NEWS - Archive October 2005

Headlines 28 October, 2005


24/10/2005- Greek coastguard officials say they have found a body on a boat that sent out a distress call as it carried 150 would-be immigrants to Italy. The identity of the dead man and the circumstances of his death are unclear. The 150 immigrants, mostly Egyptians, Iraqis and Indians aged between 18 and 35, have been taken to a community centre on the island of Crete. One report said three men on the boat had been arrested on suspicion of people smuggling. Many of the immigrants were suffering from exhaustion, the Associated Press reports. The 22-metre (72ft) boat is believed to have sailed from Egypt. The route from Libya to Italy's Mediterranean islands is a common one for people hoping to reach Europe from Africa and the Middle East. Earlier this month, Greece was criticised by Amnesty International for its treatment of minorities and foreigners trying to enter the country. Incidents of people being shot on the border and asylum-seekers being detained in metal containers were documented in a report. Greece, which insists it is opposed to human rights violations, has a low asylum application rate but is increasingly seen as a channel to the EU for illegal migrants.
BBC News



Morocco has admitted its border guards shot dead four African migrants trying to enter the Spanish enclave of Melilla earlier this month.

25/10/2005- The incident sparked international criticism of how Spain and Morocco deal with immigrants trying to enter Europe. Six people were killed on 6 October in a mass raid on the double razor-wired fence which separates the Spanish territory of Melilla from Morocco.  An inquiry by the Spanish civil guard has cleared its troops of involvement. Now a report released by the Moroccan interior ministry says a spray of gunfire from Moroccan security forces killed four of the migrants, believed to be from West Africa. The other two, says the report, died from multiple wounds. It is not clear from the report whether they were also shot or died in a stampede which followed. Moroccan Foreign Minister Mohammed Ben Aissa, described the incident as "regrettable". The Moroccan government continues to deny, however, that it has pursued a policy of dumping sub-Saharan Africans in the desert without food or water in an attempt to deal with unprecedented waves of illegal immigration across its soil this month. However, Medecins Sans Frontieres and other humanitarian organisations have presented evidence to the contrary.
BBC News



The Church of England's first black archbishop has revealed that he has received racist and abusive letters, including some covered in human excrement.

22/10/2005- Dr John Sentamu, who will be enthroned in York next month, said that although he was angered by the abuse, he prayed for those who had written the letters. He said: "I don't know where they are from. They don't tell you. They simply tell you, I am Mr White X and nigger go back and this is what you are like, this is what you are worth."  Dr Sentamu, 56, said it did not mean Britain was a racist country, and he believed the letter-writers represented a "tiny minority". The archbishop said: "It has been terrible. Some of it has been awful." Asked if he felt angry, he said: "Yes, particularly when they had human excrement in them. I don't want to have those sorts of things, and I say, 'Why do people do this?'" But he told BBC Radio 4's Today : "In the end, when I get those letters, I actually pray for the person who's written them." The new Archbishop of York, the second highest position in the Church of England, was educated in Uganda, where he practised as a barrister and was an outspoken critic of Idi Amin's regime, before coming to the UK in 1974. He was ordained in 1979 and, after serving in a succession of London parishes, he was appointed Bishop of Stepney in 1996, and Bishop of Birmingham in 2002. All his life he has campaigned against racism and other forms of discrimination.

Dr Sentamu worked on inquiries into the 1993 racist killing of Stephen Lawrence and the stabbing in 2000 of the Nigerian schoolboy Damilola Taylor, and has said the Church of England contains institutional racism, just as a room full of smokers contains smoke. During his six years as Bishop of Stepney, east London, he was stopped and searched eight times by the police. What upset him most was the sudden change in the officers' behaviour when they realised his identity.  He said at the time: "When they discovered who I was, the way I was treated was very different. They should treat everybody with respect, with dignity." He has also been the victim of verbal and physical abuse. He recalled how four young white men spat at him and said: "Nigger, go back." He replied: "You have wasted your saliva."  In his interview yesterday he said: "This country, of all the places I have been to, is the most tolerant and welcoming of all places. Therefore, this tiny minority is not going to stop me from telling people that if we become a society of friends and a society that will discover the wonderful love of God and Christ, we have a chance of leading the nation in prayer."

