By Ioanna Fotiadi
A recent outing came to a horrible end for a gay couple when they fell victim to a homophobic attack. It was 6 a.m. and the two 20-year-olds were walking to Kerameikos metro station in Gazi, one of the capital’s most popular night spots, to meet four friends, all women. “You’re in for it, you faggots!” yelled a man in another group who seemed close to their age.
“Sorry about the language. I’m just telling you what they said,” said S.T., one of the two men. Both were punched in the face, with S.T. requiring stitches near his eye and his boyfriend suffering a broken nose.
“It was one of the guys in the group who launched the attack,” the 20-year-old student told Kathimerini. “One of his friends tried to stop him, but the other two guys, as well as the girlfriend of one of them, were egging him on. The more I think about it, the more I am shocked by the girl’s attitude. Isn’t she worried that her boyfriend’s violence may not always be restricted to strangers? When I managed to open my good eye I saw him dragging my boyfriend by the hair through a pool of blood.”
S.T. and his friends called the police after being attacked.
“We waited two-and-a-half hours with three of us taking turns to call every half-hour,” said S.T. “If they had come sooner they would have caught the assailant. He stood there admiring his work for quite a while.”
According to S.T., when the police did turn up they took brief statements about the incident and advised the six youngsters to call if they ever saw the assailant again.
S.T. and his partner took themselves to the hospital, where they met up with representatives of Colour Youth, a group founded in 2012 to change negative perceptions of gay people and promote rights.
“Just a few years ago Gazi was extremely hospitable to the gay community,” said Constantinos Pantikiou, head of human resources and fundraising at Colour Youth. He said that the group has received reports of 15 serious attacks in various parts of the capital since the start of the year.
In 2013, the Racist Violence Recording Network compiled some 20-30 reports of homophobic attacks, some in busy parts of the capital such as Gazi, Exarchia and Panepistimiou metro station, as well as in other parts of the country (Ioannina, Alexandroupoli, Komotini) and especially in Thessaloniki.
“We encourage victims to report attacks but we also understand their reluctance, as any publicity could have an impact on their personal and private lives at a time when they are vulnerable,” Pantikiou noted.
An initiative by Colour Youth (www.pestosemas.com) launched in April, where victims of attacks can discuss their experiences openly, is funded by the EEA Grants Greek NGO Program "We are all Citizens." The Bodossaki Foundation is the fund operator of this program.
“We are also preparing an initiative to inform [groups such us ours] on how to work with victims in Thessaloniki, Ioannina, Patra and Iraklio, while we hope to use part of the funding we’ve received to cover the legal costs in at least 10 cases that have gone to court,” explained Pantikiou.
The website already has dozens of entries.
“The people who write to us are mainly teenagers and young people who became victims of domestic violence after coming out at home,” said Pantikiou. “Violence can be in the form of a beating or the cessation of financial assistance or even eviction from the family home.” The biggest problem in terms of the law, he added, is that victims are not considered as such if the violence comes from a parent.
S.T. gave us a brief profile of his assailant.
“From a distance he looked like the kind of macho poser you see everywhere. He didn’t look like a member of Golden Dawn, but he seemed to know martial arts,” he said, making reference to the Greek neo-Nazi party, a number of whose supporters have been implicated in homophobic attacks, including a recent assault on August 23 against two gay men in the Athenian neighborhood of Pangrati.