- Envoy Khalid Usman Qaiser strongly condemns attack on two Pakistani workers
Two immigrant workers of Pakistani origin have been hospitalised after falling victim to a racially motivated attack at Aspropyrgos, an area west of Athens, Greece.
The two Pakistani nationals, Waqas Hussein and Ashfak Mahmoud, were working on a local farm, near the industrial zone of Aspropyrgos when a group of five armed men, bearing knuckle-dusters and other blunt-edged weapons, surrounded them.
The group hurled racist slurs towards the two Pakistani workers, and subsequently began to beat them.
The injured workers were later moved to the Piraeus’ Tzaneio Hospital. The police are conducting an ongoing investigation, and are hopeful of catching all those responsible. Three teenagers who were part of the five-man group have been arrested, but at least two of the five perpetrators are at large and no connection to the Golden Dawn has been established.
In their houses, police found clubs and other objects. The suspects are known to police for their participation in a series of incidents. Three more persons are wanted for their involvement in the attack.
The incident is not the first time that Pakistani immigrant workers have been attacked in Greece, let alone an isolated racist incident. A constant negative flux of Greece’s economy has made it one of the many European countries to see a shift towards radical conservatism and xenophobia—which has concentrated into the rise of the ‘Golden Dawn’ party.
Greek police spokespersons and officials have also admitted that the incident was the latest in a long string of suspected racist attacks.
In a separate incident on the same day when Waqas and Ashfaq were attacked and threatened to “be burnt at the stake,” some 10 to 12 people attacked 30-year-old Osman Mohammed, also from Pakistan, as he made his way home from work in the Lambrini suburb of Athens, according to Keerfa, an anti-racist activist group.
Meanwhile, Pakistani Embassy in Greece took an immediate notice of the violence and strongly condemned the attack on two Pakistanis, a press release said, the copy of which is available with Pakistan Today.
Pakistani Ambassador to Greece Khalid Usman Qaiser, while strongly condemning the incident, personally contacted Ashfak Mahmoud and offered his heartfelt sympathies. He spoke to Ashfaq and his brother, assuring all measures will be taken to address this issue, in order to prevent such incidents from happening again.
Upon learning about the incident, the envoy approached the local leadership and police authorities, demanding fair inquiry of the incident. He met with the police chief, higher officials in the foreign office, and political leadership of the country. A number of meetings with parliamentarians are also lined up in the coming week, including with the chief of neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, which is suspected in the incident.
Talking exclusively to Pakistan Today, Khalid Usman said: “The two Pakistani immigrants were attacked on October 7, 2017, in Aspropyrgos, which is some 20km away from the Greek capital Athens.”
“They were attacked reportedly by racist hooligans belonging to Golden Dawn—a neo-Nazi party that holds 18 seats in the Greek Parliament.”
Ashfaq Mahmoud was seriously injured by the attackers and was hospitalised for two days, he added.
“According to the police authorities, the arrest made so far revealed that the attack was done by Russo-Greek community called ‘Rusipongy’—who also live in the area and is considered very aggressive. They have been involved in such violent acts against foreign nationals, particularly Pakistanis, in the past as well,” he added.
The ambassador said he is personally connected with all Pakistanis in Greece through his WhatsApp.
As a result of embassy’s efforts, local political parties and organisations also condemned the incident.
Next week the ambassador said he’ll be meeting with a number of parliamentarians to sensitise them regarding these attacks and would urge them to ensure security and safety of all Pakistani migrants in Greece.
It is pertinent to mention here that on Tuesday the ambassador held a meeting with Police Inspector General Zacharoula Tsirigoti. Besides bilateral cooperation, issues related to the security of Pakistanis against racist attacks were discussed. She informed the ambassador that the recent incident of fascist attack was under active consideration.
The ambassador since his coming to Greece has tried to unite the extremely polarised Pakistani community, as well as improving Pakistan embassy’s consular service. He urged all Pakistanis to remain law-abiding citizens and forge unity among themselves to ward-off such incidents in the future.
The incident has caused great uproar within the Pakistani community in Greece, anti-racist organisations and the leftist party that currently forms the government of the island nation.
The Pakistani community along with anti-racist organisations took part in a protest against violent attacks on immigrants on Friday evening.
Javed Aslam, the president of the Pakistani Community in Greece union, said that his organisation has documented between 70 to 80 attacks on Pakistani workers in Aspropyrgos between August 2016 and April 2017.
“Our message is that the police need to do their job correctly,” Aslam said. “These men were attacked many times, but now we are standing together, and we have to stop [the attacks].”
Syriza, the left-wing party that currently controls the government, in a statement, vowed to “put an end to the fascist gangs” who regularly target migrant labourers.
In their official statement, Syriza said that the attack “is adding to a series of violent and racist attacks in the region. Photographs of the victims are revealing the horrific face of fascism that sows terror in Aspropyrgos.”
“We stand by the immigrants’ side and we will not allow racist hatred poison our neighbourhoods,” the statement continues. “No tolerance to racism and fascism. The perpetrators must be identified and arrested immediately. Negligence will not be justified.” it concludes.
In a statement published on Sunday, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) accused the Golden Dawn—a neo-fascist party that has a long history of attacking migrants and political opponents—of being behind the violence.
The Panhellenic Socialist Movement, known mostly by its acronym PASOK, condemned the attack, saying, “The beast of racism is alive and provocative.”
“The perpetrators and organisers of the attacks need to be arrested and brought to justice,” PASOK added.
In January 2013, two assailants affiliated with the Golden Dawn fatally stabbed Shahzad Luqman, a 26-year-old Pakistani, in Athens.
Dozens of Golden Dawn members, including the party’s leadership, are currently on trial for the murder of Greek anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas in 2013, as well as several attacks on activists and migrant labourers.
Additional reporting by Abdullah Niazi