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The Valley of Dibra (Photo: Robert Elsie, 2007).



The Valley of Dibra
(Photo: Robert Elsie, 2007).

Webdesign J. Groß

1913
Dole in Dibra:
Official Report Submitted to the Great Powers

The First Balkan War began in October 1912. Serbia took advantage of the power vacuum left by the crumbling Ottoman Empire to invade and conquer Kosova and the Dibra region, now along the Albania-Macedonia border, in late October and early November of that year. While the Great Powers recognized Albania as a sovereign State on 29 July 1913, Kosova, Dibra, Ohrid and Monastir remained under Serb military rule and on 7 September 1913, King Peter I of Serbia proclaimed the annexation of the conquered territories. A large uprising against Serb rule took place in the Luma region (southwest of Prizren) and in the mountains west of Gjakova, which was suppressed by a force of over 20,000 Serb troops who advanced into Albania, almost reaching Elbasan. An amnesty was declared by the government in Belgrade in October 1913, yet the pogroms of the Albanian population continued.

Coming a year after the harrowing information compiled by Leo Freundlich, the following "Official Report to the Great Powers" published in December 1913, details the carnage that took place in Dibra and Luma, after the amnesty, as it is noted.

 

Official Report Submitted to the Great Powers

We are the first in Europe to be able to publish the full list of atrocities committed by the Serb Army in the Districts of Dibra, Lower Dibra and Luma in northern Albania after the amnesty accorded last October by the government in Belgrade, following the revolt of the Albanian malisors (mountain people).

It is a document of extraordinary importance and has just been handed over to the government of one of the Great Powers by its own plenipotentiary delegate, who personally compiled the notes and names at the sites of the atrocities and terror.

Here is the full version of the official report.

 

District of Dibra

In Klos, Serb gangs bayoneted Ahmet Aliu and his brother, as well as Nezir Sulejmani and Mehmet Salihu. The whole village was ransacked.

In Valikardha, in middle of the day and in the presence of all the inhabitants, Ymer Halili, Osman Qira, Qerim Zejneli, Ismail Alushi and Sul Hoxha (Muslim priest) were slain by bayonet and were reduced to unrecognisable corpses. Their houses were burnt down after having been pillaged.

In Peladhia, house-to-house inspections were carried out under the pretext of searching for weapons caches. Many houses were plundered. That of Hasan Pata was burnt down and its owner had his throat slit in the presence of his elderly mother, his wife and his children.

In Krajka, the house of Muharrem Dervishi was torched after having been pillaged.

In Zerqen, all the houses were pillaged and burnt down.

In Sopot, the village was completely ravaged and plundered. Many of the houses were burnt down. All the animals were stolen, and the following persons: Ali Kamberi, his servant, Hamza Disha and Salih Selimi, were bayoneted.

In Dibra (town), several hours before the malissor attack, the local prefect and the military commander arrested eighteen leading townsmen, who were executed without benefit of trial: Ramiz Karanfili, Sheh Husejni, Numan Hasani and Safet Bey. The others only survived thanks to the malisors who by that time had entered the town that the Serb Army had to evacuate hastily.

On their return to Dibra, the Serbs pillaged the whole town and carried off over a million Turkish lira of booty. Many houses were put to the torch, in particular those of Ali Bey. Rakip Qatibi and Kurtish Aga. With incomparable cruelty, the Serbs also massacred many other people, among whom were those minding their own business at home who had not part in the insurrection. Among those massacred were: Kurtish Aga, Behxhet Efendi, Haxhi Syreja Efendi, Reshid Efendi Kusari and Sadullah Shtrazimiri.

At the present time, the town of Dibra is virtually deserted because the inhabitants have fled into the mountains. In the town itself, there are only two or three hundred individuals left of both sexes.

In Gjorica, the day after a visit by an officer delegated by the Austrian Government, who was passing through to verify the Serb evacuation of the region, the Serbs re-appeared in the village and killed a woman and a five-year-old child. They also wounded another woman.

