For Europe and beyond, there is no alternative: Asylum or barbarism

There is no beyond for the people who are fleeing wars and conflicts. They are caught in the net of inhumanity with borders erected to remove human rights, political representation, citizenship, and any existence from racialized women, men and children. The European inhabitants once believed that the Schengen zone was a place of no borders; of course, it was a false promise, at least for people. Nonetheless, the circulation of goods and merchandise has remained unaffected.

More borders than before the Schengen zone have been put in place. More walls and barbed wire have been installed around dubious borders to control the movements of people, whose status has evolved from the wretched of the world to the undesirables. Now, Europe is comprised of about 500 000 unwanted/undesirable people who live in camps around various borders of Europe, with 53 000 stranded in Greece.

We are watching the regularization of dehumanization and the deregulation of human rights and women rights. Refugee women are particularly in danger, an Afghan journalist who escaped brutal death after having been shot by the Taliban talks about her life in a Greek refugee camp with Amnesty international: “We are treated like animals. I’d rather be shot again than endure these conditions.” Additionally, sexual harassment is a constant issue in these camps.

With its numerous islands, Greece has been the main country of entry. Greece was also the target of Troika-managed neoliberal structural adjustment programs. The result is a dismantling of the social and political Greek society. While the undesirables are landing on the Greek islands, many of those same islands are now for sale to satisfy luxury investments and speculations. The European Union has created a hypocritical hell for human conditions, on one hand impoverishing an entire population in Greece under the aegis of fabricated debt economy and on the other hand stopping refugees on Greek soil.

Journalist and photographer Bulen Kiliç has been covering the refugee exodus since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, and, recently, he wanted to talk about the reality of living in these camps, the pestilential odor, the rain, the absence of sanitary conditions, the lack of food, the extreme precarity in which children are brought up or should we say brought down. He talked about and showed the “utter despair” that is being organized in the middle of Europe. 11000 to 12000 people, among them countless children, are stuck in the camp of Idonemi, in Greece. The camp of Idomeni is at the border with Macedonia. It is a ‘waiting’ camp, formed after the Macedonian government closed the borders violently, despite the condemnations of the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras. The people had nowhere to go. They may have escaped death, unlike the 2892 women, men and children who died in the Mediterranean Sea in 2015, but they live with no hope, treated like human waste, creating the perfect conditions for depression that leads one to lose one’s mind.

A group of international intellectuals and activists have signed a document “pas d’alternative, droit d’asile ou barbarie” ‘No alternative, asylum or barbarianism’. Indeed, there is no alternative. Europeans must organize to have asylum rights respected or they will face more barbaric reactions including their own. According to anthropologist Michel Agier, who signed the petition, one of the ways to fight this situation is to make these camps famous, because invisibility is an instrument of oppression.

In that spirit, here is Bulen Kiliç’s testimony about the camp of Idomeni: Losing their minds.

 

(Photo Credits: AFP / Bulen Kiliç)

Why is the European Union criminalizing and threatening refugees and volunteer helpers?

Lisbeth Zornig and a Syrian family she drove to Copenhagen

Just recently, in Denmark refugee helpers were sentenced for “human trafficking.” Lisbeth Zornig, a novelist, and her husband were fined 3000 Euros each. They could have been sentenced to prison time. Their `crime’ was having driven a Syrian family to Copenhagen, serving them coffee and cookies, and then driving them to the train station. Zornig declared, “I am very angry because the only thing we did was the decent thing, the same that hundreds of others did. They are criminalizing decency.”

Over the past few years, Denmark has changed its asylum laws, and now with their new Alien Act more helpers are being persecuted. While in 2014 about 140 were prosecuted for helping refugees, the number grew to 279 between September 2015 and February 2016.

Zornig’s lawyer, who has defended other Danes in similar cases, declared Denmark is now at the bottom of the table on human rights. However, the anti migrant trend has affected every member state of the European Union. In January, five rescuers from Spanish and Danish NGOs who rushed to help refugees stuck off the coast of Lesbos on a frail craft were arrested and also accused of smuggling migrants.

