Special forces reservists call for resignation of government

A group calling itself the Special Forces Reserve Union (KEED) wants the government to resign, the suspension of all laws relating to the troika memorandum and the expulsion of ‘illegal immigrants’


Screengrab of the Special Forces Reserve Union (KEED) website (Photo: EnetEnglish)

A prosecutor in Athens has ordered an investigation into a blog post that appeared on a special forces reservists’ website demanding the government and president resign and an interim government be appointed under the “guarantee” of the armed forces.

In a statement posted on its website on September 23, the Hellenic Special Forces Reserve Union (KEED) says it will assemble at 4pm at Syntagma Square in order to demand “the immediate resignation of the government” because it has failed in its duty to provide “health, education, justice and security” that it says it is obliged to do under article 22 of the constitution.

The group first announced its intention to protest on Syntagma Square on 3 September, 170 years to the day since an uprising in 1843, led by the army, in Athens and supported by large sections of the people, that successfully forced the autocratic King Otto to introduce a constitutional monarchy. 

Government and judicial authors met in an emergency meeting late on Wednesday after reports appeared in the media on the group’s demands that an interim “government of national unity” should take power, to be chaired by the president of the Supreme Court and to include “proven personalities with no political links” and members of the Academy of Athens.

The group also calls for the resignation of President Karolos Papoulias at an “appropriate time”.

The group’s willingness to openly call for the removal of the government will fuel concerns about rightwing infiltration of the armed forces in general. Earlier this week, the defence minister, Dimitris Avramopoulos,launched an inquiry into allegations that members of the armed forces have helped to train hit squads formed by the neonazi Golden Dawn party.

Claiming that it is protecting the “motherland” from its “enemies”, the KEED calls on “all Greeks regardless of their political beliefs to show up with a Greek flag at Syntagma Square to demand the restoration of our national sovereignty”.

Among its 15 demands is a call for the suspension of all laws related to the memorandum agreements. Furthermore, it calls for the “exclusion” of all citizens who participated in “governments responsible for the current economic situation”.

All German-owned businesses in Greece should be seized until German repays “in full” the wartime loan and provides reparation compensation.

It also calls for the “removal” of all “illegal immigrants” to other EU countries. 

The group says that the  “armed forces”, along with the “security forces”, would “guarantee” the implementation of its programme.

This will not be the first time that the group has paraded in public. In October 2012, the group appeared – in military uniforms and formation – at the protests against the visit to Athens by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

 

By Damian Mac Con Uladh, EnetEnglish.gr

Source: http://www.enetenglish.gr/?i=news.en.politics&id=1502

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Revealed: Qatar’s World Cup ‘slaves’

Exclusive: Abuse and exploitation of migrant workers preparing emirate for 2022

The Nepalese workers in Qatar who don’t make it home alive 
Analysis: Qatar 2022 puts Fifa’s reputation on the line

Dozens of Nepalese migrant labourers have died in Qatar in recent weeks and thousands more are enduring appalling labour abuses, a Guardian investigation has found, raising serious questions about Qatar’s preparations to host the 2022 World Cup.

This summer, Nepalese workers died at a rate of almost one a day in Qatar, many of them young men who had sudden heart attacks. The investigation found evidence to suggest that thousands of Nepalese, who make up the single largest group of labourers in Qatar, face exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery, as defined by the International Labour Organisation, during a building binge paving the way for 2022.

According to documents obtained from the Nepalese embassy in Doha, at least 44 workers died between 4 June and 8 August. More than half died of heart attacks, heart failure or workplace accidents.

The investigation also reveals:

 Evidence of forced labour on a huge World Cup infrastructure project.

• Some Nepalese men have alleged that they have not been paid for months and have had their salaries retained to stop them running away.

• Some workers on other sites say employers routinely confiscate passports and refuse to issue ID cards, in effect reducing them to the status of illegal aliens.

• Some labourers say they have been denied access to free drinking water in the desert heat.

• About 30 Nepalese sought refuge at their embassy in Doha to escape the brutal conditions of their employment.

