Prime Minister Edi Rama’s remarks at the ceremony honouring Major General Abbas Ibrahim with the Prime Minister’s Great Star of Public Gratitude:
We are here today to a friend who has helped us through the hard times and who through his extraordinary dedication has helped us generously to save unfortunate children and women from the clutches of hell in Syria’s war camps.
As the American poetess Maya Angelou used to say: “a hero is any person really intent on making this world a better place for all people,” and there could be no more accurate portrayal of General Abbas Ibrahim, who is here with us today and I want to thank you for his coming, than the words of the poetess.
During the operations conducted in the last three years, when many children and women have been repatriated from the notorious Al-Hol camp and not only, General Abbas Ibrahim has always been our point of reference, has been our hand stretched for those children and women, he has been the best, most industrious, diligent Albanian expecting nothing in return, but the human interest to take unfortunate people out of hell.
I believe everyone remembers the extraordinary operation to save Alvin, the boy who became the symbol of solidarity and the plea of thousands and tens of thousands of citizens in Albania to save him. Well, that operation was successfully conducted thanks to General Abbas Ibrahim, who is here today for us to honour him with our gratitude. This was also the case with the repatriation of five more children shortly after and 14 more children and five women later. Whole ongoing effort to take the last hostage from that hell is closely linked with the name of General Abbas Ibrahim.
It is about carrying out increasingly difficult and dangerous operations, marred by immensely complex problems posed by dangerous groups operating in those territories, as well as other significant complications because of the pandemic.
But today, despite these difficulties, Alvin Berisha, Amari, Emeli and Hatixhe Rasha, Endrit Dumani and many other children now breathe freely in their homeland, lead a safe and healthy life with their families, thanks to someone who became for them an unknown parent, who unlike their true parents, who unfortunately were the cause of leading them to that hell, did not surrender until he personally escorted to the aircraft door.
The general embodies all the generosity, courtesy and culture of his country, and through his daily work, shares, not only with the Lebanese community, but with everyone a strong message of humanism, freedom and rights of every human being, regardless of the religion, province, country or ideas.
The successfully conducted operations through the General’s generous support have immensely helped our entire public opinion, our whole nation to realize the blind alley that some fathers blinded by extremism unfortunately embarked on, running their families and children.
Today more than ever before people are aware of the absurdity, the incomprehensibility and the real, inhuman aspect of embarking on the path of extremism.
Today, according to data we work and rely upon, because we know quite well that the data are relative, we have already repatriated more than half of Albanian nationals from those camps. The effort is underway, although the difficulties have increased, because the situation in the camps is unstable and it is now out of question to negotiate with a single authority, but it is about interacting with many individuals and many factors, one more mysterious than the other, and one more dangerous than the other.
I would like to wholeheartedly appreciate the General for the courage he gave us by pledging to save all those children and for assuring us that we can deliver on that pledge. Not only that, but I would also like to thank him for creating optimum conditions for the physical security of the Albanian personnel involved in operations either in Lebanon or infiltrations inside Syria’s territory. Also, in providing all the logistical resources to assist the operation and definitely, with his capacity to influence over other political stakeholders, with some of whom we have no communication and no communication opportunity whatsoever.
Of course, all this has helped our relations with Lebanon take an important friendly dimension.
We have opened the Consulate General of Albania in Beirut, which again a contribution incurring no cost of whatsoever for the Albanian state, but it has been opened by our Honorary Consul in Lebanon, Mr. Marc Goraeb, who is credited with the extraordinary merit as it was him to introduce us with General Abbas Ibrahim and this way a chain of friendship was created, this chain of solidarity, this chain of cooperation among people, actually united by one common goal that goes beyond politics, that goes beyond borders, beyond geography and that is the goal of making the world a better place, under the Prophet Muhammad’s credo: ” Whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.”
I avail myself of this opportunity to very respectfully and friendly extend my appreciation to the Honorary Consul too and given that every time we have been meeting the General in his homeland I have begged him to visit Albania so that I can express gratitude on behalf of all Albanian people and in front of the eyes of all Albanian people, I feel honoured and we all feel honoured to call you our friend here in our own home.
As the renowned Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran used to say: “A friend who is far away is sometimes much nearer than one who is at hand.” This is the typical case best illustrated by the great poet’s quote.
General, words for you are definitely never sufficient to reward your deed and no matter how long my speech takes, my words will again be insufficient, just like it is the Medal of Public Gratitude, which though formally expresses the highest gratitude, still remains symbolic, and it doesn’t really shows its importance like your work does.
You have ensured a better future for many children and you have provided them the opportunity to grow up in their family homes and I want to assure you today that Albania is your home and our home is also yours.
With much respect I would invite you to be presented with the Medal of Public Gratitude.