ATHENS – With Greece’s government pushing for the opening of the first official mosque in the country – paid by taxpayers during a crushing economic crisis – the country’s Muslims are increasingly finding themselves under threat and violence.
A neo-Nazi group called Crypteia, believed to be an even more aggressive offshoot of the ultra-extreme right Golden Dawn from which they broke off warned the Muslim Association of Greece and pro-migrants groups they are targets, Al-Jazeera reported.
The Muslim group told the news agency that it had gotten a menacing phone call from Crypteia, which in November last year claimed responsibility for attacking the home of an Afghan child’s family last year in a brutal assault.
“We are the group that kills, burns, hits and tortures immigrants, mainly Muslims,” the caller said, according to Anna Stamou of the Muslim Association of Greece, who said the caller used a blocked number but identified himself as from Crypteia.
“We reported (the call) to officials here, then late at night we discovered that many organizations had the same threat,” Stamou told Al Jazeera, explaining that the Greek Forum for Migrants and others received similar phone calls.
Other civil society groups, which requested anonymity, confirmed that they were among those threatened, the agency reported.
“We are not intimidated as groups, Muslims or anti-fascists. The whole society is being targeted by these actions,” Stamou added. “We don’t accept threats.”
Crypteia’s name is an apparent reference to a group of ancient Spartans who were notorious for attacking slaves.
There are around 200,000 Muslims in Athens, according to the Muslim Association of Greece, a civil society group advocating for indigenous Muslims, Greek converts, refugees, migrants and others.
In 2010, the Pew Research Center said there were 500,000 Muslims in the country, but this number has increased with refugees and migrants, most of whom come from Muslim-majority countries.
Tina Stavrinaki, legal officer at the Racist Violence Recording Network, said it was clear that “Muslims are the target,” and told Al Jazeera that, “They said the same thing (to all the groups threatened,)” in the threats. “They said they take responsibility for attacks against migrants almost everywhere.”
There have been a growing number of attacks on migrants as Greece is trying to cope with more than 64,000 refugees and migrants, including some 15,000 on islands sent there by human traffickers than Turkey lets operate.
There are another nearly 50,000 in detention centers and camps on the mainland and an unreported number living in the inner city of Athens as well as other locations, in huge numbers, particularly Afghans, Pakistanis and other economic migrants with no chance of getting asylum or moving on to other European Union countries which have closed their borders to them, abandoning the problem to Greece during a crushing economic crisis.
Between December 25 and January 5, the anti-racist activist group Keerfa recorded attacks on the homes of more than 30 migrant labourers, mostly Pakistanis, in Renti and Nikaia, two neighbourhoods in Piraeus.
While 48 hate crimes motivated by race, skin colour or national origin took place in Greece in 2016, 47 incidents were recorded during the first six months of last year alone, according to police statistics provided to Al Jazeera.
In November, 2017 it was reported that Crypteia was reportedly recruiting hit-squads vowing to drive out all immigrants and refugees from Greece.
The group, naming itself Crypteia, after a vigilante band of ancient Spartans who terrorized slaves, told a Greek news outlet, “We will fight until the last immigrant leaves. And to that end, we will use force and violence, mercilessly.”
Crypteia claimed responsibility for an attack on the Athens home of an 11-year-old Afghan boy and his family, whose apartment was pelted by rocks and beer bottles. A note was left that read, “Go back to your village. Leave.”
Golden Dawn members have also been accused of going after migrants and their modus operandi is to gang up on them and attack.
The boy had been picked to carry the Greek national flag for his school in a national day parade, only to have the privilege revoked and given a school sign to hold instead.
“I was shouting and calling for help,” Amir’s mother told local reporters. “The children had woken up, crying; they were very afraid. The children’s room was full of glass. A beer bottle was on the bed. The stones kept coming, one after the other. I panicked. I didn’t know what to do,” she added, the Voice of America said the report included.