London-based research group Forensic Architecture has released an investigative video yesterday debunking Greek government's claims of fake news over the killing of Syrian refugee Muhammad al-Arab by Greek fire on the country's land border with Turkey.
Twenty-two-year-old al-Arab's murder was first reported by journalist Jenan Moussa on 02 March on Twitter. Moussa shared videos of the incident and managed to track down al-Arab's family in Istanbul, who confirmed his death. Greek government spokesperson Stelios Petsas immediately tweeted that the reports were fake news and "Turkish propaganda", to which Moussa responded with a photo of al-Arab's coffin.
Reuters and other international media picked up the story of al-Arab's death by Greek fire on the border, but local media's silence on the issue has been deafening. For two days it was unclear whether a killing had actually taken place, with the government repeatedly denouncing reports as inaccurate.
Last night, Forensic Architecture released a video of their research on al-Arab's killing. The video confirms the time, date and location of videos shot by witnesses during the incident, using video metadata and comparing video footage with satellite images of the area. The video therefore proves that al-Arab was indeed killed by live ammunition on the Greek-Turkish border as he was trying to cross into Greece. You can watch the Forensic Architecture video here (warning: graphic content).
This is not the first case Forensic Architecture investigates in Greece. The Turner-nominated group conducted research on the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, the lynching of Zak Kostopoulos, a shipwreck off the coast of Lesvos that resulted in the death of at least 43 people, and the extradiction of Turkish political asylum seekers by Greece. In September 2019, Forensic Architecture had its first solo exhibition in Greece at State of Concept in Athens.
The killing of al-Arab is the result of escalating violence on the Greek side of the border and rampant racism among Greek citizens, fuelled by politicians and the media. On 02 March, the Greek armed forces announced that they would be using live ammunition on the land border with Turkey and the coast of Lesvos. Meanwhile, armed vigilante groups have emerged patrolling the border, in order to deter refugees from crossing. According to Die Linke and Twitter reports, these groups are joined by neonazi groups from Germany and Austria.
Amnesty International has released a statement calling out Greece for betraying its human rights responsibilities and for putting people's lives at risk, stating that Greece should do whatever possible to protect the arrival of asylum seekers to the country. The Greek section of Amnesty International has released a separate report, pointing out that the situation along the Greek-Turkish border is "a humanitarian crisis caused by Europe", and that Greece should protect the right to asylum with support from the EU.
Demonstrations in solidarity with refugees and against state violence and racism have been announced for today, Thursday 05 March, in various cities in Greece.