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Albanian Diaspora in Turkey

Kosovo Albanians and Albanians in general were the most loyal subjects of the Ottoman Empire. Guards of Sultans were always chosen amongst Albanians for their courage and loyalty. It is used to be told in Turkey that when Abdulhamit II finally gave in and declared the Second Constitutional Monarchy (Mesrutiyet) in 1908, he did it only when he heard about the Albanian revolt in Kosovo village Verisovic (Ferisaj). When Albanians revolted, this meant the end for the Sultan. Turkish-Albanian relations are strongly rooted in history. Albanian presence on Anatolian soil goes back as early as 15th century. A considerable number of Albanians from Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo immigrated in Turkey following conjectural crises since 1913 when the Ottoman rule ended in the Balkans. The most significant aspect of the Albanian Diaspora in Turkey is that they have neither social nor political problem with the Turkish majority. Surprising etymological resemblances between Albanian and Turkish languages, though from different linguistic families, facilitated for the second and third Albanian generations to be perfectly assimilated into the Turkish society. Today there are 14 Albanian and Kosovo Albanian associations only in Istanbul. There are also others in Izmir, Bursa, Adapazari and Adana. All of these lead exclusively social and cultural activities. One exception is the Kosovo Association founded in 1994 with clear political objectives. According to Deputy President of the Association, they aim “to follow Kosovo policy of Turkish parliament and government”. In this regard, the Association organises meetings with Turkish parliamentarians, ministers and high officials, and also prepares press reviews and dossiers about the Kosovo question. As early as 1994, the Representative of Kosovo Republic in Turkey (RKRT) was founded. This institution had the mission to link Albanian Diaspora and political milieus close to Ibrahim Rugova’s Democratic League of Kosovo. At the end of February 1998, according to the RKRT’s estimation, 3000 Kosovo Albanian refugees arrived in Turkey. With the beginning of the NATO intervention by the end of March 1999, Turkey welcomed a number of refugees from Kosovo as high as 20.000. It is also known that almost 60 soldiers of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UÇK), seriously wounded, had treatment in private hospitals in Istanbul. During this period, Albanian Diaspora in Turkey led intense political activities, such as lobbying with Turkish press, authorities and public opinion. Demonstrations were organised in Istanbul especially in 1998 and in March 1999 on the eve of the NATO intervention in Kosovo. Once the second Kosovo war ended, those refugees returned home. However it is estimated that today almost every Kosovo Albanian family has a relative in Turkey.