Posted by Yilan in Yunanistan.
Tags: Golden Dawn, Greece, Ilias Panagiotaros
Greece’s far-right party, Golden Dawn, won 18 parliamentary seats in the June election with a campaign openly hostile to illegal immigrants and there are now allegations that some Greek police are supporting the party.
“There is already civil war,” says Ilias Panagiotaros. If so, the shop he owns is set to do a roaring trade.
It sells camouflage gear, police riot gloves, face masks and T-shirts extolling football hooliganism.
On the walls are posters celebrating the last civil war in Greece, which ended in 1949.
“Greek society is ready – even though no-one likes this – to have a fight: a new type of civil war,” he says.
“On the one side there will be nationalists like us, and Greeks who want our country to be as it used to be, and on the other side illegal immigrants, anarchists and all those who have destroyed Athens several times,” he adds.
You hear comments like this a lot in Greece now but Ilias Panagiotaros is not some figure on the fringes: he is a member of the Greek parliament, one of 18 MPs elected for the far-right Golden Dawn in June’s general election.
And for Mr Panagiotaros, civil war is not something theoretical.
Last week he led a demonstration that closed down a performance of the Terence McNally play, Corpus Christi.
As police stood by, apparently oblivious, Mr Panagiotaros was filmed shouting racist and homophobic insults at the director of the play, and the actors cowering inside the Chyterio Theatre.
The attack on Corpus Christi has become a signal moment for Greek politics”
“Wrap it up you little faggots. Yes, just keep staring at me you little hooker. Your time is up.
“You Albanian assholes,” shouts Mr Panagiotaros in the YouTube clip.
Footage filmed inside the theatre, as rocks showered into its open-air auditorium, shows the manager making frantic calls to the chief of police, demanding protection from a mob that had begun to beat up journalists outside.
Other footage shows Golden Dawn MP Christos Pappas “de-arrest” a demonstrator, pulling him from a police detention coach, as the police do nothing.
Calls were made to the public order ministry, who ordered the chief prosecutor to attend the scene. No help arrived.
“This was the Greek Kristallnacht,” says Laertis Vassiliou, the play’s director.
“People went home with broken bones. Every day they phone me now, they phone the theatre, saying: your days are numbered.”
His eyes redden and his face begins to tremble as he tells me:
“They phoned my mother, Golden Dawn. They said we will deliver your son’s body to you in a box of little pieces.
“I want to be told if we are in a democracy or a dictatorship?”
The attack on Corpus Christi has become a signal moment for Greek politics.
Though Golden Dawn members have attacked migrants frequently, in the past month the far-right party has stepped up its presence on the streets.
It launched a raid on a street market in Rafina, where its uniformed activists demanded to see the permits of migrant stallholdersthere – demonstratively smashing up the property of those who did not have them.
Now, with the attack on a theatre group, alarm is spreading among sections of society that were not previously affected by the party’s actions.
I ask Mr Panagiotaros: how can it be right for a party in parliament to have a uniformed militia that takes on, violently, the role of law enforcement, checking papers and overturning market stalls? He explains:
“With one incident, which was on camera, the problem was solved – in every open market all over Greece illegal immigrants disappeared.
“There was some pushing and some fighting – nothing extraordinary, nothing special.
Policing the Greek crisis would pose a huge challenge, even without the issue of political support for the far right inside the police force”
“Now, only with one phone call saying Golden Dawn is going to pass by, the police is going there. That means the brand name of Golden Dawn is very effective.”
He confirms the party’s strategy is to force police action against migrants and to claim their right to make citizens’ arrests against those they suspect of criminality.
“It’s like fashion – our dress code is now extremely popular and more people want to follow it. The brand name is synonymous with order, law and order and efficiency.”
And if it projects fear among perfectly legal migrants? I ask.
“There are no legal migrants in Greece,” says Mr Panagiotaros “not even one.”
Now Golden Dawn is suddenly everywhere. Its eight local offices at election time have become 60 nationwide. It is polling consistently as the third most popular party at 12%.