The allegations suggest a chain of exploitation leading from poor Nepalese villages to Qatari leaders. The overall picture is of one of the richest nations exploiting one of the poorest to get ready for the world’s most popular sporting tournament.

“We’d like to leave, but the company won’t let us,” said one Nepalese migrant employed at Lusail City development, a $45bn (£28bn) city being built from scratch which will include the 90,000-seater stadium that will host the World Cup final. “I’m angry about how this company is treating us, but we’re helpless. I regret coming here, but what to do? We were compelled to come just to make a living, but we’ve had no luck.”

The body tasked with organising the World Cup, the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, told the Guardian that work had yet to begin on projects directly related to the World Cup. However, it said it was “deeply concerned with the allegations that have been made against certain contractors/sub-contractors working on Lusail City’s construction site and considers this issue to be of the utmost seriousness”. It added: “We have been informed that the relevant government authorities are conducting an investigation into the allegations.”

The Guardian’s investigation also found men throughout the wider Qatari construction industry sleeping 12 to a room in places and getting sick through repulsive conditions in filthy hostels. Some say they have been forced to work without pay and left begging for food.

“We were working on an empty stomach for 24 hours; 12 hours’ work and then no food all night,” said Ram Kumar Mahara, 27. “When I complained, my manager assaulted me, kicked me out of the labour camp I lived in and refused to pay me anything. I had to beg for food from other workers.”

Almost all migrant workers have huge debts from Nepal, accrued in order to pay recruitment agents for their jobs. The obligation to repay these debts, combined with the non-payment of wages, confiscation of documents and inability of workers to leave their place of work, constitute forced labour, a form of modern-day slavery estimated to affect up to 21 million people across the globe. So entrenched is this exploitation that the Nepalese ambassador to Qatar, Maya Kumari Sharma, recently described the emirate as an “open jail”.

Nepal embassy record

Record of deaths in July 2013, from all causes, held by the Nepalese embassy in Doha. Photograph: /guardian.co.uk

“The evidence uncovered by the Guardian is clear proof of the use of systematic forced labour in Qatar,” said Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, which was founded in 1839. “In fact, these working conditions and the astonishing number of deaths of vulnerable workers go beyond forced labour to the slavery of old where human beings were treated as objects. There is no longer a risk that the World Cup might be built on forced labour. It is already happening.”

Qatar has the highest ratio of migrant workers to domestic population in the world: more than 90% of the workforce are immigrants and the country is expected to recruit up to 1.5 million more labourers to build the stadiums, roads, ports and hotels needed for the tournament. Nepalese account for about 40% of migrant labourers in Qatar. More than 100,000 Nepalese left for the emirate last year.

The murky system of recruitment brokers in Asia and labour contractors in Qatar leaves them vulnerable to exploitation. The supreme committee has insisted that decent labour standards will be set for all World Cup contracts, but underneath it a complex web of project managers, construction firms and labour suppliers, employment contractors and recruitment agents operate.

According to some estimates, Qatar will spend $100bn on infrastructure projects to support the World Cup. As well as nine state-of-the-art stadiums, the country has committed to $20bn worth of new roads, $4bn for a causeway connecting Qatar to Bahrain, $24bn for a high-speed rail network, and 55,000 hotel rooms to accommodate visiting fans and has almost completed a new airport.

The World Cup is part of an even bigger programme of construction in Qatar designed to remake the tiny desert kingdom over the next two decades. Qatar has yet to start building stadiums for 2022, but has embarked on the big infrastructure projects likesuch as Lusail City that, according to the US project managers, Parsons, “will play a major role during the 2022 Fifa World Cup”. The British engineering company Halcrow, part of the CH2M Hill group, is a lead consultant on the Lusail project responsible for “infrastructure design and construction supervision”. CH2M Hill was recently appointed the official programme management consultant to the supreme committee. It says it has a “zero tolerance policy for the use of forced labour and other human trafficking practices”.

Halcrow said: “Our supervision role of specific construction packages ensures adherence to site contract regulation for health, safety and environment. The terms of employment of a contractor’s labour force is not under our direct purview.”

Some Nepalese working at Lusail City tell desperate stories. They are saddled with huge debts they are paying back at interest rates of up to 36%, yet say they are forced to work without pay.

