A commemoration to Ismail Qemali

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times January 24, 2019 20:28

A commemoration to Ismail Qemali

By Sonja Methoxha


“However, God desired, that with the work, the unmatched bravery and courage of the Albanians, from today on the misfortunes and sufferings of our Motherland will cease, here and thus, we are Free, Independent and by Ourselves, that is why you should laugh and cheer!”

Ismail Qemali told these words to anticipating Albanians the night of Nov. 28, 1912, right after he and 42 delegates signed the Declaration of Independence. This line is part of his speech pitched to the Albanian public in Vlore, as he was preparing to raise the red flag with the black double-headed eagle at the balcony of his cousin’s Xhemil Bej Vlora’s house. In that house were held the first referendum prior signing the declaration with the delegators, and other meetings decisive of Albania’s future. The house was destroyed during WWI, and it is turned to the Flag’s Square.

Albania however, was recognized as an autonomous state by the Great Powers later in 1913 at the London Conference. First, the great powers decided to recognize Albania as an autonomous state under the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire on May 1913, but with the persistence of the delegates and the break out of the Balkan Wars in July 1913, the Great Powers decided to recognize the total independence and autonomy of the Republic of Albania.

Later after the declaration of independence on Dec. 4, 1912 a provisional government and senate were established to which Qemali served as prime minister until Jan. 1914. He became the first known prime minister after the declaration of independence, however. He also served as Minister of Foreign Affairs, holding the position until the Great Powers recognized the full independence of Albania, leaving office in June 1913. Thus, it can be said that apart of all the events around the Balkans, he also played a key role in lobbying for Albania’s sovereignty at the London Conference.

Ismail Qemali isn’t only the establisher of the Albanian Nation for simply authoring and being the first to sign the declaration of indepence. Qemali also was on of the people who gave a hand in stirring revolts against the Ottoman Empire in Albanian territories. According to publicist, intellectual and delegate Mid’hat Frasheri, Qemali has been traveling around Europe seeking support from the great powers in declaring the autonomy of Albania. He received support from Austro-Hungary, Romania and Italy. However, when Qemali arrived in Durres, he saw that Albanians were already in unison for overthrowing the Ottoman invaders.

In an alleged secret meeting held on Nov. 18 between Qemali and Bertchold, it was implied that Austro-Hungary would support Albania’s independence but not its autonomy. Meaning that Albania would still somehow be under a control from the Empire. That is why some voices later said that Albania was a creation of Austria. However, Qemali only got the help he would receive and diplomatically refuse to sacrifice Albania’s autonomy.

Qemali lived very shortly in Albania. He was an exile from the Ottoman Empire. He was born in 1844 in Vlore, from an old, traditional and rich family in Vlore. In 1847 the Vlora clan made an insurgency against the Tanzimat, which led to their exile. The men were sent in camps in Konje, whereas women and children in Thessaloniki. While there Ismail Qemali went to primary school and learned Turkish. In 1852 he returned to Vlore where he received an education by private tutors and his parents. In 1855 he was registered at Zosimea high school in Ioannina, graduating in 1859.

In 1860 he went to Istanbul staying with family members. A cousin found him a translator’s work position at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs there while he was studying for Law and Justice. This is where Ismail Qemali’s long career at the Ottoman Empire’s administration starts. After he finishes his studies, he gets assigned in 1868 as director of the Judicial Office in Sofia, Bulgaria (being under Ottoman invasion then). In 1870 he served as director of the European Commision of Danube, as an Ottoman delegate.

Later he was assigned as Vali in Varna, for the harbor project. From 1873-6 he served as private secretary to Mid’hat Pasha, who was then assigned as Minister of Justice in Istanbul. In 1876 he was assigned general secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, staying there was a year, which gave him a substantial knowledge as to how the Ottoman Empire works. While there he started showing Albanian nationalistic sentiments, which almost sent him to an internment camp in Anadolou. Turkish administration pressured the Sultan to send him as Vali in Turkey’s Bolou district, in which he served from 1884 until his resignation in 1890.

