blood feud, blood feuds, Albania
Visar Kryeziu/AP
Tirana, Albania

Albanian Children Living in Fear of Blood Feuds

November 20, 2008 02:59 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
It is estimated that thousands of Albanian families are feuding nationwide, forcing children to become hostages in their own homes.

Warring Families Causing Chaos

Blood feuds that have erupted across Albania have virtually imprisoned hundreds of children who cannot attend school or engage in other activities outside of the home for fear of being killed by rival families, reports the BBC.

Under the ancient Albanian vendetta code called “Kanun,” the family of a victim of a crime has the right to take revenge on any male of the perpetrator’s extended family. The code prevents entering onto another person’s property to take revenge, making home the only safe haven for those targeted by such feuds.

Nikolin, an 11-year-old Albanian boy interviewed by the BBC, whose family has been feuding with another for the past 30 years, says that he dreams of someday attending school. “I imagine that it’s a beautiful place, with chairs, benches, and a blackboard. I imagine being there with loads of other kids,” Nikolin said. “It would be good to make friends, to play and learn, and have friends over to see me,” he adds quietly.

As a teenager, Nikolin’s father killed a neighbor after a small argument. Although he has already served 15 years in jail, the victim’s family still has the right to take revenge on any male in the family under Kanun.

Albania has long struggled with blood feuds. In 2007, the Telegraph reported that there were more than 20,000 people in the country “who live under an ever-present death sentence” because of such feuds.

Although the younger generation of the clan-based society is less eager than their ancestors to engage in these feuds, the problem has worsened in recent years after clan chiefs installed a new rule that families can outsource their feuds to professional killers under contract.

The professional killers are more efficient, and as a result the number of killings has exploded. The government has responded by setting up a database of families affected by the feuds in an attempt to monitor the situation.

“Times have changed,” said Edmond Dragoti, a sociologist based in the capital, Tirana, to the Telegraph. “We no longer see men saying proudly ‘I am the avenger’; on the contrary, the executors are anonymous, hired killers.”

The set of tribal laws called Kanun, or The Code, were written by a feudal lord named Lek Dukagjini during the 15th century and have served as the country’s constitution for centuries. They are enforced by a village’s council of elders, a tribal legislative body made up of the oldest males from prominent village families.

Related Topics: Blood spilling around the world

Blood feuds may seem an ancient tradition to some, but news reports in the last few years show that they are still common in all parts of the world.

In China, The New York Times reported that the country’s ancient tradition of clan warfare was starting to resurface in the 1990s with the waning of communism and the re-emergence of tradition.

In 2004, Agence France-Presse reported that in Somalia, two days of interclan fighting that had erupted between militiamen in the central region of the country resulted in the deaths of 13 people and the wounding of 27.

Last June, the Christian Science Monitor reported that in blood-feud heavy Turkey, a peacemaker has emerged to monitor local disputes. Local leaders who have turned to Sait Sanli, a former butcher, say that the “ambassador of peace” is the first person that they consult to settle conflicts. By Sait’s account, he has helped to end 446 blood feuds over the past decade.

Historical Context: Famous blood feuds

One famous historical blood feud is the Wars of the Roses, a series of civil wars that took place in England from 1455 to 1487. The warring parties were the houses of Lancaster and York, both of which claimed King Edward II as an ancestor and were fighting for control of England.

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