Muslim refugees in Athens seek own cemetery


Standing by the tiny grave of his five-year-old son in the Orthodox Christian cemetery of Schisto on the outskirts of Athens, Esfandiyar Fagkiri says he feels a “dual pain”.

Not only has he lost one of his five children, but the Afghan family cannot mourn him according to Muslim rituals because the cemetery is Christian.

Hasibollah Fagkiri was hit and fatally injured by a truck in January 2021 while playing with other children near the entrance to the Malakassa migrant camp, north of Athens, where he had been living with his family since September 2020. NGOs and local authorities blamed the accident on the camp’s poor safety conditions and said it should be shut down.

After burying their son, the Fagkiris were shocked to be told that his body must be exhumed after three years — in 2024.

This is standard procedure in Greek cemeteries due to a chronic lack of space — especially in the greater Athens area where more than a third of the country’s population of over 10 million live.

But for Hasibollah’s grieving family, it is un-thinkable. Islam does not allow exhumation or cre-mation and the body remains buried forever, Fagkiri pointed out.

But for people without a paid family grave, “ex-humation after three years is mandatory,” insisted Dimosthenis Stamatatos, head of an association of municipalities near the cemetery of Schisto.

The remains of the dead are often kept in a spe-cial annex of the cemetery church.—AFP


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