Damian Mac Con Uladh

Mariam’s story: one Syrian girl’s journey to Europe

In Greece on 5 May 2015 at 6:31 pm
Mariam in Athens, December 2014

Mariam in Athens, December 2014

I met and befriended Mariam (who was then 9 years old) and her father, Mohammed (40), on Syntagma Square, Athens, in November 2014 during the weeks-long protest by Syrian refugees for better treatment from Greece and the European Union. They had left Damascus two years before after their home was destroyed in a bombing, in which Mariam’s mother lost her life. After a two year odyssey that took them through Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and just over the border into Bulgaria, they made their first attempt to cross from the Turkish coast to a Greek island, nearly drowning on the way. Later, they were beaten by the cold trying to walk through forests at night in the Republic of Macedonia. Mariam, who insists on her rights as a child to life, health and education, was keen that her story be recorded. The text was written by her father and translated from the Arabic by @HanaaAbusedu, Gaza, Palestine.


This is the story of Mariam, who’s now ten years’ old, who is looking for a life or, to put it simply, to avoid experiencing the same pain and suffering for the second time.

When Mariam was in the first grade at school, she was creative, pleasing and an excellent pupil, who used her academic superiority to appear older. She was best in her class at reading in English and Arabic; learning to read and write in both Arabic and English came naturally to her.

All that time, she and I (her father) were trying to overcome and pretend to forget the catastrophic events, which had started to besiege Damascus, where we lived.

She finished the first grade and moved up to the second, but the flames were approaching our area of Yarmouk in Damascus. It was as if it was raining fire on the area, and our biggest loss was when a bomb hit our house. That was a disaster that cannot be forgotten.

Nevertheless, Mariam and I were outside the house. Events began to overtake us until eventually all Yarmouk’s residents were forced to leave it after rebel forces entered it and regime aircraft started to bomb the district, sparking a mass exodus. Sometimes abbreviation is necessary, not in an attempt to exclude certain events, but to avoid painful memories.

Mainstream antisemitism

In Greece on 10 February 2015 at 11:20 am
The term "Jewish origins" is highlighted in this article in Ta Nea, 9 February 2015, p. 15.

The term “Jewish origins” is highlighted in this article in Ta Nea, 9 February 2015, p. 15.

The Lagarde list is back in the news in Greece, not only because of the new government’s pledge to investigate the names it contains for possible tax evasion but because of SwissLeaks, an international corroborative project to investigate the full extent of the how HSBC in Switzerland helped clients around the world dodge taxes and hide millions

This week, media outlets associated with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), including the Guardian, Le Monde and BBC Panorama, began publishing findings from their research on a trove of almost 60,000 leaked files from HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary that provide details on over 100,000 clients and their bank accounts.

The new data shows that there were at least 2,148 Greek clients with accounts at the HSBC, which is 86 more than is contained in the Lagarde list held by the authorities. A former finance minister, Yiorgos Papakonstantinou, is facing trial for removing the names of three relatives from the version of the Lagarde list originally received by the government from the French authorities.

In Greece, the ICIJ’s local partner in the SwissLeaks project is Ta Nea, one of the country’s biggest mainstream newspapers.

Ta Nea is in possession of the additional Greek names, 41 of which it says have deposits of over €1m euros.

For reasons only known to itself, Ta Nea has decided to specify the religious background of one family and one individual among these large depositors.

The piece refers to a “well-known family of Jewish origin, whose members were born in Athens, Thessaloniki and Tel Aviv” as well as to a “rentier of Jewish origin who was born in Thessaloniki”.

It’s important to point out that the religious affiliation of the other account holders on the list is not provided. So, readers are not informed if the “businessman involved in shipping and born in Chios” or “three brothers born in Greece” are Orthodox, Catholics or atheists. Not that this information would be of any relevance.

Ta Nea is not the first to deliberately single out the Jewish background of alleged tax evaders on the SwissLeaks/LagardeList files. In October 2012, Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos told MPs of his unpleasant impression that three of the names were of Greek Jewish origin when he looked at print outs from the Lagarde list.

In a country where antisemitic prejudice is widespread and the neonazi Golden Dawn party is now the third strongest force in parliament, Ta Nea, by identifying tax evasion with Jews, has provided grist to the conspiracy mill made up of the country’s many antisemitic and fascist newspapers, blogs and websites.

Already, thanks to the vicious copypaste culture in Greek online news media, Ta Nea‘s information about the “Jewish origin” (εβραϊκής καταγωγής) of some SwissLeaks deposit holders been disseminated widely across the internet and is no longer shielded behind its own paywall.

The ICIJ’s choice of Ta Nea as its exclusive partner in Greece was questioned last year when it participated in the LuxLeaks project that looked that the generous tax evasion deals offered by the Luxembourg government to multinationals.

Unlike most ICIJ partners, Ta Nea seemed to bury its own story and failed to name the Greek companies on the last. It was, as the ThePressProject observed, as if Ta Nea “sabotaged their own exclusive, opting not to mention the names of the companies and the Greek businessmen involved on its front page for as long as the LuxLeaks coverage lasted”.

Given the antisemitic tone to Ta Nea’s coverage on SwissLeaks, it would be appropriate for the ICIJ to state whether it condones what it’s Greek partner has done.

Grey-haired men pestering children

In Uncategorized on 13 January 2015 at 12:29 pm

Have you been wondering about those election adverts put out by political parties in recent days? Thanks to Kostas Kallergis, you can now view them with English-language subtitles. Kostas also throws in his analysis of the message they are trying to convey.

When the Crisis hit the Fan

The Greek political parties have started broadcasting their political ads and thought it might be interesting to translate some of them for (fun) you.

New Democracy (ruling party) has produced three videos so far. The first one is a desperate (in terms of acting, at least) attempt to show Antonis Samaras close to the younger generation (the majority of ND’s voters are above their 40s or even 50s).

The reference to the stadium is one more cheap attempt to attract votes of supporters of AEK Athens football club. They have been asking for a new stadium for more than a decade now and New Democracy is promising to make their dream too. I loved two details in this video.

The first one is that our PM indirectly admits that Greece, the country he has been governing for the past 2,5 years, is not a normal and serious country yet.

The second…

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