måndag 18 januari 2016

“It is not because we have more guns”

According to data collected by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, homicides in Albania spiked in 2010 and have stayed high ever since. “It is not because we have more guns,” said Artan Hoxha, a statistician and dean of the Business University of Tirana. “Guns are a constant.”

Ask people across Albania why so many of their countrymen settle their differences at gunpoint, and they’ll tell you about the Kanun — an ancient, violent set of customs that rural Albania reverted after the fall of the communist regime. Its entrenched tradition of blood feuds between families and the absence of adequate law enforcement brought back a culture of lawlessness, violence and fear.

For half a millennium until 1912, Albania was a province of the Ottoman Empire. Despite extracting taxes and conscripting boys as janissaries — the empire’s elite shock troops — Constantinople had done little to enforce law and order. Instead, communities developed their own laws, known as the Kanun. Without a stronger state presence to keep the peace, people relied on principles of honor to maintain social cohesion. The most famous element of Kanun law are the blood feuds, known as Gjakmarrja, which dictate the circumstances under which murder must be committed in order to maintain family honor.

This article was corrected to remove reference to the castration of janissaries.