Thursday, 5 July 2012

Even though the general tenour of this article is hostile Golden Dawn, there's enough detail in it to make it clear why Golden Dawn is garnering some support.
ATHENS—He doesn’t walk alone.

Not to his convenience store in the morning. Not to his apartment at night. Not anymore. When Tipu Sultan Mirza Mohamed moves, three or four fellow immigrants from Bangladesh move with him.


The Bangladeshis of Athens now travel in packs because the thugs travel in packs. In the last month, supporters of Golden Dawn, the virulently anti-immigrant far-right party whose logo is a modified swastika, have beaten, among many others, an Egyptian fisherman sleeping on his roof, two Algerians sleeping near a beach, a Pakistani man and Bangladeshi man walking in a subway station, and an Albanian standing on the street.

None of this — nor an assault this month by a Golden Dawn MP on a Communist female MP on live television — has appeared to do anything to dampen the party’s popularity. After Golden Dawn earned 6.97 per cent of the vote in the May federal election, up from 0.23 per cent in 2009, some leftists dismissively argued that this was a one-time protest statement. But Golden Dawn got 6.92 per cent in the election on June 17.

The party, which uses slogans like “rid this land of filth,” was a fringe movement from its founding in 1980 until three years ago. Then came the economic crisis that sent unemployment skyrocketing to 23 per cent and forced Greece to submit to other European countries’ humbling austerity demands. Next, under ideal breeding conditions for ultranationalism and fascism, came the wave of xenophobia and violence that has Mohamed and his compatriots living in fear.

“Nobody here safe now,” Mohamed, 42, said in halting English, the day after the election in his store in the poor immigrant neighbourhood of Omonia. “Nobody. When I come here in 2004, I go alone to the square in the night, nobody stop me. Now in the day I’m afraid to go alone. They come to me, they ask, ‘Why you come here? When you go back to your home? Why don’t you leave?’ I don’t know why they ask this. We are in Europe. Europe is human rights. Where go human rights? Where? If I can’t walk on the road, where go human rights?”

He doesn’t look like a brown shirt. In fact, he wears a blue-collared shirt that says PepsiCo above the breast pocket. The 40-year-old man, who says he can’t give his name because of his job, is a well-coiffed Pepsi salesman in stylish jeans. He is also an enthusiastic supporter of Golden Dawn.

The attacks on immigrants? “I’m not sure if what the media says is 100 per cent true, but even if it is, this has an impact on the immigrants. They’re more afraid. So things are more calm, and there is less violence against Greeks. If the police isn’t doing its job, someone else has to.”

Slapping another politician repeatedly on TV? “What people took from that was that Golden Dawn will do the same thing to the entire political system.”

Golden Dawn’s vehement stand against the country’s bailout agreements — its 55-year-old leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, calls them “slavery” — appeals to the same anger against austerity and old-guard politicians that has propelled the sudden rise of a new leftist party, Syriza. Like many extremist parties, Golden Dawn is especially popular with young men. Half of the country’s under-25 population is unemployed; Golden Dawn offers poor youths with few prospects an easy scapegoat for their financial troubles, a social institution in which they can feel important, and a salve for their wounded national pride.

“Local guys can’t go to the square because of the immigrants. They’re scared,” said Stavros Tsouis, 18, a house painter and Golden Dawn supporter in the Athens suburb of Markopoulo, which has also seen an immigrant influx. “If other parties cannot get rid of them, there is no other way. It (violence) is not a proper way, of course, but . . . ” He trailed off. “I’m thinking of my 7-year-old brother and his future.”

The Pepsi salesman sat under a cafe tent last Wednesday in the Athens neighbourhood of Agios Panteleimonas. The neighbourhood, known as such for the grand Orthodox church of the same name, has become a hotbed of anti-immigrant sentiment and Golden Dawn support.

