When 12-year-old schoolgirl Shukri Yahya Abdi died in the River Irwell near her Bury home on 27 June, it was a tragedy for her family and friends. Following the casual dismissal by police and other authorities of anomalies surrounding her death, however, this terrible event has become the basis for a series of public claims, counter-claims, misinformation and lies.
Refugee child wanted a new life, wanted friends
Shukri, the eldest of five children, arrived in Britain with her family just two years ago from a refugee camp in Kenya, hoping for a better life after fleeing violence in Somalia. Like all children, she just wanted to make friends, but, quiet and vulnerable, Shukri had become a victim of bullying at Broad Oak Sports College, the school she attended in Bury. Although her mother, Zam Zam Ture, had made complaints to the school, there was no let-up in the verbal and physical abuse directed at her daughter.
Zam Zam had even asked the school to let Shukri stay behind at home-time until she could get there to pick her up. The Guardian has reported Shukri’s family saying that one of the teachers had been so concerned about Shukri’s safety that she took her home to her own house. (New bullying claims over Somali schoolgirl, 12, drowned in river by Mark Townsend, 21 July 2019)
On the day of her death, all reports agree that Shukri was seen leaving school with other students (this is generally believed to have been a group of four, but in some accounts the number of children with her changes to two), and that at some point they ended up at the river. From this point on, the accounts vary widely as to what happened and the timing of events.
A Lancashire Telegraph article quotes Detective Inspector Naismith, the senior police officer leading the investigation: “They all went down to the water to play that evening after school … Unfortunately, Shukri got into difficulty, went into the deep end of the water, and unfortunately she has drowned.” (Shukri Abdi drowning: Police call for ‘calm’ after tragic death in Bury, 9 July 2019)
Inconsistencies not accounted for in the official version of events
The problem with this neat version of the story is that there are many hours unaccounted for. Also, Shukri could not swim, and it is therefore highly unlikely that she would willingly have climbed into a river that was quite deep – up to 20 feet, we understand – at the point where the police say she drowned. Her family are adamant that she would not have been by the river alone, or late at night, and that those who saw her go into the water must have chosen not to report it for some hours. (Left Somalia as a refugee, drowned in the UK. What happened to Shukri Abdi? by Hannah Ali, TRT World, 10 July 2019)
The Lancashire Telegraph further reports that Inspector Naismith has called for “calm” amid “serious accusations” being made against the four children who were with Shukri at the time of her death: “The investigation is still ongoing and we are talking to a number of people, but at this stage, there is nothing to suggest there is anything related to third-party involvement, or bullying or coercion in relation to getting Shukri down to the river.”
Apparently, the police have examined CCTV footage, but say that there is no coverage of the part of the river where Shukri died or the path that leads to it. But in the words of campaigner Maz Saleem, whose own father was the victim of a racist murder: “We live in an Orwellian state with Big Brother watching our every move. What GMP [Greater Manchester Police] is trying to convince us of is that on the day of Shukri’s disappearance and death nobody saw anything, no CCTV cameras were working, and nobody needs to investigate.” (TRT World, op cit)
In their evidence to the inquest, the police said that they had received two phone calls relating to Shukri that day, one from her mother at 8.00pm reporting her daughter as missing, and another, later on, from the ‘friends’ who had been with Shukri, alerting them to the fact that the girl was in the water.
Following that call, fire crews, police and ambulances attended the scene, and, according to Inspector Naismith: “It was quite clear quite quickly that Shukri had been in the water for 20 to 30 minutes.” Shukri was recovered at 11.27pm and pronounced dead at 11.54pm. The inquest has been adjourned until 9 December 2019.
TRT World, a Turkey-based news website, interviewed Shukri’s aunt, Saynab Hareed, who told the reporter that Shukri’s body had broken bones and bruises on the back of her head, which suggested that she had fallen backwards into the water, hitting her head, and that she had likely died as a result of that rather than by drowning. Members of her family had been to the morgue to wash Shukri’s body and prepare it as part of the islamic janazah funeral ritual, so they had seen the injuries at first hand.
Ms Hareed also insisted that the part of the river where Shukri’s body was found was actually a rocky, shallow part, not deep enough to drown in, which further suggests that Shukri had fallen in backwards and hit her head on the rocks. Two questions naturally follow from this: Did Shukri fall or was she pushed? And if the water was shallow, how does this fit with Inspector Naismith’s statement that “Shukri got into difficulty [in] the deep end of the water”?
Outrage grows as police decline to investigate
Sorrow turned to tension in the area, and then escalated rapidly when the police announced they would not be treating Shukri’s death as suspicious. There is now a growing and organised protest movement originating with Shukri’s family and friends, and swelled by other concerned citizens, for whom the police’s complacent statements, along with the school’s seeming lack of ability to address its bullying problems, are raising serious questions regarding the establishment’s willingness to deal with violence against immigrants in a meaningful way.
As the TRT article points out, Shukri’s case is reminiscent of that of 15-year-old Syrian refugee Jamal, who was strangled and ‘waterboarded’ by fellow students at Huddersfield’s Almondberry Community school in 2016, even though his family had previously reported several instances of verbal and physical bullying to the school. In spite of lofty declarations of “zero tolerance”, the school failed to safeguard him from being abused, even within its premises.
Although the police have declared that there are no witnesses to Shukri’s death (we assume that they are not including the four children in that statement), it has been claimed in some reports that a man fishing on the river did witness the incident. Apparently, he saw Shukri being dragged by her neck and her hijab by four pupils, and made a statement to the police – who dismissed his claim because they considered him to be drunk!
There have been further allegations made online that the same four children had previously tried to push Shukri into traffic as they walked home from school. Following protests held outside its gates, and a large online petition gathering 75,000 signatures, the school, having initially denied that Shukri’s mother had ever reported any bullying, has belatedly opened an investigation into the family’s concerns.
In an interview to AbdiTV on 2 July, Zam Zam explained the events leading up to her daughter’s death. “The police said: ‘Your daughter died in an accident, she was playing with other kids, she died there.’ The other kids were not wet or harmed. So, it was a denial. The police haven’t shown us any evidence. I have no proof of what happened. Even the man who was the witness (the police said he) was drunk.’” (@AbdiTV, Twitter)
Scapegoating is not the answer to workers’ problems
As the financial situation for the most downtrodden gets ever more perilous, the poorest in Britain are consistently encouraged to view each other as enemies. The ruling class rightly lives in fear that they will organise and rise up against the system that keeps a handful in fabulous luxury while condemning those most in need to ever greater distress and hardship as a warning to the not-quite-as-badly-off of what will happen to them if they step out of line.
Immigrants are not our enemy; capitalism is. Those who live lives that we can only liken to gods on earth must be removed from that unnatural lifestyle and their unearned riches appropriated by a proletarian dictatorship for the good of the many.
Once again, we find that revolution is the only real answer to problems such as racism and poverty, along with all the other ills of our society. This prescription of the communists may feel predicable, but that doesn’t stop it being true.
It’s long past time for workers to put aside their differences of race, immigrant status, colour, disability, age, and all the rest of the artificial divisions that have been so carefully nurtured amongst us. The one thing that we have in common is our class. We are working class, and our interests will always run counter to those of our masters. We have to put our petty differences aside and drag our country to the sanity of a socialist dawn.
Black and white, unite and fight!