I woke up today expecting to relax in my apartment and perhaps even enjoy Athens. It didn’t turn out like that. A 14 year old Afghan boy had gotten into a fight at Piraeus port. He was beaten by a group of refugees and went to receive treatment at the Red Cross tent there. He had been beaten with a cane and his face was severely bruised. That’s when the Athens police came.
They arrested him and only him. They handcuffed him, seated him in the police car, and brought him the police station. For 24 hours, they choked him, kicked him, punched him, slapped him, and sexually abused him. They didn’t feed him, didn’t give him any water, didn’t let him go to the bathroom, and didn’t let him go to sleep. For much of the day he sat only in his underwear. They laughed and ate and had their female officers watch as they strip searched him repeatedly. Again, he is just 14 years old. He is an orphan.
To witness the aftermath of this up close is something that there are no words for. I went to the police station, and because I could not understand what the police were saying, was staring at these officers who I knew were responsible for the abuse, trying to figure out what monsters looked like in person. I sat with this boy and his friends at the hospital and tried to help him remember the details of what happened to him, as he slipped in and out of consciousness. These refugees have accepted that they are robbed by local gangs, exploited by smugglers, attacked by other refugees, and, of course, that they have risked their lives to flee unjust governments and terrorist groups. But this they cannot accept.
This is Europe?, they ask.
I had to travel to Greece to see police brutality up close and have found a whole new level of respect for its victims. All lives matter, they say, except when it doesn’t.