Corsicans Are Using Bombs to Protest Their Island Paradise
If you’ve never been to Corsica, you really should. The island, which lies just off the Italian coast, is one of the most beautiful places in the world; it’s covered in snowy mountains, picturesque little towns, and luxurious golden beaches. In certain months, you can ski in the morning and sunbathe in the afternoon; it really is paradise (if combining sunburn and heavy nylon jackets is your idea of paradise). However, perhaps its strongest sell is that it is, officially, the murder capital of Europe.
Last year, I went to Corsica to explore the island’s historical predilection for violence. A week before I touched down in Napoleon Bonaparte airport, two prominent Corsicans—a lawyer named Antoine Sollacaro and Jacques Nasser, head of the chamber of commerce—had been shot dead. I was there to try to figure out who did it (and to make a film about trying to figure out who did it). Murder isn’t shocking in Corsica; there have been more than 110 murders since 2008, the majority of them Mafia-style hits. “At the beginning of the week, we think, It’s strange; we haven’t had a killing yet," Gilles Millet, a local journalist, told me. "This society is soaked in death. You call someone to do something and they say, ‘I can’t. I have a funeral to go to.’ Death is part of [daily] life here."
I asked Gilles who he thought was responsible for the deaths of Sollacaro and Nasser. “Normally everyone knows who’s done the killings, but with Sollacaro and Nasser, we don’t know,” he answered. “Despite everybody usually knowing who did it, there have only been four prosecutions since 2008—out of more than 110 murders. There’s a culture of silence here. Nobody talks, partly out of fear, partly because it’s just not the done thing.”
Italy’s Largest Immigrant Ghetto Is Incredibly Bleak
The colored neon lights and the music pumping from the speakers rip through the silence of the countryside near Foggia, in the region of Apulia, southern Italy. I should be in the middle of nowhere but there’s actually quite a lot of traffic here: cars, motorbikes, and people coming and going. It’s around 10 PM and after almost two hours wandering in the roads around Foggia I find myself in front of what the locals call “The Big Ghetto,” or more simply the Rignano Ghetto.
The “ghetto” was spontaneously formed more than 15 years ago, after the evacuation of an abandoned sugar mill, which had served as accommodation for foreign men working in Foggia’s “slavery triangle.” Exploitation of migrants in agriculture is not particular to Apulia—it is common all over Italy, especially in the south. A 2012 report by the Flai Cgil (the Italian General Confederation of Labor’s affiliated Agro-industrial Workers’ Union), said that 700,000 regular and irregular pickers work in the fields and about 400,000 of them are recruited irregularly for very low wages.
Inside a shack
Over the last decade the Rignano “village” has expanded. The demography of the ghetto changes depending on the season and the demand for work in the tomato fields. During winter it hosts around 200 immigrants (mainly coming from French-speaking African countries), while during summer the population rises to 800. Some of its inhabitants arrived in Italy by plane 20 years ago, while those who arrived recently had to cross the desert and pay thousands of dollars to travel in rickety fishing boats across the Mediterranean, hoping they wouldn’t lose their lives like those inLampedusa recently.
Once they succeed in crossing the Mediterranean, day laborers in southern fields are forced to camp out in abandoned factories, with no money and a daily dose of violence from landowners who make enormous profits out of their work. The work conditions border on the Medieval.
Gypsy Child Snatchers! Don’t Exist
Hysterical and unfounded fears of Gypsies stealing babies spread through Ireland this week, which led to the police taking children away from two separate Roma families. The police turned out to be the only child snatchers in these cases, which were the culmination of years of growing anti-Roma sentiment that at every point politicians—and sometimes the press—have perpetuated rather than prevented.
The Roma community has long been Europe’s whipping boys and girls. They are the last minority group that it is safe for ostensibly respectable politicians to openly attack. Despitethe dark legacy of the Porajmos, the Nazi’s extermination of as many as 1.5 million Romani during World War II, in Europe it has never become taboo to repeat centuries-old slurs about their culture.
This particular round of Gypsy hate started last week in Greece, where a child named Maria with blonde hair and blue eyes was found living with Gypsies who were not her real parents. Immediately, the centuries-old myth of Gypsy kidnappings was reborn. The parents of missing blonde children lined up to say they had found new hope from the case because Gypsies could have taken their child. The idea is as discredited as the blood libel against Jews—that they used Christian children in rituals—but people still like to trot the lie out every so often.
Spanish Squats in Andalusia
Faced with the harshest cuts to public services in the history of Spanish democracy, workers in Andalusia are going through an undeniably shitty time. Unemployment in the southern autonomous region is around 36 percent—much higher than the national average of about 26—and the labor reforms that allowed corporations to fire huge swaths of the workforce without severance pay only made things worse. The victims of this climate of economic gloom have struck back by occupying abandoned homes, as thecorralas have done, or staging mass protests and strikes a la the Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajadores (Andalucian Workers Union).
Inspired by the communitarian village of Marinaleda, whose revolutionary bearded mayor is also the president of the SAT—and its sister organization the Sindicato Obreros de Campo (Farm Workers Union)—have been expanding their operations across the region over the last couple years. This includes highly publicized “raids” on supermarkets in places like Seville, Malaga, and Cordoba.
