Greece solidarity actions

Friday 14th Nov.: Thessaloniki Solidarity action in Dublin, Ireland

Why are we here today? We are here to show our support for the Thessaloniki Seven - five of whom are currently on hunger strike. As of today, Friday the 14th of November, Spiros Tsitsas has been fasting for 38 days. Simon Chapman, Carlos Martin Martinez, and Fernando Perez for 41 days. And Suleiman Dakduk Castro for 55 days.

The Thessaloniki 7 were arrested on Saturday June 21st at the anti-EU demonstration in Thessaloniki, Greece. They were part of an anti-authoritarian block which left the occupied university at around 5.00pm. Initial scuffles broke out between the police and part of the march with the police responding with hundreds of cannisters of CS gas and other chemical weapons.

They are temporarily imprisoned, and charged with resisting authority, construction and possession of molotovs, arson, serious damage to property, and riot. This could theoretically mean a prison sentence of between 7 and 25 years. Their cases could take up to 18 months to come to trial. All seven have so far had 3 bail appeals rejected by the prosecutor, who has refused to look at the video and photographic evidence.

Their demands are: bail for all seven, and that one of the prisoners, Suleiman "Castro" Dakduk be allowed to remain in Greece. Suleiman is a Syrian who has been living in exile in Crete for 18 years, and who is now threatened with deportation back to Syria where he faces torture and imprisonment for trade union activity. The five have been on strike collectively since 5th October, and are in an extremely weakened physical condition.

On Tuesday, after an enormous police mobilisation, the transport of the 5 hunger-strikers from the Hospital Papanjkola'oy to the Hospital of Prisons Korydaloy' began at 2 o' clock , as a result of a directive by the Ministry of Justice. Their lawyer says "It was like a state conspiracy" as they were whisked away at night without their lawyers knowledge.

Despite it being an unusually cold night, and the hugely deteriorated medical condition of the five, they were refused blankets and were not provided with beds. Fernando was so frail that he was immediately transferred to a civilian hospital where he remains unable to move at all. The current situation is that they are taking liquids again but still refusing food. All are now in hospital.

So why are we really here then? What is the point of this demonstration?

Before I answer this lets just take a look at what it means to go on hunger strike. It is an extremely dangerous tactic to adopt � with potentially fatal consequences. It is the tactic of the desperate. It is the last attempt of the prisoner without hope to achieve justice.

What happens to your body when you go on hunger strike? When food is first denied, the body feeds on a starchy substance called glycogen, which is stored in the liver. As less food is taken in, energy drops. Heartbeat, pulse and blood pressure fall.

The body begins to lose water and starts to feed on fat and muscle. Weight lost is composed of 50% water, 25% muscle and 25% fat. As water is depleted from the cells, the body shrinks. Fasters take on a gaunt, hollow-cheeked look.

The human body can withstand a loss of 25% of its normal weight and still survive. Beyond that, life expectancy is 30 to 50 days. The body's organs begin to waste away. Intestines wither, making it impossible for the body to digest food. Starvation has a devastating effect on mental health. There is fatigue and a loss of awareness of hunger. The person becomes confused, disoriented and irritable.

The body slows down as it tries to conserve protein. But there will come a point where slowing down is not enough and the situation will become serious. The body will start to break down the protein in vital organs and the heart, respiratory organs and liver will start to fail.

The normal upper limit for people surviving on hunger strike is 60 days.

Hunger strikers are fully aware that their actions may lead to their deaths. The Greek state has done nothing except treat the five with contempt. They have denied them their basic civil, legal and human rights. It seems that they will be quite content to let the five die in their prison hospitals.

As you all know, Ireland is the host of the EU presidency next year. There may be similar demonstrations in Dublin during a possible EU summit. Like the people in Thessaloniki, if we choose to take to the streets to confront the state head on, then we risk a similar fate to them. What has happened to them could very easily happen to us.

The reason we are here today is to give the hunger strikers a message of hope. The state, in all its evil forms, tries to kill hope. The state imprisons people who dare to speak out against it. It crushes any form of opposition with police brutality and oppression. It attempts to instil an atmosphere of fear and paranoia among us so that we are afraid to speak out against injustices. It allies itself with corporations who exploit us for profit. It suppresses our desires so we conform to their rules. It offers nothing but pain, misery, and alienation.

It would be easy to give in. It would be easy to give up, to go back to our homes and sit in front of the TV, and pretend that the world is perfect. But we are here today because we still have hope. We hope that we can change the world around us for the better. We have not succumbed to apathy and indifference. We hope that this situation can be resolved without any of the hunger strikers dying.

We call on the Greek Government to free the Thessaloniki 7 immediately and unconditionally. We call on the Irish Government to put pressure on Greece to grant them freedom now. Our solidarity action is sending a message to those on the inside of those prison hospital walls that we have not forgotten them. We support them in their hunger strike, and want to see them walk free from prison, fully recovered from their terrifying ordeal. Our action here will let them know that even on the verge of death there is still hope.

Thessaloniki Prisoner Support:
update of actions (15th Nov.):

thessaloniki reports |