The church’s priest provides food and guidance to hundreds of the poor illegal immigrants who live in the dingy apartment buildings nearby. In apparent retaliation, Golden Dawn loyalists wrote a party slogan — “Foreigners out of Greece. Greece belongs to the Greeks” — in chalk in front of the church steps. They have also locked the gate to the playground on the church grounds to prevent immigrant children from using it.

A local senior, who also wouldn’t give her name, said Golden Dawn members have endeared themselves to neighbourhood Greeks by volunteering to accompany the elderly on their errands. Before then, she said, they were regularly robbed by South Asians.

A major spike in immigrant crime has aided Golden Dawn’s rise. The problem of immigrant crime, in turn, has been fuelled by both the economic crisis and Greece’s dysfunctional immigration system.

An EU agreement allows countries to send illegal immigrants back to the first European country they set foot in — which is Greece more than 50 per cent of the time, because it offers a land crossing through Turkey. Greek political leaders, joined by human rights groups, have complained bitterly about their disproportionate burden. They have also failed to unilaterally solve the problems they have the power to address.

Greece, a country of 11 million, grants refugee status to almost nobody: 11 of 15,928 claimants in 2009. It also provides almost no support to new arrivals, many of whom live in squalid conditions, and takes years to process refugee claims; there is a backlog of more than 30,000. Without documents, Human Rights Watch has reported, immigrants “spend a great deal of time unemployed or in exploitative work situations,” have little contact with Greeks, and “often live in dire poverty with inadequate food, health care and shelter.”

The vast majority of Greece’s million-plus immigrants were Albanians until four years ago, when the Turkish crossing overtook the boat routes to Italy and Spain as the most popular gateway to Europe. Tens of thousands of unskilled, non-Greek-speaking Africans, South Asians and Arabs have since made their way to Athens. Just as the economy collapsed, swaths of the city that had seen few non-white residents for centuries became ghettos for dark-skinned Muslims. Few of the new arrivals have experienced anything but misery.

Hali Sip, a lanky 26-year-old former youth soccer player from Senegal, is one of dozens of Africans who try to sell knock-off clothing, luggage, sunglasses, watches and trinkets on the sidewalk outside the Athens University of Economics and Business. His visible inventory consists of four bags. As of last Tuesday, he had not had a customer in a week. To pay the rent, he said, he also collects discarded bottles to return for a wretched €1 per kilogram.

He came to Greece in pursuit of “the European dream”: “To become somebody, to become a man, somebody who is respected. “ He would now return to Senegal if he could afford it.

“Dying in Africa is better than dying here,” he said. “Because we fled death there, and we came here, and there’s death here, too. It’s better to die back there with dignity.”

Hundreds of Africans used to hawk their wares outside another university down the block from the business school. In May, a month before the election, the chaotic improvised market, which had undercut and infuriated established shopkeepers, was shut down by riot police. Bored-looking officers with shields and helmets now patrol the empty street three hours a day. Asked last Tuesday if the crackdown was political, one of them said, “Obviously political.”

The former socialist government launched a United Nations-aided immigration reform effort in 2010. But the socialists, too, have since attempted to capitalize on anti-immigrant resentment — issuing warnings about foreign prostitutes, approving a 12.5-kilometre fence on the Turkish border and campaigning on a pledge to build 30 new detention centres. New Democracy, the centre-right party that won, talked even tougher, pledging to repeal a 2010 law that allows the children of illegal immigrants to obtain citizenship. And Golden Dawn now has 18 seats in parliament.

The party promised to plant landmines along the border with Turkey, deport all illegal immigrants, and conduct raids on hospitals and kindergartens to forcibly evict immigrant children. Though it denies that it is a neo-Nazi party — the Nazis occupied Greece during World War II — its members make Nazi salutes at rallies, Mein Kampf has been displayed at its headquarters, and its leader, Michaloliakos, denies the Holocaust.

