#rbnews weekly bulletin 25-31 May 2013

Prepared by the #rbnews international team, translated by @IrateGreekThe text companion to this week’s #rbnews international show is now online. You can read it after the jump.

Censorship of the song “Kemal” 

It emerged on social media on Wednesday 29 May that the principal of a primary school of Thessaloniki reprimanded a music teacher for teaching to her pupils the song “Kemal” by composer Manos Hadjidakis with lyrics by Nikos Gatsos, two great Greek artists whose influence extends far beyond the borders of Greece.
The song, titled Kemal, is an allegory of people who choose to struggle throughout their life for a better world. According to the teacher’s account, the principal took action after parents filed a complaint because they considered the song to be “Islamic propaganda”. The principal walked into the classroom to take back the photocopies distributed by the teacher to her pupils and then told her that “in primary school, our concern should be to raise the national spirit.”
News of this incident travelled fast on the web, causing angry reactions. Radiobubble was able to contact the teacher, who said that, for the time being, she would seek to resolve the issue through the standard procedures of the education administration.
An investigation ordered by deputy Minister of Education Theodoros Papatheodorou indicated that the teacher’s account of events is correct. The teacher has not filed an official complaint yet but the Ministry asked the principal to give explanations on the incident in writing.
Following the incident, various texts, pieces of music and public statements by Manos Hadjidakis, including an online tribute organised by radiobubble three years ago, circulated again on the Internet.


Racism and discrimination

Another wave of racist attacks against immigrants was recorded this week, this time in downtown Thessaloniki. Specifically, last Saturday, an immigrant from Rwanda was assaulted with a knife in an open-air market, while other African vendors were victims of verbal attacks and threats earlier in the same area. A few hours later, an Iraqi refugee was stabbed. Both victims were transferred to hospital to have their wounds stitched. The second victim filed a lawsuit against persons unknown a few days later.
The Muslim Association of Greece also received this week a second letter of threats, similar to the one it had received two weeks ago. In both cases, the sheet of paper on which the letter was written in Greek, English and Arabic bore a page-wide logo of Golden Dawn.

Amnesty International reported this week that the European Court of Human Rights fined Greece for yet another case of segregation against Roma children in education, this time for a school in the central region of Thessaly, whose catchment area was gerrymandered to make it de facto cater exclusively for Roma children despite the fact that another school, which is also attended by Greeks, is closer to the Roma settlement. This is the third such ruling of the European Court against Greece. It must be added that instances of discrimination and even violence against the Roma in Greece often go unreported. For example, a Roma encampment near the city of Xanthi in north-eastern Greece was burnt down by local residents and members of Golden Dawn on 10 May but the incident went absolutely unnoticed.
Meanwhile, discussion of the proposed bill against racism, which was brought this week to the relevant committee of parliament, has developed into an avalanche of recriminations between parties of the government coalition. New Democracy proposed measures outside the proposed bill to criminalize the praise or devaluation of genocide, holocausts or Nazi crimes. PASOK on the other hand accused New Democracy of “unbelievable amateurism” and cited concerns that there are important issues of respect of the Constitution at stake. Democratic Left, which had prepared the original proposal, accused New Democracy of seeking to exempt the State and its organs from any responsibility in racist violence, thus allowing public incitement to racial hatred by the State and its employees. A public statement by Human Rights Watch this week condemned the delay in finalizing the bill and especially its provisions to protect and support victims of racist violence during criminal proceedings, while describing clauses pertaining to restrictions on speech that falls short of direct incitement to violence as “problematic.”