Its parliamentarians have threatened to “drag migrant children from the kindergartens,” and requested a list of the kindergartens with high migrant numbers. This, the Greek education ministry has willingly provided.
Time and again there is a pattern to Golden Dawn disturbances.
They target migrants, the Left, lawyers representing migrants, or in the case of the theatre picket, gay people. And the police stand by.
In Athens police are even alleged to have referred people experiencing problems with migrant neighbours to Golden Dawnfor help.
Mr Panagiotaros confirms what opinion polls taken in June indicated: there is support for Golden Dawn inside the police force, way higher than in the general population.
“I think with what they are saying now we have more than 50%, 60% of police staff that are following us – maybe more – every day it is growing,” says Mr Panagiotaros.
Many of his customers are police, who buy not just their riot gear but parts of their actual uniform from his militaria store, where police regulation shirts hang alongside T-shirts praising the Nazi group Combat 18 and the Chelsea Headhunters.
Golden Dawn members gave free food to Greek people after checking their IDs
Policing the Greek crisis would pose a huge challenge, even without the issue of political support for the far right inside the police force.
Anarchists have tried to counter Golden Dawn’s patrols in migrant areas by staging their own, motorbike mounted patrols – hundreds strong.
During a motorbike protest last week, a clash with Golden Dawn occurred.
A unit of the motorbike-mounted police called Delta Force arrested 15 demonstrators, stripping them naked in the prison cells and, say the detainees, using tasers, stress positions, humiliation techniques and beatings.
A report of this in the Guardian last week has become a matter of national controversy here, and is strenuously denied by the government.
On 8 October a further 25 protesters were arrested at a demonstration at the courthouse to support those originally detained.
Yiannis, one of those detained, tells the story:
“They searched us, made us strip, kneel. They hit me on the head and knees. They said we know where you all live.
I meet Yiannis and Maria, two of those alleging mistreatment, in a quiet flat in Exarchia, the bohemian district of Athens.
Both will speak only on condition that I change their names, and film them without showing their faces. Though charged eventually with misdemeanours, they were both held for four nights in police custody.
Yiannis continues: “They said: You’re finished and things are not going to be the way they were from now on.
“They said they would pass on the video they filmed of us to Golden Dawn. They picked on me to use as an example to the others. They kept making me say to every new detainee: ‘if you too disobey they will [hurt] your mother’.”
Maria, who has been calm and confident as we have prepared for the interview, now becomes disturbed as she tells her story.
“They made me strip in front of the others,” she says.
“The Delta police arrived and spoke about Golden Dawn as if they were their siblings, including the officer in charge. They praised Hitler, saying he was better than Stalin.
“They told us we should remember this – that they are Golden Dawn supporters now.”
The issue driving support for Golden Dawn is clear: illegal migration”
Throughout the ordeal, the arresting officers from the Delta Force, says Maria, continually flaunted their political support for Golden Dawn.
I put the allegations to Lt Col Christos Manouras, the spokesman for the Athens police. He tells me:
“I am categoric that in this incident none of these things happened in the headquarters building of the Attica police. Greek police respect human rights – and this is a non-story.”
He adds: “These allegations were never made to the police. No charges were pressed, so the police could look into this from the beginning.
“All the same, if anybody wants to identify themselves – or even if a general allegation reaches us – we will investigate it further. If it involves police, whether racist violence or violence against another person, Greek or migrant, we investigate in depth.”
Dimitris Psaras, whose new book, Golden Dawn’s Black Bible, details the organisation’s recent rise, believes the influence of far right within the police force works at an insidious level:
“There is an osmosis of Golden Dawn supporters, between those working in the police and those in private security as well as those providing night club protection.
“Sometimes the same person can be providing all these three services. They usually meet in local gyms and specific coffee shops owned by those who share the same ideology.”
Mr Psaras believes that harsh police treatment of drug offenders and migrants gives a tacit signal to Golden Dawn that its illegal attacks on these groups are welcome.
