Mapping new terrains of racist violence

Originally published at

Mapping new terrains of racist violence

The 11414 phone-line is a widely publicised initiative established by the Greek Ministry of Public Order and Citizen Protection in response to international and domestic criticism of police handling of racist violence, an example of which is a damning report by the Racist Violence Recording Network[1] (henceforth RVRN). Their criticisms included that the police are often more likely to turn people away, beat or arrest them under the pretext of lack of immigration documents than they are of investigating the attacks. Bearing in mind these conditions and the ongoing stream of horror stories that emerge in the Greek media of migrants being attacked and tortured[2], a few things become apparent: that understanding and communicating the actual extent of the issue of racist violence in Greece is very important; that doing this is also very tricky; and that to do it in a manner that will have any effect on the situation is extremely difficult. This is, therefore, a tentative text, written as an introduction to an attempt that might very well fail: to map, on a rolling basis, the attacks on migrants taking place in Athens. The aim is for this mapping to raise awareness of the situation internationally and to act as a tool for counter-action locally. There have been attempts and failures to do similar things before, yet each failure has nevertheless revealed new important details about the rise of fascist violence in Greece, drawing connections to the extent of far right wing support amongst the police, local employment relations, legacies from the Greek dictatorship, national and European immigration policies, austerity and international conflict, particularly with the wars in Syria as well as most of North Africa and Afghanistan. In other words, this issue is not merely a national one but has ties and relevance far beyond the Greek borders.

Below is a transcription of a phone conversation with a police officer recorded by 27 year-old “Adam” from Somalia that was published in EFSYN on the 12th of January[3]. Adam had recently been attacked by six black-clad men close to Larissa Station in Athens who broke his hand and stabbed him before he managed to escape. A few days after the incident, he called the recently established phone line for racist attacks to get help. The line claims to be a free 24h line for emergencies and to be entirely anonymous and confidential:

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Initiative for Democracy in Greece: Threats to democracy in Greece


published at the The Guardian 19/3/13

The crisis in Greece is posing serious threats to democracy and human rights (Report, 15 March). We are particularly concerned about the rise of fascism and racism. The government continues to tolerate the violence and hate speech of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn. Golden Dawn MPs attack democracy and display symbols of the military junta of 1967-1974; the party recruits supporters unopposed by the authorities, including schoolchildren. Members of the Greek police engage in violence against immigrants and protesters but have not been brought to account, despite calls from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and UNHCR.

Refugees and migrants face attacks from supporters of far-right groups; the Council of Europe‘s commissioner for human rights recently called such violence “a real threat to democracy”. European and constitutional law is persistently violated. Legislation is introduced through presidential and ministerial decrees, abandoning parliamentary accountability. Independent journalists are censored. We are deeply concerned that fundamental rights and freedoms for which the Greek people have fought for decades are being undermined.
George Bizos, Jon Cruddas MP, Prof Costas Douzinas, Maria Margaronis, Prof Peter Mackridge, Prof Donald Sassoon, Gillian Slovo and 837 others. Full list

• It was the Cypriot government – not the EU or the IMF – which insisted that small depositors be levied to save the banking system. Cyprus has been acting as the clearing house for Russian oligarchs for years. It was this group that the EU and IMF sought to target against fierce resistance from the Cypriot president. The real villains is the Cypriot government, which is hell-bent on protecting Russian tax cheats at the expense of their own citizens.
Andrew Byrne
Doctoral researcher in EU Politics, University of Edinburgh

  A small group of us in London, Greeks of varied affiliations and political persuasions, have come together because we are very concerned about the rise of fascism, racism and the erosion of democracy and civil rights in Greece. Our aim is to raise awareness of the problem internationally, in the hope that this might help to put pressure on Greek politicians to address these issues. We have drafted a statement which we plan to send as an open letter to selected publications, initially in Britain but later also in Greece and the United States. We hope to collect as many signatures as we can from people with a personal or professional interest in Greece and/or human rights and civil liberties. We would be very grateful if you would sign the statement, adding your position/affiliation in the comment box if you feel you can do so, and also forward it to others who might be interested.  Continue reading

Thousands rally against austerity in Greece

Riot police in Athens fire tear gas at hooded youths hurling rocks and bottles during a demonstration.
posted at  20 Feb 2013
Tens of thousands of Greeks have taken to the streets of Athens and other cities as part of a nationwide strike against austerity that confined ferries to ports, shut schools and left hospitals with only emergency staff.Beating drums, blowing whistles and chanting “Robbers, robbers!” more than 60,000 people angry at wage cuts and tax rises marched on Wednesday to parliament in the biggest protest for months over austerity policies required by international lenders.

