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.
Posted by Yilan in Human rights abuses, Thrace, Trakya, Turkey, Yunanistan.
Tags: Bati Trakya, Greece, Greeks, Human rights, libya, politics, religion, Thrace, Trakya, travel, Turkey, vacation, Western Thrace, Yunanistan
Greek newspapers have accused Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of provocation after Erdoğan referred to the Turks in western Thrace as the “Turkish minority,” daily Milliyet reported today.
Erdoğan sent a congratulatory message to the Fraternity, Equality and Peace Party (DEP) in Greece to mark the 21st anniversary of the party, which was founded by members of the minority community there.
“Our kin in western Thrace has always had a special place in our hearts,” Erdoğan said in his message. “That is why it is very important that our kin exercises their rights, which have been guaranteed by international agreements, to their full extent.”
“We will always stand by the Turkish minority in western Thrace, as we have done up to this day,” Erdoğan said.
The Turkish prime minister also expressed his hope that the minority in western Thrace and the Greek Orthodox minority in Turkey would serve as “a bridge of friendship” between the two countries.
The Greek Foreign Ministry responded to Erdoğan’s message saying there was no such thing as a “Turkish minority” in the international agreements to which Erdoğan referred in his message.
Greek newspaper Demokratia carried the story with the headline “Erdoğan provokes” and said, “Erdoğan has shown his true colors once again. He calls Greek Muslims Turks and tries to appear as their benefactor.”
Etnos newspaper said, “Erdoğan’s government is very interested in creating a minority issue in Thrace, and they are very good at it.”
Official Greek numbers say around 49,000 ethnic Turks live in Thrace, while western Thrace culture and education associations put the number at around 150,000.
Posted by Yilan in Human rights abuses.
Tags: Golden Dawn
People hold sacks of potatoes during a food distribution organised by Golden Dawn, in Athens. Photograph: Yorgos Karahalis/Reuters
Greece‘s far-right Golden Dawn party is increasingly assuming the role of law enforcement officers on the streets of the bankrupt country, with mounting evidence that Athenians are being openly directed by police to seek help from the neo-Nazi group, analysts, activists and lawyers say.
In return, a growing number of Greek crime victims have come to see the party, whose symbol bears an uncanny resemblance to the swastika, as a “protector”.
One victim of crime, an eloquent US-trained civil servant, told the Guardian of her family’s shock at being referred to the party when her mother recently called the police following an incident involving Albanian immigrants in their downtown apartment block.
“They immediately said if it’s an issue with immigrants go to Golden Dawn,” said the 38-year-old, who fearing for her job and safety, spoke only on condition of anonymity. “We don’t condone Golden Dawn but there is an acute social problem that has come with the breakdown of feeling of security among lower and middle class people in the urban centre,” she said. “If the police and official mechanism can’t deliver and there is no recourse to justice, then you have to turn to other maverick solutions.”
Other Greeks with similar experiences said the far-rightists, catapulted into parliament on a ticket of tackling “immigrant scum” were simply doing the job of a defunct state that had left a growing number feeling overwhelmed by a “sense of powerlessness”. “Nature hates vacuums and Golden Dawn is just filling a vacuum that no other party is addressing,” one woman lamented. “It gives ‘little people’ a sense that they can survive, that they are safe in their own homes.”
Far from being tamed, parliamentary legitimacy appears only to have emboldened the extremists. In recent weeks racially-motivated attacks have proliferated. Immigrants have spoken of their fear of roaming the streets at night following a spate of attacks by black-clad men on motorbikes. Street vendors from Africa and Asia have also been targeted.
“For a lot of people in poorer neighbourhoods we are liberators,” crowed Yiannis Lagos, one of 18 MPs from the stridently patriot “popular nationalist movement” to enter the 300-seat house in June. “The state does nothing,” he told a TV chat show, adding that Golden Dawn was the only party that was helping Greeks, hit by record levels of poverty and unemployment, on the ground. Through an expansive social outreach programme, which also includes providing services to the elderly in crime-ridden areas, the group regularly distributes food and clothes parcels to the needy.
But the hand-outs come at a price: allegiance to Golden Dawn. “A friend who was being seriously harassed by her husband and was referred to the party by the police very soon found herself giving it clothes and food in return,” said a Greek teacher, who, citing the worsening environment enveloping the country, again spoke only on condition of anonymity. “She’s a liberal and certainly no racist and is disgusted by what she has had to do.”
The strategy, however, appears to be paying off. On the back of widespread anger over biting austerity measures that have also hit the poorest hardest, the popularity of the far-rightists has grown dramatically with polls indicating a surge in support for the party.
One survey last week showed a near doubling in the number of people voicing “positive opinions” about Golden Dawn, up from 12% in May to 22%. The popularity of Nikos Michaloliakos, the party’s rabble-rousing leader had shot up by 8 points, much more than any other party leader.
Paschos Mandravelis, a prominent political analyst, attributed the rise in part to the symbiotic relationship between the police and Golden Dawn. “Greeks haven’t turned extremist overnight. A lot of the party’s backing comes from the police, young recruits who are a-political and know nothing about the Nazis or Hitler,” he said. “For them, Golden Dawn supporters are their only allies on the frontline when there are clashes between riot police and leftists.”
Riding the wave, the party has taken steps to set up branches among diaspora Greek communities abroad, opening an office in New York last week. Others are expected to open in Australia and Canada. Cadres say they are seeing particular momentum in support from women.
With Greeks becoming ever more radicalised, the conservative-led government has also clamped down on illegal immigration, detaining thousands in camps and increasing patrols along the country’s land and sea frontier with Turkey.
But in an environment of ever increasing hate speech and mounting tensions, the party’s heavy-handedness is also causing divisions. A threat by Golden Dawn to conduct raids against vendors attending an annual fair in the town of Arta this weekend has caused uproar.
“They say they have received complaints about immigrant vendors from shop owners here but that is simply untrue,” said socialist mayor Yiannis Papalexis. “Extra police have been sent down from Athens and if they come they will be met by leftists who have said they will beat them up with clubs. I worry for the stability of my country.”
Seated in her office beneath the Acropolis, Anna Diamantopoulou, a former EU commissioner, shakes her head in disbelief. Despair, she says, has brought Greece to a dangerous place.
“I never imagined that something like Golden Dawn would happen here, that Greeks could vote for such people,” she sighed. “This policy they have of giving food only to the Greeks and blood only to the Greeks. The whole package is terrifying. This is a party based on hate of ‘the other’. Now ‘the other’ is immigrants, but who will ‘the other’ be tomorrow?”