This is our weekly round-up from Greece. A most shocking event happened on Friday afternoon: a journalist was shot dead with at least six bullets outside his house. Amnesty International Annual Report on Human Rights concluded that austerity has eroded accessibility and affordability of healthcare, exacerbated by the Covid19 pandemic. Tourists are already in the country, moving freely around while locals are locked up in a 2km radius. Schools open with obligatory rapid tests for pupils and teachers, while revealing reporting is published about the company commissioned to provide the tests.
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Greek journalist gunned down in broad daylight.
Only minutes after the death of born in Greece, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth’s husband, flooded international headlines. Shortly after 2 pm on Friday, TV reporter Giorgos Karaivaz was going back home after a daytime show on Star TV when he was shot dead outside his house in the southern Athens neighborhood of Alimos. According to preliminary reports, Giorgos Karaivaz was shot at least six times and killed in an attack that analysts claim had all the characteristics of a planned ambush. The assailants are likely to have used a weapon that was silenced with a silencer. The journalist was found dead outside his car parked beside a small park near his home. Reportedly, police have launched a manhunt for the murderers, who are thought to have been on a motorcycle and fled the scene immediately after the attack.
It is very early to come to any conclusions about this horrific crime. Reports mention that Karaivaz’s name had been implicated in a case of a corruption ring involving lawyers, business owners, and big money. Commenting on him being implicated in the file, he wrote: “We understand that with what we write, we deteriorate our position. This is anyway why we are on their list. We are not going to stop voluntarily, not compromise or stop.”
He reported on the backstage of police officers’ promotion boards, the arrest and investigations into ex-National Theatre director Dimitris Lignadis now charged with rape and sexual abuse. A case of a dubious personality, Menios Fourthiotis, for whom the Prosecutor now creates the third file. In general, his website, bloko.gr, was focusing largely on corruption issues.
His website's colleagues wrote: “Bloko.gr founder and owner Giorgos Karaivaz is not among us anymore. Some chose to shut his mouth, to make him with bullets to stop writing his texts. They executed him in front of his house. This is a difficult time for us, who have been his colleagues; he guided us through difficult times, we drank wine together, he honored us with his friendship. - His friends, Spyros Livadiotis, Manolis Asariotis.”
The PM, who had recently addressed the people very shortly after the beating of a policeman in Nea Smyrni, remained silent eight hours after this cold-blooded murder when these lines were written. His latest tweet had been one of condolences for Prince Philip's death.
The EU Commission, President Ursula Von Der Leyen, on the other hand, responded promptly with a tweet in Greek saying that murdering a journalist is a horrid and cowardly act and sending her condolences to Karaivaz's family.
We‘ll keep you posted on all developments regarding this murder.
Tourists, welcome - “Natives,” stay at home.
Covid19 deaths are still spiking in the country, and daily cases break one record after the other. Nevertheless, it is reported that Greece is determined to open to tourism on 14 May, according to Tourism Minister Haris Theocharis's statements in the Parliament on Monday. He promised we’ll open safely “despite the danger.” As we still remember last year’s absolute fiasco, one finds it hard to believe this. The Minister said that either vaccination or negative PCR test and sampling at arrival would be preconditions for tourists (Is that until TUI imposes its preconditions, as it did last year when the PM retreated and lifted even one-day quarantine for test results to come out for tourists, following threats by the company that it will cancel all trips to Greece?) Meanwhile, the first tourist tested positive for Covid19 has been registered in Crete.
Theocharis said, “there will be no discrimination against those tourists who have not been vaccinated. All people will be allowed to travel.” And rightly so.
Only, there is already grave discrimination in place, reminding really of the colonial era (only, we are “colonized” by our very own government). The first German, Israeli and Dutch tourists arrived in the country in popular destinations like Heraklion, Chania, Corfu, Athens, and Rhodes. Some with a negative test, others with a vaccination certificate. “There is a paradox here,” tourism sources told a newspaper. Because while for example, the Israelis who arrived with a vaccination certificate can move freely around the country, the circa 680,000 Greeks who have been fully vaccinated cannot yet move without texting the five-digit number for permission, let alone move from prefecture to prefecture or even among municipalities (except for Weekends).
