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Open Letter from Documenta 14 Artists and Organizers on the Murder of Zak Kostopoulos in Athens


Queer activist Zak Kostopoulos. Via

His Excellency, Mr. Alexis Tsipras
Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic
Athens, Greece

Athens, October 01, 2018

Dear Prime Minister,

Concerned with increasing number of cases of violence targeting minorities and underprivileged people in Greece, and the corresponding brutalization of public discourse, the undersigned Greek and international artists and organizers of documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel feel obliged to call for justice again—and now with regard to the most recent, shocking events that took place on Friday, September 21, in Athens.

A 33-year-old LGBTQI activist and drag performer Zak Kostopoulos was savagely beaten up by several men in the centre of Athens, while others stood around, watching in complicity. The ensuing police intervention was recorded on videos, now available on internet. That intervention was similarly brutal and exclusively aimed at restraining Zak Kostopoulos, and not on capturing the perpetrators. With multiple injuries, Kostopoulos died on the way to hospital. The circumstances of the attack are now a subject of investigation and some of the suspects were detained, then released. Yet, aside of the legal process that was set in motion, it is crucial to understand and expose the larger fascist mindset that propels such incidents and renders them as socially acceptable acts of retribution.

On June 04, 2018, the participants of documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel—artists, organizers and curators—issued an open letter of solidarity addressed to Yiannis Boutaris, the Mayor of Thessaloniki, who was assaulted by right-wing mob during a public celebration in Thessaloniki on May 19, 2018. The attack became symbolic of the divide between the open-minded, overall progressive policy on gender and ethnic minority issues, implemented by Mayor Boutaris during his two terms as the Mayor of Thessaloniki, and the firmly authoritarian, ressentiment-driven stance of his hate-mongering enemies.

It is certainly not coincidental that one of the perpetrators of the Athens attack had previously published, via Twitter, a vulgar and aggressive statement pasted on photograph of Mayor Boutaris helped by his aides during the Thessaloniki attack in May: “This is what the traitor looks like when the Pontians f*** [expletive] him. Those like him will end up like him. Beware.”

These words became reality just months later, on September 21, when their author was among those who physically assaulted Zak Kostopoulos.

On September 27, 2018, you gave a speech at the annual gala dinner in New York organized by Global Hope Coalition, an international network of foundations whose mission is, according to their website, to “fight against violent extremism”. The event was announced as “Presentation of the 2018 Heroes against Extremism and Intolerance. In the presence of Heads of State and Government, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, activists, experts, celebrities and cultural icons”, and it took place just six days after Zak Kostopoulos’s death. In your speech, you said (quoting your Twitter account):

“Solidarity and respect to human rights is always the right answer even in the most challenging times. We must always act according to the values that fueled the collective progress of each nation and humanity as a whole.”

It’s urgent now to put some of these words into practice and act. The public killing of Zak Kostopoulos bears strong resemblance to lynching. In order for the currently expanding culture of violence not to prevail, in Greece and elsewhere, “society must be defended”—the title of Michel Foucault’s 1975-76 Collùge de France lectures is more than pertinent today. It is in this spirit, and in the wake of Zak Kostopoulos’s death, that we urge you, as the Prime Minister of Greece, to take an unequivocal position against violence. In our letter of solidarity with Mayor Boutaris on June 04, 2018 we quoted the African American theologian and freedom fighter Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

With this sense of common urgency, we ask your office for a clear public statement, and to ensure that the legal process is open and transparent and that all perpetrators involved in the murder of Zak Kostopoulos are brought to justice.

[A similar open letter to Giorgos Kaminis, the mayor of Athens, can be found here. –Editor]

