The police in Thessaloniki has been carrying out a series of ungrounded arrests of transgender persons as stated by the Greek Transgender Support Association. "According to written complaints filed by our members who live in Thessaloniki, it is clear that from 30 May 2013 onwards, the police have been carrying out purges and arrests of transgender citizens on a daily basis. The same complaints state that those arrested are being taken to the police headquarters in Thessaloniki in Dimokratia Square, where the victims are waiting for at least three or four hours to be identified under the pretext that the authorities should establish whether the particular person was not a prostitute," reads an address of the non-governmental organization (NGO).
The Association stresses that the police behaviour during the arrests was offensive, humiliating and that it was intended to undermine the dignity of transgender persons. In three of the complaints, the victims note that traffic policemen had stopped transgender women while they were driving their cars without any proof or suspicion of any fault or violation of the law. Later, they were taken to the police station in order for their identity to be verified.
The testimonies of a large number of victims suggest that before being released from custody, the policemen threatened transgender women, warning them that if they did not "return to normal", legal proceedings against them would be initiated for indecent behaviour in public places.
The Greek Transgender Support Association connects the campaign against transgender persons with the recent actions of some municipal representatives and the church against the forthcoming gay festival Thessaloniki Pride, which will take place on 14 and 15 June this year.
Late last week, the Metropolitan of the Orthodox Christian Church Antimos openly urged the residents of the northern Greek city not to allow their children to participate in or to promote the gay parade. He described Thessaloniki Pride as an "unholy and unnatural event." Antimos announced that he had received a petition containing nineteen and a half thousand signatures of citizens of Thessaloniki and the surrounding areas, who "strongly and dynamically protest against the outspoken presentation of homosexuals in their city." He said that he was for the repeal of the festival and that he strongly supported the opinion of the discontented.
The NGO associates the police action against transgender persons with the statements of the Metropolitan. "The fact that these arrests have become a daily act from 30 May this year onwards, when the statements of local persons (from the civic community and the church) against Thessaloniki Pride were announced, logically makes us think that there is a targeted plan to hit one of the most vulnerable groups in the LGBT community, namely that of transgender persons. They are the ones who suffer most from acute intolerance and exclusion by society and are the easiest victims."
The Association points out that the ungrounded arrest and detention of ordinary citizens violates human rights and freedoms. The Greek Transgender Support Association warns that it will turn to the international community in order to protect the rights and dignity of transgender persons in the country.