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Eyewitness account: The violent suppression of the protests opposing the “North Macedonia” deal

As Tsipras and Zaev celebrated the signing of the “North Macedonia” deal in a picturesque lakeside setting, hell on earth was unfolding in the surrounding region as the same riot police SYRIZA once promised to abolish, violently attacked demonstrators.

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Editor’s note: The following is a first-hand account provided to us by independent journalist George Adalis and translated by Evans Aggelisopoulos. The account concerns the protests which took place in the Prespes region, where the Tsipras-Zaev “North Macedonia” accord was formally signed, and the violent, brutal police response to the demonstrators who had gathered in the region and who attempted to approach Prespes. This is a rural, mountainous, isolated region with few roads in or out, which is probably the real reason this location was selected for the signing ceremony, and not the “symbolism” of the region’s location at the frontier between the two countries.

Here, it bears noting that this account discusses the violent actions of the very same riot police which SYRIZA, prior to its initial election in January 2015, had promised to abolish. Not only have the riot police not been abolished, but they continue to operate with reckless abandon, violently attacking senior citizens, women, children, and anyone else that crosses their path except, coincidentally, the “known-unknown” instigators of violence at most demonstrations: hooded youth who may or may not be Greek and who have often been seen mingling with the very same riot police which are purportedly there to “maintain order.” It should be obvious to anyone with a modicum of logic and common sense who these hooded hoodlums are operating on behalf of, and why they always seem to evade arrest.

One final comment: while protesters were being violently suppressed by the riot police which SYRIZA had once promised to disband, most of the “mainstream media,” including almost the entirety of the foreign press corps operating in Greece, “saw nothing and heard nothing.” Instead, abandoning any pretense of objectivity, they hailed the Tsipras-Zaev “North Macedonia” deal, continuously described Tsipras’ Greece as a “new” (and better) Greece, brazenly characterized – via their Twitter accounts — protesters and opponents of the agreement as “fascists” (which happens to be the exact same rhetoric employed by members of the SYRIZA government) and turned a blind eye to the violence; quite ironic, when considering that this same press corps in large part celebrated SYRIZA and its now-forgotten promises back in 2015…

Prespes is a magical and beautiful and historic place which has been forever condemned by Tsipras’ traveling troupe, which has acted to destroy the hearts of the people in this country. I wanted to go there with my friends to demonstrate against the decision which he took in a dictatorial manner; a prime minister that lied to the people with his pre-electoral pledges. We didn’t want to hit anyone, we didn’t want to fight anyone, we didn’t want to go into conflict with anyone! We wanted to shout peacefully that the agreement of Tsipras with the wine maker of [Thessaloniki mayor and winery owner] Yiannis Boutaris, “FYROM” prime minister Zoran Zaev, is a sellout and a betrayal which may not only lead to the dissolution of Greece but the whole of the Balkans!

What fools! We believed we had democracy! We believed we were free! We believed we had a left-wing government which promotes progressivism and freedom of expression. How foolish!

We approached the village of Vigla and the ski center located there and realized that cars were backed up at a great distance. We had to stop 4 kilometers away from the village and continue on foot, with hundreds of others. As we arrived in Vigla, we saw thousands of people in the ski center and a stage with speakers where the organizers of the rally spoke alongside some Church leaders. This was a waste of time. Many people had sat and were eating souvlaki.

“Did we come here to eat souvlaki” I asked the organizers. They informed me that 5 kilometers further down the riot police were blocking the road towards Prespes! I spoke to the police chief, who confirmed this information to me. I asked him to allow me to go with my car so as to cover the issue as a journalist, but he didn’t allow it. Alongside him was a police deputy who actively obstructed me from performing my job.

That’s when the first phone call came in. In the village of Pisoderi the riot police were beating up people and throwing tear gas canisters! I gathered as many people as I could and we left on foot! A thousand of us walked for over an hour amidst deadly heat, to an unknown place.

When we finally arrived we found another 4-5,000 people there. The first group we encountered were red and covered in chemicals! In Pisoderi, the riot police had taken positions on the sides of the hill and fired chemicals and fake bomblets from above towards the demonstrators below. I took a pair of binoculars and counted more than 40 riot police, who were located even on treetops. Smoke was everywhere.

We walked one kilometer from the center of the village to the outskirts. Others were coming and others were leaving. On the streets were young children laying on the pavement, attempting to recover from the attacks of tear gas.

On the outskirts, there was a major roadblock on the sidewalk and a few vans of riot police on the farming road parallel to the central road, at a height of 20-30 meters, preventing cars from bypassing the police blockade. They did not stop there though. For four hours, the riot police beat people up!

