Books on Albania
Update No: 125 - (25/10/07)
Coming in from the cold
Albania is in an extraordinary situation. It was for long something of a joke
country. It was the poorest country in Europe for decades, run by a demented
communist tyrant, Enver Hoxha. It had previously been ruled by a bandit by the
name of King Zog, who fell foul of Mussolini in 1939.
The Italians made a mess of the invasion. They had to be rescued by the Germans,
an intense vexation for Hitler, who then had to deal with the even more trying
matter that arose after Mussolini had invaded Greece and been seriously mauled
by the Greeks.
The Albanians' misfortune post-war was to be rescued from the fascists by the
communists, and not even ones in alliance with Britain, (the Yugoslav Partisans
next door). Indeed nothing showed more how archaic was the Hoxha regime than the
fact that it took the UK as its main enemy. At first this had a basis in fact.
There was the Corfu incident in 1948, when a British warship violated Albanian
waters, followed the next year by an actual invasion by 600 UK Special Forces,
that was aborted by Kim Philby, the key communist spy within British
intelligence, alerting Tirana via Moscow of what was afoot. They were all
The regime took umbrage at everything the British did after that. When Hoxha
shot his own prime minister in the 1980s, he explained that it was because he
was a British agent!
There was paranoia towards the rest of the world throughout the Hoxha years.
Even China joined the USSR as a revisionist power in his eyes. With the collapse
of communism all that has now changed. The prelude to it in Albania was the
death of Hoxha in March 1985, exactly when a certain Mikhail Gorbachev became
First Secretary. Hoxha would have turned over in his grave at what that
The US axis
Relations are now much better with Italy. So are they with the US. Indeed, they
are very cordial with the latter, the saviour of the Kosovar Albanians in 1999.
Bush paid a visit to Albania, earlier this year that was the first by an
Bush's visit was in part to express his gratitude to a nation that has, not only
firmly supported his administration's policies, but even gone so far as to
accept eight former terrorism suspects who were unwelcome everywhere else. There
is a murky side to this, however, which deserves to be ventilated.
The Uighur angle
Albania has cooperated with the United States in foiling terrorist attacks on US
targets and has sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, but in accepting the five
Uighurs, - Muslims from northwestern China, and an Uzbek,an Egyptian and an
Algerian, it has performed a service that no other ally would do.
While the Bush visit was a gesture of thanks from a great, rich nation to this
small, poor one, it has been a far from ideal new home for Akhdar Qasem Basit.
He was picked up in Pakistan, and the story he tells is one of government
repression in his Chinese home province of Xinjiang, police harassment in
central Asia, and physical abuse and mental anguish while imprisoned by the
Americans in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But even after that,he says
that the past year of freedom in Albania was his worst.
He and four fellow Uighurs are housed in the Albanian national refugee camp,
outside the country's modest capital, Tirana.
Basit, who is 32, spent four years in the US military prison at Guantanamo, and
was sent to Albania only days before a refugee status hearing in a US court that
his lawyer is convinced, would have ended with his release to live in the United
States. Basit has no connection of any kind to Albania, no knowledge of the
language and no desire to be here. But no other country will admit him, other
than China, where he fears being thrown into prison if he returns. He said that
during his incarceration at Guantanamo, from June 2002 until his arrival here in
May 2006, he was treated harshly, though not tortured. He said he was beaten,
slapped around and kicked. But he said he was kept going by the fact that he
knew he was innocent, and that his captors were American.