left in Greece and the Crisis of Nice Racism
The return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan has been a disaster for the country’s people, particularly women. For instance, restrictions on women’s education and work have been imposed, leading to the closure of high schools and universities for women. There have been protests against these restrictions at some universities, and some male students have refused to take classes or avoided exams because of the them.
The Afghanistan’s corrupt and weak government has been further destabilized by the Taliban’s return to power. In this context, some Western tourists have traveled to Afghanistan, claiming to be journalists, but under the guidance and accompaniment of Taliban officials. These tourists return home to Greece and spread distorted information about the situation in Afghanistan under the guise of reality.
The distortion of the reality on the poster is an example of how their narrative had been shaped. The image of the Afghan girl with a smile gives the impression that women have the opportunity to study in Afghanistan, despite the restrictions imposed by the Taliban. This is not only false but also insulting to the people of Afghanistan who are struggling against the Taliban’s repressive policies.
It is an incontrovertible fact that without the economic and military backing of Western powers, groups such as the Taliban would not have been able to gain the foothold they currently have in their region. Yet, despite this reality, some ignorant tourist have taken it upon themselves to preach to us about the so-called “facts.” Of course, there are multiple perspectives at play in this complex issue.
On one hand, there is the United States, a country that played a significant role in the creation of the Taliban and the proliferation of political Islam throughout the Middle East in the past. On the other hand, there exists a vague anti-colonial sentiment that is rooted in opposition to Anti-Westernism without take in consideration that, in any part of the world, people have right to speak out their rights and fight for it against the authoritarianism. But, suddenly they manufactured a lie: “Taliban have changed!”
Investigative journalism aims to deconstruct dominant narratives, rather than taking a stance between them and still, distorting reality.
The endorsement of this distorted narrative by a part of Greek left is deeply concerning. It is a betrayal of the values of anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism. These values require us to stand in solidarity with the oppressed and to support their struggle for self-determination, not to pick up the most reactionary and authoritarian side and support them. People do not require us to uncritically endorse a distorted narrative that reinforces colonialist thinking.
The key theme of such a event is the concept of silencing. This tourist starting to marginalizing groups who their fight is not suitable with their narrative of anti-imperialism or anti-colonialism, such as women who fight for their rights, journalist and Taliban critics, are often silenced or ignored. These silences are not accidental by lack of knowledge, but are instead the result of deliberate efforts by those in power to maintain their dominance.
Eleonas struggle and those who didn’t care
When it comes to racism, many progressive individuals see themselves as part of the solution rather than part of the problem. However, even “nice” progressives can cause significant racial harm in cross-racial spaces. They may objectify individuals, perpetrate daily racist microaggressions, and focus on their own feelings of shame when called out, making the situation about themselves. Often, they are unaware of the harm they are causing because they have not examined their own internalized racist beliefs.
In the summer of 2022, Athens, Greece, found itself embroiled in a political and social struggle over the fate of the Eleonas refugee camp. The government, it seemed, wanted to close the camp to make way for the Panathinaikos football club. Predictably, this had drawn the ire of some political groups, human rights organizations, and refugee rights defenders.
But the government’s tactics had been less than savory. They had stopped all services to the camp, forcing the refugees to leave by threatening and intimidating them about the impact of their behavior on their asylum case and residence in Greece. It’s no wonder, then, that some refugees were afraid leaving the camp, as they were worried that they may end up in prison or deportation centers without documents or, become homeless due to their poor financial situation.
What’s more, the government and police have repeatedly attacked the camp residents, making it clear that they are unwelcome in their own country.
In this context, it’s no surprise that anti-fascist and anti-racism festivals are held in Athens. However, the organizers of these festivals have made a grave mistake by not inviting any of the refugees and activists of the Eleonas camp who were organizing and fighting to this festival.
This behavior is considered evidence of a type of racism under the skin in the left movement. It’s an indication that, despite their noble intentions, the organizers of these festivals have a blind spot when it comes to the plight of refugees and asylum seekers in their own backyard.
Opposition to the Right-Wing is not an Anti-Racist fight!
It’s important to acknowledge that biases and harm can come from individuals on the left as well, and opposing the right-wing alone isn’t sufficient in the fight against racism. Good intentions don’t solve the intractable problems of racism. Instead, we must actively examine our own biases and challenge them, while also working towards creating a more equitable and just society.