Sincerely yours,

  1. Aboubakar Fofana
  2. Adam Przywara
  3. Adam Szymczyk
  4. Adrianos Trikas Pandis
  5. Aki Onda
  6. Akinbode Akinbiyi
  7. Alessandra Pomarico
  8. Alexandra Bachzetsis
  9. Alexandre Collet
  10. Ali Moraly
  11. Amar Kanwar
  12. Amelia Jones
  13. Andrea Linnenkohl
  14. Andreas Angelidakis
  15. Andreas Ragnar Kassapis
  16. Angela Dimitrakaki
  17. Angela Melitopoulos
  18. Angelo Plessas
  19. Anna Daučíková
  20. Anna JĂ€ger
  21. Anna Papaeti
  22. Annette Kulenkampff
  23. Annie Sprinkle
  24. Annie Vigier & Franck Apertet
  25. Anton Kats
  26. Antonio Vega Macotela
  27. Αpostolos Vassilopoulos
  28. Arin Rungjang
  29. Arnisa Zeqo
  30. Ashley Hans Scheirl
  31. AyƟe Güleç
  32. Aziza Harmel
  33. Banu Cennetoğlu
  34. Ben Russell
  35. Beth Stephens
  36. Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung
  37. Bonita Ely
  38. Bouchra Khalili
  39. Brett Neilson
  40. Britta Marakatt-Labba
  41. Candice Hopkins
  42. Cecilia Vicuña
  43. Chto Delat
  44. Click Ngwere
  45. Constantinos Hadzinikolaou
  46. Dale Harding
  47. Dan Peterman
  48. Danai Anesiadou
  49. Daniel G. AndĂșjar
  50. Daniel Knorr
  51. David Harding
  52. David Schutter
  53. Deborah Carlos-Valencia
  54. Delphine Leccas
  55. Denise Ferreira da Silva
  56. Dieter Roelstraete
  57. Dimitris Athiridis
  58. Dimitris Parsanoglou
  59. Ed McKeon
  60. Eleanna Papathanasiadi
  61. Elisabeth Wild
  62. Elli Christaki
  63. Eric Alliez
  64. Eva Stefani
  65. Fanny Hauser
  66. Fotini Barka
  67. Gene Ray
  68. Hans Haacke
  69. Hendrik Folkerts
  70. Hiwa K
  71. Ibrahim Mahama
  72. Jakob Lena Knebl
  73. Johan Grimonprez
  74. Jon Bywater
  75. Julia Martha Müller
  76. Katerina Nikou
  77. Katerina Tselou
  78. Klea Charitou
  79. Krzysztof Koƛciuczuk
  80. Lala Meredith-Vula
  81. Lenio Kaklea
  82. Leon Hösl
  83. Lucien Castaing-Taylor
  84. Lydia Antoniou
  85. Maria Eichhorn
  86. Maria Hassabi
  87. MarĂ­a Magdalena Campos-Pons
  88. Marianna Maruyama
  89. Marie Cool & Fabio Balducci
  90. Marina Gioti
  91. Marina Fokidis
  92. Marina Miliou
  93. Mary Zygouri
  94. Mattin
  95. Melina Spathari
  96. Michel Auder
  97. Michel Gholam
  98. Michelangelo Corsaro
  99. Monika Szewczyk
  100. Mounira Al Solh
  101. Moyra Davey
  102. Myrto Kakara
  103. Myrto Katsimicha
  104. Naeem Mohaiemen
  105. Nathan Pohio
  106. Neil Leonard
  107. Neni Panourgia
  108. Nevin Alada ğ
  109. Nikhil Chopra
  110. Nikolay Oleynikov
  111. Nilima Sheikh
  112. Niovi Zarampouka-Chatzimanou
  113. Octavio Zaya
  114. Otobong Nkanga
  115. Panos Charalambous
  116. Paul B. Preciado
  117. PĂ©lagie Gbaguidi
  118. Pierre Bal-Blanc
  119. R. H. Quaytman
  120. Rick Lowe
  121. Roee Rosen
  122. Rosalind Nashashibi
  123. Ross Birrell
  124. Salvatore Lacagnina
  125. Sandro Mezzadra
  126. Sanja Iveković
  127. Sergio Zevallos
  128. Stanley Whitney
  129. Stavia Grimani
  130. Stratos Bichakis
  131. Susan Hiller
  132. Theo Eshetu
  133. Tracey Rose
  134. Wolfgang Prinz
  135. Vasyl Cherepanyn
  136. Venia Vergou
  137. Verena Paravel
  138. Vivian Suter
  139. Yael Davids
  140. Yannis Arvanitis
  141. Yervant Gianikian
  142. Zafos Xagoraris