An Albanian liberation movement that has the goal of establishing the "Republic of Ilirida;" a subgroup called "Unikom" and its activities, particularly near Sturga (1990-1999) [MCD33552.E]

For recent information on the situation and treatment of ethnic Albanians, see MCD32950.E of 20 October 1999 and MCD32944.E of 15 October 1999.

In the early 1990s there were several reports of movements promoting autonomy for ethnic Albanians. In January 1992, ethnic Albanians voted "in favour of territorial and political autonomy for their community" following the national referendum which favoured independence for Macedonia (Political Handbook 1998, 562). According to the Political Handbook of the World, 99.9 percent were in favour (ibid.), while Owen Bennett Jones, using information from Radio Free Europe, states that "in January 1992, over a quarter of a million Albanians voted in a referendum and a 74 percent majority favoured 'territorial autonomy for Albanians in Macedonia.' The government denied the validity of the poll" (Apr. 1994, 4.2).

An article published in The Washington Quarterly in 1998 states that ethnic Albanians not only voted in favour of autonomy, but actually "declared the autonomy of the "Republic of Ilirida" in western Macedonia, as a preliminary step toward union with Albania."

There were several reports in the early 1990s concerning the demand for a separate Albanian state called Ilirida, although it is not always clear which group, if any, the activists represented.

According to RFE,

In the decisive winter months of 1991 to 1992 Albanian radicals in Western Macedonia organized a referendum on a separate Albanian republic ("Ilirida"), while the two more moderate Albanian parties--- ... [the PDP and the NDP]--seemed to be in favour of secession. The horrifying effects of the ethnoreligious war in Bosnia brought about a change, however. In the summer of 1992 both Albanian parties joined a coalition government ... (RFE/RL 28 Jan. 1994, 38).

In April 1992 a PDP deputy was "sued" by MPs and criminal proceedings were launched for telling a rally in the western Macedonian town of Struga that ethnic Albanians intended to form the state of Ilirida within Macedonian territory (Tanjug 7 Apr. 1992). According to the deputy, Mersim Polozani, Ilirida would at first be a separate state within Macedonia. A map had recently been seized by authorities showing the Ilirida territory as covering over half of Macedonia (ibid.).

In November 1992, 2,000 leaflets were reportedly distributed in western Macedonia by "youth of the so-called Ilirida, the illegally proclaimed Albanian state within Macedonia," calling for "all-out war" (Belgrade TV 9 Nov. 1992).

Allegations of a revolutionary plot by ethnic Albanians in Tetova and Gostivar in western Macedonia led to the arrest of eight ethnic Albanians in November 1993 (The Independent 20 Nov. 1993). The rebels were allegedly armed and were planning to turn western Macedonia into the "Republic of Ilirida," which would then merge with Albania (ibid.). The Independent reported that one of those arrested was Hisen Haskaj, an ethnic Albanian "who served in the Macedonian government as deputy defence minister" (ibid.). As well, "Early reports suggested that another ethnic Albanian, Imer Imeri, a deputy health minister, was also arrested. However his name did not appear on the official list of those detained" (ibid.). Apart from the above information, most news and other reports consulted do not name or identify a particular group or party to which the rebels belonged (ibid.; Yugoslav Telegraph Service 11 Nov. 1993; Jones Apr. 1994, 4.2).

However, an article in a RFE/RL Research Report identifies the group as the All-Albanian Army. In a summary of events of the early 1990s, it reports:

...The announcement on 10 November 1993 of a plot by a theretofore unknown group, the All-Albanian Army (AAA), to overthrow the government made the fear of extremism in Macedonia even more palpable. According to government sources, the AAA had collected a small-arms cache of thirty-five automatic rifles, assembled a list of 21,630 names of potential recruits, established a chain of command, and developed a strategy for mobilization that involved subverting the military. Allegedly, one of the key players was Husein Haskaj, then a deputy minister of defense. Another was Imer Imeri, a former deputy minister of health.
The Albanian community was upset by the news. Most seemed to believe that it was a government hoax perpetrated as an excuse to move against Albanians and, if not to suspend rights, certainly to avoid having to enhance them. The PDP denied the complicity of its members in the event and the government did what it could to portray the AAA as a collection of individuals. Beyond claiming that the state had trumped up the charges, PDP leaders did little (RFE RL 22 Apr. 1994, 84).

Another RFE/RL article from 1994 refers to this event, describing the AAA as a "secret paramilitary organization" operating within the Macedonian army and evidently in contact with government officials in Tirana (28 Jan. 1994). The report said the group was composed of nine individuals, including two PDP members from the coalition government. "The group is said to have collected from army registers the personal data of 21,630 ethnic Albanian recruits and to have accumulated large stocks of light weapons for unknown purposes," according to the article.

An AFP report of October 1998 stated that:

Demands for a federal state have been made several times, to the concern of ethnic Macedonians who see such a move as the first step towards creating the "Greater Albania" which is the ultimate aim of the separatists of the Kosovo Liberation Army (17 Oct. 1998).