In Homesh, only three of the 150 houses originally standing in the village remained. All the others were torched after having been pillaged. After they surrender, the Serbs killed: Musa Ismajli, Shemsedin Bajrami and Halit Sulejmani who had returned to the village after the amnesty. The first time, they took 1000 head of sheep, 150 head of cattle and 40 horses. The second time, they took 50 head of sheep, nine head of cattle and nine horses.

In Shupenza, after robbing the houses and taking all the valuables and supplies, the Serbs massacred: Alis Myslimi and his brother Abdi, Hasan Abazi and Dalip Elmazi.

In Okshatina, only one house remains intact of the original 74. They were all pillaged and torched. Two men called Ferhat and Nazif were bayoneted. All the animals were carried off.

In Topojan, a village of 68 homes, there was general plundering and burning. A man called Abdullah Xhaferri had his throat slit as he was not able to come up with the sum of five Turkish lira (115 Italian lira), the ransom demanded by the Serb officer commanding the detachment. The Serb soldiers carried off all the animals.

At Kovashica, Malik Bajrami, Aziz Haxhi, Ahmet Ramadani, Leka, Destan Jashari, Sejfedin Elezi, and Sulejman Ramadani were massacred. 150 head of sheep, 41 head of cattle and 13 horses were stolen. A man called Rashid Rexhepi was only spared for a sum of 150 Turkish lira (about 3450 francs) paid as ransom to the commander of the Serb detachment.

In Gjurica (a hamlet near Topojan), 14 men were massacred, among whom the village syndic. Two women were also killed: Naile Seferi and Zemane Ibrahimi, as well as an eight-year-old boy called Ismail Mehmedi, a ten-year-old called Bajram Elezi, a seven-year-old called Rrahman, two twelve-year-olds called Hasan Ali and Elias, and the daughter of Husein Çoka.

In Golevishta, the whole village was ransacked. 74 houses were torched and two men called Halil Numani and Nuredin Mustafa had their throats slit. As to the animals, the Serbs took 1000 head of sheep, 30 head of cattle and 35 horses the first time, and 23 horses, 40 head of cattle and 500 head of sheep the second time.

In Kërçisht, the only two Muslim homes in the village were torched. In addition, 60 head of sheep, two bulls and four cows were stolen.

In Bllata, the Serbs torched 75 houses and massacred Rexhep Lleshi with his brother Abdi and the latter's son Bajram, as well as the wife of Islam Kuarana. The village was completely pillaged and the remaining animals, being 90 head of sheep and 50 head of cattle, were carried off.

In Zogjaj, the villages was looted. All valuables, winter supplies and animals were carried off. The Serbs torched 124 houses and, while the fire was reducing everything to ashes, they threw the following people into the flames alive: a woman called Rihane, two girls called Fazile and Myslime, and a seven-year-old lad called Bajram. They also bayoneted Haxhi Myslimi, Nezir Azizi, Halil Numani and Zejnel Hasani. Returning to Zogjaj for a second time, the Serbs massacred: Mustafa Myslimi, Aziz Jusufi, Adem Shabani and Edin Nurka. They also stole seven cows and six sheep that had escaped the first looting.

In Maqellara, 10 houses were pillaged and torched. In addition, the Serbs bayoneted: Elmaz Selmani and his son Selman, Malik Rexhepi and his son Murat, Hasan Sulejmani, Abdullah Qehaja, Hajredin Hasani and his three sons Ymer, Ramiz and Tevfik, his brother Rakip, his father Hasan, Rrustem Mehmeti, Numan Shemsedini, Ramadan Bajrami and Ejup Edhemi. The other inhabitants of the village were forced to hand over 50 head of cattle, two cows and 113 goats in order not to be slaughtered.

In Poçest, the Serbs murdered Muharrem Muharremi and his son Behxhet. They carried off 100 head of sheep and nine head of cattle, as well as a sum of 150 Turkish lira (about 3450 francs) which they discovered in the pockets of the villagers.

In Kërçisht i Poshtëm, the Serbs looted the home of Mehmet Ejupi after having slit the throat of the owner in front of his family.

