Muslim refugees in Athens search personal cemetery

SCHISTO (Greece): Standing by the tiny grave of his five-year-old son within the Orthodox Christian cemetery of Schisto on the outskirts of Athens, Esfandiyar Fagkiri says he feels a “twin ache”.
Not solely has he misplaced one in all his 5 youngsters, however the Afghan household can not mourn him in keeping with Muslim spiritual ritual as a result of the cemetery is Christian.
Hasibollah Fagkiri was hit and fatally injured by a truck in January 2021 whereas enjoying with different youngsters close to the doorway to the Malakassa migrant camp, north of Athens, the place he had been dwelling along with his household since September 2020.
NGOs and native authorities blamed the accident on the camp’s poor security situations and stated it ought to be shut down.
After burying their son, the Fagkiris have been shocked to be informed that his physique have to be exhumed after three years — in 2024.
That is customary process in Greek cemeteries on account of a continual lack of house — particularly within the larger Athens space the place greater than a 3rd of the nation’s inhabitants of over 10 million reside.
However for Hasibollah’s grieving household, it’s unthinkable.
Islam doesn’t permit exhumation or cremation and within the Muslim faith, the physique stays buried perpetually, Fagkiri identified.
However for individuals with out a paid household grave, “exhumation after three years is necessary”, insisted Dimosthenis Stamatatos, head of an affiliation of municipalities close to the cemetery of Schisto.
Rising numbers
The stays of the lifeless are sometimes saved in a particular annex of the cemetery church.
Greece is a predominantly Orthodox Christian nation, and Muslim cemeteries can solely be present in Thrace, a area within the northeast of the nation close to the Greek-Turkish border, 750 kilometres (466 miles) from Athens.
The realm is residence to a centuries-old Muslim minority, a legacy of the Ottoman Empire’s presence within the space.
In Athens, the variety of Muslims was negligible, however this has modified within the wake of the 2015 refugee disaster.
There at the moment are about half-a-million Muslims within the Greek capital after successive migration waves and the arrival of hundreds of households from the Middle East, North Africa and the Indian subcontinent fleeing conflict and poverty.
Thrace is just too distant for many households to bury their lifeless there, and the price of transferring the our bodies is prohibitive.
“Given the excessive value of transferring the lifeless to Thrace, the variety of burials of Muslims in Orthodox cemeteries in Athens has elevated in recent times,” Rezai Mohtar, president of the Afghan group, informed a press convention final week.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made issues even more durable for grieving households, he stated.
In accordance with Javed Aslam, a number one member of the Pakistani group in Greece, Muslim migrant communities have lengthy been calling for a cemetery in Athens.
Municipal official Stamatatos identified that in 2016 the Orthodox Church of Greece donated 20,000 sq. metres (5 acres) of land at Schisto cemetery for a bit reserved for Muslims.
However a authorized dispute with the contractor has delayed the completion of the mission.
A senior official on the Greek ministry of training, which additionally oversees spiritual issues, stated the mission has been given the go-ahead and “will likely be carried out given the big variety of Muslims in Athens.”
However rights teams and the principle opposition leftist celebration Syriza usually are not so optimistic, pointing to the present conservative authorities’s sturdy anti-migration rhetoric amid recurring allegations of unlawful migrant pushbacks on the nation’s borders.
“With regards to respect for the rights of migrants and refugees, the context in Greece is adverse,” stated Syriza MP Giorgos Psychogios.
The primary official mosque in Athens opened in November 2020, taking greater than a decade to finish after operating into sturdy opposition from the Orthodox Church, in addition to from nationalist teams.
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