The annual conference of the NDP voted in June 1994 to push for "self-orientation," or otherwise, to form an autonomous region of Ilirida in Macedonia (MIC 27 June 1994).

A 1996 interview with PDPA president Arben Dzaferi quoted the politician as saying that in the event that Albanians left the Macedonian Parliament [in apparent protest of education policy], the referendum on 'Ilirida' would be activated (MILS News 20 June 1996).

Information on a group called Unikom is scarce among sources consulted. The Jones report refers to Unikom:

According to Radio Free Europe, some Albanians have established a self proclaimed "Republic of Ilirida" near Struga in the West of FYRM. The same report says that the Albanian liberation movement has a terrorist offshoot called Unikom which advocated the use of violence to resolve the question of Albanians in FYRM (1992, 41). In November 1993 a Skopje daily paper, Vecer, claimed that 21,630 ethnic Albanians had been organised in paramilitary formations and "organised to destroy in one hour the 14th Brigade of the Army of Macedonia which is in charge of the defence of the northwestern border at Tetevo" (Tanyug, 14 November 1993 in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 16 November 1993). (Apr. 1994, 4.3)

In August 1993, The San Francisco Chronicle reported that "Albanian radicals near Lake Ohrid, which forms part of Macedonia's border with Albania, have already proclaimed an independent republic. It has a small armed military wing, known as 'Unikom'" (25 Aug. 1993). Lake Ohrid is near Struga (Times Altas of the World 1994, plate 82).

A 1994 retrospective on terrorism in Europe published by Jane's Intelligence Review stated:

A report back in mid-1992 noted that the Albanian liberation movement had formed a terrorist off-shoot in western Macedonia called Unikom. The aim of this underground group was to help a large area of western Macedonia to secede from Macedonia and unite with Albania. In organizational terms, Unikom closely resembles the Middle Eastern group Hezbollah (31 Dec. 1994).

No new information on Ilirida or Unikom could be found in 1999 reports consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 17 October 1997. "'Unstable Government' in FYROM After 18 Oct. Elections" (FBIS-EEU-98-290 17 Oct. 1997/WNC)

Belgrade TV. 9 November 1992. Dragon Stojanovic. "Skopje, Some Villages Under Police Control; Press Writes of 'Sarajevo' Syndrome.'" (BBC Summary 11 Nov. 1992/NEXIS)

The Independent [London]. 20 November 1993. Tony Barber. "Tension Rises over 'Plot' by Albanians in Macedonia; The Conflicts that have Engulfed Croatia and Bosnia Could Spread to the Unstable Southern Balkans." (NEXIS)

Jane's Intelligence Review: Year Book. 31 December 1994. Paul Wilkinson. "Terrorism in Europe-Retrospect and Prospect." (NEXIS)

Jones, Owen Bennett. April 1994. Central Europe Issue Paper: Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. (WRITENET)

MIC [Skopje, in English]. 27 June 1994. "NDP Calls for 'Federalization' of FYROM." (FBIS-EEU-94-124 27 June 1994/WNC)

Macedonian Information Liaison Service News (MILS). 20 June 1996. "Possibility to Activate the Referendum for Ilirida." (Hellenic Resources Network) Accessed 5 Jan. 2000.

Political Handbook of the World 1998. 1998. Edited by Arthur S. Banks. Binghamton, NY: CSA Publications.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Research Institute. 22 April 1994. RFE/RL Research Report [Munich]. Vol. 3, No. 22. Duncan Perry. "Macedonia."

____. 28 January 1994. RFE/RL Research Report [Munich]. Vol. 3, No. 4. Stefan Troebst. "Macedonia: Powder Keg Defused?"

The San Francisco Chronicle. 25 August 1993. Frank Viviano "Next Balkan Flash Point-It Could be Macedonia: Albanian Nationalists Making Slavs Uneasy." (NEXIS)

Tanjug [in English]. 7 April 1992. "Albanian Deputies and Macedonian Assembly Following Proclamation of Ilirida." (BBC Summary 9 Apr. 1992 /NEXIS)

The Times Altas of the World 1994 9th ed. London: Times Books.

The Washington Quarterly. Summer 1998. Vol. 21, No. 3. Vanni Cappelli, Center for Strategic and International Studies. "The Macedonian Question...Again." [Accessed 4 Jan. 2000]

Yugoslav Telegraph Service [in English]. 11 November 1992. "Oposition Threatens No-Confidence Vote over Security Situation." (BBC Summary 13 Nov. 1993/NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

Amnesty International Report 1999 and


Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 1996-1998

Europa World Yearbook 1999. 1999. Vol. 2. London: Europa Publications.

Human Rights Watch World Report 1998-2000

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki. June 1996. A Threat to "Stability"-Human Rights Violations in Macedonia. New York: Human Rights Watch.

IRB databases

Internet sites including:

Radio Free Europe (RFE/RL) regional archives

Republic of Macedonia Website

World News Connection (WNC)

Internet search engines including:




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