The only thing necessary for the persistence of evil is for enough good people to do nothing

Racial Tensions in Greece

I find it problematic that the journalist has chosen to highlight an ex-Taliban fighter at the beginning of the article but I wanted to share it because it does give a picture of the situation here in Greece.

Via truthout

Racial Tensions Mount in Greece
Iason Athanasiadis

Athens, Greece — When he was still a Taliban fighter, Zaher Muhamad never thought he would end up in Greece.

But as the might of the United States Army made itself felt in the post-Sept. 11 invasion of Afghanistan, Muhamad was forced to lay down his arms and flee, first to the Pakistani city of Peshawar, then onto Greece via Iran and Turkey. Today, he heads an Afghan immigrant association and lives in St Panteleimon, a gritty Athenian neighborhood balancing awkwardly along the racial fault line dividing the Greek capital.

It is not a good time to be in Greece. The country is in the middle of a crisis, with official unemployment skyrocketing to over 12 percent in general and 25 percent among young people. Now that construction and industrial jobs are drying up, immigrants are less welcome than ever.

Muhamad is just one in the tapestry of immigrants crowding into St Panteleimon from Asia, Africa and eastern Europe. Tensions skyrocketed in recent years as immigrants began outnumbering Greeks and members of the Greek far-right moved there to fight “de-Hellenisation.” They rented or bought apartments overlooking the square, stretched Greek flags taut across their balcony railings, and began almost daily patrols harassing immigrants.

Although many left, others like Muhamad refuse to be intimidated.

You can read the full article on the truthout website

20 Comments

  1. Cinzano
    May 18, 2010    

    I find it problematic that the journalist has chosen to highlight an ex-Taliban fighter

    Once again, you’re being extremely unfair.

    Why do you find the fact that he was once a Taliban fighter “problematic” if it’s the truth? Inlike you, most good journalists will strive to tell the truth and provide balance and impartiality to an article – i congratulate this Greek journalist for highlighting the issues faced by immigrants at the hands of greek extremists – surely this article should be praised not criticised.

    The irony is that you criticise the integrity of this Greek journalist but as an “internet journalist blogger” you constantly give a one-sided view of Greece and omit to highlight those facts which contradict your stereotypical view of Greeks. In your case, you will constantly make snide digs at everything Greek and constantly post negative articles against Greece (this time, it’s against Greek journalism).
    Instead of praising the fact that a Greek journalist has researched the life of a refugee and written an article highlighting the problems faced by immigrants from right-wingers in Greece, you choose to criticise the jouralist for mentioning that Zaher muhamad had been a fighter for the Taliban.
    Your bias against Greeks is unbelievable. You just can’t help yourself from portraying Greeks and southern Europeans in a negative light in your negative blog.

  2. crusader
    May 18, 2010    

    Thank you DeviousDiva.What a relief to learn that amongst the future compatriots of mine there are ex taliban fighters.You know these lovely guys,who poison little girls,who destroy non islamic monuments,whose aim in life is to exterminate kaffirs.And should we feel sorry if scums like this Mohhamed guy find it hard here?

  3. crusader
    May 18, 2010    

    You know DeviousDiva what i find problematic?That the Afghan immigrants in Greece have chosen a taliban as leader of their association.Funny because in most articles regarding Afghanis immigratns or afghanis asylum seekers they keep on stating how they left Afgnaistan because of Taliban’s oppression and yet they have no problem being reresented by one of them here.A bit of an oxymoron,no?

  4. The Verve
    May 18, 2010    

    The journalist did his job properly by highlighting this guy’s connection to the Taliban. In fact Greece needs more hardcore investigative reporters getting out there and digging up all the dirt they can find. If anyone has connections to terrorist or extremist groups, the Greek people must know about this. The relevant authorities must be notified and action must be taken against any individual who can pose a threat to both national & international security.

    I am however opposed to the intimidation of immigrants by far right groups. Likewise I am also opposed to criminal gang activity by immigrants who have done irreversible damage to suburbs like St. Panteleimon. You could walk in any part of Athens during the 80’s and even early 90’s without any fear for your life or your belongings, that is no longer the case. My non-greek friends that have visited Greece for holidays, although they love the islands…they can’t but help notice what a dump central Athens looks like and how unsafe they felt. That will further screw up Greece’s future tourism prospects…way 2 GO!!!