When Mr Sentamu was born, the sixth of 13 children, near Kampala in Uganda in 1949, he was so small the local bishop was called in to baptise him immediately. He survived his birth, a sickly childhood and a famine to become, 25 years later, a judge in the Uganda High Court.  A spokeswoman for the Archbishop said yesterday that Dr Sentamu had been "deluged" with e-mails offering support and urging him to ignore the racist abuse. She said: "It has been rather heartening."  Dr Sentamu said on his appointment that he hoped that he would not be known as the "black Archbishop" but as "a leader who would show the world the way to God's love, grace and mercy". He also acknowledged the Church's declining membership, its "ups and downs", and said it was too easy for a Christian tradition to become complacent.
Independent Digital



In these liberated times, why did Jody Dobrowski go cruising and why did two other young men take his live so violently?

22/10/2005- "It must have been one in the morning. Clapham Common was still, quiet, cold and very dark. But against the lights of the houses, I could see the silhouettes, some moving, some motionless. I could see the glow of a cigarette in someone’s hand, under the trees.”  This was how Matthew Parris graphically described the thrill of cruising, in his memoirs, where he confessed that the lure of brief encounters of a close kind was irresistible, even when he was a Member of Parliament — until one night when, out on the Common, he was felled by a blow to the jaw, kicked in the ribs and head, and left bleeding on the ground.  Queer-bashers (usually white men in gangs), remain the greatest danger in gay life, even though it is now 48 years since the Wolfenden report and 38 years since the liberalisation of the law on homosexuality.  This was brought home by the vicious murder last weekend of 24-year-old Jody Dobrowski, a Gloucestershire lad who had come to London to savour its freedom and tolerance. It was a horrible reminder that the threat of homophobic thugs is as menacing as ever.  The tall, blond, good-looking Dobrowski was funny, loved singing and dancing, hated any kind of confrontation and enjoyed the buzz of working in a really busy bar. Having dropped out of Cardiff University, where he was reading biology, he had arrived in London in 2001 to work at the Jongleurs comedy club in Clapham — one of the Jongleurs chain, a revered venue on the stand-up comics’ circuit.  This summer Dubrowski was offered a job as assistant manager at the Camden Lock branch. He had been there only a few weeks when last Friday night he went back to Clapham to see his old friends, leaving them at 10.30pm. Fewer than ten minutes’ walk away was Clapham Common.  Nobody knows exactly what happened next. The attack happened around midnight. He was punched and kicked so viciously that he died ten hours later in hospital — his face so battered that it was unrecognisable, even to his family. He had to be identified by fingerprints.

This week Jodi’s mother Sheri, his brother Jake and his stepfather Mike Haddock travelled from their home in Whitminster, Gloucester, to meet their son’s friends and colleagues at The Rise bar, attached to the Jongleurs auditorium. They drank champagne and told happy stories about him. They wanted to hear all about his London life and his new Docklands flat.  “There were no tears, because he would not have wanted that,” his colleague Julie Kirk said. In a joint statement yesterday Dobrowski’s family revealed that he had been struggling to “come out”.  “Jody knew he was loved and accepted. He knew that we knew. He was also a young man still discovering his identity and was facing the difficulty of having to ‘come out’ which straight people never have to face. The timing of this was up to him. He had very little time. He did not know that.”  Camden Jongleurs, formerly Dingwalls, is a crowded, noisy place with a vast auditorium, this week featuring a comedy line-up including Ricky Grover and Paul Thorne. My own son, who like Dobrowski is tall and blond and fond of jokes, worked in the bar there one recent summer.  The security man, known to all as “Scooby”, told me that it didn’t even cross his mind that Dobrowski was gay. The only thing that struck everyone was that he was the most engaging of colleagues.  “Madam, if you had met this gentleman, you would know him to be a fresh-faced young man who never said a nasty word to anyone, even to the drunks who came in off the street. That was his way: a kind, sweet guy. He touched me, and everyone. We would sometimes think, what is he doing in this business? My only problem with him was that he liked S Club 7. When we were told the news of his death last Saturday, the whole place just nose-dived. In seven years here I have never known anything like it. And people have been ringing up ever since to say they’re gutted, torn to pieces, so hurt.

