaction of the opposition as well of the smaller parties compelled also the government to castigate the incident although in a delay and request full unraveling of the affair by their Albanian counterpart. That resulted in the Aristotelis assassination’s broadcast thoroughly by the Greek media and it was for the first time that the essence of those facts was conveyed without any blinders. That is that Albanians have been denouncing the uncontested Greekness of Himara.
In Himara, the people sorrowful but decent buried their child whose life was taken away so soon. His casket wrapped with the Greek flag felt like a thorn in the flesh of those who contemplate that the region’s Greekness would be wiped out violently. However what raises sensational as well as sound questions is why postmortem examination was not conducted by any medical coroner however that might affect the affair’s further judicial proceeding.
The Albanian government frightened of the violence outcome which itself has been tolerating for long time eventually condemned the incident. Police arrested six out of the perpetrators gang and put a price on Ilir Mukai’s head who eventually surrendered himself three days later. Their ridiculous pleas concerning a supposed car accident were debunk by Himarans’ testimonies but also by the fact that they all were booked to be members to nationalistic internet networks.
Albanian Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, in an unprecedented as much as sly statement, under the pressure of fierce reactions, admitted that it was not an accident while he acknowledged the “bilingual” character of the region albeit this being consistent to the official Albanian stance: that is 200 years ago Greeks were transported by Ali Pasha to “South Albania” in order to farm the land and thereby by no means would they be indigenous population.
(Translation of the statement published in the media):
“The murder of a person in any case, moreover deliberately, is a hideous and condemnable crime. In case convictions are vindicated then the motive would appear even more hideous. The government has ordered police to shoot their bolt so that the main perpetrator of this crime will be impeached. Once again I am stressing out that in case that convictions reported by the media and others will be vindicated, is going to translate the crime into even more cruel. It is an act of extremist and blind fanaticism. I don’t think that there exist Albanians who are not aware that this city’s community is bilingual, not only in our days but since 100 and even 200 years, that is to feel free to respond in your favorite language. In case for one to respond and in turn to get involved into such an incident is really too heavy. Nonetheless all that will be investigated and verified by Justice. On this occasion I grasp the opportunity to express again my condolences to the family since killing someone while on his way back home is an awful act. It is an atrocious act”.
Of course Mr. Berisha should be aware that the official Albanian propaganda fanaticizing Albanians for many years, according to which Himara has been the bulwark of the Albanian nation, that the inhabitants have learned the Greek language while in Greece, that Himarans have given their language and origin up boasting to imitate Greeks, has resulted in that specific incident. It is all this that the Press, television and the school books have been fostering and that fanaticized those youngsters who committed such an unthinkable crime. Unless the above mentioned are reformed and Albania looks at the truth straightforwardly, we very much regret that those crocodile tears would be void of any meaning. Such assessment is conduced also by intimidating gunfire outside Goumas’ home in Himara as well as by a lively attempt made by certain circles in media to render the perpetrators as heroes as those circles consider them as underdogs and demand their immediate release.
Concluding the retrospect of that sad incident we can’t but point out certain things that we reckon to be useful for a more successful outcome of the struggle to safeguarding our Northern Epirotan brothers’ rights.
First Himara people’s dynamism and militancy that did not stand fatalistically to the assassination of their fellow-countryman resulted in the whole Albanian state being shaken up and reacted even spasmodically supporting justice and public order. It is just a message also to our Northern Epirotan brothers and their leadership but also to all those who sympathize with this land. They should react collectively, dynamically and robustly to violations of their own rights. Now is the time for those who like to call themselves leaders of Hellenism in Himara to straightforwardly and explicitly claim reinstatement of Greek nationality in Himara as well as opening of a Greek public school in the area. This should not only be kept to releases through the media but also to be filed as solemn proposals to the Albanian government and as prerequisite (sine qua non) for pre-election collaboration. Meaningless verbal protests or coalescence with any Albanian political party never have nor will resolve any issue of the Greek community in Northern Epirus nor will make Albanians to keep to them. Besides it is quite evident that joint action, taken up as much by the Northern Epirotans inside their homeland and in Greece as by Northern Epirotan bodies in Greece as well as abroad, is conducive to achieving any goal but mostly to the awakening of the normally dormant Greek state like in this recent case. We can not but welcome that Aristotelis’ assassination was condemned by our country’s full political spectrum. Moreover a number of media covered the incident with detailed reports, in effect pointing out and informing on the issue of the Albanian nationalism and the oppression to the people of Himara.
May these lessons be of guidance to sustaining the struggle and to all of us sympathizing with the land and our heroic brothers in North Epirus so that Aristotelis Goumas’ sacrifice would not go wasted while bring better days for Hellenism in Himara and generally in North Epirus. That’s the only way we could demonstrate our sincere honor to his memory and vindicate that young man’s bravery by which he stuck up for his Greek origin, facing courageously his killers-to-be.
Rest in peace, our brother Aristotelis, as you left off this life as a martyr.