Petition of Hasan Prishtina

Petition from Hasan Prishtina received by the Secretariat of the League of Nations on 2 March 1929, protesting against the oppression of Albanian minority in Yugoslavia, and the response of J. Shumenkovich, Permanent Delegate of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, dated 11 July 1929, rejecting the said petition. Hasan Prishtina Former Albanian Council President Hintere Zollamtstrasse 3, Vienna III to the President of the League of Nations, Geneva In my letter of 15 March 1927, I ventured to set forth to the League of Nations several complaints from the Albanians living in the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and to draw its attention to the deplorable fact that the Albanians in the above-mentioned State, although one million in number, and therefore more numerous than the inhabitants of independent Albania, are being deprived of all the rights accorded to national minorities under international conventions and in line with the principles of humanity. The Secretary General of the League of Nations, Sir Eric Drummond, informed me in his reply of 15 April (41/58664/11379) that the general nature of the statements made in my letter did not enable the League of Nations to ascertain whether the procedure set forth by the Council for a minorities complaint was applicable. I should therefore like to explain once again, in a more concrete manner, the complaints made about the treatment inflicted upon my Albanian compatriots in the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. The Albanian minority is being oppressed in the S.H.S State. The most obvious evidence of this is that there are one million Albanians living in that country without Albanian-language schools. This bears witness, more than anything else, to the fact that the Government of the S.H.S. State is aiming at the annihilation of the Albanian people in that country. Since young Albanians are not permitted to get an education in their own language, they are faced with two options: either give up their nationality or to renounce all possibilities of education. Both of these options are painful and destructive for the future of our people with the border dividing it as it does, and are unworthy of Europe. It is thus to the highest-ranking officials of Europe that the Albanians, through me, address their painful cries. In all spheres of public and national life, the Government of the S.H.S. State is acting along the same principle - the open pursuit of the annihilation of our people. The Albanians of Kosovo and of the other territories they inhabit in the S.H.S. State are, in their great majority, farmers who hand their trade down from father to son. They cultivate the land that they have inherited from their ancestors capably and assiduously, as all foreign scholars have noted, and they are passionately attached to this land and their homes on it. Using different forms of violence and treading upon human and national rights, the Government of the S.H.S. State is treating the Albanian people deeply entrenched in their native soil as subjected and conquered peoples were treated in ancient times. The Albanians are being driven from their land, the soil of their ancestors that they so love, a soil that has been drenched in their blood and sweat. They are being forced to abandon it and to emigrate to Albania, to Turkey or to other countries on this continent to live in miserable conditions, without home and country, deprived of all their possessions, while the Government of the S.H.S. State divides their property up among the Serbs, Montenegrins and Russian immigrants. It is here in our beloved country, on the soil that our forefathers cultivated, on the soil to which our young people have devoted their energy, and which we have defended over the centuries from our enemies that the tragic fate of our poor people is being played out in this century of progress and humanity, the fate of our poor people who appeal to the League of Nations for aid and assistance. What it cannot achieve by force, the Government of the S.H.S. State is accomplishing with its administration by having its authorities and organs systematically oppress the Albanian people. By the simple fact that it refuses to recognise the right to Albanian-language education, the Government of the S.H.S. State has done wrong to the indigenous population and brought about fatal consequences. The administration is a silent instrument in the hands of the dominant Serbs in their fight against the Albanian nation. It is impossible for an Albanian to demand his rights before a Serbian tribunal. The Government gets rid of Albanian politicians it does not want by sentencing them, though innocent, to long years in prison. Acts of terror and violence, even the killing of Albanians, are not prosecuted, even when the courts know who the perpetrators are. For instance, the Albanian Nazim Gafuri, a former deputy of the Skupshtina, was wounded in an ambush in Belgrade and was then killed in Prishtina, and another Albanian member of parliament for the municipality of the same town, Jusuf Ahmeti, was murdered, too. The murderers were not prosecuted although their names were known to the authorities. All the authorities and their organs, in particular the omnipotent police, are playing an active role in the inexorable war of extermination against our people. Both secretly and openly they give active support to the bands of Serbian criminals who attack Albanian villages and farmsteads, plundering and murdering while they do so. The tax administration is equally partial. Albanians are arbitrarily forced to pay the heaviest taxes in order to ruin them economically and reduce formerly well-off people to begging in the streets. There is no freedom of the press, the basic symbol of human rights, for the Albanians in the S.H.S. State. Albanian newspapers are forbidden and the poor people are not even allowed to groan and complain about it. There is no freedom of assembly for Albanians in the S.H.S. State. During the last elections, the Yugoslav Government destroyed the Albanian electoral movement with truly barbaric methods. All the authorities, the gendarmes and the most dangerous bandits attacked Albanian voters. The consequence of the terrorism exerted during the elections was that there were only six deputies to represent one million Albanians in the Skupshtina. The situation of the Albanians in the S.H.S. State cannot be compared with that of any other national minority in Europe. In all the other countries, individuals are at least allowed to live. There are laws that provide for both duties and rights. The Albanians in the S.H.S. State have been made outlaws. They suffer under arbitrary tyranny that is aimed at exterminating them and their nation. Even the fist of a gendarme is above the law. In their struggle for their rights, for justice for their