Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Via Balkan Human Rights The Journalists Union of Athens Daily Newspapers (ESIEA) has written in support of Professor Alexiou, sentenced to 25 months in prison for heresy. See my post here for the full story. Professor Alexiou, founder of the Greek Rumi Committee is condemned because this Committee is considered to be a “heresy”, which poses a threat to the religion and national identity of the country. However, it is well known that the Greek Rumi Committee’s goal is solely the study of the works of the great poet and philosopher Rumi. Read the rest of the letter here

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Monday, January 30, 2006


A letter to the editor from last weeks Athens News. I HAVE lived in Greece for 20 years. I am an artist, musician, poet and actor. I have taken every legal path to legalise myself. I became a Christian Orthodox. I married a Greek, twice. In 2002, I submitted my papers to renew my Green Card. At the time, new [undocumented] people were being granted the right to legalise their status and all of us were put into one sack. My name never came out when I asked about my application. I was told they were giving priority to the newcomers. Why? I am still waiting. Why? I have been sent in circles from one office to another. And when I asked why football players and dancers get their papers on time, they said they are another category. Well, shall I put on lipstick and silicone breasts and shake my body in some club so to get my permission? Is this the only way? People who have been living here for 10, 15 and 25 years and even longer have rights under the law to get at least permanent residence, not to mention nationality. Many of them are working at building sites, factories and farms. They have lived here for half their life but are still abused by the state. There are bosses who won't pay for their social security. We are all victims of the state. We demand our rights. We must go to the European Court of Human Rights. Elderdiry M Fadul Athens This is not an isolated case. I have heard of many complicated stories just from among my friends who have tried to renew papers, get residency or work permits and or (long, long story) to gain citizenship. Before anyone writes a comment, this is not only a problem in Greece. Immigrants face equally drawn out, baffling procedures in Britain and elsewhere in Europe. Can anything be done to simplify the system and allow those who are legally here or wish to apply for legal status to get through the bureaucracy?

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Saturday, January 28, 2006


Cyprus Tales is a blog  dedicated to  immigration issues on the island. Stories of racism and xenophobia, deportations and abuses. You have to register to leave comments.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006


On my post "END HUMAN TRAFFICKING" Zardoz asked me whether there were any watchdog organisations in Greece dealing with trafficking. I answered: "There are several non-governmental organisations working to end trafficking and helping the victims of this crime. However, there is always a problem with funding for these initiatives. I blogged about one such organisation, STOPNOW, a while back (the link is in my sidebar). They are closed now due to lack of funds." The official blurb on the conference "The Roundtable aims to the sensitization of the business community and its commitment to a code of moral principles. The business community due to its great power and influence on the world, can be of significant assistance to the important efforts already made by governments, international organizations, as well as governmental and non governmental organizations for the confrontation of human trafficking" So the big conference to launch the End Human Trafficking campaign took place at Zappion in Athens on Monday. Firstly, no Greek non-governmental organisations were invited to attend. One group requested an invitation and were refused. These are NGO's who have been working long and hard to combat this appalling trade in human beings. Secondly, the meeting was organised in collaboration with the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is the same ministry that has withheld the funding of these same NGO's. Thirdly, the event was hosted by Motor Oil (Hellas) and co-sponsored by the World bank. Huge amounts of money was spent on gifts and freebies for the participants. Gifts with corporate logos on no doubt. I can think of many better things that money could have been spent on. Fund some of the projects that are currently closed perhaps? Or is that just too simple? I think it's good that glamorous famous people take up causes. They attract attention to the issues and have the ability to attract huge amounts of money. The problem for me is that they sit about and have their fundraising dinners and talk about how terrible it all is (now that they've realised people ARE being trafficked) while the very organisations that were trying to tackle the problems are closed due to lack of money. I will let you know if any of the NGO's manage to get a euro or two out of this so that they can continue actually helping people. Don't hold your breath.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006


