By Telnis Skuqi –
Përmet – Calm prevailed in Përmet, a day after the riots. Orthodox believers were gone, while the private police “Aulona” had retaken the control of the “delivered” object. The Palace of Culture “Naim Frashëri” it’s been for a decade the cause of the conflict between Orthodox Church and the City Hall of Përmet. Both sides requires ownership. The Church says that the object belongs to them, while the local government claims to the contrary.
From the conflict with police
To resolve the conflict, both sides approached the judiciary. Justice spoked. The Constitutional Court “sealed” all in 2002. The church lost. Nearly 11 years later the battle resumed. The two-story building, once the pride of Përmet people, today has been the building of discord. Since three days, clergies and orthodox believers leaved no “stone” without moving. Excommunications, curses, punches and kicks were endless. One day church, one day police station. Both losers and winners. “The peak reached yesterday (19 August). Nearly 11:00, both sides were involved in a massive conflict. Clergies and believers of Përmet, supported by Gjirokastra and Saranda, ripped the tins, thrown the bricks beyond, broke up the private police barricades and in the twinkling of an eye they found themselves in facilities.
“The situation went out of control. There could have been casualties. State police intervened to save the heads of private police, while the believers did what they wanted”, says Arjan Xhani, journalist in Përmet. “Even in 1997 i haven’t seen such an event” he continues. Arjan tells briefly that the orthodox revolt abated after 15:00. Believers left one by one. “The building of Discord” was taken by private police in the extreme hours of the Tuesday morning.
Kastriot Bezhani, historian, today feels proud of what he did. He, followed by three friends, walked quietly in front of the
Kastriot Bezhani, historian
Palace of Culture. Where the conflict began, Bezhani was the director of Culture near the City Hall of Përmet, today retiree. I feel extremely relieved, starts the confession Bezhani, that justice finally took place. “It feels like justice is right next to me, we are talking and shaking hands, wishing me “Let’s enjoy the palace of culture”, says Bezhani, while he adds that he was not happy about the event of the day before. “The conflict was realized by some commanded believers. They were from all the southern regions. I think Greece have to do with this. They still have not removed the law of war”, says Bezhani.
For him, the Palace of Culture is a closed case since 11 years ago. “There are many beliefs in Përmet. . The religious harmony is excellent. The city wants the culture and the culture wants Përmet”, highlights Bezhani. Further more, the former director of culture says that he respects the believers, whether these are catholics or muslims. “I chosed to protect the Palace of Culture, because i know the story how it was raised. The object is not built on the foundations of the church as priests claims to be” specifies Bezhani, who feels proud of being excommunicated by the Orthodox Church. “I am quiet in my conscience. I haven’t been excommunicated by the Albanian Orthodox Church, but the Greek Orthodox Church. I never dazzled by threats or money. I love this nation, because I am an idealist. The Palace of Culture belongs to this community, Përmet citizens, muslims, orthodox or bektashi, whatever they are” ends the confession Bezhani.
Gilberto Jace, the mayor of Përmet
Gilberto Jaçe, the mayor of Përmet, was the only hope of resolving the several-day conflict. During the “troubles” he was not in duty, he “runaway” to Itali for business. Jace says while he were across the Adriatic Sea, he was informed by the media. “The Municipality of Përmet is responsible for public property, and also is responsible for the maintenance of life in the city. Our goal is to implement the law and there is no other solution than law” says Jaçe. According to him, Përmeti needs a cultural space, and religious communities off course. “Violence is not a dialogue. Përmeti is a city that can solve problems with understanding. The building is owned by the local government and nobody has the right to dispose”, says Jaçe.
The statement of the major of Përmet was not received well by Orthodox believers that were staying in front of the Palace of Culture. In tears, the believer Elefteria K., says that she has never experienced such an sadness in her life. “All the sinners will answer one day in front of God”, says Elefteria and then wipe her tears. Eleftheria does not believe that the Palace of Culture already will have a new “owner”. “I’ve been praying at this building for 10 years. Here I baptized my two children. Lord have mercy on sinners”, says Elefteria.
The Palace of Culture “Naim Frashëri” did stop functioning in 1997, thanks to a decision of the Commission of Property of the District of Përmet. Two-storied building was built 51 years ago, in 1962. After the World War II, at the land where is set the Palace of Culture and the city park, were living 30 families in shacks. In 1958 they moved, after the communist system developed a regulatory plan. In November 1962 the city park was inaugurated together with the Palace of Culture. The Constitutional Court in 2002 ruled in favor of the local government, but this subject was held forcibly by the Orthodox Church by 11 years. The Palace of Culture, with an area of 6000 meters square, figures with nr. of property 16/9, while the Enforcement Office has tried 15 times to execute the decision of the Constitutional Court, but was never realized.
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