“It’s opened my mind to a lot of things,” said Scooby. “I know now I wouldn’t tolerate a homophobic joke. I used to laugh them off, but it’s just not funny. Even if it was a close friend, I’d have to say: ‘change your tone when you’re around me’.”  The gay community may not be shocked by what happened to Dobrowski, because physical attacks and verbal abuse have been rising lately. Jody was the 141st victim of a homophobic assault in the borough of Lambeth in a year. But those accustomed to thinking of our city as an enlightened, unprejudiced place, are appalled. The whole point of “the only gay in the village” joke on Little Britain is that such prejudice happens in a distant elsewhere. And fundamentally Londoners suspect that the sadistic thugs who target the vulnerable have no particularly homophobic agenda, only a total absence of normal human feelings. They could strike at anyone.  Dubrowski’s family denied, in their statement, that he fled his home town to escape intolerance. They said: “It is difficult for same-gender partnerships to be openly displayed in Gloucestershire . . .  “We would not disagree that homophobia exists here as it does everywhere. We have yet to read a report in our local press, however, of such a horrific attack on someone thought to be gay in Gloucestershire. That happened in London.”  The mystery persists: why does a young man risk his own safety for a fleeting sexual encounter in this enlightened era, when there are pages of gay clubs and venues, and encounter listings (Men Seeking Men) even in The Times? Is it the attraction of the danger itself? Feasting with panthers was Oscar Wilde’s phrase. Ned Sherrin writes in his autobiography about how it used to be in the 1950s: the heady thrill of walking through London at night, seeing another lone walker, stopping at a shop window, glancing back. “There was always a chance it might be a policeman,” he writes. (But today, even the Metropolitan Police has its own gay senior officer, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick.) In the 1950s, London had a couple of gay pubs, but no clubs or discos such as Heaven, or pages of WLTMs. Sherrin adds: “Now of course there is the internet — or so I am told.”

When I asked Matthew Parris what he thought made Jody Dobrowski go to Clapham Common that night, when he must have known about the risk, he replied: “I think when you want something very much, you rather overlook the risk. And people don’t talk to each other.  “And I’m not sure that people understand the level of risk — or don’t until things like this happen. And there are all kinds of reasons, not just among homosexuals, that anonymity is such a huge premium.” And why did he suppose Dobrowski did not make use of the obvious gay venues or contact magazines?  “None of those is as anonymous as meeting someone in a strange place in the dark.” Cruising on Clapham Common, he said, is a stage people go through. “And unfortunately this young man didn’t get the chance to come through that stage. I imagine that this way of meeting people is probably on the decrease.  There is a generation of elderly gay men who like to bray at dinner parties about how it’s not as much fun as when it was illegal and dangerous. But then something like this happens which shows how wrong that view is.”  Floral tributes now mark the wooded spot where Dobrowski died, including those from his friends (“Dancing in the living room will never feel the same again”) and the one from his mother.  It reads: “Darling Jody, my beautiful, bright boy and brave man. They can never extinguish your light. All who love you will carry that light now with endless love.”

Two held over killing
Two men were arrested last night in connection with the murder of Jody Dobrowski. The pair, aged 33 and 25, were held in custody at separate South London police stations, Scotland Yard said. Mr Dobrowski was beaten so badly that he was unrecognisable. Not even his family could recognise him and fingerprints had to be used to make a formal identification. A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said the man aged 33 had been arrested in the Clapham area of London and the man aged 25 in the Croydon area.  Detective Chief Inspector Nick Scola said: “This was a brutal attack, which left Jody’s face so badly injured that he could not be identified visually, even by those who knew and loved him the most.”
The Times Online



A man has died after violence in the Lozells area of Birmingham on Saturday night. Four people were stabbed and two people shot in the disturbances.

23/10/2005- A black man in his 20s died from stab wounds and a police officer was shot with a ball bearing gun. The other injuries are not said to be serious. A riot broke out after a public meeting in the area over an alleged sexual attack on a 14-year-old girl.  Police say the violence was not a reaction to the meeting. Assistant Chief Constable David Shaw said: "It does not appear that a lot of people got together in advance, but I do believe that some people started the day, with intent to cause mayhem." He added: "Police and community leaders share their abhorrence with the loss of life experienced. "This is the work of a small number of individuals and is not a true reflection of community relations in Birmingham."