In general, tourists move around freely, while at the same time the Greeks, almost half a year now in “house imprisonment,” are allowed only to go to work, for essential shopping and physical exercise - not further than 2 km from their house. Many have not seen their loved ones who live in another prefecture all this time, as it is prohibited.
Just how much more discriminatory and humiliating can this get?
The experience of other countries where something similar had happened (that is, Spain, which allowed tourists in while the Spaniards could not move to celebrate Easter with their loved ones, and Cyprus, which issued a “Tourists Movement Certificate” allowing them to move around freely from 6 am to 11 pm) shows that there is a clear discriminatory trend against the “natives” of the South.
Meanwhile, the Greek PM, in an interview on Wednesday, stated that “there are no citizens in need of an ICU bed that they cannot find one,” but there is only “a short waiting time.” Furthermore, he added that “today the situation is better than three-four years ago when in a simple flu outbreak, this phenomenon was more intense… We do everything humanly possible to boost the NHS, temporarily and long-term. But of course, you understand we can reach up to a limit.”
This statement triggered a press release the following day by the Federation of Hospital Doctors of Greece. They emphasize, among others: “Just before the TV interview last night, 7/4/21, there were 113 heavily ill intubated outside ICUs, from Attika and surrounding areas hospitals, registered in the official waiting list for needing transferring to an ICU. Eighty-two of these are Covid19 patients, out of which 37 remain intubated outside ICUs in common wards with makeshift ventilators for more than three days. This is anyway an everyday situation these last weeks. It is unacceptable for the country’s Prime Minister to misinform the Greek people so ruthlessly.”
The doctors close the press release with the permanent plea for requisition of private hospitals and boosting the NHS with permanent personnel, equipment, and infrastructure.
On Thursday, a grim incident also came to prove the PM was openly lying. A 76-year old intubated patient out of ICU died because allegedly another patient in the regular ward he was hospitalized in disconnected his ventilator supposedly because the noise was disturbing him. This crime would never have happened if the intubated patients, who doctors said was in better health lately, were in an ICU.
Has anyone informed the tourists visiting Greece that, should they get sick and need an ICU, they would have grave difficulty finding one?
However, the tourists would be able to find restaurants and bars, which are expected to reopen after the Greek Easter (2 May), according to Alternate Development Minister Nikos Papathanassis. We suspect the catering sector, which has been closed since November, driving its employees in desperation, is mainly reopening because of tourism.
Most importantly, tourists, this year will find the Acropolis Hill cemented. We remind you of the monstrous (according to a significant number of archaeologists and related scientists) cement paths constructed on the Sacred Hill, significantly altering the Parthenon surrounding landscape - which is itself a monument. After this grave cultural crime, it was revealed that Culture Minister Lina Mendoni was planning to engrave her name along with that of the sponsor who paid for the cement paths and the elevator for people with disabilities on three marble plates (yes, not in cement), to be placed in three different spots on the Acropolis. Soon after storm reactions from the opposition and social media, Mendoni said her name would be omitted.
As reports rightly note, there has never been a case of a sponsor or minister’s name to be put on a World Cultural Heritage monument. Even plaques obligatorily put when it concerns EU funding, they are located outside the archaeological site, at its entrance.
In ancient Greek tragedy, this was called hybris (overweening presumption leading a person to disregard the divinely fixed limits on human action in an ordered cosmos). It was always followed by a divine punishment: nemesis.