I am being  lazy today on my blog. Apologies to you all but there isn't much (relevent) news. I take that as a positive sign but maybe I'm just missing something? Or maybe the snow reports have made us all a little mad. In the meantime, I have been busy making cutting edge video and writing my book. (that's a euphemism for I've been messing about on my computer and amusing myself). Amidst all this merriment and relaxation, I found a really funky blog. It is called One Drawing Per Day: Just for the hell of it. It is run by Alexandros who just posts these amazing daily drawings. I love it. Go and see for yourself.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006


The international campaign to end human trafficking began in Athens on Monday. The focus being to urge the business community to participate fully in putting an end to trafficking.  Forced labour is big business. A new global report on forced labour by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) suggests that the illicit profits realized per year from trafficked forced labourers- US$ 32 billion - are far greater than has so far been understood. Half of this is made in industrialized countries and close to one third in Asia. Some US$ 28 billion per year is made from sexual exploitation of women and US$ 4 billion annually from other forms of economic exploitation. As Suzanne Mubarak of the Women's International Peace Movement, who organised the campaign stated, human trafficking is not only unethical: IT IS A CRIME.

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Monday, January 23, 2006


I was asked by Sha to join in with this one. Oh, the life of a blogger. 10 RANDOM FACTS ABOUT ME 1.  I once had a parrot called Pedro. 2.  I wanted to be a professional swimmer. 3.  I hate wearing high heels. 4.  I  eat Marmite straight from the jar. 5.  I am afraid of flying and dentists. 6.  I would like to write a book. 7.  I don't know how to drive. 8.  I have done the cliff jump at Ricks cafe, Jamaica. 9.  My favorite cartoon character is Taz. 10. I don't do ironing. Over to you,  Ellasdevil

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Friday, January 20, 2006


All this talk about what people are supposed to be like based on race and ethnicity got me thinking. Just an idea. For fun. WHO ARE YOU? In any way you feel like expressing it. If you feel like it. This is me.


I am strange up and down moody and changeable. I am rich with laughter on my lips. I am deeply unreligious given to having faith. I am blessed and unbelieving. I am fragile raw and kind. I am lazy loving calm sleep. I am scared by thoughts of impending doom. I am indulgent imperfect flawed. I am funny sarcastic and angry. I am hungry for everything but food. I am living breathing needing. I am silly enjoying nonsense and rhyme. I am serious thinking and changing with time.

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Via the Athens News The Greek government continues to deny  that Pakistani men were illegally abducted and interrogated by intelligent agents following the London bombings. This after British officials admit they were present at the supposedly non-existent interrogations. In their own words: "The more the government tries to cover up, the more we fear for life today" "I also felt more insecure and scared for my life and future in Greece" "I am so afraid that someone might be waiting for me" "All we want is justice and for the government to acknowledge what happened and to reassure us that it will never happen again"

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006


This post relates to the the one yesterday entitled "SISTERS" on the subject of being silent. When I was growing up (in a very white world I might add), it was common for people to call the chinese takeaway "the chinky", the corner shop was the "paki shop" and black people were "nignogs" and "darkies". If you were lucky and very very good, you might be referred to as "the coloured gentleman". While some people today in Britain might find it acceptable to continue with these derogatory terms, most find it abhorrent. If you have ever been on the receiving end of this kind of language you would understand fully why the situation had to change. The saying when I was growing up was: "Sticks and stones will break your bones But names will never hurt you" This is totally false. As anyone who has ever been verbally abused by someone will tell you. What the phrase really meant was: "Shut up" In the same way the feminist movement fights to change the sexist society we live in, the anti-racists take up the challenge against racism.  There are always those that will use these movements to deride the issues. The backlash against feminism  is quite ferocious.  We are told  stories about working women being unable to find partners. That delaying having children will result in deformed babies or infertility. That really things are not that bad for women. Finally, we are being led to believe that men are now the victims. Basically, this boils down to: "Shut up" The backlash against the anti-racist movement is equally ferocious. We are told stories about black people hating whites. We are overwhelmed by ridiculous exaggerations of political correctness. We are bombarded by white anxiety that black people want to wipe them out. We are told that things are really not that bad for black people. And indeed that white people are now the victims. Again, the same. "Shut up" I am glad those words are gone from our mouths. I am glad that it is unacceptable to use derogatory words to describe huge numbers of people. I am glad that we have been forced to look at our racist language and change it. I am glad that we didn't shut up. There is still so much to do. Sometimes it seems like we will never reach equality. I am sure I will be told to be nice, and not rock the boat, and be grateful for the few concessions I have been granted, many, many more times before I die. But until then, I am not going to SHUT UP.

