Walking through the streets of Athens, when you look up, you will see the ancient city where western philosophical thought was born. When you look in the other direction, you will discover a multicultural and mysterious neighbourhood with endless graffiti on its walls.
It’s a neighbourhood of artistic and political resistance located in the heart of Greece in Athens. Perhaps it’s one of the most marginal areas of Athens. Nevertheless, Exarcheia is a neighbourhood where many intellectuals, activists and artists live, where many anarchist and anti-fascist groups are located, and where they live in solidarity and somehow preserve their existence. The neighbourhood got its name from a businessman named Exarchos (Greek: Έξαρχος), who opened a large store there.
I looked at some of the travel blogs which I reviewed about Exarcheia, instead of following the people talkings about Exarcheia as a dangerous area, on the contrary, I went there with the excitement of wandering around the streets of Exarcheia. (?)
As I walked along the street, I saw slogans, posters and graffiti on the walls. There is a message inside all kinds of art, especially street art. You can understand this better when you see the streets of Exarcheia. This part of Exarcheia, which has graffitied about resistance, sometimes contains politic, sometimes anti-authoritarian slogans and things like that. Most of the graffiti I saw walking on the street criticized the police force, the state, capitalism, and even tourism.
Exercheia has a long history of political protests and riots. Its political history, the liberal thought which environment created in the neighbourhood and the past events have made Exarcheia even more known. The most important of these is the Polytechnic Resistance held in 1973.
On November 17, 1973, a student uprising against the far-right military dictatorship occurred at Athens Polytechnic University. Hundreds of students assembled to oppose to Dictatorship of President Georgios Papadopoulos. Students start a great anti-imperialist demonstration at the university. In the protests that lasted for three days, the students demanded the end of the military regime. Students became the symbol of resistance against the dictatorship in Greece. Even the public comes to the university to support the students. The military administration began to panic and sent tanks to the university, which the police couldn’t enter during these three days. The protestors were met with tanks and began to emerge as a place synonymous with leftist politics and anarchy.
You are my brother Alexis, είσαι ο αδερφός μου Berkin.
While I was wandering the streets of Exarcheia, a corner caught my attention: in this corner, pictures of two children from two different countries who shared the same fate. Alexis ve Berkin.
The image on the left is Alexandros Grigoropoulos, who was killed by the police in Athens on December 6, 2008, and Berkin Elvan, who was killed by the police again on June 16, 2013, during the Gezi protests in Istanbul. (?)
Fascism is universal. After Berkin was shot during the Gezi protests, these two children were commemorated together. Today, I saw the pictures of these two children side by side on the wall there. While the violence created by fascism is still encountered everywhere today, it is hopeful to be aware of the joint pain and to continue solidarity for peace.