This criminalization of helpers mirrors the criminalization of refugees. In the age of austerity policies, the European neoliberal leadership is all about fences, walls and barbed wires. They follow the US model closely. On the island of Lesbos in Greece, the police formed a human chain to block volunteers whose goal was to bring emergency support. When the doctor of the group wanted to assist a baby who seemed to be unconscious, the police shouted that these people were prisoners!

The European Commission along with member states continue to bargain with human lives. They barter with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, himself involved in ethnic wars and repressive actions against journalists, activists, and scholars in his own country. Despite the opposition of European deputies and activists, the European Commission signed an agreement with Turkey to relocate refugees stuck in Greece in Turkish camps with no guarantee for safety, rather with more inhumane conditions awaiting them. In so doing, the Commission demonstrates that in this modern time the violence of the exercise of power depends less on its physical brutality than its ability to treat burdensome populations with indifference for their wellbeing.

In its latest report on the refugee crisis the Commission set the priorities for 2016. The Commission pleas for an “asylum system based on solidarity and fair sharing responsibilities,” but this self-serving language cannot conceal the constant breach of human rights occurring at the borders of Europe. In fact, the European Union has increased the power of FRONTEX, a heavily repressive mechanism that replaced Mare Nuestro. NGOs and volunteers have become wary of FRONTEX, which has forcibly controlled helpers and threatened them with fines. Volunteers explain that Frontex has called into question the status quo that allowed every one to help in good intelligence, as if the authorities’ goal was to bring down the humanitarian response. Member states and the European Commission have already brought down the humanitarian response to the organized murder of populations.

Dehumanization and deterritorialization are effectively the core values of the elites of our time.

Petitions are circulating to denounce the inhuman face of Europe, which we should understand as the inhuman politics of austerity as well. These inhuman measures and agreements are only possible with a racist eye that separates those who may live from those who must die for the advance of a dramatic political economic system.

 

(Photo Credit 1: Mikael Lindholm / The Guardian) (Photo Credit 2: WeMove.EU)

In Greece women’s solidarity faces and resists cynicism: Areti Karatasiou

A meeting at the Women’s Solidarity House

In Greece, in July 2015 the third memorandum imposed on its leftist government, elected in January 2015, has precipitated its dissolution. This change of government was also perceived as capitulating. The measures are now being implemented, devaluating pensions, especially the lowest, and dispossessing the country of its assets.

After having opened public spaces and institutions to the wrath of the private market, the Troika and especially the IMF has succeeded in conveying the message that the “very generous” pensions of the Greek people must be reduced drastically to “save” the Greek’s economy. It is worth noting that beside unsustainable cycles of austerity measures producing higher unemployment and pension reduction, 45% of the pensioners live under the poverty line.

We met Areti Karatasiou at the Women’s Solidarity House in Thessaloniki, commonly referred to as “the venue.”

As a teacher in the public school system, she knows the meaning of the Troika/IMF’s discourse: it demands people to work longer time in order to collect retirement, while many are being laid off or forced to retirement. This seems contradictory, but it is not. The result is well known: increased precariousness for a majority of people while reducing the social fabric of the society and its safety net to its bare minimum. It’s a clear example of necropolitics.

Areti mentions that the pension she receives amounts, at the moment, to only 700 Euros (about $700), after 30 years of teaching and contributing to the social safety net.

For many women like Areti in Thessaloniki it is a struggle to keep decent conditions of life. Areti explains here what it means to be part of the Women’s Solidarity House.

 

No women alone during the crisis!

 

(Photo Credits: Marie-Hélène Le Ny)

Radio WIBG: Sofia Tzitzikou: In Greece, despair is quietly settling in

Sofia Tzitzikou

Sofia Tzitzikou

Sofia Tzitzikou, the acting president of UNICEF Greece draws attention to the quiet suffering of women, children and vulnerable people in Greece caused by economic manipulations.

