In 2001, the police informed him that they had found information on him among documents seized from an ETA commando arrested in Eibar. They had been tracing his movements for some time.  The police advised him not to live in Eibar. He moved with his family to San Sebastian.



Name: Mikel Iriondo Aranguren

Age: 54. Eibar. He lives in San Sebastian.

Family status: Married, 2 children.

Profession: Professor of Philosophy at the UPV-EHU. 


GROUP: Teachers


- He participated, in the late nineties, in launching a number of citizen initiatives, such as the Ermua Forum and Basta Ya! (Enough). Immediately after this, the first graffiti against him appeared. 

- Among the different situations experienced, he stresses one involving him and a friend, also a teacher at the same faculty, Carlos Martínez Gorriarán, in December 2000 when a group of radicals placed sacks of coal at the door of their office at the faculty of philosophy of the UPV-EHU (University of the Basque Country) in San Sebastian. 

- He ran in the regional elections in 2001 as an independent candidate on the lists of PSE-EE. Due to this and other circumstances, he was assigned a bodyguard. 

- In 2001, the police informed him that they had found information on him among documents seized from an ETA commando arrested in Eibar. They had been tracing his movements for some time.  The police advised him not to live in Eibar. He moved with his family to San Sebastian. 




“I’m 54. I lived in Eibar for 46 years. I stopped living there when the police told me they had found information about me among the documents seized from an ETA commando arrested in Eibar. I saw those documents. I decided it was better to live in a city where I would go unnoticed rather than in Eibar, where everyone knew me. This happened 9 years ago. Together with the anguish caused by the threat, I was worried how this would affect my family, how we were going to settle, how my children, who were 7 and 10 at the time, would react.” 

“People do not always realise all the difficulties and problems, all the changes, which were directly due to the threat, such as having to live with a bodyguard. Moreover, I have heard people, with a great dose of evil, say: “look at him, he’s taken everywhere in the car!”. 

“I took part in founding the Ermua Forum. I also participated in the beginning of Basta Ya. One of the first things we did was the Basta Ya demonstration. The radicals used the photographs of that demonstration to make posters and paste them all over town, calling us everything you can imagine. That’s when the problems started. Graffiti and rumours started to circulate”. 

“That period coincided with the Regional Elections of May 2001. The then secretary general of PSE-EE, Nicolas Redondo, asked me to join the lists for Gipuzkoa as an independent candidate. When I appeared on the lists, given my background in the Basta Ya Initiative and due to the graffiti, I was assigned a bodyguard”. 

“Before this, in December 2000, some radicals brought my colleague, Carlos Martínez Gorriarán, and me some sacks of coal to our office because both Carlos and I had publicly opposed the possibility of allowing ETA prisoners to enrol in the UPV-EHU. A photograph of my office appeared in GARA *, with the sacks of coal and our names. And that is more than information. That’s giving clues”. 

“A short time after being assigned the bodyguard service, an ETA commando that had information on me and my bodyguards was captured in Eibar. They had information on car registration numbers, on the gym where I went and on other things”. 

“I started to live my life with company. I came to college with the bodyguards. At that time, other teachers in the philosophy department were in the same situation. There was a time when up to five teachers who had been threatened were assigned protection”. 

“The Chancellor decided to free us to some extent from teaching. The problem was the routine. If you had to come to class at certain hours, that would be making it easier for the terrorists. Replacement teachers were assigned so that we wouldn’t have to be in class at specific times. Some teachers worked like this for some time, enabling us to come to the faculty at unspecified hours. This, oddly enough, proved uncomfortable in this environment. For example: another two teachers and I would arrive at the university with our bodyguards and, therefore, up to six bodyguards would be inside the building. They would wait for us on some chairs in the passage. This, rather than reassuring, annoyed some people. The dean of the faculty received a number of teachers who protested about the presence of armed people on campus. Presumably, if other armed people had come to do other things, they wouldn’t have protested. A somewhat bizarre situation arose… but then, what happens in other scenarios also happens in college, and there are teachers who enthusiastically support the radicals”. 

“So, with the intention of not leaving things be I suppose and trying to stir up a bit of trouble, they began to protest about this, when the truth is that the guards never bothered anyone and they were simply doing their job. If they weren’t allowed to come, we wouldn’t be able to come either. In the end, an illogical situation arose. Usually, the teachers that protested most or who disagreed with the presence of the bodyguards or with our presence, would talk about this situation to try to complicate things a bit more… but they never spoke about people, like Mikel Azurmendi, who had left and decided never to return”. 

“This is something that has never been mentioned at faculty board meetings or at other university bodies. It has not been considered an insult. It has just been ignored.  And, as is known, motions and proposals have been presented on many occasions in favour of a given prisoner or other things…. this is one of the things that I had always considered regrettable, the fact that wrongs committed against the nationalist left are seen as more serious than offences committed against college professors who have been threatened, who require bodyguards and replacement teachers. And, nevertheless, the best that can happen is that we stop coming, because if you don’t come you’re no longer a problem. “ 

“Precisely because of this, some of us decided to continue coming to the faculty, despite not having to teach. I’ve always come and, some years ago, I decided to start teaching again. Because teaching is my job and, in the end, if you pass your job over to someone else and you stay at home, you end up in a rather unfortunate situation”. 

