On January 13, 2024, a march that has become a tradition was held in Bilbao.  It was organized by Sare, a civilian Basque organization that brings together people of different ideologies whose main goal is that all Basque prisoners, fugitives, and deportees fully enjoy their human rights.  Right at the head of the line was Itziar Ituño, the internationally-known Basque actress.

This has led to a social “cancellation” that is incompatible with a democratic state.  This ruckus has come not only from people who were looking to pick a fight, but media, associations, and political parties have also fanned the flames.

It took us a while to bring this issue up on the blog because we’ve been waiting to see how international media would react.  We were afraid that, as is usually the case, the message being broadcast in Spain would be uncritically copied by media abroad, the message that defending the rights of all, including those members of the ETA who are in jail, is to defend the ETA.

It’s essential to understand a very important concept before continuing to discuss what happened at this year’s march and its consequences.

Sare does not defend any amnesty or extraordinary liberation for ETA prisoners.  What they defend is that these prisoners have the same rights and obligations as any other prisoner, and that they should not have a special status that prevents them from enjoying the same prison benefits that any other prisoner, including rapists, murderers, and drug traffickers, have.

This organization’s demands, and the marches it organizes in different places, can be found on their website:

  • The end of the dispersion policy that allows for prisoners to be sent far away, thereby turning them into Basque citizens.  The maintenance of this policy, which has lasted for over 25 years, harms not only the prisoners but also their closest loved ones, and carries with it severe consequences, including death.  The dispersion policy was based on revenge.  In this new era, a new political measure must put an end to this suffering.
  • The liberation of prisoners with serious illnesses.  The liberation of prisoners who have reached the age of 70 and those who have completed ⅔ to ¾ of their sentence.
  • Abolish the laws and situations that end up being life sentences or lengthened prison sentences, such as the life sentence handed down in France and the 40-year prison sentence handed down in Spain.
  • The end of solitary confinement that can destroy the prisoner as a person.

These rights are regularly applied to the whole of the prison population, except ETA prisoners, who have seen their right to enjoy them repeatedly impeded.

At this time, ETA and terrorism or collaboration prisoners are no longer dispersed, and they are doing their time in prisons in the Basque Country.  But there are still extra obstacles to getting the other prison benefits, such as being released for having served the majority of the sentences, for turning 70, or for serious illness.

This arbitrary and disrespectful attitude towards human rights is joined by very controversial actions on the part of the National Audience, an exceptional tribunal (to not use a worse term) whose existence, or at least whose modus operandicomes into direct conflict with Article 24 of the current Spanish Constitution.  It has only been since this court, which many times has acted as a truly “autonomous commando,” was established, that it is possible to understand how there could be sentences like “terrorist collaborator,” handed down by Fernando Grande-Marlaska (former judge there; now in the Ministry of the Interior) against Gorka Agirre; or the temporary closure and preventive seizure of all assets of Egunkaria, because it supposedly made up part of a business group controlled by the ETA (which ended up having to finally close) at the orders of National Audience Judge Juan del Olmo.

This situation against human rights must be denounced and undone, and that’s why Sare organized the January 13 march that Itziar Ituño led.

Her participation has cost her dearly, though, given her commitment to social issues, we’re certain that this is a cost that the actress was willing to pay in order to stand up for her principles and the freedom of speech.

In addition to the “cancellation” she’s experienced on social and mainstream media, her decision has also cost her financially.  Two companies, Iberia and BMW Lurauto, have canceled contracts with her.  The former stated that they would “not be working with her in future advertising campaigns,” and the latter claimed, in a headline that seems straight from The Onion, that they “did not wish to associate with any political ideologies.”

Yes, this is a clear example of Cancel Culture, which is quite clearly defined on Wikipedia:

Cancel culture is a phrase contemporary to the late 2010s and early 2020s used to refer to a cultural phenomenon in which some who are deemed to have acted or spoken in an unacceptable manner are ostracizedboycotted, or shunned. This shunning may extend to social or professional circles—whether on social media or in person—with most high-profile incidents involving celebrities. Those subject to this ostracism are said to have been “canceled”.

It’s curious that Wikipedia itself cites the origin of this behavior to be one of the first phases the Nazis used against the Jews and others who didn’t participate in their political ideology.  We’re sure this attitude goes back even further.  For example, the policies followed by the Communist Party of the USSR had similar ones against dissidents; the same could be said of any dictatorship, or even the absolute monarchies we have so “enjoyed” in the history of Europe.

Also, why not, we could be referring to what we Basques had to live through at the beginning of the Franco dictatorship, or later, during the exceptional policies applied by the dictatorship and first and the democratic governments after his death, which were added to those applied by the ETA and its support network for far too many years.

Because this is the problem low-quality democracies, like the one we live in, have.  It believes that human rights, such as freedom of speech, are only valid for those who think just like they do.

Whenever these things happen, we feel that a significant part of the society we get to live in is quite close to the one heading the civilian/military dictatorship that imposed itself on Argentina 1976—1983.  Whenever it was accused by international organizations of not respecting human rights, it answered that “the Argentines are rights and humans.”

