Havoc on Lesbos.

ANOTHER UPDATE (November 7):
Today I receive d a threatening email from a Dutch lawyer summoning me to take back the article you can read underneath these lines. Of course I shall not do that. My public reaction to this can be read here: http://wp.me/p29zz-1KP.

As the latest reactions on this article do not add anything to what’s already been written the possibility to file any further comments is closed as of now. If you want to react further, please email me directly on alice.schrijft@xs4all.nl.

As the writer of this article I do understand that some people who have additional information are afraid to react publicly but still want to share that information. That is possible! Any reactions containing new information and additional facts are most welcome. Sources will be protected by me as I never reveal them according to normal journalistic standards. New information is welcome and will possibly be used for a follow up article that is currently being composed by me.

Alice Verheij 

English translation of a previously published Dutch language article on this website.

Sometimes I would like that lesbians, or maybe the whole gay community, would behave themselves a little bit more like the heterosexual mainstream. Mind you, sometimes, only sometimes. A lesbian businesswoman operating in the lesbian market told me a while ago that she didn’t understand why some lesbian businesswomen in ‘the community’ behaved themselves the way they do without scruples. My curiosity was awakened and I wondered what had happened. After a few months of research in the dark dungeons of the lesbian business community I got my answer. Which was not a very nice answer because it seemed that there were very dubious, if not Mafioso, practices going on out there. Healthy competition seems to be banned, just like a free market. Intimidation and manipulation rule.

Since many years a festival is being organized on the Greek island of Lesbos aimed at lesbian women. For the outsiders: on Lesbos once lived Sappho, a famous Greek female poet who wrote about lesbian love. The lesbian pilgrimage is visited yearly by a large number of lesbian women from all over the globe around the solstice during summer. Women who collectively enjoy sun, sea, food, hospitality and each other, celebrating the lesbian lifestyle. The ‘International Eressos Women’s Festival’ in Skala Eressos is an attraction for many lesbians and many have been there or will go there because one should go there at someday. If you like great music you wait every year for the Dutch Pinkpop Festival and if you as a woman love women   Lesbos lures you in the summer. It’s a great festival. Or rather: it was a great festival.

Where many people travel rises business interest. It’s like that in the hetero world and the lesbian community obviously is just like that. And although the Netherlands is a small country, it certainly is not without importance in the international lesbian community. That business interest, thus money, translates itself normally into a healthy competition between businesspeople and companies. The hundreds of women who travel to the Skala Eressos festival every year represent (travel, accommodation and expenses added up) the equivalent of a couple of hundred thousand Euro’s potentially rising to about a quarter million Euro’s. A bag full of money who for some is so attractive that they choose to fight newcomers in that market. That fight, according to the lamentation of the business woman, knows no scruples. Literally.

What’s the issue? Since April 2010 the Dutch based travel agency TravelWomen, which aimes specifically at the lesbian market, is trying to monopolize the market. That is done by at least supporting a (now after nine months of creating havoc) slander campaign against their newcomer competitor Pink Pearls. Which, when the issue escalated to Dutch soil, ended up in threats and intimidation and even blackmail of artists who were booked to perform on women parties organized by that same newcomer competitor. A slander campaign orchestrated by an anonymous group of lesbian women. This group a.k.a. ‘De Moraalprincessen’ (the Morale princesses), succeeded in their endeavor with a social media (Facebook and Hyves) centered slander campaign. They were able to do that because on the one hand the victimized business woman was not able to respond timely and adequately because of very sad personal circumstances and on the other hand because many women in the lesbian community hopped on the slandering bandwagon. Tempted by the sensationalist gossiping of populistic lesbians mainly from the Amsterdam lesbian community. No means were shunned to push the competition out of the market and as a smart distraction maneuver the organization of parties was spearheaded to ‘get their point across’ within the community, sidelining the concerned businesswoman. The parties organized by ‘Garbo for Women’, previously organized by two (now former) businesspartners (the women behind ‘Garbo for Women’ and ‘Garbo Amsterdam’) were monopolized by the first. Although both business partners had previously agreed that they would both follow their own track to organize their own parties ad lib, ‘Garbo Amsterdam’ was falsely accused of name stealing the Garbo name. Social media were extensively used to blacken and destroy ‘Garbo Amsterdam’. Even an (expensive) name change to ‘Pink Pearls’ was to no avail. Women were pressed through social media to boycott the Pink Pearls parties. The organization behind Garbo for Women stayed silent, they were not attacked end pushing out Garbo Amsterdam was beneficial for the business. They enjoyed that the uncritically community morally allotted the Garbo name to them. But it didn’t end there.

Garbo Amsterdam (now Pink Pearls), who organized the Garbo Amsterdam parties (later the Pink Pearls parties), owns some other businesses. A datingsite, a webzine and the organization of travels to the Eressos festival on Lesbos. Which was the original target. So, coincidentally , in April another group of again anonymous lesbian women started, in close cooperation with a German company (Skytravel24 from Wiesbaden) a slander campaign by publishing a Europe wide press statement. From early 2009 it was reported in the media that the festival in september on Lesbos was organized by TravelWomen. This, of course was not true because the real organizers of the festival, Sappho Women, is a Greek organization based on the island. Even a respectable newspaper like the ‘Volkskrant’ was misguided in a published interview with the editor in chief of the ‘Zij Aan Zij’, a Dutch lesbian monthly, in which again this false image of reality was painted. In June the campaign intensified en as said, a press statement was issued and distributed on June 28 on Lesbos. Again social and traditional media were used. That misguiding press statement kept on circulating until the September festival amongst women visiting Lesbos. Those campaigns were led by the anonymous groups ‘The Lesbian Veterans of Eressos’ on Lesbos and ‘De Moraalprincessen’ on Facebook and Hyves in the Netherlands. But with some digging it was not that difficult to unveil the people behind these anonymous groups until last week the Facebook and Hyves groups disappeared from the net.

