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Posts tagged ‘Ancient Land of Greece’

UN warns of rampant sexual violence in Greek refugee camps

2018-02-09

ATHENS – Asylum seekers in Greece suffer widespread sexual violence and harassment in the country’s sub-standard, overcrowded reception centers, the UN said on Friday.

In 2017, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) received reports from 622 survivors of sexual and gender-based violence on the Greek islands, around one third of whom said they had been assaulted after arriving in Greece.

But UNHCR spokesman Cecile Pouilly said that there is a reluctance to report such violence out of fear, shame and concerns about discrimination, retaliation and stigma.

“The actual number of incidents is therefore likely to be much higher than reported,” she told reporters in Geneva, acknowledging that the UN has only a “very partial picture of what the reality is.”

Pouilly said the situation was most worrying in the reception and identification centers of Moira on Lesbos, and Vathy on Samos, “where thousands of refugees continue to stay in unsuitable shelter with inadequate security.”

These centers are currently holding around 5,500 people — double their capacity, she added.

– Afraid to shower –

“In these two centers, bathrooms and latrines are no-go zones after dark for women and children,” she said, adding that “even bathing during the daytime can be dangerous.

In Moira, one woman told UNHCR staff that she had not showered for two months for fear of being attacked.

Pouilly said an acceleration in recent weeks of transfers to the mainland had slightly reduced overcrowding.

But she warned that even now “crowded conditions hinder outreach and prevention activities.”

In Moira, 30 government medical staff, psychologists and social workers are squeezed together in three rooms where they conduct examinations and assessments with little to no privacy, she said.

UNHCR welcomed measures taken by Athens to reduce the violence, but said other steps were needed.

It said, for instance, that women should not be forced to live in close quarters with men they do not know.

The UN agency also called for more efforts to reduce overcrowding and improve lighting in toilet and shower areas, as well as an increased police presence.

The Aegean Sea had been a main point of entry for asylum seekers to Europe, which has been facing its worst migrant crisis since World War II.

But the flow of migrants to Greece has been sharply cut since the EU signed a controversial deal with Turkey in 2016 to send back migrants.

Greece said last month that it still shouldered a “disproportionate burden” of the EU’s asylum applications in 2017, taking 8.5 percent of the bloc’s total requests.

The country of 11 million people recorded 58,661 applications last year, making Greece the European country with the highest number of asylum seekers per capita, according to the Greek Asylum Service.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=87192.

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Greeks rally in Athens to protest use of the name Macedonia

February 04, 2018

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Well over 100,000 protesters from across Greece converged Sunday on Athens’ main square to protest a potential Greek compromise in a dispute with neighboring Macedonia over the former Yugoslav republic’s official name.

Hundreds of chartered buses brought protesters in from around the country to the Greek capital, while more people arrived on ferries from the islands. Traffic was blocked throughout the city center and three major subway stops were closed.

Chanting “Hands off Macedonia!” and “Macedonia belongs to Greece!” the protesters converged on Syntagma Square in front of parliament, many waving flags bearing the Star of Vergina, the emblem of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia.

Police officials estimated the attendance at 140,000. Organizers, who claimed 1.5 million were at the rally, used a crane to raise a massive Greek flag over the square. “We are trying to show the politicians … that they must not give up the name ‘Macedonia’,” said 55-year-old protester Manos Georgiou.

In Skopje, a spokesman for the Macedonian government said he didn’t know whether his government would react to the rally. Macedonian opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski said in a TV interview that the rally hurt the prospects of a deal on the name issue.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was dismissive of the event. “The overwhelming majority of the Greek people…irrespective of their opinions (on the issue) agree that major foreign policy issues cannot be solved through fanaticism and intolerance,” he said in a statement.

Tsipras used the occasion to attack Greek opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his fellow conservative, former Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, for allegedly trying to use Sunday’s rally for their advantage and to paper over their own differing approaches.

About 700 left-wing and anarchist protesters set up a counter-demonstration nearby, bearing banners calling for Balkan unity. “Macedonia belongs to its bears” read one banner. Dozens of riot police were deployed to keep the two demonstrations separate.

Suspected far-right supporters attempted to attack the counter-demonstration, but were prevented by police who used stun grenades and tear gas to hold them back. The far-right side responded by throwing rocks at police.

There were also reports alleging that anarchists attacked a biker carrying a Greek flag and a person wearing a T-shirt commemorating the participation of Greek mercenaries in the massacres of Muslim civilians in Bosnia during the 1990s.