In Çerenec, they torched 23 houses and massacred Hasan Abazi and his wife, Ramadan Salihu and Rrustem Sulejmani. They pillaged the whole village and carried off all valuables, supplies and animals.

In Bllaca, the village was completely burnt down after having been pillaged. The inhabitants were all put to the sword, quite without cause, so there was no opportunity to compile a list of victims. On their return to Bllaca, the Serbs discovered 250 head of sheep, 37 cows and 28 horses which they carried off, having slain the shepherds.

In Spas, they pillaged all the houses and torched ten of them. They carried off all the animals they could catch, being 150 head of sheep, four horses and 13 head of cattle.

In Klobuçishta, after looting all the homes, they set fire to them. Thirty houses were reduced to ashes. In addition, in the presence of the villagers, they murdered: Adil Bilhali, Ahmed Abazi, Mustafa Murteza, Xhelaledin Destani and his brother Musa, Hajredin Maksuti, Lutfi Fejzullahu, Reshid Murteza and his son Fetah, Gazanfer Zejneli and others. The Serbs also stole 150 sheep and goats, 11 head of cattle and one donkey.

In Pulçishte (Poçest?), the Serbs carried off 103 head of sheep, 15 head of cattle, 14 horses, seven donkeys and 65 Turkish lira in gold (about 1500 francs). Returning a second time, they caught and carried off five head of sheep, 10 head of cattle and one horse.

In Obok, the whole village was looted and the village leader, Ramadan Bajrami, had his throat slit. While passing through the first time, the Serbs carried off a herd of 120 sheep and, the second time, they took away 25 sheep, two bulls, one horse and two donkeys.

In Pesjaka, they burnt down or destroyed all the houses. Of the inhabitants, they murdered the following: Jahja Ismajli, Malik, Mahmut, Sejfullah, Abaz and Vehbi Sulejmani. The Serbs also carried off 14 head of cattle, 50 sheep and one donkey.

In Erebara, the whole village was looted and the following persons were massacred: Ibrahim Osmani, Junus Kurtishi, Xhafer Demiri and Destan Ishaku. They also carried off three horses, one donkey and eight head of sheep. The Serbs also took a herd of 150 sheep belonging to Shukri Bey from a pasture near the village.

In Vojnika, the Serbs looted and torched all the 51 houses and, while the flames were devastating the village, Serb soldiers bayoneted everyone they could find. Among the victims were Sinan Ibrahimi, Nazif Numani, Ali Selimi and Idriz Shabani. In addition, a woman called Shame was tortured and had her throat slit in the presence of her children. All the animals, being 100 head of sheep, eight head of cattle and nine horses, were carried off.

In Allajbegia, the Serbs pillaged the whole village and torched 65 houses. They massacred the following persons: Ibrahim, Zejnel Dalipi, Salih Ahmeti, Ali Selimi, Hajdar Shabani and his brother Hajredin, Hajredin Muça, Ali Osmani, Numan Elmazi, Sejfedin Selimi, Zejnel Saipi, Salih Sulejmani, Fazli Abazi, and the women Shame, Qamile, Alie, Nimetallah, Hibe, Zaide, Fatime and a five-year-old girl. All the animals in the village and on the surrounding pastures were carried off.

In Avalan, the village was pillaged and four houses put to the torch. The head villager Ismajl Ismajli has his throat slit, and the animals, being 90 head of sheep, 6 horses and 1 donkey, were carried off.

In Çanka, after the village was looted, nine houses were put to the torch. Of the inhabitants of the village, the Serbs bayoneted the following: Beqir Rrustemi, Husejn Abazi, Shahin Numani and Zejnullah. They also carried off 13 animals.

In Kovaçica, the whole village was plundered and 32 houses were torched. Massacred were: Elias Dauti, Nuredin Nurçe, Salih Osmani and Zejnel Troza. The Serbs carried off two bulls, 30 head of sheep and nine cows.

In Bllata e Epërme, the whole village was plundered and 18 houses were torched. Abdul Azizi and Abdurrahman were the only victims of the Serbs. In addition, 42 head of sheep and two horses were carried off.

