Right-wing thugs have been spreading fear and terror in Greece for months. The worse the financial crisis gets and the harsher the budget cuts imposed by European creditors are, the worse the terror gets on the streets. Foreigners have been attacked, homosexuals chased and leftists assaulted. Some were beaten to death. There are parts of Athens in which refugees and minorities no longer dare to go out alone at night, and streets that are echoingly empty. Foreign merchants have had to close their doors, while journalists and politicians who criticize these developments receive threats or beatings.
Ta Nea, a leading Greek daily, has described conditions here as similar to those of Weimar Germany. Vassiliki Georgiadou, a political science professor in Athens, likewise calls it “an atmosphere like in the 1930s in Germany against the Jews and their businesses.”
As recently as Greece’s October 2009 parliamentary election, Golden Dawn garnered just 0.29 percent of votes. But in the early election held last May, as well as in the subsequent new election in June, the right-wing extremist party suddenly received almost 7 percent of votes, securing 18 seats in the country’s parliament.
Polls now show the party holding 10 to 12 percent of voter support. Together with two other right-wing nationalist groups, that puts the extremist block at about 20 percent. Nowhere else in Europe are neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists profiting as greatly from the financial crisis as in Athens.
And now these extremists are practicing what they once only preached.
Violent on the Streets
In 2005, the French monthly newspaper Le Monde Diplomatique wrote that party leader Michaloliakos had warned, “When we are strong, we will show no mercy. It won’t be democratic anymore.”
At the time, Michaloliakos’ statements were derided, but now the party and its followers are proving on the streets of Athens just how serious they are with their threats. In some downtown city neighborhoods where many asylum seekers and refugees live, small bands of extremists calling themselves “stormtroopers” — in allusion to the Nazi Sturmabteilung(SA) paramilitary organization better known as the “brownshirts” — have taken to roaming the streets on foot or on motorcycles, attacking foreigners and leftists and beating them to the point that they require hospitalization. They use clubs, baseball bats, knives and in some cases even guns.
Human rights organizations have recorded hundreds of such attacks, with the list growing daily. These attacks are “systematic and organized” in their execution and unquestionably “racially motivated,” was the conclusion reached late last summer by 19 aid organizations working in tandem with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Since then, the situation has only gotten worse.
Many victims of this violence no longer even go to the police, who are rumored to sympathize with the extremists. At polling places specifically designated for police, Golden Dawn received as much as 23.7 percent of the vote.
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