Greece has become the major entry point for migrants and asylum-seekers from Asia and Africa headed into Europe. Greek authorities estimated there were as many as one million undocumented migrants in the country, many of whom filled parks and squares and tenements and squatter buildings in central Athens. Image by William Wheeler. Greece, 2012.
Fascist and anarchist graffiti vie for prominence on a shop in central Athens, where neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn carved out a niche by helping clear out immigrants from public spaces. Image by William Wheeler. Greece, 2012.
The anti-immigrant rhetoric from the far right does not go unchallenged. Tensions with leftist, anti-fascist groups have spilled over into violent conflict. Image by William Wheeler. Greece, 2012.
Golden Dawn was founded in 1985 under the order of the imprisoned leader of the Greek junta, according to Neni Panourgia, an anthropologist teaching at Columbia University who has written extensively about political violence in Greece. The group entered the international spotlight after some of its members reportedly participated in the Srebrenica massacre. Golden Dawn’s magazine has published articles praising the Nazis and featured photographs of Hitler and other Third Reich figures on the front cover. Image by William Wheeler. Greece, 2012.
Golden Dawn members have been implicated in a wave of attacks on migrants. In September 2011, Reza Ahmadi was attacked by a mob. Ahmadi was hit over the head with a bottle, and his friend Ali Rahimi was stabbed five times in the torso. The alleged leader of the group, now on trial, is Themis Skordeli, who subsequently ran for parliament on the ticket of Golden Dawn. After identifying Skordeli and two others to the police, Ahmadi says he was detained in the same cell as his attackers and subjected to humiliating harassment by them and by police officers. He is now thinking about returning to Afghanistan, where he feels he would be safer. Image by William Wheeler. Greece, 2012.
In the courtyard of a Greek Orthodox church, near the site of Ahmadi’s attack, Golden Dawn members distribute food to needy Greeks. Image by William Wheeler. Greece, 2012.
The courtyard was painted in the national colors with the message: “Get foreigners out of Greece-- Greece is for Greeks.” Image by William Wheeler. Greece, 2012.
Striking an anti-establishment stance, Golden Dawn won 18 seats in parliament in the summer, benefiting from widespread rancor among voters for the mainstream parties that brought Greece to the brink of economic collapse; their popularity only grew after party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris repeatedly slapped female politicians in the face on national television. Golden Dawn’s popularity has since doubled in polls, in part because it is seen as the only party willing to provide material support. Image by William Wheeler. Greece, 2012.
Ilias Panagiotaros, a Golden Dawn MP, handed out food, saying the party was also taking blood donations in 54 locations across the country. “We have our own blood bank,” he told me. “For Greeks strictly.” Panagiotaros recently led a demonstration to close down a play directed by an Albanian and was captured on video shouting racist, homophobic threats. Maria Chandraki, an unemployed aesthetician who had come to pick up food at the distribution, defended the party. “Their positions may be extreme,” she said. “But the situation is extreme as well. So we need extreme measures.” Image by William Wheeler. Greece, 2012.
Just down the street from the food giveaway, Djaved Nouri told me he had seen Golden Dawn and police units working together to break up Muslim gatherings. “Golden Dawn and the police make problems for Muslims.” He did not differentiate between the groups. “Fascist police,” he said. “You know, parliament now has fascists inside it.” Nouri had scars on his stomach and chest and head from several attacks, and spent 16 days in jail for being in the country illegally, a time during which he says he saw police abuse migrant prisoners daily. Image by William Wheeler. Greece, 2012.
Sayd Jafari owns a café frequented by Afghans across the street from this Nazi graffito. Over several months, he says, his café was attacked nearly every night by a black-clad mob often wielding sticks, chains, and knives and performing fascist salutes. “It was a kind of party,” he said, wryly. Several times, his attackers—who included Germans, Romanians and Bulgarians-- ransacked the store and assaulted him. He’s since taken the hint, he says, and is shutting his business down, closely watching the situation in Afghanistan and contemplating a return. “There maybe someone has a bomb hidden on his body that he detonates,” he says. “Here you don’t see where the knife that kills you comes from.” Image by William Wheeler. Greece, 2012.

Over the last decade or so, Greece has become the major entry point for migrants and asylum-seekers from Asia and Africa headed into Europe. Greek authorities estimated there were as many as one million undocumented migrants in the country, many of whom filled parks and squares and tenements and squatter buildings in central Athens.

Striking an anti-establishment stance, Golden Dawn rose to power on an anti-immigrant, anti-Europe, anti-American platform, benefiting from widespread rancor among voters for the mainstream parties that brought Greece to the brink of economic collapse.

Project

Europe’s economic crisis has become intertwined with disturbing anti-democratic trends and the rise of extremist politics. Bill Wheeler looks at the fallout in Hungary and Greece.

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