I can attest that the riot police were never provoked by the people. Most of them were exhausted from the walking and were asking the riot police to be allowed through to go to Prespes, another 20 kilometers away. The riot police were never attacked nor were they provoked by the demonstrators!

Instead, from the farmers’ path on the side of the hill, every now and again the riot police threw tear gas on the heads of people. At one point, people dressed with normal civilian clothes who were behind the riot police came forward and threw stones and pieces of wood from on high, to the riot police that were on the road. That occurred first time at 9 am and it has been captured on video and I saw it with my own eyes. By 1 pm, such attacks occurred twice more. Men with civilian clothes behind one set of riot police to attack another bunch of riot police who were lower down! They then hid behind the riot police on the hill! What does the “leftist” Minister of Interior Nikos Toskas have to say about this? What will he say about the videos and photos circulating on social media as to who provoked who?

[Foreign minister] Nikos Kotzias’ pronouncements were a joke and lies! Once the first rocks were thrown by the four citizens who were hiding behind the backs of the riot police, the riot police began to fire upon those located on the road below. They attacked with no concern, hitting old people and even children! Many fell and were trampled by the Praetorian guards attacks and I saw 20 injured, three of which were seriously hurt.

Not only did the riot police from below launch chemicals. I have covered demonstrations for almost three decades and have never seen such conduct.

As is normal, the youth who saw what was happening filled the streets and started to climb on the sides of the hills with the aim of grabbing the four citizens that threw rocks to the riot police. But what sort of citizens are we speaking of exactly? These were paramilitary state officials in civilian clothes.

That’s where everything devolved into chaos. I am presenting my personal eyewitness account that the riot police would hit anyone who reached the top of the hill with clubs and their shields. It should be mentioned here that the youth who were climbing the deal were facing a steep downward slope below. This fact did not stop the ruthless riot police, who fired tear gas canisters to injure people. On the right side of the hill a riot police brute forcefully shoved a young lad, who fell down after having dropped like a sack, rolling down the side of the hill for 20 meters. He just remained there and tens of people went to help him.

I really don’t know if that riot police officer who pushed the young man was a human, even if he was Greek! Notably, the riot police never spoke amongst themselves! Not a word. Their eyes, however, belied a venomous hatred! I didn’t hear one word uttered from their mouths for five hours. Not one…

Street battles continued in this area, and the riot police fired tons of tear gas.

Along with my friend Nick I reached the front of the line of protesters, facing the riot police, and shouted “wait for the old people to leave. Stop hitting them anymore. I am a journalist. Someone will be killed!”

Whilst I had my hands high and I told them we were going to the side of the hill there, and while we did nothing which could be interpreted as a confrontational attack the riot police threw two tear gas canisters at my feet and four more in front of us! We had been cut off from the crowd which was around 100 meters behind us. No one threw a stone towards the riot police. People were in retreat, simply chanting slogans.

In my attempt to escape from the cloud of tear gas and to see which way the wind is blowing so as to go in the opposite direction I was hit at least three times in the back and on my legs and without breath I ran towards the crowds. It took me about 20 minutes to be able to see properly as my eyes were blown up and hurt from the tear gas! Another two hours were needed for my chest to clear from the tear gas!

Whilst all the people had left fully from the blockade and they were in the village, suddenly at around 3 pm the riot police entered the village and started throwing tear gas and hitting people. As a result, women and children were taken inside the cafe, where one observed a chaotic scene, with children crying and old people suffering!

Why was this attack by the riot police required inside Pisoderi, Mr. Toska, when you already knew there were injured people in the village? What was the aim? Didn’t you realize there were already enough beatings outside the village? Why wasn’t there an ambulance to transport the three seriously injured people?

You are all liars! From the prime minister to all of the party lackeys!

No one provoked the riot police. Instead they pleaded to be allowed to pass on foot. No one attacked the riot police on the road below. The riot police drowned the people with chemicals so as to dissolve them! The chaos then continued when those hiding behind the riot police on the hills began throwing rocks, with the aim of dissolving the peaceful gathering below. It was a provocation manufactured to become a criminal attack. Everything else is made up.

There is something else that I would like to know as well: I had asked to speak to a prosecutor, in order to be allowed to pass the blockade and go on foot for Prespes as part of my journalistic work. However, I was told during the blockade that there was no prosecutor!

Since when are the roads blockaded with no prosecutor to oversee and to give orders?

