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Balkan Egyptians finalise week in Tirana, calling for Egypt's recognition
Published in Daily News Egypt on 25 - 06 - 2018

Tirana, Albania – On Monday, the Egyptian community in the Balkans finalised the activities of their week with a conference that was held in Tirana, Albania. The final activity was attended by several leaders and activists of the Egyptian community from Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro, and other diaspora Egyptians, including Veton Berisha, member of Kosovo's parliament and head of the Egyptian Liberal Party in Kosovo, and Rivelino Cuni, representative of an Egyptian political party in Albania.
Nour El-Din Al-Tamimi, responsible for the file of Balkan Egyptians in the Supreme Council of Culture, represented Egypt at the conference, as Zahi Hawass, Egyptian archaeologist and former minister of antiquities, who led the Egyptian delegation, departed on Saturday night.
During his speech, Al-Tamimi said that he is communicating with "high officials in the Egyptian state" and institutions regarding the situation of Balkan Egyptians, adding that he has been working on the issue since 2013 with Berisha, as well as Rubin Zemon, adviser to the Macedonian minister of culture and head of the Egyptian community in Macedonia.
"If the Egyptian state is not keen on this file, I'd never be here, but I tell you that President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is very much keen on this file. I'm not working alone, I have many colleagues with me on the issue," said Al-Tamimi.
Zhaneta Veizaj, from the Egyptian community in Albania, said, "we are here for hundreds of years now, so it's important for us that Egypt recognise us. The problem is that we have in Albania mixed NGOs with the Aromanian people. We have zones where names of Egyptians who came from Egypt, and the state of Albania was not interested in us. If we feel like we are Egyptians, we must work together, and Veton took the first step for the community to know each other."
"We have a lot of intellectual people with master's degrees, bachelor's, people who can argue about who we are. We are 900,000 people in the Egyptian community in Albania," Veizaj added.
She told Daily News Egypt that she has read about Egypt's political and cultural issues from the news, and some Egyptian history, like the era of Muhammad Ali Pasha. In 1928, the king of Egypt at the time, Fouad I, discussed the issue of Albanian Egyptians with Zog I, the former king of Albania who refused to return the Egyptians, as they were working specific jobs like iron smelting, which was important for Albania.
Gentian Serjani, member of the community in Albania, explained during the discussions why the community is not integrated in Albania, saying it is because of the lack of political representation and leaders. He also requested the attendees to provide suggestions to unify Balkan Egyptians.
Zhaneta Veizaj, from the Egyptian com- munity in Albania, said, "we are here for hundreds of years now, so it's impor- tant for us that Egypt recognise us. The problem is that we have in Albania mixed NGOs with the Aromanian people. We have zones where names of Egyptians who came from Egypt, and the state of Albania was not interested in us. If we feel like we are Egyptians, we must work together, and Veton took the first step for the community to know each other."
"We have a lot of intellectual people with master's degrees, bachelor's, people who can argue about who we are. We are 900,000 people in the Egyptian com- munity in Albania," Veizaj added.
She told Daily News Egypt that she has read about Egypt's political and cul-
tural issues from the news, and some Egyptian history, like the era of Muham- mad Ali Pasha. In 1928, the king of Egypt at the time, Fouad I, discussed the issue of Albanian Egyptians with Zog I, the for- mer king of Albania who refused to re- turn the Egyptians, as they were working specific jobs like iron smelting, which was important for Albania.
Gentian Serjani, member of the com- munity in Albania, explained during the discussions why the community is not integrated in Albania, saying it is because of the lack of political representation and leaders. He also requested the attendees to provide suggestions to unify Balkan Egyptians.
Brejdon Xhavara, an Albanian journal- ist, asked Al-Tamimi about the results of his work on the issue for about five years, adding, "when someone from the Alba-
nian majority asks us, ‘who are you?' We say we have our culture but our culture is an Albanian culture."
For his part, Rubin Zemon, the special adviser of Macedonia prime minister for multicultural society and inter-cultural relations, told Daily News Egypt, "this year's week events, related with a Day of Balkan Egyptians, had a new dimension brought with a pres- ence of very important people from Egypt: Zahi Hawass, Nour Al-Tamimi, and a journalist from the newspaper Daily News Egypt.This is first time Bal- kan Egyptian people have such an hon- our for their celebration." He added that it was not only that "the high-level guests from Egypt were present, but very fruitful discussions were made for improving of the future cultural, scien- tific, and economic cooperation between Egypt and Balkan states, and for starting some important joint projects for fostering the relations between the people in Egypt and the community of Balkan Egyptians."
Zemon added that this year, Balkan Egyptians Day was celebrated every- where where it was possible and where human and logistical circumstances were achieved.
He also said he believes that this week was very successful because "we turned a new page of the history of a movement of Balkan Egyptians, with a first concrete step in developing of rela- tions with people of authority in Egypt," expressing pleasure at meeting the Egyp- tian guests, to be their host in Macedonia, and to show them some of important artefacts of Egyptians cultural heritage in the country.


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