Don’t Even Think It
I was arrested in 1974 because the state security service found my university diaries and their contents were judged to contain agitation and propaganda against the regime. But those diaries had never been published and no one other than myself had even read them. Nevertheless, I purposefully hid them because I knew that I might be arrested if they were found. –Fatos Lubonja
When communism fell in Albania and a few records of the Hoxha-era secret police, the Sigurimi, were opened, it was found that approximately every third person in Albania had either been interned in labor camps or interrogated by the Sigurimi.
The state security organization, tasked with preventing counter-revolution and suppressing opposition to the regime, infiltrated everywhere. Parents were afraid to speak their minds in case their children spoke of what they heard at home. Family members turned each other in for offenses such as listening to foreign radio broadcasts. All media; books, films, television, and newspapers were censored, with censorship resting in the Sigurimi. They monitored phone calls and ran the prison camps.
Some prisoners entering camps were greeted with a paraphrased version of a quote from the Albanian Interior Minister, “One-third of those entering here will be destroyed physically. One-third will be destroyed psychically. And one-third will become my spies.”
The Sigurimi were everywhere.
The secrecy surrounding the activities of the Sigurimi is perpetuated still today. Although some documents have been released, many have not. Human rights organizations continue to agitate for the release of the Hoxha-era records so that the Sigurimi’s victims can obtain some form of closure, but the Albanian government fights these attempts, with the intention of keeping the Sigurimi files secret in perpetuity. Some experts also believe that many of the files have already been destroyed.
But even releasing the communist-era files has been fraught with its own form of terror. The Sigurimi were able to retain their iron grip on Albania because so many Albanians, often under threat and torture, passed them information.
“…opening the files, in my personal opinion, is tricky. It’s not a good thing. The reason is that if you look at the files, there are cases where a brother spied on his brother,” said former Sigurimi officer Nesti Vako.
To read more about Enver Hoxha’s rise to power and his rule in Albania, please click here.
- May 26, 2021