Damian Mac Con Uladh

Posts Tagged ‘racism’

There are more Greeks like me

In Greece on 10 November 2014 at 11:07 am
(Photo: Screengrab/YouTube)

(Photo: Screengrab/YouTube)

A new video campaign has been launched by an organisation calling for the state to grant Greek citizenship to an estimated 200,000 children and young adults born and raised in Greece who are denied the status because their parents are immigrants.

Entitled Equal Citizens, the one-minute advertisement features a number of young people explaining why they want to have the same rights as most of their peers. “I belong to this country,” says one, while another says that she already feels “like a citizen of this country”. The video also hears from youths with Greek citizenship calling for their friends to enjoy the same rights as them.

Children born in Greece to parents who are not Greek citizens are not entitled to automatic Greek citizenship, even when they become of age. If their parents are from non-EU countries, then the children face discrimination in a range of areas. For one, they are required to apply for a residence permit to live in the only country they know. As non-EU citizens, they don’t enjoy the same freedom of travel as their Greek peers and they also face discrimination in the labour market. Political rights are also denied to them.

The video was produced by Generation 2.0 for Rights, Equality and Diversity (Generation 2.0 Red). According to its website, it is “a youth organisation that combines research and social action to promote rights, equality and diversity and to combat racism, xenophobia, and discrimination”.

It says that denying citizenship to these children “leads to their social exclusion and stigmatisation as ‘others'”.

On its website, the group is collecting signatures for a petition calling on the European Union and the Greek government to ensure that children born and/or raised in Greece can apply for Greek citizenship.

In 2013, the government last year scrapped a law allowing second-generation migrants to obtain Greek citizenship but has yet to replace it. The 2010 citizenship law, passed by a Pasok government, allowed a child born in Greece to immigrant parents who had been living in the country legally to apply for citizenship. The children had to prove that they had spent at least six years in Greek schools.

(Photo: Screengrab/YouTube)

(Photo: Screengrab/YouTube)


Trial over 2012 torture of Egyptian bakery worker postponed again by Greek court

In Greece on 22 October 2014 at 10:22 am
Waled Taleb waits to testify to an examining magistrate in Piraeus courthouse on November 9 (Photo: Eirini Vourloumis)

Waled Taleb waits to testify to an examining magistrate in Piraeus courthouse on November 9 (Photo: Eirini Vourloumis)

The trial of a baker, his son and two accomplices accused of torturing an Egyptian worker on the island of Salamina in November 2012 was postponed for the fifth time at a Piraeus court on Tuesday.

Judges at Piraeus criminal appeals court rescheduled the trial to 10 March 2015 after the court-appointed interpreter failed to show up, citing “personal reasons”.

On 4 November 2012, Walid Taleb, then 29, was found beaten black and blue on a village street on the island. He had a ring and chain around his neck. He accused his employer, his son and two accomplices of chaining him up and torturing him for 18 hours in a stable.

The four defendants are charged with abduction, robbery, inflicting unprovoked bodily harm and offending sexual dignity.

“‘You will die here and here you will be buried.’ The son told me that his father had a gun and that he would kill me,” Walid told this reporter after his ordeal. He added that he was certain he would never leave the stable alive.

Walid Taleb was found beaten on a street in Salamina on 4 November 2012

Walid Taleb was found beaten on a street in Salamina on 4 November 2012

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Youth vote for Golden Dawn for racist/supremacist reasons, study finds

In Greece on 20 October 2014 at 12:19 pm
Golden Dawn has also been targeting future voters, as this photograph shows

Golden Dawn has also been targeting future voters, as this photograph shows

Young people who voted for Golden Dawn in 2012 did so out of ideological conviction and not for reasons stemming from the economic crisis, a new study from a leading Athens university shows.

Conducted by researchers at the Panteion University, the study also found that the level of identification among Golden Dawn’s young voters with its aims was higher than for youth who backed other parties. These voters generally view Golden Dawn as a “nationalist party”, rejecting as “despicable” its description as “fascist” or “neonazi” even though they recognise that there are ideological affinities between it and fascism.

For them, Golden Dawn is a “patriotic-nationalist” party, which “puts the Greeks above everything else”. The almost total identification with the party’s “nationalist” ideology, expressed through the pride these young voters feel as Greeks pride, stems from the belief that Greeks are superior to other people historically and culturally.

“When we had civilisation, others were living in trees,” one male voter aged 24 told the researchers, repeating a phrase often found in Golden Dawn’s “theoretical” texts.

In the June 2012 elections, Golden Dawn was the second most popular party in the 18–34 age group.

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Athens police detain women who attended rehearsals for antiracism play

In Uncategorized on 3 September 2014 at 11:18 am
Photo: Steve Criddle/Flickr

Photo: Steve Criddle/Flickr

Three members of the cast of a play that deals with racism were stopped and detained by police on Monday after finishing rehearsals, despite being in possession of valid residence permits.