With the best wishes of 2016 that everyone exchanges comes the true reality that goes beyond the turning page of the calendar. In Greece, nothing has been resolved and the measures that were imposed upon the population following the third memorandum are, as anticipated, aggravating the conditions of life for all, and even more so for the already vulnerable. As Sofia regrets, no policies are oriented toward the population in its individual and human representation. Nothing positive seems attainable at the moment, and a sentiment of despair washes over young people.

Notwithstanding, the UN report: Effects of foreign debt and Other Related Financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, that demonstrates and analyses the delirious effects of the system of debt, the harsh restructuring policies still go on.

Here is Sofia Tzitzikou who reminds us that the real danger is to become accustomed to such situations.

 

(Photo Credit: Brigitte Marti) (Interview conducted by Brigitte Marti)

Radio WIBG: Zoe Konstantopoulou: In Greece, a woman to defend women’s and human rights

Zoe Konstantopoulou

Zoe Konstantopoulou

Progress may be illusionary. At the time of a global set back in terms of women’s human rights, with forceful movements of dispossession, the Greek crisis epitomizes this global process of dismantlement of social and democratic representation. In 2010, Greece was declared guilty of public debt. Consequently, Greece as a country was put in the custody of the Troika (the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the IMF), a non-elected extraterritorial jurisdiction. Zoe Konstantopoulou in her first term in the Hellenic parliament with Syriza showed her determination to change the regime of undemocratic, unattended corruption that reigned in the parliament at that time, allowing the odious measures of austerity to control the country.

Konstantopoulou resisted the outrageous mockery of democracy, as on September 2013, when a series of bills were declared by the President of the Hellenic Parliament (the Vouli) of the time Kiriakos Virvidakis, adopted unanimously without actual votes. No debates took place in the Vouli that day, and only Zoe Konstantopoulou, one of the three delegates present, was screaming and demanding proof of the vote, to no avail.

In January 2015, Syriza won the election and Zoe was elected with 60% of the vote as President of the Hellenic parliament. She immediately instilled an anti corruption climate. In addition, for her restoring the democratic process meant inviting the civil society to be finally recognized. She celebrated women’s struggles for social justice. In April 2015, she mandated an audit of the public debt, forming the Debt Truth Committee, which released a preliminary report in June 2015. She declared during a meeting in Paris last May: “austerity kills, it kills society, human beings, and kills democracy and the Europe of people.”

The recent report of the Independent Expert on the effect of foreign debt and other related Financial Obligations of States on the Full Enjoyment of all Human Rights concurred with Zoe’s analysis. It stated, “To think of Sovereign debt markets as totally independent from the notion and realization of social and economic human rights is something unacceptable…” (Article 55)

The report also emphasized that with a 35.7% increase of the number of people falling into poverty, “austerity appears to have exacerbated the social crisis in Greece and have failed to stimulate the national economy to the benefit of the Greek population.” The same report asserted the importance of an audit of public debt.

Zoe Konstantopoulou lost her seat after the coup that triggered the new election last September. After the election, the audit was abandoned and its preliminary report and process were erased from the parliament web site. Syriza was reformed without people like Zoe; nonetheless she continues the struggle in the name of justice.

Let’s listen to Zoe Konstantopoulou:

A longer set of interviews with Zoe Konstantopoulou is available, in French, here.

 

(Photo credit: Marie-Hélène Le Ny) (Interview by Brigitte Marti)

In Greece, the presidents, the austerity measures, and the resistance of women

Women's Solidarity House banner

No women alone during the crisis!

While President Francois Hollande was visiting the Greek political elite in Athens and asking the Greek people, whom he would not meet, to make more efforts, the women of the Women’s Solidarity House in Thessaloniki told us what it means to live with making these efforts demanded by the politics of austerity.

They lost their jobs, their pensions, electricity, their way of life, and then they were asked for more money in taxes than they actually received. Meanwhile the Troika refused to tax companies at 12.5% while the VAT was raised to 23%. None of this is Mr. Hollande’s concern. He came to Greece with four ministers, especially his Minister of Finance, and a corporate escort. Entrepreneurial France is the fourth largest investor in Greece, after Germany, Luxembourg and The Netherlands.