TravelWomen, the travel agency in Utrecht, the Netherlands, succeeded as an effect of this campaign in pushing Pink Pearls out of the market (temporarily). Business benefits: an estimated €150.000 2011 turnover from travels and accommodations that would not have to be shared with a competitor. The prognosed turnover for 2012 is considerably higher. Pink Pearls was forced to annul the September journeys to Lesbos to prevent further damage to the festival. The Greeks (Sappho Women) were not amused with this pause in their working relationship but also didn’t want to become victims of the business issues of Dutch companies. The Zij aan Zij magazine, the as mentioned earlier leading (young, hip, tolerant and sexy) monthly for lesbian women let themselves once again to be the promotional channel and publicized in January 2011 an insinuation against Pink Pearls regarding the Garbo womens parties. Of course not mentioned by name, but that obviously is not necessary in the lesbian community where most readers know very well who is intended. That this magazine is disregarding normal journalistic practice is obvious but that it by doing that became part of a criminal conspiracy is naive, to say the least. That magazine is not the only organization that was led by the nose. Even known organizations and individuals in the gay scene have compromised themselves by supporting comments to the ‘Moraalprincessen’ on their Facebook and Hyves pages. Demonstrating that populistic and publicity horny gays are uncritically following slander campaigns easily. Especialle when personal or business  profits are out there. Of course a magazine needs content and workshops need to be sold.

In the meanwhile in Greece in the Lesbos capitol Myitilini a court case is filed concerning Mafioso practices against the German company. The Dutch court case around these slander campaigns concerning the Garbo name and travel business is upcoming. In the past nine months proof has been gathered on both slander campaigns against the originators. It now is a solid legal case. When the summons will be send it is to be expected that a small shockwave will go through the lesbian community. Because who would have thought that Dutch lesbian business women would use Mafioso practices or let themselves be dragged into that? Who would have thought the lesbian business community in the Netherlands is so sock that even abroad court cases are being held? And  who would have thought that lesbian business women have so few scruples in shitting their own nests.

Soon I will publish more information about this case. The waiting now is on the summons to go out and the moves made by the involved businesses in Greece and the Netherlands. The sad thing is of course that the business woman at the start of this article, Annelies Hintjes, as the driving force behind Pink Pearls, is being forced to follow the legal path out of self protection. That while the only thing she really wanted to do was organize compelling parties and beautiful travels for lesbian women together with Sappho Women, the Greek organizers of the festivals in Skala Eressos. That lesbian women choose to fight commercial interests with illegal practices is as far as I am concerned shocking.

Alice Verheij © 2011

Alice Verheij is a Dutch novelist, film maker and journalist writing about social topics including refugees, womens and gay rights and the lgbt community. Many of her publications can be read at www.aliceverheij.net

5 thoughts on “Havoc on Lesbos.

  1. Onder de gordel en zeker onprofessioneel dat een magazine van dit formaat een lastercampagne ondersteund heeft.

    Succes ermee !


  2. p.s. there is an herstory to the origins of the “Womens Festival” dating back over a decade, which in itself reflects the same underhanded tactics you now experience. that is another story.

    • I am not surprised by that. At all. For the record: I am just the observing writer and not involved or experiencing this situation myself. I just cover the story.

  3. dear sista’s,
    i hear your struggle, however making a claim for lesbian buisnesses to behave like the mainstream i find off-target. i have lived in eressos, and i have worked there for nearly every buisnesswoman, for more than 10 summers. the common thread i have seen is an attitude of scarcity- that there is not enough buisness from women for everyone, as opposed to an attitude of abundance- that there is enough to go around. this is the bottom line, and this attitude of scarcity, which breeds fear, results in backstabbing and underhanded tactics. it is not an easy life running a buisness in eressos, and the profit margin is none. what needs to change is the attitude. this perhaps is more related to spirituality than buisnesscology!
    imitating the mainstream is backfiring on the queer culture worldwide. over the past 20 years our worldwide lesbian culture has been drowning in the mainstream, to the point of disappearing. our immersion in the mainstream has resulted in the closure of the majority of womens bookshops, bars, clubs, & women-only events. very few cities in the world can boast of a womens bookshop or club anymore. this is a drastic miscalculation, to think that imitating the mainstream will give us a place in the world.
    if you want to make a travel buisness to eressos, do it! if you want to make another festival, do it! someone is making a festival for june 2012, gather women to travel.
    dont be intimidated, dont be discouraged, you will find support & clients. create your buisness in the image you choose. and the universe will provide.blessed be.
    in sisterhood the world over,

    • Interestingly enough you’re underlining my observations. I do not advice at all to behave like mainstream business. I only wish that in some aspects (like having a free market with companies competing on their services and quality) would be more present. The case I describe is an example of how wrong things can go when protectionism WITHIN the community damages businesses and lives. Something that in mainstream small businesses is something people look at and don’t understand.

      For the rest of… this should end quickly. If not by itself, which it obviously didn’t do in the last nine month, than by court order. It is naive to think that within the lesbian community business criminality is non existent. This story proves otherwise. The ones who do this do not deserve any customer. Ever.

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