“Golden Dawn is not another political party. This is an openly neo-Nazi party, a fascist party, and in the long term it will have grave consequences on Greece, on its society, and on its image abroad. Democracy is based on tolerance for the other,” said Sotiris Methenitis, the centre-right mayor of Markopoulo, who issued an unusual pre-election plea “begging” constituents to vote for anyone else.

“In Greek mythology, the most important god, Zeus, was the protector of the foreign. Greece has a long history of paying particular attention to the significance of the foreign person coming here. He has to be treated with respect. This has been a feature of modern Greece. Up to very recently.”

Sip’s group of African peddlers keeps wooden sticks and jagged chunks of tile at the ready, tucked in beside the university gate, in case racists show up looking for trouble. Shopkeeper Mohamed watches his back and thinks about returning to Bangladesh. Neither thinks Golden Dawn is going away. Neither does Golden Dawn.

“The time for fear has come for those who betrayed this homeland,” Michaloliakos said to conclude his post-election speech in May. “We are coming! That’s all I have to say.”
Source: MetroNews

I'm still generally sympathetic to Golden Dawn even though I have my reservations. For example, Alerta Digital reports today that some apparent Golden Dawn supporters distributed leaflets in Gazi, a gay district in Athens. The pamphlets said, "After the immigrants, you will be next!". I wouldn't rule out the possibility that this was a stunt organised by the left to discredit them, though.


Anonymous said...

Golden Dawn use a modified swastika as their symbol?

Does that mean, then, that Project Gutenberg also uses a "modified swastika" as *their* symbol?

Vince said...

Three points worth highlighting. "Immigrant crime up as a result of the economic crisis". Obviously highly false, as third worlders have historically always been overrepresented in the penal systems in every European country, well before the crisis.

Point two is the fact that Greece a country that provides no financial incentive for immigrants, that generally has a hostile environment causes the immigrants to want to leave. "He would now return to Senegal if he could afford it". Its no coincidence that illegal immigrants flock to Britain and the nordic states. They certainly dont come here for the weather.

Point three: as mentioned in our last discussion. Through social help and protection of the locals, support will increase and be cemented amongst the grassroots, just as we see from hamas hezbollah etc. The fact that this party are protecting people that need protecting, providing food etc means they are doing the job of the state. In doing the job of the state, in assuming the responsibility of the state you also assume the credibility of the state. What I mean by this is, you are seen as capable of running the country.

For example European freedom parties or eurosceptic parties, may get large protest votes, but many are wary about the ability for fringe parties to credibly run a country. What Golden dawn says to the electorate is, we are capable and already have shown our capabilities in area X,Y,Z.

Now the economic crisis although should not be solely attributed to the rise of right wing parties, in this example I think it will play a major role. Because unlike other European countries, such parties do not actively help the people, through protection food etc. When people from other areas that are in economic difficulty see others receiving such benefits, they may think to themselves "I may not exactly agree with these guys, but some of what they say makes sense. Im down on my ass and they are providing support"

Although some of you may not agree and I for one am quickest to discredit leftists branding any group that deviates from the multicultural status quo as nazis. But the rise of Golden Dawn, and its message, reminds me of the rise of the Nazi party in Germany. Some of the similarities are quite eerie.

Unlike others Iam not sympathetic to the Golden Dawn, and I fear for the end result if they were to get power. Although I do not agree with them, I understand why they garner support. And its the fact that I understand it, and the fact there are genuine reasons for people to support them, again makes the long term picture even more scary, especially if successive govts/coalitions fail to ease the Greek situation (which under the Euro prison seems unlikely).

Anonymous said...

Although I am not a supporter of the thugs known as Golden Dawn, there is a serious immigration problem in Greece and Europe. Most Greeks do not want illegals on their land. They have that right, but since the current government of Greece refuses to protect its citizens, what options are left? Borders, Language and Culture is what defines a nation. Unfortunetely the present governments of Europe have abandoned their sovereign borders and have the utmost contempt towards its native populations. Is it any wonder that Golden Dawn is gaining in popularity?

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