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22 June, 2024
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Confronting racism and the far-right threat

Media fuels xenophobia in Cyprus



By Andreas Riri

The awful attacks on migrants, refugees, and others in Chloraka and Limassol were not sudden but rather a predictable continuation of a long-standing problem. We shouldn't be surprised when the former Interior Minister used the divisive term "third Attila" and the media echoed it. What did we expect when baseless claims about migrants "carrying Turkey" circulated among many Greek Cypriots with anti-Turkish sentiments?

Picture this: Vulnerable immigrants and refugees, often different in color and religion, arrive from the southern part of the island. Instead of protection, the state and media label them as "enemy agents." This hate speech isn't recent; it's been a part of the political and media landscape for years. Remember Averof Neophytou's pre-election racist remarks in Emba, Mario Pelekano's approval of the Chloraka violence, and Mr. Koulia spreading false claims about benefits to migrants and refugees on TV?

Xenophobic rhetoric has been normalized, giving rise to extremists. The parliamentary committee formed to secure support from ELAM is a stark example, as it condemns racist attacks but doesn't distance itself from its own extremist members who spread false news.

However, there are signs of hope in the citizens' democratic response. There have been two anti-racist protests in Limassol, online fundraisers to support migrant-owned businesses, and an ongoing anti-fascist mobilization in Nicosia. This shows that the far right may have overreached, and citizens are taking matters into their own hands, not waiting for institutional responses.

This isn't the first time Cypriot citizens have acted swiftly against extremism:

- In 2010, when ELAM attempted a parade in Nicosia, democratic citizens countered them.
- In 2013, when ELAM threatened to "clean up" Nicosia from immigrants, hundreds of antifascists gathered.
- This year, nationalist lawyer Panagiotis Kleovoulos was convicted for orchestrating a fascist attack in 2017, with some anti-fascist individuals bravely testifying.

The police's inaction in Chloraka and Limassol, contrasted with their treatment of peaceful demonstrators in February 2021, raises questions. The state's reluctance to acknowledge "racism" or the "far right" suggests either a failure to perceive the problem or a willingness to tolerate it, despite the president's apparent shame.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  migrants  |  Chlorakas  |  Limassol  |  attacks  |  riots

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