The third memorandum accepted by Alexis Tsipras required the creation of a privatization fund of 50 Billion Euros. Francois Hollande presented himself as a friend of Greece. As a return on “political” investments, he brought a team to collect the last bargains on the market of privatization of public services and buildings. The politics of friendship can be brutal.

Alexis Tsipras was elected on the promise of opposing the power of the members of the Troika formed by three non-elected entities (the EU Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank), and their prescriptions that have already led to catastrophic recession and the destruction of the social structures of the country. In 2012, the Troika required the elimination of the Greek social housing program as well as housing support programs for low-income families in exchange for additional financial credit to pay the interests of an already odious debt. During the first mandate of Alexis Tsipras the head of the Hellenic parliament, Zoe Konstantopoulou, mandated The Debt Truth Committee, which has audited the debt with the support of the CADTM. The preliminary report’s results were edifying. This was embarrassing for the European commission that serves creditors. It could have derailed the perfect plan that they had in store for Greece. The coup was the dissolution of the assembly and the reelection of Mr. Tsipras on September 20th. He formed a new government with a new assembly then cleared out “the irritating” branch of his party that had demanded and supported the audit of the public debt.

At the Women’s Solidarity House no one is fooled. One morning, a woman stopped to say hello. To make ends meet, she is now reduced to selling lighters. She is from Veria, known for its cotton and clothing factories. At the end of the 80s with the advent of neoliberal policies of delocalization, the factories were moved to cheaper labor Bulgaria. Then, the debt crisis completed the desolation and now, she said, there is nothing.

At the Women’s Solidarity House women have organized a strong resistance to the austerity measures. As their banner states, “No women alone during the crisis.” Now that the third memorandum, probably the harshest of the three, is going to be implemented, the women’s belief that solidarity is their best weapon has grown even stronger.

Clearly, Mr Hollande did not wander the streets of Athens. He did not want to meet women such as those of the Women’s Solidarity House of Thessaloniki. In response to this financial deterritorialization that brought precarity, these women created a space where collaboration, solidarity, friendship, comfort and joy nourishes their determination to fight against austerity policies and the dictated unacceptable elimination of their rights.

We must challenge the purpose of the debt system that serves a minority and imposes on population the speculative exploitation of all sorts of corruptions and financial games and as a result disassembles social rights gained in the past decades without bringing any economic stability of course. Too bad that Mr. Hollande forgot to invite “experts” on women rights and human rights instead of investors!

Women's Solidarity House meeting

Women’s Solidarity House meeting

 

(Photo Credit: Marie-Hélène Le Ny)

Women are attacked in the mirror of reproduction, and where is the outrage?

 

I often hear women in France wondering how it is possible that women’s access to abortion or to safe delivery is so outrageously compromised and mostly a source of revenue rather than inalienable rights in the United States. The current political landscape might help them, and us, understand.

Once again women and their bodies occupy the center stage of the presidential elections in the United States. While the last attempt to defund Planned Parenthood failed to pass, there were still too many votes in favor. The issue continues to obsess the GOP candidates and allows them to stigmatize women. They used the usual recipe to fabricate a scandal, this time targeting Planned Parenthood. They made deceptive images in order to emotionally manipulate a large portion of the population, brush aside the truth and reality, and focus on the anti women’s reproductive rights credo. The videos were assembled to manufacture false images of the use of “for-money tissues” coming from aborted embryos; ironically these accusations came from the candidates who defend profiteering at any cost. Actually, women who had had an abortion donated tissues for research on diseases such as Parkinson, Alzheimer, or orphan diseases, but does it really matter? The press was reluctant to explain the scam.

Planned Parenthood provides health care to women. One out of five have had recourse to their services because nothing exists for them in a for-profit medical system. This is not only about abortion. Across the United States, pregnant women are also mistreated: sent to prison, denied basic rights, and having no labor protection and no legally supported maternity leave.

