Greece: Photographer and social scientist targeted by undercover cops in Mytilene


April 20th 2016

I was at the port of Mytilene with refugees when four men approached me and asked me to follow them.

When I asked the reason for my detention they responded that some people are interested in me. The look on their faces was particularly enigmatic and that made me suspicious. When I asked to see their identification they refused to show me anything.

One of them grabbed my bag and I saw him put it in the trunk of a normal (not a police) car. Fortunately I had my phone in my hands and contacted a friend of mine who is a well known photographer and told him that four men who refuse to show me any ID are trying to get me into a car.

He screamed at me through the phone: ”Don’t get in, ask for a police car and ask them where you are being taken”. I started to resist intensely against my kidnappers and then the oldest and probably the one with the most authority among them told the younger ones: ”Leave her alone, we ‘ll ask her what we want over here”.

They took my I.D. despite the fact that I did not want to give it, telling me they would hold me for much longer if I did not co-operate. They recorded all the info on my ID card and asked me why I was in Mytilene, where I live, how long I’m planning to stay there, why I was interested in refugees…

It seemed incomprehensible to have to answer to such questions. I did not answer to any of the questions. I stated that I am a photographer and I was there to record an aspect of what was going on. After a while, they realised I was not willing to give any answers and on the contrary I kept on asking questions as to who they were and why they selected me, so they let me go…

The next day I was in a cafeteria near the port with a friend and collaborator from time to time, who had come to conduct research on the subject of refugees along with a refugee journalist from Iraq who is planning to apply for asylum in order to avoid persecution for his ideology in his own country.

My collaborator and friend left the table to go to the drug store in order to purchase vitamins for us and our refugee friend. No more than 2 minutes later he returned to the table saying ”I must go, don’t make a scene. They took my ID card and are telling me to go with them for identification”. ”Who?”, I asked. ”The three guys standing behind me, five metres to the right”. Shit… the same strange guys who had attempted to take me yesterday. My friend went towards them and then a car appeared, they put him in and drove off in the direction of the port.

Meanwhile, I kept looking around to see if more were coming to take me too.

There were people everywhere, the dock-workers were on strike and 10 000 refugees were on the island. I could not understand…

The refugee who happens to be a journalist and was sitting at the table with us looked at me calmly in a very serious manner and asked me : ”Was this secret police?”. I replied that I honestly don’t know…they looked like undercover police but something was off about them…

And then he added : ”You should know…it’s this kind of thing that made me leave Iraq”.

Half an hour later I was sitting with my anthropologist friend who had been released from the small room he was detained at the port. I asked him plenty of times if he was taken to the police station.. His answer was always ”No, I was taken inside a container-like structure near the port police”. As far as I am aware of, it is not legal to take people to any place else other than a police station to conduct identification.

He was asked various questions: ”How long are you staying, why are you here, which university will this research be submitted to…”

What made my friend think something was indeed very wrong was when the man taking notes said to him: ”I am aware of this research method, I’m a sociologist as well, that’s why I was brought on the island.” Then my friend realised they were certainly not cops and started asking questions and pressurizing them to let him go, which eventually happened.

We knew very well why we were being targeted.

Because we weren’t there just as photographers and sociologists…

Most importantly, we had gone to Mytilene as people in solidarity. We carried medicines, food, clothes, shoes, tents, sleeping bags, blankets and water…entire boxes full of bottles of water…

In Mytilene we brought our cameras and got in the water. We took unconscious children with hypothermia to the hospital. We helped sick and disabled fellow human beings.


Because there was simply no other way.

Because if you call yourself human, then the brutal laws that forbid the transfer of undocumented refugees in your vehicle, just DON’T HAVE ANY MEANING. THEY DON’T.

Because when I ‘m driving somewhere in the middle of nowhere across the mountains of Mytilene, in a 40 degree heat and I see a child passed out and her mother screaming, I write off every law that you secretaries of the state plan to enforce. I write it off!

I’m a human being and plan on staying human.

And yes, we stopped, yes we took them into our car and treated the young teenager from Afghanistan who suffered from malnutrition and sun stroke and callous feet.

Then we all sat at a table and drank wine and ordered what was on the menu at a local taverna and we all ate and drank and laughed together, even if we didn’t speak the same language.

You don’t need to speak the same language, at times you let actions speak for themselves and they carry across the meaning a thousand times better than any possible choice of words.

They want to smash solidarity because they are afraid of solidarity.

Giving the middle finger to FRONTEX, port police, every sort of cops and purebred nationalist Greeks.




In greek