Ahepa Cancels '03 Convention in Athens
Ahepa, the nation's largest and one of the oldest Greek American community organizations has cancelled its 2003 Convention, scheduled to take place in Athens, Greece. This was the second straight year the group opted to cancel its convention in Greece.
According to a joint statement by Ahepa President, Dr. James Dimitriou and Chairman of the Board, Lee G. Rallis, "The continuing threat of terrorist actions which may target civilians or facilities where Americans are known to gather, regretfully precludes the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) and its affiliated organizations from holding its 2003 annual covention overseas".
"We realize that terrorism can strike anytime, anywhere, and by any means, including here at home," the statement added. "And while we know of no specific threat to individual American citizens in Greece, we do feel that a risk exists for large gatherings of Americans overseas."
"Therefore we must undertake prudent measures by adhering to Worldwide Cautions such as the ones issues by the U.S. Department of State on November 6, 2002 and by the National Infrastructure Protection Center on November 14, 2002."
The Worldwide Caution issues by the U.S. Department of State cites hotels, restaurants, clubs, and outdoor recreational events as examples of facilities where possible attacks may occur.
News of the cancellation spread like wildfire throughout the ranks of the organization and the Greek American community nationwide and in Greece. Many angry people blasted the decision and suggested that the Ahepa had been strong-armed by the U.S. government. Some even suggested that the group was "paid off" by the U.S. government to help perpetuate a smear campaign against Greece.
A source from within the organization that was involved in the decision to cancel the convention -- who asked to remain anonymous, stated that such allegations were fantasy.
The source commented that "Our government is in the middle of an economic crisis, a potential war with Iraq and other major problems. Whoever thought this one up deserves a Pulitzer Prize for 'best fiction' because this is plain fiction."
In an editorial, the National Herald weekly newspaper from Astoria, New York also criticized the organization for the decision to cancel the gathering in Greece that was expected to bring together several thousand Greek Americans.