It seems that nothing can impede the United States Republican candidates from bawling out injurious slurs toward minorities and women, while keeping silent about the reality of the violence of their economic views. But this time the farce is grotesque as well as threatening. As witnessed by the first GOP debate, the current US conservative battle for the primaries sheds light on the debacle of “democratic” debates in the cradle of neoliberal conservatism.

I asked in France what if the shocking Sarkozy or the heinous Le Pen had said something similar to launch their campaigns. Most said that this would not be accepted, not that there is no anti immigration sentiments. They said it would have triggered more mockery as well as indignation. Additionally, the response coming from the numerous associations that work on immigration rights and immigrant women’s rights would have been strong and irrefutable and accompanied with legal actions.

The question of reproductive rights is also shaped differently as deliveries and abortions are free, and pregnant women’s labor rights are still guaranteed in France as well as in many other countries, and the commitment to these rights, in France and across Europe, is robust, and again a vast range of associations is watching.

For example, when the conservative Spanish Prime Minister attempted to reduce reproductive rights in Spain, women and men from all over Europe went to the streets in support of Spanish women’s rights, thanks to these very associations, and forced the withdrawal of the bill.

However, women’s rights have been threatened in relation to the restructuring of the European Union, as we saw in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Germany, and France. This signifies another form of violence against women’s bodies, taking the oppressed body, the migrant’s body, hostage.

In the United States, the threat of these attacks against women persists in a distractive form. As Ruth Wilson Gilmore has explained, energy is going to be spent fighting each scandalous initiative while the source of the problem will be kept blurred. The debt economy that works with violence, stigmatizing women and people of color and/or lower social status, is forgotten in these debates.

Women are particularly targeted. Many women in the United States, including in my own family, have struggled during pregnancy to keep employment, to have pregnancy health particularities respected, to keep 100 % of their salary, or to pay for delivery.

Where is the outrage? Where are the images of the united colors of precarity, of women living precariously?

The neoliberal order bathes in this spectacle, and the reality of life disappears. Let’s keep in mind that the state of the status of women and women’s reproductive rights mirrors the fate of most of the population.

 

 

(Photo Credit 1: Javier Barbancho / Reuters / Landov / AlJazeera)

(Photo Credit 2: Marlon Headen of Headen Photography / RH Reality Check)

OXI! Greek women say NO to the Dictatorship of the Debt

For the last five years, Women In and Beyond the Global has maintained a series on Greek women, and women in Greece, during the ongoing `crisis’. These pieces have been written by Brigitte Marti, Sonia Mitralia, Dan Moshenberg. We’ve also provided translation for a video, Canaries in the Coalmine.

Given the weekend’s referendum, we thought it would be a good idea to put those pieces that focus exclusively on Greece together. The struggle continues!

Asylum-seeker Mandana Daneshnia and her daughter haunt democracy. Dan Moshenberg. October 24, 2010. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=710

We are all canaries in the coal mine. Brigitte Marti. December 4, 2013. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=6613

Deprivation in Greece … just an emotional issue??? Brigitte Marti. December 30, 2013. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=6670

Violence Against Women as a strategic weapon in a time of class war in Greece. Sonia Mitralia. January 3, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=6676

Women’s rights, labor rights did not cause the Greek mess. Brigitte Marti. February 2, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=7989

The urgency of an independent women’s movement against debt and austerity measures. Sonia Mitralia. February 4, 2014 http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=8146

In Greece, from debt to prison to death. Brigitte Marti. March 30, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=11293

In Athens, women cleaners reject austerity’s mess. Brigitte Marti. April 6, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=11785

The people do not celebrate Greece’s return to the debt market. Brigitte Marti. April 21, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=12642

Greek cleaning women demand an end to austerity. Dan Moshenberg. June 14 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=15727

Solidarity with Greek women cleaners against austerity! Brigitte Marti. July 7, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=15768

