The body of Jon Anza, patriot and ETA activist, was finally returned to the Basque Country last week.
Activists of the nationalist left welcomed him with voices chanting, flags waving and tears in their eyes. The thousands who gathered in the seaside town of Ziburu in the area of the Basque Country occupied by France witnessed an emotional display in Anza’s memory. Beaten, banned, tortured and kidnapped, the Spanish and French states want this determined people to disappear but, from this display, it is clear they are standing firm.
Mystery surrounds Anza’s disappearance from a train travelling to Toulouse and the fact that he was then missing for days before he was found collapsed in the street in the French city. The fact that his body lay unclaimed in the Toulouse morgue for almost a year, while his passport was among the personal items on his person also appears sinister.
The reaction of the state didn’t stop once his whereabouts were known. On receiving information on the location of his body, his family and around 100 supporters travelled to Toulouse. As they are entitled to, they demanded that a doctor of their choosing could observe the autopsy. This right was refused and the crowd of supporters was attacked by police with batons and tear gas.
Now, though, Anza is back in the Basque Country. According to the Basque newspaper Gara, the homecoming event started at five in the afternoon and, after a brief press conference, the fallen patriot’s family arrived. A path had been left through the thousands gathered and they marched to the stage flanked by thousands holding aloft Ikurrunias [the Basque national flag] with black ribbons at their centre. Anza’s sister and his partner held aloft a giant picture of their loved one, which they carried onto the stage and placed it as the centrepiece.
The first act of remembrance was the performance of a poem in honour of Anza by a young Bertsolari [traditional Basque poet]. This was followed by the emergence of three ETA volunteers form the crowd. The activists read a statement praising Anza’s commitment to the Basque cause and commenting on the current political situation in the occupied country. This was followed by traditional singers, a poignant rural dance and a ballad singer. Another speech followed that commented upon Anza’s role both as a patriot and a socialist. The event ended with Eusko Guduriak being sung and chants rebounding around the tightly crammed square. The Basque Country had said goodbye to one of its most loyal sons.
The end of the nightmare that Jon Anza’s family has lived through doesn’t mean that the dirty war which Spain and France have waged for many decades is over. Only last month, Mikeldi Zenigaonaindia, a recently released Basque political prisoner, related in an interview how he had been kidnapped twice in the last five months in an effort to get him to inform on his comrades.
While being held captive in a forest, his life was threatened and he was told that he would be framed and would have to spend the rest of his life in prison. So, Anza is safe at last but fascism in the form of the Spanish state still stalks the streets of the Basque Country.