“And that, in general, has been my situation. Now I am virtually teaching full time, although I still have a replacement teacher for some classes. Three years ago, after over 4 years with bodyguards, I decided, for personal reasons, that I did not wish to continue having an escort. The years I had bodyguards were not, in truth, very pleasant. There’s not much point in living like that. In addition, those that are protecting you have a tendency to try and keep you at home, because the less you go out and the fewer regular routines you have, the lower the risk. It’s a very uncomfortable situation”. 

“The problem that exists at university level is that many people, even at the highest intellectual level, consider that the threats and persecution affecting those of us who have bodyguards and replacement teachers, is some sort of invention, something unreal, a ploy by state powers to give the impression that something is going on here. That’s something I’ve seen in some of my university colleagues. It’s not that they’re only slightly affected by this situation and don’t want to have anything to do with it; it’s that they consider that what is happening to you is false, untrue, that it’s a way of giving the impression that something bad is happening but that, really, and as one colleague told me, the teachers who have been threatened are a privileged group because we don’t have to teach. 

“In these situations you realise how nice it would be if a certain level of empathy existed. In my case, what I find hurts most within the university is the lack of support. I’ve only received formal and institutional support. Some vice-chancellors have been more understanding than others.  But then others talk with you for ten minutes, because it’s a problem for the university, and solve it by putting you in contact with your replacement teacher. They tell you to solve the situation with the replacement teacher as best you can and that’s the end of it.  There is an absolute lack of empathy. During the toughest moments of this situation, I had the impression we were seen as a nuisance for the university. “ 

“Therefore, I’m not surprised that the vice-chancellor didn’t want to publish the number of teachers who were in this situation because we are really very few. In my department, there were up to 5, but if we considered all those in the university, we probably wouldn’t have come to the dozen. And the most unfortunate aspect of the issue is not that there were 12, it’s that we were so few. It is regrettable that in an institution like the university, dedicated to thought and research, so few people take a clear stand against ETA’s extortion, threats and terrorism. It has always surprised me. But that is what happens at university and in any other spheres of society. “ 

“Before studying philosophy, I went in for business studies and I now have friends who are businessmen and, sometimes, when you talk to them they ask you why you got yourself into this mess. So, it’s your problem because you got into this mess. It’s surprising. But it is a fairly widespread opinion; if you don’t want anything to happen to you, don’t get into trouble”. 

“These are the things that have contributed in this country to the length of the problem and, the truth is that people feel free from any threats as long as they don’t express their ideas, as long as they don’t get into trouble while, on the contrary, some of us have got into trouble for speaking out, for writing articles and participating in groups that are against ETA”. 

“I can’t believe that the people around me at university and who have never done anything to me support the terrorists. Some surely do. But many other people don’t; the problem is that they prefer to remain silent. And this is one of the biggest problems we’ve always had, and one that the terrorists exploit: people’s fear. Moreover, when someone complains about that fear or clearly states that people do not make their view known because of that fear, people get angry, more so with those who make the statement than with the terrorists because nobody likes being told they’re afraid. Everyone’s very brave at home, but then you have to talk in the street. And I don’t really like hearing those other theories that state that people who have confronted terrorism are heroes. That’s nonsense. Not at all heroes. You simply believe in your commitment, you feel you have a responsibility to say certain things”. 

“It has reached a point where the way things are perceived has led to the admission that something that is quite abnormal and criminal within Basque society is really something normal, and that has generated a sort of moral disease from which Basque society is suffering and from which it is very difficult to escape. There is a lot of very important educational work to be done to correct this situation”. 

“In this country, in university classrooms, as in other areas, it is very difficult to talk about it. We talk about everything but this. I talk about this in class, but students feel uncomfortable.  When you try to talk about this in the intellectual Basque speaking scenario, they sometimes tell you that there is no perspective. That some more years must go by before we can talk about it. I think that’s a fallacy. Because some people have written and spoken openly about this, such as Fernando Aramburu, Raul Guerra Garrido, José Ángel González Sainz … whose works have addressed this issue and they have proven that they have perspective”. 

“I am completely sure that many of the Basque language writers are absolutely convinced that all this about ETA is crazy. But I do sense a certain level of shyness when it comes to making this position public. And the same happens with music and many other fields. How many of the people who spend all day in the media, relevant and popular people in the Basque Country, have made it clear that this has to end? Recently we saw how several players from Real Sociedad signed a document in favour of bringing the prisoners nearer to the Basque Country. Those same players have never said anything about the victims, nor have they said anything about terrorist acts”. 

“This is what we find at citizen level. And it is also what we find in academia. This is what I call, quote, the disease of this country; if we do not overcome this situation and start calling things by their right names, we can expect to go through a difficult period. There will be strong interests and tendencies to minimize everything that has happened in relation to terrorism. Some people prefer to pretend that nothing has happened”. 

*See the original document in Spanish version. 


1. Panphlet usually distributed at the University by radical people. 

2. English translation.