A Danish man of Afghan origin, who lost his father and brother during the conflict in his homeland, has been brutally attacked by a group of thugs shouting anti-refugee abuse in Greece, where far-right activists are on the rise.
The assault left Ahmad Walid Rashidi, who lost a leg in the Afghan conflict, was left with a broken nose and potential brain damage. Mr Rashidi, 28, accused Greek authorities of inaction and wider systemic bias against migrants after the beating last week in Athens that also saw two refugees he is friends with suffering from broken jaw bones.
Tensions over migrants is high in Greece as numbers of newcomers in border areas and the islands stretches resources. The debt crisis in the country has exacerbated frustration among ordinary Greeks. Police have been accused of using violence against those trying to cross into the country earlier this year.
Policies on asylum applications were overhauled following the election of a centre-right government last year. Rights groups say there is “little chance” of a fair “procedure” for most applicants.
The allegedly unprovoked assault on Mr Rashidi and his companions took place outside of a bar and was carried out by at least seven men shouting racist and anti-refugee abuse, he said. Mr Rashidi, who has since returned to Denmark where he has lived for 20 years, says his hearing and balance have been affected, and a bone above his eye has been fractured.
"The worst thing is, I lost my leg to Islamic fighters in my home country, and now I have lost my hearing and balance to racist people. I have paid twice with my body for problems and challenges which I was born in," he told The National, as he questioned what he could possibly be "guilty" of.
In his 20 years in Europe, Mr Rashidi says he has experienced verbal abuse but never been physically assaulted.
He is most angry with a Greek government and police force that has in recent years been accused of using excessive violence to clamp down on the wave of migrants and refugees that have swept into its borders and the country.
In a separate statement issued after the attack, Mr Rashidi says that police and hospital staff treated he and his friends differently because of his background.
“The assault was bloody and painful, but the worst pain and greatest frustration has been the subsequent state-authorities discrimination.”
A lawyer has since reached out to him to offer her help.
Speaking to The National, Mr Rashidi said he remained upbeat.
“I’m actually kind of always a positive guy. I’m not affected, of course physically I’m affected by it, but mentally I’m OK.”
He understood the resentment that many Greeks have felt during a migrant crisis that has simmered since 2014 that has seen Greece on the European Union’s frontline as numbers surged. In 2019, the centre-right New Democracy came to power after defeating the left-wing administration that had been in charge since 2015.
“I can understand the frustration of the Greek government and Greece people feel because of immigration and refugees situation, and because of the lack of the support from the European countries. But that should never ever legitimise violence, especially not from a government.”
A report by Amnesty International released in April said violence on Greece’s frontier with Turkey had surged after “thousands of people headed to the Greek border after Turkish authorities encouraged and facilitated their movement there”.