    It was predictable that Greece would find itself in the mess it is today. The high-influx of low-skilled, uneducated immigrants into a debt-ridden country that has a non-diverse and low-output economy was a recipe for disaster. One could make the analogy that these immigrants are no different to those dumb, naive teens that venture into the woods and get hacked to pieces by the boogeyman like in most slasher flicks. You simply do not move into a foreign country (even illegally) without doing your research first. Does the country in question have a good job market? Does it have a growing economy? Does it have affordable housing? What about the cost of living?…these are only a few of the questions these immigrants should’ve asked themselves before paying the human trafficker their life savings, to take them in an inflatable dinghy boat to the land of teh infidelz…maximum lolz!!

  5. May 18, 2010    

    I am not a journalist. I am a blogger.
    You know that.

    What I find problematic is that the vast majority of people who

    never thought he would end up in Greece”

    are not fighters, political or active in any way. They are simply people, caught up in wars and conflict and famine and unemployment, who have left in fear of their lives or to try and make a better life. If I hadn’t mentioned that I found the article problematic, I would have been criticised for not mentioning it. The fact that i did, makes me wrong as well. Don’t delude yourselves, I did think about writing that sentence or not.
    .-= deviousdiva´s last blog ..Racial Tensions in Greece =-.

  6. gurmit
    May 21, 2010    

    I am sure that most immigrants in Greece probably weren’t former Taliban fighters or other things of that nature. What I am surprised at by is the fact that an ex-Taliban fighter is allowed to remain in Greece unless there are other considerations the judiciary or a refugee board is aware of but we aren’t. I’m sure he would have been sent back were he in Canada (unless of course the Americans wanted him for some reason). We have a Canadian who was in the Taliban, he was a child soldier, and he is still in Guitanomo even though every other western country has taken their nationals who were in the Taliban back home.

    Verve, I can’t see illegal immigrants doing very much research. People who are genuinely fleeing dire situations just take off to where ever they can. In fact, countries poorer than Greece have many , if not most, of the world’s refugees, and many of the refugees just stay in tent cities for years and years. Some perhaps see Greece as better than their own countries.

  7. gurmit
    May 21, 2010    

    Kostas,

    Hronia polla. I guess if Kostas isn’t your real name, then happy fake name day.

    Gurmit

  8. pj
    May 21, 2010    

    What I find problematic is that the reference to the Taliban serves only to raise questions without answering them. It is not surprising if people reading the article are alarmed at the idea of a former Taliban fighter heading an Afghan association, but do we actually know what that means? How long was Zaher Muhamad fighting with teh Taliban? Did he do so as a volunteer or under duress? In what capacity did he fight and for how long? What is his position now on the Taliban and the time he spent with them? To make sense of the reference we need more context, which the article fails to provide.

  9. The Verve
    May 21, 2010    

    Gurmit, it’s understandable that these folks are in a desperate situation. But as we’ve already seen, the lives of most of these people do not get better when they enter Greece. In fact many feel they are worse off, even though Greece is still better off than their own countries. Greece simply does not have the economy and facilities to cater for so many people and their particular skill-set (if any).

    Right at this moment there are plenty of Albanians and other immigrants who are leaving Greece. The harsh reality of Greece’s financial problems are too big to be ignored, life is not going to be pleasant in the coming years. One can simply not stay in or move to a country that has next to zero employment opportunities. The economy is expected to shrink and not grow in the foreseeable future. Industries that have growth potential such as IT will not benefit poor, uneducated immigrants as there is already an abundance of skilled Greek IT workers.

  10. gurmit
    May 22, 2010    

    Hi Verve,

    I understand what you are saying. Right now Greece is in such a bad situation that there are probably Greeks trying to leave Greece for better opportunities. Even when the economic situation was ok, I don’t think Greece had the infrastructure to deal with refugees coming into it like a country like Canada can, for example. Even we can’t support very large numbers and most people wouldn’t want to I’m sure. For instance, Mexico has a large problem with drug cartel members killing regular people. It is such a problem right now that there have been more deaths in Mexico so far this year than in Afghanistan probably (I’m quite sure but haven’t checked figures). The cartels have almost as many foot soldiers as the Mexican army and are more powerful than the government.However, do you think, Canada or the U.S. will just start taking Mexicans as refugees in vast numbers? The risks they face, including getting kids kidnapped and death threats, are seen as normal risks there and they don’t fall under the category of regular convention refugees.

