In charge of cracking down

April 30, 2013

Aaron Amaral, a member of the International Socialist Organization and an active supporter of AKNY, reports on a protest against Greek politician Nikos Dendias.

"WANTED FOR crimes against the people of Greece." With these words, Aristeri Kinesi New York/ Greece Solidarity Movement ("AKNY") greeted Nikos Dendias, the Greek minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection, to New York City.

Dendias holds this "security" portfolio in a Greek government intent on pursuing its wildly unpopular austerity policy through the brutal repression of its citizens, concentration camps for its now unwanted immigrants, and covert support for the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn. He was in New York City seeking to solidify institutional relationships, including with the FBI and other U.S. agencies and institutions, and shoring up material support for the government's policing policies.

AKNY was there to expose these policies and Dendias' role.

The meeting was held at John Jay College, where Dendias was being wooed, welcomed and honored by the president of the college. The event was officially sponsored by the ironically named Center for International Human Rights.

Before and after the event, supporters of AKNY managed to hand out hundreds of flyers that called out Dendias. Approximately a dozen AKNY supporters were able to enter the meeting itself and ensure that Dendias' narrative of a Greece "under threat" by immigrants, criminals and extremists was exposed for what it was: a white-washing of police repression in the service of austerity.

Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection Nikos Dendias
Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection Nikos Dendias

Despite a performance one might expect from a polished politician and lawyer, the picture painted by Dendias was challenged at every opportunity by AKNY, especially during the question period--which was cut short under a barrage of incisive and critical questions and comments.

IN THE course of his 30-minute talk, Dendias engaged in double-talk that exposed the agenda of the Greek government. To offer just a few examples: Dendias opened with a meandering analysis of the "platonic concept" of human rights, noting that human rights are not unlimited, taking the opportunity to raise the U.S. government's detention facilities in Guantánamo.

Then, using the example of Socrates, Dendias pointed out the "ancient" distinction between the rights of citizens and human rights. While acknowledging that "of course," there were certain rights which were "core" and inviolable, he also defended not extending these rights to asylum seekers who filed their papers too late.

This flowed perfectly well into his discussion of the three great threats supposedly facing Greece--immigration, crime and "extremism." While making a gesture toward denouncing Golden Dawn, Dendias immediately raised the specter of the radical left. He also claimed that Golden Dawn arose due to the problem of crime in Greece, which his government was addressing, pointedly ignoring the current austerity regime as well as 70 years of Greek history (including more than a decade of fascism, both native and foreign, and the epoch of the junta) as more plausible roots for the problem.

It was during the question period that AKNY finally had its opportunity to confront and expose Dendias. He was asked about the complicity of the police in supporting the Golden Dawn, and specifically about the findings of groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that have condemned the government, and the ministry of Dendias specifically, for human rights abuses and atrocities.

Dendias was pointedly asked about the treatment of immigrants, and a political environment that, along with the vicious attacks on immigrants by Golden Dawn, recently witnessed 200 Bangladeshi migrant workers being fired upon by their foremen.

For his part, Dendias denied that there were any specific allegations that had not been addressed, and dismissed Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as being known for "exaggerating" about human rights abuses. However well it reflected the government's true feelings, such an answer could not have gone over well with Dendias' hosts in the Center for International Human Rights.

This purported center for human rights should be ashamed of its role in giving Dendias a forum. John Jay College, and the City University of New York system, of which it is a part, should also be on notice, that future attempts to solidify a relationship with this government, through its Greek partner in the ministry's Center for Security Studies, and a planned joint 2014 conference on "human rights and security," has not gone unnoticed, nor it will it go unchallenged.

For John Jay College to so cynically raise the banner of human rights, and to hand the stage over to Dendias, the lead spokesman for state-sanctioned police brutality in Greece, should be broadly condemned. Not only does it manifestly undermine the stated commitment to human rights, it gives political cover to the fascists in Golden Dawn, who share Dendias' views of the "threats" to Greece and thrive in the conditions created by Dendias' government.

AKNY will be ready in the future to act as it did at Dendias' speech: to expose the hypocrisy of the Greek government and its allies and to continue to advocate for an alternative--open and democratic--future in Greece.

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