Translation in English and notes by the Macedonian League
To achieve this, the Albanian Parliament voted and passed a law in 2015 to declassify all communist-era secret police files. In December of 2016, procedures were launched for the establishment of an independent body which will be in charge of the application process for those interested in accessing these files. Priority will first be given to applications submitted by researchers and family members of those targetted by the Sigurimi.
Albania is one of the last of the former communist countries in Europe to open the files of its communist-era secret service. There has been major resistance in the country - especially in socialist circles - because many people involved with the Sigurimi are still alive and fear that there will be reprisals, including murder of those who will be outed. Up until 1991, all Albanian families had at least one (and in many cases two members unaware of the other) who were forced to secretly spy on their family for the Sigurimi. Even a minor infraction often had dire consequences.
Every facet of political and social life of communist Albania since 1944, under the leadership of Enver Hoxha's regime up until the system's collapse in 1990-1991, was controlled by the Sigurimi. More than 100,000 people were forced into labor camps, some 20,000 languished in inhumane conditions in prisons and an estimated 6,000 people were executed or disappeared. Among the victims, many were from the large ethnic Greek minority in southern Albania. The opening of the Sigurimi archives has not only garnered special interest in Albania's Greek minority regions, but also from Greeks around the world.
Albanian government officials have stated that the Sigurimi archives consist of millions of pages of documents and tens of thousands of files on specific individuals. But, they also expressed concerns about the completeness of the information found in each file as many top-secret documents were destroyed in 1990-1991 by Enver Hoxha loyalists and again in the spring of 1997 when citizens ransacked government buildings in the uprisings during the pyramid scandal that rocked Albania.
Although Albanian politicians often accuse one another of having cooperated with the Sigurimi prior to its collapse in 1991, very few have had the courage to come clean.
"The files contain top secret information on many Albanians. By opening them, it will finally put an end to those who take advantage of that era's spying apparatus in order to accuse, exploit and manipulate others for personal gain", said Ardit Bido, the head of the Albanian National Archives, the institution responsible for protecting and managing all types of paper archives.
Historians and experts are looking forward to exposing the dark aspects of the communist regime. But, more importantly, relatives are looking for closure for their loved ones who were either imprisoned, executed or disappeared. The information that will be revealed will undoubtedly cause consternation for many.
"There is a hope that the opening of the Sigurimi files will help to eliminate the evil that continues to poison Albanian society", expressed Albanian poet Ismail Kadare. He likened the Sigurimi era and its aftermath to an abscess (the accumulation of pus that has been built up in the body) and the removal of which, however painful it may be, to be done surgically and swift.
Notes: Enver Hoxha (i), Sigurimi (ii), Greek Minority in Albania (iii)