Categories
Resistances

Witnessing History: Sappho’s recollections

It’s a very faraway idea and a very profound one; Sappho, the lyric poetess standing eternally in the middle of a public square of her homeland; gazing; exploring her descendants amidst the chaos;

“Burn them”, people shout in the poetess’ feet and smoke blurs her marble sight, as screams reach her ears, the wailing of mothers and children, the pleadings for help in words that seem extraneous but all too familiar. Sappho remembers.

Stories spun around her through the ages and Sappho has become a symbol of female loving and shameless desire, carving the path for women’s right to creative expression.

Sappho loved luxury and visual gorgeousness arriving from foreign places, and Lesvos’ position as an Eastern trading hub strengthens such a claim.

Sappho was also exiled, seeking refuge in Sicily because of her political views, and later history did her justice; statues were raised in her honor, coins were minted with her name and image on them. When Sappho’s statuesque figure settled in Lesvos once again, decades ago, she would inevitably be once again at the very heart of history-making.

Lesvos soon becomes a non- topos, a place where asylum seekers are on the island and yet they remain “unseen”. Only when emerging from the camps to occupy her square – a place historically intertwined with awakening and the changing of direction- do they bring the faraway, the suffering far from sight, near.

The asylum seekers, attacked by her descendants, are later on arrested. The police officers’ shadow cast on the base of the statue as Sappho watches motionless peoples’ frantic running. What if Sappho was called to testify on what happened? Would she demand to be called in front of the bench? And how would she be treated by the authorities?

The “space” was the only thing that did not move that night. The Topos that is reconstructed for the purposes of a court case that will -one day- take place. A 3D model that renders the at the time inanimate, which is now already partly gone.

Sappho’s square will soon be redeveloped. The redevelopment feels like another attempt to remove evidence of a crime. If and when the trial actually takes place, the appointed judges won’t be able to walk on the same stones, see the same trees and the trashcans that the perpetrators moved that night. They might not even recognize the bus stop in the square or the street lights surrounding it.

Yet the poetess will remember. If only she could point out to us those responsible for these actions. If only her gaze could once more extend beyond this island.

μνάσασθαί τινά φαιμι καὶ ἄψερον ἀμμέων.
I’m saying that someone will remember us in the future.
– Sapphο

*On the night of April 22nd 2018, a group of asylum seekers was attacked by mob of locals in Sapfous square, in Mytilene, Lesvos island, Greece. Almost 3 years after, the court case is still pending, many of the accused perpetrators are at large, participating in other violent actions against people on the move and Greek citizens.

Disinfaux Collective

——————————————————————————————–

/Disinfaux is a not-for-profit research collective based in Greece. We conduct in-depth investigations on human and environmental rights issues, borders and surveillance, detention/exclusion regimes, migration/displacement, and alt-right/far-right movements. We operate as an autonomous network of on-the-ground researchers, academics, and journalists, interested in open-source investigations, field research, and investigative journalism.

Images 1,2,3: Disinfaux Collective
Image 4: https://www.lesvosnews.net/


Artworks

Categories
Resistances

Solidarity, anti-fascist struggles & Covid-19

March 14, 2020, the first day after the announcement of the Greek government for the closure of shops and for a radical change in the way we communicate, but Sappho Square in the center of Mytilene was full of people. Solidarians from Greece and from many European countries gathered to support the call of the Antifascist Initiative of Lesvos Against the Detention Centers: 

“- to state in practice our opposition to the emphasis only on the island’s local society – and in all forms of fascism & nationalism and to send fascists and neo-Nazis back to their holes 

” – To unite our voices in favour of open borders, free movement in European countries and against the illegal movement of people.”

The rally and solidarity march took place on Saturday morning, following a route through neighborhoods and the shopping center of Mytilene, the waterfront, the building of the Region, the port and the courts.