In the capital, riot police fired tear gas at hooded youths hurling rocks and bottles during a demonstration, mostly of students and pensioners, which ended peacefully.

The two biggest labour unions brought much of crisis-hit Greece to a standstill with a 24-hour protest strike against policies which they say deepen the hardship of people struggling through the country’s worst peacetime downturn.

Representing 2.5 million workers, the unions have gone on strike repeatedly since a debt crisis erupted in late 2009, testing the government’s will to impose the painful conditions of an international bailout in the face of growing public anger.

“Today’s strike is a new effort to get rid of the bailout deal and those who take advantage of the people and bring only misery,” said Ilias Iliopoulos, secretary general of the ADEDY public sector union, which organised the walkout along with private sector union GSEE.

“A social explosion is very near,” he told the Reuters news agency from a rally in a central Athens square as police helicopters clattered overhead.

‘Virtual euphoria’

The eight-month-old coalition of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has been eager to show it will implement reforms promised to the European Union and International Monetary Fund, which have bailed Athens out twice with over 200 billion euros.

The government has cracked down on striking workers, invoking emergency laws twice this year to get seamen and subway workers back to work after week-long walkouts that paralysed public transport in Athens and led to food shortages on islands.

Labour unrest has picked up in recent weeks. A visit by French President Francois Hollande in Athens on Tuesday went largely unreported because Greek journalists were on strike.

“The period of virtual euphoria is over,” said opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, whose Syriza party has regained a narrow opinion poll lead over the governing conservatives.

“Those who thought Samaras would renegotiate the terms of the bailout … are now faced with the harsh reality of unpaid bills, closed shops and lost jobs,” he said.

Under pressure

Anger at politicians and the wealthy elite has been boiling during the crisis, with many accusing the government of making deep cuts to wages and pensions while doing too little to spread the burden or go after rich tax evaders.

“This government needs to look out for us poor people as well because we can’t take it any more,” said Niki Lambopoulou, a 43-year-old insurance broker and single mother.

“I work night and day to make ends meet and the government is killing our children’s dreams.”

Greece secured bailout funds in December, ending months of uncertainty over the country’s future in the eurozone, and
analysts said this had created expectations among Greeks that things would improve for them personally.

“If these expectations are not satisfied by the summer, then whatever is left of the working class will respond with more
protests,” said Costas Panagopoulos, head of Alco pollsters.

Six years of recession and three of austerity have tripled the rate of unemployment to 27 percent. More than 60 percent of young workers are jobless.

European authorities still punishing Greece – can they be stopped?

The so-called troika’s fiscal plans for Greece are the cause of its economic depression, not the solution.

Main opposition party Syriza went from just 4.6 percent of the vote in 2009 to 27 percent last June [EPA]
Alexis Tsipras has a tough job. He is leader of the Syriza Party of Greece, a left party that has risen meteorically in the past three years: from 4.6 percent of the vote in 2009 to 27 percent last June. It is now the most popular party in the country and Tsipras could be the next Prime Minister.Unlike most of the eurozone’s leaders, he knows what is wrong with Greece and the eurozone, and so does his party: austerity. “We have become the guinea pig for barbaric, violent neoliberal policies,” he said at a forum at Columbia University Law School last week, in which I participated.

Tsipras notes that Greece’s fiscal problems could be resolved if the rich paid their taxes. The IMF’s latest numbers [PDF] concur on this: according to the Fund, “annual uncollected net tax revenue [is] at 86 percent of collections in Greece, against an OECD average of 12 percent.”


The European authorities – the so-called “troika” of the European Central Bank (ECB), European Commission, and International Monetary Fund (IMF) – took what was a manageable problem that was caused by a world economic recession, and made it into a serious depression. More than 26 percent of Greeks are unemployed. The economy has shrunk more than 20 percent since 2008, including a 6 percent decline in 2012; the IMF projects another 4.25 drop this year.