“The company has kept two months’ salary from each of us to stop us running away,” said one man who gave his name as SBD and who works at the Lusail City marina. SBD said he was employed by a subcontractor that supplies labourers for the project. Some workers say their subcontrator has confiscated their passports and refused to issue the ID cards they are entitled to under Qatari law. “Our manager always promises he’ll issue [our cards] ‘next week’,” added a scaffolder who said he had worked in Qatar for two years without being given an ID card.

Without official documentation, migrant workers are in effect reduced to the status of illegal aliens, often unable to leave their place of work without fear of arrest and not entitled to any legal protection. Under the state-run kafala sponsorship system, workers are also unable to change jobs or leave the country without their sponsor company’s permission.

A third worker, who was equally reluctant to give his name for fear of reprisal, added: “We’d like to leave, but the company won’t let us. If we run away, we become illegal and that makes it hard to find another job. The police could catch us at any time and send us back home. We can’t get a resident permit if we leave.”

Other workers said they were forced to work long hours in temperatures of up to 50C (122F) without access to drinking water.

grieving parents Nepal

Dalli Kahtri and her husband, Lil Man, hold photos of their sons, both of whom died while working as migrants in Malaysia and Qatar. Their younger son (foreground photo) died in Qatar from a heart attack, aged 20. Photograph: Peter Pattison/guardian.co.uk

The Qatari labour ministry said it had strict rules governing working in the heat, the provision of labour and the prompt payment of salaries.

“The ministry enforces this law through periodic inspections to ensure that workers have in fact received their wages in time. If a company does not comply with the law, the ministry applies penalties and refers the case to the judicial authorities.”

Lusail Real Estate Company said: “Lusail City will not tolerate breaches of labour or health and safety law. We continually instruct our contractors and their subcontractors of our expectations and their contractual obligations to both us and individual employees. The Guardian have highlighted potentially illegal activities employed by one subcontractor. We take these allegations very seriously and have referred the allegations to the appropriate authorities for investigation. Based on this investigation, we will take appropriate action against any individual or company who has found to have broken the law or contract with us.”

The workers’ plight makes a mockery of concerns for the 2022 footballers.

“Everyone is talking about the effect of Qatar’s extreme heat on a few hundred footballers,” said Umesh Upadhyaya, general secretary of the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions. “But they are ignoring the hardships, blood and sweat of thousands of migrant workers, who will be building the World Cup stadiums in shifts that can last eight times the length of a football match.”

 

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/25/revealed-qatars-world-cup-slaves

Greece launches inquiry into claims Golden Dawn trained by armed forces

Defence minister orders investigation into rightwing extremists as President Papoulias warns that ‘a storm is approaching’

Golden Dawn

 

The Greek authorities have launched an inquiry into allegations that members of the country’s armed forces have helped to train hit squads formed by the far-right Golden Dawn party.

The defence minister, Dimitris Avramopoulos, ordered the investigation as Greece‘s governing coalition exhibited new resolve to clamp down on the “criminal organisation” after a Greek musician was stabbed to death by one of the group’s supporters.

Highlighting the menace rightwing extremism now poses in a nation hobbled by economic collapse and political division, the country’s president Karolos Papoulias said that his top priority was to protect Greeks from neo-fascism. “From the time I was a young man I fought fascism and Nazism,” he told reporters as he went into talks with the leftwing main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras. “It is my supreme duty as president of the republic to defend democracy and the Greek people from the storm that is approaching.”

The inquiry came amid revelations that Golden Dawn, which has seen its popularity soar on the back of debt-stricken Greece’s worst crisis in modern times, has not only set up a military wing but is actively training its members in the art of combat.

“In Golden Dawn we have an entire military structure with at least 3,000 people ready for everything,” one member was quoted as saying by the Sunday Vima newspaper. Pictures of recruits in camouflage and balaclavas conducting night exercises in clandestine camps were published in another leading daily on Monday. The paper, Ethnos, claimed the men, some of who were armed with knives and wooden clubs, were being trained by members of Greece’s elite special forces who sympathise with the ultra-nationalist party.