    Quite frankly, I don’t think there is a solution for refugees the way the world is. Even if some people escape, most suffer because they can’t escape bad regimes or criminal organizations like drug cartels. The powers that be, whether criminal or noncriminal, are creating the wars and war machines that cause the refugees instead of providing any solutions. If world war II hadn’t happened maybe we wouldn’t even have all this rhetoric or trying to help refugees. That is just a little bandage anyway not fixing the problem. Maybe I am just overly pessimistic but I see no solution. The world is just too messed up. I’m glad not everyone is like me of course.

  11. gurmit
    May 22, 2010    

    I agree with you PJ. I just can’t see Greece or any other country not kicking out this guy if it is known that he was a part of the Taliban without some exceptional circumstance being present. I’m not saying anything against this journalist, but in general, I take what journalists say with a grain of salt. Courts in Canada don’t take anything any newspaper says as evidence, which just shows the news isn’t the truth.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think what the Taliban stands for is revolting. If they had the run of the world, everyone would be forced to Islam and women would have no power -among other things. They are one of the craziest groups in the world, propaganda or no propaganda. However, sometimes I agree with this one human rights activist, Cynthia Mahmood, that the phenomenon of terrorism in some ways is like the mediaeval campaign against witches. I read one time that over 100,000 women were burnt as witches in Germany alone and the whole campaign against witches lasted a long time, over two centuries. I’m sure people heard the word witch and react the same way we do in our world today when we hear terrorist. No thinking involved, just plain emotion, and the finger can be pointed and misused by powers that seem legitimate but aren’t in every sense of the word.

  12. gurmit
    May 22, 2010    

    Here are articles from CNN and the Washington Times about the drug situation in Mexico in 2009.
    http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2010/04/14/government-more-than-22000-dead-in-mexico-drug-war/

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/mar/03/100000-foot-soldiers-in-cartels/

    I got my information from my brother in the earlier months of this year. He was taking a course on the situation and also helping a would be Mexican refugee hunted by cartel members for destroying a lot of marijuana plants planted on his land without permission in a law clinic. Certainly, earlier this year,there were more deaths in Mexico than in Afghanistan or Iraq. Interestingly, a while back I read this kid’s novel called “The House of the Scorpion” that has Mexico as a legalized drug area run by a family and lobotomized workers working the drug crops. Now there are articles talking of it becoming a “narco state.” Maybe the verb should not be becoming but is as in already is.

  13. The Verve
    May 23, 2010    

    Hey Gurmit,

    What you say about the immigration issue regarding Mexicans and the situation in Mexico is pretty bad. Canada is not responsible for their problems. Regardless of how prosperous Canada is, there’s always a limit of how many immigrants it is capable of taking in before things start to get ugly.

    Further to the point, what type of immigrant does a country like Canada actually need? Considering that Canada has an advanced economy with an established & growing technology industry, would the Asian whizz-kid with the computer science degree not take precedence over an unskilled Mexican labourer? There may be room for both but if Canada wants to remain prosperous, it will ensure that the Asian whizz-kid type of immigrant will be first in line to get entry and citizenship.

    And why should the majority of Canadians, mostly law-abiding folks have to put up with gangsterism and an underclass imported from another country. It’s a ridiculous situation to be in. Try telling the Japanese to import all & sundry into their country and they will tell you to flock off. I’ve been to Japan for business on several occassions, it’s a beautiful, clean and well run country. There is next to little lawlessness and no immigration problem because they simply do not allow it. Even if I wanted to live there, the task ahead would be incredibly onerous. I would have to jump through so many hoops and even if I was lucky enough to be granted citizenship (very, very few non-Japanese people actually do)….I would never be considered a Japanese person. They refer to peope like you and I as gaijin which means foreigner, and that’s just the way things are over there. I don’t see the Japanese people suffering because of this, they’re one of the most prosperous, safest and technologically advanced nations in the world.