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I really laughed when I read the comments on a post by my loyal fan, ethnocentrist! (obviously not the racist comments which are just sad). Chakil, scruffy american and anonymous are spreading love over there because, as anonymous put it, "you need more love in your lives". The blog is just more of the same "statistical evidence" on why black people are inferior, rants against the left and assorted muslim and gay bashing that we have come to expect from our favorite commenter. I like the idea of sending love to people who may be in desperate need of it. Go spread some.

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From Kathimerini Max Frisch once said of his native Switzerland that it had “called for workers, and has been given human beings,” a saying that could also apply to Greece. This article focuses on the murder of Edion Yahai, who was murdered on New Year's Day because he was Albanian. Following the murder a rally was held by Greeks and Albanians calling for peace between the two communities and to demonstrate together against those who would keep them divided.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006


I post a lot less personal writing here than I used too. The rudeness and quite frankly, (yes, I know, I'm going to get blasted for this) racist content of some of the comments got to me. Personally. So I took a very big step away from it all. However, today I read this article that got me thinking again, about the reasons why I am doing this in the first place. Discussion. Dialogue. Debate. I stated this in my very first post and that is what I still hope to acheive. I went to meet a friend today and as we talked about this whole thing I realised that, although I was threatened by those people, I am more scared that I might have been silenced. The article is called "Finding words to talk about Race" and let's face it, we have to. If we can't talk about these delicate issues than what are we going to do? Ignore it? Hope it will go away? So I am going to post this song/poem I wrote awhile ago as a first step to getting back to my own voice. The relevance of this piece is that I wrote it for my sisters. (Two are white and one black: Make up your own story here). I believe it relates to this blog. SISTERS Ours is a hard and complicated love Indifferent and painful love No blood ties That keep us together Chances and misfortune brought us Bind us Blind and unspoken We shared beds and tears Growing up and going away And growing old All that is unsaid Lurks around us We smooth each other Rub away the sharp edges In case we cut ourselves And bleed to death We mop up each others tears In case we drown Sisters of our history Not under the skin The only way we know how And I love you more than is possible Just because I do

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Monday, January 16, 2006


From Kathimerini A new political party was officially formed in Greece yesterday with the sole purpose of representing the Roma or Gypsy community, claiming that it could garner more support than the Communist Party, which holds 12 seats in Parliament. Heads of Greece’s Gypsy communities announced the creation of the ASPIDA party at an Athenian hotel, saying that they wanted better representation in Parliament and at the local government level. ASPIDA said that there were around 600,000 Roma in Greece — double the amount of people who voted for the Communists in the last election. The party has chosen a logo which includes the colors of the three main parties in Greece: blue, green and red. Its president and candidates for local and mayoral elections, which are due in October, will be elected at ASPIDA’s next party conference.

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At the start of every European Union Presidency, Amnesty International presents its observations of the EU’s human rights policies and recommends how they could be made more effective. TEN POINTS FOR THE AUSTRIAN PRESIDENCY TO REAFFIRM THE PRIMACY OF HUMAN RIGHTS 1. Enable the EU Fundamental Rights Agency to address human rights compliance by Member States. 2. Reaffirm the primacy of human rights principles by ensuring full human rights observance in the EU’s counter-terrorism effort and see to it that by the end of 2006 all EU Member States have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. 3. Develop a comprehensive policy that will address the situation of the Roma in the EU. 4. Strengthen protection of the rights of asylum seekers and migrants through a common information system, gender guidelines, and standards on return that comply with international law. 5. Ensure that the development of Regional Protection Programmes is never a substitute for refugee protection obligations. 6. Assert a strong human rights dimension in the EU’s enlargement and neighbourhood policies. 7. Press for more active implementation of the EU human rights guidelines. 8. Make control of small arms a key theme for 2006, and complete the work to strengthen the EU Code of Conduct on arms exports. 9. Lead the EU to help ensure that the UN Human Rights Council is established as an effective body during the first half of 2006. 10. Initiate a comprehensive review of the overall EU human rights policy and ensure effective Council working groups to deal with human rights within and outside the EU. Read the full report here

