There hasn’t been terribly much in the mainstream press recently about Greece. The dominant narrative is that the country has been through severe austerity and punishing financial adjustment, but is emerging from the crisis, stamping out the fascist threat and slowly making its way back to normality, but the reality of life in Greece is very different. Fascism is still alive, well and embedded within the Greek apparatus, and the repression and violence of the Greek state is ongoing. Murders on the coast; unlawful raids on people’s homes and violent beatings are becoming its hallmarks.
Unlike the Lampusa tragedy, news of which circumnavigated the globe and which for a short time drew attention to the plight of those seeking refuge in Fortress Europe, the murders in Pharmakonisi received comparatively little coverage. A cramped fishing boat filled with 28 refugees was spotted by the Greek coastguard on the 20th of January. Rather than assisting the vessel, the Greek coastguard dragged the boat out to sea at high speed. The flimsy vessel started filling with water and several fell overboard. Rather than assisting them, the coastguards refused them lifejackets, fired at the men still in the boat trying to save the drowning and as they tried to grab hold of the coast guard vessel to save themselves, beat them back into the water. It was only as a Turkish coastguard vessel spotting the unfolding tragedy approached, that the Greek coastguards changed tack and allowed those who were still alive onto the vessel. Nine children and three women died.
This was no unavoidable tragedy at sea; this was murder, planned and executed by the Greek state, who then moved to detain the survivors as a “damage control” exercise, holding them for 30 hours and releasing statements – proportedly from the survivors – thanking the Greek coastguard for saving them. As soon as the survivors were able to talk to independent media on their own, they were clear that they too would have been murdered had it not been for the intervention of the Turkish authorities and the consequent exposure of the murderous policy of the Greek coastguard.
The reaction of the Maritime minister Varvitsiotis was telling. Rather than expressing sympathy for the berieved and promises to recover the bodies (which are still floating somewhere out there in the Aegean), he accused human rights organisations of trying to create a “political issue” in Greece, and asserting that it is not desirable to “throw open the gates” to refugees. That attitude is backed up by the pronouncements of other New Democracy MPs: Dendias, the Minister for Public Order decried the “quality” of migrants which enter Greece, while Voltepsi, MP for Greater Athens announced that migrants were “unarmed invaders” and “weapons in the hands of the Turks“.
At a demonstration held to mark the tragedy and support the survivors held outside the maritime ministry members of the DELTA police team, notorious for its connections with the Golden Dawn, started beating not only the demonstrators, but also a photojournalist who was documenting the events, as the Mayor of Komotini, a SYRIZA MP and local shopkeepers looked on, unable to stop the violence.
Further violence unfolded last Saturday. As the fascists gathered in Syntagma Square, a counter anti-fa demonstration was called to oppose. Riot police were out in full force, teargassing and beating anti-fascists while protecting the fascist gathering. One man was beaten unconcious with several teeth knocked out, yet as paramedics moved in to assist him, they were roughly shoved out of the way as police handcuffed the unconcious man before allowing them to treat him. They then chased the anti-fascists all the way down to Monasteraki.
In the metro station, further violence unfolded, as police attacked protesters and threw tear gas cannisters into the confined space. Those attempting to hold back the police and prevent further injuries were eventually overpowered, and riot police charged onto the platform, causing people to escape onto the rail tracks to escape their violence. It was only the foresight of the metro authorities which had suspended trains which avoided a terrible re-run of the tragedy a year ago at Thission where Cheick Ndiaye died after falling onto the railway line after being chased by police.
In the meantime, the severely injured protester had been taken to hospital. Armed police then charged through the hospital looking for him and other injured protesters. On finding him, fifteen armed police burst into the room where he was being treated, despite doctors yelling at them to get out. By contrast the fascists had headed for Evangelismos hospital a few miles away, on one of their regular raids to look for undocumented migrants. Later that night, armed police raided that hospital, arresting fourteen nurses. Hospitals are not a safe place to be in today’s Greece – neither for patients, nor for staff.
Neither are private homes. Over the last few weeks dozens of private houses in Thessoliniki and Athens and beyond have been raided. Armed police without warrents have been bursting into private homes, terrorising the residents, threating them and smashing them up. In one case a plastic toy gun was classified as a weapon. Merely being identified as an anarchist by the Greek state is now sufficient to be in danger in your own home.
Being an an identified anarchist can also get you locked up for a very long time. Yesterday, Tasos Theofilou, was sentenced to 25 years in gaol after being arrested for armed robbery and murder. The evidence was scant, none of the 19 eyewitnesses could identify him, forensic evidence was proven dodgy, yet still he was convicted: the key bit of evidence was an anonymous phone call to the police in the aftermath of the robber, saying “Theofilou did it“, while the judge overseeing the case stated baldly that “murders and robberies are part of the anarchist ideology”.
By contrast the fascists that the police protected last week subscribe to an ideology which promotes genocide, which regards some humans as less worthy of others, and which justifies throwing them into the sea to drown and ideology which has infested the Greek state.