Anti-racist map seeks to expose Athens' 'topography of violence'


Athens (AFP)

Racist hate crimes come under fresh scrutiny at an Athens exhibition seeking to map out the "topography of violence" targeting migrants and refugees.

By using QR (quick response) codes -- a type of barcode --which can be opened on a smart phone, the interactive "X them out! A black map of Athens" seeks to take visitors on a trip around the Greek capital to places where violent attacks took place.

The aim is to shed light on the often-unseen crimes of the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, an ultranationalist party known for its xenophobic violence.

Racist violence hit the global headlines again on Friday after an Australian extremist gunned down 49 people at two mosques in New Zealand, sparking a wave of shock and revulsion.

The Athens exhibition was put together by the local branch of the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation, a German organisation which fights fascism and racism, and HumanRights360, a Greek civil society group.

"With this campaign, we attempt to establish a topography of racist violence. We seek to make its dark dimensions and its deadly nature more familiar to the general public," the exhibitors explain, describing it as an antiracist map.

"Our aim is to strengthen the collective memory and never forget these repugnant acts," explains Ilectra Alexandropoulou of the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation.

The map, which is on display at Technopolis, a cultural venue near the city centre, includes some 50 locations where attacks happened, some of which were deadly.

Most targeted migrants, and were carried out by those affiliated with the Golden Dawn.

Walking the streets in and around Athens, visitors look out for the brightly-coloured sticker bearing a QR code which they then scan to get a short description of the attack.

"Once the code is scanned, the website comes up on the screen along with an illustrated description," explains Eleni Takou from HumanRights360.

The project involved working with 25 graphic illustrators, who contributed artwork depicting the violence meted out by Golden Dawn activists who could be seen patrolling the streets of Athens between 2010 and 2014, at the height of the crisis.

Dressed in black, their heads shaved and with their trademark swastika armbands, they would kick and punch and wielded iron bars.

The illustrations were based on photos that were published at the time by many newspapers and websites.

"The campaign.. is designed to pinpoint and highlight the unseen criminality related to racist attacks in the public space," explains the exhibition's website .

- Topography of violence -

It was only in 2013 when an anti-fascist rapper called Pavlos Fyssas was murdered by a Golden Dawn activist in Athens that Greek authorities opened an investigation into the actions of the violently xenophobic and anti-Semitic group.

Fyssas was stabbed outside a cafe in the working-class Keratsini district, with his father saying he had been ambushed by Golden Dawn members. Witnesses said police stood nearby but did nothing as the group chased Fyssas and his friends.

Until that point, the police had not cracked down on the faction, despite years of growing concern over its campaign of violence against migrants and political opponents.

But the stabbing forced Athens to open an investigation into the group, with 70 of its members put on trial on a wide range of charges, including the rapper's murder.

"We have tried to visualise just a small part of this 'topography of violence' that has its origins in Golden Dawn and fascism, in order to contribute to acquainting the general public with their crimes and in punishing their murderous activity," the organisers said.

Founded in the mid-1980s by a Holocaust denier called Nikos Michaloliakos, the Golden Dawn party for years glorified Adolf Hitler and the warrior ethos of Nazi Germany in its publications.

Formerly on the fringe of Greek politics, Golden Dawn went from 19,000 votes a few years ago to over 426,000 in 2012 when it entered parliament for the first time after pledging to "scour the country" clean of illegal immigrants.

Today it is the third largest party in the Greek parliament, with polls predicting it will secure nearly eight percent of the vote when the country goes to the polls later this year.