Shkodër, Albania – Bilal Ademi remembers the day when 70 men in his family were forced into hiding. On May 18, 2010, Ademi’s cousin, a policeman, shot and killed another officer while on duty.

Bilal Ademi gestures while recounting the story of his family’s situation in his home in Mushan, Albania on Nov. 15 2013. Bilal’s cousin, a policeman, shot and killed a fellow officer in a dispute, sparking a blood feud with the victim’s family. (Nick St.Oegger)

The Ademi men are the objects of a “blood feud,” targets of retribution for the killing of Tom Jakini. According to a set of traditional Albanian laws dating back to the 15th century called the “Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini,” the family of the victim has the right to avenge Jakini’s death by killing one of the Ademi men.In Shkodër and surrounding villages in northern Albania, a country nestled on continental Europe’s western Balkan shore on the Adriatic Sea, these conflicts can drive entire families to confine themselves indoors out of fear for their lives. Absent a brokered peace, there is no expiration on vendettas. The Kanun dictates that even male children born into families involved in blood feuds become targets once they reach their teenage years. Women are supposed to be exempt, but in rare instances are not spared.

The Ademi family lives in Mushan, a village that lies half-an-hour’s drive from Shkodër down a single-lane road trodden by cows and sheep coming in from pasture.

Ademi men in 11 families once lived on a shared compound of several small homes and plots of farmland. Since becoming embroiled in a blood feud, they have sent away sons and brothers to distant parts of Albania. Some have fled the country, several to Italy. Now just five men remain under lock and key, self-imposed prisoners in their own homes.