This is our weekly round-up from Greece. On Thursday, Greece celebrated the 200 years since its people revolted to gain independence from the Ottoman Empire. The Greek people are now asked to compromise their freedom on the pretext of a pandemic and they are dying intubated in common hospital wards, due to a lack of ICU beds. The situation led hospital doctors to file a report with Greece’s top court Areios Pagos for an investigation on the matter. Policemen turned legally against journalists for publishing allegations of torture by the police while allegations for police brutality are multiplying. This newsletter is sprinkled with a few timeless thoughts of War of Independence leading figures, to get a glimpse into the true meaning of that revolution, intentionally obscured by out-of-context fiestas.
But first, please, consider becoming a member.
You can give 2.5€, 5€, 10€, and 35€ on Steady. You can always make a one-off donation by clicking here. Your support helps us deliver newsletters like the following. If you like our work and want us to take it further, spread the word by FWding this email to your friends and join our international community! And don’t forget your membership enables us to produce more, 100% ad-free content and continue delivering our independent journalism.
Fancy fiesta for the elite, while the people are locked up or die in hospitals.
“When the Administration abuses, defies, flouts the rights of the people and does not attend to their grievances, then for the people or every part of the people to revolt, to take up the arms and punish its tyrants is the utmost sacred of all of its rights and the utmost necessity of all its duties...”
- Rigas Ferraios
Greek writer, poet, and political thinker,
leading figure of the Greek Revolution and Greek Enlightenment.
Highly symbolic indeed were the celebrations for the bicentennial of the start of the Greek Revolution on 25 March. Highly symbolic of the circumstances which drove the Greek people back then to revolt against their oppressors, that is the Ottomans, who should be noted that they maintained their rule with the full collaboration of a Greek elite and part of the official Church.
Hence, the Greek people “celebrated” in “house detention”, which required permission via SMS from a five-digit number “authority” to “break.” Meanwhile, Athens city center was occupied by 4,000 policemen, snipers on rooftops, police helicopters, and drones flying above our heads, plus a protest ban was imposed. All these, in order for the Greek PM to welcome his guests in the Presidential Allotment, that is foreign state officials and royalties, including Prince Charles of Wales and his wife Duchess of Cornwell Camila. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and his spouse Andri, Russian Federation Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, and French Defense Minister Florence Parly. They even canceled the metro service to/from the Athens Airport by order of police, due to arrivals of the foreign VIP guests. A military parade took place.
And while most Greek people are in deep agony over their very survival as many businesses face closure after months-long lockdown accompanied with a meager if any help from the state. While catering facilities have been closed for six whole months now and it’s not known when they will reopen. While intubated coronavirus patients are dying in normal wards in the hospitals because the Greek government a year on now did not boost the NHS, the Greek government gave on the 24th of March a lavish dinner for its guests. In case you are gastronomically curious, the menu included “biscuit with squid ink, white tarama cream and fish eggs” and “shrimp mince in seafood bouillon, wrapped in a cabbage leaf and aromatized with turmeric and Kozani saffron.”
All museums have been closed during the lockdown, nevertheless, the high profile guests were toured in the National Gallery. The Gallery, which had been under renovation for endless years, was given again to the public just a week ago. The visit took place, while on the opposite side of the street, in Evangelismos hospital, the biggest in Athens, the staff had yet one more nightmarish day trying to save hundreds of lives under the most adverse of circumstances, with grave deficiencies in personnel and supplies. A few days ago, a picture of the entrance of the hospital packed with entering ambulances circulated widely on social media. Nobody paid a visit to honor these contemporary heroes.
In fact, a couple of days before the peak of this grande fiesta, on Tuesday, the Greek Hospital Doctors Association filed a report with Greece’s top court Areios Pagos on the patients’ hospitalization situation. In their report, hospital doctors emphasize that both for the dozens of serious illnesses suffering patients hospitalization, who are intubated in normal wards on makeshift ventilators, and for the Covid19 patients’ wards staffing with doctors of non-relevant specialization, it is the government who solely bears the responsibility. Moreover, they point out that it is the government that chooses intubated patients to be hospitalized in non-ICU wards. It is the government that chooses that doctors of non-related specialties treat Covid19 patients. The hospital doctors do not choose to do that - they stated.
Ten days ago, it was the Thriasio Hospital Employees Association (Elefsina city) that had filed a report of similar context with Areios Pagos, emphasizing that the dangerous conditions in the hospital, both for the patients and the personnel can possibly lead the investigation to criminal responsibility. Among others, they were saying coronavirus patients are hospitalized in crowding conditions, with few doctors for an overwhelming number of patients, as “for example, in the Pneumonology Ward one pulmonologist is on emergency duty for 69 patients.”
The same day OENGE filed the report, on Tuesday, at night, one of the biggest Athenian hospitals, Laiko, which was on duty for Covid19 emergencies had to abruptly go off duty as it completely ran out of beds. Covid19 Ward head doctor Nikos Orfanos stated that “there are patients even in camp beds.” The hospital employees president T. Antonopoulos reported that during the previous days two more coronavirus patients lost their lives, waiting for a bed to become available in the ICU. “They were waiting for two and three days,” he said. Orphanos also emphasized that there were then two more intubated patients for five days in non-ICU beds as no ICU beds were available. “People out of ICU are at risk. Life expectancy is different. There are criminal delinquency and negligence.”
