Greece's Politics of Fear: How a Brutal Austerity Regime is Leading to Attacks on Immigrants and Activists
Employees of the state-owned Labor Housing Organization (OEK) protest on February 16 outside the Labor Ministry in Athens against the government's decision to shut down the organization.
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What's really happening in Greece is ripping off the European welfare state and the re-fabrication of social and economic relations based on the values of fiscal discipline and private economy.
Greece seems to be the guinea pig in the experiment for Europe to come, as many argue. It is no accident that the means used for this experiment have so far been the construction of collective guilt, political blackmail and much social pain.
Or at least, that was the story until some time ago. For the past few months, I dare say, things are reminding us of the escalation of tension that preceded the fall of the regimes in the Arab world, in analogy: The suppression of freedom of speech, a significant increase in the state violence against protestors which has already caused an international outcry, and the street terror by far-right extremist thugs who are going after immigrants and their properties, is changing the image of European Greece.
The suppression of freedom of speech became evident when investigative journalist Costas Vaxevanis was taken to court after publishing a list of possible tax evaders in his magazine Hot Doc. The infamous "Lagarde List" consists of 2,000 names of holders of bank accounts in the Swiss branch of HSBC.
It was handed over by the French authorities to the Greek officials in 2010, in order to be scanned by tax authorities for tax-evasion. However, while other European countries proceeded to the control on the taxation of wealthy nationals who had taken their money to Switzerland, it was lost by two Greek finance ministers in a row, according to their own testimonies in a parliamentary committee, which questioned the case.
Vaxevanis argues that this list maybe the proof of corruption in the political system that is running the country for more than 30 years now.
Politicians, who are eager to cut pensions and wages, are not ready to touch their powerful friends.
Soon after Vaxevanis's prosecution, Kostas Arvanitis and Marilena Katsimi were taken off air from a Greek state television channel for reporting on the case of 15 anti-fascists being tortured at police headquarters.
Attacks on immigrants
Despite the strong evidence presented publicly and international organisations like Amnesty International adopting the claim, the Greek government is refusing to prosecute those responsible for the offences.
At the same time, "Corpus Christi", a provocative theatrical play that presents Jesus Christ and the apostles as a company of gay men, was cancelled following protests from the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party and other religious groups.
In a similar case, the author of the satirical page "elder Patitsios" on Facebook was prosecuted for breaching a law against malicious blasphemy. Elder Paisios was a Christian orthodox monk who was believed to have the gift of prophecy, although the church never declared him to be a modern-time saint. His page criticised the exploitation of people's religious faith by far right-wing media.
And soon after, a citizen journalist was arrested because he posted pictures of a Golden Dawn gathering in the island of Corfu. On Ochi Day - October 28 - which commemorates the resistance of the Greeks during the Second World War following the Italian army's invasion in 1940, the citizen journalist took the pictures of anti-fascist groups confronting a Golden Dawn gathering next to the official parade and posted them on Facebook.
Along with the suppression of speech came the suppression of protesting. More than 200 workers were arrested in just one week in October for participating in demonstrations against the austerity measures.