Area 16: The fight in South Albania (conclusion)

  1. Bektashi tekke of Gjirokastër (S/T Collection, Leiden)
  2. Bektashi holy man, 1913 (A. Kahn Museum, Paris)
  3. Gjirokastër Citadel (S/T Collection, Leiden)
  4. Corfu harbour (S/T Collection, Leiden)

Bektashi tekkes were regularly used as barracks by the comitadjis, as happened with the Asim Baba tekke of Gjirokastër (A). In this tekke, which is combination of a cloister and a lodge, Bektashi sufis gathered. The Bektashi sufi order, which was very influential in South Albania, preaches a remarkable teaching that combines shamanistic, jewish and christian customs with muslim traditions. The headdress of Bektashi babas (B), a position similar to Freemason Masters and religious abbots, has twelve folds. They represent the twelve imams of Shia Islam, but also refer to the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles of Christianity. At 15% of the population, Bektashis are the third largest religious community of Albania, after the Sunni (more than 50%) and the Eastern Orthodox (20%) but ahead of the Roman Catholics (10%). This Sufi order was a unifiying factor between muslims and christians. Bektashis played a leading role in the fight for Albania’s independence. For that reason, the order was targeted by comitadjis. The Dutch officers had no idea of those spiritual and political relationships in Albania, however.

At the end of February 1914, a provisional government of North Epirus was formed in Gjirokastër/Argyrokastro (C), under the leadership of Georghios Christaki Zographos. Zographos, who had been Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, declared that the North Epirotes would fight on, despite the (formal) opposition of the Greek government, which gave priority to its claims on islands in the Aegean Sea. Zu Wied immediately attempted to calm tensions in South Albania. He appointed Thomson as government commissar and sent him to Corfu in March (D) to negotiate with representatives of Zographos in order to create the conditions for the establishment of Albanian-Greek administrations in Korçë/Koritza and Gjirokastër/Argyrokastro. In those districts, however, the conflict flared up again; at the same time, Thomson was accused by the government in Durrës of having made too many concessions to Zographos. On 17 May, an agreement was finally reached on Corfu, but just before the First World War started, the rebellion against Durrës reshuffled the cards.