(en) ++ Out of Albania

esperanto (lingvoj@lds.co.uk)
Sat, 12 Apr 1997 16:53:33 +0100


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Extract from FREEDOM Free sample copy available on request from London. =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D= =3D=3D=3D=3D

OUT OF ALBANIA LAND IN FEAR FOR ITSELF

This month, at a time when most of the world's media has pulled out of Southern Albania, FREEDOM has sent a correspondent to the rebel town of Saranda to assess the situation on the ground... ------------------------------

To enter Albania in the south from Greece, as I did at the Kakavia Bridge, is to wend one's way through a forest of guns and automatic weapons. Can't be done by an outsider? Well, perhaps not. Not without a gun of your own, or better still a guide with a gun.=20

As luck has it, there are guns for hire in Albania for the innocent abroad. They crowd around at the frontier offering their taxis to take whoever to wherever, but preferably Saranda. And they are all armed to the teeth. Some even add a certain legitimacy to the transaction by supplying a receipt for their services. Mine says:=20

'Republika e Shquiperise - Ministria e Transporteve' Kakavi [to] Saranda Saranda [to] Kakavi [Farel Gjithseji 18,000 Dracmas [f421]

The journey takes just over one hour, and mine was punctuated by a halt at an armed road-block outside Saranda, and several discharges along the way into the mountainside from the driver's Kalashnikov. These were probably signals to warn in our approach at critical points of the journey. My driver said: "Bang, bang; good, good!" =20

Here is a land - the poorest in Europe - where fear grips everyone. But by the time I realised my full predicament, I was in the back seat of the taxi and it was too late to panic. =20

I can't say I wasn't warned. The Albanian Consul in Ioanina, Greece, had told me it was impossibly dangerous to visit southern Albania wlth its weak police force and citizen committees. But he would say that, as a government functionary. He showed all the signs of fear I later saw in Albania itself, especially among the middle classes (a fuller report in Freedom's interview with the Albanian Consul in next issue). =20

The villages between Kakavia and Saranda show a few signs of life, but are mostly desolate. There are goats and sheep in the fields, and even the odd cow. Some peasants are working the land, some are clearly trying to keep going. =20

But the Albanian customs post at Kakavia is an empty burnt-out ruin. I didn't see anyone in uniform during my stay in Albania. The roadside is littered with wrecked vehicles. =20

A few towns along the way have bars functioning with men sitting at tables outside watching as we pass. At one point a man thumbs a lift, but my driver snubs him. There are two of us in the car besides my guide. The Albanian in the front passenger seat holds the automatic weapon resting on the dashboard. =20

Above the dashboard dangle three icons. I stare at them from time to time during our deadly drive: a rabbit's foot, a religious item and a triangular flag with German colours and a BMW logo. The more practical would want to put their faith in the object I first mistook for a gear-stick whicn turned out to be an automatic weapon. After I got my breath back I muttered "I hope you know how to use it". But before we got to the road-block at Saranda the gun was hidden away. =20

At the checkpoint a dozen armed men and lads checked the boot. I wound the window down and an older man asked "Who's this?" My driver says "An Englishman." =20

This seemed to satisfy them, but one of the young lads with a fresh complexion and cheerful disposition asked me if I had a cine camera. I said "No", knowing that a Japanese journalist had had his camera stolen in the nearby town of Gjirokaster. We shake hands through the open window as the group wave us on and the car continues towards Saranda. =20

The next day Greek television gives details of a European Aid Protection Force to go into Albania. Its crities call it 'Club Med Army' as it involves Italy, France, Spain and Greece. One of its jobs may be to 'explore other possibilities' for assistance, including monitoring the collection of weapons looted from armouries.=20 ------------------------------------------ =20 In the next Freedom we will report 'Welcome to Saranda' with interviews with some of its citizens and an analysis of how the power of guns, money and ideas influence events there ---------------------------------------- 'WHY I WON'T VOTE' a four-page anti-election leaflet with text by Tony Gibson and Rita Milton and Freedom's name and address suitable for pushing through lotal letterboxes in the run-up to the general election The cost of printing has been met by a generous donation of =A3250 from a comrade. Send postage only at: 38p for 20 copies 73p for 50 copies f1.05 for 100 copies

Freedom Press 84b Whitechapel High Street London El 7QX ---------------------------------------

the latest issue of our anarchist quarterly now available

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