In honor of the sacrifice, suffering and resistance of Albanian activists in our country and beyond, in remembrance of the patriotic work of the organizers and participants of the 1968 flag demonstrations in Tetovo, the University of Tetova in the jubilee year, their 50th anniversary, organized the Symposium with the topic: “1968, the challenge of national identity of Albanians of Macedonia”. At the official opening of the symposium, the Rector of the University of Tetova, Prof. Dr. Vullnet Ameti, in addressed the participants, said that taking part in this historic event is a privilege, more so when among us are present witnesses who came from all our ethnic lands to mark this important date dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the flag demonstrations in Tetovo.
“History tells us that our nation’s resistance to the invading, oppressive and genocidal enemies’ efforts includes various dates and years. One of these dates is obviously the December 22, 1968, the date of the flag demonstrations in the city of Tetovo. The 1968 demonstrations remain a significant event in the political history of Albanians of Macedonia. This event really marks the most dignified response to a system that in essence was against the Albanian being, against the symbolism that identifies Albanians as a nation with identity and a sensational story. This year, Tetovo citizens demonstrated their national will and the affirmation of their historical and cultural identity, thus marking their awakening, an awakening that will come through many intellectual figures, as well as the youth of the time, who without hesitation was set in defense of national dignity, in defense of the flag, raised by the activists of that time. Fifty years after the demonstrations in Tetovo, we believe that historical distances have been created to see this event from a wider context, using different information from the media of that time and with various archive documents. According to scholars, the demonstrations broke out after several years of accumulation of the revolt against Yugoslav violent regime regarding the Albanians. The riots were not accidental”, said Prof. Dr. Vullnet Ameti.
He added that Tetovo has never lacked the national spirit and is known as a resistance center to pan-Slavic ideas. “Collective memory had deposited bitter memories of a previous period, especially since the early years of the communist regime, when many Albanians were executed without trial, many were sentenced to heavy prison or forced to leave and seek political asylum in different countries. Our University, in this jubilee year, has tried to pay attention to this historic event, so through the organization of this symposium and the scientific contributions that will be presented to the well-known scholars, we hope to reveal unknown data up to now for the broader opinion. Today, by marking of this date, we rejoice in honor of the work, the sacrifice of the organizers, before the suffering of the Albanian prisoners, we express from our hearts the eternal gratitude and praise for the determination and the titanic mission in the service of advancing our national cause”, said among others the Rector of the University of Tetova, Prof. Dr. Vullnet Ameti.
Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Tetova, Prof. Dr. Ibish Kadriu, the Tetovo demonstrations that broke out on December 22, 1968, assessed them as one of the most marked events of the resistance of the Albanians, which were in defense of the national flag from the violation that was provoked and setup by the people of the previous system. “These demonstrations in Tetovo, which were the most open manifestation of the Albanian revolt, were oppressed by the regime of the time, with murder, violence, imprisonment, mass persecution, but it could not break the resisting will of Albanians. The ugly face of the past regime was unfortunately demonstrated in Tetovo on December 17, 1994 when the foundations of the University of Tetova were laid. The establishment of this hub of knowledge has remained a story of dignity of Albanian resistance”, said Prof. Dr. Ibish Kadriu.
Coordinator of this scientific symposium, Prof. Dr. Musa Musai, said that this event of scientific-memorial character is organized on the aurora of a contribution of a constellation of people who have sacrificed for the Albanian nation. “This constellation chose to replace personal comfort with collective concerns, to move from the goal of living for their families to a livelihood for a family called the nation; so at least what we can do is to remember the great work of that generation which raised the image of the “demonstration” of the willpower, the individual sacrifice, the sacrifice for the nation. At this symposium titled “1968, the Challenge of Albanian National Identity in Macedonia”, we have 20 distinguished scholars who will contribute to shed light on this historic event for Albanians of Macedonia”, said Prof. Dr. Musa Musai.
The thematic paper devoted to the demonstrations of 1968 was introduced by Fadil Lushi, who characterized these demonstrations with four pairs of stories. “The first story is the story of praise, this story was built by all participants of that time, young men, intellectuals, farmers, burghers and noble peasant, headed by the icon of Tetovo consciousness, Uncle Memetriza Murtezani, nicknamed Gega. The second story of these demonstrations, the story of the accusation, was built by the ruling class of that time, and the capital punishment passed on Uncle Memetriza Murtezani – Gega. The third story is the story of forgetfulness, the story of forgetfulness was written by ourselves, the participants themselves and some historians who didn’t dare to say a word about these stories, even if they were right, who knows, and the fourth story is the story of Albanian collaborationists, after the demonstrations were completed, they willingly and openly agreed to collaborate with the authorities for the persecution of Albanians.
In order to end my passage, I will also paraphrase a saying about an ancient expression: Making a laurel wreath is easy, but deserving such a laurel wreath is very difficult. And, if I had a laurel wreath today, I would give it to this temple that emits light, knowledge, peace, and above all emits love, especially this laurel wreath in particular I would give it to the sentinel of this unconquerable fortress, your respected rector, my friend Vullnet Ameti and his honored staff who found the courage to organize a scientific symposium dedicated to all people who in 1968, demanded the delayed freedom of this occupied homeland.
In the end, in the time when in this building the construction works were about to end I met a carpenter who was fitting the last doors in this building I asked him: dear craftsman, why these doors have no keys, and he reminds me: these doors do not need keys because these doors will never be shut, so you dear lecturers, you who have sons and daughters, you dear students, make sure these doors are never shut down”, said Mr. Fadil Lushi.
In this activity, Prof. Dr. Zeqirija Rexhepi read the congratulatory telegram of Pan-Albanian Organization “Vatra” from America, which states: “Albanian patriotism has never harmed the one who lives with us or with us but has had a journey and a goal that Albanians as European people do not differ from others. This was also seen on December 22, 1968, when the Albanians went out on the street, initially spontaneously, and then organized, to protect their dignity, the flag, their right to education, equality in employment and everything that belongs to a European people. You have many historians who know better the details of these demonstrations and I am convinced that the University of Tetova has the potential to reveal the truth. By using the right methods of scientific research in history, our federation wants to disclose this not well-documented event, that needs the cooperation of other Balkan universities”, says the congratulatory telegram of the Pan-Albanian Organization “Vatra” from America.
In honor of the national activity, the Rector of the University of Tetova, Prof. Dr. Vullnet Ameti shared some gifts with the portrait of the founder – The First Historical Rector of UT, Prof. Dr. Fadil Sulejmani, for the activists Fadil Lushi, Shpëtim Pollozhani, Hydajet Hyseni and Çun Lajçi. Also, the Rector, on the occasion of marking the 50th anniversary of the flag demonstrations, to the participants and the organizers, gave letters of gratitude for the national contribution in organizing and supporting the 1968 demonstrations in Tetovo.
The opening of this symposium was concluded with a recital by the people’s artist, Çun Lajçi and the performing of the song “Fryn murrlani me stuhi”” by the students of the Faculty of Arts of the University of Tetova. At this scientific symposium, with their works were presented renowned scholars from our country, the Republic of Kosovo, the Republic of Albania and other ethnic Albanian regions.