language, for their future, for their jeopardised lives, for the fields of their forefathers and for their existence as a people, fate has condemned the Albanians to live under the Serb yoke. They turn to the League of Nations as a personification of European civilisation and appeal to it as follows: We would ask the League of Nations to carry out an on-site investigation, by an impartial commission, of the situation of the Albanians who live in the S.H.S. State and take the requisite steps to ensure that this oppressed and persecuted people be able to enjoy the rights recognised to minorities. On behalf of my wretched compatriots living in the S.H.S. State, I submit this request to the League of Nations and hope that this appeal for help for my wretched compatriots will not be in vain. Mr President, the cause that I am presenting here is of the utmost importance, for the League of Nations, too. It is the cause of humanity and peace for the prevention of wars which are the scourge of humanity. With it, the League of Nations will show that it is not simply a front but that it is acting in the service of civilisation and culture. If the League of Nations wishes to overcome war, it must ensure that oppressed peoples receive their rights. This is the only means of preventing the Balkans from remaining the dangerous volcano it is. The non-accomplishment of this task would make the League of Nations an accomplice, responsible for the sombre and menacing future. Mr President, it is to you and your illustrious colleagues that I turn. Do not forget that the issue of minorities is the most important problem of our age. Do not forget that a favourable solution to this problem can ensure peace in Europe and, at the same time, drape the flag of the League of Nations in glory. I would like to take this opportunity to express my utmost consideration to the League of Nations. (signed) Hassan Prishtina Response of the Serbian-Croatian-Slovene Government Permanent Delegation of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes at the League of Nations to Sir James Eric Drummond, Secretary General of the League of Nations, Geneva Geneva, 11 July 1929 Mr Secretary General, In your letter sent from Madrid on 17 June this year, you were kind enough, pursuant the procedures in force, to transmit to me for the Government of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, the petition dated 5 April 1929 and signed by Hassan Bey Prishtina for possible observations on the Government’s part. I have the honour to transmit to you herewith a response from my Government on the aforementioned submission. 1. The petitioner, Hassan Bey Prishtina, is the main promoter and direct agent of irredentist and revolutionary activity aimed at interrupting the political ties between the Albanian minority and the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. In addition to this, his political activity as far as the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes is concerned, constitutes a series of acts of treason. Having admitted himself that his attitude towards the Serbian Army during its retreat in 1915 and towards the Serbian population of Kosovo during the enemy occupation of the region was clearly hostile – because of which he was accorded special honours by the occupation troops – he fled abroad without waiting for the return of the liberating Serbian Army. Once he was abroad, he organised a two-fold activity against our country. Firstly, he worked to stir up trouble among certain elements of our Muslim population in Southern Serbia with a view to causing them to rise against the security and integrity of the Serbian, Croatian and Slovene State. It should be noted, however, that the activities of Hassan Bey Prishtina did not receive support from the Albanian masses, who do not agree with this political beliefs and who harbour feelings of loyalty towards the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. It must also be mentioned that he has collaborated closely with foreign revolutionary organisations hostile to the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, in particular with the Macedonian Committee and the Kosovo Albanian Committee. Secondly, he has also been active on the international scene endeavouring to sway international public opinion against the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. This activity is evident more than anywhere else in a Vienna newspaper called Ora e Shkipinize. It is enough to read through this newspaper to understand the defamatory nature of the activities of Hassan Bey Prishtina against our country. 2. There is no doubt that Hassan Bey Prishtina has submitted his petitions to the League of Nations in this same spirit. Misusing the right of petition, he wishes to create the impression that he enjoys the august protection of the League of Nations. It is more than apparent that his objectives in appealing to the League of Nations and his political activities are in flagrant violation of the ideals upon which the League of Nations was founded and of the essence of the regime for the protection of minorities. It is also clear that the petition in question, though it may have been drafted so as to fulfill the formal criteria set forth by the Council Resolution of 5 September 1923, is contrary to the principles set forth under item (b) of this Resolution due to the aim it pursues. It is therefore normal, faced with the petition of Hassan Bey Prishtina, that the Serbian-Croatian- Slovene Government should highlight the dangers that this type of petition entails. Such petitions, as we saw during the great debate held in Madrid on the minority issue, caused Mr Briand to express legitimate fears not only for the governments and minorities concerned, but also, and primarily for the League of Nations itself. Under such conditions, it is understandable that the Serbian-Croatian-Slovene Government has been placed in a delicate situation. Firstly, it has an overriding duty to protect its own interests and those of the Albanian minority and, as such, must reject the petition of Hassan Bey Prishtina. Secondly, it is conscious of the great respect it has and has always shown for the Council. For this reason, the Serbian-Croatian-Slovene Government, while considering the petition of Hassan Bey Prishtina null and void, intends, out of courtesy and respect for the members of the Council, to provide you, in good time, with a memorandum on the current situation of the Albanian minority in the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Mr Secretary General, please accept the assurance of my highest consideration. (signed) J. Shumenkovich [British Foreign Office document FO 371/13711, preserved in the National Archives at Kew, U.K. Courtesy of Bejtullah Destani. Translated from the French by Robert Elsie.]
Robert Elsie Texts and Documents of Albanian History
Hasan Prishtina (1873-1933)