Out of the dark cages of prison trickles an aggressive show of force from high-ranking officials of the Hrisi Avgi. Even while in prison, leaders remain in full control, so much so that the organization has become the third most influential political power in Greece. Globally recognised as the Golden Dawn, this political party is widely known for their bellicose handling of immigration as well as their nationalistic propaganda. They have become the most successful fascist party in Greece since WWII, and their resemblance to the old German party NSDAP is uncanny. Without a conviction, the leaders of the Golden Dawn continue to campaign and spread their philosophies, even after racking up accusations of assaults, murder, and weapon possession.
Niko Ago was born in Albania but settled in Greece in the early 90’s and began following the birth and development of the Golden Dawn. Through his activity fighting for human rights and his work as a journalist, Niko eventually became a target of the growing xenophobic movement. In 2012 he was sent out of Greece under curious conditions and has now taking shelter in Sweden, hoping to come back to Greece to see his family again. He agreed to share his experience and thoughts with Sensa Nostra on the current political situation.
The confrontation with the Golden Dawn has changed my life completely. I never imagined that I would need to feel afraid for myself, afraid of meeting my family, and of not being allowed to attend the birth of one of my children. To speak about my family and what they’ve suffered through due to my actions is like a black wall in front of my mind. Right now I feel what every father would feel, but I always carry them with me and I’m sure I will be with them again.
I’ve always described what happened to me as a diabolical coincidence. The reason why I do that is because there’s no concrete evidence of a conspiracy or similar.
It started a week before the parliament election in 2012. I’d just gotten an article published for a major newspaper that proved that Ilias Kasidaris, the second highest-ranked member of the Golden Dawn, had been involved in a serious assault outside of a local university. My article and research also proved his involvement in armed robbery. The article got out and started spinning in social media. I even received threats via email that said, “We will dismember your body in so many pieces that you will be able to be carried out by ants afterwards”. I also received one claiming that within a month I would be outside the country. Exactly thirty days later, I received an email from the municipality stating that I was obligated to leave the country. I had to leave my family and pregnant wife and go.
To obtain a residence permit in Greece is very difficult and only a few hundred people have one. All other immigrants can get one but depending on how much they have worked. Otherwise, it’s never certain that their permit will be renewed the next year, and it does not matter how long they lived in the country. Only recently has this changed, and it is only to be reported every third year. What happened to me was that they digged into my history and found out from 2007 that I hadn’t fulfilled the required amount of my working days, even though I had been sick with a medical certificate. None of it mattered. This was part of that diabolic coincidence.
I first came to Greece as a refugee. The peregrination in 1991 took us eight days and eight nights by foot. I was with my older brother and two friends and had recently graduated with a degree in history and journalism. Unfortunately, Albania’s period of instability in domestic politics meant that we were 10,000 immigrants crossing the border to Greece. I knew of Greece through poems I had read, translated into Albanian. One can say that the first introduction guide was the romantic Greek poets.
Due to the big wave of immigration at the time, the border guards were well-informed about our arrival. The welcoming that we received was beyond anything that I could have imagined. If you can even call what happened a “welcoming”— a more suitable word would be “experimental treatment”. At first we were separated by five meters only so that one of the guards could line us up to throw apples at us. The ones who got hit would then be taken for further investigation. That would mean getting attacked by dogs and getting bitten through your rags until your very flesh. If you dared to react, you would get beaten with the officials’ batons. I suffered through all of this and still considered myself lucky, since in comparison with my brother, I just survived an easy walk in the park.
Even though I received this treatment, I still managed to tell the difference between what the actual Greece was, like what the poets had been telling me and the people I later got to know, from what it wasn’t.
I found out early about the brutal organization Golden Dawn through flyers that were handed out— one landed in my palm. Today I refuse to call them a political party, since to me a characteristic of a “political party” is that you make collective decisions by consensus. Founded in 1993, the Golden Dawn has a strong hierarchical structure led by a Führer who makes all the decisions. An organization that has a military structure instead of a civilian one is not to be considered a party. Instead of organizing political rallies, they organize takeovers and beatings. In my opinion, this cannot be called a political party.
I wouldn’t say that the growing neo-nazi development in Greece is a symptom. After studying and analyzing the history of Greece, you can easily see that it’s a disease that goes way back but for a while has been more restrained. But the Golden Dawn surely plays on some sensitive strings which has led to a lot of recent support.
After the financial crises that stroked Greece, a lot of people were (and still are) out of work. What the Golden Dawn highlights is the amount of immigrants getting hired, claiming that they are simply stealing from the true, honest citizens of Greece. The other, older parties in the Greek political scene also hold a lot of the blame for letting the Golden Dawn reach parliamentary level due to their unwillingness to cooperate with one another because of ideological borders.
There are a lot of people refusing to believe that the Golden Dawn has such a big influence in today’s politics and everyday life. For us who have been following and examining the Golden Dawn, we know that they are much more involved than it appears on the surface, especially within the police department and church to name just a few examples. Earlier they also hosted a campaign of voluntary blood donation, the twist being that it was only meant to be distributed to Greek citizens in need. Luckily the doctors and hospitals refused. Still, the sympathy for the organization doesn’t seem to be decreasing around the country.
Today, I’m still writing about the organization and the political situation in Greece. I’ve written a book based on the history of neo-nazism in Greece with a particular focus and examination of the Golden Dawn. Until now I’ve only published it in Swedish, with the assistance of my friend Eva Avgerinou who also helped me arrive to Sweden after my expulsion order. One day it will get published in Greece as well.
But even though it has cost me a lot, assigned to this, I am determined to continue. I will not give up. No matter what this has led to, I’ll never surrender.