A few thousand Albanian Chams rallied on Saturday outside the Greek Embassy in Tirana demanding that Athens issues an apology for what they called a genocide against them after World War Two.
Carrying placards reading “We will never forget the Genocide”, and “Freedom to Cameria”, the demonstrators demanded that Greece allows them to return to Epirus, northern Greece, from where they left.
Addressing the rally, Shpetim Idrizi, the leader of the Cham party, said, according to Reuters, they wanted first “an apology for thousands of Chams killed at home.”
“We Albanians of Chameria do not want a revenge, we do not want a change of borders, we want an apology so we can be able to forgive and the two peoples can live peacefully and we can return to live in our homes,” Idrizi said.
“We do not ask for our properties, we want our homeland, and our homeland is Cameria,” Idrizi said according to the Reuters report.
Chams and Nazi collaboration
Greece, which dismisses the Cham issue as non-existent, and neighbor Albania have started talks on a number of issues including their borders.
The Chams are enraged that their demands are being neglected and at the idea that Tirana and Athens could agree to drop terms like Cameria and Northern Epirus, respectively the name Albanians use for lands in Greece and Greeks for lands in Albania.
Following the Italian occupation of Albania in 1939, the Chams became a prominent propaganda tool for the Italians and irredentist elements among them became more vocal.
As a result, on the eve of the Greco-Italian War, Greek authorities deported the adult male Cham population to internment camps.
After the occupation of Greece, large parts of the Muslim Cham population collaborated with Italian and German forces.
This fueled resentment among the local Greek population and in the aftermath of World War II the entire Muslim Cham population had to flee to Albania.