In Bllata e Poshtme, after being looted, 25 homes were reduced to ashes by the fire. A man called Ali Bllata and his two sons died in the flames. The Serbs also carried off 30 head of sheep, four cows and three horses.

In Lishan, after being looted, the whole village was put to the torch and all the animals found in the stables and out grazing were carried off.

 

District of Lower Dibra

In Rabdisht, the village was looted and completely devastated. 38 houses and about thirty stables were torched. 65 men were massacred, as usual by bayonet. In addition to them was a six-year-old boy, the son of a local leader, who was throw alive into the flames. The Serbs also carried off 400 head of sheep, 150 goats, 60 cows and 22 horses. A search of the pockets of the inhabitants who were spared death produced the sum of 20 Turkish lira (about 450 francs) which the Serbs confiscated.

In Zimur, the Serbs pillaged and torched seven houses. They bayoneted: Ahmet Shabani, Mulajm Elmazi, Sulejman Zeqiri, Veisel Riza and Salih Shabani. The animals they carried off consisted of 245 head of sheep and 12 bulls.

In Staravec, the whole village was pillaged and 42 houses were reduced to ashes. The victims here were: Husejn Muça, Reshid Rrahmani and a woman called Zobejda. The Serbs caught and carried off 300 sheep and goats, 30 head of cattle and four horses.

In Bahutaj, the Serbs forced Ramadan Mehmeti and his companions to perform balancing acts and then cut their throats. They carried off 10 horses.

In Tomin, the village was pillaged and two houses, a dervish lodge and a mosque were torched. Mazllum Jusufi and a boy of ten were slain. All the animals found were carried off.

In Dohoshisht, after the sacking of the village, 55 houses were torched. Among the victims who were horribly massacred, one could recognize the bodies of: Malik Bajrami, Ramadan Ahmeti, Ymer Sadiku, Zejnullah Hasani, Halil Junuzi, Musa Bajrami, and Shaban Halili. The Serbs carried off 400 head of sheep and 200 horses.

In Zagrad, the soldiers torched eight houses and stole three horses.

In Bellova, the Serbs pillaged the whole village and carried off everything they could transport.

In Grazhdan, 22 houses were ransacked and torched. Aziz Shemsedini, Hasan Zekiria, Xhafer Jusufi, Emrullah Mahmuti, Mont, Beqir, Hasan Durmishi, Rrustem Hasani and his brother Zekiria, Bexhet Nuri and his wife, Ismail Xhelili and his son Elias, Elez Hasani, Emrullah Demiri, Sinan Xhaferi, Aziz Kurtishi, Maksut Numani and Ferhat were bayoneted in the presence of their families. The Serbs also carried off all the animals.

In Muhurr, they looted all the homes and set 14 of them on fire. When they passed through the first time, they took 200 head of sheep, 100 lambs, 30 cows and 15 horses, as well as over 300 Turkish lira (about 7000 francs) they discovered in the pockets of the inhabitants. The second time they passed through the village, Serb troops stole 10 sheep, 10 lambs and one horse. They also bayoneted eleven village leaders.

In Luznia, all private homes were looted. The Serbs then torched five of the main homes. They carried off all the animals they could find in the stables, over 1500 sheep and goats, and 200 head of cattle. The human casualties, all bayoneted to death, amounted to 45 persons, whose names were carefully verified and recorded.

In Çetush, four houses were torched and the following persons: Asma Hasani, Zejnel Shabani and Osman Numani were massacred. Three horses were stolen.

In Brezhdan, the Serbs pillaged and torched 17 houses. They massacred the following persons: Abedin Osmani, Shahin Mehmeti and Salih Kadri. They also carried off 25 horses.

In Ushtelenca, the whole village was ransacked and thirteen houses were reduced to ashes. The following persons, Numan Rrustemi, Muslim Zeki and Mehmet Gota were massacred. The animal carried off amounted to 17 horses and six bulls.

In Deshat, the Serbs torched 15 houses and threw a ten-year-old boy, a seven-year-old boy and two women alive into the flames. They stole 50 head of cattle and 500 head of sheep.

