Letter from Thodoris Delis
The following letter from Thodoris Delis, who is charged with robbing a bank on the island of Rhodes, was recently published in the first issue of Storming the Bastille: Voices from the Inside, which brings together a number of texts and letters written by prisoners in struggle. The publication is one of the supplementary projects stemming from the Solidarity Fund for Prisoners in Struggle initiative.
Liberty is indivisible; one cannot curtail a part of it without killing all of it.
—Mikhail Bakunin, Federalism, Socialism, Anti-Theologism
For the past month-and-a-half, I’ve been experiencing the “marvelous hospitality” of Greek prisons. My voyage began with an inexplicably lengthy stay in the dungeons of Rhodes, my next stop was the transfer office on Petrou Ralli Street in Athens, and I ended up (at least for now) in Alikarnassos Prison on the island of Crete. Although I’ve been inside for too short a period of time to make sweeping generalizations, I’d still like to contribute my limited experiences to this very important project of creating a publication exclusively dedicated to the words of prisoners themselves.
Conditions in the dungeons of Rhodes were literally inhuman. Nevertheless, to seek freedom is strongly instinctive, and I therefore longed to glimpse a sliver of sky through a window somewhere. But I soon learned that windows are considered a kind of luxury. The cells were very small, and it was a struggle to breathe because a number of people had to fit into just a few square meters. There wasn’t enough room to sleep, and apart from the stifling conditions, the mattresses were stained with the urine and excrement of drug addicts, thus posing an obvious risk of infectious disease. I myself, for example, managed to stay awake for 36 hours because I additionally had to withstand incessant interrogation. With all this, plus the summer heat and lack of ventilation, I think each one of you can easily imagine the tragedy of the situation. Of course, I expected nothing better with regard to food, and it didn’t take long to confirm my suspicions. The meal given to us once a day was impossible to eat. Exhaustion and malnutrition were everyday phenomena.
Like I said, the next stop was the transfer office in Athens. There I managed to see the people closest to me, and thus steel my courage for the days to come. To my ears, “a visit” sounded magical, and seeing my people was the most wonderful thing that could have happened to me at the time, given how important the support of comrades and relatives is for a prisoner.
Then I was suddenly transferred to Alikarnassos Prison. Conditions there were just as harsh, and this soon sparked a prisoner uprising. There are cells, like mine, in which there is no toilet, meaning that many prisoners sometimes go as long as 13 hours without being able to meet their basic physiological needs. The size of the cells is roughly 10 square meters. Within are two to three people plus about 40 cockroaches, not counting other insect species, which naturally don’t leave you or your food in peace, resulting in frequent fights that we prisoners seem to be winning, for now. In addition, the “competent authorities” often prohibit certain products, even essentials like toilet paper and underwear. And finally, the meals consist of vegetables that look like surplus from the German occupation, and maybe some meat that seems a bit fresher—we’re guessing from the Junta era.
In this kind of atmosphere, and because a prisoner almost died recently thanks to the usual negligence of the jailers, the Alikarnassos prisoners rebelled on September 16. Considering that there are enormous differences in the “ethical,” economic, and political standards of prisoners here, the large scale and collective nature of the rebellion came out of nowhere. Particularly important during the events was the immediate response from comrades who, upon hearing news of the uprising, came from Heraklion by motorcycle to hold a solidarity demonstration. All prisoners feel the need for that kind of support and solidarity activity, and we saluted the initiative together. During the rebellion, there was no prisoner committee to make decisions or play ringleader. An informal assembly was held immediately, which essentially handled discussions with legal authorities, and all the prisoners were present during negotiations. It’s worth emphasizing that the mutual respect among prisoners stood out as the fundamental element of the uprising, as we all realized the urgency of solving vital problems in a dignified way. Finally, it’s important to mention that Albanian prisoners also took part in the rebellion en masse, despite the predominance of blatant racism against them here, due to—like they say—“things that happened in the past.” And the racism continues to this day: They have a separate yard and their cells are in another wing.
To conclude this letter, I want to salute all those who are doing the right thing, putting aside political and personal differences to support all political prisoners and prisoners in struggle. There’s a pressing need to understand that such nastiness is inappropriate, since we’re all facing similar situations. Finally, I unequivocally declare that I will keep fighting from inside the dungeons of democracy—continuously, intransigently, and irrevocably, just like I did when I was on the outside.
UNTIL THE FINAL VICTORY, FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF EVERY PRISON
FREEDOM FOR THOSE INSIDE
October 4, 2010