Muslim refugees in Athens seek own cemetery
SCHISTO(Greece): Standing by the tiny grave of his five-year-old son in the Orthodox Christian cemetery of Schisto on the outskirts of Athens, Esfandiyar Fagkiri says he feels a “double discomfort”.
Not just has he lost among his five children, but the Afghan household can not mourn him according to Muslim religious routine because the cemetery is Christian.
Hasibollah Fagkiri was struck and fatally injured by a truck in January 2021 while having fun with other kids near the entrance to the Malakassa migrant camp, north of Athens, where he had actually been living with his family considering that September 2020.
NGOs and regional authorities blamed the accident on the camp’s bad security conditions and stated it must be closed down.
After burying their son, the Fagkiris were shocked to be told that his body must be exhumed after 3 years– in 2024.
This is basic treatment in Greek cemeteries due to a persistent lack of space– especially in the greater Athens area where more than a 3rd of the country’s population of over 10 million live.
But for Hasibollah’s mourning family, it is unimaginable.
Islam does not allow exhumation or cremation and in the Muslim faith, the body remains buried forever, Fagkiri mentioned.
However for people without a paid household grave, “exhumation after 3 years is necessary”, firmly insisted Dimosthenis Stamatatos, head of an association of municipalities near the cemetery of Schisto.
The remains of the dead are typically kept in an unique annex of the cemetery church.
Greece is a mainly Orthodox Christian nation, and Muslim cemeteries can only be found in Thrace, an area in the northeast of the country near the Greek-Turkish border, 750 kilometres (466 miles) from Athens.
The location is home to a centuries-old Muslim minority, a legacy of the Ottoman Empire’s presence in the location.
In Athens, the number of Muslims utilized to be minimal, however this has actually changed in the wake of the 2015 refugee crisis.
There are now about half-a-million Muslims in the Greek capital after succeeding migration waves and the arrival of countless households from the Middle East, North Africa and the Indian subcontinent fleeing war and hardship.
Thrace is too far for many households to bury their dead there, and the cost of transferring the bodies is excessive.
“Given the high expense of moving the dead to Thrace, the variety of burials of Muslims in Orthodox cemeteries in Athens has actually increased over the last few years,” Rezai Mohtar, president of the Afghan neighborhood, told an interview last week.
The Covid-19 pandemic has actually made things even harder for grieving households, he stated.
According to Javed Aslam, a leading member of the Pakistani neighborhood in Greece, Muslim migrant neighborhoods have long been calling for a cemetery in Athens.
Community official Stamatatos pointed out that in 2016 the Orthodox Church of Greece contributed 20,000 square metres (five acres) of land at Schisto cemetery for a section reserved for Muslims.
But a legal dispute with the specialist has actually postponed the completion of the project.
A senior official at the Greek ministry of education, which likewise supervises religious matters, said the job has actually been offered the consent and “will be performed provided the big number of Muslims in Athens.”
But rights groups and the main opposition leftist celebration Syriza are not so positive, indicating the present conservative federal government’s strong anti-migration rhetoric amid repeating claims of illegal migrant pushbacks at the country’s borders.
“When it pertains to regard for the rights of migrants and refugees, the context in Greece is negative,” stated Syriza MP Giorgos Psychogios.
The very first authorities mosque in Athens opened in November 2020, taking more than a decade to complete after facing strong opposition from the Orthodox Church, as well as from nationalist groups.
Released at Sat, 14 Might 2022 09:25:02 +0000