The actions were commented on in various ways and – for the most part – quite critically, with the characteristic article of a local newspaper entitled ‘The most dangerous nonsense of the year took place today in Mytilene!’. Of particular interest is the criticism leveled not at those who would have done it anyway but “by people who would have supported the marches if it were not for the issue of corona, that is, by comrades in this struggle.”

In response to these criticisms, the Lesvos Anti-Fascist Initiative Against Detention Centers immediately replied with a text entitled ‘On the course of Saturday 14/3 (Mytilene) or On Social Responsibility’.

“For all these reasons we took to the streets against the generalized fear that feeds all kinds of ‘fascism’ against the different. We promise, when the epidemic is over, to come out again and be thousands.”

Naya Tselepi
March 2020

Photos:
1,2,3,4,7 by Antifascist Coordination Lesvos & 5,6 by Naya Tselepi

Categories
Resistances

#All Women Against Moria

In the daily life of the women and girls of the hot spot of Moria, relentless insecurity prevails. More than 20,000 people live in a detention centre with a capacity of 3,000 people at the time of writing (April 2020). Even more so for women, this situation exacerbates their insecurity as most are victims of different types of violence, including rape. This violence is not unprecedented for them as it was most often experienced in the countries of origin, during their travel to Europe, and in the hot spot of Moria it is greatly intensified. Even greater is the need for women traveling alone to be housed in specially designed spaces, women’s ‘safe-spaces’. Unfortunately, these places are few and overpopulated, so very often single women are forced to stay in tents set up in areas with a male population, which makes their survival very difficult.

For the inhumane conditions they experience every day in the hot spot of Moria and for the asylum applications that are increasingly delayed for hundreds of immigrant and refugee women, they marched and demonstrated on January 30, 2020 from Moria to Mytilene. The main slogan of the women during the march was ‘Moria is a women’s hell’ which was supported by solidarity on social media with the hashtag #AllWomenAgainstMoria and he motto ‘tolerance for the conditions in Moria and the geographical limitation of asylum seekers on the islands is criminal’.

Their voices were very loud, and neither the torrential rain nor the shields of the uniforms of the special police forces could stop them.

The testimonies of the women themselves in conversations and interviews taken by one of the writers are exemplary of the situation:

“Moria is not Europe, Moria is worse than Afghanistan. We, women, we are not safe in Moria, in Moria people has been murdered, in Moria, they treat us like dogs (very bad),we request from the united nation to help us. Moria is not Europe, Moria is not a safe place, and our youth are hanging themselves to end up their lives. We want justice.”

“We want justice, we want freedom. When we had to cross the sea we realized we could drown, but we took that risk for a better future for our children. Unfortunately it is worse than Afghanistan, we do not feel safe in the Moria camp, we suffer. from the conditions that exist in Moria. We cannot even compare with hell the situation we have in Moria … ”

“We have putted our lives in danger, we have risked our lives when we stepped in the rubber boat, and we knew that it was possible to get drowned in the sea, we knew that it was possible that won’t make it alive to Greece. Why Greece is prisoning us? Greece is not Europe, Greece is worse than Afghanistan, we want justice, we have come to live and for that we have putted our lives in danger several times.”

“We want nothing else but just freedom from you, just let us to go because of these kids, we have lived our lives in all the worst possible situation, at least let these kids to have a peaceful life, why you have no mercy towards us? Why nobody hear us? Why you don’t want to listen to us? Why you do not understand? We have put our lives in danger to finally arrive here and yet you are deporting us back.”

Μigrant women are screaming for freedom, it’s time for their voices to be heard, for “invisible” women to be seen.