    Should we now consider the Japanese people racist because they won’t let most of us live in their country? Or are they actually doing something right, while the western world is gradually starting to resemble the third world? It many not be there yet but the signs of decay most certainly are.

  14. gurmit
    May 24, 2010    

    Verve,

    I think Canada is a well run country and hope and pray it will always be so. Of course, our government is not stupid and prefers the Asian or any other whiz kid over an unskilled labourer from any country. Canada does allow tens of thousands of Mexicans and people from various South American countries to come here to work on the farms but on a temporary basis each year, usually no more than six months a year, and their families do not come. It is a well monitored system in which the rights of these workers including medical coverage are looked after and both these workers and Canada benefit. It it was an unmonitored system, I’m sure things would get ugly and quite fast for both these workers and Canadians. I can see lots of people not leaving, sneaking in, farmers exploiting them too,conflict, etc. if it were unmonitored.

    The situation in Mexico is quite ugly, and it will not be a good thing for the world in general if Mexico does become a state run by drug lords. They seem as crazy as the Taliban with their be-headings of journalists and so on. I think America will face more repercussions than Canada if it happens, and I realize the problems there are not Canada’s responsibilities even though one does feel bad for the regular, law abiding folks suffering from the drug situation. Of course I felt sorry for the guy my brother was trying to help as a law student because my brother was personally involved and I also edited his reflective paper on the situation. I am also glad my brother starts his first law job in a week with an intellectual property firm due to his engineering background because I think he is just too nice a guy to keep on dealing with messy situations involving people (though he thinks he is tough no doubt).

    I didn’t mean to imply that I want Canada to be responsible for all the victims in Mexico though of course I am glad that Canada does take in some refugees from all over the world every year. It is the mark of a civilized nation if it can afford it. I think most of these refugees do integrate well, at least economically and contribute to the economic life of the country quite positively. They are allowed free room and board, health care, language classes, etc. and eventually work permits before their status is decided. Of course, the decent ones prefer to work and not leech off the state once they get their work permits. It would be absolutely ridiculous to think these accommodations could be made for huge numbers of refuge seekers, and my country is not dumb and recognizes it.

    I don’t call the Japanese people wrong for not allowing tons of people to come into their country (I’m sure they don’t have a ban on any nationality or race, so they aren’t racist) or not granting citizenships easily. Every country has the right to dictate its own policies in these matters. If I had my own country, Gurmitland, I would be very careful about letting in only people I wanted-well educated, progressive, non-criminal, etc. individuals only. I’d probably let you in for you are smart enough to have a business that involves travel to Japan- provided you met all the other conditions too that would be there, and if you wanted to even come of course.

    The third world needs to clean up its act. I just don’t see the governments there caring for their people and dealing with things like overpopulation which is one of the biggest problems in the world. The western world needs to stop exploiting the third world too. For example, sending third world countries shiploads of poisonous cancer causing junk without adequate labels to dispose of and recycle is not a good thing even if money is exchanged ( I am sure the poisons end up back in the west too; certain pesticides, for example, are being found in the Arctic and other cold places like Sweden in spite of not being used there). There are other forms of exploitation too. Perhaps the third world would stop being the third world a lot sooner if these forms of exploitation did not take place and its corrupt leaders were told to hit the road. As for the west’s immigration policies, well the western nations have the right to their own immigration policies and should be smart enough not to become like the third world. I think the Japanese are people noted for planning properly rather than reacting to circumstances caused by improper planning. Not everyone behaves as intelligently as them.