The Syriza party has proposed an end to the budget tightening that has caused the depression. The troika wants Greece to stay the course, and says growth will turn positive next year. But they have been saying this for years now, and it hasn’t happened – in just two years the IMF lowered its GDP projections by 7 percentage points. Greece is now in its sixth year of recession, and the social costs have been enormous. According to the IMF this month [PDF]: “Greece is beginning to face an ‘unemployment trap': the length of the Greek recession entails the risk that the skills of the long-term unemployed will become obsolete…”

And even if 2014 were to be the year that things finally turn around, how long would it take Greeks to recover their living standards under the programme of the troika? From the IMF’s projections, it looks like at least seven more years. And while most of the budget tightening of 2012 came from tax increases, the programme that Greece has signed on to calls for big, painful spending cuts this year and beyond.

So even if the troika’s programme “succeeds” in that the economy finally begins to grow again, a lot of unnecessary suffering lies ahead.

What is the alternative, if Greeks refuse to submit to the “barbaric, violent, neoliberal” experiment any longer? Clearly it would involve exiting the euro, and re-negotiating the Greek debt. Continue reading


“What About Greece?”
Something is happenning. It is not just about economy in Greece, it is about Democracy in Europe. We need to focus at last on the problem in its actual dimension.This is the first of a series of videos, regarding the condition of Europe, Greece and the rest of the world.It is the result of cooperation among people with different approaches in quest for “common sense”.

Greece is not a dog: the arrogance of the austerians

By Ingeborg Beugel On September 11, 2012

Originally posted at

Post image for Greece is not a dog: the arrogance of the austeriansDutch and German politicians like to blame Greece for refusing to stick to the agreements — but, in truth, the Greeks are doing more than they should.


Everyone who talks about Greece these days — even well-intentioned liberals — seems to assume a priori that Greece is somehow “opposing the reforms” and “refusing to stick to the agreements”. With Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the forefront, of course. Greece does not deserve respite, not a second of extra time and not a single penny more, simply because “the country keeps breaking its promises.”

First of all, the problem is that it’s impossible for a country as a whole to stick to any agreement whatsoever as if it’s some kind of ‘person’. In Greece there are countless people — the majority of the population — who have been struck by austerity measures that have been forced down their throats as if they were some kind of natural disaster; measures that are the result of those aforementioned “agreements”: a 40 to 50 percent reduction of salaries and pensions, an unbearable series of extra taxes, layoffs on a gigantic scale, a massive increase in unemployment and poverty, the destruction of labor rights, the implosion of healthcare. All these things are utterly unthinkable in a country like Germany or the Netherlands, yet nobody seems to give the Greeks who bravely carry this burden any credit whatsoever.

And then there is obviously the minority, a substantial part of Greece’s rich and corrupt political and industrial elite, which does dodge taxes on a grand scale by funneling money away to foreign countries, but which still gets away unscathed. The majority of Greeks who are bending over backwards to serve the Brussels diktat cannot help that. The middle class, the incredibly hard-working and impossible-tax-paying Greek, cannot be held responsible for that. Try to convince those people that, simply because a tiny minority keeps behaving scandalously, their country is somehow “refusing to stick to the agreements”.

Mind you, it’s exactly that “virtueless” minority of Greeks that Berlin and The Hague were happily doing business with and that could comfortably continue its corrupt ways under the watching gaze of Brussels. For decades, journalists wrote blisters onto their fingers about all the things that were going wrong in Greece, how the people suffered as a result of this, and how sooner or later things were bound to go wrong — but EU politicians didn’t even budge. I would like to see Dutch Prime Minister Rutte explain to my elderly Greek neighbor, who now has to find a way to survive on a miniscule pension of 300 euros, that she is somehow “refusing to stick to the agreements” and “opposing the reforms” when she recounts, crying, that she can’t (and hence won’t) pay her electricity bills.

Secondly, this is not about “agreements” at all. Somehow, that word presupposes that we are talking about two equal parties agreeing on a mutual course of action. Nothing could be further from the truth. Greece has been humbled, mangled and castigated, forced to accept the various IMF demands and Merkel’s austerity measures in a profoundly unequal “like it or lump it” type of situation. The word “agreements” itself is just as deceptive as the words “support” or “reform”. In the case of Greece, “agreements” refer to demands made at knifepoint. Support does not consist of gifts, subsidies or investments, but of big fat loans at disastrous, sky-high interest rates that squeezed Greece will never be able to repay. And the reforms are really just absurd budget cuts that would be utterly impracticable in Northern Europe, including the prospect of a total annihilation of minimum labor rights — something for which Europeans, including the Greeks,  have fought for centuries.

