So What’s Going On In Greece?

When someone hears about the Holocaust, it provokes terrible images, stories, and reminds us of a dreadful time in human history. Adolf Hitler was one of the most powerful world leaders to ever exist and also had some of the most negative impacts in the world. He led the Holocaust by blaming a scapegoat and bringing up a national party/army. Although nothing can fully reflect the terrors of the Holocaust, currently in Greece, such catastrophic events have been reported to reflect it in many ways. This “cleansing campaign” that Greece is taking up is known as Operation Zeus. Many people have testified that Greece has recently approached immigration with cruelty: imprisoning men, women, and children in unsanitary and small facilities surrounded by terrible conditions. Protestors are met with extreme brutality, such as tear gas and broken bones.  This movement is led by a group of people that resemble Nazi’s and have common beliefs as they did. These camps in Greece are alarming and the word must get out to the rest of the world to stop these actions, but the limited and controlled press in Greece creates great difficulty for change.

People of all sorts are being targeted by the authorities in Greece and without any questioning or reason for arrest, are assaulted and taken in custody. Greece government began to target possible immigrants in the streets, who were non-white, foreign looking people. Police would ask for their documents, and if they couldn’t provide they would incarcerate them in select camps. But that power quickly flourished as they began to go after different groups as well. Their target groups are now called the “undesirables” (“Tell EU Member…”). In May of this year, “…women working in the sex industry were pulled from the streets, forcibly tested for HIV, publicly humiliated and imprisoned” (McAlpine, “…And Then They”). Last month they began to go after transgender men and women. “Greek citizens, drug users, homeless people and women working in the sex industry” are all part of the thousands of people kept in these facilities (McAlpine, “…And Then They”). If there is a problem with their documentation, or even if there isn’t, they would be taken to one of the main internment camps or kept in the other holding facilities, without any form of trial or due process.

The camps that the inmates are being transferred to cannot comfortably withhold the capacity of people they are sending, and the conditions are terrible. There are “…six official main camps which officially house 5,000 people”, but there are an unknown number of unofficial camps with an unknown amount of people (McAlpine, “A Round Up”).  There is not much press on this issue but many civilians have taken it upon themselves to show the realities of these situations. A YouTube video taken in Pagani detention center on the island of Lesbos shows hundreds of young boys contained in a small room, sharing one toilet with no washing facilities (Voices From Inside…). In this video there were several ill boys that demanded immediate medical attention but had no access to it. There have been dozens of reports of hunger strikes in the camps, and the inmates are met with beatings. These prisoners aren’t even being fed and aren’t given a release date or trial. Many of them have attempted suicide because the government has depleted these civilians of such basic necessities. The Greece government has announced a plan to double the capacity of these camps to 10,000 in the future (McAlpine, “A Round Up”). This informs us that Greece is planning on continuing to target the “undesirables” and continue to spread hatred and fear throughout the country.

In this era, we wouldn’t believe that such events could be going on after we have already been exposed to the horrors of the Holocaust. But unfortunately, the same thing that drove the Holocaust is driving the Greece: hatred. The Golden Dawn party is the driving force behind these activities in Greece. Operation Zeus began as a response to the abundance of immigrants in Greece. It was an attempt rid the streets of migrants and to better the quality of life of the Greeks, but at the core of it all, Greece is seeking to purify their country. The Guardian reporter, Helena Smith says that it wasn’t that the symbol of The Golden Dawn party resembled the swastika, or that thousands of people marched the marble square with Greek flags marking the 560th anniversary of the fall of Constantinople, but “Angry men and angry women furiously screaming “Greece belongs to Greeks” in the heart of ancient Athens, as tourists… fled at the sight of neo-Nazis coming to town.” The Golden Dawn models themselves as the ancient Greek did of ultra-nationalist and neo-fascist ideals. In addition to the internment camps, the expression of pure Greece is also exhibited in “Greek-only” blood banks and food rallies organized by extremist (Boothroyd). Opponents have remained fairly silent until, “…Nanos Valaoritis deplored Golden Dawn as ‘having all the characteristics of the party which led Germany to destruction,’ few in Greece’s political or intellectual elite had been willing to take on the extremists” (Smith). It is very evident that there is a growing population in Greece that feels a strong pride and sense of nationalism, which has led to violence and the horrible internment camps. There has been minimal effort to slow down the growth of this political party that is completely based on hatred. This situation in Greece reflects the situation in the beginning of Nazism and even citizens of Greece believe so as well.

