Members of anti-racist activist groups in Greece are scheduling protests after the latest hate crime in their community. On Saturday, October 7th, 2017, two migrant workers from Pakistan, Vakas Hussein and Ashfak Mahmoud were attacked by a group of men. The attack occurred in a field in Aspropyros, near the capital city of Athens. The attackers, dressed in black, circled the two workers and taunted them with racist claims while repeatedly stabbing them and beating them with an iron bar. Mahmoud told reporters, “they said they would burn me alive.” Both Hussein and Mahmoud were hospitalized, but both men are expected to make a full recovery. In a different suburb of Athens, Osman Mohammed, another migrant worker from Pakistan, was brutally attacked by a group of ten people on his way home from work. These attacks are just the latest in an ongoing epidemic of hate crimes in Greece.
Greek police estimate that Greece has had around seventy-five racially motivated attacks in the past six months. However, activists and community leaders estimate that the number is much higher. According to Javed Aslam, president of Pakistani in the Greece Community Union, he knows of at least eighty attacks in the last six months alone. According to Aslam, one of the key figures in the upcoming protests, “the victims know the attackers, but the police never arrested them before. . .Our message is that the police needs to do their job correctly. These men were attacked many times, but now we are standing together, and we have to stop them.”
This is not the first time Greece has been accused of racism. Since war broke out in Syria, thousands of refugees have landed on Greek borders, hoping to start a new life in Europe. However, growing xenophobia, as well as harsher policy changes for refugees and migrants, have left many in the country feeling persecuted. Arash Hambay, an activist, community organizer, and recent refugee from Tehran, fled Iran after being imprisoned for his political activism. He told reporters “I have not experienced my human rights being respected here in Greece… Here they deal with us as prisoners and hostages.” Similarly, Petros Constantinou, the president of the anti-racist activist group Keerfa and city councillor of Athens, blamed recent policy changes by the far right for the rise in hate crimes. “There are systematic efforts by [the far right] to come out in the streets and carry out more attacks…In Greece, the refugees and migrants are left without rights, and the door has been left open for the fascists.”
Though many of Greece’s political leaders have spoken out against these attacks. Many have blamed Greece’s neo-fascist party, the Golden Dawn, for inspiring said attacks. Though the Golden Dawn has denied these “slanderous attacks,” many anti-racist groups still plan to protest fascism and advocate for the rights of migrants and refugees. These protests will just be the latest anti-racist, anti-fascist activism done this year. As populism, nationalism, and far-right hatred spread across Europe and the United States, it is up to protesters to stand up for those impacted by hate crimes and speak out against violence and bigotry.