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A fortified tower (kullë) used as a safe haven for men involved in a blood feud. Theth, northern Albania.

Gjakmarrja (literally "blood-taking", i.e. "blood feud") or Hakmarrja ("revenge") refers to the social obligation to commit murder in order to salvage honour questioned by an earlier murder or moral humiliation. This practice is generally seen as in line with the Albanian social code known as Kanuni i Lekë Dukagjinit, or simply the Kanun (English: Code of Lekë Dukagjini).

There has been a revival of instances of Gjakmarrja in remote parts of Albania (such as the north) and Kosovo due to the lack of state control since the collapse of communism.[1][2] The Albanian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights considers one reason for the pervasiveness of blood feuds to be the malfunction of the country's judiciary. Many Albanians see the courts as corrupt or ineffective, and prefer the perceived self-government offered by adherence to the Kanun.[2]

Ismet Elezi, a professor of law at University of Tirana, believes that in spite of the Kanun's endorsement of blood vengeance, there are strict rules on how the practice may be carried out. For instance, revenge killings of women (including male-role-filling sworn virgins), children, and elderly persons are banned.[2] Others believe that the Kanun itself emphasises reconciliation and the peacemaking process, and that selective interpretation of its rules is responsible for the current bloodshed.[1]

Albanian writer Ismail Kadare considers Gjakmarrja to be not an exclusively Albanian phenomenon, but one historically characteristic of the Balkans as a whole.[3] His novel Broken April (Albanian: Prilli i Thyer) explores the social effects of an ancestral blood feud between two landowning families.[4] A Brazilian film adaptation of the novel titled Behind the Sun (Portuguese: Abril Despedaçado) transferred the action from rural Albania to the Brazilian badlands, but left the themes otherwise untouched. The American-Albanian film The Forgiveness of Blood also deals with the consequences of a blood feud on a family in a remote area of modern-day Albania.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Freeman, Colin (1 July 2010). "Albania's modern-day blood feuds". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Naegele, Jolyon (12 October 2001). "Albania: Blood Feuds – 'Blood For Blood'". Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  3. ^ Kadare, Ismail. "This Blood Feud with Kalashnikov is Barbarian". Komiteti i Pajtimit Mbarëkombëtar (Committee of Nationwide Reconciliation). Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  4. ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "Ismail Kadare". Books and Writers (kirjasto.sci.fi). Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 13 January 2015. 

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