Bullied Syrian refugee forced to move, school-less since attack

Bullied Syrian refugee forced to move, school-less since attack
A Syrian refugee whose children were violently bullied at a UK school says 'nothing' has been done by authorities to help his family.
3 min read
29 April, 2019
Jihad al-Hijazi says he has 'only known racism' in the UK [AFP]

The father of a Syrian refugee boy who was violently bullied at a British secondary school says that "nothing" has been done by local authorities to address his complaints about racial harrassment.

Thirty-nine-year-old Jihad Hijazi's family came under the media spotlight in November last year, when a video of showing his 15-year-old son being bullied and attacked at a Huddersfield school went viral.

Just days after the video, which showed his son Jamal being punched and 'waterboarded' by a fellow student, Jihad's daughter, Farah, returned home with a black eye.

The attack was allegedly perpetrated by siblings of Jamal's bully, who pushed Farah down a hill and tore off her hijab

"It’s been two years and nothing has been done," Jihad said in a recent interview with Tortoise Media.

"My children have been assaulted," he added, emphasising that his complaints about racism and intimidation prior to the assaults had not been taken seriously.

In the days after the attack on Jamal, police said they were investigating a "racially-aggravated assault" and had interviewed a 16-year-old boy in connection with the incident.

It later emerged that the Facebook page of Jamal's attacker, Bailey McLaren, featured frequent posts expressing support for far-right anti-Muslim group Britain First and Tommy Robinson, a notorious British far-right activist.

Months on from the assault, however, no charges have been brought against McLaren, with the Crown Prosecution Service ruling that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the attack was racially aggravated.

Jihad alleges that in the aftermath of the viral video, Kirklees council rushed to avert a PR disaster by effectively controlling the Hijazi family's statements.

"How much are the media offering to pay you?" a council officer reportedly asked Jihad at the time.

Jihad also says that he had requested for his children to be taken out of the Almondbury school prior to the viral video, as bullies had threatened to stab his son.

"You have your passport, why not go back to Syria then?" a housing worker allegedly said to the Hijazi family. "When you’ve been stabbed, then you’ll have a reason to move."

Despite the local authorities' alleged failure to act on Jihad's complaints about the Almondbury school, Kirklees council now looks set to close the establishment following an emergency review.

The review, conducted by UK schools regulator Ofsted, found the school to be failing in many of its responsibilities.

Five months on from the viral video, however, the Hijazi family have moved from Huddersfield to a new location they are too afraid to disclose and Jamal has not yet been accepted into a school to continue his GCSE's.

"We lived peacefully in Syria before. Christians and Muslims could co-exist happily," Jihad told Tortoise Media. "I’ve only known racism here."

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