By Tabetha Karydas and Alejandro Alvarez
CHIOS, Greece – Far-right assailants besieged Greece’s Souda refugee camp for two straight nights, adding panic and injury to an already desperate situation.
Initial headlines from much of the mainstream media pinned sole responsibility of the attacks on the camp’s refugees. Yet, refugees and volunteers offered another side to the story. Social media posts and interviews with volunteers and refugees paint a chaotic scene overnight on Nov. 16 and 17.
0318HRS [Nov. 17]: Second round of fireworks went off. 4-5 refugees at hospital. 1 pregnant woman, 1 man with a fractured skull injured bt [sic] rock. Souda in total darkness as electricty [sic] cut.
— Huwaida Arraf (@huwaidaarraf) November 17, 2016
Eye-witnesses from within the camp argue that the unrest began when Greeks maliciously targeted a group of Algerian refugees in the local park. The Algerians fled back to Souda, but sources report fascists followed and were the first to throw fireworks into the camp.
Seeking to defend themselves, the refugees retaliated with firecrackers, taken from a nearby store. The fireworks were “flying around, terrifying neighbours and bystanders” and adding to the confusion and chaos, according to one witness.
Large rocks were thrown from balconies overlooking the camp into tents housing sleeping families. One refugee was hospitalized with a skull fracture. Nurses, volunteers and refugees were reportedly dragged from tents to be forcibly searched, and, by some accounts, beaten by police.
One of the arrested volunteers shares his experience:
“Suddenly two men – one with the sash and walkie talkie across his chest, and one police took me towards the Shell gas station. I saw 50-60 people. I don’t know. A small crowd. Two of them took the police baton and started hitting me. I was hit on my head, my arms. My backpack protected me. The police was hurrying me after they handcuffed me but while walking towards the Shell station, they took their time. The mob was angry. The rage on their faces was unbelievable…
…They commanded me…to look the other way but through the reflection in the glass, I could see them slapping the Algerians…
Not once were we explained what was going on, nor our rights being read. They just barked orders.”
— Daniel Rivas (@drivaspacheco) November 17, 2016
On Tuesday, Greece’s Golden Dawn, a party which preaches neo-Nazi and fascist ideology, had held a rally in Chios calling for the expulsion of refugees from Greece. Following the attacks, Nicholas Michaloliakos, the leader of Golden Dawn, stated:
“Right away, the progressionist journalists of this country tried to throw the entire blame on far right elements; on Golden Dawn followers. So, yes! To them whichever Greek resists is a Golden Dawn follower. For us that is a title of honor. Golden Dawn is the national resistance of Greece.”
Four refugees were attacked by a group of fascists on the second night; three escaped, one was severely beaten and hospitalized. According to volunteer accounts, two locals supporting the refugees were also beaten while the police looked on.
“0120HRS [Nov. 18]: Approximately 120 people are sleeping outside too scared to go into Souda camp. 2 solidarians [refugee sympathizers] attacked by fascists. 4 Syrians attacked by fascists. 3 escaped and are back in the camp but one 42 year old Syrian man still missing.”
The extent of the physical damage may prove salvageable, but psychologically, catastrophic.
Since the attacks this week, dozens of refugees have evacuated Souda, fearing another onslaught of violence. The Chios town council has prevented volunteers from distributing new tents to anyone who does not return to Souda, leaving these scared individuals exposed to the elements as colder temperatures creep in.