“It’s unacceptable for someone to die in my clinic or to be intubated when there is a private ICU just 500 meters away, with the owner asking for 1,700 euros per day to hospitalize in an ICU bed,” Evangelismos hospital employees’ president Ilias Sioras said in an interview on Tuesday, adding that the hospital operated far beyond capacity. Sioras also said that the hospital personnel has been working even 30 hours in a row. He emphasized the lack of ICU beds, referring to an official list of 125 intubated patients remaining outside ICUs.
The doctors have repeatedly called out for private clinics to be requisitioned by the state in face of a tremendous emergency. But just a handful of them was - under seemingly most favorable conditions. Last week, Health Minister Kikilas requisitioned 200 private doctors to work in public hospitals (fee to be defined by decree). This way, he deprived some people of their personal doctor, who was covering up actually for the completely dismantled state Primary Health Care. With this move, the Greek government actually proved one more time that they will do anything apart from hiring much-needed permanent hospital personnel and boosting the NHS.
“We are full. We have no choices anymore,” “Sotiria” hospital University ICU head and Intensive Treatment professor Antonia Koutsoukou said in an interview. “You cannot possibly imagine under what a tremendous emotional pressure we are under. They call you and ask ‘We intubated a 50, 60-year-old patient. What shall we do?’ And there is no bed available and you’re getting crazy. You are struggling to improvise ways to keep the patient alive. We all strive, we try to see if somebody is better and can be released, to free a bed. Can you just try to imagine that?”
And while the doctors are desperate, Minister of State Giorgos Yerapetritis who had said some months ago that “if we had more ICUs, we would have more dead,” came now to state this: “There is no need at the moment for more beds,” he said in an interview. “There is a short waiting time of 24 or a few more hours for moving to an ICU. This is the reality, all else are some people’s illusions. In any case, they are all treated with oxygen, all are under support, there is no one not receiving the appropriate medical treatment.”
Are all hospital staff under hallucinogens, Minister? Well, in the undesirable event that the minister gets sick of coronavirus and needs ICU treatment, he should be told to wait. But he knows that there will always be an ICU bed for him, even “preventatively”, as it happened with the Archbishop.
Update: In our previous newsletter we wrote that the government would provide a free Covid19 rapid test per week for all people. Well, it proved shortly afterward that this announcement was made without any previous planning (for example, how would the positive tests register with the EODY system to provide an accurate picture of the coronavirus cases in the country?) and there had been no consultation at all with the pharmacists, with the representatives of the latter announcing that with the current arrangement the test would cost 15 euros. Some turned against the pharmacists. Keep in mind, however, that the state reportedly owes 7 million euros to the pharmacists.
Are tourists already here?
“Fire and ax to those who bow”
- Theodoros Kolokotronis, Greek general,
leading figure of the Greek Revolution
Meanwhile, we learned from the Israeli Foreign Minister that Greece has permitted the entry of 10,000 vaccinated Israelis per week, since Tuesday 23 March, following an agreement between the two countries to accept citizens with a certificate of vaccination. We cannot leave the house without an SMS and move across municipalities, let alone prefectures. The Greek vaccinated people fall under the same restrictions. But the tourists would be free to come and move around. Plus, as specialists have pointed out, the person vaccinated can still transmit the virus. But who cares about the “natives'' that haven’t been vaccinated in sufficient numbers? There have been no reports yet on tourists arriving in Greece. But the agreement is indicative of the intentions.
The police try to silence journalists while more allegations of police violence surface.
“Article 7: The right to express our opinion and our thoughts, both with typography as with another way, the right to peaceful assembly, the freedom of every religion, Christianity, Turkism, Judaism and other are not prohibited under the current administration. When these rights are prohibited, it is obvious that this stems from tyranny, or even that this is a memory of the ex-ostracised despotism, which we expelled”
“Article 33. For the citizen to resist when they depress him and they are doing injustice to him is resulting from the above rights. Because nobody resists when he knows he is going to be done justice with the help of the law”
- From Rigas Ferraios’s proposal on the constitution of independent Greece, ‘New Political Governance” (“Nea Politiki Diikisis”)
Documento newspaper editor Kostas Vaxevanis accidentally found out last Saturday by reading the news that there was an arrest warrant against him. The warrant had been issued following a lawsuit filed by 22 policemen servicing in the Police Headquarters, who had the day before sent an out-of-court settlement to Documento and Efimerida ton Syntakton (EFSYN) newspapers because they published citizens’ allegations they had been subjected to torture at Police Headquarters. They accused the two newspapers of publishing untrue allegations. They asked for their opinion to be published, citing possible exercise of their legal rights.The lawsuit against Vaxevanis was filed on the basis that he published the out-of-court settlement they sent him along with the names of the police officers who undersigned it. This is a typical practice of the newspapers who are obliged to publish the out-of-court settlement.