In Sohodoll, they set three houses on fire and massacred four men: Abdullah Abedini, Tusun Dalipi, Sulejman Bahtiari and Dalip Ismajli, as well as a woman called Belure and her six-year-old son called Mazllum. They also stole 200 sheep and 30 horses.

In Borovjan, the Serbs torched two houses and slit the throat of Rrustem Muharremi in the presence of his family. They also carried off 27 head of cattle, 119 sheep and 5 horses.

In Rashnopoja, they pillaged all of the houses thoroughly, but were not able to burn any of them down. They bayoneted six leading villagers: Bajram Mehmeti, Malik Rakipi, Selman Rakipi, Behxhet Behluli, Osman Azani, Hajredin Maliku, and stole 20 bulls.

In Cerjan, the Serbs torched the houses and killed three men: Fazli Sulejmani, Jashar Hejbati and Bektash Arsllani, and one woman Zobejda. They carried off 14 horses and 60 head of sheep.

In Pilaf, all the houses were looted and five of them were torched. The Serbs bayoneted Dalip Ramadani in the presence of his elderly mother.

In Pilaf-Mahalla, they ransacked all the houses and torched eight of them. They murdered Hasan Fetahu, Salih Jusufi and his six-year-old daughter Fatime. In addition the Serb soldateska hurled a five-year-old boy called Shukri and a four-year-old called Hasan, into the flames. 100 head of cattle, 200 head of sheep and eight horses were carried off.

In Pollozhan, the village was completely ransacked and three houses were torched. There were eleven victims: Hajredin Vehta and his brother Aziz, Jusuf Uka, Hajredin Shkurti, Husejn Zejneli, Hajredin Halili, Said Pasha, Emin Shahini, Elez Numani and his brother Osman and the latter's son. As to the animals, they carried off 50 head of sheep, 12 bulls and four horses.

In Gliçes (Blliçja?), all the houses were pillaged and five of them were torched. The Serbs cut the throats of three men (Xhafer Rrustemi, Destan Hasani and Xhemal Salihu) and of one woman (Ajshe). They carried off 250 head of sheep and 30 horses.

In Limjan, the whole village was ransacked. Among the inhabitants who were slain by bayonets were Hasan Shahini, Sejfullah Ibrahimi, Abdurrahman Fetahu, Qerim Sadiku and Bajram Xhelili. Also carried off were 200 head of sheep, 20 cows and 10 horses.

In Peshkopia, after all the houses in the village were pillaged, 57 of them, among which the most important houses, were torched. Massacred were: Xhelaledin Abazi, Ali Ymeri, Xhelman Selmani, Hasan Arsllani, Hajredin Shabani and Murat Demiri. 180 head of cattle, 450 sheep and goats, 15 mules and 20 horses were carried off.

In Trepça, the village was looted and Zejnullah Ahmeti has his throat slit savagely in the presence of his family. Two horses and 57 head of sheep were carried off.

In Çidhna, thirty houses were reduced to ashes. Three men were among the victims: Kitan Keloshi, Hasani Hani and Arsllan Sadiku. 500 sheep and goats, 200 head of cattle, 13 horses and 3 donkeys were carried off.

In Renz, the Serbs torched five houses, slit the throat of Zejnel Ahmeti on his doorstep, and carried off 100 sheep and goats, 12 cows and 5 beasts of burden.

 

The tale of the massacres carries on and as does the horrifying list revealing the martyrdom of the young Albanian people. Details have also been furnished of the atrocities committed in other parts of the District of Lower Dibra in northern Albania, such as:

 

In Dipjaka, general pillage, murder of a man called Beqir Sulejmani and a ransom of 45 Turkish lira paid by the inhabitants to the Serb commander to stop the massacre. All the animals were carried off.

In Venisht, pillage and torching. The throats of Beqir Asimi and Idriz Tahiri were slit, and the animals carried off.

In Sllatina, 30 houses were torched. Bahtial Idrizi was burnt alive and 1365 head of cattle were carried off.

