Chameria issue

Chameria issue

The Chameria issue is an issue which has been raised by Albania since the 1990s over the expulsion of the Muslim Cham Albanians, a few thousands of whom had collaborated with the Axis occupation forces, from the Greek province of Epirus between 1944 and 1945, following the Axis defeat in World War II. This policy, like the expulsion of 12 million ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the war, [ Dr. Mazower's article for the History Cooperative] ] had been instigated and planned by the British and American Allied command,John Melior Stevens, Christopher Montague Woodhouse, and Lars Bærentzen. "British Reports on Greece 1943-1944". Museum Tusculanum Press, 1982, ISBN 8788073203.] Russell King, Nicola Mai, and Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers. "The New Albanian Migration". Sussex Academic Press, 2005, ISBN 1903900786, pp. 67 and 87.] while hostilities were still taking place, although its implementation caused more suffering than was envisaged.


Following the defeat of Ottoman forces in the region and the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, the Treaty of Bucharest included the northern part of the region of Epirus to Albania, and the southern part to Greece, based on their overall populations, leaving Greek and Albanian minority areas on either side of the border. Most of the Cham-populated border area in the northwest, except for a few Cham villages assigned to Albania, came under Greek rule. The Muslim Cham population was exempt from the population exchange between Greece and Turkey under the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.

The ca. 20,000 Cham Albanians of Greece were subjected to discrimination, that increased under the dictatorial regime of Ioannis Metaxas. Tensions were exacerbated at the time prior to the outbreak of World War II: Albania was annexed by Italy in 1939, and the Italian authorities used the Cham issue as a means of promoting Albanian irredentism against Greece. When Italian forces invaded Greece in October 1940 from Albania, they were accompanied by several thousand native Albanian auxiliaries, and were welcomed by the Cham population. [ Dr. Kalyvas' article on the issue (in Greek)] ]

Cham collaboration with Axis Powers

Following the conquest of Greece by Nazi Germany, the Italians, whose zone of occupation included Epirus, recruited a large number of Muslim Cham citizens to assist them. During the occupation, a significant number of Muslim Chams were responsible for atrocities against ethnic Greeks, but some were only passive collaborators, distrusting Greeks and simply supporting the realization of a Greater Albania under the Italian occupation regime.

In this period, the Muslim Chams set up their own administration and militia, part of the Balli Kombetar organization in Thesprotia and collaborated closely with both the Italians and — when Italy capitulated — the Germans. Cham units committed, alongside the Wehrmacht, a number of atrocities on their ethnically Greek fellow citizens, burning houses and villages,Mazower, Mark. "After The War Was Over: Reconstructing the Family, Nation and State in Greece, 1943-1960". Princeton University Press, 2000, ISBN 0691058423, p. 25. "The war saw communal relations worsen quickly. In October 1940, the Greek authorities disarmed 1,800 Cham conscripts and put them to work on local roads; the following month they seized all Albanian males not called up and deported them to camps or to island exile. Not surprisingly, when the Italians finally took control of mainland Greece in 1941, they found Cham activists willing to call for unification of the region with Albania. Several hundred were conscripted into the anti-communist Bal Komitare to act as local gendarmes. From the autumn of 1943, these armed bands took part alongside the Wehrmacht in burning Greek villages. Such actions, it seems, were not supported by many of the local beys, nor by the Mufti. By the summer of 1944 it was obvious that a German withdrawal from Epiros was imminent. After the Cham bands turned down a demand from EDES to join it against the left-wing ELAS, EDES's leader Napoleon Zervas ordered a general attack on the Cham villages. Two attacks took place, in July and August, with the participation of the EDES Tenth Division and local Greek peasants, eager to gain revenge for the burning of their homes: many of the Cham villages were burned, and the remaining inhabitants–some 18,000–fled across the border into Albania."] killing several hundred ethnic Greeks and forcing thousands others to flee their homes. Miranda Vickers, "The Cham Issue - Albanian National & Property Claims in Greece", paper prepared for the British MoD, Defence Academy, 2002]

Muslim Cham units also played an active part in the Holocaust in Greece, including the round-up and expulsion to Auschwitz and Birkenau of the 2,000-strong Romaniote Greek-Jewish community of Ioannina in April 1944. [Mazower, Mark. "Inside Hitler's Greece: The Experience of Occupation, 1941-44". Yale University Press, 1993, ISBN 0300089236.] As the Germans and their allies began to lose ground to the anti-Nazi guerrillas in 1944, and started retiring to Albania, many hundreds of Chams followed them.