Back to Covid19 related news, pupils of the last three high school grades (Lyceums) will return to classrooms on Monday, April 12, 2021, Greece’s Education Minister Niki Kerameos announced on Wednesday. She clarified that teachers and students would have to take Covid-19 self-tests twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays) before attending class and enter the results on the online platform self-testing.gov.gr, which is already partly operational. Pupils and teachers with a negative test will then be provided with a negative card result to be presented at school. Keep in mind that schools are typically closed for the weeks preceding and following Easter (2 May for Greece). Authorities have said that self-testing at home is easy and have released an official video to show how.
Greece is reported to have received 2 million self-tests and was about to receive another 7 million by the end of the week.
As soon as the opening of high-schools and the obligatory self-tests were announced, a reportage revealed that both EODY and Political Protection General Secretariat had commissioned the 20-million euros purchase of 6 million Covid19 rapid test kits to a seven-month-old company named Swiss Med. The company won both commissions without being experienced in the health sector. The two majority owners are siblings, involved in catering and bar businesses in Athens and Mykonos island. Their father, who seems to be unofficially yet profoundly engaged in the company, is reported to have officially been declared “poor” by a court decision, while a person with the same name as him is in the list of those who owe significant to the state.
Amnesty International Human Rights Report on Greece.
“COVID-19 hits those shackled by oppression hardest thanks to decades of inequalities, neglect, and abuse” is the conclusion of Amnesty International Report 2020/21 on The State of the World’s Human Rights, which was released on Thursday. The report covers 149 countries and delivers a comprehensive analysis of human rights trends globally in 2020. In it, the organization “describes those already most marginalized, including women and refugees, as bearing the devastating brunt of the pandemic, as a result of decades of discriminatory policy decisions by world leaders.”
“COVID-19 has brutally exposed and deepened inequality both within and between countries and highlighted the staggering disregard our leaders have for our shared humanity. Decades of divisive policies, misguided austerity measures, and choices by leaders not to invest in crumbling public infrastructure have left too many easy prey to this virus,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s new Secretary-General. “We face a world in disarray. At this point in the pandemic, even the most deluded leaders would struggle to deny that our social, economic, and political systems are broken.”
Greece's situation is summed up as follows: “Austerity measures adopted over the past decade continued to erode the accessibility and affordability of healthcare. Allegations of torture and other ill-treatment and excessive use of force by police persisted. More push backs of refugees and migrants at land and sea were reported. In a historic ruling in October, an Athens court found the extreme far-right Golden Dawn party guilty of running a criminal organization. Fires destroyed Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesvos.”
As to the right of health, the report concludes: “Research published in April found that austerity measures adopted in the previous ten years had continued to erode the accessibility and affordability of health care in Greece. As a result, many people found it harder to afford health care and access the public health system. The retrogressive impact of these measures, which disproportionately impacted the poorest and most marginalized, combined with how they were implemented, violated the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health. Many of the challenges faced by health workers, including difficulties due to low numbers of staff, were exacerbated by COVID-19.”
According to the report, incidents of ill-treatment, excessive and otherwise unlawful use of force by law enforcement officials continued to be reported. Amnesty emphasizes journalist Manolis Kypraios’s case and the concerns raised following the authorities’ decision to appeal against the court ruling awarding the journalist compensation after finding that the Greek state was responsible for his serious injury by a police officer who threw a stun grenade at him in 2011.
Regarding the refugee issue, the organization points to Covid19 and the stricter approach to border control, “in numerous instances accompanied by reports of pushbacks and violence” to explain the sharp decline in land and sea arrivals. It also refers to the February incident of tens of thousands of people trying to cross Greece’s land borders in the Evros region and Greece reacting using “tear gas, water cannons and plastic bullets against those attempting to cross.” At the same time, “Testimonies described a series of abuses by Greek border forces, including excessive use of force, beatings, use of live ammunition, unlawful detention and systematic push backs into Turkey, leading to the deaths of at least two men and the disappearance of one woman. Greek authorities consistently denied these practices.” Moreover, “numerous incidents of pushbacks and dangerous practices at sea against refugees and migrants, allegedly by Greek security forces, were also reported by NGOs and other actors.”