The extremists’ meteoric rise has worried Europe, with officials expressing disquiet over an organisation believed to be behind hundreds of attacks on immigrants, and more recently gay people, over the past three years. There have been many accusations that the police and judiciary are colluding with the extremists.

But the murder last week of Pavlos Fyssas, a leftwing hip-hop artist, appears to have galvanised authorities into finally taking action. On Monday two high-ranking police officers were forced to resign after it emerged they had failed to issue orders for the arrest of Golden Dawn members involved in attacks.

The public order ministry said five senior police officers – the heads of the special forces, internal security, organised crime, firearms and explosives, and a rapid-response motorcycle division – had been moved to other posts pending investigations, Associated Press reported. The regional police commanders of southern and central Greece resigned, citing personal reasons.

The resignations followed a series of raids on the party’s offices after the public order minister, Nikos Dendias, put the country’s anti-terrorism unit in charge of the investigation into the killing.

By Monday night at least 10 Golden Dawn members had been arrested in connection with the murder. A 45-year-old man belonging to the group has already confessed to the killing, according to police. The suspect, who reportedly worked in the cafe of the party’s local branch in Keratsini – the working class district in Athens where the murder took place – was charged with the killing on Saturday.

As prime minister Antonis Samaras’s government proposed that state funding for the far right group also be cut off if investigators found organisational links to the stabbing, Golden Dawn stepped up denials that it had any connection to the death. Its leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, insisted that the alleged killer was not a member of the party and had a tentative relationship with one of its 70 branches. “He was only passing through. I cannot control what everyone does,” Michaloliakos told Kontra television in a rare interview.

Golden Dawn’s spokesman, Ilias Kasidiaris, went further, accusing political parties, the government and the media of waging a dirty war against the organisation because of its growing appeal – despite one poll showing its support had dropped 2.5 points following the stabbing.

“Golden Dawn has been radically strengthened, it has passed 20% [in the polls] and in a few months it will lay claim to the biggest municipalities in the land. We will not stop. We have justice on our side and more than a million Greeks,” Kasidiaris said.

Although surveys have shown the vast majority of Greeks expressing outrage at Golden Dawn’s tactics in the wake of the killing, polls have also revealed the party maintaining steady ground in the areas most affected by the economic crisis. One survey released on Monday showed the group sweeping Athens in municipal elections next year – prompting speculation that the government’s crackdown on the group could backfire. Especially hard-hit Greeks have lapped up the party’s outreach programme that has included providing support for elderly Greeks in crime-ridden areas and “Greeks only” food handouts.

“For the first time they are being given a huge amount of exposure and air time,” said Alexis Mantheakis, a political analyst who said there was a possibility of the party being in government in the future. “Before there was a media blackout and they rarely appeared on television. Instead of being deflated, all this coverage is boosting their image and boosting their support. The situation in Greece is much more serious than it seems.”

 

By The Guardian, Tuesday 24 September 2013

 

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/23/greece-inquiry-golden-dawn-armed-forces

Racist attacks in Greece: interactive map

Claims that the far-right Golden Dawn party has been training a military wing have raised concerns about growing racism in Greece. Researchers working on a project called The City at a Time of Crisis have sought to track what they see as the rise of neo-Nazism in Greece using crowd-sourced public reports.

The interactive map found in the following link

http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/interactive/2013/sep/25/racist-attacks-in-greece-mapped

is constantly updated to show the frequency and severity of attacks. It does this by pulling together reports from individuals, witnesses and the media going back to May 2011.

The map shows all reported attacks (in red), but you can select specific categories (eg physical, verbal, police) from the right-hand panel. Clicking on a circle will take you to the report which you can read in full to determine its reliability

By Mona Chalabi, theguardian.com, Wednesday 25 September 2013 10.13 BST

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/interactive/2013/sep/25/racist-attacks-in-greece-mapped

Solidarity: drop the charges against anti-fascists in Greece!

 

Anti-fascist and anti-racist activists in Greece (including Petros Constantinou, seen speaking above) have been charged under Greece’s “anti-terror” laws – for speaking out against the recent police killings of two Albanian escaped prisoners. Tell the Greek government to drop the charges now, and to stop the persecution of anti-fascist and anti-racist activists. Searchlight supports our comrades and friends in Greece.