Tensions high
Some locals say a 14-year-old illegal immigrant was subjected to a serious sexual assault last Tuesday. "There is an allegation that a young black girl has been raped, some people say gang raped, by some Asian men, and that is the core cause of the tension," Bishop Joe Aldred from the Council of Black Led-Churches, told BBC News 24. Since then several people from the Afro-Caribbean community have been "campaigning for justice" outside a shop where the attack allegedly took place, he said. Bishop Aldred said the meeting was held to shed some light on the issue. "I think that the violence was linked to the tensions there have been in the community since maybe Tuesday," he said. "It could not have been linked to the church meeting because what came out of that was the kind of stuff that would allay fears, not heighten them." Police say they are following several lines of inquiry and have carried out forensic tests, house-to-house inquiries and distributed thousands of leaflets in a bid to find the alleged victim. The Home Office has promised it will not investigate the victim's immigrations status until after the end of any criminal proceedings. Mr Shaw said there was "not a shred of evidence" to support the allegations but investigations were continuing. He said: "Birmingham is a city that prides itself on living together harmoniously with one another and has done a fantastic job for many years when other places have been challenged. "We have to ask ourselves really searching questions now about how we can prevent our community that we so cherish being characterised by these events."

A police spokeswoman said the dead man would not be named until next of kin had been informed. A number of arrests have been made. A spokeswoman for West Midlands Ambulance Service said at least 12 people had been taken to the City Hospital in Dudley Road in Birmingham. Police officers in riot gear, dog handlers, fire engines, ambulances and vehicle recovery units patrolled streets in the area. The confrontation between rioters and police saw cars burned, missiles thrown and groups of people wearing masks, or covering their faces with hoods. A burnt-out wreck of a car was left abandoned outside the Asian Resource Centre in the middle of Lozells Road. Bricks were also scattered across the road outside the New Testament Church of God where Saturday's meeting was held.

'Without warning'
BBC correspondent Deborah Bain said the riots broke out after about 100 people outside the meeting started fighting with the police.
But she said it was "not yet clear what sparked the disturbances which came without warning". The meeting in a local church in Lozells Road, which was addressed by two senior police officers and the MP for Perry Barr, Khalid Mahmood, followed an earlier rally of about 200 people in support of victims of crime. Mr Mahmood told BBC News he thought the incidents were linked to the assault allegation but a small group of people "predominantly from outside the area" were responsible. "There are a very small number of individuals who are carrying out this," he said. "They're a fairly mobile group of people." "There's been about four or five flashpoints in different parts of the Aston Handsworth ward and what we are trying to do is to deal with that." Mr Shaw said he paid tribute to the work carried out by the local black and Asian community to reassure people and "try and put some fact behind the rumours". A statement on the force website said the build-up to the violence started last weekend. "Police treated this as serious and have investigated it as if a crime had taken place but despite this there has not been any evidence that an attack has taken place."

History of tension
The Lozells area has a history of racial violence. Tension exists between the large Afro-Caribbean population and Asian gangs.
Drugs and gun crime are also major causes of trouble.
In 2002 a female Asian shopkeeper was attacked with a machete by a black man
In 2003, Charlene Ellis, 18, and Letisha Shakespeare, 17 were shot dead in nearby Aston as the Burger Bar Boys gang sought revenge on rivals the Johnson Crew
The area also saw the September 1985 Handsworth riots, triggered by the arrest of a black man after a police stop and search 
BBC News



Victim stabbed on his way home with brother. Second inquiry launched after death of a teenager