Besides, the report suggests that the Aegean islands refugee camps remained overcrowded, and conditions there remained squalid. It emphasizes the draconian anti-Covid19 measures imposed in the camps and concludes that “In many facilities, these measures were repeatedly and discriminatorily renewed throughout the year.” Moreover, in the overcrowded camps in Lesvos and Samos, among other locations where people were placed under quarantines, the inadequate living conditions “prevented the implementation of quarantines with full respect of people’s basic rights.”
The report registers a “criminalization of solidarity,” pointing out to the new rules severely limiting NGOs’ ability to work on migration and asylum issues, charges against NGO members, and the closure of the PIKPA facility in Lesbos.
Amnesty makes special mention to the “controversial bill regulating public assemblies” and emphasises that “Serious violations of the rights of conscientious objectors continued, including repeated prosecutions, fines and trials in military courts.” Vasilis Dimakis's hunger strike for his right to education is mentioned in the report, as well as “systematic failures in Greece’s prisons.”
#MeToo: 22 gymnastics athletes sent a letter to the President of Hellenic Democracy Katerina Sakellaropoulou, with shocking allegations for sexual harassment and physical-psychological violence from their coaches, even against five-year-old children. The allegations include incidents starting from 1985. They refer to “common secret” and systematic despicable training practices. They say coaches were acting in absence of any outside control.
To ‘talk sense’ to the athletes, coaches were hitting them at the face and the body, slapping, kicking and in other ways. They would drag little girls from the hair from the finish to the start point to repeat their programme, while they were continuously crying- they write. Other coaching practices included throwing objects to the children even while they were performing an exercise, risking them being wounded. As coaches were responsible for their diet, some of the athletes were undernourished and had to search at the hotels garbage when they were on a mission, to calm down their hunger.
As to sexual harassment, some female athletes were forced to do the splits on the coaches palm, on the pretext of improving their flexibility. They were strongly pulling the girls from their vulva to show them “how to properly do the exercise.” In other cases, some individuals were sexually harassing children beyond training, with the children locking themselves in to avoid them. In addition. coaches were forcing athletes to stay in their underwear for the rest of the training when they wanted to punish them for not performing well in exercises, while in some instances they did not let them go to the toilet, with expected results.
New buses: After a whole year of pandemic with Athenians crowding in public transportation, the government finally received the first 40 additional buses on Friday to be placed on the most heavily used lines. They are part of the 300 vehicles that, through a leasing programme, support the fleet of public transport buses in Attica with weekly deliveries. However, according to accounts, windows in these specific buses do not open, against what Infectious Disease specialists have advised.
Seeing stones: pandemic reveals Palantir's troubling reach in Europe - Covid has given Peter Thiel’s secretive US tech company new opportunities to operate in Europe in ways some campaigners find worrying (This Guardian investigative reporting piece makes special mention to Greece’s agreement with Palantir).
Governing the Ungovernable: A vivid summing up of recent developments in Greece.
Covid Greece: Waiting for the tourists to come back.
Professor Robert Rosenstone says, “the study of history was born in Greece”, and names Theo Angelopoulos one of the best filmmakers in the world.
Meet the Only Greek Coffee Grower in the World: Greek Coffee grower Dimitrios Christopoulos arrived in Colombia a few years ago, without knowing anything about coffee.
Νegros Tou Moria, Dauda Conteh - Ego eimai SourtouKis (I am SourtouKis) (spoKen word): Afro-Greeks remember: Negros tou Moria wrote this song to honour 3 April 2021, birth anniversary of Theodoros Kolokotronis (leading figure of the Greek Revolution, also known as Geros tou Moria - Oldman of Peloponnese), 200 years from 1821, and he sang it especially for “the AfroGreeks” project, in front of the hero’s statue, The Afro-Greeks of “the Afro-Greeks” project do not forget and honour history creatively through their activities.
And don’t forget!
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