Ashfak Mahmoud was one of two migrant labourers attacked and hospitalised last weekend [Nikos Libertas/SOOC/Al Jazeera]
A violent attack on two Pakistani migrant labourers has sparked outrage in Greece, the latest in a string of suspected hate crimes across the country.
On Saturday afternoon, a group of men used iron bars and knives to beat stab the two migrant workers in a field in Aspropyrgos, an industrial area near the Greek capital of Athens.
Vakas Hussein and Ashfak Mahmoud were subsequently hospitalised.
Mahmoud told local media that five black-clad assailants encircled them in the field and yelled racist taunts as they struck their heads and bodies.
Speaking to Greece’s 24/7 News, he said: “They said they would burn me alive.”
In an email to Al Jazeera, a Greek police spokesperson said the incident was the latest in a long string of suspected racist attacks.
The police recorded 75 such incidents in the first half of this year alone.
Alluding to four similar attacks in Aspropyrgos between January and June, the spokesperson said Saturday’s incident was carried out by “a group of unknown perpetrators with racist characteristics [and] a police investigation is under way”.
Javed Aslam, the president of the Pakistani Community in Greece union, dismissed the police’s hate crime statistics, explaining that his organisation has documented between 70 to 80 attacks on Pakistani workers in Aspropyrgos between August 2016 and April 2017.
Describing the attackers in Saturday’s incident as “fascists”, Aslam told Al Jazeera: “The victims know the attackers, but the police never arrested them before.”
The Pakistani Community in Greece and anti-racist organisations are planning to protest violence against immigrants on Friday evening.
“Our message is that the police needs 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].”
In a separate incident on Saturday, 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.
These men were attacked many times, but now we are standing together and we have to stop [the attacks].
Petros Constantinou, a city councillor in Athens and Keerfa’s national director, said the Greek government’s increasingly strict policies toward refugees and migrants have contributed to an environment of xenophobia.
“There are systematic efforts by [the far right] to come out in the streets and carry out more attacks,” he told Al Jazeera. “The far right and the fascists are trying to benefit from the racist policies of the government.”
Constantinou added: “In Greece, the refugees and migrants are left without rights, and the door has been left open for the fascists.”
Syriza promises action
Several political parties also condemned the attack.
Syriza, the left-wing party that currently controls the government, vowed in a statement to “put an end to the fascist gangs” who regularly target migrant labourers.
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 KKE also blamed the Syriza-led government for the assault, accusing authorities of allowing “gangs of fascists [to act] unhindered in areas like Aspropyrgos” and elsewhere.
|Migration Minister Yiannas Mouzalas, left, meets with Ashfak Mahmoud, centre, and Javed Aslam after the attack [Nikos Libertas/SOOC/Al Jazeera]|
Fofi Gennamati, president of the centre-left PASOK party, decried the attack, saying it demonstrated that the “racist monster is alive” in Greece. “The perpetrators and organisers of this attack must be arrested and brought to justice,” she said in a press release.
In a statement published on Tuesday, the Golden Dawn rejected the accusations as “slanderous attacks”.
“We condemn violence … and we continue our legitimate and righteous struggle for the liberation of Greece,” it said.
In January 2013, two assailants affiliated with the Golden Dawn fatally stabbed Shahzad Luqman, a 26-year-old Pakistani, in Athens.
Nine months later, a self-professed member of the Golden Dawn murdered Pavlos Fyssas, a Greek anti-fascist rapper who often criticised the far-right party.
After the murder of Fyssas, 69 Golden Dawn members were put on trial in a case that will decide if the party constitutes a criminal organisation. Slated to conclude in 2018, it has progressed slowly, largely owing to the complexity of the case.
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