25/10/2005- The man who was stabbed to death during weekend rioting in Birmingham was set upon by up to 11 armed youths as he walked home from the cinema with his brother, it emerged yesterday. Isiah Young-Sam, 24, had not been involved in any of the confrontations between the Pakistani and African-Caribbean communities that erupted on Saturday evening, officers from the West Midlands police said. The victim was, they said, innocently walking home with his younger brother, Zephaniah, and two friends, when three cars pulled up alongside them and launched into a furious attack. Detective Superintendent Dave Mirfield said: "The group was approached by three cars. Those cars contained, we believe, between 10 and 11 men. These men got out of the cars, armed with knives, and attacked Isiah and his friends."  Yesterday it emerged that Mr Young-Sam, described as a gentle and deeply religious man who read the Bible each day, was oblivious to the febrile atmosphere that had developed in the Lozells area of Birmingham on Saturday. He and his brother had spent the late afternoon and early evening in the cinema. Afterwards they caught a bus from the city centre and were just a few hundred metres from home when they were set upon. Mr Young-Sam, an IT analyst at Birmingham city council, was taken to hospital but was dead on arrival. Yesterday, as riot police returned to the troubled streets of Lozells, his family paid tribute to a man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Tensions were also raised further by a second murder, the shooting of a man in Newtown, less than a mile away from the scene of Saturday's disturbance. Police, however, have yet to link that killing to the ongoing feud which was prompted by unsubstantiated rumours that a Jamaican girl was gang raped by between three and 25 Pakistani men. Murna McLean, Mr Young-Sam's mother, said: "He had very good manners in a slightly old-fashioned way. He was gentle and would hold open a door or help someone with their shopping. He was a private person, deeply religious and reserved." She added: "He didn't have the lifestyle of a typical young black man in Lozells. If someone had tried to drag him into an argument he would have laughed and walked away. He wasn't out on the streets or at parties - he didn't even have a steady girlfriend." The same sentiments were expressed by his neighbours, most of whom are Pakistani Muslims. One woman said: "We have known the family since they moved here 13 or 14 years ago. He was a very nice, peaceful boy and very kind. He would help us with our shopping bags and would always speak to us in the street. He got on well with my kids. "He didn't mix with gangs. He wasn't into anything like that. I watched the trouble from the window on Saturday night and saw the family leaving. We thought they were escaping. Now we know they were on their way to the hospital." Another Pakistani neighbour said: "The races live here side by side, black, Asian and white. There has never been any trouble like this before. He was a very decent young man."

As the police renewed their appeal for witnesses, observers gave their versions of events. Benji Brown, 22, who went to the same school as Mr Young-Sam, helped lift him into the back of a car. "I saw Isiah lying on the floor and his brother Zephaniah was shouting for help. Isiah was lifeless, he was just lying there, caked in the blood. It was pouring out of his heart where he was stabbed. Another car had pulled over and Zephaniah told me to help him get Isiah into the car to rush him to hospital. It took about 10 minutes to get to City hospital, but moments later he died." With the investigation under way, West Midlands launched a second murder inquiry after an unnamed 18-year-old man was shot yesterday in Newtown. Detective Chief Inspector Keith Wilson said: "There have been community tensions in the area. If there are links then hopefully we will make them at a very early stage." He confirmed that armed police were at the scene after reports that a man had been seen with a gun, but said they had arrived to find a mixed race man collapsed in the street. Officers gave first aid and called paramedics but they were unable to save him. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating the police response but has confirmed they fired no shots. A bullet retrieved differs from those issued to the police. Two men are in custody and were being questioned.
The Guardian


RUMOURS AND RIOTS(uk, comment)

Economic inequalities are driving events in Birmingham. Solidarity must be our response
By Salma Yaqoob,
community mediator in Birmingham, spokeswoman for Birmingham Central mosque and vice-chair of Respect

25/10/2005- Having witnessed events in Birmingham over the past few days, I see an alarming picture emerging. Not only have there been two deaths, scores of people injured and property damaged, but I have been taken aback at the breathtaking irresponsibility of some community representatives. Instead of calming the situation, they have inflamed it. It is important to be conscious of the impact of language and scrupulous about verifying facts. Where there are acknowledged to be "simmering tensions" in an area, the responsibility is even greater on community leaders to exercise care. Yet if one traces events to the trigger of the weekend riots - the alleged rape of a Jamaican girl by Asian men - the opposite has been the case. Despite now admitting he had no proof or facts, DJ Warren G aired the allegation on his radio talkshow last Tuesday, going as far as to organise a demonstration outside the shop where the alleged rape was said to have taken place. The message that went round the community was one of a black woman needing to be protected against "Asians" rather than individual criminals. At a second demonstration on Saturday, community representatives were calling for Asian shops to be boycotted.

Both communities suddenly felt they were under attack from the other. Businesses were attacked and hundreds of youths took to the streets to "protect" "their" communities. It was clear even at community representatives' meetings on Sunday that emotions were dangerously out of control. Many were unable to comprehend that people from both communities shared similar feelings of vulnerability and fear. There is a vacuum in local Asian leadership. And while many from the African-Caribbean community were determined the situation be contained, a small but vocal group seemed more interested in repeating inflammatory warnings of a "race war". Resentment was present before the alleged rape. There has been a widespread perception among the African-Caribbean community that Asians are doing well at their expense, and rumours that Asians receive more public funding. If public funding grants in north-west Birmingham are examined, African-Caribbean projects have received the largest proportion. Millions have been invested in helping black enterprise and training projects. The Sikh community received one substantive European grant, and the Pakistanis and Bangladeshis have received the least.

