Truths revealed by the case of Bijan Ebrahimi
The sad case of Bijan Ebrahimi (‘Racism killed our brother. We will not be fobbed off’, 6 July) illustrates two unpalatable facts about my city. First, that there is a definite hardcore of racism within the institutions of Bristol. Both the police and council officials treated him as a nuisance and preferred to believe the accounts of his thuggish neighbours. Second, that Bristol is not the so-cool vibrant place portrayed by the media (largely fuelled by students and ex-students living in and around Clifton). In fact, as the mayor has acknowledged in the past, it is a deeply divided city with areas of super-rich, others of multi-ethnic communities, and a huge swathe of deprived white working-class ex-council estates. It was to one of these that poor Mr Ebrahimi was sent to live. Why? As long as Bristol refuses to look at itself honestly, these things could happen again.
The torment suffered by Bijan Ebrahimi leaves a terrible wound on our body politic. A disabled lone refugee with a strong sense of dignity and trust in the authorities was manifestly let down by the very services that should have protected him.
Although the IPCC pulled their punches, it would seem, from the catalogue of abuse this poor man suffered at the hands of his tormentors, and the unwillingness of the statutory services to believe him, even when faced with obvious evidence of a crime, that racism is clearly an issue here.
But it would be too easy to lay the blame squarely at the feet of the authorities. In the absence of agencies with a clear brief to address the real needs of the victims, agencies that have a broad knowledge of the nature of race and disability hate crime, there are no advocates ready in the community to hold power to account.
Since the disbandment of the Commission for Racial Equality, local race equality organisations have taken on a broader equalities remit and addressed the issue of all forms of hate from the standpoint of victims. This gives the victim a champion who will take up the case from their perspective and achieve a modicum of justice.
That is exactly the brief of our small organisation. However, survival in a competitive funding environment makes our ability to offer the necessary specialised services to victims, and training to the statutory authorities, a constant struggle. Surely one of the outcomes of our concern at the abuse inflicted on Bijan Ebrahimi must be a recognition that we need to value the work of equality organisations by funding them effectively to address the needs of victims.
On behalf of the trustees of Redbridge Equalities and Community Council