In Greece               Coordinator


There are also issues of racism that are specific to Greece, the country we choose to live in. They are important for us to examine and address.

Greece has been at once a world-traveled society and an insular one. Greek traders and economic emigrants account for one of the largest ethnic diasporas on earth, and have brought knowledge of visited and adopted cultures home on their return. At the same time, village life was often less worldly, punctuated by the occasional young man who went off to ‘xeniteia’ to find work and riches. That economic emigrant, again.

Yet within the village, life and relationships were marked by likeness and social ordering. In fact, anthropologist Michael Hertzfeld noted that within one village he studied in Western Rhodes, people from the neighbouring village might be referred to as xenoi (foreigners, strangers). The term indicated simply that they were not from the first village, although those from the neighboring village might be considered ‘ours’ if the area of selection were broadened to the region or the country. Foreignness or too much association with foreigners might also be used to explain aberrant or ‘evil eye’ behavior, though usually not with harsh outcomes.

Nonetheless, there are ethnic and other groups within the country who not only have been considered alien, but have sometimes suffered poor treatment as a result. Muslims in the northeastern parts of the country, remnants who remained after the 1923 post-Ottoman Exchange of Populations, have at times been encouraged to sell their property and move on, preferably to Turkey, though they may never have lived there. Current immigrants from southern Asia and Africa may also experience wage and other exploitation. They may be of different language, religion, skin color and habit, and thus not thought due the respect of a fellow Greek or European. It’s a convenient argument that nets a better profit for the employer.

Perhaps, though, no ethnic group is more universally despised than the Roma, the nomadic gypsy population that has travelled across the region and up into Europe for centuries. The word gypsy, gyftos in Greek, derives from the same root as Egyptian but is used in Greek as a derogatory term, whereas tsiganos is somewhat better and Roma preferred. Roma may be distinguishable by slightly different physical features, but it is their nomadic lifestyle that has placed them outside the Greek village norm. They are always xenoi, different, suspect. And frequent migration has also meant gaps in education for their children, inability to establish ‘wealth’ based on property, ergo, no permanent address and uneven voting rights. In recent years, the Roma community has to some extent  ‘settled out’ of the nomadic life and through advocates and high-profile community members struggled to claim the rights of full citizenship. This is a work in progress, and, in the meantime, many Roma are still treated as outcasts in their country of origin.

Racism in Greece - links


http://kounia.org/ (in Greek)

Roma in Greece






Refugees in Greece

Greek Council on Refugees (English)

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