  15. gurmit
    May 24, 2010    

    Hey Verve,

    Though most Canadians are indeed law abiding and quite nice people, I think British Columbia can be compared to Mexico in some ways as far as drugs go. The crime industry is thought to generate 5-7 billion dollars a year in this province of about 4.5 million people. That includes different kinds of drugs and things like stealing cars and selling them in other countries. It all apparently diversified due to marijuana, which hasn’t gone away and generates as much profits as the forestry industry (the last I heard years ago, probably more now). There are actually entire towns in the interior of BC involved in growing marijuana. Even in the large cities (where all the killings and gang fights seem to be centred with the international ports) there are tens of thousands of grow-ops and this is just for marijuana not other drugs made with chemicals. In teacher school, I heard things about drug use in school and how they know when drugs are cheaper because so many more students are high. There are also thousands and thousands of people who smoke marijuana quite defiantly in public and the cops look the other way of course. Upper class people are involved in the consumption too. They think they are cool or something. Dealers in places like Vancouver can sell on the streets and earn a comfortable middle class income and their risks aren’t too great for the laws are quite lax if they get caught. BC marijuana is also extremely potent and sought after in other places by dealers and users. My dad told me that one of his renters had marijuana plants planted in his back yard. The cops came and destroyed them, but the guy didn’t even get charged because he had planted under a certain number. I don’t mean to imply everyone is a pothead or a marijuana grower in this place but the numbers of dollars involved do say something, and I haven’t made them up. I remember one year there was a provincial party running whose only mandate seemed to be to get marijuana legalized. It is quite, quite pathetic.

  16. gurmit
    May 24, 2010    

    Oops sorry, Verve,I made a mistake. Marijuana alone generates 5-7 billion dollars a year and is one of BC’s top exports. American authorities, who have a much tougher stance against drug crimes, don’t like it too much and is working with BC law enforcement agencies.

  17. The Verve
    May 24, 2010    

    Hey Gurmit,

    It’s good to hear about how Canada is handling immigration. It seems like a fair and effective system that should be adopted by more countries worldwide. Drugs ofcourse are a huge problem everywhere but interestingly enough this is another area where Japan seems to be doing a better job. Drugs are frowned upon by Japanese society at large. It’s next to impossible to get a job there if you’re a known drug abuser. Furthermore, drugs are prohibitively expensive so there are fewer users.

    Third world countries are a mixed bag, some are gradually coming right while others will remain screwed up for decades to come. Although the first world can shoulder some of the blame on certain issues, the third world needs to become more accountable for a lot of their own self-inflicted problems. Yeah, and poor folks having more kids than they can look after is a serious problem. It’s incredibly unfair, especially on the kids that get brought up in poverty because their parents were irresponsible.

  18. gurmit
    May 24, 2010    

    Yup, Verve. I agree with all of the above. BC just doesn’t have ordinary drug problems though. It is a major international centre for drugs , with Vancouver being an international sea port (another one being built in Prince Rupert), the American border being so close, the potency of BC Bud (the marijuana brand, 5-12.5 times as potent as Mexican marijuana), and the laws against drugs being so lax. At the most, folks get a few months in jail if caught. The Marijuana Party hasn’t gone away either and over half the population wants marijuana legalized (except I’m sure the Marijuana Party won’t be voted in for there are other issues people care about too). Maybe I’m over reacting and marijuana isn’t such a bad thing legalized, but I just can’t see it as a good thing. Marijuana for medical purposes has been legalized here actually and certain people get licenses for growing it. However, a problem they have is Marijuana thieves coming and harvesting their crops. I know in the part of India my parents are from marijuana grows wild and nobody really cares about it -except the BC kids of Indian descent who have gotten hooked on drugs and are sent there by frantic parents who think dumping them in India will maybe solve the problem. It rarely does. The Japanese have the right idea I think. So does Greece in giving drug dealers lengthy jail times. Some cities are starting to get the right idea here by giving daily fines of $10,000 for grow-ops. The city I am in does that (hey, I have the mayor’s direct email since he emailed me back on an issue. Now I can really complain about stuff and yesterday did about the lack of recycling here compared to Ontario).Landlords are also penalized as they can’t take the rent from grow-op tenants, the police come and demolish their walls and stuff quite well and they have to fix out of pocket (when living in Vancouver, I had neighbours who had a grow-op and got busted and watched the cops destroy the home through my window and heard the guy who had rented the house complain later), and insurance doesn’t cover former grow-op houses. It is a constant battle between cops and these criminals, with setbacks sometimes provided by the judicial system, like having to have a search warrant now, etc.

    Anyway, have a good day.

  19. May 25, 2010    

    Apologies to readers of this blog for the lack of posts. My dashboard is all messed up and I can’t add anything at the moment. Hopefully this will be sorted out very soon. Thanks for your patience.

  20. Post Disagreement
    May 26, 2010    

    Quite frankly these people must go…Greece does not have the resources to help its own much less these people.

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