EFSYN replied by asking among others how it is possible for 22 policemen to ask for “restitution” when there were no names in the reporting regarding torture. The journalists wonder how they can accuse them of not cross-checking information. “Since when the 7th floor of police headquarters has been accessible to a journalistic investigation?”
The Journalists’ Union of Athens Daily Newspapers condemned the legal attack against the two newspapers. In a press release issued on Sunday night, they emphasize among others that “it is the journalists’ mission to control power and give voice to the citizens, especially when they go public with their full name making allegations for phenomena of state abuse of power.”
The warrant against Vaxevanis was never executed. The journalist announced he will proceed with a counter-lawsuit.
What is also to be noted is that replying to a relevant question, government spokeswoman (and ex-journalist) Aristotelia Peloni said: “I don’t have any comments for lawsuits filed in a personal capacity.” Since when police officers or any civil servant file lawsuits “in personal capacity” when this lawsuit refers to his/her duties as an employee of the state?
Meanwhile, reports on police violence only multiply. It should be noted that the victim of torture Papazaharioudakis we extensively covered in the previous newsletter had been called and testified for five hours in the Greek Police Internal Affairs Unit. Papazaharioudakis did not file a lawsuit, but the Prosecutor can now act on the incident.
Thus, this week EFSYN published two more reports on violence from people arrested in Nea Smyrni events and part of the 18-year old woman testimony, who we referred to in our previous newsletter. The first comes from a 19-year-old man, who has been recorded in a video to be hit by a police motorbike. A police internal investigation has been ordered for the matter, the two police officers implicated have been identified and the man testified in the Police Internal Affairs Unit. He describes however his temporary detention in the Police Headquarters as including swearing, hazing by police officers, long-hours of being prohibited to communicate with his lawyer, and a “special” detention status for other people detained along with him.
The second allegation is also about hazing, as the alleged victim describes how police officers made them take their clothes off in the middle of the night and take a deep sit. This person also talks about two other detainees who were there in full isolation and “we could not understand their facial features as they had been bruised from beating.”
The 18-year old woman has given a shocking testimony to the investigating magistrate as to the verbal and physical violence she was subjected to by the police. She among others described how she was brutally beaten, how one officer grabbed her and told her “I will fuck you in the back street.” She was also told, “you will spill more blood.”
On top of all these, a revealing video from an incident that happened in Galatsi back on 1 November 2020 surfaced, proving that the riot police had then invaded a coffee bar where at least one little child was present, they tear-gassed the people and chased them around. No video had till now presented so much evidence on the incident as this one.
Plus, on the eve of the Greek Revolution Celebration, the riot police violently pushed drama school students who were in silent protest at Syntagma square.
But after all, maybe we shouldn’t be writing all these without having called the police to “cross-check” information.
“The people were calling us crazy. We, if we weren’t crazy, wouldn’t have done the revolution, because we would have first considered our ammunition, cavalry, artillery, powder kegs, our stores, we would weigh our power and the Turkish power. Now that we won, that our war turned out victorious, they praise and commend us. Had we not been victorious, we would have been cursed. We are like when they are in a port fifty-sixty cargo-loaded ships, one of them floats away, sails, goes to its destination amidst a very stormy sea, amidst gale, it goes, it sails, it makes money, it returns. Then, you listen and all the other ships are saying: ‘This is a man, a braveheart, a prudent one, not like us, that we are sitting here lost and in cowardice.’ And the captains are accused of being unworthy. But if the ship had not done well, they would say: ‘How crazy he was, he sailed with this storm, with this gale, to hell with this scumbag, he caused so much suffering to people.”
- Theodoros Kolokotronis, general and leading figure of the Greek Revolution, “Memoirs”
Greece, Cyprus pleased with EU leaders statement on Turkey.
Dutch government approves “tourism experiment” on Rhodes.
Prince Charles presented with Medal of Honor of the City of Athens.
US charges Iranians over alleged collusion with Greek shipper.
10+1 most photographed places in Greece.
National Theatre to live stream ‘The Kodjabashis of Castropyrgos’ on World Theatre Day 27 March. The live stream has optional subtitles in English. The play starts at 7.30 p.m.
And don’t forget!
Your membership enables us to produce more 100% ad-free content and continue delivering our independent journalism. You can give 2.5€, 5€, 10€, and 35€ on Steady. You can always make a one-off donation by clicking here, but we prefer you to become a member so we can include you in our international community and start to interact in meaningful ways.
Do you have an Instagram account? We want to tell more engaging stories with photos from FOS PHOTOS archive. Follow us on Instagram. We won't use any unnecessary hashtags. Promise.
Are you a journalist? Do you have a good story? Here's how to pitch AthensLive.
Is there more stuff you'd like to hear from us? Do you have any ideas about how we could make our newsletter better for your understanding of Greece? Drop us a line at email@example.com
If you enjoy our newsletter, then please share it with your friends and colleagues. The more people we can get involved with, the better this will be. Here's the latest version of our newsletter.
Thank you for supporting journalism and democracy.