I repeatedly put the question to Lt Col Manouras as to what strategy the police commanders have adopted to mitigate the risks of individual police support for Golden Dawn compromising operations.
“Every day we make operational plans of how to deal with such phenomena,” he says.
“Rest assured we stand by the citizens and we try to prevent such situations.
“Of course we can’t be on every corner. We are not magicians, to be able to ensure within two minutes that nothing goes wrong. But we do intervene immediately to normalize the situation.”
Golden Dawn has gained ground spectacularly in two leaps. First, during the riotous summer of 2011, when the right wing Christian nationalist party Laos disintegrated after it joined the pro-austerity coalition.
Last month, the Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaras, warned Europe that his country was on the edge of a Weimar Germany-style social collapse”
Laos vanished and Golden Dawn took its place, scoring 6-7% in the inconclusive Greek elections of May and June 2012.
The second spurt is occurring now, as the coalition government – which includes Conservatives, Socialists and the “moderate” Marxists of the Democratic Left party – has failed to put a lid on the crisis.
And the issue driving support for Golden Dawn is clear: illegal migration.
Faced with virtually uncontrollable borders, the coalition government launched a roundup of migrants from the city streets, and has detained around 4,000 in makeshift camps. A further 3,000 have been deported.
A senior lawmaker in the ruling New Democracy party told me, back in June: “What will solve the Golden Dawn problem is getting an immigration policy. We haven’t had one.”
But the crackdown on immigration has not stopped Golden Dawn’s rise. As the media have joined in – relentlessly identifying foreigners with crime – the far right’s poll rating has increased.
Theodora Oikonomides, a journalist at the alternative radio network RadioBubble, who has covered the rise of Golden Dawn, voices a fear common to many:
“Golden Dawn’s favourite themes, such as xenophobia, homophobia and anti-Semitism have now become part of Greek public discourse, whether at the political or at the social level.
“By failing to take action against Golden Dawn while nodding and winking to its electorate at every opportunity, the Greek politicians – who are now in power with the support of European partners – have opened a Pandora’s box that will not close any time soon.”
Last month, the Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaras, warned Europe that his country was on the edge of a Weimar Germany-style social collapse.
What I have seen on the streets of Athens convinces me this is not rhetoric. The situation is changing rapidly.
There is a violent far-right party, its MPs committing and inciting violence with impunity; a police force that cannot or will not prevent Golden Dawn from projecting uniformed force on the streets. And a middle class that feels increasingly powerless to turn the situation round.
When Angela Merkel came here last week, there were violent scenes and a total lockdown of the city. Only from the TV news can the German Chancellor have witnessed the impact of the EU-imposed austerity.
Well here is what it looks like to Golden Dawn’s second in command, Ilias Panagiotaros.
In the garden outside his shop, protected by 15-foot high fencing and beefy colleagues in their black T-shirts, he tells me:
“Golden Dawn is at war with the political system and those who represent it, with the domestic and international bankers, we are at war with these invaders – immigrants.
“And if Syriza wins the next election, we will win the one after that. It is not a dream that within one, two or three years we will be the first political party.”
And here is how it looks to Laertis Vassiliou, the theatre director whose play was shut down:
“If the European Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Parliament, the Greek parliament don’t intervene in this situation I am afraid to think what’s going to happen. Europe must do something if they don’t want a revival of the Third Reich again.”
Close up, in other words, the social and political outcome of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and EU (European Union) austerity programme, and of the implosion of mainstream politics in Greece, looks like a catastrophe for democracy.
Posted by Yilan in Bulgaria, Human rights abuses, Macedonia.
Tags: Bulgaria, Macedonia
Although one can certainly come up with several fold more reasons why Skopje and Sofia have not been able to normalize their relations, here are ten that come to mind right from the start.
1. Macedonians at home spent majority of their WW2 fighting against Bulgarian soldiers. Macedonian partisans engaged the Germans mostly in major battles outside of Macedonia, in other parts of the then Yugoslavia.
