While a country of great aesthetic beauty and rich cultural history, Greece has, of late, seen better days. With an economy in shambles, rampant corruption and citizens growing increasingly desperate, Greek-discontent is giving way to those with a sinister agenda. Preying on people's resentment and fears, this once warm and welcoming land has become fertile breeding ground for its Neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn.
An Associated Foreign Press report reveals that currently, schools in the beleaguered country have fallen prey to the fascist political group as it seeks to recruit the next generation and expand its base. Golden Dawn garnered 400,000 votes in a June election and hosts 18 lawmakers in the 300-seat Greek parliament. Polls indicate that one in 10 Greeks favor Golden Dawn. AFP adds:
In November, a brawl broke out between Albanian and Greek high school pupils on the island of Crete over a Golden Dawn event advertised on Facebook, sending two of them to hospital. [...] A fight had previously broken out at the same school over neo-Nazi slogans found on a blackboard.
What is perhaps most disturbing is that Golden Dawn has been a powerful influence in enforcing the teaching of "accurate" history in Greek schools:
The group denies that students were killed by security forces inside the Athens Polytechnic in 1973, a seminal event considered to have hastened the downfall of the army dictatorship then ruling the country.
And its leader Nikos Michaloliakos has publicly complained that Greek media are ruled by a "Red junta". [...] During a recent school visit to parliament, one Golden Dawn deputy openly told pupils to resist the "terrorism" of the Left.
In various schools "there are organized gangs harassing foreign pupils and their parents, verbally so far but with an intensity that could at any minute turn into physical violence," said Kenyan-born journalist Nicodemos Maina Kinyua.
The 35-year-old editor of Athens-based African magazine Asante has lived in Greece since childhood, but told AFP that the country's school system provides "fertile ground" for neo-Nazism.
"The dominant concept in school is that Greeks invented everything at the time when the rest of humanity was perched on trees, eating acorns," he said.
And it gets worse. Last month, school officials acquiesced to Golden Dawn pressure and blocked the transfer of a maternity school teacher on the island of Lefkada. Her "crime?" She allegedly decorated her classroom with Greek and Albanian flags just prior to a Greek national holiday.
But these types of displays are going challenged in at least some cases. For instance, disciplinary action is reportedly being pursued in Athens against a high school principal after he threatened to call on Golden Dawn to castigate his pupils.
"This threat is very much in fashion," one high school teacher who asked to remain anonymous admitted to AFP. She, however, was not condemned by Golden Dawn, but rather her own pupils for her alleged "left-wing sympathies."
"What is worse is that two-thirds of my colleagues saw this incident as a justifiable dispute over politics," she said.
Another teacher said it has been a constant battle to keep neo-Nazi sentiment and actions from penetrating the high school.
"Teens are being recruited, particularly those from poor families, and receive a training in theory and paramilitary tactics so that Golden Dawn can pass on the flame," the teacher, Artemis Kalogyri said at recent anti-racist gathering.
"Most of these youths want to change the world. They see the far-right as the guarantor of Hellenism against the threat of dissolution in which migrants are involved. Most of them want to join the police or the army."
According to AFP, deputy education minister Theodoros Papatheodorou said Greece must act "without delay."
"There are sporadic attempts to penetrate schools and intimidate professors and pupils. It emanates either from parents who claim to be Golden Dawn members or from fully-fledged Golden Dawn cadres," he told AFP.