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Friday, January 13, 2006


Continuing with the theme of religious freedom in Greece, here is the US State Department report for 2005. Many of the themes have been covered already in this blog but here it is all in one place. Also an  article on the difficulties of burial for Muslim citizens in Greece from Middle East Online. I remembered this  post from Seawitch which is a personal account of a Greek funeral with a link to Taphophilia  that relates to this post.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006


I would like to point anyone who reads Greek to an interesting blog. It is called Υπάρχουμε….. Συνυπάρχουμε; which translates as We exist.....We coexist? (the semi-colon is a question mark in Greek). It is run by Gazmend Kapllani . His online biography is as follows: Gazmend Kapllani migrated from Albania to Greece in 1991, at the age of 18, and has since been residing legally as student. He holds a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Athens (1997). He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Political Science and History of Panteion University, in Athens, with a state scholarship. His thesis topic is “Modernity and otherness: the image of Albanians in the Greek press and of Greeks in the Albanian press.” As a journalist, he has been working for the largest daily “Ta Nea,” the state radio NET 105.8, Albania’s daily Koha Jone, and the IWPR’s Balkan Crisis Report. He is also the founder of the NGO “Home of Albanian Culture,” a member of the extra-parliamentary center-left party AEKA, and has been the most vocal advocate on migrant issues in the Greek media. Thanks to Buruburu for the reminder).

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006


I've always had a special love of photography so thank you to Flubberwinkle for this link. A  site by Nikos Chrisiakis. Check out the reportage section especially the Muslim Women of Elefsina and Immigrants of Athens. A warm and very human approach to photographing people.

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The story rages on. Here are two articles from the Athens news on the interrogations of Pakistani men in Greece. From the press conference where the men explained what happened to them, entitled Face of Fear, go here and for the British spies involvement here

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Via Amnesty International Professor Takis Alexiou was sentenced to 25 months in prison on July 1st 2005. He is an internationally-renowned academic, writer and artist. He is also founder of the Greek Rumi Committee which studies the philosophical and poetical works of Mevlana Celaledin Rumi, a 13th century philosopher, poet and humanist. Charges were brought against Professor Alexiou after a resident of Simi called as a witness a Greek Orthodox monk, Arsenios Vliagoftis, member of the Greek Ecclesiastical Commission Against Heresies, which considers the Greek Rumi Committee a sect (number 105 on the Commission’s list) and claims that the “heresies” which it propagates “threaten to corrupt [Greece's] religious and national identities". The sentence against Professor Alexiou not only contradicts Article 13, paragraph 1 of the Greek Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of religion and expression, but also the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which Greece ratified in 1974. The Amnesty International public statement is dated 5th December 2005. The appeal was due to be heard the following day. I have not been able to find out if he won his appeal. However, should the sentence be confirmed at the appeal hearing and Professor Alexiou imprisoned, Amnesty International would consider him to be a prisoner of conscience and would call for his immediate and unconditional release. I will update when I find out.

