From Golden Dawn to new dawn: Will government crackdown on far-right party mark a fresh start for Greece?

Pavlos Fyssas’s stabbing has led to the arrest of an entire right-wing party’s leadership and a new sense of unity


“On a day like this, it’s nice to die pleasantly and standing upright in public view. My name is Pavlos Fyssas from Pireaus, [I’m] Greek with all that entails – not just a flag.” These were the prophetic lyrics of 34-year-old musician Pavlos Fyssas in a hip-hop song he wrote less than a year before being stabbed to death on the streets of his neighbourhood by a middle-aged sympathiser of Greece’s extreme-right party, the Golden Dawn.

Emerging evidence suggests the killer was in close contact with a local party organiser, who played a leading role in the far-right effort to expand its influence in neighbourhoods that had traditionally been a stronghold of the left. Witness testimonies say Giorgos Roupakias attacked the artist out of the blue – without any physical provocation.

Brawls aren’t unusual between left-wing and far-right supporters in Greece, especially since the onset of the country’s chronic debt crisis. Because of the inherent culture of rap, its adherents are stereotypically placed to the left of the political spectrum. But Pavlos didn’t identify with any of Greece’s parties.

“He made his personal revolution through his songs,” says his closest friend, and fellow hip-hop artist, Thanassis Perrakis, aka Tiny Jackal.

A young Greek who deeply loved his country, Pavlos shuddered at Greece’s current predicament which he attributed – like many of his countrymen – to decades of misrule by a corrupt political class that was dominated by a handful of alternating dynasties.

Despite his stage name, Killah P from Kill the Past, and his music, which urged “death to the negative things of the past” – Pavlos was not violent, according to friends. He would avoid taking sides between police and youths at protests. “He’d say let’s throw koulouria – bread rings sprinkled in sesame – at the riotous crowds to get flocks of pigeons to scatter them,” his friend recalls.

Indeed, many of the musician’s songs called for freedom of expression and tolerance. “I have a mind that goes beyond borders, colour... my mind couldn’t care less about religions or political ideologies,” Killah P jammed in 2007.

Pavlos grew up in Athens’ working-class suburb of Amfiali and started working at the docks with his father. After qualifying as a plumber, he tried to make ends meet in any job he could find during the economic meltdown.

Stepping out of a café a couple of weeks ago, witnesses say Pavlos and half a dozen friends were confronted by an angry mob. He died protecting his friends, confronting the men so his friends could run. “No one could make Pavlo run,” Thanassis says.

His death prompted a backlash against the far right. Authorities, with unprecedented speed, gathered evidence linking the Golden Dawn to the stabbing and other crimes, then arrested the party’s entire leadership.

Last Saturday morning, 11 days after Pavlos’s death, the leader of Golden Dawn, Nikos Michaloliakos, four other MPs and many other party members were detained over allegedly forming a criminal organisation, although there was criticism of the government that it had taken Pavlos’s death for it to act. Exploiting the financial crisis and rising crime, Golden Dawn sprung out of near-anonymity with anti-immigrant rhetoric and won an unprecedented 18 seats in Parliament in last year’s general election. Recent surveys suggested the party, which openly admired Hitler’s ideology, has become the country’s third strongest.

But the tables are turning. The escalation of Golden Dawn’s street violence and the murder of a Greek national have given mainstream parties criticised for not tackling the financial crisis some breathing space. The authorities have seized the opportunity to crack down on Golden Dawn, and in doing so pushed the public’s attention away from the harsh austerity drive.

A wave of angry nationwide protests against Golden Dawn, however, went unabated, prompting fears of serious social polarisation. In an effort to tame the moods of furious youths in the streets, famous rap artists once bitterly opposed appeared united – for the first time in decades – to condemn violence. Musicians from Greece’s “low bap” – a sub-genre of hip-hop – and the rest of the rap scene addressed their hundreds of thousands of fans through a joint press conference. 

“While we’re here talking about Pavlos, people outside are looking for revenge but we urge composure,” popular hip-hopper Ilias Papanikolos told an audience filled with fans and journalists. “I know that humanity is not about parties, it’s about what’s inside us… people who kill have problems. It doesn’t matter if they’re Golden Dawn or Communist – we must help them.”

Many of the hundreds of thousands of followers applauded the move on social media last week – and tempers appeared allayed. But murdered Pavlos never lived to see his dream of a united Greek rap scene.

His killing has even attracted legendary international hip-hop artists Eric Bobo of Cypress Hill & DJ Rhettmatic of The Beat Junkies to express their condemnation as they head to Athens to perform in a hip-hop concert on Friday. “We would like to send our deepest condolences to Killah P and the Greek hip-hop community,” the musicians said in a video broadcast on YouTube. “We don’t like what’s going down, we’re down with racism and fascism.”

Greek hip-hop fans talking to The Independent remain furious at the mainstream political parties whom they hold responsible for the Golden Dawn phenomenon. 

Some artists say they had cautioned the public for years about the spread of fascism but that they weren’t taken seriously. “Before the killing, they just saw us as musicians with funny hats and controversial views because we were so critical of the establishment,” Akis Tsinidis, aka 12th Monkey, says. “Now they pretend to be shocked and surprised to see Golden Dawn murder just because the victim was a Greek.”

But despite the dismantling of Golden Dawn, musicians lament the enduring flaws of Greece’s institutions and a brazen exploitation of their friend’s death – from politicians across the spectrum trying to win voters to a press eager to increase its public. “Whatever happens, my friend isn’t coming back so let’s just hope he didn’t die in vain – if they’re going to take advantage of it, let them at least not pander,” says Thanassis.

He intends to make sure Pavlos’s death wasn’t futile. A concert in Pavlos’s memory is to take place within the next year and will bring musicians – from reggae to punk – onto one stage. The proceeds of the festival will help set up the non-profit organisation Pavlos wanted: care for the homeless and lessons of music, languages and history to destitute Greeks and foreigners.

Weeks after his death, the music that routed Golden Dawn blasts outside a hip-hop club in central Athens. Emmanuel Olayinka Afolayan, aka MC Yinka, a 32-year-old Nigerian rapper who was born and raised in Athens, worries over the hate infecting Greece. And yet the artist – who has yet to receive citizenship in the country he calls his own – remains hopeful over Greece’s fate. He says: “I represent the new Greeks, the new breed and generation: people who live on the same ground and no matter their colour, share the same dreams and fight for the same goals. We are all together.”

Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
fashion David Beckham fronts adverts for his underwear collection
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
i100Most young people can't
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Delivery Manager - ITIL / ServiceNow / Derivatives

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading Financial Services orga...

Senior Quantitative Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

CCNP Network Engineer - Farnborough, £250 pd

£250 per day: Orgtel: Network Engineer (CCNP), Cisco Gold Partner, Farnborough...

Technical Consultant Configuration, SQL, SQL Server

£55000 - £65000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Technical Cons...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home