In Trojak and Velesha, 41 houses were reduced to ashes. The following men: Zaim Idrizi, Abas Huseini and Salih Kadri were murdered. 660 animals were carried off.

In Kalla, 30 houses were torched. A woman called Daveshe was cast alive into the flames. Bajram Rrustemi had his throat slit on the doorstep of his home. 576 animals were carried off.

In Sllova, there were no victims since the population, not trusting the Serb amnesty, fled into the mountains. The village was completely ransacked, 32 houses were reduced to ashes and 319 animals, caught while grazing, were carried off.

In Dardha, general pillaging. Two victims: Nuredin Sulejmani and Ramadan Sinani. 380 animals were carried off.

In Reç, general pillaging and the carrying off of 600 animals.

In Shumbat Palaman, pillaging, torching of eight houses. Three women, Rihane, Selvie and Ajshe, and three men, Jusuf, Bajram and Bajram, were murdered. Over 1340 animals were carried off.

 

District of Luma

No less terrifying were the horrors perpetrated in the District of Luma, in particular:

 

In Shullan, general pillaging, torching. All the population had their throats slit, with the exception of three persons who, hearing the screaming and trepidation of the women and children, understood what was going on and took flight into the forest.

In Dodaj and Kiushtan, the houses were pillaged and torched. There were 13 victims.

In Tropojan, the houses were reduced to ashes and the population of over 500 souls was exterminated.

In Çerem, everything was pillaged. Over 350 animals were carried off. There were 23 victims, among whom were seven religious leaders.

In Krusheva, on the orders of Loglop, secretary of the Serb Government in Prizren, the family of Haxhi Ibrahimi, composed of eight members, among whom were three women and a one-year-old baby, two four-year-old girls and one six-year-old girl, were killed in cold blood by the soldateska.

In Bushtrica and Bilush, pillaging and torching of everything. The population, irrespective of gender and age, was put to the sword or burned alive. The animals, caught while grazing, were carried off after the shepherds were slaughtered.

In Çaja and Matranxh, general plundering. About 600 animals were carried off.

In Vasiaj, Palush, Gjabrec and Draç, general plundering. All supplies and all objects having any value whatsoever were stolen. Over 800 animals were carried off.

In Gjinaj, Lusna, Kalis and Vila, in addition to looting, 71 houses were torched, 123 people killed - men, women and children - and 2121 animals were carried off.

In Ujmisht, plundering and torching of 21 houses. 15 victims, among whom a woman, a three-month-old baby, a little boy of four, one of five, and two of eight. 480 animals were carried off.

In Xhaferraj, Brekija, Nimça, Lojmja, Përbreg, all the houses were raised to the ground. The population encircled by the Serbs was ruthlessly massacred. Several were hanged from the branches of trees, most of them had their throats slit. Some were cast into the flames and other suffered even worse torture before perishing. In Brekije alone, a large village of over 150 houses, there were over 1300 victims - men, women and children. In Përbreg, the number of victims probably exceeds 400. Of the whole population of these five villages, only two inhabitants of Xhaferraj and five of Nimça managed to escape extermination.

Other scenes of savagery and carnage took place in Surroj where 130 houses were torched and 55 men and 2 women were slain.

In Bardhovca and Novoseja, these two villages were burnt to the ground. The population fled up into the mountains, except for the wife of Islam Hanxhi and her four small children and the family of Ramadan Jusufi, who were burnt alive. The 1620 animals caught while grazing, among which 320 large ones, were carried off.

In Sula e Fushës and Arrëza, 34 houses were torched. There were 11 victims and all the animals, 610 of them, were carried off.

 

[From the daily newspaper Corriere delle Puglie, Bari, XXVI, 354, of 21 December 1913, reprinted in: M. D. Skopansky Les atrocités serbes d'après les témoignages américains, anglais, français, italiens, russes, serbes, suisses, etc. etc. (Lausanne: Librairie Centrale des Nationalités 1919), p. 148-161. Translated from the French by Robert Elsie.]

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The Valley of Dibra (Photo: Robert Elsie, 2007).