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Monday, January 09, 2006


I've been tagged for the first time ever by Laurelin In The Rain FOUR THINGS MEME FOUR JOBS I'VE HAD Raspberry picker. First job. Still can't eat them. Cinema Usher. Loved it. Got to watch everything with free popcorn. Waitress. Disgusting and unflattering brown uniform. Actor. Got there in the end. FOUR TV SHOWS I WATCH The Daily Show Gilmore Girls That's Life (the one with Paul Sorvino not the one with Ester Rantzen!) ER FOUR FILMS I CAN WATCH OVER AND OVER Moulin Rouge Life is Sweet Toy Story High Fidelity FOUR PLACES I HAVE LIVED Bristol London (central) London (east) Athens FOUR PLACES I HAVE BEEN ON HOLIDAY Spain Jamaica Holland Scotland FOUR BLOGS I VISIT EVERYDAY Stressqueen I Blame the Patriarchy Londonist Sour Duck FOUR FAVORITE FOODS Crumpets and Marmite Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup Trifle Barbecued Chicken FOUR PLACES I'D RATHER BE Caribbean New York London Asleep FOUR ALBUMS I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT Stoosh (Skunk Anansie) Tidal (Fiona Apple) Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea (PJ Harvey) Sunny Border Blue (Kristen Hersh) FOUR VEHICLES I HAVE OWNED Tricycle Roller Skates 10 speed bike Moped FOUR PEOPLE WHO NOW MAY CONSIDER THEMSELVES TAGGED Mel SeaWitch Buruburu Scruffy American

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Sunday, January 08, 2006


This article is by CHRISTINE PIROVOLAKIS who writes for the German Press Agency (dpa) in Athens. Overlooking the city of Patras in western Greece lies a problem that organisers of the 2006 Cultural Capital of Europe would give anything to forget. Right next to the city live hundreds of impoverished Roma people who say they are about to be thrown off the land they call home, to make room for the city's festivities. "They want us far away from the Cultural Capital of Europe,'' said Vassili Mihalokopoulou, a 45-year-old mother of five who now lives in a plastic covered shack on the site of a former garbage dump just two kilometres from Patras. "They say we are dirty and will not give us work,'' she said. "But you would be dirty too if your children were forced to live without any electricity, toilets or running water,'' she said pointing to the only tap supplying water to more than 200 people in this shantytown which they share with rats, cockroaches and stray dogs. The majority of the 250,000 Roma, or gypsies, living in Greece face a high level of racism, illiteracy, unemployment and poverty. In Patras, the Roma community has repeatedly experienced forced evictions in the areas of Riganokampos, Akti Dimeon and Makrigianni. According to Amnesty International, nearly 90% of the Roma have hepatitis and suffer from other illnesses as a result of unsanitary living conditions. "Greece has done little to improve the situation. On the contrary, the municipal authorities in Patras and elsewhere around Greece are most eager to get the Roma out of their territory, and in some places like here take to extreme measures,'' said Giannis Gianakakis from Amnesty. "They move in with bulldozers, telling the Greek Roma families to leave their houses, and then flatten them. Other Roma settlements like the one in Makriyianni have also been set on fire.'' Organisers of the Cultural Capital of Europe are urgently renovating museums and concert halls for their 30-million-euro event. According to human rights advocates they are also trying to get rid of the Roma as part of their effort to polish up the city. Patras' deputy mayor Giorgos Zafiropoulos said the city planned to build an open-air amphitheatre, which would be used to host concerts and plays, next to the Roma settlement. "We don't believe they will want the gypsies living anywhere near the theatre,'' said Mr Gianakakis. The Roma fear that if organisers go ahead with their plans they will be left with nowhere to go. "We are afraid that they will come here and demolish our houses to make room for the theatre _ they want to get rid of us but then were will we go?,'' said Nikolaos Giorgopoulos. Government officials insist they are committed to improving the fate of the gypsies but so far promises to spend more than 300 million euros to help them with housing and education have not been met. "The municipality has done everything to try to solve the problem but it is still waiting for the government to provide funding,'' said Mr Zafiropoulos. Human rights advocates say the plight of gypsies is made worse by a Greek attitude of indifference. "This is not an area where many people from Patras come to visit. Many Greeks will tell you that the Roma have a right to a decent place to live, but just not next to 'me','' says Mr Gianakakis. Most Greek gypsies deal in scrap metal, sell fruit and vegetables or beg to make ends meet, while some also resort to drug dealing. Cultural Capital organisers say the problem with the gypsies is one which has remained unsolved for years."The problem of the Roma is a problem of Patras,'' said Christos Roilos, an official from the Ministry of Culture and managing director of the Cultural Capital of Patras. The "European Capitals of Culture'' scheme was first launched in 1985 on the initiative of renowned film actress Melina Mercouri, then Greek culture minister.

