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Ashkali and Balkan Egyptians
Komuniteti Ashkali dhe Komuniteti i Egjiptianëve të Ballkanit
Regions with significant populations
 North Macedonia3,713[2][b]
Sunni Islam[8]

The Ashkali (Serbian: Ашкалије, romanizedAškalije), also Hashkali (Serbian: Хашкалије, romanizedHaškalije), and Balkan Egyptians (Serbian: Балкански Египћани, romanizedBalkanski Egipćani; Albanian: Komuniteti i Egjiptianëve të Ballkanit; Macedonian: Ѓупци, romanizedGjupci) are Albanian-speaking Albanized ethnic cultural minorities (recognized communities), unrelated to each other, which mainly inhabit Kosovo, and in the case of Balkan Egyptians: Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Southern Serbia (geographical region) as well.[9] Due to lack of studies, the Gypsy communities in Kosovo are often grouped together based on their skin colour. Prior to the Kosovo War of 1999, the Ashkali people registered themselves as Albanians.[10]

During the Kosovo War, Kosovo's Ashkali people were displaced as refugees in Albania, Serbia and Macedonia and the whole of Western Europe, such as Germany and France. The Ashkali identity was created in 1999, as they tried to show their pro-Albanian stance and distinguish themselves from the Roma.[11]


The origins of these Albanized peoples are obscure. The Ashkali people claim that they have originated in Persia, now Iran, in 4th century BC (Ashkal, Gilan, Iran).[12] Some Balkan historians trace the origin of Balkan Egyptians to the Iron Age, citing vague references in Herodotus of the presence of Khener, an Egyptians dance group in the region. They also attribute archaeological structures in the area, notably in modern Ohrid and Bitola, as temples of the Goddess Isis, but the Mysteries of Isis was widespread in the Greco-Roman world.[13] It is also possible, that the Balkan Egyptians are traces back to the Doms in Egypt.[14] Other versions are, that after the Ottoman–Egyptian invasion of Mani, Egyptian soldiers went to Albania and become the ancestors.[15] However, historians maintain that during the Ottoman era the 'Balkan Egyptians' and other Balkan Roma were part of a single community, who called by the Ottomans Kıbti (literally 'Copts', reflecting the same group encompassed by the English ethnonym for the Roma, ('Gypsies'). They see the alternative origins as part of a larger phenomenon whereby groups such as the Ashkali and Balkan Egyptians, as part of an effort to achieve greater civil emancipation and to escape anti-Roma prejudice, made an effort to separate themselves from other Roma and constructed a novel history for their peoples.[16]

A 14th-century reference to a placename (Агѹповы клѣти, Agupovy klěti) in the Rila Charter of Ivan Alexander of Bulgaria was thought by some authors, such as Konstantin Josef Jireček, to be related to the Balkan Egyptians, possible descendants from the Doms in Egypt.[17][18]

In 1990, an "Egyptian association" was formed in Ohrid, North Macedonia, which was attended by representatives from different Balkan countries.

The Ashkali and the Kosovo War

During the Kosovo War, Albanized Roma were displaced as refugees in Albania and the Republic of Macedonia. Albanized Roma formed the ethnic group Ashkali after the end of the war in 1999, to show their pro-Albanian stance and distinguish themselves from the Arlije and Gurbeti Roma, who had been mistakenly viewed as pro-Serbian during the war. Many Albanized Roma were also sent to refugee camps with other Romani people in Kosovo, with whom they did not share the same language and customs.[10] As the majority of Kosovo (or Albanized) Roma, many Ashkali refugees settled in Serbia and Montenegro. The first Ashkali party (Democratic Party of the Ashkali Albanians of Kosovo) was formed in 2000 under Sabit Rrahmani, who supported Kosovo independence in the name of all Ashkali.[10]

In Kosovo, the Ashkali were aligned with Albanians before, during and after the Kosovo War.[10] However, Ashkali, along with Romani people in Kosovo, have reportedly been expelled from the area.[19]

It's important to note that the Ashkali are not related to Balkan Egyptians, although they're often incorrectly grouped together by the media because of their darker skin pigmentation, as well as their status as native Albanian speaking minorites.


Most Ashkali live in Kosovo and North Macedonia, but they also reside in Serbia and Montenegro, while most Balkan Egyptians are thought to live in Albania, other than Kosovo. In the Macedonian census of 2002, 3,713 people identified as Egyptian, while in the Serbian census of 2002 (excluding Kosovo), 814 people identified as Egyptian. In the Montenegrin census, on the other hand, 225 people identified as Egyptian.

Ashkali are predominant in the central and eastern regions of Kosovo: Ferizaj, Fushë Kosova, and Lipjan. Kosovo's Egyptian community is mostly to be found in its western part: in Gjakova, Istog, Peja, and Deçan. The Ashkali as well as the Egyptian community of Kosovo had 98% unemployment in 2009.[20]

In Albania, however, the Balkan Egyptian community is fully integrated into Albanian society and culture, having a high educational and employment rate as well, although a good percentage of the community do not identify as Balkan Egyptian because of negative stereotypes about coloured people. Despite the fact that most Balkan Egyptians tend to have typical Mediterranean features, fair skin and light features are not uncommon.