How you can help:

1) Sign the online petition here.

2) Send a letter of support to anti-fascists in Greece from your trade union, student union, social justice group or anti-racism organization (see below for sample letter). Email antiracismfascism@yahoo.gr.

3) Forward this appeal to all your contacts, especially allies in trade unions, student unions, social justice groups or anti-racism organizations.

4) Download a copy of the petition here, collect signatures from co-workers and friends, and deliver the petition to the nearest Greek Embassy or Consulate.

Background:

Petros Constantinou is an elected member of Athens City Council and the national coordinator of KEERFA (United Movement Against Racism and the Fascist Threat), an anti-fascist and anti-racist organization in Greece. In early July, Petros spoke out against the recent police killings of two Albanian escaped prisoners, describing their deaths as “the de facto application of the death penalty.”

In response, police have charged Petros under state “anti-terror” legislation for “terrorizing” the population and damaging Greece’s “international relations.” The only evidence for these charges was a distorted statement taken from the website of the openly fascist Golden Dawn party (Chrysi Avgi). The charges were announced the same day that fascists made death threats against Petros and defaced the local offices of a left-wing political party.

These charges represent an escalation of state repression against outspoken anti-fascist activists, including Konstantinos Moutzouris, former Dean of NTUA (Athens Polytechnic); Savvas Michael, Secretary of the EEK (Revolutionary Labor Party); and members of Samos Hospital workers’ union, who blocked Golden Dawn’s racist blood donation program.

We, the undersigned, condemn the ongoing persecution of anti-fascist and anti-racist activists in Greece, and call on the Greek government to implement the following demands:

– Drop all charges against Petros Constantinou, Konstantinos Moutzouris, Savvas Michael and members of the Samos Hospital workers’ union.

– Stop the criminalization of newcomers, migrants and refugees.

– Stop the persecution of anti-fascist and anti-racist activists.

– End all collaboration with the fascist Golden Dawn (Chrysi Avgi).

 

In solidarity,

Real Democracy Bristol

realdemocracybristol.wordpress.com

Antifascist protest against the murder of Greek activist by Golden Dawn, Saturday 21.9, 13.00, The Foutnains

The Golden Dawn gang assassinates antifascist activist in Greece

On September 18th, a 34-year-old man was attacked in the early hours of Wednesday by a Neonazi (member of Golden Dawn) and subsequently stabbed in Piraeus. The victim is Pavlos Fyssas (who went by the stage name of Killah P.), a hip-hopper involved in the antifascist scene, organising anti-racist concerts and other social activities in the area where he lived in Athens. He was stabbed in the chest outside a café at 60 Tsaldari Avenue in the Keratsini district of Piraeus, shortly after midnight by a group of Neonazis dressed in black and camouflage uniforms. The name of the 45-year murderer of Fyssas appears to be Giorgos Roupakias.

Express your solidarity to the victims of Golden Dawn and spread the news about the murder of antifascist Pavlos last night in Athens, Greece.

This is a fight we all need to give. First they come for the “other”, then for your neighbour and in the end they come for you!

Stand up for the others, stand up for yourself. Don’t stay inactive. Act now before it’s too late! Get involved. Spread the news and raise awareness.

An internationalist antifascist movement is necessary. A movement that understands fascism for what it is– the long arm of the system and will fight it together with its root cause before it is too late.

We condemn the actions of Golden Dawn. Let’s raise our voices against fascism! We must beat fascism and Nazism in the whole Europe!

 Saturday, 21st September, 13.00, Fountains, Bristol

RIP Killah P! Our brother will never be forgotten!