The three, all women, were stopped by police and asked for their papers in Keramikos, central Athens, at around 9pm, outside of the Eutopian Workshop, where the rehearsals for the play, “No to racism from the cradle”, take place.

Police at the scene, who were not wearing service numbers and refused to reveal their names, told the women and bystanders that they were detaining them because they appeared “suspicious”.

The women were then transferred, in a patrol car bearing the registration EA 20281, to the Attica aliens bureau on Petrou Ralli street, where they were detained for two hours.

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Concerns raised as antiracism bill returns to Greece’s parliament

In General on 2 September 2014 at 11:11 am
Stamp out racism graffiti, Belfast, Northern Ireland, Auigust 2010 (Photo: Ardfern, CreativeCommons)

Stamp out racism graffiti, Belfast, Northern Ireland, Auigust 2010 (Photo: Ardfern, CreativeCommons)

After a nine-month delay, the latest attempt to enact a new antiracism law in Greece will resume on Tuesday and continue on Friday, when MPs will debate draft legislation that has provoked intense opposition from conservative MPs, many bishops within the Orthodox Church.

If approved in its current form, the antiracism bill, first tabled in parliament in November 2013, would toughen criminal sanctions for incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence. But, critics say, it makes no reference to racial motivation, does not do enough to protect the victims of racist violence, and does not seem to include homophobic attacks based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

It would, however, criminalise denial of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, provided they are recognised as such by international courts or the Greek parliament. This would include the Holocaust of European Jews by the Nazis, but also the mass killing of Christians in Asia Minor between 1908 and 1922 and the killing of Black Sea Greeks in the Ottoman empire.

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Golden Dawn leaders orchestrated 2011 pogrom in Athens, lawyers say

In General on 1 September 2014 at 10:58 am
Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris on the streets in central Athens on May 12 (Photo: Epoca Libera)

Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris on the streets in central Athens on May 12 (Photo: Epoca Libera)

New evidence has emerged pointing to the heavy involvement of leading Golden Dawn figures in orchestrating a pogrom against foreigners in central Athens in May 2011 which resulted in over a hundred people being injured and the death of one man, a group of lawyers has claimed.

Last week, the lawyers, members of the JailGoldenDawn initiative, said they had provided fresh evidence to the police’s antiracism department that showed that four individuals subsequently elected MPs for the neonazi party were “centrally involved” in organising the attacks.

The four – Ilias Kasidiaris, Ilias Panagiotaros, Panayiotis Iliopoulos and Stathis Boukouras – are currently being held on remand pending trial for directing a criminal organisation. The lawyers say that the May 2011 attacks must now be included in the case against the Golden Dawn leadership, which is scheduled to begin in December.

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New Democracy businessman bankrolled neonazi Golden Dawn branch, defector claims

In General on 14 August 2014 at 10:55 pm
The report's cover

The report’s cover

A provincial branch of the neonazi Golden Dawn party was bankrolled by a wealthy businessman who was a member of New Democracy and it enjoyed immunity from the police, a Golden Dawn defector has told a leading US human rights organisation.

The unidentified man told Human Rights First that the businessman gave financial backing to Golden Dawn because he wanted it to do well in the 2012 elections so that New Democracy could end its uneasy coalition with socialist Pasok and team up with Golden Dawn instead.

“Golden Dawn is the militia arm of New Democracy,” the businessman told the defector, who will be a witness in the forthcoming criminal case against leading Golden Dawn figures, which is due to start in November. He said the businessman also spent more than $1,500 (€1,100) on military outfits for its cadres. The businessman also paid for their offices and gave them advice, including “Don’t go and attack migrants in the middle of the day.”

The defector also told Human Rights First that his Golden Dawn unit enjoyed immunity from the police.

“The police had specific orders not to touch us,” he said, adding that when four Golden Dawn members attacked two Pakistani migrants and beat them “really, really badly”, he received a phone call from the local police chief who had ties to the local Golden Dawn boss and told him the case would not be investigated.

“Once they realised they could operate with impunity, they turned to intimidation for profit, evicting recalcitrant tenants and collecting debts,” the report continues.

The man said that his Golden Dawn branch had over 2,000 members and was located in an area with a 50% unemployment rate.

His testimony is included in a major report (pdf), published on August 14 by Human Rights First, that details the rise and the threat posed by the “hate parties” of Golden Dawn in Greece and Jobbik in Hungary.

“Golden Dawn is no ordinary ultra-nationalist party. No other extreme right party in Europe is as stridently racist, nativist and violent, none is so unapologetically antisemitic, and none so openly calls for the overthrow of the state,” states the report, entitled We’re not Nazis, but… and authored by Sonni Efron and Tad Stahnke.