 

Violeta Dimitrakopoulou & Naya Tselepi
April 2020


References:

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=221655972170606&external_log_id=cb0843b8fa52b6eed9bb0e124493b6ed&q=AllWomenAgainstMoria 

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=219273879103901&external_log_id=cb0843b8fa52b6eed9bb0e124493b6ed&q=AllWomenAgainstMoria


Photos:
photo 1: Natasha Papanikolaou, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2678746445527723&set=a.369280483141009&type=3&theater 
photo 2 & 3: Lesvos Solidarity Pikpa, All Women Against Moria, https://www.facebook.com/pg/pikpalesvos/photos/?tab=album&album_id=2555028444772571&__tn__=-UCH-R 
photo 4, 5 & 6:  Violeta Dimitrakopoulou

Categories
Resistances

‘Invisible Women’

For every Feride in Moria who speaks and her voice is not heard, 

for every Eleni in Mytilene whose life is ignored, 

for every woman in the world trying to find a place.  

 

We women are screaming for freedom 

but they silence us using every form of violence. 

We’re tired of hiding, 

We’re tired of being scared, 

for our bodies, our children. 

We’re tired of hearing about another female homicide, 

From men to patriarchy 

From bosses to capitalism.  

 

Our sisters, 

it’s time for our voices to be heard 

it’s time to fight & 

to claim our rights.

For everyone in this world, 

for all of us, 

For life! 

Viva!

(Invisible Women Manifesto)


‘Invisible Women’ is an initiative that sprang from the research team ‘Invisible Cities’ of the Department of Geography of the University of the Aegean, which includes women living or passing through Lesvos (many of them are no longer on the island).

Its original purpose was to respond to the call of Zapatista women for the Second International Conference of Women Fighting in Chiapas, Mexico in early December 2019. It was decided to send a video recording the speech of women who have been, or are trapped, in the hot spot of Moria as well as their actions against the homicides in the Aegean islands.

As part of the implementation of the video, meetings were held to discuss the call of the Zapatistas, an action of collecting voices, images and theatrical proposals and an action of joint creation of a mosaic-mural, in collaboration with Mosaik’s reuse laboratory. The process of reusing materials that seemingly are considered waste, in addition to covering real needs on the island, is highly symbolic as ‘a lot of human lives in Lesvos are characterised as ‘waste’. Therefore, changing the meaning of materials through their reuse becomes analogous to making visible women from every corner of the globe.

The video was prepared and traveled virtualy in the city of Mexico, where it was received by the Geobrujas team, which, through a convoy of 400 women on a 22-hour journey to the jungle of Lacandona, handed it over to the Zapatistas. The video sparked the opening of a communication channel with Mexican feminist collectives, a process that is still ongoing.

Violeta Dimitrakopoulou & Naya Tselepi
December 2019


Photos by:
Violeta Dimitrakopoulou

Categories
Resistances

Xenophobia Virus

During the rally and solidarity march of the Antifascist Initiative of Lesvos Against the Detention Centers that took place on Saturday, March 14, 2020 in Mytilene, protesters shared the solidarity masks with the characteristic XENOPHOBIA as well as flyer for further distribution – both in Greek and English, entlitled ‘ΞΕΝΟΦΟΒΙΟΣ’ ‘and’ XENOPHOBIA VIRUS ‘respectively. It was the first day after the Greek government announced the closure of shops and a radical change in the way we communicate, so this text very aptly and caustically commented on the ‘invisible’ dimensions of a virus that poses a greater risk than the corresponding one, of corona, that of xenophobia.

“The xenophobia virus (xenovid 20) is a highly contagious viral infection that is rapidly spreading across the globe. While it is yet unknown exactly how dangerous this new virus is, several deaths have been reported in the past week, including that of a 2-year-old child. Inform yourself and take adeuqate measures to avoid a crisis in your region.

Key Symptoms

  • Fevrish contempt for foreigners
  • Sudden outbursts of racial slurs
  • Islamophobic comments or thoughts
  • Nationalist ideas and/or a sudden atraction to national flags
  • Delirium of supremacy above others

Transmission

The virus is usually transmitted though online media and personal contact. Most common are: 

Fake news, fascists, coastguards, FRONTAX, police, religious leaders, and government officials. 

The virus is epsecially found prevalent on national flags.