In Greece, austerity builds its own gulag. Dan Moshenberg. July 8, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=15772

Cleaners: A handful of women show the way! Sonia Mitralia. August 6, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=15831

The experiment continues, and we are all still canaries in the coal mine. Brigitte Marti. November 19, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=16064

A new beginning for Greece and for Europe starts today! Brigitte Marti. February 18, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=18325

Appeal to support the resisting Greek people and its Truth Commission on Public Debt. Sonia Mitralia. May 27, 2015 http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=18751

Across Europe women campaign against the Dictatorship of the Debt. Brigitte Marti. June 15, 2015. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=18866

In Greece, the women cleaners show the way! Brigitte Marti. June 25, 2015. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=18914

#OXI! #GreeceIsTheWord!

 

(Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andreas Solaro) (Photo Credit: Getty Images / Christopher Furlong)

In Greece, the women cleaners show the way!

Ministry of Finance laid-off women cleaners react as they watch the new Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis announcing that the government will re-hire them, in Athens, on January 28, 2015

In Athens, the women cleaners of the Ministry of Finance knew that what was thrown in the trash was to be disappeared. When the Troika ordered that women like them be replaced by contracted workers in order to save Greece, they knew that their lives were supposed to end up in the trash cans. The women cleaners knew that the structural adjustment programs imposed on Greece with ice cold effrontery were as those that had been imposed catastrophically on many other emergent countries. The Preliminary Report of the Truth Committee on Public Debt has established enough elements to assert the dual role of the Troika: bail out the foreign banks; continue the destruction of public services.

The Troika was formed to extend and legitimize the neoliberal project of transferring private debt onto the public sector.

The public sector means us, and, among us, women are the most affected. The women cleaners knew that the crisis of the public debt was a way to bring ordinary people to their knees. They knew that corruption and fraud were being rewarded and aggravated with the memoranda of the Troika. They knew about the corporate media campaign to “portray the population as deservers of their own wrongdoing.”

Their action in front of the minister lasted until the election of Syriza, and epitomizes the resistance to the looting of Greece by this political system of debt. They already discovered the fictitious contracts with Siemens, German French and US banks and speculators. Thanks to bribes from armaments corporations like Thales, Greece boasted the highest expenditure on armaments of the EU countries, proportionate to the size of its economy. The State bought Leopard tanks without contracts and even bought F16 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin … without the engines.

The Olympic games of 2004 were overbilled using outrageous interest rates. Siemens “loaned” its security system, which never worked, and the list of fraudulent and deceitful contracts is long.

The Preliminary Report also describes the falsification of public deficit and public debt using financial techniques to inflate public debt in 2009. The illegal private contracts disappeared from view, and what was left was that people of Greece had to be punished for this dubious public debt. Déjà vu!

The preliminary report defines four types of debt: illegitimate, illegal, odious, and unsustainable. It concluded that Greece’s public debt was an assembly of the four. It infringed on the fundamental human rights of the Greek population. The Preliminary Report clearly established the impact of the measures, especially for women and migrants: “The crisis hit disproportionately women and migrants increasing involuntary part time work and unfair dismissals due to pregnancy.” The Troika made the world believe that it was moral to cut hospital and health care spending to honor military contracts; that it was moral to send people to their death for an economic shell game. The list of negative impacts of the “bail out” program on human rights is equally long.

The women cleaners knew that all along! They fought with courage to re humanize their lives along with the lives of many, our lives!

Let’s remind the creditor-embezzlers represented by the Troika that we are not fooled and they cannot deceive the civil population anymore, although they are still trying. The Truth Committee on Public Debt is an important process, which can only succeed with popular mobilization. The women cleaners of the Ministry of Finance showed the way.

Across Europe women campaign against the Dictatorship of the Debt

In March the European Forum for Alternatives met. With austerity measures imposed over the populations of Europe under the fabricated argument of the need to repay a fictitious public debt, the solidarity among Europeans is growing more organized, especially with the rise of major feminist and feminine voices in Greece and Spain.