However, he was later sent as Vali in Beirut where he found his friend Vaso Pasha, who later died. We have to stress that in 1892 Qemali sent an extensive memorandum to Sultan Abdul Hamid on liberal reformations for Rumelia. Qemali had also written a number of liberal articles for Ottoman newspapers. He had also served as counselor to Sultan Hamid and other viziers.

In 1900 he was assigned as Vali in Tripoli, but considering the various commotions against his name, he escaped in May of the year. For this, the Sultan sentenced him to death on absence from his position. He was taken under the protectorate of the British. For eight year Qemali traveled in Europe, met Faik Konica, directed the publication of Albania magazine in Brussels, represented Albanians in a 1902 Congress in Paris, and in 1908 he returned home.

He kept contacts with all his connoisseurs. In Dec. 1908 he was elected deputy for Berat. Together with other deputies from Albanian territories they formed the National Movement for the decentralization of the Ottoman Empire from the Albanian territories. Historian Paskal Milo writes in article for Panorama newspaper that the Qemali’s contribution took a heavier weight after the fall of the League of Prizren.

“Albanians started to see clearly and to consider the new situation created in Balkans, as well as the danger threatening their nation,’’ has written Qemali in his diaries.

What he means is that the Ottoman Empire was obviously weakening, and both the Great Powers would intervene after its fall to absorb its previously invaded territories. There was a revolution from the Young Turks in 1908 which inspired armed revolts in all invaded territories in Balkans. Albanian uprisings started by 1910-1. A general revolt exploded early 1912, and Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro and Romania declared war to the Ottoman Empire, outsing all its soldiers from their territories.

The Ottoman soldiers left were situated in Albanian territories. Ismail Qemali was already the voice the Great Powers have heard for the past two years in asking support for Albania’s autonomy. Serbian soldiers were approaching the Albanian territories, so the Albanians had to work fast and declare autonomy prior to any potential interference from the Serbians and other Balkan countries. Declaring the Independence and the ousting of the Ottomans by the Albanian soldiers during the armed uproar, sent the message that this is an autonomous state, no longer under the Ottoman domination.

Qemali had already declared to the Great Powers that Albania was going to declare itself independent. Before returning to Albania from Trieste, he sent telegrams to 83 delegates, but only 43 managed to arrive on Nov. 28. The rest came later. He also sent telegrams to Tirana and Elbasan to declare the independence and raise the flag on Nov. 26, so the Serbians would receive the message that this is an independent, autonomous republic.

As mentioned, he became the first prime minister, his government established in its first act Albania’s Armed Forces on Dec. 4, 1912. He protected Albania and its autonomy in the face of the Great Power’s and their belittling to our country. He protected the government and gave his contribution as a European visionary and experienced statesman. He tried to absorb the other Albanian territories of Kosovo, Tetovo, Montenegro and Greece, through diplomacy, even though those projects remained suspended.

Even after his leaving of the administration, he never ceased to protect Albania’s autonomy, seek support and hold international conferences concerning our identity and Nation. Even though he died under mysterious circumstances in 1919 in Perugia, he was there under an official invitation from the Italian government for cooperation.

Today Jan. 24, 2019, marks the 100th anniversary of Qemali’s passing. 2019 also marks the 175th anniversary of his birth as well. Even though the circumstances of his death still remain a mystery, through the years more documents upon the weight of his positive contribution are resurfacing. Qemali is truly the father of this nation, and we owe to his and other men’s bravery for declaring the independence of this country.

Throughout 2019 the National History Museum and other institutions will be organizing activities dedicated to Ismail Qemali’s figure. The first event starts at the National History Museum on Jan. 28 with “Journey- Ismail Qemali through years,” a scientific round table exhibition which will focus on Qemali’s role and activities on the Albanian issue.


Tirana Times
By Tirana Times January 24, 2019 20:28