A whole operation is required so as to be released from the hell created by Alexis Tsipras in Pisoderi, but it was worth it.

As we learned, you aren’t the same as those who governed before you. No, you are much worse!

You deserve some credit though, as you are uniting us! You are cultivating unity and cohesion amongst ourselves.

Alexis Tsipras, you will find us on the streets! You have become a tyrant!

The hell created in Pisoderi and which was censored by all the establishment media laid the foundations for us to “burn” the traitorous agreement which you signed, and the poison you fired at us so as to not appear to your bosses that the Greeks are demonstrating!

Greece doesn’t accept sold out marionettes like you! In Pisoderi you united us. Unified and alone, we will win.

Postscript

As for you own followers, Mr. Tsipras, who you sent to weaken the opposition of the people to the agreement, they remained comfortably in Vigla, circulating speeches and eating souvlaki while we were being bombarded with tear gas. One wonders whether they were paid for their faithful service…

Opinions expressed are those of the author alone and may not reflect the opinions and viewpoints of Hellenic Insider, its publisher, its editors, or its staff, writers, and contributors.

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‘Hell on Earth’: MSF doctor tells RT of rape, violence, inhumane conditions in Lesbos refugee camp

One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

Alex Christoforou

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One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

The overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos, built to accommodate 3,100, houses around 9,000 people. “It’s a kind of hell on Earth in Europe,” Dr. Alessandro Barberio, an MSF clinical psychiatrist, said, adding that people in the camp suffer from lack of water and medical care. “It is impossible to stay there,” he said.

According to Barberio, asylum seekers are subjected to violence “during night and day.””There is also sexual violence”which leads to “mental health issues,” he said, adding that all categories of people at the camp may be subjected to it. “There is rape against men, women and children,” and the victims of sexual violence in the camp often have nightmares and hallucinations, Barberio told RT.

Asylum seekers in Moria “are in constant fear of violence,” and these fears are not groundless, the psychiatrist said. “Such cases [of violence] take place every week.”

There is “one toilet for 72 people, one shower for 84 people. The sanitation is bad. People are suffering from bad conditions,” Michael Raeber, an aid worker at the camp, told RT. They suffer from mental health problems because they are kept for a long time in the camp, according to Raeber.

“There is no perspective, they don’t know how their case will go on, when they will ever be able to leave the island.” The camp is a “place where there is no rule of law,” with rampant violence and drug addiction among the inhabitants, Raeber said.

In its latest report, MSF, which has been working near Moria since late 2017, criticized the unprecedented health crisis in the camp – one of the biggest in Greece. About a third of the camp population consists of children, and many of them have harmed themselves, and have thought about or attempted suicide, according to the group.

Barberio was behind an MSF open letter on the state of emergency in Moria, released on Monday, in which he writes that he has never “witnessed such overwhelming numbers of people suffering from serious mental health conditions.”

Calling the camp an “island prison,” he insisted that many of his patients in the camp are unable to perform basic everyday functions, “such as sleeping, eating well, maintaining personal hygiene, and communicating.”

A number of human rights groups have strongly criticized the conditions at the camp and Greece’s “containment policy”regarding asylum seekers.

Christina Kalogirou, the regional governor of the North Aegean, which includes Lesbos, has repeatedly threatened to shut down the facility unless the government improves the conditions. On Tuesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that Greece will move 2,000 asylum seekers out of the severely overcrowded camp and send them to the mainland by the end of September.

Greece, like other EU states, is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since WWII. According to International Organization for Migration estimates, 22,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Greece since the start of this year alone.

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Greece: “Humanitarian Aid” Organization’s People-Smuggling

Greek NGO evidently received 2,000 euros from each illegal immigrant it helped to enter Greece.

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Authored by Maria Polizoidou of Gatestone Institute:


  • Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI) describes itself as a “Greek nonprofit organization that provides emergency response and humanitarian aid in times of crisis….” It has reportedly abetted the illegal entry into Greece of 70,000 immigrants since 2015, providing the “nonprofit” with half a billion euros per year.
  • ECRI evidently received 2,000 euros from each illegal immigrant it helped to enter Greece. In addition, its members created a business for “integrating refugees” into Greek society, granting it 5,000 euros per immigrant per year from various government programs (in education, housing and nutrition).
  • With the government of Greece seemingly at a loss as to how to handle its refugee crisis and safeguard the security of its citizens, it is particularly dismaying to discover that the major NGO whose mandate is to provide humanitarian aid to immigrants is instead profiting from smuggling them.

