OPINION

Growing sentiment against Greeks

A recent murder in the town of Himara in Albania and the wave of support shown for the perpetrator has shown us that anti-Greek sentiment is fomenting dangerously in the neighboring country. The killer was a 24-year-old Albanian man and the victim was his employer, who was of Greek descent. The motive was financial and the police arrested the young man, uncovering all the gruesome details of the crime. What happened next, however, is shocking. Within days, blogs were lauding the young man for killing a Greek. The open online forums of major newspapers, which allow hundreds of readers every day to have their say, were brimming with hate. One blogger wrote: «We should all kill a Greek.» Another, addressing the culprit, said, «If you’d killed the Greek mayor of Himara, you would be the new George Kastriot» (a national hero in Albania), while another wrote, «The only good Greek is a dead Greek.» The victim, according to these bloggers, was guilty from the outset. Greek blood flowed in his veins and therefore he must have been a very bad employer and, to make matters worse, he was a relative of the mayor of Himara, a controversial figure who has come under attack from Albanian nationalists. Another blogger even went so far as to say that the 24-year-old was perfectly justified in his actions and should not only go unpunished, but should have his picture put up right beside the country’s heroes. Are these just the rantings of a small group of fanatics? No. Unfortunately, it looks like this is a growing trend. One of the most striking examples of a similar show of hatred toward Greeks was when a young Albanian man who hijacked a bus in Thessaloniki and was killed by Albanian police, together with his Greek hostage, had a song dedicated to him. The song suggests that he single-handedly took on the Greek racists. Anti-Greek sentiment is a growing phenomenon in Albania even though the two countries enjoy good bilateral relations on a political level and there are several hundred thousand Albanians in Greece and a sizable Greek minority in Albania. The wave of support for the man who killed a Greek is just another expression of the prevailing sentiment. Greece is partly to blame for the growing anti-Greek feeling, but what is worrying is that no one in Albania seems to be reacting to it. This, of course, is very much like Greece a few years ago, when a large part of society condoned the persecution of Albanians, believing them to be responsible for rising crime rates.