In the aftermath of the violence we will no doubt be subject to more debates on "multiculturalism" and "integration". The truth is that it is economic inequalities - real and imagined - that are driving events in Birmingham. Its inner-city wards are among the most deprived in the country, and all the those living there - white, black, Asian - are disadvantaged. To find a way out of this crisis, representatives from all the communities must come together and demand the resources that the area needs. The political system has encouraged competition between different disadvantaged communities for what amounts to crumbs. This has been compounded by the role of the Liberal Democrat-Tory coalition that runs Birmingham city council and has increased pressure to divert resources from inner-city areas to more affluent suburbs. Meanwhile, the macho attitude shown across our communities in recent days has made women less safe. Tomorrow, women from both communities will march together to demonstrate our common interests: solidarity, not racism, is the answer.
The Guardian



26/10/2005- Politicians ignored warnings almost five years ago that Birmingham was becoming racially segregated and this could inflame tensions between the city’s diverse communities. The Birmingham Stephen Lawrence Commission reported in 2001 that African-Caribbeans and Asians were increasingly living apart and suffering economic deprivation. 56 months ago on, and following a weekend of disturbances that have left two African-Caribbean men dead, questions are being asked about how seriously Birmingham City Council and national government responded. Appeals for calm from prominent community leaders in Birmingham and across the country seem to have dampened anger between Asians and Africans-Caribbeans after streets battles that left 35 people hospitalised.

A week-long build-up of tensions over rumours that a 14-year-old Jamaican girl had been gang-raped by up to 19 Asian men spilled over into violence on Saturday night. IT worker Isiah Young-Sam, 23, was stabbed to death by a group of 11 Asian men as he made his way to church. The following day Aaron James, 18, was shot dead less than a mile from the scene of the rioting. A mosque and an Asian community centre were attacked amidst the violence and CCTV footage showed attacks on Asian shops. African-Caribbean businesses and community centres were also vandalised. Lee Jasper, of the National Assembly against Racism, said: “African-Caribbean and Pakistani communities must unite in common endeavour to halt the senseless violence that threatens to engulf both communities. Birmingham City Council must demonstrate clear leadership in seeking to address the underlying issues giving rise to community tensions. We call on all communities to enter into dialogue as a means of achieving these aims.”

The Birmingham Steven Lawrence Commission looked into how Britain’s second city should respond to the Lawrence inquiry. It concluded in February 2003 that failure to tackle racial segregation had potentially disastrous consequences. District judge Ray Singh, who chaired the commission, warned that the report was an “alarm call” but evidence appears to show racial segregation increasing apace in the last four years.  Handsworth and Aston neighbourhoods are primarily African-Caribbean while Sparkbrook and Small Heath are mainly populated by Pakistanis from Kashmir. Birmingham’s leafy suburbs have few visible ethnic minorities.  Publication of the report led the African-Caribbean The Voice to run the front-page headline ‘Apartheid Birmingham.’ Birmingham City Council, which commissioned the report, published a follow-up in September 2002 which claimed significant progress had been made. Critics of the council believe there was never any serious political will to address the deep-seated issues of different communities living apart. The Cadbury Barrow Trust has called for more resources to be spent on youth facilities to combat growing racial tensions.

Last year journalist Darcus Howe exposed racial divisions between Asian and African-Caribbean youth in a controversial TV documentary. Many in the African-Caribbean community were shocked at the racial insults being used by young Asians against them. Howe’s Channel 4 film Who are You Calling a Nigger? was slated for inflaming tensions but now appears to have been a discarded warning sign. Birmingham-based bishop Dr Joe Aldred, chairman of the Council of Black-led Churches, said: “There are social, political and economic issues which need to be addressed to allay concerns about inequality. What has become clear is that there are people in Birmingham who feel their grievances have not been properly understood or dealt with.” Simon Woolley, national coordinator of Operation Black Vote, said it was no surprise that poverty, deprivation and lack of opportunities should produce unrest. Inner-city Birmingham is among the poorest areas of Britain. He added: “During this difficult period Asian, Caribbean and African people must show mutual solidarity. I urge all communities to have a unity march. At this crucial time we stand together because if we allow divisions to widen, race relations will be put back 50 years.” A week after rumours first surfaced, the girl at the centre of rape allegations has still not come forward. There is widespread scepticism about the claims in the Asian community, typified by Lozells resident Gulfran Khan who said: “At the end of the day unless you bring the girl forward, as far as we are concerned she doesn’t exist. She is an urban myth.”

