Encountering hate speech: the case of coming to terms with the totalitarian regime, and a proposal for regional understanding
DEAR YOUNG FRIENDS,
First, let me introduce myself. My name is Gentiana Sula, and I am Chairwoman of The Authority for Access into Secret Police Files of Dictatorship, Albania, since 2017.
Albania is a small country of Balkans, which suffered a 50 yrs dictatorship, like many of Eastern and Central European countries. A one-party system, and a very big and brutal apparatus of a political police made sure a group of few controlled minds, spirits, choices and assets of our society.
At start, the objective of this party were social justice and fast progress of the country. Thru social engineering, they wanted to change humans into “better” ones – meaning demanding less freedom, led by the ideology.
I am really glad that organizers of this event recognized the efforts of Albania to tackle the HATE as mean to control people, and its human toll still today.
We really have lessons to share!
Despite the dreams shared by many, the fact is that not all people shared the same belief system. The Hate speech was used to divide people badly and encouraged political Hate Crimes: state violence and terror to achieve TOTAL CONTROL!.
This system recruited a high number of officers, informants, secret agents, and collaborators who made sure that everyone was watched over, everyone was under terror, so those who were not trusted – to be persecuted.
Often family members or close friends were forced into collaboration, or made to break the connections with their families, children or loved ones.
A very powerful tool for HATE SPEECH was propaganda: censure paired with the total isolation of the country went along with well-invested machinery of art, cinema, press, literature, public education.
They would project all the failures to opponents. Make them the culprit for lack of food or basic necessities, incompetence and failure. Or create “excuse” for terror after every episode of dictatorship paranoia over losing power and control.
It reminds me of episodes of show trials of the so-called sabotators of economy, or opposition of the 1st parliament. Hundreds of letters from the public, fueled by the hate speech of the dictator and his aide were sent to the court to justify their death penalties.
The angry crowd was surrounding the public show trials of the social democrat party leader Musine Kokalari … She prophetically said to the judge “the same crowed would wake up and turn on you”. Now she is the HERO of democracy and symbol of western values while the perpetrators are all forgotten …
IS THIS HATE SPEECH RECYCLED IN DEMOCRACY?
Albania, shifting to democracy,i still dealing with the legacy of the communist dictatorship.
Still today 1 out of 3 Albanians claim to belong to a family who was in trouble with the regime. Some feel themselves hostages of the past. All they want is policies which would make up for the loss of youth and restore human dignity for them and their family members.
Narratives of the past are not converging, still today . Many of the stereotypes of the past over persecuted groups still live on, involving the young generations.That have not been much asking for forgiveness. We are not proud of those.
However, we can proudly say that there has been no episode of hate crimes from the affected people so far! BUT – one can recognize hate speech re issues of narrative of the past, in media, everyday live and even in parliament.
I strongly believe that encountering the Hate Speech in Albania goes hand in hand with addressing historical in-justice.
THE ROLE OF THE AUTHORITY FOR A PEACEFUL SOCIETY
The Sigurimi files remained classified since 2016 when Parliament approved access in to it, thru a democratic process , by promoting personality protection and national unity. Since that day, millions of files started to declassify and made public.
I believe this catalyzed a systematic public debate over the past.
The bar for serving high public offices, is higher. Public institutions ask information on the involvement of candidates for high positions, with surveillance acts and political processes and perpetrators where banned promotion and especially places in the new judicial system.
People and their families could know everything on the backstage of their political prosecution. They started to know more of the machine fabricating stigma, false flags, or false evidence for false trials. Victims and their families are clarifying their fate. They could better claim their rights for restoration policies such as financial compensations, pensions, searching for the missing, and demand justice.
The use of Sigurimi stereotypes, does not go without strong debate. Recycling language of Sigurimi for one of the victims of Sigurimi ( Martin Camaj) generated 56 articles opposing it
The non-affected side of the society is understanding the false information and indoctrination they were subject to, and is feeling more empathy for the victims.
The perpetrators started to excuse a about their deed, even publicly, and we hope that they feel the human cost for their deeds.
Sigurimi Files Authority establishment triggered the creation of several non-public initiatives representing the affected families: Kujto.al, Memo, Wall Have Ears . Oral history collections, personal stories, memory places, are the object of their work.
Historians, thru new facts being exposed, are shedding more light on the 50 dark years. Censure and propaganda of the past are no longer taken as valid reference.
Narratives of dictatorship started to get more convergent.Also, the narratives of WW2 and before war, are being revisited and washed out of ideological lenses and censured sources.
International partner recognized the pending issues of dictatorship and started to address the coming to term with past, as in fact jeopardized the development of Albanian society and reforms to integration.
Often today people get divided on the communist past. But one thing is becoming clear for everyone: intolerance, violence and hate would no longer be the force for positive change.
But by enacting policies that address those differences and injustice of the past, people get closure, come to term with the past and move on to create a society without violence.
Now, let us move into our regional arena. we share the contemporary history together.
From the regional perspective and bloody wars after the dissolution of ex-Yugoslavia, we all see countries have antagonist narratives on what happened, and unacceptable stereotypes regarding the ethnicity. I am a strong believer that the coming to term with these violent events and what happened before and after, should be taken very very seriously at regional level, by a Regional Remembrance Project!
Let us make sure that secret police files of ex-Yugoslavia be opened for the public. especially as Yugoslavia is not a country anymore. This alone will catalyze a regional public debate on some reasons of division and hate among us and make the historical narratives of different Balkan countries come closer. It will also inform transitional justice policies, so they could be more effective, and be a force for positive peace.
Peace is not only the destination, but also the path (Gandi)
The Albanian version will be published soon.