The murder of Bijan Ebrahimi
Sad. That, I guess, is my first and overwhelming response to the news, of the murder of Bristol resident, Bijan Ebrahimi. His crimes? Well, none. Or many, depending on how thoughtlessly you choose to caricature people and events. According to relatives, he was "a quiet, disabled man whose only joys in life came from his horticultural interests and his cat”.
In other words, someone “different”: a loner with interests that didn’t exactly mirror those of his more mainstream neighbours. And then – horrors! – he took exception to teenagers vandalising his garden. So much so that when they refused to stop, he took photos of them with a view to handing said photos over to the local police.
This, though, was too much for the neighbourhood: the easy, ignorant accusation was laid. Taking photos of young people: why, he MUST be a paedophile! A mob gathered. Police eventually arrived to calm the situation but, instead of dealing with the mob, arrested Mr Ebrahimi on suspicion of “breach of the peace”, one of those neat, catch-all offences that superficially absolve the police of any real responsibility for what they do.
They took him to the local station, heard his story, viewed the photos and released him into the community.
Sorted. Except for two things. First, the police apparently advised Mr Ebrahimi not to leave his home. He might have been victim in all this, suffering first from local youth and then from uninformed mobbery. But, hey! He was the one who needed to watch his p’s and q’s: he was the one who needed to amend his behaviour.
Does that sound familiar?
Second, the real cause for sadness - and anger – two vile young men took it upon themselves to intervene, first beating him senseless, then pouring white spirit over him and setting him on fire. They murdered him.
Pointless, really, to say more. That story, the ignorance, the cruelty, the loss just make you want to howl.
So we pass on that, but focus on what we can address, which is something that seems endemic in parts of the police: the desire for the easy option. And what could be easier than telling the awkward cuss who doesn’t quite conform, the non-normative, the – let’s not mince words – the outcast and the “weirdo”, to sort THEIR act.
It hardly seems worth mentioning the old-style police response to rape and indecent assault: the torrent of victim-blaming advice that women, like cars, should be locked up and off the street at night.
Its not every police officer. To their credit, Avon & Somerset Police are now investigating the officers concerned. Its not every officer: but its still far too many.
By Jane Fae, writer, campaigner & journalist.Download this post as PDF? Click here