I dislike the endless political debates on Greek TV in pre-election run-ups. They give me a headache. Everyone screams at the top of their voices at the same time, and they speak too fast for me to understand much. I only start paying attention to what is said from the time the exit poll is released on election day. Usually nothing exciting happens, other than screaming and vehement disagreement.
The entry of Xrysi Avgi into parliament has changed all of that.
Known as the Golden Dawn in English and often touted as neo-nazi, The ultra-nationalist Xrysi Avgi test the limits of democracy and free speech at a time when such conflict is needed least. Or perhaps it is the right time. Maybe Europe and the world needs to be reminded about what can happen during a bad recession.
Since receiving more 3% of the vote in the last elections, Xrysi Avgi has filled the world with horror at images of their black t-shirted young men roaring in celebration.
In the past few weeks we have been shocked (and amused) by the Golden Dawn’s first press conference and their insistence that the press, foreign and local, stand up as a sign of respect for the Xrysi Avgi leader Michaloliakos as he entered the room. We have read the growing reports of attacks on foreigners both legally and illegally living in Hellas. We raised our eyebrows as Michaloliakos’ daughter and two Golden Dawn MP’s were arrested and released after the stabbing of an Albanian and two Algerian men. We watched as a few hundred Golden Dawn fought against the police in the streets of Patras on the 23rd of last month. We rolled our eyes as Michaloliakos denied the holocaust. And now we get this:
This footage shows how the male Xrysi Avgi candidate, Kasidiaris, swears, throws a glass of water at the Syriza Deputy Rena Dourou and then proceeds to slap or punch the female KKE candidate’s face three times. The Xrysi Avgi leader Michaloliakos has since argued that Kasidiaris was provoked because (if you look very carefully) one can see that Kanelli threw her papers at him AFTER he threw the water in Dourou’s face.
Now undoubtedly my opinion is biased, but I am going to say it anyway. Xrysi Avgi are thugs and they should take away their legal status as a political party.
And why am I biased? Well, as a foreigner legally living in Greece, I am a potential target of Xrysi Avgi. They want people like me gone, regardless of whether I am married to a Greek, pay taxes and own property. This, of course, makes me hostile to them, and I am not alone in my sentiments. The leaders of the other political parties refused to negotiate a coalition government with Xrysi Avgi. They would not even sit at the presidents table with Michaloliakos present. As a resistance fighter in Greece during German occupation of the country in WWII, the president himself had a problem meeting Michaloliakos (although he did eventually). WordPress even suspended the Xrysi Avgi blog and they have also not been invited to participate in any of the planned official debates scheduled for next week (if they even happen).
Free Speech…as a part of the Greek network on FB I get a lot of friend requests from people I don’t know. Mostly I accept them until they prove not to be friendly. The morning after the elections was an eye opener for me as I saw piles of posts from celebrating Xrysi Avgi supporters on my newsfeed. I changed my settings so I could not see them but I actually hesitated to delete or block them. Why? Because as much as I disagree with them, I felt that they were entitled to free speech. Or are they? The right to free speech does not include hate speech, but they had not ever said anything hateful to me. Only indirectly by supporting a political party who would throw me out of the country.
Anyway my first attempts to change my settings on FB only got rid of the offending posts from those who celebrated the election results. Over the next two weeks I kept finding the odd post on my newsfeed that expressed outrage at how Xrysi Avgi had been demonised in the local and foreign press; how their freedom of speech had been stripped from them by the suspension of their blog, and how they had been marginalised by the other political parties.
And this was before the attacks on foreigners started increasing. It was before they fought in the streets of Patras and one of their candidates attacked two women on national tv.
In other words, Xrysi Avgi has become more of a danger because they feel oppressed and marginalised. Everything that has happened only appears to make them more extreme. Somehow the justifiably averse reaction to their emergence onto the stage of parliamentary politics has put them on the defensive in a very worrisome way.
The increasing crimes by illegal immigrants do nothing to help the situation either. They only serve to justify the actions of Xrysi Avgi in their own eyes.
I have heard reports of Xrysi Avgi youth going around neighbourhoods as a part of some or other resident association and demanding to see people’s ID cards to determine if they are foreign, and/or illegal. And I imagine what I would do if one of them knocked on my door. My ID lists me as foreign. A part of me wants to prepare for such a visit…just in case. I feel like I should be prepared. Like I should have a baseball bat next to the door, or get a gun. I imagine what they will do to me if I fight back or get aggressive (which is inevitable). My husband tells me that no one has a right to ask to see my ID and I should slam the door in the face of anyone who asks. But I am not convinced it will be that simple.
Needless to say, I still have not worked out the details of my plan… All I know is that they have no need to worry about me trying to stay in country if Xrysi Avgi should ever come to power, I would rather swim across to Turkey and risk a Turkish prison than spend one night under their governance.