2. In 1913 Macedonia was split in 3 parts (Vardar, Pirin, Aegean). Due to the split, the remains of one of the greatest Macedonian revolutionaries Goce Delcev (died 1903) found itself on the ‘other’ side, in present Bulgaria. Official Sofia in 1946 sent Delcev’s remains to the rightful owners, the Government of Macedonia in Skopje. Today official Sofia claims him as “Bulgarian”. Why give him up if he is your own, and equally important, why claim him 60 years later?
3. Bulgaria while protecting their Jewish minority, was responsible for rounding up and sending to concentration camps the Jewish population from Macedonia and Thrace (present Greece). Macedonia lost 98% of its Jewish population. All of the gold, art and jewelry was stolen by Bulgarian soldiers and sent to Sofia. Just a fortnight ago (October 7th), Jewish leaders from Israel told the Bulgarian Government in Sofia that “saving your own Jews but murdering others still makes you a murderer”. There goes Sofia’s hope that everyone has amnesia.
4. Official Bulgarian census in 1946 listed 252,908 Macedonians living in Bulgaria. Official census in 1956 somehow listed less, 187,789 ethnic Macedonians, concentrated in the Pirin region. In 2011, official Sofia counted 1,600 Macedonians! For the next census, Sofia will follow Athens and claim it has no minorities.
5. When visiting Bulgaria, in particularly major holiday destinations , one is able to view dozens of TV channels from all of Bulgaria’s neighbors. The only channels missing (scrambled) are those from Macedonia.
6. Just like in Greece, Bulgaria too does not allow Macedonians to register a political party and take part in Parliament elections. The Macedonians have taken Bulgaria to Human Rights court in Strasbourg twice, won both times, but still cannot register their party.
7. Bulgaria first recognized Macedonia, at the same time did not recognize the language which automatically created tensions between the two countries.
8. Bulgaria wanted to help Macedonia during the Greek embargo and opened its port in Burgas to Macedonian companies. This nice gesture was conditioned – official Skopje must stop its communication with Macedonians in Bulgaria.
9. After 2000, Bulgaria decided to create a “minority” in Macedonia, Serbia, Moldavia (even Albania) by issuing passports and citizenships to Macedonians. According to Macedonians and Serbs who have received Bulgarian passports, the entire procedure was done in less than two months involving little to no documentation at all.
10. A typical court case of divorced parents seeking a custody of their daughter turned into a circus case because the mother (Spaska Mitrova) had recently received a Bulgarian passport. Mitrova’s new passport meant the bombastic arrival of two dozen journalists from Sofia at a small court house in Gevgelija to cover the case and cheer on Spaska Mitrova.
Posted by Yilan in Human rights abuses, Yunanistan.
Tags: Golden Dawn, Greece, libya
Fifteen anti-fascist protesters arrested in Athens during a clash with supporters of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn have said they were tortured in the Attica General Police Directorate (GADA) – the Athens equivalent of Scotland Yard – and subjected to what their lawyer describes as an Abu Ghraib-style humiliation.
Members of a second group of 25 who were arrested after demonstrating in support of their fellow anti-fascists the next day said they were beaten and made to strip naked and bend over in front of officers and other protesters inside the same police station.
A protester shows his injuries
Several of the protesters arrested after the first demonstration on Sunday 30 September told the Guardian they were slapped and hit by a police officer while five or six others watched, were spat on and “used as ashtrays” because they “stank”, and were kept awake all night with torches and lasers being shone in their eyes.
Bruising on the protester’s leg
Some said they were burned on the arms with a cigarette lighter, and they said police officers videoed them on their mobile phones and threatened to post the pictures on the internet and give their home addresses to Golden Dawn, which has a track record of political violence.
Golden Dawn’s popularity has surged since the June election, when it won 18 seats in parliament; it recently came third in several opinion polls, behind the conservative New Democracy and the leftwing party Syriza.
Last month the Guardian reported that victims of crime have been told by police officers to seek help from Golden Dawn, who then felt obliged to make donations to the group.
