On the morning of 20th February, 2003, I picked up the phone and heard Joxemari Irazusta's voice: "The Civil Guard have arrested Pello Zubiria." Pello? Joxemari told me the little he knew about it, and I couldn't believe it. I got back into bed; I couldn't digest the news. After turning around for a couple of minutes I got up again and set off for Lasarte (Gipuzkoa), the place where we edit ARGIA.
A few other people had been arrested, and I heard their names on the radio: Iñaki Uria, Martxelo Otamendi, Luis Goia, Txema Auzmendi… they were among those who had been arrested. “That's it, then: it's connected with Euskaldunon Egunkaria.” Egunkaria has been founded in 1990, supported by ARGIA amongst others.
When I got to Lasarte I found that the Civil Guard (Spain's special armed forces) were in our offices, and they had already taken Pello's computer and mine (I was the editor at the time); they had also taken thousands of printed photographs, CDs and other types of documents. Later on they also arrested Inma Gomila, our workmate and the former manager of Egunkaria.
They closed down the only newspaper published in Basque, trampled on the right to a free press, arrested 18 people, of whom some they tortured, sent them to prison, made 150 people unemployed, forced people to spend a fortune on legal costs… and seven years later everybody was absolved: The Spanish National Court found out that Egunkaria had not been at ETA's command.
The official reaction to the whole operation was no joke, it was no mere sign of an authoritarian state but, rather, evidence of an entire legal system. The vast majority of Basques, however, saw things in a different way: the state had attacked Basque culture in a clear and savage manner.
No excuses have been offered, no reparations have been made, no damages paid… the state's impunity is all that has remained. Why does the state which destroyed it all not have to build it all again? The only thing that can be built on top of such humiliation is imposition. A whole people's response and the image of solidarity remain on the other side of memory, along with the strength to rebuild the project of publishing in Basque.
Last week I was struck by the explanation which Imanol Olabarria gave in ARGIA of the events in Gasteiz on 3rd March, 1976, which the Franco police killed five workers and wounded hundreds. Being held under arrest in Madrid, he asked his lawyer what the charges were; the answer was "Sedition, in other words, working against the security of the state".
Defending workers' rights on the streets of Gasteiz is attacking the state. For current Spanish judges, Josep Lluis Trapero, the head of the Catalonian police, not to send agents out to beat people up was also sedition. The Spanish security forces complied with Spanish law by hitting citizens. Organising a referendum, too, is a serious crime of rebellion, just as publishing a newspaper in Basque was terrorism.
Looking at Spain, I see something hard and terrible when the 15th anniversary of the closure of Egunkaria is mixed up with current events: in line with the fascist rising of 1936, Spain is clearly going backwards. Looking at our land, a reflection connected with the closure of a Basque-language medium comes to mind: Basque media are in the strongest position they have ever been in. And that, in itself, is a lot.
A Spanish court in Navarre (Basque Country) sentenced five men to nine years in prison for gang raping a teenage girl in 2016 in Iruñea, during the world-known Sanfermin celebration. Now they will be able to leave prison, after a controversial judicial decision. The bail of 6,000 euros imposed by the judge has generated outrage among the Basques.
Wednesday 13th June, Altsasu. Banners saying "Leave Altsasu Alone" decorate the balconies in the town. You can feel the pain, but no grief or resignation. To the contrary: the town's solidarity and strength is palpable. There are three or four locals having their afternoon coffee at Koxka Bar. 606 days have gone by since the brawl which took place there between some young locals and two Civil Guards and their sentimental partners. That is where it all started, on a market... [+]
Gure Esku Dago ('It's in Our Hands', a platform in favour of the right to decide) needed 100,000 people to form a human chain linking Donostia, Bilbao and Gasteiz. According to the organizers, 175,000 people came together to connect the three Basque cities.
"Damages, public disorder and threats" and "attacking authority" are the crimes which the Spanish National Court has charged eight young Basques with.
A member of the 'Ongi Etorri Errefuxiatuak' movement ('Welcome to the Refugees') has told Radio Bilbao that over the last three months no ships from Saudi Arabia have docked at Bilbao. Over the previous sixteen months they had loaded 455 containers. According to OEE, social pressure has made them use another port.
The Bizitza da handiena ('Life is the Greatest Thing') campaign was held in Donostia from 19th to 27th May. 63 citizens' movements and trades unions joined in with the "social struggle week" and proclaimed the need for a "citizens' capital". Different trenches have made up a single front. The anti-tourism protest got its message across, the World Tourism Organization holding its highest level meeting in city during the same week as the protest movement.
A year has gone by since Iberdrola electric company and the Basque Government cut the power on the Errekaleor district of Gasteiz. The project then became known to many people, and there was a huge wave of solidarity. Amongst other things, they collected € 10,000 to create their own energy system and now, one year later, they want to thank everybody who took part in the fund-raising on May 20th, which they are calling 100 mila esker ("A Hundred Thousand Thanks") Day.
Thousands of people came together at Herri Urrats (The People's Steps), the festivity which Basque schools (ikastolas) in the northern Basque Country hold every year. Seaska ikastola federation's request to the French government for more teachers was the main subject of conversation this year.
We went through a cathartic process on October 20th, 2011, when they renounced violence, but now, too, writing that ETA has disappeared is no small thing. When you realise everything that means, a shiver goes down your spine. There have been too many events and feelings, too much suffering over the last 60 years for it to be otherwise.
The punishment for a group of men who attacked a women has caused anger in the Basque Country and in Spain. Five men have been tried for attacking a woman during the 2016 San Fermin festivities at Iruñea, Navarre. The Navarrese High Court's reading of the sentence caused considerable media interest: each of the men has been condemned to a nine-year sentence, expenses of 50,000 euros and a restraining order.