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Saturday, January 07, 2006


From the Athens News George Karatzaferis, leader of the extreme rightwing party Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) and member of the European Parliament, announced that he will be a candidate for the mayoralty of Thessaloniki, Greece's second biggest city, next October. Read the full article here Always controversial, he is known for being ultra-nationalistic and anti-semitic (He claimed that no Jews were killed in the September 11th World Trade Centre attacks). He used to be vocal about getting all foreigners out of Greece. He has since toned down his views, perhaps to win over more Greeks who found him too extreme? It's obviously working. He is a member of the European Parliament! Many people consider him to be a bit of a nutcase. Sadly, he's not one who is going away any time soon.

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Thursday, January 05, 2006


The Greek neo-nazi organisation Golden Dawn has folded. However, it's members have been told to continue their activities in the Patriotiki Symmachia (Patriotic Alliance) so I will be keeping an eye on them. Good riddance to Golden Dawn though.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


I have avoided writing anything about the alleged "kidnapping and torture" of a group of Pakistani men in Greece for obvious reasons. The story is fraught with claims and counter-claims. Accusations and lies. Denial and back-tracking. Something happened. The problem is no-one knows what, apart from those involved. Today in the Guardian special report it states British diplomatic and intelligence sources yesterday strongly denied suggestions that UK officials were present at the interrogations. This despite what was said three days earlier on the 1st British officials have admitted MI6 officers were present during the interrogation of 28 Pakistanis in Greece, despite apparent denials by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. I don't know what happened. Only the people involved know that. We can only hope that the truth will be revealed by proper independent investigations.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006


I found this poem yesterday and felt that it summed up some of feelings people have living as immigrants. It is by Wole Oguntokun, who is a playwright, poet and a lawyer. His blog is laspapi.  Reproduced here with the kind permission of the writer. The Immigrant I’m trying to lose this accent trying to blend into my surroundings like insignificant wallpaper I’m trying to smile when you laugh at my mistakes. Trying to be a good sport. I’m trying to appreciate John Keats and William Butler Yeats I’m trying to put up a jolly good show I’m trying to sit in this blood-red bus and act as if I know this city and I’m trying to look inconspicuous. I’m trying to be dismayed when you catch a corrupt official Trying to forget he’d be a lord in my land Trying not to think of those I left behind Trying to forget how I almost didn’t make it out. I’m trying to be you, curse this clumsy tongue. Wole Oguntokun

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Monday, January 02, 2006


We have been hearing and debating for quite a while about Greece being the most racist and xenophobic country in Europe. The European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) that came up with this results posed a series of questions and statements. I thought it might be interesting to hear peoples answers to the questions rather than just the figures. PERCEIVED COLLECTIVE ETHNIC THREAT Is the your country's cultural life undermined or enriched by immigrants? Do immigrants make your country worse or better place to live? Please take the time to write a bit about why you respond in the way you chose. I am not interested in repeating the original survey, so this is open to people of all nationalities, anywhere in the world. I would like to hear what people really feel about these issues. Not just a series of statistics.

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An interesting article about the need to build bridges between the Muslims and the Orthodox Christian majority in Greece. After the post-World War I Treaty of Lausanne rearranged frontiers and populations, nearly 350,000 Greek Muslims had to leave in exchange for 600,000 Greek Orthodox Christians. Nowadays, the Muslim presence in Greece is mostly concentrated in Thrace, where some 108,000 live. The Muslims of Greece were largely passive until the 1970s, when they formed such organizations as the Western Thrace Turkish Solidarity Association to protect their interests. Greece has not had any real Islamic problems yet. But the question remains as to how much longer this will this be the case. Read the whole article here in Kathimerini

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