ATHENS, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- Students from dozens of high schools in Athens held a rally on Thursday in the center of the Greek capital against nationalist sit-ins staged by their fellow students in northern Greece.
Dozens of high schools at Thessaloniki city port and nearby towns have been occupied this week by groups of students who oppose the agreement achieved in June between Athens and Skopje to end a long-standing dispute between the two neighboring countries over the use of the name "Macedonia".
Although the far-right Chryssi Avghi (Golden Dawn) party has not claimed responsibility for inciting this unprecedented mobilization, several student associations have issued statements implying that extremists were behind an anonymous call on social media for "youth to wake up and defend Greece."
In protest against the "invasion of fascism into schools", the Athens School and Student Coordination Initiative organized a demonstration in front of the Athens administration building at the National Kapodistrian University.
"Step up! Do not allow supporters of hatred and racism enter our schools," protesters chanted.
Evi, one of the high school pupils participating in the rally, told Xinhua that the sit-ins in many cases are carried out by loud minorities which distort facts and present an image that the majority opposes the name deal.
"The ten students in a school who are involved and support Golden Dawn achieved their goal," she explained, calling on fellow pupils to take a stand.
"I care. I wish we can all live in peace. We should all respect each other and have positive things to contribute," she added.
"I am here because I need to be here and I want to be here. People must be more active and participate in this effort," Athena, another pupil, told Xinhua.
Meanwhile at Thessaloniki hundreds of students protested against the agreement between Greece and former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), chanting slogans such as "Macedonia is Greek."
Under the deal which still needs to be ratified by the two parliaments, FYROM will be renamed "Republic of North Macedonia", thus ending a row which started in 1991 when the small Balkan state declared independence from Yugoslavia choosing the name Macedonia.
Athens has opposed this choice from the beginning, voicing concern that the use of the name may lead to territorial claims.
As the governments in Athens and Skopje try to work out a deal as a much-needed step for peace and stability in the Balkans, hardliners in both sides continue to oppose it, trying to fuel nationalism.
Commenting on the sit-ins at schools, Greece's Education Minister Costas Gavroglou accused Golden Dawn of trying to recruit school children, while the federation of secondary school teachers (OLME) decried "the attempt to cultivate division, hate, racism and neo-fascist beliefs inside schools."