- Experts warn against trusting the party’s consoling words
LAHORE/ATHENS: Pakistan Ambassador to Greece Khalid Usman Qaiser met with Nikos Michaloliakos, Chairman of the notorious Neo-Nazi Greek nationalists Golden Dawn party, at the Greek Parliament in Athens the other day.
It was a crucial meeting because it comes after people allegedly affiliated with or influenced by the Golden Dawn made two Pakistanis—Ashfaq Mahmud and Muhammad Usman—the target of a racially motivated attack, which left the two immigrant workers severely injured. The two injured workers later met the ambassador at the embassy.
The incident had earlier prompted horrified responses due to its brutality, and was widely condemned by the Pakistani ambassador, as well as the mainstream political parties of Greece, including the ruling Syriza, and various civil rights organisations.
While no real link has been established between the attackers and the Golden Dawn, it is widely suspected that they were related to them, as the Golden Dawn is the Greek face of the rising ‘alt-right’ movements in Europe and the Americas.
The ambassador met with Michaloliakos to try and alleviate any misunderstandings and to highlight the great services and importance of the Pakistani community in Greece, as well as to reiterate that the treatment repeatedly meted out to them by local racists was unacceptable.
The embassy also issued a press release on Thursday, a copy of which is available with Pakistan Today, that asked the Pakistani community to inform the embassy regarding any future racist attacks.
The ambassador informed Pakistan Today that he told the chairman that, in the last one year alone, over 60 such cases have been reported, and these two cases were extreme in nature, as the victims were brutally injured. He added that silence on part of Golden Dawn authenticated claim of condemning parties and organisations.
The chairman responded that his party had strongly condemned the incident, while adding that Golden Dawn will never support such violent actions by anyone against anyone. He said that there were some individuals who enjoy the backing of human smugglers and criminals and they also use some Pakistanis against their party.
Michaloliakos went on to argue that the matter was all about money and warned that the Greek police needs to be more watchful.
The ambassador also briefed the chairman on Pakistan’s foreign policy, and growing bilateral relations between Pakistan and Greece in the domain of commerce, IT, energy and defence.
WHAT IS GOLDEN DAWN?
Golden Dawn was founded 20 years ago.
The extreme Right-wing movement—which is accused of being a neo-Nazi party of Right-wing thugs, anti-Semites and xenophobes—languished on the fringes of Greek politics for years.
However, it began to rise to prominence almost seven years ago, as Greece plunged into a severe economic crisis, high unemployment and rising poverty.
In 2010, the party’s founder and leader, mathematician Nikos Michaloliakos, 57, was elected to Athens city council on a wave of anti-immigration tension as well as growing economic hardship.
The former nationalist youth leader caused controversy by giving fascist salutes in the city council in a taunt to a Left-wing councillor who had called him a fascist.
In 2012 the party exploited widespread anger over immigration and austerity reforms imposed by the EU and IMF and won 18 seats in parliament. Another crucial point to note is that Michaloliakos was close to the army dictators who ruled the country from 1967 to 1974.
Golden Dawn’s victory sent shockwaves across Europe.
Its supporters often dress all in black, its emblem resembles the swastika and its slogan is “Blood, Honour, Golden Dawn”.
The party denies that it supports a neo-Nazi ideology, but its leaders in the past have expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler.
The party has campaigned aggressively against illegal immigration, under the campaign slogan “let’s rid the country of this stench.”
Golden Dawn has repeatedly warned that Greece is being invaded by “the barbarian hordes of Asia and Africa.”
Although members had long been accused of mounting vigilante-style street patrols in which Asian and African immigrants were beaten up, the party faced few sanctions until the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, a rap musician, in Sept 2013, allegedly by a Golden Dawn supporter.
Michaloliakos, the party’s founder, and a number of others were arrested following the murder.
Later, a search of party members’ homes uncovered firearms and other weapons, as well Nazi and fascist memorabilia.
Despite the arrest of many of its MPs, the party remains popular with many Greeks.
‘GOLDEN DAWN INTENT ON DESTROYING GREEK DEMOCRACY’
A number of analysts and experts decried the party, saying that they are not what they appear to be.
British journalist Oz Katerji, a close observer of changing European trends, warned people against falling for the GD’s trap. He told Pakistan Today that “I would class the Golden Dawn as a far-right neo-Nazi party intent on destroying democracy in Greece, and creating an ethno-nationalist state. Their use of violence, even to the point of murder, means that people should really refrain from referring to them as a legitimate political party of any kind. They are an extremist group and have no interest in participating in democratic politics.”
Meanwhile, talking to Pakistan Today, Mohammed Harun Arsalai, an independent journalist and activist from the Bay Area of California, said: “Golden Dawn is an ultra-right wing and a neo-Nazi political party founded in the early 90’s and headquartered in Athens, Greece.”
“Golden Dawn enjoys widespread popularity within the Greek police forces, many of whom are admitted members of the party—this has led to the party’s ability to operate with virtual impunity,” he said, adding that the group’s political capabilities have weakened somewhat with major scandals and ongoing legal cases against the party’s leadership.
In a similar manner, American journalist and artist Molly Crabapple was also skeptical about the Golden Dawn’s intentions, telling Pakistan Today that “the Golden Dawn is a neo-Nazi criminal organisation that uses parliamentary politics as a fig leaf while going on a year-long spree of assault and murder against foreigners, gay people, and leftists.”
Additional reporting by Abdullah Niazi