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Has Justice For Shukri Abdi Been Truly Achieved? Her Family Says No

The school in question closed and rebranded itself as Hazel Wood High school, but the alleged category of failures and the sinister situation resulting in Shukri’s death cannot be as easily erased.

The school in question closed and rebranded itself as Hazel Wood High school, but the alleged category of failures and the sinister situation resulting in Shukri’s death cannot be as easily erased.

12-year-old Muslim schoolgirl Shukri Abdi’s death by drowning was an ‘accident’ said a coroner. After the inquest, Shukri’s mother Zamzam Arab Ture said, “I feel so bad today with this decision. I have waited a long time for justice and I know justice will come.”

Shukri died after entering the River Irwell in Bury, in Lancashire, on 27th June 2019. The five children involved cannot be named for legal reasons. On the 4th of December, Coroner Joanne Kearsley said there was “no evidence whatsoever” to suggest that Shukri was pushed into the river. On the way to the river, the court heard that ‘Child One’ said, “If you don’t get in the water I’ll kill you”. But the coroner said this was not meant with malice.

It is believed that ‘Child One’ (also from Shukri’s school at Broad Oak Sports College) led her into the water by hand and said that Shukri would be taught how to swim. The coroner said ‘Child One’ breached a duty of care, but that didn’t lead to manslaughter. Allegedly Shukri panicked in the water and tried to hold onto ‘Child One’ and ‘Child One’ let go. 

Child One’s written statement was read out by the coroner:

“She was holding my legs at the back. I pushed her, I accidentally pushed her to the deep end. I couldn’t swim like that, I pushed her.

“She thought she could swim but didn’t know how to swim. She got into the water next to me. She was grabbing my hand. Something happened, she went down in the water to get back up, she didn’t make it. We were calling to Shukri to get up.

“She didn’t get up. We were all crying and shouting. She’s like really small. We were panicking. We were like: No, this cannot happen.”

The inquest heard how ‘Child One’ swam back and started laughing with ‘Child Two’ when Shukri disappeared into the water, because she allegedly thought Shukri was joking. ‘Child Four’ said neither ‘One’ nor ‘Two’ did anything while Shukri was drowning.

After they realised they could not save her, ‘Child Three’ and ‘Child Four’ ran to Bury police station, while ‘One’ and ‘Two’ called emergency services. ‘Child Three’ and ‘Four’ did not know Shukri before the tragic incident took place and tried to save Shukri’s life.

A statement from a paramedic who arrived on the scene said none of the children appeared to be wet or distressed.

According to Shukri’s family, she was scared of water and unable to swim. Representatives for Shukri’s family announced after the inquest verdict they will take the case to the court of law. They will also be pursuing legal action against the police.

TMV exclusively spoke to Maz Saleem, who is an anti-racism and justice campaigner for the official Justice 4 Shukri campaign. She stated that:

“This was a clear case of injustice for Shukri Abdi’s family and it reminded me of when my father was murdered and the absence of support systems particularly for Muslim women facing discrimination in this country. It’s important we have a voice especially since the loss of Shukri and the authorities attempt to brush it under the carpet!

“Shukri’s family survived the Somalian civil war being a refugee but she never received the support that she deserved in this country. The hostile environment has created a toxic environment. Shukri’s life ended too soon and the authorities especially the police failed to investigate because they didn’t think that black lives matter. We are determined to fight for justice until the very end so that Shukri’s life has meaning for all of us.

“Far too many of these cases where the police fail to investigate and I believe a major part of this is because the police are institutionally racist as pointed out in the McPherson enquiry over 25 years ago and nothing has changed with the addition of growing Islamophobia and state racism.

“No family should endure such institutional failures and neglect”.

Maz Saleem’s search for the truth stems from her own personal experience after her 82-year-old father, Mohammed Saleem, was murdered on his way home from a Birmingham mosque by a Ukrainian neo-Nazi terrorist in April 2013.

Shukri’s family believe she was bullied and unlawfully killed. The coroner stated bullying claims were ‘totally incorrect’ and “simply rumours and unhelpful speculation”.

Shukri’s mother Zamzam Arab Ture told Channel 4 News that her daughter was bullied and the school did nothing despite complaining on numerous occasions. She said her daughter was always crying and “didn’t want to go to school”. There have been claims made of bullying amongst students and staff. 

An inquest in March 2015 heard that a senior religious education teacher at Broad Oak Sports College and mother of two children Caroline Bailey, 46, was found hanged in Castle Hill Quarry near Rochdale after claiming she had been subjected to ‘strategic bullying’ by colleagues. 

Hazel Wood High School stated that: “As a school community we were very saddened when we learned of Shukri’s death. Shukri was described by one of her teachers as a joy to have in class and is remembered as a happy and smiling girl at school. We note the Coroner’s findings that this must have been a traumatising event for all of the children involved — most importantly for Shukri who tragically lost her life whilst with her friends.” 

According to activist Shabnam Kulsoom, who is apart of the Justice 4 Shukri campaign, “Broad Oak Sports College has been controversial for as long as I can remember. There’s been bullying among pupils, allegations of inter-staff bullying that were linked to a teacher’s death by suicide, and poor Ofsted reports”. In Ofsted’s most recent inspection in March 2019, they had given Broad Oak Sports College an overall rating of Inadequate.

The school conducted its own internal investigation into the bullying claims surrounding Shukri’s death. In August 2019, the family’s lawyer, Attiq Malik, of Liberty Law Solicitors said: “The family is very unhappy with this report. Despite assurances from the school that a full review would be carried out this has not been done.”

Broad Oak Sports College has since closed and then rebranded itself as Hazel Wood High school. It opened on the 2nd September 2019 but the alleged category of failures and the sinister situation resulting in Shukri’s death cannot be as easily erased.

According to Maz Saleem, the school was also supposed to hold a memorial for Shukri but this never happened. Maz Saleem told TMV that: “I have spoken to students from the school and they have been silenced from talking about Shukri.” Hazel Wood High School chose to not give TMV a comment in regards to the alleged claims of students being silenced or the lack of memorial to honour Shukri Abdi.

In a statement from the Justice 4 Shukri Campaign team, they highlighted that: “Playground racism whether the Sikh Boy in Telford, Jamal the Syrian refugee in Huddersfield, or even the tragedy of Ahmed Iqbal Ullah in Manchester all those years ago – schools have failed to learn any lessons and to protect our children.”

The family had also raised serious concerns about the police investigation. The IOPC (Independent Office for Police Conduct) launched its own investigation into the Greater Manchester Police handling of the case. In a double blow to the family, it published its report after the coroner delivered her verdict. It found there was no evidence “to indicate Shukri’s family were treated less favourably because of their ethnic background” and found “insufficient evidence to suggest that GMP did not conduct a thorough investigation”. The police initially refused to open an investigation into Shukri’s death.

Shukri Abdi fled conflict in Somalia with her family and grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp before moving to the UK in 2017. But she was more than just a former refugee. Shukri was an innocent, diligent, smart, cheeky, caring, young girl who had dreams of becoming a doctor.  

Over 1.1 million people have signed online petitions calling for a criminal investigation to be opened into the circumstances surrounding the death of Shukri Abdi. Family lawyer Attiq Malik said the “court of public opinion knows what the truth is”. He also stated, “It’s not over. We have not lost. The gloves are off”.

If you would like to sign the official petition by the Justice 4 Shukri campaign, please click here.

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