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Greece: Public Suicide of 77 Year Old Man in Athens Square

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

All Greece was shocked this morning by the news that Dimitris Christoulas, aged 77, shot himself in the head around 9 am, in full view of passersby in Syntagma square, Athens, across from the Parliament building.

The man is reported to have been a retired pharmacist, who sold his pharmacy in 1994. Before the shot, he reportedly shouted that he “didn't want to leave any debts to his children”.

A Facebook event calls for a gathering to Syntagma square today evening: “Everyone at Syntagma. Let's not get used to death”.

Global Voices author Asteris Masouras has made a collection of posts and media on Storify.

Poster from a Facebook event for this evening in Syntagma square. It reads: "It wasn't a suicide. It was a murder. LET'S NOT GET USED TO DEATH."

Poster from a Facebook event for this evening in Syntagma square. It reads: "It wasn't a suicide. It was a murder. LET'S NOT GET USED TO DEATH."

Greek Twitter has been buzzing all day with mixed comments and reactions on this tragic event:

@YanniKouts: Suicide of a 77-year old man this morning in Syntagma Sq shocks #Greece. “It's the only way for a dignified end, I can't eat from garbage”.

User Arkoudos makes a wish for all those left behind [el]:

@arkoudos: Μακάρι να μη φύγεις. Μακάρι να μείνεις, να παλέψεις. Κι άλλο. Μακάρι.Μακάρι να μη ντρέπεσαι. Μακάρι να ντραπούμε, πρώτα, εμείς.

@arkoudos:  Ι wish you didn't leave. I wish you stayed, to fight. More. I wish. I wish you didn't feel ashamed. I wish we will be the ones to get ashamed first.

User Magica underlines the shame both sides share on this controversial issue [el]:

@magicasland: ειναι ντροπή αυτο που κανει το κράτος στο λαό του. αλλά ειναι και ντροπή να αυτοκτονείς ενω επιβίωσε με πεισμα τόσος κοσμος επι κατοχής

@magicasland: It's a shame what the country does to its people, but it's also shame to commit suicide, while all these people stubbornly survived during the Nazi occupation [of World War Two]
Syntagma Square, Athens, Greece. Image by Flickr user YanniKouts (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Syntagma Square, Athens, Greece. Image by Flickr user YanniKouts (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Online debate went political, apart from its unquestionable humanitarian aspect. Journalist Aris Chatzistefanou drew parallels to the Bouazizi suicide in Tunisia [el]:

@xstefanou: Η Ελλάδα έχει το δικό της Μπουαζίζι. Πρέπει να δείξει αν έχει και λαό ισάξιο της Τυνησίας και της Αιγύπτου η μόνο ψηφοφόρους ΠΑΣΟΚ -ΝΔ-ΛΑΟΣ.

@xstefanou: Greece has its own Bouazizi. It has to prove if its people is as worthy as Tunisia's and Egypt's, instead of having only voters of PASOK-ND-LAOS. [PASOK and ND have been the main political parties in Greece during the last two decades, LAOS is the prominent right-wing party].

User Elikas seeks justice [el]:

@Elikas: Κάποια στιγμή πρέπει να δικαστούν και οι ηθικοί αυτουργοί για όλες αυτές τις αυτοκτονίες. Που στην πραγματικότητα είναι δολοφονίες.

@Elikas: Some time, the accomplices must go to the court for all these suicides. [These suicides] in fact are murders.

User Sara Firth criticizes the European methods for Greek rescue:

@SaraFirth_RT: Europes [sic] methods for ‘saving Greece’ are now literally killing the Greek people. The syntagma suicide should never have happened #greece

Athens News reports about a suicide note found on the victim, where reportedly he compared the present Greek government to wartime collaborationists:

The Tsolakoglou government has annihilated all traces for my survival. And since I cannot find justice, I cannot find another means to react besides putting a decent end [to my life], before I start searching the garbage for food.

Georgios Tsolakoglou was a Greek military officer who became the first prime minister of the Greek collaborationist government during the Axis Occupation in 1941-1942. The reference is obviously seen as a comparison between the wartime government and the current government of Lucas Papademos.

User PenelopeD10, mocking Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis for his decision last summer to oust tents protesters off Syntagma square, because it was a bad image for Athens tourists, says ironically [el]:

@PenelopeD10: Μη βγάλει κι άλλο φιρμάνι ο Καμίνης “απαγορεύονται οι αυτοκτονίες στο κέντρο γιατί βλάπτουν τον τουρισμό”…

@PenelopeD10: I wish Kaminis won't issue another decree “suicides forbidden in [Athens city] center because they harm tourism”…

Many also accused people that tried to politically exploit and use a simple person's death for politics or their own interests:

@dianalizia: shameless! karatzaferis opportunistically uses man's suicide this morning to criticize corrupt politicians & system (he is a part of)

@mindstripper: Οι δημοσιογράφοι πανηγυρίζουν, οι πολιτικοί παπαγαλίζουν κι εμείς στις εκλογές θα κάψουμε γι άλλη μία φορά τη χώρα. Καλό ταξίδι στον άνθρωπο

@mindstripper: Journalists triumph, politicians parrot and we will “burn” this country one more time at national elections. Farewell to this man

Apart from any political interpretation or exploitation of this tragic incident, user Serk01 brings on the simple truth of human existence [el]:

@serk01: κανε ενα βήμα ‘πισω’ και σκέψου τι σημαίνει να αυτοκτονεί ενας ανθρωπος.

@serk01: Take a step back and think what it means that a human being commits suicide.

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

The number one cause for suicide is untreated depression. Depression is treatable and suicide is preventable. You can get help from confidential support lines for the suicidal and those in emotional crisis. Visit Befrienders.org to find a suicide prevention helpline in your country.

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