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Watching a Greek movement unfold … in English

August 18, 2009
Supporters of Thodoris Ilipoulis on chose this international symbol in their call for solidarity

Supporters of Thodoris Ilipoulis on chose this international symbol in their call for solidarity

Thodoris Iliopoulos began his hunger strike on July 10 after his “temporary” six-month stay at Korydallos Prison was extended another six months. Since then, he has followed the modus operandi of political prisoners before him by sending letters and giving interviews from his jail cell while he uses his body “like a weapon.”

Nothing new there.

What’s interesting to watch though, is how his supporters are using the web to spread a movement of solidarity with him. The subterranean movement is coming together now in plain sight.

It may lead to the first great protest/police action after the holiday season calm since Iliopoulis’ supporters are using the web to organize a day of solidarity concert in Athens at 8pm on August 24.

The organizers are aiming for more than an audience in Greece or Athens, as the preface to the “call-out suggests”.

“Please translate it and repost it in as many languages as you can.”

And that came from an English translation of the Greek.

The (accidental?) hunger-striker

Iliopoulos has termed his situation since December 18 a “theatre of the absurd”.

This is what Iliopoulos said happened in an interview published August 15 in Eleftherotypia:

The 31 year-old man was walking down Akadimias St with a group of friends when they were surrounded by riot police.  When he tried to make a break for it, the officers caught up with him and began kicking him in the head saying, “You know what’s about to happen to you.”

It’s unlikely Iliopoulos thought he would be in a Greek jail cell nine months later.

Two riot police officers accused Iliopoulis of throwing Molotov cocktails, which he and five witnesses (his friends) denied. On June 25, Iliopoulos appeared before an inqusitor. A prosecutor asked the officers if they could recognize the man they had accused of hurling the bombs. When they said yes, she pointed at Iliopoulos and asked if he was the man.

Lo and behold, the officers said yes.

Every other person detained in connection with the riots in December was released at some point before they went to trial. Iliopoulos’ pre-trial detention was extended for another six months.

Shortly thereafter, July 10, he decided to go on hunger strike.

Does Iliopoulos fit the profile of an anarchist? Well, based on the interview he doesn’t want to be called one but he stands for some greater ideals “from December”.

His description of his beliefs seems more like a poet or a hippy:

This image of Thodoris Iliopoulis from his "personal archive" has been making the rounds on the internet.

This image of Thodoris Iliopoulos from his "personal archive" has been making the rounds on the internet.

I only made it to the streets twice, unfortunately. It was a very good opportunity to discuss and to think, to offer solutions, to exchange ideas. Some, with dubious interests, read the events with crocodile tears, they weep for the disaster and the destruction.

And yet December gave birth to a different way of thinking and most importantly, it took kids away from their playstations and internet cafes. It is naive and unfair to say that the kids took to the streets only to ease their rage. They were claiming their ideals and their dreams.


There is this theory in prison that the more you sleep, the faster you come out. I think that the more you sleep, the less you live.

It seems like before his detention Iliopoulos was living a normal life. He hadn’t taken to the streets sooner so he could care for his ailing mother (who’s 83) and father (who has Alzheimer’s). He says he and a girl are in love and that he wants to start a life with her. He thought people in prison were bad people until he wound up there.

From what he says it doesn’t seem he had any intention of becoming a symbol, let alone a martyr.

His supporters

Anarchist websites have been spreading Iliopoulis’ writings in Greek and translating them into English and welcoming better translations from readers.

On August 5 posted a translation of a letter from prison, in which he calls himself one of tens of thousands of people with a conscience, “not an armchair (passive citizen).” And he said, “I do not cover my face”, a reference to one of his accusers saying his face was covered when they arrested them even though they didn’t recover a hat, hood, bandana, etc.

A blogger site (not in English) used the Google application picase to post a scanned copy of Iliopoulos’ doctor’s report online. And a number of sites such as posted a “press release” on Iliopoulis’ deteriorating condition.

Yet another blog posted a translation of the lengthy Eleftherotypia interview (nearly 2,000 words in English — which this writer has been referencing) and an urgent “Call-out for an international day of action” which included the details for the August 24 day of solidarity.

Another site outside the anarchist blogosphere, the Palestinian Telegraph, posted an article in English called “Young and Innocent. Last political prisoner of the Greek Intifada on 37th day of hunger strike”. The site speculated that Iliopoulos is being used as an example since he’s not too old and not too young to be a kid.

These sites cross-reference each other and all being thoroughly posted on Twitter. An online petition has gathered more than 1400 signatures.

Will Thodoris Iliopoulos become an international symbol? Ironically, the man who criticized youths sitting in internet cafes may become a hero through the help of the world wide web and a network of people translating his messages.

The fallout?

Summer 2009 in Athens has been as calm as December 2008 was tumultuous.

Riot police still stroll around Exarcheia and the various flashpoints of the city but far fewer in number. With the exception of a few made-for-TV demonstrations on sidewalks the streets have been quiet.

Apparently even anarchists go on holidays.

The Palestinian Telegraph conceded that now is a tough time to start a mass movement.

So could this be the first flare up of tension going into the autumn? August 24, the day of the concert, is sort of the unofficial first day of work. Some people won’t return until early September, but next week is more or less the unofficial end of summer. In other words, there will be people to fuel the crowd.

The propylaia in front of the National University is protected from police action. The immediate vicinity is not. Iliopoulos himself was walking on nearby Akadimias St when he was picked up.

The periphery of the concert could become an issue. There are plenty of anecdotes featuring both police and potential rioters sparking conflict.

Plenty can happen between now and Monday, August 24. By the time of the concert, Iliopoulos will have completed the 46th day of  his hunger-strike. He has requested medical attention and could receive it. The state could release him. He could give up. Then again, so could his organs.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. michael permalink
    August 19, 2009 01:01

    thanks for a thoroughly researched article, George. One question though – why do you refer to him as Iliopoulis – I thought it was Iliopoulos?

    • August 19, 2009 09:21

      Ah, typos, thanks to my Greek-American pronunciation. Thank you for catching that. Best, George

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