However, many African-Caribbeans in Birmingham believe the girl is not coming forward because she, and possibly members of her family, has immigration issues. Police have carried out forensic tests on the Beauty Queen store in Lozells where the rape is said to have taken place, but have not found any evidence to suggest a sex crime took place. Claims that the girl was taken to the back of the store after being caught stealing a hair weave were refuelled when a 30-year-old Black woman came forward, making claims about an unrelated sexual assault. Birmingham radio station Hot 92 helped spread the rape rumours although DJ Warren G admitted he had not met the girl or her family. Daily protests of up to 300 gathered the Beauty Queen from last Tuesday, forcing it to close for a while. The demonstrations were given added potency by complaints that Asian shopkeepers allegedly treated African-Caribbean customers with disrespect, and that Asians had a monopoly on outlets selling Black hair and beauty products. Violence broke out on Saturday when an older African-Caribbean was allegedly verbally abused by Asian youths who had gathered near the New Testament Church of God in Lozells where a public meeting was taking place about the rape allegations. A number of shops and community centres used and owned by both communities were attacked and several cars set alight. Salma Yaqoob of the Respect party said: “There is a lot of anger, grief and tensions between the communities. We need to create a genuine space for people to listen to each other.”
Black Information Link



The Voice was condemned after the paper called for a boycott of Asian shops. Critics say there are better ways of promoting the 'black pound'

28/10/2005- Campaigners said stoking up racial division and trade wars against Asians may sell a few newspapers but would not boost opportunities for African-Caribbean businesses. Exploiting boiling racial tensions in Birmingham following allegations that a 14-year-old girl had been raped, Deidre Forbes penned an editorial calling on African-Caribbeans to boycott Asian shops. Experts said issues of conflict, such as 'disrespect' by Asian shopkeepers, needed to be resolved in a calm atmosphere. A boycott would simply polarise communities. Just two years ago The Voice was owned by Indian-born Linda McCalla. The editorial this week has appalled Asian newsagent-owners some of whom are threatening not to stock the paper.

Leading African-Caribbean figures said there was a real need to change purchasing patterns to keep more of the 'Black Pound' within the community, but this needed to be a positive process not a negative boycott fuelled by anger against Asians. Dr Richard Taylor, father of murdered ten-year-old Damilola, said: "It's a very small globe we're living in. "Why should people suggest such a way forward? This is a social matter that needs to be addressed by community leaders and a solution has to be found to it. It's not by creating more problems." Dr Taylor said that the community exploding over an event did not mean it should be handled the wrong way. People had suggested going on the rampage after Damilola,was killed "I had to control my own emotion. That's not the solution." The Voice was also criticised for appeared to treat the alleged Birmingham rape as fact with no quote marks around the word 'rape' in the headline and no use of the words 'alleged' or 'claimed' in sub-headline.

Almost three weeks after the allegations first emerged the girl has still not come forward leading many to speculate whether she actually exists. Few in Birminghams relatively small and tight-knit African-Caribbean community claim to know the family. Two black men have died following disturbances sparked by the allegations. Neil Kenlock, founder of Choice FM, said he "definitely" opposed The Voice's call and said he found it very distressing. "I've been in Britain for 40 years and we have never been fighting each other. "Instead we have supported each other in demonstrations. We should stop it. It is not our duty to go around burning and looting. It's not the right way." Both communities had experienced discrimination and racism. "We should not be fighting ourselves. We should find a way to work together and work through our problems.

