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Albanians in the Republic of Macedonia
The Albanians in the Republic of Macedonia are mostly situated in the western half of the Republic. The largest Albanian communities live in Tetovo, Skopje, Gostivar, Dibra, KŽrcova , Struga and Kumanovo. In 1944 the current western half of the Republic was part of Albania until it became part of Yugoslavia. The Albanians are the second largest population group in the Republic of Macedonia and comprise 20 percent of the population, after the majority Macedonians, about 65 percent of the population. The remaining 15 percent of the population are a combination of Turks, Vlachs and Roma.
Although there are a few Christian Orthodox villages due to cultural diffusion between the Slavic Macedonian and Albanian populations, the Albanians of the Republic of Macedonia are overwhelmingly Muslim and are also united in their language (Albanian). They retain both a cultural and economic identity with Albania. The agriculture sector of Albanians in the Republic of Macedonia is progressively developing despite poor soil quality, little industrial infrastructure, and a serious lack of job opportunities since 1981 due to large scale dismissal firings by authorities that has led to 40 percent of Albanian workers operating abroad. The Albanian minority argues that the Macedonian majority under the new constitution dominates the army, police, judiciary system, economy and the government. They also complain of difficulty in obtaining jobs and licenses due bias in government regulation.
The Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD), led by Party President Abdurrahman Haliti , is the largest Albanian party in the Republic of Macedonia and is the third largest party in terms of representatives in the Macedonian Parliament. The Party for Democracy of Albanians in Macedonia (PPDSH) is led by Party President Arben Xhaferi and is the second largest Albanian party in the country and broke off from the PPD. The main PPDSH support comes from the cities of Tetovo and Gostivar. The People's Democratic Party (PDP - Partia Demokratike Popullore/Narodna Demokratska Partija) led by Party President Iljaz Halimi is one of the first Albanian parties to form after opposition was legalized. Like the PPDSH, the PDP is considered a right-wing party. Under the current law of Macedonia any Albanian candidate trying to become a member of the parliament must receive 3 times as many votes cast in his favor as a Slavic Macedonian candidate in order to win an election. The Albanian populace in Macedonia see a change in the election laws as impossible because over 25% of the Albanian population who have lost their citizenship since the Republicís independence, and all Albanians who work abroad are unable to vote.
"The position of the Democratic Party of Albanians in Macedonia (DPA) is that the crisis is an interethnic one, because it raises issues that have to do with the position of Albanians in the social system. The crisis in Macedonia is not a spillover from Kosova, as many observers initially surmised, and credit for this should be given to the Albanian political factors in Kosova, Albania, and Macedonia who condemned violence as a means of expressing political dissatisfaction. Nevertheless, this does not change the inherently ethnic character of the conflict." -Arben Xhaferi
In the 1950ís and 60ís during the tenure of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia interior minister Aleksander Rankovic , more than 450,000 Albanians were deported to Turkey. Tens of thousands were tortured and an all out genocide of Albanians took place in well-populated cities like Shkup (Skopje) and Monastir (Bitola). Today Albanians complain that their houses are destroyed and that the Macedonian police have a policy of verbal and sometimes physical intimidation towards ethnic Albanians. Under the current constitution Albanian citizens are technically protected, although this is alleged to be false in practice. The hostility and ethnic tension between the Albanian and Slavic Macedonian population in everyday life prior to Independence is nothing compared to the drastic change after 1992. Although Albanians compose around 40% of population of the Republic of Macedonia, by changing the Macedonian constitution and revoking all national rights of non-Slavic Macedonians, the modern Republic's government contends that Albanians are only a minority population in the Republic and therefore are not allowed to complain of inequality.
In January 1992, the Albanians organized a successful referendum on territorial autonomy. The Slavic Macedonian government claimed this was an attempt to secede and began a crackdown by declaring the referendum illegal. The Council of Albanian Political Parties in the Former Yugoslavia , an organization that represents ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia proper and the Republic of Macedonia, promptly decided that autonomy would only be a possibility for Albanians in the Republic of Macedonia if other democratic efforts failed to procure political and cultural rights. The three most debilitating circumstances for Albanians in the Republic of Macedonia currently are lack of rights under the constitution; coupled with harsh taxes, poor education - due to the use of the Slavic-Macedonian language in all legal universities (the Albanian university in Tetovo is considered illegal by the government) and the alleged harassment and racism organized by the state. Albanians in the Republic of Macedonia suffer from restrictions in voting, education, employment, defense, housing conditions, and participation in cultural activities that include alleged methods of suppression such as torture, kidnapping, and illegal detainment both by the Republic's own laws and international standards. These issues must be reversed if any economic or social recovery is to take place - not just for the Albanian minority, but for the other minorities in the Republic and the Slavic Macedonian majority as well. These changes must go hand in hand with a new constitution acknowledging and accepting the multiple ethnicities and religions in the Republic of Macedonia if a cessation to the current hostilities is to take place.
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