Expulsion of the Chams

In 1944, the right-wing EDES resistance group attempted to co-opt the Cham guerrillas and recruit them against the leftist ELAS, but their overtures were rebuffed. Beginning on 27 June 1944, while Greece was still under German occupation, and continuing through March 1945, EDES resistance fighters launched a series of attacks on Muslim Cham villages in Epirus, killing several hundred Chams. These attacks, along with the German withdrawal from Greece in October 1944, caused a large-scale exodus to Albania and Turkey of some 18,000 Chams.

The expulsion was sanctioned and encouraged by the British Military Mission in Greece, headed by Colonel Chris Woodhouse. Woodhouse who reported that:

Joseph Jacobs, head of the US Mission in Albania in 1945-1946, wrote:

According to Stathis Kalyvas, a professor of Political Science at Yale University, these expulsions are "undoubtedly a case of ethnic cleansing", [ Dr. Kalyvas' article on the issue (in Greek)] ] an opinion with which Mark Mazower agrees, adding that their case is "analogous" to that of ethnic Germans expelled during and after World War II. However, he also adds that the acts were organized by "local military powerbrokers and only afterwards ratified, as it were, by the beleaguered Greek state far away in Athens".


A large number of the predominantly Muslim Cham refugees settled in villages of southern Albania, where today their descendants claim to number about 200,000. A Muslim Cham association (the Cham Political Association, CPA, in Albanian: "Shoqëria Politike Atdhetare "Çamëria"), has been set up in Albania which claims a number of 2,800 dead and over 35,000 evicted. These figures however are not supported by historians like Victor Roudometof [Roudometof, Victor. "Collective Memory, National Identity, and Ethnic Conflict Greece, Bulgaria, and the Macedonian Question". Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002, ISBN 0275976483, p. 182. "The figure of 30,000 is adopted from the Cham associations without checking the other sources used in the discussion in this chapter."] or Mark Mazower, who put the number of evictees at 18,000. In 1994, the Albanian parliament passed a law that declared the 27th of June as a "Day of Greek Chauvinist Genocide Against the Albanians of Chameria" and built a memorial at the village of Konispol.

The Greek government refuses to allow them to resettle in Greece considering them to have lost their citizenship for collaboration (1,910 Muslim Cham collaborators were convicted "in absentia" by the Greek Special Court on Collaborators) after evidence was brought of their war crimes and/or (under a law stricken in 1998) as having left Greece as non-ethnic Greeks (either on the part of them personally or their ancestors from whom they would ordinarily have acquired it). The Greek government also refuses to negotiate over the properties formerly belonging to the Cham beys (Muslim feudal lords), considering them lawfully confiscated for the same reasons.

In terms of international law, their status is that of Czech and Polish citizens of German ethnicity who were evicted from their homes after WWII as the result of their association with Nazi Germany. The latter have also formed associations demanding restitution of their properties and repatriation.


External links

* [ Anglo-American comments that light on the persecution of the Chams in the years 1944-1945]
* [ Document of the Committee of the Cham Albanians] Submitted to the Human Rights Commission of the UN in 1945
* [ Epirus] "Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia"
* [ Epirus] ""
* [ Greek Civil War] ""
* [ SOUTHERN ALBANIA, NORTHERN EPIRUS: Survey of a Disputed Ethnological Boundary] ""
* [ United Kingdom Ministry of Defence, Defence Academy, Miranda Vickers papers] ""

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.