Defending the human rights of a criminal does not mean you support the criminal.  It means you support democracy and justice.  There should be no exceptions in that area, because if there are, if we start down that slippery slope, who knows where it will end.  Law enforcement, especially judges and district attorneys, must be especially sensitive to these topics.  Just like prison wardens and guards.  But the experience of the last 40 years tells me that, in too many cases, it is not so.

This idea of “it’s acceptable as long as I agree with it” is quite clear when we analyze other statements the Basque actress has made.

Just over a year ago, in March 2022, Itziar Ituño recorded a short video in which she sent a message of support to the women of Rojhilat and Iran.  In it, she said Jin, Jiyan, Azadi (in Kurdish) and Emakumea, Bizitza, Askatasuna (In Basque).  That is, “Women, Life, Freedom.”

This popular Kurdish political slogan is used by both the Kurdish independence movement and by the Kurdish autonomy, which focuses the freedom and self-government of women as one of the main pillars of their social structure.

We all believe, even those who now criticize her or those who have canceled their contracts, that this position in defense of human rights is something that cannot be attacked, that it reflected well on them.  What’s more, if they had read the comments stated by the politicians and media that are friendly with Iran, they would have been outraged because their vicious criticism is an indicator of the lack of freedom and of the dictatorship that exists in Iran.

But, they seem to be unable to understand that the criticism of radical Iranians against Ituño’s message, and the criticism of her defense of human rights for all, both come from the same source: the lack of respect for other human beings.

We’re sure that no company will stop hiring Rafa Nadal, despite the fact that he’s signed a contract with Saudi Arabia, where human rights are conspicuous because of their absence.  That’s not a problem, though, because all the Gulf countries are old friends of the Spanish monarchy.  “Game recognizes game,” as Taylor Tomlinson says.

Fortunately, really, there have been many voices, usually of a greater intellect, who have stood up to defend this Basque actress’s right to state her opinion and follow her principles.

We’ll leave you with some examples of how this issue has been dealt with by different media, and a very interesting essay penned by a group of legal experts analyzing what has happened from a unique, but interesting, point of view: that of the right of any person to ensure their work is not affected by their convictions, nor that it stifles their exercising of their right to freedom of speech.

A Basque story about employment discrimination because of convictions

CM-TV –  17/1/2024  – Portugal

Atriz de ‘La Casa de Papel’ perde patrocínios por defender libertação de presos da ETA

Itziar Ituño, atriz da série ‘La Casa de Papel’, perdeu o patrocínio da concessionária BMW Lurauto, após participar num protesto em defesa da libertação dos presos da ETA.

(Follow) (Automatic translation)

El Tiempo –  17/1/2024  – Colombia

En líos actriz de ‘Berlín’ y ‘La casa de papel’ por marcha en apoyo a presos de ETA

La reconocida actriz Itziar Ituño, famosa por sus papeles en series como ‘Berlín’ y ‘La Casa de Papel‘, se encuentra en el centro de una controversia que ha provocado que marcas como BMW e Iberia tomen medidas en su contra.

(Follow) (Automatic translation)

El Tiempo –  16/1/2024  – Colombia

En líos actriz de ‘Berlín’ y ‘La casa de papel’ por marcha en apoyo a presos de ETA

La reconocida actriz Itziar Ituño, famosa por sus papeles en series como ‘Berlín’ y ‘La Casa de Papel‘, se encuentra en el centro de una controversia que ha provocado que marcas como BMW e Iberia tomen medidas en su contra.

(Sigue) (Traducción automática)

Mercado Negro –  19/1/2024  – Peru

En líos actriz de ‘Berlín’ y ‘La casa de papel’ por marcha en apoyo a presos de ETA

La reconocida actriz Itziar Ituño, famosa por sus papeles en series como ‘Berlín’ y ‘La Casa de Papel‘, se encuentra en el centro de una controversia que ha provocado que marcas como BMW e Iberia tomen medidas en su contra.

(Follow) (Automatic translation)

La Nación –  16/1/2024  – Chile


Itziar Ituño, quien interpreta a la inspectora Raquel Murillo en la popular serie de Netflix, lideró una marcha realizada en Bilbao, situación que provocó consecuencias, ya que al menos dos marcas decidieron vetarla.

(Follow) (Automatic translation)

Emol –  16/1/2024  – Chile

Polémica por participación de actriz de “La Casa de Papel” en manifestación por presos de ETA

La actriz Itziar Ituño, quien interpreta a la inspectora Raquel Murillo en la serie de Netflix “La Casa de Papel”, se encuentra en el foco de una polémica luego de participar en una manifestación en favor de la libertad de los presos de ETA.

(Follow) (Automatic translation)

UOL –  16/1/2024  – Brazil

De volta em ‘Berlim’, atriz de ‘La Casa de Papel’ apoiou grupo separatista

Itziar Ituño, 49, atriz de “La Casa de Papel”, retorna com a personagem Raquel Murillo para “Berlim”, spin-off da série de sucesso internacional. Ela causou polêmica na Espanha após apoiar um grupo separatista.

(Follow) (Automatic translation)

Una historia vasca sobre la discriminación en el empleo por razón de convicciones

(Erabakizaleak / juristas por el derecho a decidir)

Last Updated on Feb 13, 2024 by About Basque Country

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