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Dispatches: Greece - Unchecked Violence Bound to Spread
September 19, 2013

The fatal stabbing of 34-year-old anti-fascist activist and rapper Pavlos Fyssas in Athens yesterday is a stark reminder that extremist violence in Greece is an alarming problem. Police arrested a suspect yesterday, an alleged member of the political party Golden Dawn. The news of the killing is saddening but not surprising.

Over the past few years, Greece has seen an epidemic of violence. In July 2012, I documented dozens of attacks on foreigners, who had been beaten, kicked, and chased down the streets of Athens by gangs of Greeks. Victims included migrants and asylum seekers, pregnant women, and children.

Members and supporters of Golden Dawn, an unabashedly neo-fascist party with strident anti-immigrant rhetoric, have been linked to violence in the past, including attacks on foreigners.

Last January, two men stabbed a Pakistani man to death as he rode his bicycle to work. The police, who have said the attack may have been racially-motivated, reportedly discovered dozens of Golden Dawn pamphlets in the home of one of the attackers. One of the accused in the trial for the stabbing of an Afghan asylum seeker, Ali Rahimi, in September 2011, ran (unsuccessfully) for office on the Golden Dawn ticket in last year’s national elections.

In September 2012, Golden Dawn members of parliament and sympathizers violently attacked immigrants’ stalls during raids in open-air markets in an Athens suburb in Rafina, and in Messolonghi, western Greece. 

Police rightly reacted quickly to the murder of Fyssas; authorities should ensure there is a thorough investigation to identify all those involved in the attack, and bring them to justice. But migrants and asylum seekers who fall victim to hate crimes rarely see justice done. My research showed that attackers are rarely arrested, and police inaction is the rule. 

It is vital that the government sends a strong message that violence will not be tolerated whoever the victim is, and that the police holds those responsible to account. Unchecked violence like that directed against migrants is bound to spread to the rest of society.