Migrants arrive at a beach on the Greek island of Kos after crossing part of the Aegean sea from Turkey in a rubber dinghy, on August 15, 2015. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)

On August 28, thirty members of the Greek NGO Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI) were arrested for their involvement in a people-smuggling network that has been operating on the island of Lesbos since 2015. According to a statement released by Greek police, as a result of the investigation that led to the arrests, “The activities of an organised criminal network that systematically facilitated the illegal entry of foreigners were fully exposed.”

Among the activities uncovered were forgery, espionage and the illegal monitoring of both the Greek coastguard and the EU border agency, Frontex, for the purpose of gleaning confidential information about Turkish refugee flows. The investigation also led to the discovery of an additional six Greeks and 24 foreign nationals implicated in the case.

ERCI describes itself as:

“[A] Greek nonprofit organization that provides emergency response and humanitarian aid in times of crisis. ERCI’s philosophy is to identify the gaps of humanitarian aid and step in to assist in the most efficient and impactful manner. Currently ERCI has 4 active programs working with refugees in Greece in the areas of Search and Rescue, Medical, Education and Refugee Camp Coordination.”

In spite of its stated mission and non-profit profile, however, ECRI — according to Greek authorities, has earned considerable sums of money from its serving as a conduit for illegal activities. ECRI evidently received 2,000 euros from each illegal immigrant it helped to enter Greece. In addition, its members created a business for “integrating refugees” into Greek society, granting it 5,000 euros per immigrant per year from various government programs (in education, housing and nutrition). ERCI has reportedly abetted the illegal entry into Greece of 70,000 immigrants since 2015, providing the “non-profit” with half a billion euros per year.

This revelation, however, does not begin to cover the extent of the illegal activities surrounding the entry of migrants into Greece. In 2017, for instance, Greek authorities arrested 1,399 people-smugglers, some under the cover of “humanitarian” operations; and during the first four months of 2018, authorities arrested 25,594 illegal immigrants.

More worrisome than the literally steep price paid to people-smugglers by the immigrants themselves — or that doled out by the Greek government in the form of integration subsidies — is the toll the situation is taking on Greek society as a whole.

According to Greek police statistics, there were 75,707 robberies and burglaries reported in 2017. Of these cases only 15,048 were solved, and 4,207 were committed by aliens. In addition, the police estimate that more than 40% of serious crimes were committed by illegal immigrants. (Legal and illegal immigrants in Greece make up 10-15% of the total population.)

In 2016, Greek prisons reportedly contained 4,246 Greeks and 5,221 foreigners convicted of serious crimes: 336 for homicide; 101 for attempted homicide; 77 for rape; and 635 for robbery. In addition, thousands of cases are still pending trial.

In a recent heart-wrenching case on August 15, a 25-year-old college student from Athens — on a visit home from his studies at a university in Scotland — was murdered by three illegal immigrants while he was out touring the city with a female friend from Portugal.

The three perpetrators, two Pakistanis and an Iraqi ranging in age from 17 to 28, told police that they first attacked the young woman, stealing money, credit cards, a passport and a cell phone from her purse, but when they realized that her phone was “old,” they went for the young man’s phone, threatening him with a knife. When he tried to fend them off, they said in their confession, they shoved him and he fell off a cliff to his death. After the interrogation, it transpired that the three killers were wanted for 10 additional robberies in the area.

In an angry letter to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, members of parliament and the mayor of Athens, the mother of the victim accused Tsipras of “criminal negligence” and “complicity” in her son’s murder.

“Instead of welcoming and providing “land and water” to every criminal and dangerous individual with savage instincts,” she wrote, “should the state not think first of the safety of its own citizens, whose blood it drinks daily [economically]? [Should the state] abandon [its citizens] to ravenous gangs, for whom the worth of a human life has less meaning than the value of a cell phone or a gold chain?”

Although those were the words of a grieving mother, they are sentiments widely felt and expressed throughout Greece, where such incidents are increasingly common.

On August 29, two weeks after that murder, six immigrants in northern Greece verbally assaulted a 52-year-old man on the street, apparently for no reason. When he ignored them and kept walking, one of them stabbed him in the shoulder blade with a 24-cm (9.4-inch) knife, landing him in the hospital.

Two days earlier, on August 27, approximately 100 immigrants, protesting the living conditions in their camp in Malakasa, blocked the National Highway for more than three hours. Drivers stuck on the road said that some of the protestors went on a rampage, bashing cars with blocks of wood. To make matters worse, police on the scene said that they had not received instructions from the Ministry of Citizen Protection to clear the highway or protect the victims. Gatestone was told upon further queries, that there was no official statement from the police or the ministry, just the drivers’ statements.

