Protesting artist injured by police water cannon in Cyprus


Text by Kiriakos Spirou

Anastasia Demetriadou, a young singer and songwriter from Cyprus who performs under the stage name Nama Dama, was injured by a police water cannon during an anti-corruption protest that took place in Nicosia last Saturday.

The 25-year-old had to undergo eye surgery on her left eye on Monday. Her ophthalmologist stated that she has not escaped risk, and she will most probably suffer a permanent 25% sight loss.

This was part of a violent crackdown of an otherwise peaceful demonstration in the island's capital; civilians were protesting widespread corruption, as well as rising authoritarianism in Cyprus disguised as health measures for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Around 1000 protesters had gathered on Saturday afternoon near Kolokasi Park, breaking the local prohibition on public gatherings. They were met by dozens of policemen in riot gear, who attacked them before the march even began.

Police used tear gas, pepper spray, stun grenades and batons to disperse the crowd. A medical doctor who was present and was offering first aid to injured protesters was also beaten and harassed by the police.  According to the doctor's account, a policeman beat him with a baton twice on the back, saying “you’ll show me respect, kid”.

A water canon was also deployed as part of the police's show of force. In a video of the incident, the user of the water cannon singles out Demetriou, who is dancing on the pavement taunting the police, and directs the jet full-pressure into her face. She is knocked over by the blast and fellow protesters immediately run to her aid.

Demetriou is now recovering and has stated that she will take legal action against the police. Meanwhile, other protesters were beaten and arrested, and one policeman reportedly kneeled on a protester's neck.

Cyprus has the highest number of policemen in Europe for size of its population, with 573 policemen per 100.000 civilians, followed by Malta with 505, Greece with 492 and Croatia with 490 (2016 data).

Commentators on social media have criticised the Cypriot government for its police spending at a time when public health, education and culture are collapsing due to the lockdowns and the pandemic.

Reuters and Al Jazeera have reported on the Nicosia protest, while Amnesty International has tweeted about the incident.

The Nicosia-based Visual Artists and Art Theorists Association - Phytorio has released a statement about the crackdown, accusing the Cypriot government of "officially accepting its fascist character" and expressing its solidarity with "all protesters, especially those who were beaten and injured".

More protests are being organised in Nicosia and other Cypriot cities for this coming Saturday 20 February at 16:00. The main call is here. More updates on the hashtags #ωςδαμε20_2 #enough20_2.

Money to welfare. Defund the police.

Photo of the protests in Nicosia on 13 February 2021. Via Andreas Paraschos on Twitter.