All quiet in Pignetto, (also except some Pakistani)
Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 28/05/2008
I always keep telling that Greece is not an exceptionally violent country and racism in this country is widespread but not as virulent towards individuals like other places, namely some European nations. But I always stress the fact that there is absolutely no opposition to the existent racism and contemporaneously there is an opposition to any mentioning of a problem. Plus that these phenomenon keep worsening because of the general «evolution» of the greek society which acquires the characteristics of other western societies for the good and for the bad.
An example of this trend is the evolving violent opposition to immigrants. Just a couple of posts ago I had written about the beating of members of the Pakistani Community in Athens by pigs that had invaded their mosque holding sticks and rocks. This was just one incident in a series of attacks that the Pakistani Community had to endure this year amidst the almost total indifference of greek civil society and especially the political world, (only a comittee of Synaspismos issued a statement, although other violent attacks in the past had drawn some localized demonstrations).
A friend of the blog recently contacted me on a similar incident that happened in Rome, Italy. On Saturday 24/5 a group of other pigs, with their faces covered, invaded an area in Rome called Pignetto inhabited by immigrants from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. They smashed the shops of two ethnic food stores and a call center, all run by immigrants of Bangladesh and Pakistan; fortunately they did not hurt a single person. Until this moment what we have is the replica of the incident at Rendi, Athens which I had written about, (with the exception that beating immigrants themselves in Athens is of course much worse, let alone comparing the mosque to shops). But here is how the things in Greece and Italy begin to differ:
My friend told me that there was a breaking news during the normal evening News of the State TV RAI1 with reports on the attack. A reporter was dispatched and transmitted live interviews from the victims. I could not verify it since the portal of RAI1 is a bit complicated but I did find out that it was still mentioned in the News edition of 26/5 of 8am of RAI1, two days later. Using the Google to find more on the attacks I stumbled on a myriad of information using the keywords «Pignetto» «raid«, ie the place of the attack and the name in italian which was used to describe them. The leader of the opposition W.Veltroni condemned vehemently the attacks and suggested to «close the door to xenophobe and racist behaviours. …in both cases we are in front of the emergence of inacceptable facts.» Other members of the centre-left Partito Democratico also condemned the attacks with written statements or interviews released to the TV including former Prime Minister M.D’Alemma, the president of the Prefecture of Rome and others. At a later time Veltroni added that «when the hunt for the immigrant begins it is the beginning of barbarism, the beginning of the end«.
The mayor of Rome, G.Alemanno of the post-fascist Alleanza Nazionale, condemned the attacks just hours after the raid, (the attack happened in the afternoon and already in 19.44 there were the first statements in the internet). He said that «this attack is of an unheard gravity which leaves me disgusted and shall not pass in silence«, while he also visited the area. He declared that the Municipality of Rome shall pay for all the damages of the shops, something the fascist Forza Nuova condemned in a statement. This comes from a post-fascist mayor who won the elections by promising a tougher stance against illegal, (and not), immigrants!
To clarify the situation I must add that there are some doubts whether this episode is as important as the one in Athens. The latest news from Italy do not agree if racist insults were heard and some claim it began as an argument between one pakistani and an italian who returned afterwards with his «friends». An italian journalist claims that she saw swastikas but others do not confirm. In any case, even if the beginning began as a personal dispute, it evolved into an outbreak towards all immigrants.
So is everything in Italy ok? Of course not. There a climate of fear and insecurity which reigns in Italy and immigrants get the blame. Riding on this fear the mayor of Rome managed to beat popular F.Rutelli in the recent elections of Rome in a historic victory. This fear managed to get incredible percentages for the racist Lega Nord. One of the first acts of the new Berlusconi Government was to toughen it’s stance with firmer controls towards immigrants and especially target Rumanians and Roma exploiting some crimes which saw a rumanian and a roma protagonist. We’ve arrived in politicians proposing state camps, (alias for prison camps), for the Roma; while there have been sporadic attacks in existing camps. If we want to be correct we must say that probably there is currently in Italy much more violence in the opposition against immigrants than in Greece.
The difference is the fact that these acts of the Italian Government face a fierce opposition by parts of the italian civil society. Although the general feeling is that of supporting the stricter measures, there is a sizable minority which voices it’s concerns in TV and newspapers. And when we arrive to actual attacks, like the one in Pignetto, we have a unanimous condemnation of the attacks and not hiding it. This is the main difference, that in Greece we do not have a civil conscience on where the line is drawn when it comes to racism.
Right now many claim that the situation in Greece is better than the one in Italy regarding immigrants – I partly agree with this statement. Still at the same time we have the same violence though less frequent, we do not grant asylum to anyone and meaningful political support to immigrants arrives only if it is politically exploitable. But even if we accept that we’re still better, the facts at Rendi show that we are not far away from «reaching the West» and contrary to the italians we do not have the antibodies which shall lend a hand to the immigrants. It is not an exaggeration, if 10-15 years ago somebody claimed that greeks would beat up even a single immigrant and attack mosques, I’d laugh. But we have arrived at this point and the problem is that nobody seems to care if we’re going to make the next step in the escalation; or decides to care only for those who are «useful» to his cause. These same conclusions apply also to other «sensitive» religious or social groups in our country.
Next time somebody tells me that Greece does not have a problem with racism I will link to this post and the other in Rendi. Greece does have a problem, like any other european country – no more and no less; the only difference is that at least somebody in «the West» admits the problem and is prepared to do something about it.
Sources: (many thanks to D. for helping out)
(Some are in italian, some in french, some in greek so use Google Translate – it faired pretty good)
My previous article on the Pakistani beaten in Rendi, Athens.
Veltroni and italian Left 1, 2 , 3
Alemanno 1 , 2, 3
Euronews and Reuters on the attacks. (I wonder if these media reported on the Athen’s attacks, how many would claim that it is bad for the country, instead of worrying on the attacks themselves?).
Manifestations in favour of the immigrants.
Direct interviews from the immigrants
Public outcry against the Roma.
On the political situation of Italy here, here and and an excellent analysis here. Also this.
Synaspismos on the attacks in Rendi.
Older violent attacks in Rendi.
Greece faces criticism on asylum here, here and just one of the many posts of DeviousDiva.