The name dispute broke out after Macedonia gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. The country is recognized by international institutions as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, even though about 130 countries refer to it simply as Macedonia. Many Greeks refer to it by the name of its capital, Skopje.

Greece argues use of the name implies territorial claims on its own province of Macedonia, home of one of the most famous ancient Greeks, Alexander the Great. Officials in Skopje counter that their country has been known as Macedonia for a long time.

Composer and former minister Mikis Theodorakis, 92, the keynote speaker at the rally, repeated the controversial claim that Greece’s neighbor wants to expand into Greek territory. “Using the name Macedonia as a vehicle and twisting historical events to a ridiculous extent, they actually seek to expand their borders at the expense of ours,” Theodorakis said.

Rejecting any compromise on Greece’s part, Theodorakis called for a referendum on the issue. The squabble has prevented Macedonia from joining NATO, to which Greece already belongs. The left-led governments in both countries have pledged to seek a solution this year, and have been holding talks with U.N. negotiator Matthew Nimetz.

The most likely solution will be to add a modifier such as “new” or “north” to the republic’s name. But the proposals have triggered protests in both countries. The crowd at Sunday’s rally in Athens jeered when speakers mentioned Nimetz’s name.

“We’re expecting them to hear us,” protester Maria Iosifidou said of Greece’s politicians. “We don’t want Skopje to take the name …let them have another name.” About 100,000 people attended a similar protest last month in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, the capital of Greece’s province of Macedonia.

Raphael Kominis and Demetris Nellas in Athens and Konstantin Testorides, in Skopje, contributed to this report.

Politicians in Greece, Macedonia meet over name issue

January 28, 2018

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Political leaders in both Greece and Macedonia met Saturday to discuss ways to resolve a longstanding dispute over the name of Greece’s northern neighbor. The meetings come days before United Nations envoy Matthew Nimetz will visit the countries to seek a compromise. Nimetz is expected in Greece on Monday and Tuesday before going to Macedonia the following two days.

Greece has disputed Macedonia’s right to call itself by a name shared with its own northern province of Macedonia ever since the Republic of Macedonia became independent in 1991. It has blocked Macedonia’s accession to NATO.

Greece contends that the use of the name, along with certain clauses in Macedonia’s constitution, imply territorial designs on Greece, as well as the perceived appropriation of Greek symbols and names, such that of Alexander the Great, the most famous ruler of the Ancient Greek Kingdom of Macedonia.

Although recognized as the Republic of Macedonia by the majority of countries, Macedonia sits in the U.N. as The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in deference to Greek objections. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met Saturday with the leaders of all opposition parliamentary parties except for far-right Golden Dawn. Although none gave him carte blanche for negotiations, he focused his criticism on opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Tsipras described Mitsotakis as vacillating and too influenced by “extremists” within his party. The Greek premier said he is prepared to accept a “composite name … with a geographical or historical reference” that would include the name Macedonia. This could mean a name such as Upper, or New, Macedonia.

“We must not listen to nationalist outbursts or fanatical shouts,” Tsipras said in a televised speech after the meetings were over. He nonetheless acknowledged that “there is still a long way” before an agreement is achieved.

Besides the opposition, the leftist Tsipras has to contend with his own defense minister and leader of the right-wing, populist Independent Greeks, who has called for a referendum on the name issue and suggested the neighboring country call itself “Vardarska.”

A protest against allowing the name “Macedonia” to be used by Greece’s neighbor is scheduled for Feb. 4 in Athens. It follows a similar one in Thessaloniki, capital of Greece’s Macedonia province, which, according to police, was attended by 90,000 people.

In Macedonia, a “coordination meeting” under President Gjorge Ivanov went late into the night Saturday and no statements have been issued. It was attended by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov, and opposition leaders Hristijan Mickovski, the new leader of the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, and Ali Ahmeti, head of the Albanian-minority Democratic Union for Integration.

There was a protest outside the meeting. The protesters object to Zaev’s proposal to rename Macedonia’s main highway and airport, both named for Alexander the Great, and demand termination of negotiations on the name issue.

Testorides reported from Skopje.

Greek terracotta workshop produces an army of gods

December 23, 2017

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Haralambos Goumas is a man who fashions gods out of clay — a reversal of most ancient creation myths in which the gods make the men. Over the past half-century, Goumas, 67, has produced thousands of large terracotta statues of ancient Greek deities, mythical figures and fabulous beasts, mostly for use as architectural and garden ornaments.

