Number 217 | January 15, 2013
Greek ultra-nationalists, brandishing Greek flags, broke through a police barrier and reached the official vehicle of the Turkish Consul General to Komotini, Ilhan Sener, who was visiting the Mayor of Kavala, Kostas Simichis.
The attackers, believed to be members of the Greek Neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, had gathered outside the Municipality building where the two officials had been meeting. As Sener tried to leave after the meeting, his car was surrounded by attackers, who kicked the vehicle and smashed its windows. The Turkish diplomat managed to leave the city under police escort.
Sener played down the incident, saying that such things will not break the friendship between Turkey and Greece. "Our meeting with the Kavala municipality was about this in the first place. We were trying to find ways to have more Turkish citizens come and visit here."
Yet, Greece has seen a surge in neo-Nazi activity and violence against “foreigners,” with Golden Dawn winning an unprecedented 18 seats and 7 percent of the vote in the June 2012 parliamentary election. Incidents of violence, including by members of the police, against foreign-looking people have since further climbed. In the most recent incident, a Korean tourist was beaten on three separate occasions by Greek police officers and he was wrongfully detained. According to the Washington Post, Hyun Young Jung is just one of nearly 60,000 people who have been detained under a new law enforcement strategy to detain and export illegal immigrants, with only about 7 percent of the detainees later being arrested for immigration violations.
There are allegations of ties between Golden Dawn and members of the Greek police force and frequent reports of mistreatment of not only illegal immigrants, but also of Greek citizens of minority descent. While a majority of Greeks are opposed to the policies and rhetoric of groups like Golden Dawn, critics say that there is a climate of xenophobia and religious intolerance in Greek society that helps such groups to thrive. Greece continues to vocally deny the existence of its small ethnic Macedonian community and outlaws the Macedonian Church. Greece’s Turkish minority also faces constant hurdles to assert its cultural and religious identity, beginning with its right to self-identification as "Turkish." Athens also remains to be the only European capital without a formal mosque, with officials thwarting numerous attempts by its Turkish and other Muslim communities to build one. A historical Ottoman era mosque in Athens remains closed and in deplorable condition despite Turkey’s offer to provide funding for its restoration.