 

Real Democracy Bristol

Golden Dawn is growing – Europe must help curb the rise of the far right

The inability of both the Greek and Cypriot states to stand up to fascist groups is a call to action at European level

Golden Dawn

‘What explains the rise of Golden Dawn? The short answer is chronic corruption,economic austerity and the perpetuation of populist lies about immigration.’ Photograph: Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

The rise of the far right is a daily reality in austerity-striken Europe. Its effects are more prominent in countries like Greece and Cyprus, where the impact of the crisis has been most severe. Yesterday, in Greece, a self-confessed member of the far-right party Golden Dawn allegedly killed leftwing activist and singer Pavlos Fyssas. This is not the first time that members of Golden Dawn have been in the news for violence – they routinely attack immigrants, anarchists and communists, but they are rarely prosecuted for doing so.

Their rise has been spectacular. Contrary to popular belief, Golden Dawn has been around for a long time. It was created in the 1980s, became registered as a political party in 1993 and elected 18 MPs in 2012 with 6.9% of the vote.

Worryingly, the political establishment in Greece seems willing to tolerate Golden Dawn. The veteran New Democracy MP, Vyronas Polydoras, has said that the troika poses a greater threat to Greece than Golden Dawn. Now that the core members of Golden Dawn are elected MPs, they enjoy parliamentary immunities, which their fellow MPs, like those of the ruling New Democracy and Panhellenic Socialist Movement, seem reluctant to remove. This reluctance has meant that the leaders of Golden Dawn can freely go about slapping female MPs on TV without facing any consequences for their actions.

What explains the rise of Golden Dawn? The short answer is chronic corruption, economic austerity and the perpetuation of populist lies about immigration. Golden Dawn has managed to channel the ensuing public anger to its favour. It capitalises on the fact that its members were not in previous governments, which contributed to Greece being considered one of the most corrupt countries in the EU.

The clientelism that rules political conduct in Greece has largely been one of the reasons behind the discontent of the Greek voters – it was fun while the urban middle classes could get some pieces of the pie, but when the pie became smaller in the age of austerity, those left out inevitably reacted.

At the same time Golden Dawn exploited the fear of immigration that has been masterfully constructed in Greek society. The party leaders have depicted themselves as the problem-solvers: honest people who have never taken a bribe, whose main interest is the welfare of Greek people. They portray themselves as “men of action”, that don’t make promises that they cannot keep. These actions consist of attacks on immigrants, anarchists and communists, all in the light of helping the Greek people, some of who, to their shame, ask for their help – “to clean the area”. A horrible euphemism for “please come here, beat the immigrants and make them leave our neighbourhood”.

Where will this end? How far will a rising Golden Dawn with ties with the police and military go before Greece becomes a totalitarian military state? There is no easy answer to this – I don’t think this downward spiral can be stopped without an external intervention. The current state of the Greek political scene is such that it requires coalitions. Since leftist Syriza and communist KKE refuse to form a government with either of the two ruling parties whose power has been significantly reduced, the only solution for the two mainstream parties is to look to the extreme right. As the two governing parties continue implementing the troika-prescribed austerity policies, they will keep getting increasingly unpopular. Eventually, they will have no option than to form a coalition that involves Golden Dawn, which has scored highly in opinion polls, rising from 6.9% to 11.5% after it entered parliament.

This is where external factors may come in. European partners will not be able to ignore the social impact of their economic policies for long. The fascists are winning seats, or masquerading their extremism and joining the mainstream parties, where they have even bigger platforms to spread their racist views. The next step is Golden Dawn’s expansion beyond Greece. Its officials often visit Cyprus and give talks to its sister party, the far-right Elam, which, thankfully, is nowhere near as popular as Golden Dawn. Like Greece, racist violence is tolerated both by the authorities and by the mainstream political parties.

The inability of both the Greek and Cypriot states to curtail the racially motivated violent actions of these groups, as well as the inability of the mainstream political parties to stand up to them, is a call to action for our European partners, who can no longer afford to sit back in their economically recovering countries as if nothing is happening elsewhere. What is naively considered a Greek problem is much more than that – it is no accident that Marie Le Pen’s Front National and Nigel Farage’s Ukip have increased in popularity recently. The far right is on the rise and collective action at a European level is needed. When parties like the Greek Laos or the French FN become part of the mainstream right, what is considered extreme becomes even more so. The result is what you see happening in Greece – violence, vigilantism and murder.

Article by George Iordanou (The Guardian)

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/19/golden-dawn-europe-greek-cypriot