Golden Dawn

On Thursday 30 May, the weapon of Golden Dawn MP Antonis Gregos went off without wounding anyone while he was undergoing security checks in Athens airport, where he was preparing to board a flight to Thessaloniki. It was reported that the weapon went off in the MP’s hands, while he claims that he had already handed it to the ariport security employee. Gregos was allowed to board his flight normally. There were angry reactions from other political parties, mainly on the left. The Council of Speakers of Parliament also decided this week to amend parliament regulations to ban MPs from carrying weapons on parliament premises, while the Minister of Public Order announced, following the Gregos incident, that all gun licenses for MPs would be reviewed.
Meanwhile, Golden Dawn members made their presence felt in New York this week by disrupting the screening of “Greek-American Radicals: The Untold Story”, a historical documentary about the journey of Greek-American radicalism. As reported by the English-language edition of Eleftherotypia, “Four young Golden Dawn members were among the audience at the packed theatre and when the screening ended they attempted to intervene in the post-film discussion using a megaphone, sparking strong reaction from the event organisers. The men were ousted from the event amid pushing and shoving, shouting “commies, you will die!” on their way out.”


Privatization of the Thessaloniki water and sewerage company

Two of four possible investment groups that tendered bids to purchase 51% of the shares of the Thessaloniki water and sewerage company EYATH were approved by the privatizations fund HRADF this week. One of them has links to French corporation Suez in collaboration with Greek business group AKTOR, which is owned by Giorgos Bobolas. Bobolas is likely better known to #rbnews listeners for his participation in mining consortium Hellas Gold, which handles the gold mining project in Skouries, Halkidiki.
Citizen movement Kinisi 136, an initiative that opposes privatization and promotes instead social management of water through neighbourhood cooperatives, was excluded from the tendering process. Tender conditions require that investors bidding for 51% of EYATH can demonstrate experience with management of water in a city of more than 500,000 people over the past three years.
PASOK Euro MP Kriton Arsenis resigned to express his disagreement with the privatization of water and sewerage companies in Greece.
Radiobubble launched this week its new large-scale investigation on the privatization of water, which comes as an extension of the study on privatizations in general that we conducted last year. The purpose of this new study is to cover extensively the issue of water in urban areas, in particular in Athens and Thessaloniki where water and sewerage companies are up for privatization this year.


Kaisariani shooting range

The announced privatization of the Kasariani shooting range, an important monument of the history of contemporary Greece because it was used as the execution ground for hundreds of resistance fighters during the Nazi occupation of Greece in World War II, drew angry reactions from various sides this week, not least from local community groups and from the municipality of Kaisariani itself. The statement voted by the municipal council goes: “We oppose categorically the sellout of public property. The Kaisariani shooting range is a monument with worldwide recognition and as such belongs to the Greek people and in particular to the municipality of Kaisariani, which has both the will and the capacity to highlight the value of this unique monument. The mere thought of selling out  this historical monument through the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund, in the framework of a process that devalues the needs of the people is unacceptable and will never materialize.”



The three women who were arrested on 12 May in the Karatzas stream area near the Skouries forest in north-eastern Halkidiki during a protest against planned mining activities in the region stood trial on 27 May. They had been arrested after a police assault against them and other protesters who were demanding a control of the validity of operational licenses held by mining company Hellas Gold for logging activities in the forest.
The three women were given 6 to 7 month suspended prison sentences for sedition, insults, unlawful attempts to release detainees and minor bodily harm. They appealed the court decision and walked free. According to their lawyer, “the basic charges against them, such as resistance to authority, collapsed, and they will be fully innocented by the appeals court.”
Meanwhile, a concert organized in Ierissos on 25 May in solidarity with activists opposing mining activities in Halkidiki drew huge crowds, possibly up to 20,000 people according to eyewitnesses. Turnout was also considerable at a screening of Giorgos Avgeropoulos’s documentary “Cassandra’s treasure” in Brussels. Interestingly, representatives from mining company Eldorado Gold, the parent company of Hellas Gold, chose to attend the screening and participate in the ensuing debate. Company representatives also went to events in Canada this week, where members of the movement against gold mining in Greece have been invited to present their situation by canadians.org.


Merger of public libraries and sacking of civil servants

According to various publications, 46 public libraries will be merged in order to enable the government to sack any excess staff. They currently employ 160 people, who cover only one-third of permanent posts.
Public library employees denounced the fact that their libraries are chronically underfunded and that their supervisory councils are unpaid. The press release of employees of the Lefkada library specifies that the yearly budget of a library ranges from €2,000 to €8,000.
At the same time, another 17 State institutions are targeted for merging by the government. They employ 416 individuals. The proposed mergers will lead half of them to lose their jobs.