One of the two women among them said the officers used crude sexual insults and pulled her head back by the hair when she tried to avoid being filmed. The protesters said they were denied drinking water and access to lawyers for 19 hours. “We were so thirsty we drank water from the toilets,” she said.
One man with a bleeding head wound and a broken arm that he said had been sustained during his arrest alleged the police continued to beat him in GADA and refused him medical treatment until the next morning. Another said the police forced his legs apart and kicked him in the testicles during the arrest.
“They spat on me and said we would die like our grandfathers in the civil war,” he said.
A third said he was hit on the spine with a Taser as he tried to run away; the burn mark is still visible. “It’s like an electric shock,” he said. “My legs were paralysed for a few minutes and I fell. They handcuffed me behind my back and started hitting and kicking me in the ribs and the head. Then they told me to stand up, but I couldn’t, so they pulled me up by the chain while standing on my shin. They kept kicking and punching me for five blocks to the patrol car.”
The protesters asked that their names not be published, for fear of reprisals from the police or Golden Dawn.
A second group of protesters also said they were “tortured” at GADA. “We all had to go past an officer who made us strip naked in the corridor, bend over and open our back passage in front of everyone else who was there,” one of them told the Guardian. “He did whatever he wanted with us – slapped us, hit us, told us not to look at him, not to sit cross-legged. Other officers who came by did nothing.
“All we could do was look at each other out of the corners of our eyes to give each other courage. He had us there for more than two hours. He would take phone calls on his mobile and say, ‘I’m at work and I’m fucking them, I’m fucking them up well’. In the end only four of us were charged, with resisting arrest. It was a day out of the past, out of the colonels’ junta.”
In response to the allegations, Christos Manouras, press spokesman for the Hellenic police, said: “There was no use of force by police officers against anyone in GADA. The Greek police examine and investigate in depth every single report regarding the use of violence by police officers; if there are any responsibilities arising, the police take the imposed disciplinary action against the officers responsible. There is no doubt that the Greek police always respect human rights and don’t use violence.”
Sunday’s protest was called after a Tanzanian community centre was vandalised by a group of 80-100 people in a central Athens neighbourhood near Aghios Panteleimon, a stronghold of Golden Dawn where there have been many violent attacks on immigrants.
According to protesters, about 150 people rode through the neighbourhood on motorcycles handing out leaflets. They said the front of the parade encountered two or three men in black Golden Dawn T-shirts, and a fight broke out. A large number of police immediately swooped on them from the surrounding streets.
According to Manouras: “During the motorcycle protest there were clashes between demonstrators and local residents. The police intervened to prevent the situation from deteriorating and restore public order. There might have been some minor injuries, during the clashes between residents, protesters and police.”
Marina Daliani, a lawyer for one of the Athens 15, said they had been charged with “disturbing the peace with covered faces” (because they were wearing motorcycle helmets), and with grievous bodily harm against two people. But, she said, no evidence of such harm had so far been submitted. They have now been released on bail of €3,000 (£2,400) each.
According to Charis Ladis, a lawyer for another of the protesters, the sustained mistreatment of Greeks in police custody has been rare until this year: “This case shows that a page has been turned. Until now there was an assumption that someone who was arrested, even violently, would be safe in custody. But these young people have all said they lived through an interminable dark night.
Dimitris Katsaris, a lawyer for four of the protesters, said his clients had suffered Abu Ghraib-style humiliation, referring to the detention centre where Iraqi detainees were tortured by US soldiers during the Iraq war. “This is not just a case of police brutality of the kind you hear about now and then in every European country. This is happening daily. We have the pictures, we have the evidence of what happens to people getting arrested protesting against the rise of the neo-Nazi party in Greece. This is the new face of the police, with the collaboration of the justice system.”
One of the arrested protesters, a quiet man in his 30s standing by himself, said: “Journalists here don’t report these things. You have to tell them what’s happening here, in this country that suffered so much from Nazism. No one will pay attention unless you report these things abroad.”
Posted by Yilan in Human rights abuses, Yunanistan.
