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See: Immersive exhibit recreates the harassment and anxiety experienced by ETA opponents

origin 1The immersive exhibition recreated the fear and intimidation experienced by those who opposed ETA terrorism. ©RockedBuzz via Euronews.

Fear, anxiety, despair, isolation, pain.

For years, these sentiments have haunted those who have dared to stand up and speak out against the terrorism of ETA, the separatist armed group that has inflicted unimaginable suffering on the people of the Basque Country and the entire Spanish territory.

Between its founding in 1959 and its declaration of a ceasefire in 2011, ETA, which stands for “Euskadi Ta Askatasuna”, (Basque Country and Freedom) engaged in a brutal and relentless campaign to terrorize ordinary citizens , subjugate the rule of law and achieve the independence of the Basque Country.

Its violence, which included broad daylight shootings, car bombings and high-profile kidnappings, had a chilling effect on the local population, many of whom reluctantly remained silent for fear of reprisals.

But as the death toll has risen, so has the courage of Spanish society, which has initiated grassroots efforts to publicly express opposition to the terrorist group. That opposition, however, has come with a heavy price: bullying and harassment by ETA and its supporters.

This pervasive environment of intimidation was briefly brought to life in an immersive exhibition installed inside the European Parliament this week.

Visitors were invited to enter a black box that played the infamous cries of “¡ETA, mátalos!” (ETA, kill them!) that the naysayers would hear on a daily basis.

“I wanted to represent for an instant, the feelings that the citizens of the Basque Country, and of other places, but especially the Basque Country, felt in the face of those threatening cries, in the face of that social pressure that other Basque citizens exerted, and, of course, in the face of the direct threat of murder,” José Ibarrola, the visual artist behind the exhibition, said in an interview with RockedBuzz via Euronews.

Absolute darkness reigns inside the box, Ibarolla explained, except for two startling elements: flashing red lights and hand-painted target symbols.

“Target symbols were painted on the houses and mailboxes of those who were threatened. Something similar to what happened to the Jews (in Nazi Germany). The mark, the stigma that haunted them,” said the artist born in Bilbao.

“But that target symbol was public and could be seen by your neighbors and other citizens to create a feeling of fear. This is the terrorist method: kill one person to terrorize 100,000.”

The exhibition paid tribute to Basta Ya!, a civil society organization that brought together people from across the political spectrum to resist the terror of ETA.

Enough Ya! it was founded in 1997, months after the kidnapping and murder of Miguel Ángel Blanco, a conservative politician from a local Basque council. Blanco’s killing was a turning point in Spanish history that ignited a massive wave of vocal opposition against the paramilitary group.

In 2000, the European Parliament awarded Basta Ya! with the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the EU’s highest human rights award. Seven years later, the organization was dissolved. But his legacy of civil resistance in the face of sheer terror lives on.

“Europe should strive to preserve the principles of pluralism and democracy,” said Ibarolla.

“Here, in Europe, we are very privileged compared to the rest of the world, but I think it is very important to always remain vigilant because, in some way, we are the beacon of the world,” he added.

“Europe must always be attentive to the threat of fanaticism”.