With the government of Greece seemingly at a loss as to how to handle its migrant crisis and safeguard the security of its citizens, it is particularly dismaying to discover that the major NGO whose mandate is to provide humanitarian aid to immigrants is instead profiting from smuggling them. The recent arrest of ERCI members underscores the need to scrutinize all such organizations.

Maria Polizoidou, a reporter, broadcast journalist, and consultant on international and foreign affairs, is based in Greece. She has a post-graduate degree in “Geopolitics and Security Issues in the Islamic complex of Turkey and Middle East” from the University of Athens.

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Turkey’s Latest Power Grab: A Naval Base In Cyprus?

“If Greek-Turkish tensions escalate, the possibility of another ill-timed military provocation could escalate with them… Moreover, such a conflict might open up an even greater opportunity for Russian interference.” — Lawrence A. Franklin.

The Duran

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Authored by Debalina Ghoshal via The Gatestone Institute:


  • The possibility of a Turkish naval base on Cyprus does not bode well for the chances of a Cyprus reunification deal, particularly after the breakdown of the July 2017 peace talks, which were suspended when “Turkey had refused to relinquish its intervention rights on Cyprus or the presence of troops on the island.” Turkey has 30,000 soldiers stationed on Cyprus, the northern part of which it has illegally occupied since 1974.

Turkey’s Naval Forces Command has “submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating that Turkey should establish a naval base in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” according to Turkey’s strongly pro-Erdogan daily, Yeni Safak, which recently endorsed the proposal for the base in an article entitled, “Why Turkey should establish a naval base in Northern Cyprus.”

“The base will enable the protection of Northern Cyprus’ sovereignty as well as facilitate and fortify Turkey’s rights and interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, preventing the occupation of sea energy fields, and strengthening Turkey’s hand in the Cyprus peace process talks.”

Having a naval base in northern Cyprus would also strengthen the self-proclaimed “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” which is recognized only by Turkey. Cyprus is strategically important: a naval base there would give Turkey easier access to the Eastern Mediterranean’s international trade routes and greater control over the vast undersea energy resources around Cyprus. In the past, Turkey has blocked foreign vessels from drilling for these resources; in June, Turkey began its own exploration of the island’s waters for gas and oil.

This is not the first time that Turkey has set its sights on the area’s resources. In 2014, Ankara dispatched surveillance vessels and warships to Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to search for hydrocarbons. This incident took place just before the leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt deepened their an energy-cooperation, “freezing Turkey out.” As soon as the accord was signed, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades blasted “Turkey’s provocative actions,” saying that they “do not just compromise the peace talks [between Greek and Turkish Cypriots]… [but] also affect security in the eastern Mediterranean region.”

At the time, UN-brokered reunification negotiations, which had been renewed after a long hiatus, ended unsuccessfully yet again, as a result of Turkey’s search for hydrocarbons in the EEZ. According to a November 2014 report in the Guardian:

“Turkey’s decision to dispatch a research vessel into disputed waters last month not only resulted in talks being broken off but has exacerbated the row over drilling rights.”

The possibility of a Turkish naval base does not bode well for the chances of a Cyprus reunification deal, particularly after the breakdown of the July 2017 peace talks between Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades. The talks were suspended when “Turkey had refused to relinquish its intervention rights on Cyprus or the presence of troops on the island.” Turkey has 30,000 soldiers stationed on Cyprus, the northern part of which it has illegally occupied since 1974.

Another factor that may be contributing to the Turkish Navy’s desire for a base in Cyprus is Israel. Aside from Ankara’s extremely rocky relations with Jerusalem, Israel and Cyprus have been working to forge an agreement to join their electricity grids and construct a pipeline to link their gas fields to mainland Europe. Although they are in a dispute over development rights of one of these gas fields, Aphrodite, they are invested in reaching a solution that will not damage their increasingly friendly relations.

Erdogan’s considerations should concern NATO, of which Turkey, surprisingly, is still a member, and the rest of the West. As Lawrence A. Franklin recently wrote for Gatestone:

“If Greek-Turkish tensions escalate, the possibility of another ill-timed military provocation could escalate with them. The ability of NATO to respond to other conflicts in the area could be affected, as well as NATO air and naval assets based in both countries. Moreover, such a conflict might open up an even greater opportunity for Russian interference.”

Debalina Ghoshal, an independent consultant specializing in nuclear and missile issues, is based in India.

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