I haven’t posted here for a while. I am at a loss as to what to say or do about the current rise of xenophobia and hatred that spews into my home and my head every day. It has affected my daily life and the lives of family and friends. I now have to think about where I go, what I do, what I wear, who I look at. I am aware of it every moment, of every day. I suppose it is hard to imagine how that feels if you are not affected.
I had to give myself a talking to yesterday. I had to remind myself that not everyone who looks at me is looking with malice. Not everyone who walks near me on the street wishes me harm. Not everyone hates me.
You cannot imagine if it’s not happening to you.
I am so fortunate in this situation. I am an EU citizen with a job and a home and family and friends. How much worse it is for so many people, on so many different levels. People without all the things I have. Greeks and non-Greeks alike. I understand the anger and frustration about the current financial situation. It is driving people to suicide. People are depressed and angry and see no future.
What I don’t understand is the hatred towards foreigners. Not just from the neo-nazis Golden Dawn (Chrysi Avgi) but from ordinary citizens. Both the 7% who voted for them and those who didn’t but agree with them. The outpouring of sympathy and support for this “party” on the internet is a daily deluge of hatred.
So I find myself with few words to say…
I can only let you know what is happening here in Greece and warn that hatred has no borders. It’s a disease that spreads. And it spreads quicker and easier than anyone thinks is possible.
This is a round-up of the hate news from the last couple of weeks:
500 Racist Attacks in 6 Months
Nearly 500 racially motivated attacks have been carried out over the past six months in Greece according to the Migrant Workers Association, as immigrants say that the rising wave of xenophobic violence has left them afraid to walk the streets.
The victims were in most cases attacked with steel rods, knives and brass knuckles, the association says.
A 19-year-old Iraqi was attacked outside a makeshift mosque in central Athens on Sunday morning by five individuals on motorcycles and struck multiple times with what appears to have been a knife, police said. The victim was taken to hospital but died several hours later.
Asking for Protection
Racially motivated attacks against immigrants have intensified in recent months, a prominent member of the local Pakistani community said Tuesday, alleging that police have failed to respond effectively to protect the victims.
Javied Aslam, who is the president of the Pakistani community in Greece, also accused the police of physically abusing foreigners during an unprecedented crackdown on clandestine immigrants.
“In the past six months, knife-wielding fascists have attacked some 500 persons with impunity from the police,” Aslam, who is also chief of Greece’s Migrant Workers’ Association, told Skai Radio Tuesday. “The law does not apply to them,” said the 43-year-old Aslam.
Hate on the Streets
In May 2011, in the days following the murder of a Greek man, Manolis Kantaris, in central Athens, gangs of Greeks, in apparent retaliation for the killing, indiscriminately attacked migrants and asylum seekers, chasing them through the streets, dragging them off buses, beating and stabbing them.
The flare up of anti-immigrant violence was cause for serious concern. However, attacks against migrants and asylum seekers began well before May 2011 and have continued since with frightening regularity both in Athens and elsewhere in Greece. Migrants and asylum seekers spoke to Human Rights Watch of virtual no-go areas in Athens after dark because of fear of attacks by often black-clad groups of Greeks intent on violence. Yunus Mohammadi, the president of an association of Afghans in Greece, told us he started showing newer arrivals a map of Athens with a red line around areas they should avoid. “This is exactly what I used to do in Afghanistan with the Red Cross about places people shouldn’t go because of fighting,” Mohammadi said. “And here I am doing the same thing in a European country.”
The Modern Day “Hospitable Zeus”
Since the weekend, the Greek police haverounded uparound 6500 immigrants in Athens. About 1500 have been found to be without documents and are currently imprisoned awaiting deportation, in overcrowded detention centres where conditions are‘dire’.
More than three-quarters of the people targeted by the police are completely innocent. But most of the media (even the Guardian) have described it as an operation against lathrometanastes or ‘illegal’ immigrants. They also seem to have reproduced verbatim police reports which claim that indiscriminately pouncing on immigrants is a way to crack down on all sorts of criminal behaviour, from drug use and prostitution to breaches of health regulations in shops.
The official codename for the operation is ‘Xenios Zeus’. The name of Zeus, usually invoked only by hoteliers and the Greek tourist board, has struck many people as an odd choice, especially with the epithet xenios, which denotes his role as the god of hospitality, the protector of foreigners. Some critics thought it outrageous, offensive sarcasm, a direct and blatant provocation. Others thought it unintentionally ironic. But ancient mythology, classical figures and monuments have often been deployed by authoritarian regimes to justify or mask repressive policies. During the Greek Civil War (1946-49) the prison-island of Makronisos, used by the government for the ideological ‘rehabilitation’ of left-wing citizens and soldiers, was known as the New Parthenon.
and lastly, Breaking News… We don’t have the full picture of what is happening in Corinth but people are saying the water has been cut off and rubbish remains uncollected at the army camp where arrested immigrants were to be detained. There are also unconfirmed reports of shots fired or some sort of explosion. More on this when we know the story…
Unrest in Corinth
A military camp in Corinth, west of Athens, became the cause of a standoff between supporters of the far-right Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) party and anti-racism campaigners after the police used the center to detain dozens of migrants following a sweep operation in the city.
Police expanded their Xenios Zeus campaign, aimed at tackling illegal immigration, from Athens to Corinth early Thursday, leading to some 250 migrants being detained. Almost 11,000 migrants have been detained since the clampdown began earlier this month, leading to nearly 2,000 arrests.
However, the move prompted the reaction of supporters of Golden Dawn. About 60 members of the neo-fascist part, along with local party MP Efstathios Boukouras, gathered outside the camp to protest migrants being held there. There were brief clashes with riot police, who were pelted with fruit and vegetables by the protesters.