Burnesha: Women-Men of Albania

Burnesha: Women-Men of Albania

Categories: Europe | Society

In Albania, the tradition of "remaking" women into men is still alive — there are several thousand of them there. They take men's names, wear men's clothes, behave like men. To this they are pushed by the Eve - a set of archaic, rodo-tribal laws.

In this collection you will learn about the reasons for the appearance of such a phenomenon and see pictures of these "women-men" by photographer Jill Peters.

Burnesha: Women-Men of Albania

Despite the fact that a third of Albanians are Christians (half of whom are Catholics, the other half are Orthodox), the medieval code of laws applies to them as well. There is nothing surprising in this Eve — almost all mountain, closed societies have similar laws for the self-preservation of the nation - from the Adats in Chechnya to the Bilus in the Basque country. Another thing is that in Albania, the Eve continues to determine the life of the whole society, and not just its archaic strata.

One of the main components of the Eve is blood feud. Here is a description of everyday life in Albania on the Eve of the 1990s, which was given by the newspaper Die Welt.

"More than half of the population of the northern mountainous territories of Albania do not leave their homes. They fear a blood feud. The fact is that if one person from the family is guilty, the punishment also applies to his relatives.

You can pay only with blood for a dishonored honor in Albania, and again only with blood for spilled blood. After the recent changes, this law has come into force again, and the less state control and management in a given territory, the more the laws of vendetta gain strength.

Plans of blood feud have been hatched for years. In the village of Bleran, located near the border with Montenegro, Gerg Kapaklia was killed. 13 years before his death, he pushed a representative of the Huck family on the street, and such an insult, according to the Albanian code of honor, is washed away only with blood. Kapaklia probably would have been killed back then, but the iron hands of dictator Enver Hoxha reliably protected Albanians from tradition. Gergi went to Greece, and when he returned, two brothers of the blood-offended representative of the Huck family shot him right on the street.

Gerga's younger brother, Pepin, who was with him, screamed and threw a stone at the murderers, who, without thinking twice, shot him too. Now it's the turn of Huck's family. One of Gerga's five brothers still shot one of the Geks, but along the way a policeman who tried to stop the violence was also shot. Thus, the Kapaklia family made two blood enemies at once: the family of the murdered policeman was added to Huck.

The only way to stay alive for a person sentenced to death is to stay at home forever. According to the Albanian code of Eve, a blood enemy cannot be killed at his home, so for a family like Kapaklia, the house remains the only salvation. Now in Albania, only about 10 thousand people are locked in their homes in this way.

Burnesha: Women-Men of Albania

Blood feud can only be stopped by the head of the family clan, who, in case of an intention to establish peace, should voluntarily go to a hostile clan and offer his blood in exchange for peace and tranquility of his family. If the other side agrees, then they either kill the brave champion of peace, or give their word - a "demon", stipulating a period during which they will not touch the members of the clan that requested peace until a final decision is made. "Besa" means the beginning of a possible world, which, in turn, means forgiveness, often measured in the amount of personal property and livestock transferred.

It is also possible to appeal to a recognized authority. Such is, for example, Ndrek Pietri, who spent many years in correctional camps. After the changes, he headed the Union of Political Prisoners and became famous for his ability to stop hatred and stop blood feuds. Pietri does not call for abandoning the vendetta in general, believing that it introduces Albanians to the real laws of their ancestors, the real essence of which is now forgotten and distorted.

Burnesha: Women-Men of Albania

Previously, Pietri says, the guilty family hid in the mountains and waited for the decision of the council of elders. The elders usually punished only the murderers and the immediate perpetrators and did not touch the whole family. It is this tradition that Pietri is going to restore."

Today, of course, Albania has become Europeanized to some extent, but life on the Eve has remained. In particular, according to paragraph 88, the Eve recognizes the son as the heir, and not the daughter, if there are no heirs in the family. At the same time, a daughter can only become a "burnesha", that is, a "woman-man": take an oath to remain chaste and not marry, and this oath should not be broken until the end of her life. Only in this way can a woman become the head of the family and the official heir. Burneshas are well accepted within the community, they are even admired for their willpower... Burneshas dress like men, behave like men and have equal rights with men - that's just they can't have children.

Burnesha: Women-Men of Albania

And taking into account the fact that hundreds or even thousands of Albanian families are deprived of heirs due to a blood feud, "burnesh" is a very common phenomenon. No one knows the exact number of them in Albania, but usually counting goes to thousands - at least 3-5 thousand.

Keywords: Albania | Women | Men | Traditions | Transvestites

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