They are a rare survival of a vanishing art in recession-plagued Greece, all made by hand using traditional techniques in a western Athens workshop squeezed in among warehouses, small industries and a railyard.

“I guess that in my lifetime I have made many more statues than those in China’s Terracotta Army,” Goumas told the Associated Press. Like the 2,200-year old, life-sized sculptures of about 9,000 soldiers and imperial officials dug up in northwestern China, many of Goumas’ pieces stand in tidy ranks, in a yard fronting the long, metal-roofed shed with its old-fashioned wood-fired furnace where he works.

Others are scattered apparently randomly: an Athena here, a horse or a satyr there, among bulls’ heads, griffins, sphinxes, garden urns or busts of 5th-century B.C. Athenian philosopher Socrates and the 19th-century Greek poet Dionysios Solomos. There’s even a Christ somewhere.

Most draw from the neoclassical tradition that dominated Greek urban architecture from the 1830s to the 1920s, and was blitzed during unbridled post-World War II redevelopment. Once rejected as trite remnants of an irrelevant past, the original neoclassical terracotta statues that decorated facades, niches and pediments are now highly-prized antiques.

The tenth of 12 children, Goumas was born next to the workshop — initially his father’s porcelain fittings business — that was still surrounded by vineyards and orchards, with the Acropolis dominating the landscape to the east. All his brothers worked there at some point, though he is the only one to have persevered.

“It’s very hard, physically demanding work,” he said. “It’s not so easy to breathe in the smoke from the furnace, or lift these very heavy statues — some weigh 100 kilograms (220 pounds) and the moulds can reach 300 kilograms.”

Although past retirement age, Goumas hopes to continue working and at the same time to create a school for young artists on the site, provided he can raise the necessary funds. “Then I’ll never have to leave this place,” he said. “I have made so many gods that I believe one or other will help me. (Otherwise,) what did I make them all for?”

Macedonia’s Zaev set to warm up ties with Greece, Kosovo

December 12, 2017

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Macedonia’s prime minister reiterated his will on Tuesday to reach a solution with Greece following more than two decades of disputes over his country’s name. Zoran Zaev said Macedonian and Greek officials were working “to reconfirm their will of resuming essential talks … to reach a solution.”

Zaev, in power since spring, has vowed to improve relations with Greece, which has opposed Macedonia’s name since it declared it and won recognition by the United Nations after Yugoslavia’s breakup in 1991.

Greece says Macedonia’s name harbors territorial pretensions on Greece’s northern province of the same name. Greece blocked Macedonia from joining NATO in 2008 under its provisional name. In Kosovo on the first-ever visit by a Macedonian prime minister to its neighbor, Zaev also vowed to warm ties there.

He said Skopje would acquiesce to Kosovar demands for a new, international investigation into a 2015 attack by militants from Kosovo in the northern Macedonian town of Kumanovo. Eight police officers and 10 militants were killed in fighting that was hotly disputed by both sides and was the worst outbreak of violence in Macedonia since a nine-month insurgency by fighters from its Kosovar minority in 2001.

“Such an issue is in the interest of our cooperation and that should not remain an obstacle to our ties,” Zaev said at a news conference with his host counterpart Ramush Haradinaj. Macedonia has a large ethnic Albanian minority — which is the main single ethnic group in neighboring Kosovo and also Albania — that regularly plays an important part in creating governing coalitions.

“We share the same aspirations for membership into the European Union and NATO because the future of the whole Western Balkans is in EU and NATO,” said Zaev.

Associated Press writer Llazar Semini contributed from Tirana, Albania.

Leaders of Turkey, Greece air grievances at tense conference

December 07, 2017

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The leaders of Greece and Turkey publicly aired their grievances Thursday in a tense news conference as a two-day visit to Athens by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan got off to a rocky start.

The Greek government had expressed hopes that the visit — the first to Greece by a Turkish president in 65 years — would help improve the often-frosty relations between the two neighbors. The NATO allies are divided by a series of decades-old issues, including territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea, and have come to the brink of war three times since the early 1970s.

But from the outset, the discussions focused on disagreements. On the eve of his visit, Erdogan rattled his Greek hosts by telling Greece’s Skai television that the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne should be “updated.” The treaty delineated modern Turkey’s borders and outlines the status of the Muslim minority in Greece and the Greek minority in Turkey, among other issues.

