An­ar­chist at­tacks on the rise in newly mul­ti­cul­tural Greece

The Washington Times Weekly - - International Perspective - BY IASON ATHANASIADIS

ATHENS | An­ar­chy made a spec­tac­u­lar re­turn to Greece this month as ex­plo­sions struck banks and pri­vate busi­nesses and a riot rocked down­town Athens.

Wide­spread ur­ban guer­rilla vi­o­lence, grow­ing racism to­ward Greece’s 1 mil­lion im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tion and un­prece­dented dis­il­lu­sion­ment to­ward the po­lit­i­cal class char­ac­ter­ize Greek so­ci­ety five months af­ter it ex­pe­ri­enced its gravest ri­ot­ing since World War II.

Greece faces a pro­lif­er­a­tion of new an­ar­chist and anti-es­tab­lish­ment ter­ror­ist groups, which pose a grow­ing threat to sta­bil­ity, Greek and for­eign an­a­lysts say.

“We have a new gen­er­a­tion of ter­ror­ists show­ing its pres­ence and teeth over the past cou­ple of years, and now they have a new pool of pos­si­ble re­cruits,” said Thanos Dokos, di­rec­tor of Greek think tank ELIAMEP. “Grow­ing num­bers of peo­ple are say­ing that if the politi­cians can­not un­der­stand with other means, then tar­geted vi­o­lence might shake them out of their stu­por.”

Greece’s cen­ter-right gov­ern- ment has been bat­tered by bribery, real es­tate and sex scan­dals, mak­ing it a tempt­ing tar­get for an­ar­chists. A gov­ern­ment reshuf­fle in Fe­bru­ary was widely crit­i­cized, and a sec­ond round of changes is ex­pected af­ter Euro­pean par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in June, in which the gov­ern­ment is ex­pected to do poorly.

Scan­dals have forced four min­is­ters to re­sign in the past two years. Wide­spread pub­lic dis­il­lu­sion­ment was com­pounded by anger in De­cem­ber when a po­lice­man fa­tally shot a 15-year-old boy, trig­ger­ing a week of crosscoun­try ri­ot­ing.

Po­lice cred­i­bil­ity plunged when riot squads stepped back and al­lowed wide­spread van­dal­ism and loot­ing in an at­tempt to avoid clashes that might cause fur­ther ca­su­al­ties.

When the smoke cleared, pub­lic and pri­vate busi­nesses had suf­fered mil­lions of dol­lars in dam­age. Pub­lic trust in the po­lice was fur­ther dam­aged when it emerged in April that a po­lice­man was a mem­ber of an organized gang of bank rob­bers that has car­ried out nearly 30 armed rob­beries since De­cem­ber.

“Prison ri­ots, so­cial ex­clu­sion, hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions, po­lice bru­tal­ity, lack of ac­count­abil­ity and cor­rup­tion are just a few man­i­fes­ta­tions that the sys­tem in Greece has reached its lim­its,” said Panos Kostakos, a re­searcher at the Depart­ment of Euro­pean Stud­ies at Bath Uni­ver­sity in Bri­tain. “Weak states have al­ways pro­vided strong ground for malev­o­lent ac­tors and dark net­works.”

Fresh at­tacks occurred in May as in­cen­di­ary de­vices ex­ploded out­side a pri­vate se­cu­rity firm, a car deal­er­ship and a busi­ness sell­ing mil­i­tary sur­plus gear.

The pre­vi­ous week­end, vi­o­lence erupted in cen­tral Athens as right-wingers at­tacked hun­dreds of im­mi­grants hud­dling within an un­used court­house and sub­se­quently clashed with left­ist demon­stra­tors who came to their aid. Athens po­lice an­nounced that they are in­ves­ti­gat­ing all in­ci­dents.

Fur­ther in­flam­ing ten­sions, po­lice used tear gas and stun grenades to break up a protest by Mus­lim im­mi­grants on May 22 af­ter re­ports that a Greek po­lice­man had de­faced the Ko­ran.

The volatile mix of so­cial ten­sions fol­lows a se­ries of scan­dals that has threat­ened to over­whelm the gov­ern­ment. Pres­i­dent Karo­los Papou­lias ad­journed Par­lia­ment ear­lier in May ahead of the Euro­pean par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in June.

Apart from pub­lic ap­peals for calm, the cur­rent gov­ern­ment has taken a low pro­file in ad­dress­ing the surge in vi­o­lence. Re­peated at­tempts to con­tact of­fi­cials to com­ment for this ar­ti­cle were un­suc­cess­ful.

An­ar­chist guer­rilla ac­tiv­ity has surged since the De­cem­ber ri­ots. The at­tacks tar­get gov­ern­ment offices, TV sta­tions, banks and po­lice per­son­nel with bombs and ma­chine guns.

At least half a dozen new groups tar­get­ing po­lice­men and jour­nal­ists have ap­peared since the De­cem­ber ri­ots, with ex­otic names such as Con­spir­acy of Fire Nu­clei, Gang of Con­science and Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Strug­gle.

Iason Athanasiadis re­ports on Greece through a grant from the Pulitzer Cen­ter on Cri­sis Re­port­ing in Wash­ing­ton.

PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY IASON ATHANASIADIS/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

A gov­ern­ment of­fice build­ing in Athens is splat­tered with paint, sym­bol­iz­ing to pro­test­ers the blood they would like to hold the gov­ern­ment re­spon­si­ble for shed­ding. Scan­dals in the Greek gov­ern­ment also have been tar­gets for an­ar­chists.

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