Albanian Paedophile Rage

Many in Albania are demanding the death penalty for those who sexually abuse children.

Albanian Paedophile Rage

Many in Albania are demanding the death penalty for those who sexually abuse children.

Wednesday, 25 July, 2001

Police found Sh. Z. starved, bleeding and trussed up in his home in a southern Albanian village. "He was barely alive when we discovered him," said police chief Sokol Kanani. His family, it transpired, had left him like this, after he had been caught raping his six-year-old granddaughter.

The old man's wife had found him out, alerted by the child's screams. She started to hit him with her fists and whatever else came to hand. When she told her son, he beat his father to within his last breath. Too ashamed to go to the police, the family agreed to lock him in the house and leave him to die of hunger. First, his son and brother-in-law castrated him.

Paedophilia was unheard of under communism. When a British paedophile was arrested and extradited some years ago, people were shocked. It was the country's top story. For a nation with such deeply felt conservative family values, it was something citizens found hard to accept.

Of course, paedophilia has always been around, but was something that was never reported in the past. Now, with greater press freedoms, it is frequently the subject of press attention. Cases always hit the headlines and fuel a terrific public response. Last year, hundreds of Albanians turned up for the funeral of a nine-year-old boy kidnapped, raped and murdered by an Italian paedophile.

The crude castration of Sh .Z left him close to death. His life hung in the balance for several days. When he seemed fit enough to leave hospital, the police drove him back home but his wife wouldn't have him near the place. They took him back to the hospital and at that stage Kanani says he was still unsure whether to arrest father or son. "The old man denied everything," he said." and he accused his son of attacking him."

Three days later, Sh. Z appeared in court charged with abuse of a minor in the family. He faced a possible five-year stretch in prison. As the trial came to an end, the defendant's wife urged the judge to send him to jail. "Don't bring him home because I won't allow him in," she pleaded.

When the news came out that he had been sentenced to three-years imprisonment, public reaction to the headlines were unanimous. "Justice at last," agreed one couple as they picked up the newspaper.

Sh. Z. knows that his real problems will probably start after his release. He'll never be able to go back to his village. By then, he'll be almost eighty, frightened and alone with no one to return to. Neither is it over for the family. His daughter was so distraught over the affair that she attempted to commit suicide by swallowing pesticide. Her neighbours found her and rushed her to hospital.

Much research has now been carried out into child abuse and its causes. One report estimated that 11 per cent of children suffer sexual abuse. "Persons who have suffered sexual abuse as children suffer the consequences for the rest of their lives - they are introverted, find it difficult to talk to others, even their peers," said psychologist Edmond Dragoti.

As for the perpetrators of these crimes, the normal reaction is straightforward here, "How can you punish such persons with prison sentences? They should be hanged."

Karolina Risto is a journalist with the Albanian newspaper Gazeta Shqiptare.

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