Beaten up for being in love

By Costas Greece,

In August 2014, Costas and his partner were badly beaten up by thugs in a violent homophobic and racist attack in central Athens.

We had met a couple of months previously at Athens Pride, and we had decided to move in together. We lived in a small studio in central Athens. One day in late August, we went to buy some things from the shop, and I suggested spending some time outside instead of going back home.

We sat on a bench in a square. It was really hot, and there was a nice breeze outside. The square was relatively empty. Athens is quiet at that time of the year, everyone is away. It was just us, the corner shop that was slowly closing, and a group of young men on the other edge of the square.

We didn't pay much attention to them. We sat there and talked, we had a laugh. We couldn't imagine what would follow. Two of them approached us from behind on a motorbike and threw a bucket full of dirty water on us. I was paralysed. I sat back trying to calm down before we headed home. Big mistake. One by one, they ran towards us, and started punching and kicking us.

There were around twelve or fifteen of them. Too many. They kept hitting us.

A mobile phone image of Costas' broken leg after the attack. Credit: Private.

“They broke my leg in three places”

I think they could tell we are a couple, and they targeted us because of that, and because of my partner’s skin colour. Last thing I saw was him being thrown on the pavement. I saw them kicking him. I couldn't see anything after that. I realised that my head and upper body was inside a trash-bin that they had overturned. They threw me on the ground, and a few seconds later they broke my leg in three places.

The police arrived but no one talked to me directly. The police officer wouldn't come near me, as if I was contagious. It was a tragedy. It took me months to recover. I had to have surgery, of course. It severely affected my job, my mental health – we both had a really rough time. Now, my leg might be ok, but whenever I see any kind of violence, everything comes back to me, all the horror and fear. It is tragically painful. 

And no one has been punished for this. Police should try harder.

“No recognition of our rights”

When we met, Athens Pride was celebrating ten years. I was happy that the community is becoming bigger and bigger, but not much has changed for LGBTQI people in Greece. Meeting my partner was a beautiful surprise. I didn't give a second thought about him being foreign, I just liked him.

We had to move to another area because of the attack. And then my partner was attacked again.

Costas features in Write for Rights, our global letter-writing campaign. Credit: Nick Chaffe for Amnesty International.

This keeps happening, to us and to people we know. We don't feel safe. Our first reaction was to try to get out of Greece, go somewhere else, somewhere safer... It's like the government condones the attacks by not recognising our relationships, by not acknowledging we are real. That we have the right to exist, safely.

The new government said they want to improve the situation, to end hate crimes and recognise same-sex couples, and, of course, that's a good thing. But it should have happened a long time ago, before we had to mourn victims. And it hasn't happened yet!

There is no recognition, rights or substantial protection for LGBTI people in Greece. It is as if we don't exist.