Oswestry teen calls on victims to speak out against racism

By Joanne Gallacher
Political reporter, BBC Shropshire

image copyrightFamily handout
image captionYasmin said she would have ignored the abuse if it was not for a friend

A teenager has called for victims of racist abuse to speak out more after being targeted last month.

Yasmin, 17, was racially abused as she walked home with a friend in Oswestry.

She said her mother, who wears a hijab and has also been racially abused, would have preferred her not to have gone to the police, due to a lack of trust in authorities.

However, Yasmin said this attitude meant incidents going underreported, particularly in rural areas.

She said a young boy, whom she believed to be in primary school, shouted a highly offensive term.

"I laughed a bit and said I'd not heard that for a while - it's been a couple of years," she said.

It led to her recalling other incidents in the past which she did not report.

"I remember this one boy, before he'd even met me, went round after the Manchester attack and kept telling everyone that teachers should check my bags in case I had a bomb coming into the school," she said.

'Elephant in the room'

Yasmin said if her friend had not been with her last month, she probably "wouldn't have told anyone".

"My family doesn't talk about racism, it's the elephant in the room which is covered up," she said.

image copyrightFamily handout
image captionYasmin said her mum, Sultana, is often racially abused as she wears a hijab

The teenager, who turns 18 this month, was interviewed by West Mercia Police after her friend reported the latest abuse.

When the 17-year-old gave a statement to officers, she said her mother was "a bit angry".

"I told her I wasn't the one in trouble but she said 'no, it's still the police'. She's scared that something might happen to harm us more."

Yasmin said she believed such attitudes meant racism going unnoticed in areas like rural Shropshire.

"My mum, because she wears a hijab, she gets comments, people laughing at her, pointing at her," Yasmin said.

"It's very common, but it's not very talked about. We just think there's nothing you can do about it, so we don't make a big deal out of it."

In the 2020-21 financial year, there were 1,524 hate crimes recorded in the West Mercia Police force area, 69% of them having a racial marker.

Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion told the BBC these offences were higher than previous years, which he called "a worrying trend".

"We need to make sure all communities in West Mercia have confidence in their police service," he said.

"What's worrying is that loads isn't reported - there's lots out there that people are just putting up with.

"We don't have to put up with these crimes, something can be done."

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