Focusing solely on opposing the right-wing also ignores the complexity of racism and the intersections of other systems of oppression. We need to address how racism intersects with classism, ableism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination. Failure to do so will only perpetuate the very systems we seek to dismantle.
It is not uncommon for narratives emerging from countries like Afghanistan to be rife with distortions. Unfortunately, we see tourists like I mentioned before, trying to shape a counter-narrative than dominated on main stream, but can lead to further distortions or even misinformation.
We must reject this distorted narrative and stand in solidarity with the Afghan people in their struggle against the Taliban’s repressive regime. We must support their right to self-determination and their struggle for freedom and justice. Only then can we truly claim to stand for anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism.
Yes, some groups in Greece are really fighting against border violence and pushbacks. But the left in general is deadly silent on this matter and we witnessing this type of distorted information.
In this circumstances, we must also ask ourselves: why should Greek society care about whether refugee children are able to study in Greece or not? What motivates the same people to prioritize issues of asylum system or border violence and pushbacks? Sadly, it is not surprising to witness the racist minister of asylum and migration in Greece brazenly claiming that “Ukrainians are the real refugees” while others are facing different restrictions and illegal behaviors. The distortion of reality by this type of journalism is just fueling the racist policies that we are experiencing in the country.
Lack of social movement
Without a doubt, the absence of social movements striving for radical transformation and addressing certain behaviors and beliefs is a key factor contributing to the current state of affairs. This gave power to a specific political/societal trend that is failing to recognize and confront fascism and racism.
This trend claims to fight against fascism, but at the same time it defends fascism in countries like Iran! In a situation where they want freedom of speech and human rights for themselves, they defend the Taliban in Afghanistan! This trend claim that they are against the structure of NATO and its militancy policies, but this trend support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Putin’s warmongering! This trend say no to censorship, but does not willing to give space to various voices (especially non-Greek) to talk and have publication.
This trend claim to fight against racism, but they are practically silent in front of racist anti-immigration and asylum policies. Instead of taking on these issues at the societal level, this trend limit its action to opposing the specific government, specific political parties, or specific politicians. This trend can not understand that opposition to the right-wing is not an anti-racist fight! This purportedly anti-racist stance lacks any real substance, and they remain unaware of political/societal internalized racist practices and the harm they cause. The main question is when many political/societal attitudes and behaviors have not been questioned and examined, how can they be identified and opposed?
For example, how police violence is strongly denied in Greece, but in the case of Iran, not only is it not questioned, but in the context of the fight against imperialism, the killing and execution of opponents is supported (or at least they are silent about it!)
When education is considered the most basic human right, why is the limitation of women’s education in Afghanistan not questioned at all for this political/societal trend?
When homelessness and rising rents are so severe in Greece, why can’t this political/societal trend organize a social movement for social housing?
When this political/social trend attaches great importance to democracy in Greece, why is it practically silent in front of many Eastern tyranny and defends the presence of tyranny in power under the name of anti-West? Isn’t this a racist look at the concept of people’s power?
I generally hear from this political/social tendency that people themselves want the Taliban or the Islamic regime in power. Why do they generally ignore opponents, critics and social movements in these countries? Is anyone in Greece ready to generalize in the same pattern and accept that the people themselves want the right-wing government with all these neoliberal policies?
Pay attention that the discussion here is about strength of an specific political/societal trend and not the generality of these mentality in the eyes of everyone.
An Update on this post: (April 10)
Historically, the public sphere has been dominated by powers, and people from marginalized groups have been excluded from the conversations. By creating spaces for people from different backgrounds to share their experiences and perspectives, we can create a more inclusive public sphere that takes into account the diversity of human experience.
If you choose to ignore, you hold power! The question then becomes: “why do you choose to ignore these opposing views and struggles? what is your benefit here?”
Here, I express my concern about a common behavior where some individuals choose to ignore you. Unfortunately, this often leads to them erasing the diversity from the real world and then presuming to know what this diverse world which now is considered as a single body will say, think, or decide. There are even those who express their own fantasy about this diverse culture, history, and struggles as factual! This can occur frequently, and when you voice your objections, they may demand that you remain civil while hypocritically trying to lecture you on morality. You still get ignored, of course.