Athens. Greece. While we are all shut up in our homes, many are still imprisoned in hellholes. A chronicle of the Holy Week, when despair reaches a peak in Petrou Ralli detention centre.
Originally published by Athens Indymedia.
Tuesday 14/4, S. goes to a remote cell with the intention of burning herself alive, setting fire to her clothes. She is rescued mid-act by two other prisoners, who smell the fire, hear her cries from afar and run to pull the burning garments off S.’s body by force, dousing her with water to extinguish the flames.
Wednesday 15/4, V. suffers a crisis of despair and begins screaming, apparently following a phone call with her lawyer. Immediately, a repression officer arrives from downstairs in a rage and threatens her, shouting that if she does not shut up, he will drag her out handcuffed. The abusive officer who handled V’s crisis with such violence is called George, according to the prisoners, and is a short man with glasses.
Friday, 17/4, Maryam Zare from Iran, detained for more than 5 months, and unable to communicate with anyone who does not speak Farsi, suffers from another severe panic attack. The atmosphere among the detainees is very tense. In a previous denunciation published in December 2019, “There are no celebrations in Petrou Ralli. Letter from Prisoners” Maryam talks about her persecution (https://athens.indymedia.org/post/1602321/).
Saturday 18/4, 5 days after her attempted suicide, S is finally released! A young woman, physically and mentally traumatized, should automatically have been safely accommodated in a facility for abused women and not subjected to the horrors of incarceration for three months. The same should apply to all abused immigrant women who are imprisoned.
The same day, Maryam from Iran attempts suicide by cutting her wrists with a razor. A girl, M. (who also helped rescue S), crucially intervenes to stop her. But when she calls for help from the police, no attention is paid to her pleas.
Sunday, 19/4, F, after more than 4 months in custody and suffering serious health problems, goes to a cell where those who are released leave their unwanted clothes. She tries to set fire to the clothes to burn herself. Her friends manage to stop her. For weeks, she has begged the police to provide her with supplies of a medication that she has been taking for a serious condition (the clinic changed her medication for a new drug which was not effective). There was no doctor present and the nurse told her that the medicine she was taking was no longer in the doctor’s office.
Monday, 20/4. Maryam has another panic attack. Her fellow prisoners run to find her in a remote cell where she is hitting her head against the wall… They take her out to the terrace to get some air… But will they catch her next time?
Petrou Ralli has seen four suicide attempts in the last two months. The first was on Saturday 7/3/2020 when Eden, not being able to bear the conditions of her detention and deprivation of freedom, tried to commit suicide by drinking bleach. Suicide attempts under this inhumane regime can only be called attempted murder. While in all four cases the women escaped physical danger, the anxiety generated among their fellow inmates was met with sexist aggression and a disparaging of their humane actions by the authorities.
The psychological consequences of the traumatic experiences immigrant women have been subjected to cannot yet be evaluated, but it is certain that critical health problems are being caused and/or exacerbated by the deplorable detention conditions. Although the women struggle to survive and improve their living conditions in the prison of PR, the situation remains suffocating. In the midst of a pandemic, prisoners in Petrou Ralli tell us that the doctors who were present are now coming more and more rarely, while general medical issues are often examined by a psychiatrist and are not referred to the appropriate physicians.
A number of women have recently fallen ill. A telling example is the case of Galina, who has been imprisoned for more than 6 months and has been taking regular medication for her health conditions. During late March, her wisdom tooth broke and after being left to swell for days, she was given a strong antibiotic without being seen by any doctor. The problem persisted and after Galina’s constant appeals to be examined by a dentist, the psychiatrist finally saw her days later and gave her medication for the tooth. On April 14, she was taken to hospital, but the inflammation was still so severe that her tooth could not be removed. She has since recovered, finishing the last antibiotic treatment, and is anxiously waiting for a doctor to refer her to the hospital so she can have her rotten tooth removed before it erupts again. But on April 21, there was still no doctor for Galina or anyone else who needed treatment. The police officer informed her that all the old doctors had left and they were waiting for new staff to arrive the following Monday… Meanwhile, on [April 21], Selim died in Malandrino prison because the chief guards were indifferent to his swollen tooth.
Others have been similarly ignored. For example, the former prisoner, J., was refused treatment for a swollen tooth while she was detained in P.R. last year. Despite crying out in pain for days, no doctor or dentist ever examined her and she was not given any medication. So her inmates did the unbelievable: the extraction of her rotten tooth, on their own in the cells, in order to save her… Most of the guards who oversaw such developments are the same ones who work there today. This is how the detention regime for migrants operates. The lives of prisoners do not count, and to this day [April 22] there are still no doctors in Petrou Ralli.
Another typical example of this indifference to the life of prisoners during the pandemic is the case of M, from Morocco, who a few days ago was coughing with a bad headache but did not want to see a doctor. One night her condition became severe that her inmates took her temperature and found that she was burning up. They immediately alerted the police on shift, who confirmed a high fever of 39.3 degrees. Alarmed by the possibility of Coronavirus, they called an ambulance. M. was found to be negative for the virus and after receiving proper medical care, she returned in better health. But what if her fellow detainees were also indifferent? How long will those in power hold the lives of inmates in such low regard?
During the pandemic, we have observed that while the arrests have stopped, detainees who would have been released under normal circumstances remain in detention centres for an extended period. For example, one woman’s detention there has exceeded seven months. Almost all of them are cases of administrative arrest, who should have been released a long time ago. It is now obvious that there must be a required minimum number of detainees in order to the continued funding of the detention centres and that the remaining detainees serve this purpose. The bureaucratic regime values numbers over human lives and so torturously detains people to fulfill its calculations.
We call on the authorities to:
Empty all detention centres and refugee extermination camps now,
before we mourn more victims.
Give all applicants papers and transfer them to accommodation that meets the requirements of quarantine, with proper information, health care, and dignity
We stand against every fascist and patriarchal pandemic!
Assembly of Initiative: The House of Women for Empowerment & Emancipation firstname.lastname@example.org
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