Cleaning ladies still camped out at Syntagma
by Rosa Moussaoui
Original article here
Syriza promised to reinstate these women, symbols of the fight against the troika.
They acclaimed Yanis Varoufakis when he took his position as finance minister. But, under the new minister’s windows, a few steps from Plaza Syntagma, in Athens’ center, they didn’t break camp. The cleaning ladies for public institutions have been fighting back for 16 months against 595 layoffs in their midst. They promise to continue occupying the street until they are reinstated as Syriza promised while campaigning. Yet, Thursday, their faces appeared relaxed and bursts of laughter could be heard among the tents. For these campers who rotated shifts night and day, there was abundant support. “I am very happy. This political change represents the hope of getting back to our jobs, but also the hope of a future for our children and better days ahead for Greeks,” said Magdalena Sokoli, smiling. Along with her companions in misery, she experienced all of the backlash from this long combat. She pestered the troika representatives each time they visited, took part in legal battles, participated in all of the anti-austerity marches, where the cleaning ladies took the lead, becoming symbols of resistance.
“We are afraid of nothing, and have nothing to lose.”
In June 2014, Antonis Samaras’ government pulled out all the stops trying to get rid of them and sent in riot police. Without warning, the women became the targets of a savage repression, being kicked and beaten with clubs and shields. Several women ended up in the hospital, with broken bones and head and neck injuries. Journalists covering the brutal police raid were also hit and injured. “We came back. We didn’t give in. We are afraid of nothing and have nothing to lose. Through rain or wind, we will stay here until our jobs are given back to us. We are, for the most part, around 50 years old - too far from retirement and too old to hope to find work elsewhere. Alexis Tsipras supported us since the beginning. We now expect him to keep his promise,” insisted Magdalena, her fellow combatants nodding in approval.
Behind them, the famous poster showing a raised fist wrapped in a pink rubber glove changed - the same hand now flashing a “V” for Victory.