How to protect yourself

  • Avoid any contact or association with costguards, FRONTEX and cops
  • Avoid municipality-led demonstrations
  • Visiting neo-nazis must immediately be isolated and quarantined
  • Contact with foreigners has been proven to minimise chances of infection
  • Avoid key infection zones: FRONTEX ships, Hacienda bar and around roadblocks near power plant and Moria village
  • Be mindful of overly simplified answers to complex questions.”

Naya Tselepi
March 2020

Photos by Naya Tselepi

Categories
Resistances Resistances

The Occupation of SYRIZA Offices in Lesbos The Urbanization & Politicization of Refugee Struggles

Since Foucault’s lecture from 1978-79, titled The Birth of Biopolitics, there has been a tradition of reflections on the metaphysical, juridical, and political relations to life. Among them three notable orientations have emerged: Giorgio Agamben with his description of the “juridical grid” of politics (sovereignty) and life, Roberto Esposito and his depiction of the “political grid” of such biopolitics, and Davide Tarizzo’s “metaphysical grid” of life [1]. The refugee struggles in Lesvos which led to the Occupation of SYRIZA Offices can be read within the horizon of life as a site of the struggle between a) the apparatuses of the governance of life and, b) the Solidarians’ politics affirming life as a political site. But the struggle itself took life and the struggle for it through two stages

Photo 1 Refugee Struggles in Sapphous place, 20 October 2017

 

Stage One: Urbanization of Refugee Struggles

In par with the exclusion of political association for refugees in the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, the apoliticality of the camp and its actors, as well as its geography, are fundamentally derived from the conception of refugee as excluded in the nexus of the nation-state and its subjects, “nativity and nationality”. It is with this exclusion from the polis that the camp, away from the social and political life of citizens and those legally entitled to participation, is located in a de-urbanized setting. The first stage of the Sapphous-35 was to bring this bare life, which is under the biopolitical regime of the camp, into the urban setting; that is: life itself is exposed in its nakedness, in the public square, as a site of struggle.

Photo 2 Occupation of SYRIZA office, 28 November 2017

 

Stage Two: Politicization of Refugee Struggles

Upon the outrage of a large group of “citizens” motivated by the ambiguous rhetorical claims of the mayor, the next step entailed the politicization of the struggle of the refugees through the support of local Solidarians and the consequent occupation of SYRIZA offices. It was in the SYRIZA squat that life was, in turn, politicized, but now no longer as a site of biopolitics as the governance of life [1], but life as the site for political struggle, that is: an affirmative politics of life.

 

An Affirmative Politics of Life

In both these instances what stood out, albeit unspoken, was what can be termed “an affirmative politics of life”, which made life itself the site of struggle against the biopolitics of the state, its exceptions, the NGOs, and the camp [3]. As a result, two distinct approaches to politics can be distinguished in this border-space and the resistance to such a biopolitics [4].

  1. A) a politics of the governance of life, which has its thanatopolitics already at the demarcations called borders, and
  2. B) a politics which acknowledges life (not an exclusive life as bare life nor life as the strictly metaphysical self-hood (such as Being, and existence)) as it takes place in its singularity as a site of struggle (politics) and community.

Salim Nabim
March 2020


Footnotes:

[1] Agamben’s thought can be said to have exposed the biopolitics of the state as an impasse of subjectivity, the complete abandonment of the human to the governance of her life by the apparatuses of governance. Esposito, on the other hand, seeks to find to an “affirmative biopolitics”, which he attempts through reflections on the notion of the political – as the transformative operation on politics – from its threshold, from the “impolitical”, neither from the midst of the politics nor from the apolitical, but precisely from that point where life and politics meet, the person (Third Person: Politics of Life and Philosophy of the Impersonal Trans. Z. Hanafi (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012)), on the one hand, and community (Communitas: The Origin and Destiny of Community Trans. T. C. Campbell (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009)), on the other. Davide Tarizzo (Life: A Modern Invention (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017) draws the metaphysical grid of the question of life, which extends from Immanuel Kant, through Schelling, and eventually Darwin. For Tarizzo life is the last name of modernity, and therefore, instead of abandoning this terrain, he recommends that we remain within this terrain of life as the topos for a possibility of undoing the machinery of biopolitics as exercised by the state and, in the case of refugees, the NGOs.

