A Greek woman feared her ex-partner. He killed her outside a police station

Greece reckons with rising femicides as 28-year-old Kyriaki Griva becomes the fifth victim this year.

A woman stands with red paint on her face during protests against femicides in Athens [Anna Pantelia/Al Jazeera]

Athens, Greece – On the evening of April 1, a Monday, 28-year-old Kyriaki Griva’s ex-partner stabbed her to death outside a police station in northern Athens.

She was the fifth woman to be killed by an ex or partner this year in Greece.

Griva had just left her local police station, which she visited in fear of her former boyfriend, who had been loitering near her house.

She had previously filed formal complaints against him but on this occasion, declined to do so. While her reasoning is not clear, victims of domestic violence often choose not to make formal complaints because they are terrified of repercussions, worry the process may be triggering and have little faith in agencies that are meant to provide security.

Griva requested a police escort back home that night. She was directed to a police hotline, which she called. An operator reportedly told her that “patrol cars are not a taxi service”.

Griva was then killed shortly afterwards in the vicinity of Agioi Anargyroi station.

The 39-year-old suspect was imprisoned awaiting trial; he is reportedly being monitored in a psychiatric ward.

In response to the murder, the Minister for Civil Protection Michalis Chrisochoidis promised an in-depth investigation and expressed support for including the term femicide within the Greek penal code – a point campaigners have long pushed for – although he added that this would ultimately be up to the Ministry of Justice.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis rebutted criticism of his police minister saying, “the fault cannot always lie at the top when something goes wrong in the state”, but acknowledged that the government needed to do more.

Meanwhile, lawyers representing Griva’s family have since called for the officers who spoke to Griva that day to be investigated for potential negligence and manslaughter.

A woman holds a sign saying ‘We are not all here, the murdered are missing’ during protests against femicides in Athens [Anna Pantelia/Al Jazeera]

Charities and families of victims have long accused Greek authorities of not taking domestic violence seriously enough.

In December 2023, the same month a woman was shot dead on the island of Salamina by her partner at her mother’s house having reported him to the police, a Greek artist’s work alluding to femicide was removed from the Greek consulate in New York.

A government spokesperson said Georgia Lale’s “Neighbourhood Guilt”, which depicted the Greek flag made with pink bedsheets, was taken down because the consulate space should remain neutral and “there are some things that are sacred above all, one of them is our flag”.

Lale said in response that they were “saddened” that their work was misinterpreted.

“Victims of femicide are heroes of the fight for freedom and life in Greece and internationally,” they said.

Katerina Kotti, the mother of Dora, sits in the living room of the family's house in Rhodes.
Katerina Kotti, the mother of Dora, sits in the living room of the family’s house in Rhodes [Anna Pantelia/Al Jazeera]

Katerina Kotti, the mother of 31-year-old Dora Zacharia, who was killed by her partner on the island of Rhodes in September, 2021, told Al Jazeera that she felt “rage, anger and disappointment” at the news of each new femicide.

Zacharia was killed outside her parents’ home.

“This cannot happen again, how often will this keep happening?” Kotti asked. “My soul bleeds that another girl who was full of dreams, in love with life, was lost, another family have lost the ground under their feet and will have to struggle to put the pieces back together, this is very hard to do, they will never get over the loss of their child.”

Of Griva’s killing outside a police station, she said: “Of course, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions or generalise but the authorities should pay more attention and evaluate each case more meticulously.”

Kotti said that boys especially should be taught from a young age that “they’re not entitled to anyone and that no means no, no one belongs to anyone else”.

Protests and vigils have sprung up across Greece in recent weeks, with some carrying protest banners written with the alleged words of the police officer before Griva was murdered: “The patrol car is not a taxi.”

There has also been an uptick in reporting of domestic violence cases – and arrests.

Anna Vouyioukas, a social scientist, gender equality expert and advocacy officer at Diotima, a centre for gender rights and equality in Greece, told Al Jazeera that it was “obvious that femicides may be the result of institutional violence as the state does not provide guarantees to women, and does not create conditions of safety in the community, at home, at work, in the public space and not even in the close vicinity of a police station”.

Vouyioukas said despite a spike in domestic violence cases as shown in the police’s own data, “gender-based crimes are not taken seriously by law enforcement authorities, at least not in all cases”.

She said that from 2020 to 2021, the number of women domestic violence victims increased by almost 73 percent, and from 2021 to 2022 there was a rise of 37 percent.

Vouyioukas urged Greece to adopt a legal recognition of femicide in the penal code, which she said would “make the phenomenon visible and give prominence to its social and gender dimension”.

“It is a crime committed on the basis of gender discrimination and unequal power relations,” she said, as she also called for further support for survivors and more training for police officers.

Kotti is part of a group of grieving families that have lost female relatives to domestic violence.

They would like to see life sentences for convicts that offer no prospect of release.

“We should tell it as it is,” she said. “Those who have had a life sentence are the women themselves and then the families who are forced to live in their absence.”

A framed photo ofDora next to a vigil lamp, a traditional Greek memorial practice for the dead.
A framed photo of Dora next to a vigil lamp, a traditional Greek memorial practice for the dead [Anna Pantelia/Al Jazeera]
Source: Al Jazeera