A Summary of Activities of 28-29 October

4 November 2016  Helliniko

A Summary of Activities of 28-29October

The Metropolitan Community Clinic at Helliniko participated in a series of activities organized by the volunteer action team of Katerinis, Greece “My Land”.  Rebecca Harms, President of the Green Party Euro-Parliamentarians and a group from Hamburg Germany, “Assistance for Helliniko” also participated.

First visited was Skouries, the mining area in the forest, and a meeting with the mayor of the area and naturally with the people who have struggled there all these years.

We came to three conclusions from these meetings:

  • Mining should never have started. To the contrary, the plant should be stopped by every means.  It is dangerous not only to the environment, but to the people in many different ways and after a certain period, the harm will be irreversible
  • There are ways that, through the law, the government can cancel the contract and make a final end to this crime-in-progress. Unfortunately the current government, has done all it can to only delay the operation of the mining operation.  But have not made a firm decision on the future of the area.  Besides being problematic, it raises questions.  At the same time, the government voted for CETA (read more here http://www.huffingtonpost.gr/2016/10/26/oikonomia-koinonia-ceta-synepeiesdiamartyries_n_12653892.html) and if they start to implement it, it will be too late for any government to cancel the contract or win any possible legal action.
  • Finally, but most important, was meeting those resisting mining in the area. We deeply respect the fight they are waging.  A difficult contest, with an enormous cost to each of them.  Endless trials and convictions for many of them, trials that have occurred and trials that will be heard in the coming months.  The “accusations” are extreme and unreasonable, such as naming them a terrorist organization, leader of a terrorist organization, attempted murder, destruction of property, etc.

To understand the mindset of those in this struggle, sentiments heard from one resident seem to be characteristic.  “This criminal project will never happen!  Why? Because not only are we all against it, we are willing to sacrifice our lives to stop it.  And that’s why we will win.  We are fighting the good fight for ourselves, for our children and future generations, for the environment.”

Leaving Skouries we gave a promise, to communicate as widely and loudly as we can what we learned there and stand by these wonderful people in their struggle.

We visited a refugee center in Petra, Peirias.  1,200 people are there of the Yazidi tribe and many many children.  The condition they are living in is appalling.  In the tents, they are trying to combat the bitter cold of the area.  With primitive means, they heat water, cook and wash.  These are people who have suffered unspeakable tragedies at the hands of the jihadists.  Many of the refugees have missing family members because they drowned making the crossing, or were left in jihadist ruled territory.

Close to the refugee center is a monastery enclosed by railings and a stern warning posted “no entry” to these exhausted people.  The image of barefoot children in the mud and the cold, the elderly with lined and fearful faces, the image of the monastery enclosed in iron railings create feelings of rage and shame.

In spite of the difficult and impossible conditions, the refugees offered their guests delicious fresh made treats and asked for help in leaving the camp and to make their way to central Europe, believing that there they might resume their lives

One woman, sobbing, described what she and the other women had lived through with the jihadists.  Dr. Vichas described what he heard:

“After they were beaten, they were placed in a room and food was brought.  The starving women ate immediately.  As soon as they finished, their captors entered the room and asked if they liked the food.  Laughing, the captors told them that they had just eaten their children.

The words of this woman were difficult to understand.  I could not logically understand what I was hearing.  Afterwards, we were all crying – no one had dry eyes.  We embraced the woman so tight that we were speechless.  The woman’s tears became one with ours.  And just a step away from the “ironclad” monastery. We were overwhelmed by the experience at Petra.  Rebecca promised to put on the pressure to re-unite families of these women who already have someone in Europe.”

The next stop was Milia.  There we learned about the wind-turbines that will be placed in a designated Natura forest – an area that is truly a paradise.  The permits have already been approved by the mayor.  Also present at the discussion were parliament members that support the government.  Their position was pitiful. They were against this crime but “What can we do? We are obliged by the law.”  A law that they voted for!

Parliament members from the other party did not put in an appearance.  The residents of the area struggle against this crime on their own.

After Pieria, we visited the hospital of Katerinis and a meeting with the administrator of the hospital.  Their intensive care unit, a completely outfitted unit with specialist nurses at the ready, is not operating because they don’t have doctors.  The administrator told us that the ministry of health had promised to send four doctors, two auxiliary appointments and two through the Disease Control and Prevention.  Regular appointments are at this point prevented by the Troika (the country’s creditors).

They also discussed the hospital’s major problem – under-funding and under-staffing.  The hospital needs about 100 doctors to operate normally – they now have 55.  The result is that some departments are operating beyond their limits, such as the pediatric clinic that has two pediatricians.  Other departments don’t work at all, such as the pulmonary clinic, because there are no pulmonary specialists. They are doing all they can to make the funding stretch, including cutting food

One last event and talk on the health situation took place at the Tobacco Factory.  The volunteer group of Katerinis has converted this abandoned factory into a real diamond.  Conspicuous by their absence were all the local parliament members.

All the facts and consequences of the austerity policies were discussed that are followed by the current government.

Rebecca Harms, in a short comment said something that we have never heard from a Greek prime-minister or minister of health.  Something that we should have heard from them.

…All these years, I have tried to help Greece, with the debt, with austerity and all the measures of the memorandum and I was looking for specific consequences of austerity to make my argument in talks throughout Europe.  I felt like I was going in very slow motion until I met the volunteers at the Metropolitan Community Clinic at Helliniko. When I learned of the very serious consequences of austerity on health and exactly what was happening to health in Greece, I said to myself ‘at last a serious argument, a tool in my hands to help stop this senseless austerity in Greece!’”



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