[2] Michel Foucault. The Birth of Biopolitics (New York: Picador, 2008)

[3] See for instance Giorgio Agamben Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life Trans. Heller-Rozen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998) or Roberto Esposito Terms of the Political: Community, Immunity, and Biopolitics (New York: Fordham University Press, 2012)

[4] The tradition designated Biopolitics finds its initiation in Foucault’s The Birth of Biopolitics. What is crucial about this seminar of Foucault is not that it directly addresses biopolitics, but rather, because it points out the contemporary configuration of “being” as the technocratic management of life, particularly the question of politics and the possibility of self-hood. It remains interesting to enquire into the Foucaultian pursuit of Parresia (truth-telling) as his attempt to escape the governance of life through social policy (Gesellschaftspolitik), by considering migrant struggles as struggles for a politics affirmative of life and in opposition to the biopolitical apparatuses.


References:

Agamben G. 2012. Third Person: Politics of Life and Philosophy of the Impersonal Trans. Z. Hanafi Cambridge: Polity Press,

Agamben G. 2009. Communitas: The Origin and Destiny of Community Trans. T. C. Campbell. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Foucault M., 2008. The Birth of Biopolitics New York: Picador

Agamben G., 1998. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life Trans. Heller-Rozen. Stanford: Stanford University Press

Esposito R., 2012. Terms of the Political: Community, Immunity, and Biopolitics. New York: Fordham University Press.

Tarizzo D. , 2017. Life: A Modern Invention Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press


Photo 1 Christy Petropoulou, June 2017
Photo 2 Retrieved from Internet (no author)
Categories
Resistances

Contested Borderscapes of Mytilene Port

The port of Mytilene was an open (not fenced) boarding and disembarking area despite being located on the country’s borders. Until 1870, boarding and disembarking was done by boats coming along the waterfront. All public events, rallies, demonstrations and celebrations took place there. In 1832 the salvation of the city from the plague was celebrated and on November 9, 1912 the union of Lesvos with Greece.

In July 1922 the then government (during the reign of Constantine) with Law 2870-20 / 7/1922, in front of the imminen loss of the Greek-Turkish war, had decided to prevent the “illegal” exit of the inhabitants of Asia Minor to Greece. In September 1922, after the destruction of Smyrna, many women and children from Asia Minor came on the Egyptian ship Kedivie without the necessary papers. In the literary work of Asimakis Panselinos (2001: 124) there is talk of two Smyrnaeans who did not have papers and quarreled with the representative of the port who had come from Athens to implement the Law prohibiting their entry to the island. Then the narrator says, some people from Mytilene were thrown out of the cafes, they grabbed the port officer, stopped him and helped the women to get out. The women were then brought to the cafe and got treated, while in the meantime the people from Mytilene forced the port official in a boat and sent him back to Piraeus to get better instructions. “And again the ships began to arrive with refugees without a passport.” In the next years they followed their settlement in Greece and the population exchanges that caused many conflicts and racist outbursts in the country (Kordatos, 1958).

During World War II and the EAM struggles, the port became famous again for its anti-fascist battles. On December 24, 1944, British troops attempted to disembark a British colonial army in Lesvos with the aim of suppressing the EAM, as had been done in Piraeus. Following a call from EAM, the residents of Lesvos went down to the port, they built roadblocks (blocks) and did not allow the army to land, saying the well-known slogan Go Back.

Later on, the modern port was formed.

Nearly 60 years later, in 2009, the port of Mytilene became the reception center for young people coming to organize the world festival No Border Camp, which played an important role in changing policy in relation to the closed inhuman refugee detention center in Pagani (which was built between 2000-2001) and at its final closure. During this period, the slogan “no borders” prevailed.

