The Greek government has condemned an arson attack on a LGBTI sexual health organization in Athens.
Unknown assailants set fire to the Athens headquarters of Checkpoint during the early hours of Monday morning. Located in the central and tourist area, Monastiraki, fire fighters were able to stop the fire spreading to the second floor and adjacent buildings.
The arsonists scaled the first floor balcony, ripping down the external Pride flag and throwing gasoline through the windows.
Checkpoint is a Positive Voice and AHF Europe (AIDS Healthcare Foundation) initiative. It carries out more than 100,00 free HIV tests annually. Checkpoint also diagnoses about 30% of all HIV cases in Greece each year.
Staff and volunteers had left the building only an hour and half before the attack.
‘The perpetrators of the attack did not simply try to burn a building,’ said Positive Voice in a statement.
‘With the incendiary materials of intimidation and violence, they tried to silence a strong voice defending human rights and choking off the humanitarian values and ideals that we are advocating.’
‘Our response is timelessly clear. We will not let the fear feed the monster,’ it said.
‘The Rainbow flag will be waving again today in our structure as a political statement that human rights do not succumb to any fascist extortion.’
Despite not having a building to operate from in Athens, Checkpoint has continued providing services. Its has been servicing clients in a temporary mobile unit parked outside of the building.
Political and civil society leaders quickly spoke out against the homophobic arson attack.
Greece’s ruling party, SYRIZA, issued a statement condemning it. One of SYRIZA’s MEPs, Panagiotis Kourouplis, also visited the burnt out office the day after the attack.
‘The struggle against homophobia, the elimination of discrimination, stereotypes and prejudices is constant and everyday,’ SYRIZA’s statement read.
‘We expect the authorities to investigate the case and to arrest the perpetrators.’
The Onassis Foundation – one of the biggest philanthropic groups in Greece – showed its solidarity with Checkpoint by raising the Rainbow flag outside its massive cultural center in Athens.
‘Our response to the homophobic attack at Positive Voice’s Checkpoint center is proudly shown at the entrance to our cultural center,’ the Onassis Foundation wrote on Facebook.
‘Human rights do not succumb to intimidation. Rainbows don’t burn.’
The arson comes just days before the six month anniversary of LGBTI activist and drag queen, Zak Kostopoulos. He died from injuries after a jewellery shop owner and local police beat him.
A public campaign called for his murder to be properly investigated and not dismissed because of his sexuality and HIV status. Although the campaign continues, it lead to the arrests of two men, the suspension of six police officers and a second coroner’s report which determined the cause of death.
LGBTI people are amongst the most vilified in Greece. A 2018 study found violence against the LGBTI community still outnumbers all other kinds of violence in Greece.