At the end of May, trans women in Thessaloniki were subject to ongoing harassment whereby they were arrested, detained for several hours and then released with a warning to “return to normal”. The lawyer for the Transgender Association of Greece was also herself detained. The Association has now started legal proceedings against the police, however the harassment is ongoing.
On the 30th May, the police in Thessaloniki started a sustained campaign of harassment against trans gender women. This comes in a context where last year in August 25 trans women were rounded up from the streets of Athens and forcible detained, and where earlier this year drug users in Athens have also been rounded up and taken to one of the migrant detention camps. Responding to concerns about this operation, the Minister for Public Order stated that there was a “special operational plan” in place which was designed to
…tackle, among others, prostitution and exploitation of the sexual life of socially and economically vulnerable individuals, to enhance citizens’ feeling of safety and to improve the image of the Thessaloniki’s areas
This campaign started just before Thessaloniki Pride, and although continuing, it appeared to die down after Pride was over, however it has now again picked up pace. On the night of 12th July, the day after the Transgender Association of Greece formally filed a lawsuit about police behaviour, five trans women were arrested, once detained in the police station, they were paraded from floor to floor, being mocked.
On 17th July a large scale a team from the “Operation Zeus” police unit surrounded two trans women and asked them follow the department. It followed them, where they were detained without any explanation for their detention. On release they contacted the Secretary the Transgender Association in Thessaloniki and made an appointment for a meeting with four other members to inform them of the incident; again police motorcyclists surrounded them and demanded that follow them. When the six women refused, as no reason had been given and there was no legitimacy to their demand they lay down on the road in protest refusing to go with the police, remaining there until the Chief of Police arrived who recorded their details.
Related to this, the first announcement of the new Health Minister Adonis Georgiades was that forcible HIV testing which had been abandoned in the wake of the outcry last year when women accused of being involved in the sex industry were arrested, forcibly tested and publicly humiliated, would resume. This has already been enacted in the cases of the women picked up in Thessaloniki .
A landmark ruling by the Greek Court confirmed that discrimination against transgender people is prohibited discrimination under Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights yet, despite the Greek Ambassador to the UN claims to the contrary. there is no native legislation in Greece which prohibits such discrimination, which leaves those who are transgender in a difficult situation, unable to amend their identity cards or change their name to reflect their gender.
The police harassment of the women of Thessaloniki is part of an ongoing situation where the police target minorities. Dendias’ statement of “improving the image of Thessaloniki” is a worrying confirmation of the “cleansing” which is going on in Greece, where those who the state deems “dirty” are being swept from the streets.