Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Terrorism in Greece: Will It Ever End?

On Tuesday 8th April Dr George Kassimeris, from Wolverhampton University, gave a very interesting talk, at the Hellenic Centre, London, entitled ‘Terrorism in Greece: Will it Ever End?’ George Kassimeris is Reader in Terrorism Studies at Wolverhampton University and is the author of Europe’s Last Red Terrorists: The Revolutionary Organization 17 November, Playing Politics with Terrorism: A User’s Guide and Inside Greek Terrorism.
The objective of this lecture was to place Greek extremist violence in a broader political and cultural perspective, explaining why it has become a permanent fixture of national public life. Answering the question posed in the title, the speaker quickly concluded that it will not end, explaining that Greece is currently the laboratory of extreme violence within Europe. Terrorism seems to continue, beginning with 17N (November 17 terrorist group) ending up with Golden Dawn.
The speaker spoke more about 17N, which is the longest lasting terrorist group in Europe (27 years). The significant fact is that despite killing many people, it had no casualties, until 2002 when the authorities caught them. This was due to the close ties that existed between the members. These close ties brought trust, silence and longevity. Operational Continuity plus resistance to infiltration brought its longevity. However, the 2002 bombing, which was a ‘mistake’ on their part brought the collapse of the organisation, just like a house of cards. Interestingly, it only took a month for the members to be caught. Nonetheless, the capture of the members of 17N was not due to the Greek authorities; it was mere coincidence. 


Since the imprisonment of the members of 17N we have the birth of new terrorist groups, including the Sect of Revolutionaries and Revolutioning Struggle. Dr Kassimeris wished to look at the people of 17N. Why do people join and why do people leave a terrorist group. He explained that 17N was a prolific and ambitious terrorist group. The speaker claimed that since their imprisonment human right issues have arisen. This period of imprisonment has brought a number of divisions between the members of 17N.
Dr Kassimeris, for his PhD research, which was on 17N, had interviewed a number of the members, including Savvas Xiros. However, the speaker wished to talk more about Patroklos Tselentis, a member who has repented and who had left the terrorist group years before its collapse. Patroklos joined 17N due to the police brutality which was taking place in Greece. He was brainwashed by Dimitris Koufondinas, who he met at university. Patroklos, during an interview, given to Dr Kassimeris, explained how someone joins a terrorist group: it needs courage, determination and conviction. However Patroklos rapidly ran out of enthusiasm. He found that there was no justification for a number of assassinations. In some respect he was a romantic, believing that things would change in the world.
Is Greece a terrorist producing country? It is a mistake to disregard Greece’s larger revolutionary culture. Greece has a culture of dissent, disorder and confrontation, for decades. Terrorism in Greece seems to not have changed, as terrorism has in other countries, such as Italy and Germany. Terrorists are still seen as morally superior; people seem to still look up to them. It is interesting how Dimitris Koufondinas currently gives advice to the new generation of terrorists, through his book, through articles and interviews he has written and given.
Since the fall of 17N, 64 new terrorist groups have been born in Greece. Despite being small, and having a small life span, they still seem to have an impact, having all attacked people, buildings etc. The speaker pointed out that a terrorist is not born, he is made. Greece has one of the most sustained problems of political terrorism anywhere in Europe. People in Greece might not condone their acts, but they are sympathetic towards the terrorists, which is an interesting reality. That is why 17N members have always had the perception that they are defenders of the Greek population. Currently Greece has within it a mosaic of terrorist groups, from both the left and right wing parties and ideologies.    

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