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(en) Media, Double page in Sunday Mail about anarchism in cyprus

Date Tue, 09 May 2006 16:48:51 +0300


Commonly regarded as the same thing as trouble makers, Cyprus'
small group of anarchists say they are more about questioning the system
THE nearest I've ever come to being an anarchist was wearing a
promotional T-shirt for Will Smith's 1998 film Enemy of the State,
although I do admit to the occasional 'thought crime' when
pondering the current state of ‘civilisation'.
It is easy to dismiss anarchists and radicals, as they call themselves, as just
another bunch of troublemakers. It's also worth bearing in mind that
it's very easy for real troublemakers to hijack any event they choose,
be it a football match or an anti-war rally.

This does not necessarily mean they are doing it because they love football
or favour world peace. The only isms evident here are hooliganism and
vandalism.

Hooligans aside, history is littered with real revolutions that sometimes led
to better things and sometimes not. There will always be people that want
to change the system. The only problem is that the system, whichever one
it might be, will generally not want to be changed, and it usually holds all
the cards.

Unless the vast majority of people take to the streets, such as was
witnessed in the north in late 2003 and early 2004, change or revolution is
never likely, despite the wishes of minorities who might want this to
happen.

The man in the street may not even be aware that there are people working
to change the system but the system itself is very aware of these people,
because it has something to lose, otherwise there would be no reason to
pay any attention to the anarchists and radicals that exist in most societies.

‘Anti-system' movements must always be nipped in the bud
before they can spread their ‘dangerous' ideas to the reasonably
content majority.

Cyprus, for the most part, does not have a strong anarchy movement
although there are people who call themselves anarchists and radicals and
belong to a host of different groups.

But in a small place like Cyprus it is much easier to clamp down on such
activities, especially when, as in the case of the Anarchist Corps, as they
call themselves, there are only around ten members. The movement itself
is also split into “the pen or the sword”, those who want to discuss
and those who want to act.

Katerina Tzavara, a petite 26-year old from Greece says it's not worth
being an anarchist in Cyprus because it's too small. She has given up.

“Of course growing up in Greece, the movement is much stronger
there but Cyprus is like a village and it just doesn't work here,” she
said. “They can interfere in your work and your life and many of us
became tired and the movement was pretty much destroyed. I'm a
good girl now,” she adds. But she said that if she was still in Greece
she probably would not have given up. “I can't say I'm
actually an anarchist any more though,” she said.

Tzavara was one of several people arrested and charged after a
demonstration outside the US embassy in March 2003 during a protest
against the invasion of Iraq.

She was taken to the Ayios Dhometios police station. “When I went in,
the officer, the minute he saw me, he said: ‘Ah you are here. I've
been looking for you (poulaki mou) for the past ten months. Immediately
he reached into his drawer and took out my photograph taken at the (2002)
Israeli protest, where there had been some clashes,” Tzavara said.

She was accused of beating up three police men at the US embassy demo
and was charged on six counts. “I was ready to go to prison for six
months on principle so I sold everything in preparation for it,” she said.
“But finally when I went to court they must have thought it strange
that a 50-kilo woman could hit three people that looked like cowboys, so
they threw out the case.”
What Tzavara had actually done at the demonstration, according to Solon
Antartis, who runs the Cyprus Indymedia website, was to shout at some
police officers for arresting two other protestors.

“I was present when she was arrested and went to court as a
witness,” Antartis said. “They arrested two other people, one of
whom was charged with holding a dangerous object. He was in fact
holding a puppy and the police hit him in the face. All these events are
described in the Ombudswoman's report. At the time Katerina was
yelling at the policemen who arrested these two men so the police decided
to take her too. We have photos of this,” he added.

“We also pinpointed several undercover police marching with the
demonstration. I recognised one because I knew him from high school
actually. I named him in court and showed his photo.”

Antartis, a teacher, does not belong to the Anarchy Corps but regularly
tries to help those he feels were unjustly treated by highlighting their cases
on the Indymedia website, which itself became a target of the authorities a
few years back after a complaint by the US embassy.