"I understand the frustrations of Black youth in Birmingham who are not getting on the way Asians are. They have to learn to work harder and organise themselves to work harder and be more determined." In the editorial Forbes wrote: "For those of you who've written in to complain about being treated with disrespect and suspicion whenever you enter certain Asian-owned or -run shops, we ask why then do you continue to give your patronage to these shops? "They rely and depend on us for the success of their business and blindly we continue to spend our hard-earned bucks in shops where we are treated in a derogatory manner. "It's time to reassess our priorities as a community and to send a clear message to those who would dare that we will not tolerate this type of violation in the community." Professor Chris Mullard, chairman of Focus Consultancy, expressed strong disproval of any boycott: "That is not the way ahead to create good race relations. It will antagonise and alienate." Bishop Joe Aldred, chairman of the Black-Led Council of Churches, accused The Voice of being shortsighted and starting a trade war. He said he would not support such a boycott. "It's a trade war. Telling Caribbeans and Africans not to buy from Asians is highly divisive and unnecessary. People have a choice. We shouldn't superimpose anything else on our communities." He also accused the paper of middle-class arrogance in calling for the boycott. He said: "What often happens is that people calling for such boycotts live in a very different society from the people they're calling to engage in the boycott. "While the rich and privileged set such standards it's the poor people for whom many of these Asian shops are affordable, who will lose out. It's they who will suffer." Simeon Grossett, director of BEM Business Federation, said the Black pound- the disposable income of the community - is worth more £25billion a year, but said that any boycott would have a negative effect on all communities. "If that were to happen then there would be negative impact and that's not just to Asian businesses, it's to anything at large.
Black Information Link



25/10/2005- Poland was given a blunt warning over its human rights obligations yesterday - after the election of a president who has sought to curb gay rights and campaigned for the restoration of the death penalty. The clear victory for Lech Kaczynski, who won 54 per cent of the vote in Sunday's run-off, marks a sharp change for Poland as a majority of voters embraced the populist politics of a man who has promised to bring about moral renewal. Mr Kaczynski, whose twin brother will also be a key figure in the new government, has caused alarm by raising the issue of reparations for Germany's wartime destruction of Warsaw. The European Commission described capital punishment as contrary to the EU's basic values yesterday. An article of the EU's governing treaty states that countries that fail to observe fundamental rights can, ultimately, be stripped of their European voting rights. Politicians have been alarmed by the statements of the president-elect, and are hoping he and his party will be reined in when in office. Martin Schultz, leader of the socialist group in the European Parliament, said Mr Kaczynski is "on probation", adding: "I hope the president will be a different kind of person to the [one we saw as] candidate." Chris Davies, leader of the British Liberal Democrat MEPs, said: "People are alert. I hope the Polish president will not seek to challenge some of the basic principles and values of the EU."

The final round of the Polish presidential election was fought between two right-wing parties, both of which were born out of the Solidarnosc union movement that ousted the Communist government in the 1980s. As in parliamentary elections two weeks earlier, Mr Kaczynski's Law And Justice party campaign overtook that of the rival Civic Platform. Mr Kaczynski's strong moral tone courted the religious right and the traditionalist elements of Poland's powerful Roman Catholic Church. During the campaign, he called for the return of capital punishment for the worst murders and, as mayor of Warsaw, he sought to ban a gay rights march on security grounds. Germany has been concerned about the nationalist tone of his rhetoric. The Law And Justice party's website carries an interview with the president-elect in which he argues Poland has "moral grounds to demand compensation" for wartime destruction by the Nazis. He adds: "Polish-German reconciliation is important but it has made some forget what has really happened. Poland's foreign policy did not take advantage of the fact that Germany and Western Europe as a whole have an unclear conscience toward Poland." Meanwhile, the result is seen as a setback for economic liberalism and caused the zloty to dip temporarily. The pro-business Civil Platform and its presidential candidate Donald Tusk had backed a flat tax and deregulation. By contrast, Law And Justice called for a greater state role in tackling poverty, corruption and unemployment, protection of the welfare state, and made generous campaign promises to farmers and heavy industry workers. Because of the result of parliamentary elections, the two centre-right parties must form a coalition government. That is likely to mean a compromise on economic reform, one that will exclude a flat tax but mean some reduction in taxation. A spokesman for the European Commission said: "One of the conditions for starting negotiations with a potential candidate country is that the existing death penalty must be abolished. This is considered not to be in line with the basic values, on which the EU is based." Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation contravenes a commitment to respect minorities, the rule of law and human rights, he added.
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