Operazione Colomba – monthly report of activities in Albania – July 2019

Present situation
After the election of June 30th, the climate did not produce any particular clash or unrest. However, some protest marches in Tirana occured and controversies over some cases of vote rigging occupied the front pages of newspapers for days.
In July the volunteers monitored and recorded the evolution of some cases of murder due to blood feud reasons. In the first part of the month, in fact, a man was arrested because, in 2013, committed a murder to avenge the death of his brother, who was killed in prison in 1992. In the same days, the local media also announced some updates that reconstructed a murder happened in 2017 for reasons of honor, aggravating the penal situation of the culprit of this crime.
At the end of July, Lulzim Caka, known in the news as the “terrible of Berat” since he was the head of a criminal gang during the 1990s, was released ahead of time from prison. The story of his release is still unclear and caused quite a stir; the gesture was condemned by Etilda Gjonaj, the Minister of Justice, who revoked his release from prison and investigated the prison director, who was later arrested with a collaborator. In 1999 Caka was also the author of a double honor murder to avenge the death of his mother, killed in the area of Fier. Caka is still at large.

At the beginning of July, the volunteers realized the Summer Camp in Tropoja with activities dedicated to children and young people living in the area. For this occasion, Annalisa, Gaetano and Maura, volunteers in civil service of the Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII Association, joined the group of Operazione Colomba. The camp was very much attended, especially by young people from the zone. Furthermore, proposing summer activities in this remote mountain area again, year after year, has inspired other local initiatives; in fact, in the following weeks, some associations and local institutions organized, in collaboration with two peaceworkers of the US organization of international volunteering “Peace Corps”, another Summer camp in Bajram Curri (regional county seat) to which many young people of neighboring villages took part.
The presence in Tropoja also allowed the volunteers to monitor closely the situation of some families involved in blood feuds, through home visits. In particular, a lady who lost a child for a vendetta shared with the peaceworkers the tiredness she feels because she always has to keep the members of her family calm in order to avoid the escalation of the conflict, which could easily degenerate into the continuation of the feud.
After the Summer Camp, the volunteers continued the daily activities of material and spiritual support to families in feud in the area of Shkodër, through home visits and accompaniments carried out mainly in some places of prayer and in prison to visit detained relatives.
In July the staff greeted Margherita, who stayed a few months in Albania, and Nadia, who was the backbone of the project for more than a year and a half. All the Operazione Colomba members are very grateful for all her commitment and energies dedicated to families in blood feud, who already miss her.

Relationship with institutions and civil society
In July, the volunteers met again a Professor from the Social Sciences Department of Tirana, who reiterated her commitment to involve her students in some project activities, with particular attention to monitor cases of blood feud, through media consultation, and report the evolution of the blood feud phenomenon in Albania. Furthermore, the peaceworkers attended a training meeting about restorative justice, dedicated to professionals in the branch. Finally, the staff met the local representative of the “Trentino con i Balcani” Association, to jointly plan the next collaborations with local institutions. This month the international media also showed an interest in our project: the volunteers were interviewed by a BBC journalist and also a Belgian journalist, intrigued by the report of the Belgian Federal Board met years ago.