However, between 2013 and 2014, in the port, especially during the winter months, there were mass transfers of refugees to the mainland under a vicious regime of human rights violations. At night, children’s and women’s shoes, cardigans, and bags that were left behind, after the forcible enclosure of the refugees on military ships. The port was closed to passers-by. 

It is the beginning of the geo-trauma of the port fencing (see post: the fenced eyes of the port), which will be completed after the EU-Turkey agreement, in March 2016, and the establishment of modern disputed borders between Lesvos – Greece, Greece – European Union, European Union and its surroundings.

Christy Petropoulou
May 2020


References: 

Alberti G., 2010. Across the borders of Lesvos: the gendering of migrants’ detention in the Aegean .
Source: Feminist Review, No. 94 (2010), pp. 138-147 Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40664133 Accessed: 15-04-2020 16:25 UTC 

Guardian, 2019. Αφιέρωμα στον Soloup στο : https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/dec/09/aivali-a-story-of-greeks-and-turks-in-1922-by-soloup-review-a-moving-graphic-novel 

Αναγνώστου Σ., 2012. Η Παλιά Μυτιλήνη. Μυτιλήνη. Αναμνηστική έκδοση Περιφέρειας Βορείου Αιγαίου. 

Αναγνώστου Σ., 2019. 50 φωτογραφίες από την Απελευθέρωση της Λέσβου (8 Νοεμβρίου – 8 Δεκεμβρίου 1912) https://www.lesvosnews.net/articles/news-categories/taxidi-sto-hthes/50-fotografies-apo-tin-apeleytherosi-tis-lesboy-8 07/11/2019 – 18:16

Αντιρατσιστικό Παρατηρητήριο Πανεπιστημίου Αιγαίου http://antiracist-observatory-uoa.blogspot.com/ 

Κορδάτος Γ., 1958. Ιστορία της Νεώτερης Ελλάδας, Τ.13 (1900-1924). Αθήνα: Εκδόσεις “20ος αιώνας”.

Πανσέληνος Α., 2001. Τότε που ζούσαμε. Κέδρος. Πρώτη έκδοση 1974.

Παρασκεβαΐδη Η. & Ελευθεριάδη Τ., 1945 Μυτιλήνη Χριστούγεννα 1944 Go Back.  Εκδόσεις Μνήμη. (παλαιότερη έκδοση «Ελεύθερη Λέσβος» 1945). Αποσπάσματα στο : http://www.vrahokipos.net/old/history/gr/lesvos.htm  και http://www.mplokia.gr/?page_id=830 

Σολούπ, 2014. Αϊβαλί. Κέδρος.

Τρουμπέτα Σ. (επιμ.), 2012. Το προσφυγικό και μεταναστευτικό ζήτημα. Διαβάσεις και μελέτες συνόρων. Εκδόσεις Παπαζήση. 

Contested Borderscapes, 2017. https://refugeeobservatory.aegean.gr/en/contested-borderscapes-transnational-geographies-vis-%C3%A0-vis-fortress-europe


Images:
Image 1. Union of Lesvos with Greece November 9, 1912. Source : https://www.lesvosnews.net/articles/news-categories/taxidi-sto-hthes/50-fotografies-apo-tin-apeleytherosi-tis-lesboy-8 
Image 2. Narratives of displaced peoples from Ayvalik and Mytilene via comics. Source: Soloup, 2019, Ayvalik, Kedros Publishing House.
Image 3 α & β. “Go back!” of the EAM on 24 December 1944 against British troops. Source: Panagiotis Koutskoudis, 73 years since the legendary “Go back!”, Ef.Syn. 06.01.2018, 12:14
https://www.efsyn.gr/nisides/135796_73-hronia-apo-thryliko-go-back 
Image 4. An attempt to save history in 2010 a year after the closure of the Pagani detention center. Sourcehttp://w2eu.net/2009/08/25/noborder-lesvos-09-welcomes-you/