The origin of the Kanun - the Albanian traditional legal system - is unclear, but it certainly dates back well before the 15th century, when it was first codified, and the 20th century, when it was first written down.
A complex system that outlines such ideas as inheritance, marriage, and property rights, the Kanun is probably best known by outsiders for its rules on how to respond to murder. The Kanun recommends a sort of “eye for an eye” response that can result in an endless series of violent tit-for-tat - the blood feuds.
During the communist period, the Kanun was repressed and blood feuds disappeared, but in the unstable period since, it has made a comeback. Precise numbers are difficult to find, but it’s estimated that about 10,000 Albanians have been killed as a result of blood feuds since 1992. About 1,600 more live in isolation to avoid being targeted. The Albanian government, which is trying to once again get rid of the feuds, has set up a program for children living in seclusion to get in-home tutoring.
Some Albanians claim that the modern problem is due to people misinterpreting the Kanun - or interpreting it only to suit their purposes. The Kanun includes guidelines for how to resolve blood feuds, but it seems that for many feuding families, those options are off the table.
The photograph is of a fortified tower in the northern village of Theth, built for men vulnerable to attack in a blood feud.