This weekend just gone – coinciding with the closing days of Norouz, the Iranian New Year festival – saw headline news that sent a shudder down the backs of those paying attention… the vicious, unprovoked attack on a seventeen-year-old Kurdish Iranian boy in Croydon, South London, on Friday night.
The young asylum-seeker had been waiting at a bus stop with two friends, in an area with plenty of people milling around, when they were approached by a group of around ten assailants who asked the teenager where he was from. When he replied that he was an asylum-seeker the group launched an attack, chasing him from the bus stop before knocking him to the ground and proceeding with a prolonged and merciless beating. According to residents of the area where the attack took place, a crowd of several watched on as kicks and punches were rained down on the youngster – many of which were to his head, leaving him with a fractured skull and a blood clot to the brain. The group only dispersed when they heard police sirens nearing. Three days on and the teenager is in hospital in a serious though stable condition. His two friends escaped with minor injuries. The police have made several arrests in connection with the incident.
The attack has once more brought home the reality of the rise of such occurrences, taking place against the backdrop of a heightened atmosphere of racism, hate and intolerance and a normalisation of such prejudice – buoyed on by a general discourse that scapegoats asylum-seekers and migrants, conveniently placing the blame on them for the economic woes of this country. The incident also bears testament to a dark spectre faced by those who come to the UK to escape persecution and for a better life – the negative flipside to the hopes, dreams and experience of an immigrant to this country and for their families here and in their countries of origin. While there are undoubtedly many who would hope and pray that the youngster pulls through and recovers from his physical injuries, we should be under no illusion as to the arguably deeper scars that will remain with him – and colour his life experience. It is suggested that some degree of scarring will also remain on the very communities in which such attacks take place.
That a young man at the outset of his life, having already left behind the reality of life in the Islamic Republic of Iran – and the myriad hardships and oppression that entails for so many Iranians – is beaten to within an inch of his life on a street in suburban England is a terrible irony that should not be lost on most.
Sadly, CODIR is not shocked by this attack – coming as it does against the current backdrop – though stands shoulder to shoulder with all those aghast and disgusted by Friday nights events. And, in doing so, we remind the UK government of the perilous human rights situation that prompts many Iranians – including the Kurdish minority from which the youngster hailed – to leave and seek sanctuary here in this country. We also implore the government to fairly and expediently give due process to their applications for asylum; to provide the necessary assistance that they might assimilate here; and to take firm steps in countering the rising trend in these attacks as well as those, whether right-wing groups or some sections of the media, that pedal the disinformation and discourse that feeds into them.
CODIR calls on all those campaigning against the violation of human rights in Iran to stand in solidarity with the young man and his family and to recognise that while the attack was one borne of the streets here in the UK, it is the very woeful situation inside Iran that leaves so many of its daughters and sons no other choice than to leave in the first place, and in tragic circumstances like those of last Friday, only to find themselves vulnerable on the streets of a country they thought safe.
National Executive Council
2 April 2017