But the whole arrest and police station incident was enough for Tzavara.

“I felt scared. I remember that in the photo they put a circle around my
eyes as if it was a way for them to spot me more easily. You feel they are
not actively looking for you but they are aware of your existence and are on
the lookout. I felt they must have always been watching me. I hadn't
noticed anything specific because I was living in Paphos but as soon as
police in Paphos were made aware that I was an anarchist, they behaved
differently towards me,” she said.

“We are talking about targeting,” said Antartis. “We are talking
about hundreds of demonstrators in Cyprus and you have police taking
pictures of a handful. It's illegal to have photos of people or their
personal data who have not committed a crime. Supposedly all of these
pictures of Katerina were destroyed. Having your picture in every police
station with the label anarchist is a violation of privacy and it's also
harassment.”

Antartis said that although he is not a member of the Anarchy Corps,
when a person becomes in any way involved in questioning the system, the
results do affect their personal lives.

“In Cyprus they use it this way,” he said. “When you go to
your parents who supposedly love and support you and they ask you what
you did on a particular day and you say you went to a demonstration, they
tell you to cut it out, or to think about your family, or think about the
Turkish occupation instead. For some of us we consciously move on
knowing our lives will be like that. It's a tough thing but we try to
spread the message that another world is possible.”

Antartis said that although the movement on the island appears to be split
or almost non-existent, and the fact that the authorities obviously have the
upper hand, did not mean the struggle for a better world should be given
up.
“For many of us it will be impossible to see this new world but we are
working for it and we feel that there will be circumstances in the future that
will lead to massive changes in society,” he said.

“Our effort is to give as much information and tools to people as
possible so that when this time comes, they will actually know what to do
or try to do their best. The way the state's mechanism works now,
everywhere in the world you are labelled and targeted, but if someone
doesn't say anything about it, nothing will change. If there are rights,
human rights, and if there is justice, someone has to claim them and this
doesn't happen within the system. We have police consciously lying in
the courts, covering crimes, and nothing is happening. If people do not
speak about these things or share their disgust for the situation where is
the justice for all?”

Anarchy: what does it all mean?

THERE are as many different definitions of anarchy as there are days in
the week, depending on which side of the fence you sit.

To the idealist, anarchy is a political movement that aims to create a
society within which individuals freely co-operate together as equals. As
such anarchism opposes all forms of hierarchical control, especially when
that hierarchical control begins to exploit the people it is supposed to
protect.
There is no doubt that for most ordinary people anarchy is a dirty word and
the very word ‘anarchist' itself can be problematic, even for those
who identify themselves as such. As well as the ideological anarchists
working for social change, there are others for whom being an anarchist
means going out and causing trouble.

Well-known American Professor Noam Chomsky, who will, coincidently,
be in Cyprus later this month, has written extensively about anarchy, and
has refuted at least one modern dictionary definition.

“Anarchism isn't a doctrine. It's at most a historical tendency, a
tendency of thought and action, which has many different ways of
developing and progressing and which, I would think, will continue as a
permanent strand of human history,” he said.

To the state, anarchy of course means chaos and loss of control, and with
the new blurring of distinctions in a handful of Western democracies the
words ‘anarchist' and ‘terrorist' are soon likely to become
interchangeable.
Think that sounds far fetched?

In the US a new domestic terrorism leaflet classifies anti-government
movements, property rights activists, environmentalists and animal rights
extremists, and even street gangs as terrorists rather than ordinary
criminals.
The goal of these terrorists, according to the leaflet, is to “undermine
confidence in the government” and “influence government or
social policy”.

This means the democratic right to protest against the state for a better
world, more rights, even if done peacefully, could actually become a
terrorist crime. All the police have to do is say you attacked them, whether
it's true or not. After all who is going to believe an “anarchist
troublemaker?” To see this there is no need to look further than the
repeated cases of police cover ups in Cyprus, which are extensively
documented by the Ombudswoman.