Flag of Ashkali[21]
An "Ashkali flag" (Amëza e Ashkalive) was designed in 1999 by Abedin Toplica.[22]
An "Ashkali flag" (Amëza e Ashkalive) was designed in 1999 by Abedin Toplica.[22]

Marriages between Balkan Egyptians and Albanians are more frequent than marriages between Roma and Albanians, while marriages between Balkan Egyptians and Romani people are rare. In Albania, Balkan Egyptians are fully integrated into Albanian culture and have followed their regional traditions and customs.

In Kosovo, on the other hand, Roma and Ashkalia do not classify one another as Gadje.[20] The Ashkali and Roma claim the Egyptians as their own; whereas the Ashkali and Egyptians dispute over each other's background.[10] No television or radio channels are dedicated to Kosovo's Ashkali or Egyptian minority audiences.[20]

See also


  1. ^ 15,436 Ashkali and 11,524 Balkan Egyptians
  2. ^ a b c Identified as Balkan Egyptians
  3. ^ 1,834 Balkan Egyptians and 997 Ashkali at the 2011 census


  1. ^ "Population - by gender ethnicity at settlement level" (PDF). p. 11. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  2. ^ Statistički godišnik na Republika Makedonija (in Macedonian). 2007. p. 55. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  3. ^ "1.1.13 Popullsia banuese sipas përkatësisë etnike dhe kulturore sipas Përkatësia etnike dhe kulturore, Variabla dhe Viti" (xls). INSTAT - Instituti i Statistikave (in Albanian). Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  4. ^ "Попис становништва, домаћинстава и станова 2011. у Републици Србији" (PDF) (in Serbian). Statistics of Serbia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 June 2017. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  6. ^ "STATISTIČKI GODIŠNJAK 2011" (PDF). Statistics of Montenegro: 46. Retrieved 31 July 2019. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ "Population by ethnicity – detailed classification, 2011 Census". Census of Population, Households and Dwellings 2011. Zagreb: Croatian Bureau of Statistics. December 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  8. ^ Nielsen, Jørgen; Akgönül, Samim; Alibašić, Ahmet; Racius, Egdunas, eds. (2013). Yearbook of Muslims in Europe, Volume 5. BRILL. p. 370. ISBN 9789004255869.
  9. ^ "StackPath".
  10. ^ a b c d e Valeriu Nicolae; Hannah Slavik (2007). Roma Diplomacy. IDEA. ISBN 978-1-932716-33-7.
  11. ^ Elsie, Robert (15 November 2010). Historical Dictionary of Kosovo. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810874831 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ Zemon, Rubin (April 2010). "History of Ashkali identity". In Ailincai, Aurora (ed.). Balkan Egyptians and Ashkali history. Council of Europe – via ResearchGate.
  13. ^ "Cult Of Isis in Ancient Rome | Roman History". Retrieved 2022-07-24.
  14. ^ Zemon, Rubin. "History of the Balkan Egyptians" (PDF).((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^[bare URL PDF]
  16. ^ Elena Marushiakova; Vesselin Popov, eds. (2021). "Chapetr 1: The Genesis of Roma Emancipation". Roma Voices in History. Brill. pp. 1–32 at 16 & 28. doi:10.30965/9783657705184_002. ISBN 978-3-657-70518-4. S2CID 242216553.
  17. ^ Даскалова, Ангелина; Мария Райкова (2005). Грамоти на българските царе (in Bulgarian). София: Академично издателство "Марин Дринов". p. 57.
  18. ^ Trubeta, Sevasti (March 2005). "Balkan Egyptians and Gypsy/Roma Discourse" (PDF). Nationalities Papers. 33 (1): 71–95. doi:10.1080/00905990500053788. S2CID 155028453.
  19. ^ Memorandum of the Society for Threatened People on the Issue of Lead Poisoning of Roma in IDP Camps in Kosovo, GFBV.
  20. ^ a b c "Notes made from the Ashkali and Egyptian communities for the shadow report on the Implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in Kosovo" (PDF). Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  21. ^ "Ashkali". Archived from the original on 2016-01-09. Retrieved 2015-12-26.
  22. ^ Abedin Toplica: "Flamuri Kombëtar i Ashkalive / Zastava Aškalija / The National Flag", Ashkali Horizonti, nr. 2, 2003 "The flag is red with a black rising eagle in front of a green disk. The red and black color are similar to the Albanian flag. The green disk represent[s] Islam"


a.   ^ The political status of Kosovo is disputed. Having unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, Kosovo is formally recognised as an independent state by 101 UN member states (with another 13 states recognising it at some point but then withdrawing their recognition) and 92 states not recognizing it, while Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory.

Cited works