Despite threats against him, the defector intends to testify that Golden Dawn was a “criminal organization,” as the government charges. But he added that the government allowed Golden Dawn to grow for its own gain, and only decided to take legal action only when the organisation became too powerful.

“‘Criminal organization’ is correct and precise, because Golden Dawn was organizing an army. One of the basic prerequisites to go up in the hierarchy was to go to special training camps,” he is quoted in the report, which is also critical of New Democracy’s “inflammatory rhetoric” in the run-up to the 2012 elections.

It said New Democracy leader “Antonis Samaras jumped on Golden Dawn’s antimigrant bandwagon, proclaiming, ‘Our cities have been taken over by illegal immigrants, we have to reclaim them.’

“With such inflammatory rhetoric, the New Democracy party failed to demonstrate to citizens that the uncontrolled migration and the conditions in which migrants lived would be addressed properly, that there was no need to resort to violence, or that vigilantes would be punished.”

In addition to underscoring the need “for a credible prosecution of Golden Dawn that meets the highest European judicial standards and is not tainted by claims of political motivation”, the report also calls on the government to “adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward and strongly condemn racist, antisemitic, or homophobic statements by public officials and members of the New Democracy party”. Other parties should also be encouraged to follow suit.

Walid can stay

In Greece on 4 December 2012 at 11:04 pm

Walid Tabeb, the undocumented migrant who was abducted and tortured by his baker employer and three accomplices in an 18-hour ordeal on November 3, will not be deported from Greece to his native Egypt, the Greek police announced on December 4.

In a statement, issued exactly one month after Walid’s ordeal at the hands of his captors, the police said that at the recommendation of the public order minister, Nikos Dendias, it had decided “for humanitarian reasons not to initiate deportation proceedings” against him.

The brief statement read:

The leadership of the Greek Police announces that, following a proposal from the minister for public order and citizen protection, Mr Nikolaos Dendias, it has decided for humanitarian reasons not to take any deportation proceedings against an Egyptian national who recently fell victim to abuse and torture at Salamina.

Initially, the police had told Walid that, as he was an illegal immigrant, he had 30 days to leave Greece. Indeed, for four days after his ordeal, he was detained in a police cell, without access to medical treatment. He was hospitalised after his release from police custody.


Walid Taleb after he was found by passersby on November 4

Human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, have repeatedly criticised the police for treating the victims of racist crimes as a guilty party. Reports have found that police regularly refuse to record reports of racists attacks from victims and even arrest those who attempt to report incidents.

The groups say this has left the victims of racist attacks too terrified to approach the police in Greece.

One wonders why it took Dendias and the police exactly one month to reach this decision. Undoubtedly, it had something to do with the recent visit of United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, which ended on December 3.

Crépeau, who met Dendias the day before the police statement was issued, had this to say about the link between the police and racist attacks in his preliminary report on his nine-day fact-finding mission:

I am deeply concerned about the widespread xenophobic violence and attacks against migrants in Greece, and I strongly condemn the inadequate response by the law enforcement agencies to curb this violence, and to punish those responsible. I have also been informed of several cases of police involvement in these attacks. Many of these cases go unreported as irregular migrants fear they will be detained and deported if they contact the police.

When I spoke to Crépeau on December 3, he said he was aware that there was a development in the case.

It’s also important to point out that this is the first official police statement on Walid’s case. The police’s press office issued no press releases after he was found beaten black and blue on a road in Salamina on November 4.

When I asked an officer in the press office why no statement appeared, I was told that “we don’t put everything up on the website” and that by the time the police had worked out the facts of the case, it was old news!

A more likely excuse was that the police could not issue a statement on the case as the victim – and not the perpetrators – was in police custody.

On the day he was found, the police press office found the time to publish statements on the “arrest of an alien for pickpocketing from elderly passengers on buses” and “arrest of two aliens for theft from minors”.

My attempts to seek written answers from the police on why Walid was detained after his ordeal were stonewalled, with the press office claiming that it could not comment on the case as it was before the courts.

Claims of rising racism in Greece as young Egyptian tortured by employer

In Greece on 13 November 2012 at 9:42 am
Walid Taleb some days after his ordeal in Piraeus courthouse in 2012 (Photo: Eirini Vourloumis)

Walid Taleb some days after his ordeal in Piraeus courthouse in 2012 (Photo: Eirini Vourloumis)

As he arrived on his bike for a 3am clock-in at the family-owned bakery on the Greek island of Salamina, Walid Taleb had no reason to think his 10-hour shift that morning would be different from any other.