Chomsky says: “It's true that centralised power, whether in a
corporation or a government, is not going to willingly commit suicide. But
that doesn't mean you shouldn't chip away at it, for many reasons. For one
thing, it benefits suffering people. That's something that always should be
done, no matter what broader considerations are. But even from the point
of view of dismantling the master's house, if people can learn what power
they have when they work together, and if they can see dramatically at just
what point they're going to be stopped, by force, perhaps, that teaches very
valuable lessons in how to go on. The alternative to that is to sit in
academic seminars and talk about how awful the system is.”

‘Police beating turned me into an anarchist'

THE case of Aris Markides has eerie parallels with the recently uncovered
video of members of the police beating two young handcuffed men last
December in Nicosia.
Man is arrested and handcuffed. Handcuffed man smashes his own face
off the ground then later throws himself around his cell to inflict wounds so
that he can blame the police whom he has, incidentally, also just attacked.

Markides, 28, is a big guy and a self-confessed anarchist. In fact he is
much more of an anarchist now then he was when he returned to Cyprus
in 2002 after studying in Greece.

“I wasn't involved in the anarchy movement in Greece. When I
came back to Cyprus I moved toward the anarchy movement because it
was the only place to go other than the organised political system. It was
the only alternative in Cyprus,” he said.

Markides tracked down some anarchists in Limassol and went to a
meeting place two or three times. One evening some members decided to
protest against the imprisonment of one of their group, who had been
arrested at a demonstration.
They decided to write on some walls and put up posters in solidarity with
him, Markides said. He decided to go along for the ride and looked on
while one member of the group put up some posters.

“I didn't think that he was doing anything terribly wrong,” said
Markides. “Unfortunately I was mistaken.”

To cut a long story short, plainclothes police arrived in an unmarked car
and the protestors ran back to base.

Markides was arrested. They threw him on the ground and handcuffed
him.

He said that until then there had not been any violence by the police but
when he got in the car they started to threaten him saying: “When we
get to the police station we'll fix you”. As soon as they reached the
station six or seven officers knocked him down and started kicking him, he
said.

These details are outlined in the Ombudswoman's report on the
incident. According to the police, when Markides got out of the car he
started hitting himself on the ground while he was handcuffed.

A private pathologist's report on his injuries said nothing pointed
towards self-inflicted injuries but everything pointed towards a deliberate
beating. Markides ensured that he was examined by a private doctor
immediately on his release because he had heard from a cell mate that
hospital reports involving police cases “had a habit of being
misplaced”.

In addition, although he had asked for the state pathologist, it took police
ten days to call one, just as the wounds were fading and would not have
made strong evidence.

That was all following his release after being held for 24 hours. Prior to
being released he sustained a second beating after refusing to allow an
officer to help him put drops in his injured eye. A shouting match ensued
during which he says he was again attacked, thrown on a chair, which
broke under his weight, then shackled by the hands and feet.

Markides was ultimately charged with attacking police officers and
destroying government property.

Ombudswoman Iliana Nicolaou's report concluded that the police
investigation into the Markides case should be repeated to ascertain the
identity of the police officers involved so that legal measures could be taken
against them.

Nicolaou said the police version of events failed to explain in a logical
manner how the injuries were sustained.

“The conclusion is that the complainant was treated in a way that
resulted in offence to his dignity, endangered his physical and mental
health and inflicted injuries that violated the prohibitions on the use of
torture or inhuman and degrading treatment,” the report said.

The charges made by the police are still outstanding against Markides. His
case is due back in court on September 11, nearly four years after the
incident.

“Before this incident I didn't really believe what other anarchists
were saying, or what I read but this incident has shown me that police truly
act in this shameful way, the courts cover these things up, newspapers
cover them up and nothing can oppose the existing system,” he said.
“It is truly this first incident that threw me into the arms of the
alternative community. Before that I thought the system could not be as
bad as they said but after my own experience I see that things are that bad.
It was a shock for me to see what the reality was.”
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