Out-of-context photo used to spread anti-migrant rhetoric in Greece - Featured image

Out-of-context photo used to spread anti-migrant rhetoric in Greece

A photo of a large group of Muslims praying in an open square in central Athens in 2010 was shared on social networks in March 2024 to promote anti-migrant and anti-Muslim statements. The posts omit to say that the photograph was taken more than a dozen years ago, before the city’s first mosque opened in 2020. An online search finds no reports of similar mass prayers being held in this part of Athens in early 2024.

“Islamic caliphate of Athens! Kotzia Square – City Hall! Turgut Ozal has finally succeeded!!!!” writes a Facebook post from March 10, 2024 that was shared over 370 times. It includes a photo of a crowd of men praying in Kotzia Square.

The post seems to be referring to alleged statements attributed to former Turkish prime minister and president between the 1980s and 1990s that Greece would be overcome by a wave of Muslim immigration. However, it has not been proven that Turgut Ozal ever made such remarks, as the fact-checking media Ellinika Hoaxes writes.

This Facebook post shares the same photo with another from March 2024 of a pink Greek flag projected onto the Athens City Hall near Kotzias Square. “WITHIN 24 HOURS… Kotzia Square Athens City Hall. The politicians and their unseen principals pretend not to see and not to hear,” the post says.

The pink flag was displayed on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2024.

Screenshots of the misleading Facebook post and article. Images captured on 20/03/2024

Online articles, such as here and here, share a post on X, from March 9, 2024 which states: “ND (New Democracy) said that it will allow them to build a mosque because they pray in illegal places of worship. Finally, they built a big mosque, and they did not close the illegal ones, and they pray in the squares.”

There are several comments to these posts, many expressing disagreement with public prayers, and also expressing anti-Muslim and anti-migrant sentiment. However, some do point out that the photo of the prayers is old.

One post was retweeted by Thanos Tzimeros, founder of the far-right political anti-immigration party “Dimiourgheia, Ksana!” (Creation, again!) which is expected to announce candidates for the European elections in June 2024.

However, this photo is shared out of its original context. While it does show a mass prayer by Muslim worshippers, it dates back to 2010 before the Athens mosque was opened in 2020.

A mass prayer in 2010 in Athens

A reverse image search found the same photo in a 2019 article from a blog called “Equal Society”. It includes several photos of mass prayers in Athens. Some of these photos contain dates. The file title of this particular photo reads “κοτζια2010-1-1024”, an indication of the location and date it was taken.

An advanced online search using the keywords “mass prayer + Kotzia Square” revealed several Greek media articles, such as here and here, dated September 9 and 10, 2010. They report on a mass prayer of Muslims in Kotzia Square, in front of Athens Town Hall for Eid al-Fitr, the three-day festival marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

One of these articles, from the online media Newsbeast, displays a screenshot of a TV broadcast from the time, showing the same mass of worshippers praying in the square. A closer look at this screenshot reveals the same people visible in the photo shared on social networks, as shown in the image comparison below.

Comparison of screenshots between the image published on Newsbeast and the image shared on social networks. The yellow, red and orange squares were added by AFP. Images captured on 20/03/2024


Three men can be seen in the two images: the first, framed in yellow, is wearing a pink-purple T-shirt; the second, framed in red, is wearing a checked shirt; and the third, framed in orange, is wearing a black T-shirt.

An online search for a Muslim mass prayer during February and March 2024 in Athens yielded no results.

An AFP photographer also covered this event on September 9, 2010, as shown in the AFP photo below.

Muslim immigrants living in Athens attend morning prayers at a central Athens square on September 10, 2010 – LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP

The photo caption reads in English: “Muslim immigrants living in Athens attend morning prayers at a central Athens square on September 10, 2010. Muslims across the world are celebrating the first day of Eid al-Fitr, the three-day holiday that marks the end of the month of fasting, Ramadan.”

This mass prayer took place at a time when the Greek capital did not yet have a mosque. Greece’s first state-approved mosque opened in November 2020, after a delay of more than 10 years. The project was launched in 2007.

AFP has in the past verified misleading claims about migrants or Muslims, such as a video purporting to show a Muslim immigrant man urinating on pork in a Dutch supermarket, or misleading reports that migrants were behind the forest fires that devastated northern Greece in the summer of 2023.

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Author(s): Théophile BLOUDANIS / AFP Greece

Originally published here.