Thirdly, contrary to what Merkel and Rutte unjustifiably keep claiming, ad nauseam, the Greek government is making unbelievable, superhuman efforts to fulfill those impossible demands from Brussels. It does so in spite of the inevitable social unrest and understandable resistance of the Greek people, who are naturally rebelling against all this injustice. Whoever still claims that the Greek government is “once again” falling behind on its commitments and, as a result of slacking and bad governance, fails to pursue the right measures and reforms in the timeframe imposed by Brussels, is simply lying. Merkel is lying. Rutte is lying. Nobel Prize-winning economists and commentators like Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman have already been predicting for two years, also ad nauseam, that Merkel’s current austerity policies are not only failing to work, but are actually driving the Greek economy ever deeper into the abyss.

And behold, they were right. The fact that Merkel and Rutte seem to believe that the targets of their much-revered but ultimately disastrous austerity policies are not being met has nothing to do with the fact that the Greeks are “failing once again”, but is simply the result of a stupid and unworkable set of policies. Back in the Netherlands, Prime Minister Rutte keeps complaining that Greece isn’t privatizing fast enough. This is completely unjustified. Something else is going on: the time Greece has been granted to privatize is simply surreal. Not a single government could comply with that. It’s simply demagoguery to go on and claim that the “Greeks are falling behind again”.

Moreover, the pressure of this “Mission Impossible” pushes the Greek government into an unworkable situation. Partly because of Brussels, it finds itself with its back against the wall, in an in extremely weak position to privatize. It is being forced to sell off large state assets at firesale prices. Foreign buyers and vulture investors smell weakness — and blood. No surprise, then, that government revenues are disappointing; something which can subsequently be used by Rutte and Merkel to claim that “Greece is not honoring its promises”. The same goes for the disappointing revenue from all those extra new taxes: the austerity measures have pushed the Greek economy into a diabolical recession, as a result of which all those EU and IMF calculations about expected revenues turn out to be wrong. That’s not the fault of the Greeks.

One of the most extreme pronunciations came from Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in a recent pre-election debate with Labour leader Diederik Samsom. Samsom openly asked Rutte whether, in order to save Greece and the euro, he would be willing to cough up the money for another bailout. (Obviously, it’s not about “giving” this money, it’s about expensive loans. But let’s leave that aside). No, Rutte yelled. Why not? Because it would be extremely unwise to say that now, for the Greeks would immediately slow down, sit back and stop privatizing and reforming. After all, they would count their blessings in advance, knowing full well that “someone would pay for them” again and therefore refuse to do anything whatsoever. And so Samsom had to be careful with his words, because the Greeks were listening along — and they would “now receive a completely perverse incentive” from the Labour leader.

Rutte: “we have to keep them on a tight leash.”

Excuse me?

As if Greece were a dog. As if the Greeks were shitty little kids grabbing every opportunity to skirt their responsibilities. What an idiotic way of doing international politics. What an arrogant attitude toward people who are bending over backwards to stay inside of “Europe”. Rutte apparently has such a deep distrust and such a profound contempt for our fellow EU member state that we — from the point of view of Ruttian pedagogy — have to actively deceive them and, above all, should not let them know that they can count on any further bailouts if needed. As Prime Minister, Rutte has already made it known that he has “nothing to do with the Greeks”. Such a person, who just like the right-wing extremist Geert Wilders likes to play with the gut feelings of ill-informed citizens to win their votes, should never be allowed to become PM in the first place.

Last but not least: in my own environment and extensive circle of acquaintances in Greece, I do not know a single Greek who does not want to see reform — in the pure sense of the word — from the government; not a single Greek who does not want to put an end to the old and corrupt Greek political establishment, and who does not believe that the debt, for which they themselves are not responsible, should ultimately be paid back (should it?). These people deserve our support and encouragement; not to be treated arrogantly, mercilessly and unjustly, like second-class citizens — or even worse, like a dog.

Ingeborg Beugel is a Dutch journalist and was formerly based in Athens as a foreign correspondent for various Dutch media. She regularly appears on Dutch television to comment on the Greek debt crisis.