In America, news travels fast and the media has minimal restrictions on what it can release to the general public. This is not the case in Greece and is the main reason such news has not been widely recognized. There are petitions in circulation in effort to spread the word and speak to the government officials of Greece. Bloggers and anonymous individuals have leaked information about these specific conditions of the internment camps. But CNN reporters and The Guardian reporters have spread the word on the racism and reality of Greece’s future as well. This is a political issue just as much as it is a social issue, and the struggle is very real in the Greek government. The conservatives party leaders “…fear that legislation proposed by their leftwing partners will further alienate traditional voters who have migrated to Golden Dawn in disgust at the political establishment blamed for the country’s crisis” (Smith). The lack of public debate has added to the obscurity to this organization. The local media appears to have missed the story of the Golden Dawn. To this day, the party’s financial backers and advisers remain shrouded in secrecy. Few people have openly addressed “…the danger of Golden Dawn and almost no one in the media has looked into it… Only now is it being taken seriously, but in my mind that could be too late” (Smith).

Greece is a member of the European Union and there have been attempts to have the EU and other organizations step in. Petitions “call on the EU member states to put the pressure on Greece now to stop this abhorrent cleansing campaign now” (“Tell EU Member…”). Organizations such as Amnesty International and Council have “repeatedly condemned the country’s police and prison system of human rights abuses”(Cpwherlock). In addition United Nations High Commission for Refugees criticized the country over its treatment of asylum seekers. There have been small attempts to change the direction of Greece but it’ll take much more effort from many more groups to initiate true change. The Internet has been the main way news has traveled about this situation, as much as any news. Anyone that wants to strike opposition against these events and the Golden Dawn must utilize the power they have through freedom of speech on the Internet.

Greece is undergoing a very frightening era lead by the Golden Dawn party. Operation Zeus is an attempt to purify the streets of Greece from migrants but also other “undesirables.” The internment camps these people are being kept in are unsanitary and cruel. The most basic human needs are not being met. The prisoners are beat, which often leads to broken bones or other forms of torture. Government officials and the conservative public are attempting to change the situations, but it is feared that maybe it is too late. Other organizations have also attempted to step in but further measures are required for any substantial change in Greece’s government. The only way to promote change in Greece is to spread the word about the cruelty taking place. Blaming the minorities in Greece will not improve their economic status or their relationship with the rest of their neighboring countries. If we want to prevent any more injustices and help humanity stay astray from the horrors of the Holocaust that we have already seen, we must join each other against those that are lead by animosity and sickening pride.

Work Cited

Boothroyd III, Horrace. “Do I think Nazism is back? Yes.” Daily Kos. June 14, 2013. Web. June 26, 2013.

Cpwherlock. “Greece to set up internment camps for immigrants”. iReport. CNN. June 14, 2009. Web. June 26, 2013.

“Internment Camps In Greece.” Feminist Philosophers. June 13, 2013. Web.        July 1, 2013.

McAlpine, Mhairi. “A Round Up of the Situation in Greece.” Second   Council House of Virgo. June 14, 2013. Web. June 26, 2013.

—. “…And then they came for the trans* people.” Second Council House of        Virgo. June 5, 2013. Web. June 26, 2013.

Smith, Helena. “Golden Dawn: ‘Greece belongs to Greeks. Long live  victory!’.” The Guardian. 1 June 2013. Web. 1 July 2013.

“Tell EU Member States: Save Greek “undesirables” from internment  camps!” Watchdog. Demand Progress. Web. June 26, 2013.

Voices from the Inside of Pagani Detention Centre, Lesvos, Greece.”         YouTube. August 20, 2009. Web. June 26, 2013.

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