Tags: Athens, Greece, libya, politics, terms of the loan agreements
Last weekend, Athens witnessed events not seen since Greece’s military dictatorship of 1967-1974. Some 4,500 police officers were mobilized to round up thousands of people, singled out because their skin colour and general appearance suggested they were immigrants.
Over 1,400 people were interned in camps and are now awaiting deportation. Many were beaten.
This was the culmination of raids and mass arrests targeting undocumented immigrants carried out over previous weeks. The police have collaborated with members of Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn), who openly identify with the Nazis. Fascist gangs have been encouraged by the police to threaten, abuse and attack immigrants.
These events in Athens are a stark warning to workers internationally. What begins as attacks on the most oppressed sections of workers will soon be directed against the entire working class. The ruling elites are preparing to brutally suppress all resistance to their austerity measures, mobilising the most reactionary forces.
The social counterrevolution is more advanced in Greece than in any other European country. Over the past three years real wages have been reduced by up to 60 percent, hundreds of thousands have been laid off, and the welfare system has been destroyed. The official unemployment rate increased in one year by more than a third and is now a record high 23.1 percent. Youth unemployment is 55 percent.
New budget deficits caused by the collapse in tax receipts, as austerity measures undermine the economy, are to be closed through even deeper attacks on workers, pensioners and youth. Another 40,000 layoffs in the public sector are to be imposed to make sure that the terms of the loan agreements with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund are fulfilled.
For large parts of the population the situation is becoming simply impossible. It is only a matter of time before popular anger and indignation boil over. Union officials are already warning of a social explosion. Under these circumstances, the witch-hunting of immigrants, which is supported by the European Commission, has two objectives.
It strengthens the state apparatus and consolidates fascist groups to be used against working class opposition. The minister for civil protection, Nikos Dendias, has increased the Athens police force by 1,500 officers and—as at the Halyvourgia Ellados steel plant—deployed them against strikers.
Greece, which for two years has served as the testing ground for the destruction of social rights, is now to be a laboratory for the development of authoritarian forms of rule. The cuts dictated by the banks are simply incompatible with democratic forms of rule.
The hounding of immigrants also serves to divide the working class, a tactic as old as it is vile. To divert attention from its responsibility for the economic and social crisis, the ruling class deliberately fuels xenophobia and racism, using immigrants as scapegoats.
Civil Protection Minister Dendias has publicly stated that the problem of immigration is greater than the financial problem—a transparent attempt to divert attention from his government’s responsibility for the cuts.
Workers in Greece and Europe must oppose all attempts to stir up anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment. Regardless of their origin or ethnic background, workers have the same interests and face the same enemy all over the world: a ruthless financial aristocracy willing to do anything to defend its privileges and wealth.
Many refugees in Greece come from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other countries that have been militarily ravaged or driven into civil war by the same governments that are responsible for the austerity measures in Greece. People who escaped the hell of war are now being hunted down in the streets of Athens.
In many other European countries state-supported campaigns are being waged against immigrants and ethnic minorities. They serve as a starting point for building up the state apparatus and the consolidation of fascist forces, and are directed against the entire working class. European workers can defend their own democratic rights and social gains only when they oppose the attacks of the police and right-wing forces against refugees.
Pseudo-left groups like theCoalition of the Alternative Left (SYRIZA) are an obstacle. Once again SYRIZA has demonstrated its cowardice and opportunism. The second largest party in parliament, it has not lifted a finger to defend immigrants against the attacks of the police. It has issued a few meaningless words of protest, followed by assurances of its loyalty to the state.
Just a day after the police pursued immigrant workers through the streets of Athens, SYRIZA demanded a parliamentary debate on enlarging the ranks of the police and providing them with better equipment. This party—based on well-off sections of the middle class—thereby indicated its sympathy for the security forces and its instinctive hostility and fear of the working class.
The defence of the rights of workers, immigrant and native born, and the fight against the austerity measures of the financial elite require a socialist perspective that unites workers across all national borders. A new revolutionary leadership of the working class must be built in Greece and throughout Europe.