Among the many speakers, Zoe Konstantopoulou, recently elected Speaker of the Vouli (Greek Parliament), presented the stakes for Europe as her country has been the theater of the most odious experimentation of European Structural Adjustment Programs, symbolized by austerity. As she said, the neoliberal order reigns in the EU and has created its own destructive weapon with the Troika. It wants to neutralize all opposition and diffuse its power based on debt anxiety.

The forum’s many workshops brought the voices of women who have fought for their rights, including Giorgia Ekonomou, one of the Greek Finance Ministry cleaners; the representatives of the hair cutters of the 57 bvd Sebastopol in Paris; and the hotel chambermaids who won recognition for their workers’ rights.

In her speech about the audit of the Greek debt, a true European issue, Zoe Konstantopoulou acknowledged these feminist battles as well as the brutal destruction of human rights that came as the result of the Troika memoranda. The battle against austerity measures is also a transnational feminist battle.

Regrettably, Zoe Konstantopoulou is the only woman that has a prominent position in Greece since the election of Syriza. Still, as Yorgos Mitralias of the Greek Committee Against the Debt told me, she was not supposed to exist and so is a gift fallen from heaven. She is the voice of reason for many. She wants to shatter corruption, especially financial corruption, while not losing the purpose of political representation as the means of defending the civil society with all its members. “In Greece, we have a systematic infringement on human rights, social rights, worker’s rights on democratic rule of law, on the welfare state,” declared Zoe Konstantopoulou when she was first elected to the parliament in 2012.

Last April in Rome, Zoe Konstantopoulou was keynote speaker at the conference of the European Union parliaments. She began by questioning the title of the session, “A discussion about the Continent of Fundamental Rights. A Europe of Freedom, Solidarity, and Security.” She said, “Is it a discussion about the past, the present, or the future? Is it a discussion about Europe as it used to be, as it is or as it should be? Is it a discussion about the whole of Europe or about part of it?” She remarked that Europe as expressed by its executives, banking and financial sectors, seems to have lost its way during the five last years. She questioned the emphasis on numerical and economic estimation that have been proven to be gross miscalculations, and she ranked competitiveness way below human rights in the European hierarchy.

Her speech addressed the dictatorship of debt: she explained that State debt, as a new European epidemic, is being used as a pretext but also as a tool to retreat the State from its responsibility vis-à-vis human rights and democratic rights. She sees State debt as an extortion mechanism and reminded her audience of the extraordinary trail of misery and death that austerity policies provoked.

Konstantopoulou also reaffirmed the importance of an uncorrupt parliament, a place where no forceful interventions should occur. Since 2005 the Greek parliament has been the theater of all kinds of violence with 800 pages of laws pushed by the Troika, targeting basic human rights, public services, and shielding financial crimes and tax evasion. Just recently a stand off with the Minister of the Interior Panoussis took place with the intrusion of police forces in the parliament that she condemned.

With her anticorruption stand, Zoe Konstantopoulou has become the target of all sorts of attacks including from members of her own government. According to Yorgos Mitralia, But the campaign against her is reaching a new level punctuated with sexist slurs. So far the support to Syriza and Alexis Tsipras’ government is strong with 65-70% approval rate. Although it is a critical moment with the audit of the debt in progress and the hard negotiations with the Eurogroup, Zoe’s initiatives are well supported by the people of Greece and even beyond Greece’s borders

Meawhile, in Spain, three prominent political positions have been won by progressive women in the last elections with the success of Manuela Carmena, the new mayor of Madrid, of Ada Colau in Barcelona, and of Monica Oltra in the Valencia region. All three got their votes for their strong stand against financial corruption, and for defending social consciousness, the only way to reduce the impact of neoliberal totalitarian austerity promises, begetting inequalities, the plague of women’s lives. The movement is growing and a new solidarity is forming in which women are playing a key role.

Zoe Konstantopoulou addresses the European Forum for Alternatives

 

(Lead Photo Credit: http://kaosenlared.net) (Photo Credit: http://www.european-left.org)