CPTer documents minute-by-minute account of fascist attack on Afghan refugees in Sappho Square, Mytilene


The following represents a minute-by-minute report that the Christian Peacemaker Team on Lesvos made of the night of 22-23 April when fascists attacked the Afghan refugee families who were occupying Sappho Square in Mytilene, Lesvos.  The families were nonviolently protesting their internment at Moria Camp, saying it was the “Guantanamo of Europe,” and demanding that they be allowed to move forward with their asylum process.

19:10 Police in riot gear made a small circle around refugee protestors. The policeman told a western foreigner (reporter) to move for his safety because something might happen. (Reported by a foreign volunteer).

19:40 The refugee group told the CPTer to stay inside the circle; the men formed two lines to protect the women. 

19:50 A sound of marching and drumming moved toward the square. Some Greek people standing on the other side clapped their hands to welcome the march group. Greek people sang the national anthem (maybe). The leader of the refugee protestors told people to stay quiet when the Greek people sang their national anthem. Two police buses blocked the sight of the refugee protestors.

19:55 A crowd from the other side of street moved to the square. They occupied the other part of the square. They started shouting in Greek. (Later the newspaper reported their message was to burn people; local people called then the fascists). The police stayed in a line to keep them at a distance.

20:00 The police put masks on.

20:05 Shouting became louder from the fascist group. The refugees tried to stay calm, especially to help the children

20:10 The fascists pushed their line to shorten the distance. 

20:15 The police asked the refugee protestors to back away. The women tried to move to give the space to the men. The shouting from the fascist group started again. The kids were scared a little bit but the people tried to calm the kids.

20:20 The police moved from the two sides to the middle of the two groups. The police were all on one side. The other three sides were the police buses, the coffee shops, Greek people and foreigners (volunteers), and a building.

20:25 A women lay down and she said she was okay.

20:30 A man or two from Somali community joined the Afghan refugee protestors.

20:40 The fascists pushed the police line again. The sounds of drumming, horns, and motorcycles started.

20:50 The fascists started throwing things: water bottles and cups. The refugees tried to stay calm.

21:05 The fascists shot fireworks and cheered. One firework fell into the women’s group and one girl got burned; another one fell on the roof of the structure where the refugees had been storing the tents and blankets. The refugee protestors put out the fires. The refugee protestors tried to restore the order and stayed quiet again.

21:15 Drumming mixed with shooting sounds. The refugee protestors stayed calm and quiet. 

21:25 The leader of refugee protestors walked around the circle; he talked to the men and strengthened the lines.

21:30 A man from Moria camp called the leader of the refugee protestors. The leader told him to stay in calm in Moria, and told other people to stay in Moria and not to come to the square.

21:40 The two sides stayed quiet for a while. News passed to the refugee protestors that the attack might start in half an hour. The leader tried to strengthen the lines. 

10:30 A shooting noise occurred at the left side of the protest group (the side of coffee shops and foreigners).

11:00 The fascists set a bin on fire and push the bin at police. (Report from outside.)

11:10 A large number of rocks and bottles were thrown at the refugee protestors. Another bin was on fire. (Report from outside.)

11:30 The fascists threw rocks again.  Children cried, and the people tried to calm them. One family had a member with a heart problem. The CPTer stayed with the family and offered to accompany the family out of the circle. The family said they would tell the CPTer when they wanted to leave but they were fine at this moment.

11:35 Another bin was on fire. (Report from outside). 

11:50 A foreigner came to the leader of the refugee protestors. He told the leader that the police asked them to let the children and women leave the circle and move behind the building. The leader didn’t accept. He told the foreigner that people had decided to stay together.

11:55 A wave of violent attacks happened on the left side, right side and corners of the building. Rocks and fires were thrown into the women and children’s circle; the foreigners at the three sides were attacked. The CPTer inside the circle was hit by a stone. Two protestors guided the CPTer to a safe place and returned to the group. The other group attacked the refugees from the four sides. The number of injured people increased.

12:30 The police started shooting tear gas. A Greek cafe hosted the people with injuries and a shop lady cried and gave people waters and bandages. The fascists went into the alleys and searched for their targets. They found the ambulance and moved toward the site. Some people encountered the fascists at the alleys, and the foreigners in one coffee shop helped the injured refugees move to another place to hide. The injured went with the group to a new shelter.

12:30 to 3:30 The CPTer could hear shooting sounds from the shelter. 

3:30 A foreign volunteer reported that the fascist group was still at the square and were throwing stones. There was a lot of tear gas at the square. The protestors still stood at the square in the circle but the number decreased. Many Greek people came out to stand with the refugees.  Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders moved their base close to the square to help the injured people.

5:30 From the shelter, the CPTer saw different groups of people run in the street and heard the sounds of hitting and motorcycles. The people in the shelter remained quiet.

5:40 A foreign volunteer reported that the police started arresting the refugees. An elder in the shelter started crying and people tried to calm her down. [Later the news reported the police arrested 120 refugees on the square, two Greek people in solidarity with the refugees, and no one from the fascist group.]

7:30 The foreign volunteers came to the shelter and took the refugees back to the Moria and the hospital. One elder said she didn’t want to go to Moria. 

8:30 The injured CPTer left the shelter and walked back to the square. Everything on the square was removed and the street was washed with water. [Later, the refugees reported that many people lost their backpacks, which had their ID cards, documents and money inside.] 

9:00 The injured CPTer went to the hospital: she had some cuts and bruises on her face, but her nose was not broken.

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