Strikes in the private sector

The employees of the dairy factory MEVGAL in Athens are engaging today in their 37th day of strike and declare that they will continue until their demands are met. These include payment of 4 months of arrears, a collective labour convention and securing of jobs for all MEVGAL workers.
On their side, their employers have started firing employees in the middle of the strike, while in the past they threatened to close the Athens branch completely.
It must be noted that, as with the steel workers’ strike last year, there is a large wave of support and solidarity with the MEVGAL strikers from other sectors of activity in Greece and also abroad.
Meanwhile, employees of road assistance company Express Service went on a 24-hour strike on Tuesday because they have been unpaid for 9 months. They had already staged a 4-hour work stoppage last week. They also filed a complaint with the labour inspectorate and a lawsuit against their employer, while establishing a base union and going on strike. The management already fired 5 employees since the start of industrial action.
Radiobubble’s partner Union Solidarity International, an organization dedicated to creating a solidarity network among unions around the world, reported this week on the case of wage theft from the workers of Metropolis music stores in Greece. “Workers had been laid off by owner Andreas Kouris. He failed to pay them the € 600,000 in wages he owed them, claiming he didn’t have the money. And yet he found enough to sponsor the extravagantly expensive Greek Eurovision Song Contest. This lead to the dramatic image of riot police protecting the Eurovision contest from workers protesting against their stolen wages: in the New Europe, the spectacle must go on at all costs. However, Metropolis workers are getting justice through the courts. The Athens Court declared that is was “contrary to morality” for Kouris to enjoy profit and advertising revenue with pauperising workers. This opens the way for Metropolis workers to claim back the wages owed to them.”


Censorship against the Athens Pride

The National Council for Radio and Television finally rejected the application for broadcasting of the Athens Pride TV advertisement. The Pride is due to be held in Athens on 8 June. The Council’s initial objection was due to the fact that the TV spot included a lesbian kiss. In its plenary session, the Council decided that the Pride’s request cannot be deemed as a “request of social interest” and thus rejected free broadcast of the spot. The Athens Rail Transport company also refused to hang posters advertising the Pride in the metro.


Cases of scabies in a police station near Athens

The Pan-Hellenic Federation of Police Employees denounced this week the fact that 9 migrant detainees were found to have scabies in the Markopoulo police station near Athens, while also speaking of “unacceptable” detention conditions due to the long-term detention of immigrants due for deportation, resulting in threats to the health of detainees and policemen alike.
The Federation demands immediate decongestion of detention blocks and transfer of detainees to adequate facilities, as well as immediate decontamination of detention areas.

Arbitrary detention
Californian music band the Shrine, which was in Greece last week during a European tour, reported through their Facebook page that they were detained for two hours by the Hellenic Police for having long hair. Their post dated 19 May specifically reads: “On our first day off after 26 shows straight we were stopped by the police for having long hair while walking the streets of Athens… After two hours of questioning at the station we were set free and spent the rest of the day swimming in the Aegean Sea.”
Another case of arbitrary detention was reported last week as well by photojournalist Nikos Giakoumidis, who was detained in Thessaloniki for taking pictures of a homeless man sleeping on a bench with a guitar next to him. The policeman who detained him first argued that he was taking too many pictures, then claimed that he had received an anonymous call saying that Giakoumidis was taking pictures of clients of an ATM across the street. In a press conference of the Union of Photojournalists this week, union chair Marios Lolos said: “We’re tired of denouncing cases of beatings by the police, we’re tired of getting beaten up.”
The provincial court of Nicosia issued on Friday a demand that the assets of Andreas Vgenopoulos and two other prominent businessmen with key roles in the Marfin Investment Group be frozen worldwide as part of the investigation of the causes of the financial crisis in Cyprus. Vgenopoulos played a key role in the Popular Bank of Cyprus when the financial crisis blew in March 2013 and is suspected of mismanagement of the bank, leading to its collapse and subsequent nationalization.

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