But Saturday, November 3rd, was to prove different – the 29-year-old Egyptian migrant disappeared into a maelstrom of beating at the hands of his employer, his son and two accomplices, who chained him up and tortured him for 18 hours in a stable.

That ordeal was followed by indifference by medics, who said he didn’t require hospitalisation after he was found beaten black and blue on a village street, and by police, who detained him in a cell for four nights after the attack. On that Saturday morning, Walid’s trouble started two hours before the end of his shift, when baker Yiorgos Sgourdos’s son, a 19-year-old just back from his compulsory military service, told the Egyptian to clear off and never come back.

Unpaid wages

Taken aback at his rash dismissal, Walid felt there was little he could do as an immigrant with no papers. But he did ask for the two months’ unpaid wages he was owed.

Hearing that, the baker’s son twice punched Walid in the face. With that, the father appeared on the scene with another man, and they joined in the beating.

They searched him, and in a pocket found a large sum, about €12,000, a discovery that fuelled, they would later tell an examining magistrate, their suspicion that he was stealing from the premises. It’s a charge that his friends strenuously deny, pointing out that, unable to open bank accounts, they entrusted their hard-earned savings to the care of Walid, whom his compatriots saw as safe and trustworthy.

Walid’s three tormenters then placed a ring and chain around his neck, bundled him into a car and drove a short distance to a stable, next to the baker’s home.

That’s when the horror started for Walid, who says the baker and his gang seemed to be in for the long haul: police later found water, food, alcohol and cigarettes in the outhouse. In the ordeal that followed, he was beaten in shifts and told he would be killed.

“‘You will die here and here you will be buried.’ The son told me that his father had a gun and that he would kill me,” Walid told this newspaper, adding that he was certain he would never leave the stable alive. But when the baker and the others left the stable to open the bakery on Sunday morning, Walid managed to use a rock to smash the ring binding him to the ground. Stumbling outside, his face bruised, and unable to talk, he wandered for a couple of hours around the village before collapsing in front of a petrol station, when shocked passersby called the police.

Walid Taleb was found beaten on a street in Salamina

Walid Taleb was found beaten on a street in Salamina

Taken to hospital by ambulance, Walid’s second ordeal then started. When doctors said there was no need to keep him in, the police took him into custody, detaining him for three nights in a cell with criminal suspects on Salamina and a night in the Athens “aliens’ bureau”, where preparations were made to deport him to Egypt.

No medical treatment

Contacted yesterday, Greece’s police press office said it would need two working days to answer written questions from The Irish Times about Walid’s treatment.

Rabab Hassan, a volunteer with the Egyptian community in Greece, said: “Walid received no medical treatment in all this time, apart from some paracetamol given to him by the police.”

With the help of a lawyer, Hassan managed to secure Walid’s release from custody four nights after the attack. The same day, Sgourdos, the baker, was also released, subject to restrictive bail terms. Along with his three co-accused, he faces charges of robbery, abduction and grievous bodily harm and illegally employing an alien. If found guilty, he could go to prison for at least 10 years.

What has shocked observers is that the 59-year-old Sgourdos is a former local councillor and deputy mayor for conservative New Democracy on Salamina. Last Friday, as four friends carried him out of a Piraeus courtroom where he testified to an examining magistrate, Walid’s pain was etched on his face. Barely able to whisper and with his head slumped on the shoulder of a friend, he dozed off while fellow Egyptians from Salamina looked on in disbelief as they recounted the unbelievable and unpredicted ordeal among themselves. They said he was still passing blood six days after the incident.

Alarmed that Walid had not returned home from work, they had spent hours on Saturday and Sunday morning looking for their friend. When they asked at the bakery on Saturday, they were told Walid had left as normal.

“On Sunday morning I spoke to the baker, who offered me coffee and walked around with me looking for Walid’s bike. He even said to me that by not showing up for work, he was destroying his business,” said Mustafa Samir, as he sat with Walid in a Piraeus hospital on Saturday. His ordeal is more proof that casual brutality towards foreigners is on the rise in Greece, where Golden Dawn, an openly violent, fascist party that demands the immediate deportation of all illegal migrants and the mining of the country’s borders, has 18 MPs in the 300-seat parliament.

UN response

Characterising the attack as one of “striking brutality”, the Athens office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which recently set up a racist violence recording network with a number of non-governmental organisations, said it can be considered a racially motivated act “since it is doubtful that such an act would have been the same had the victim been Greek”.

It added that the response of the authorities in Walid’s case “follows a pattern” noted in a recent report from the network whereby survivors lacking legal documents have been arrested with a view to deportation after going to the police to report racist violence against them.

“If this happened to a Greek in Egypt, what would the reaction of the Greek government have been?” Walid, who is married and has two young daughters, asked from his hospital bed.

* This article appeared in the Irish Times on 13 November 2012