Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has rejected a request from Albania to return the remains of a prominent Albanian Ottoman known for his significant contributions to Turkish nationalism.
Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha requested that Turkey transfer the remains of celebrated author Şemsettin Sami -- along with executed Governor Tepedelenli Ali Paşa – to Albania.
During a meeting in Albania two weeks ago with Turkish Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz and Justice and Development Party (AK Party) İzmir deputy Rıfat Sait, who also heads the Albania-Turkey Friendship Association, Berisha asked for the transfer of the remains of Sami, also known as Sami Frasheri, and the decapitated head of Tepedelenli Ali Paşa, also known as Ali Pasha of Tepelena.
Sami (1850-1904) penned the first novel and the first encyclopedia in Turkish, as well as the first extensive dictionary in the Turkish language, and he is a highly regarded personality in Turkish literature. He is also the father of Ali Sami Yen, the founder of the Galatasaray Sports Club.
Davutoğlu told reporters in Ankara on Tuesday that Sami is a treasure for Turks and that he will always remain in İstanbul.
Observers speculate that the Albanian prime minister is likely aiming to win nationalist votes in the upcoming national elections in the country with this effort.
Davutoğlu added that there would be no difference between demanding the remains of Mehmet Akif Ersoy, author of Turkey's national anthem, and the remains of Sami, stressing the significance of Sami to Turkish national identity.
Davutoğlu likened Sami's seminal work “Kamus-ı Türki” to the ancient Turkish language dictionary written by legendary Turkic linguistics scholar Mahmoud Kashgarli. “Şemseddin Sami is buried in İstanbul. God willing, he will remain there. He is our treasure,” Davutoğlu said.
The graves of Şemsettin Sami's brothers, Naim and Abdül Frasheri, are located in Albania. Naim Frasheri was a well-known Albanian grammarian, poet and writer, and Abdül Halid Frasheri was a prominent politician in the Ottoman Empire.
Davutoğlu, however, did not mention whether Ankara is planning to return the head of Governor Ali Paşa.
Ali Paşa (1744-1822) was the governor of the Ottoman town of Ioannina, now in Greece, and he was executed on the orders of Sultan Mahmut II after starting a rebellion. He was killed by Ottoman soldiers and brought to İstanbul, the capital of the Ottoman state, and then decapitated. His head has stayed in Turkey while his body has been in Albania for 191 years.