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Testimony

“Isn’t there someone who should apologize?”

Leros

It’s very fortunate that this talented policeman, Panos Alexiou was there. He is the one who finally broke the case. He is new at the job, very eager and has no strings attached to the local community. In the past, there had been multiple instances of physical abuse towards the children. Just a year ago, the father had hit the elderly son in the face with a shovel. All these incidents were magically archived until now.

Small communities are a bit hypocritical when a family is somewhat big and can bring a lot of votes in local elections. The authorities always tend to turn a blind eye. Their attitude is along the lines of “come on, we can help him”, “let’s not take him to the State Prosecutor, he’s a good person”, “he won’t do it again”, etc.

The community of Leros was shocked, because such an incident was unforeseen here. We have our suspicions of families in which there might be similar events taking place, but we never have the evidence. There are strong indications though, and we all know about them. But it’s very difficult to look inside the family, especially since Social Services are non-existent in such places and the authorities are acting in such a manner that would not tarnish the name of the island or the family.

The people of Leros have all accepted that it was the right thing what happened, despite their initial hesitation. They have been accused of knowing and not speaking about what was going on. Maybe some people knew, maybe they might have spoken but were not heard or maybe, this is just how things work in small communities.

There was also a very mild response from the local State Prosecutor who might not have paid much attention to the issue in the past. The daughter had been removed from the parents’ custody a year ago and then was brought back to the wolf’s den by order of the State Prosecutor. Isn’t there someone who should apologize for that?

We are very far from a point where the state would have the will to solve such issues. The situation is convenient as it is.

If the state decided to send child psychiatrists or social workers, no one would be able to say “no”. But no one here would ask for them. Months after the fact, there hasn’t been any request for specialised personnel to come, that would prevent such cases in the future. What are they waiting for?

Nikos Ignatidis is a journalist based in Leros. He is the presenter of the show “Ta Nea tis Lerou” (The News of Leros) on Aigaio TV. This testimony has been edited out of a longer interview that took place in October 2018.