The Swedish Police Are Keeping Tabs on Roma Immigrants
Yesterday, it was announced that the Swedish police keeps a registry that contains detailed information about 4,029 people of Roma descent. According to the newspaperDagens Nyheter, more than half of the people on the registry have no criminal record, and there were 1,000 children on the list who are too young to have even committed a crime—some as young as two years old. All of which would seem to imply that when the Swedish police were compiling the list, they were creating a small but perfectly lazy and borderline-racist monitoring network.
Lawyers told the Dagens Nyheter that the database breaks several laws, including the European Convention on Human Rights, police data laws, and the law against general police surveillance registries. Anna Troberg, leader of the Swedish Pirate Party, was quick to express her outrage, tweeting: “I wake up to the news of the police cataloguing Romani. This makes me enraged to all fucking hell.”
A few hours after the registry’s existence was reported, demonstrators took to the streets to give the police a piece of their mind. I ventured out to see what they had to say.
More than 200 infuriated human rights activists, anti-racists, and concerned citizens turned up at a public square in Malmö, Sweden’s third-largest city. As often happens at protests, angry speeches were made. One person took to the mic to remind the crowd that, “this was how the Holocaust started,” which seemed somehow both a bit rash and actually quite accurate.
Greek Neo-Nazi Beach Party!
The Golden Dawn is a steel truncheon crunching the bones of the European Project. In the lifetimes of the generation who fought in the Second World War, mainstream Nazis have returned to the continent. To openly read the anti-Semite blood libels The Protocols of the Elders of Zionin the Greek Parliament. To suppress entire towns beneath their thumb as vigilante social “cleansers.” To increasingly hold the balance of power in an increasingly unbalanced state. And, to party.
That’s right, just because you spend your spare time whipping Egyptian taxi drivers with a bike chain doesn’t mean you don’t need to blow off a little steam every now and then. Which is how, every year, the Golden Dawn hardcore end up in Crete, having a racially-pure away-day, where they pretend to be Spartans. Spartans in Crete. A bit weird, but historical anachronism is not something they can spell, much less avoid. The basic idea is simply to have a bonding sesh, get all Judd Apatow and express their man-feelings with one another.
Dimitar Dimitrov at his wife’s cabin in the rural village of Silistra, four months after his self-immolation.
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Wave of Immolation – Bulgarians Are Setting Themselves on Fire in Record Numbers
It’s not every day that you meet someone who has set himself on fire. One reason for this is because it’s pretty much the most awful and insane thing imaginable. Another reason is that people who light themselves ablaze usually die soon afterward. Surprisingly, it’s not always the burns that kill them. Often, flames will enter a self-immolator’s lungs through his mouth, causing him to asphyxiate.
On a recent trip to Bulgaria, I met not one but two people who had survived suicide attempts by fire. “Solving problems with gasoline has become the new trend,” Georgi Kostov told me in the burn-victim unit of St. George hospital in Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-largest city. He was still in shock, so his wife, Donka, did most of the talking.
She explained how the couple were unemployed, in debt, and struggling to feed their children, when, two weeks before my visit, Georgi disappeared into his bedroom at their apartment in the industrial city of Dimitrovgrad. He came out doused in gasoline, convinced that the Mafia was outside his front door to collect on his debts and kill him. Standing in front of his family, he flicked on his lighter and burst into flames. Donka leapt onto him to put out the blaze while his sister threw water on him. They succeeded in saving Georgi, but his wife suffered third-degree burns all over her arms in the process. “He was so depressed,” she said. “He didn’t know how to make anyone notice our poverty. So he did this horrible thing.”
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Germany’s Blood-Drenched WWII Debt Could Save Greece’s Economy
Above: The rounding up of Jews in Thessaloniki in July of 1942. (Image via)
In early April of 1941, the German army defeated Greek forces along the country’s northern front. Where Greece had spent the previous winter in jubilation after successfully fending off the Italians, they now experienced existential horror at the inevitability of occupation by the Axis powers. The terror was so strong, in fact, that the prime minister shot himself just days before the Germans marched into Athens.
And the three-year occupation of Greece did indeed prove to be hell on Earth, most notably for the famine that wiped out more than 300,000 citizens, but also because it hosted some of the worst atrocities committed by German troops during the war. This included the raping and pillaging of villages, and the systematic execution of able-bodied men, and, in some cases, women and children.
The occupation of Greece tore the nation apart so much that when Axis powers left in 1944, the country soon broke out into a three-year civil war over the ensuing power vacuum.
Today, more than 70 years since the beginning of the occupation, Greeks and historians are pointing out that, aside from the question of unpaid reparations, Germany still owes Greece on two other counts: debt owed on a forced loan Germany took from Greece, and the returning of ancient artifacts stolen during the occupation.
Last April, Syriza, Greece’s second largest party, raised the issue with Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos. Avramopoulos agreed that the matter must be decided once and for all by an international court. It was the first time a Greek official had publicly made such an announcement.
Experts are estimating that, all told, Germany owes approximately €162 billion ($211.5 billion), including interest. However, the general accounting office in Greece refuses to make the number they’ve come up with public.