The neo-Nazi attacks on minorities, the rising extremism, the connections between the state, the secret police and the church in defending the Greek national myth and the absurd refusal to let minorities call themselves as they like were some of the most serious accusations concerning the attitude of Greece toward the non-Greek communities living in the country. Their concerns were voiced at the public debate in Washington attended by representatives of the Macedonian, Turkish and Albanian ethnic communities in Greece. The present representatives of US organizations for protection of human rights and analytical centers listened in disbelief to the personal testimonies of persecuted Archimandrite Nikodim Tsarknias and the reports of the arrests of muftis in the Turkish-populated towns and villages of Greece, reports Cvetin Cilimanov, MIA's Washington-based correspondent.
"How is it possible for such a country to be an EU member state?" a representative of the Woodrow Wilson International Center wondered out loud.
Archimandrite Tsarknias recounted that many times he was taken into custody by the Greek police and driven by another service as far as possible from the Macedonian towns in Greece under the pressure of Greek politicians, the police and the clergy.
"I was continuously accused of being disobedient, of not being a good Greek and of being an autonomist and all of this even before Macedonia became independent and the "Macedonian issue" appeared. In Greece, in order to be a priest, even today, you need a certificate from the Greek police that you are 'a good Greek,' he said.
The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) hosted the event, which took place in its offices near the White House and at which representatives of the three ethnic communities discussed their joint action with the aim of improving minority rights in Greece.
Eugenia Natsulidu, a representative of UMD for Greece, gave a somber recount of the neo-Nazi political party Golden Dawn. "The rise of Golden Dawn and the neo-Nazi and fascist ideology has been groomed, led and promoted by the parts of the Greek society that want no changes in their country and who will lose their privileges if the country becomes truly democratic," she said. She defined the Greek Orthodox Church as one of the social forces promoting Golden Dawn.
Representatives of the three ethnic communities in Greece also met in Washington with Suzan Johnson Cook, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedoms at the US Department of State.
We, the Albanians from Chameria, have old connections with Macedonians. Alexander is our shared, both Macedonian and Albanian, hero. He is neither Macedonian nor Greek, he is both Macedonian and Albanian, Sali Bollati, Secretary General of the Albanian-American Organization Chameria (AAOC), said at the conference in Washington. His testimonial about the expulsions from Greece when he was a child, after the end of World War II, the frequent internments in Albania, the countries of the Warsaw Pact, the exile to the USA and the recent bans on ethnic Albanians from Greece to enter the country resembled to a large extent the plight experienced by the ethnic Macedonians driven out of Greece. Chameria is a region in northwest Greece around the city of Preveza, populated by Albanians.
"Our Albanian government should be more like the Macedonian. Your government openly tells the Greeks - we are Macedonians. Your government is proud of its Macedonian descent and fights for it. Greece, which is a bankrupt country, on the other hand, is fighting to protect the Greek heritage in Albania and with German money pays salaries to Greeks living in the southern parts of Albania," Bollati said.
Macedonian Information Centre