As fascists and racists seek to exploit the refugee crisis, our embedded reporter Maz Saleem witnesses how our side fights back
The KEERFA (Movement United Against Racism and the Fascist Threat) banner flew high with pride in Korai Square this afternoon, with the proud face of Greek anti-fascist rapper Killah P (aka Pavlos Fyssas) gracing it.
On 17 September 2013 Pavlos Fyssas was brutally murdered in a suburb of the port Piraeus in Greece. The man who confessed to killing Fyssas openly admitted to being a member of the fascist Golden Dawn party. Fyssas, who grew up in the working class suburbs of Piraeus, wrote music that reflected the struggles of people who lived in his working-class neighbourhood.
Fyssas was watching an Olympiakos football game in a local bar with his partner and friends when the incident took place. The Greek police received a call just before midnight on 17 September in which the caller stated that a group of 50 people armed with baseball bats had assembled in Keratsini, Athens.
Pavlos Fyssas was brutally stabbed to death in front of the police, friends and locals. While he was still conscious, Fyssas identified George Roupakia as the perpetrator of the attack. Roupakia was subsequently arrested.
Tragically, after being transported to the Nikea General Hospital, Fyssas died. After being detained for only 18 months, Roupakia was released. His case awaits trial.
George Roupakia, a known Nazi, is now a free man walking the streets of Athens. Stories abound of collusion between the leadership of the Golden Dawn and Roupakia over this attack.
Today I headed to the counter demonstration held by Athens-based KEERFA. We were protesting an anti-Muslim Nazi demonstration. We could hear hundreds of anti-racists chanting: "Pavlos Fyssas is alive, let's smash the fascists” and “Refugees in, Nazis out”.
Petros Constantinou, a KEERFA organiser, explained to me, “Today the neo-Nazi organisations organised a demo against the Islamisation of Greece at Piraeus Port. The Nazis announced they will march to the port where currently 5,000 refugees are stranded from war-torn Syria and Afghanistan. The Nazis are trying to exploit the Syriza government’s new memorandum, due to come out on 12 April 2016. Syriza support the EU-Turkey deal, and think it is a big success. So the Nazis are exploiting this so they can get on the streets and show that they are the alternative political party. It is very important for the anti-fascist movement to stop them, and today was a great success as the anti-fascists marched on the streets of Piraeus, and not the murderous Nazis. We say it proudly, loudly and clearly: refugees are welcome here.”
Petros explained the simple solution to the present refugee crisis in Greece. “We need to get the legalisation of each and every refugee and to provide them with housing via hotels if need be. A lot of hotels closed down but were re-opened for the Olympic games. The same can be done to house refugees, especially women and children. We do not accept violent evacuations of the port. Refugees are human beings. They must be found suitable accommodation and housed with dignity and respect”.
I couldn’t help but think of the young Pakistani immigrant Shehzad Luqman who was brutally stabbed to death in Petralona, Athens three years ago. I also thought of my father, and what fascists were really capable of in Europe.
We need to stand up to fascists and challenge them at every opportunity. Islamophobia is rife and racist attacks will continue if we do not stand up to them. The more the right seeks to exploit this refugee crisis – a by-product of war – the more our side needs to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Muslim brothers and sisters, and not give the racists and fascists an inch.
Maz Saleem is the daughter of 82-year-old Mohammed Saleem, who was murdered in Birmingham just yards from his house by Ukrainian far-right terrorist Pavlo Lapshyn. Maz is an active campaigner against racism and Islamophobia in Britain.