In a visibly testy first meeting with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, the two engaged in a thinly-veiled verbal spat over the treaty and Greece’s Muslim minority, which Erdogan is to visit Friday.

“This happened in Lausanne, that happened in Lausanne. I get that, but let’s now quickly do what is necessary,” Erdogan told Pavlopoulos. “Many things have changed in 94 years. If we review these, I believe that all the sides will agree that so many things have to (change.)”

The spat continued during Erdogan’s appearance at an unusually candid joint news conference with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The two listed a series of grievances their countries have with each other, including religious and minority rights, the divided island of Cyprus and the case of ten Turkish servicemen who have applied for asylum in Greece following a Turkish government crackdown after a failed coup last year.

“It is very important to strengthen our channels of communication, and this can only happen on the basis of mutual respect,” Tsipras said. The prime minister said the two also discussed tensions in the Aegean Sea, where Greece complains Turkish fighter jets frequently violate its airspace.

“The increasing violations of Greek airspace in the Aegean and particularly the simulated dogfights in the Aegean pose a threat to our relations, and particularly a threat to our pilots,” Tsipras said.

For his part, Erdogan insisted once more that the Lausanne treaty needed to be reviewed, but stressed his country had no territorial claims on its smaller neighbor. On the topic of the Muslim minority in Greece — which the country recognizes only as a religious minority, while Turkey has long pressed for better rights — Tsipras said his government agreed that improvements must be made in their quality of life.

“But issues that concern reforms involving Greek citizens are not an issue of negotiation between countries,” he said. Tsipras noted it was unclear exactly what Erdogan was seeking with his call to update the 1923 treaty.

“The truth is I am a little confused about what he is putting on the table,” he said. Greeks have been aghast at Erdogan’s previous comments over possibly revising the Lausanne treaty, fearing that could harbor territorial claims.

Erdogan and Tsipras also sparred over Cyprus, a Mediterranean island divided since a 1974 Turkish invasion into a Turkish-occupied north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south. Another round of internationally-brokered peace talks to reunify the island failed earlier this year.

“Who left the table? Southern Cyprus did … we want the issue to reach a fair and lasting solution but that is not southern Cyprus’ concern,” Erdogan said. Tsipras retorted: “My dear friend, Mr. President, we must not forget that this issue remains unresolved because 43 years ago there was an illegal invasion and occupation of the northern part of Cyprus.”

Erdogan also raised the issue of Athens having no official mosque, to which Tsipras responded by saying Greece had restored several mosques around the country, including a centuries-old mosque in Athens.

The refugee crisis appeared to be the only issue the two sides did not disagree on, with both noting they had shared a significant burden of the migration flows into the European Union. More than a million people crossed from Turkey through Greece at the height of the crisis.

Later Thursday, several hundred leftist, anarchist and Kurdish protesters held a peaceful march through Athens against Erdogan’s visit. On Friday, Erdogan will visit the northeastern town of Komotini to meet with members of Greece’s Muslim minority.

Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, Derek Gatopoulos and Nicholas Paphitis in Athens contributed.

22 detained as Greeks mark 2008 police shooting of teenager

December 06, 2017

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Rioting youths hurled fire bombs, set up street barricades and damaged storefronts in Greece’s two largest cities Wednesday, violence that broke out after marches marking the ninth anniversary of the fatal police shooting of a teenager and continued on-and-off for several hours.

The clashes in Athens and Thessaloniki coincided with a police security operation to prepare for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s two-visit to Greece, which starts Thursday. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Authorities said at least 22 people were detained for questioning in the Greek capital, where a pair of rallies drew several thousand participants. Some youths proceeded to hurl stones, flares and Molotov cocktails at police officers and set a parked car ablaze, police said.

The unruly rowdy demonstrators also blocked streets with burning trash bins and material taken from construction sites. Similar scenes unfolded in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, where protesters threw rocks at police from the top of apartment buildings. locks.

About 2,000 police were deployed in Athens for the events marking the 2008 death of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos. A police officer shot the boy while he was out with friends in Exarchia, a central Athens neighborhood popular with anarchists.

The policeman who fired the fatal shot said he didn’t intend to shoot Grigoropoulos. He was convicted of deliberate manslaughter and is serving a life sentence. The teenager’s death sparked riots across Greece that lasted for weeks. Athens was the hit the worst, with many stores, buildings, and vehicles in the capital smashed and burned.

Kantouris reported from Thessaloniki, Greece.

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