Syrian refugee thanks British public for support at protest

A Syrian refugee who was ‘waterboarded’ in a bullying attack turned up at the scene of a protest outside his school today.

Jamal, 15, said ‘thanks to everyone’ as he arrived at Almondbury Community School in Huddersfield to be greeted by 30 members of the public.

The youngster, who was head butted and had water squirted in his face in an attack captured on a shocking video, smiled as he was brought to the scene by his father.

He was surrounded by protesters showing support for his family in the wake of the horrific assault, and just a few minutes later got back into a car which drove off.

He spoke after the total raised to support his family – who have said they want to move out of the area – hit £135,000. 

It is the first time Jamal has been seen in public and his family’s lawyer said they are happy for him to be pictured.

Jamal, 15, said ‘thanks to everyone’ as he arrived at Almondbury Community School in Huddersfield

Mr Akunjee also said he is considering taking legal action against Tommy Robinson on the family’s behalf after the water-boarding victim was wrongly linked by the former EDL leader to an attack on a schoolgirl.

‘This is something that has just added to the terrible situation Jamal is in.’  

The protest was organised on Facebook by a group called ‘British Asians’ and in a post said that it wanted to ‘show our support and demand answers.’

Imam Mohammed Pandor, from Batley, said: ‘This is a symptom of dis-obedience from young people against parents and school teachers. 

He was surrounded by protesters showing support for his family in the wake of the horrific assault, and just a few minutes later got back into a car which drove off

‘Schools need to have more anti-bullying policies. 

‘We are satisfied that the teachers at this school are taking this matter seriously. 

‘And we will see how things progress from here. 

‘There were a lot of questions that we asked the teachers but I could not respond because of legal reasons. 

‘We are confident that the school and the council are giving support to the family. ‘

The shocking video shows the moment a bully grapples with the Syrian boy on the floor and squirts water in his face

Earlier it emerged the boy’s family said they will use more than £135,000 in donations from well-wishers to move to another area.

The boy, who escaped war torn Syria with his parents and sister, has suffered two years of bullying since they arrived in Huddersfield.

Now they want to leave the town and start a new life somewhere else because the level of abuse has got too much. 

So far more than £135,00 after a shocking video of an assault on the boy went viral, showing him being pinned down by his attacker, and water squirted in his face.

The young Syrian boy was so distressed by the bullying he said he woke up crying in the middle of the night 

The video filmed at Almondbury Community School in Huddersfield sparked a national outcry and a huge outpouring of support after it was shared thousands of times on social media.

Later it emerged his sister was also targeted by bullies and had her headscarf ripped off in a school playground attack. 

The family’s lawyer says they are ‘extremely grateful’ for the amount raised, but will be using it to move out of their home.

Mr Akunjee told the MailOnline: ‘They will be using this money to relocate from Huddersfield.

The Syrian girl’s headscarf is tugged at as she is shoved and falls down a grassy slope at school

‘They don’t want to live there anymore, the level of abuse the children have received has become too much. 

‘It is early days on exactly where they will relocate to, but I have been advising them that they need to think about that now. 

Tommy Robinson sparks fury after wading into refugee bullying scandal

Anti-Islam activist Tommy Robinson has provoked outrage after wading into the refugee bullying scandal by accusing the victim of attacking a girl before he was ‘waterboarded’. 

English Defence League founder Robinson – recently made an adviser to Ukip – has now claimed the boy who was bullied on the school field had himself attacked a white girl.

But his incendiary claims have caused anger, with others insisting the girl’s mother has already denied the young refugee was involved.

Robinson was yesterday accused of having influenced the bully, after it emerged the boy had shared his Facebook posts.

The 36-year-old today told his followers that he had received messages from a mother from the area, who claimed the bullied boy got involved in an attack on her daughter.

But other Facebook users shared images of messages in which the girl’s mother denied the Syrian boy was involved in the attack, and her message to Robinson had been misunderstood.

The woman behind the claims appears to have since removed her account from Facebook.

In a separate post, Robinson shared a message apparently from the bully’s brother, also claiming the refugee boy had himself bullied a girl, hitting her with a hockey stick.

Critics accused Robinson of ‘stirring up hate and division’ with his online comments, with another saying the activist was ‘trying to make the country hate a child’.

‘They now need to take stock and get over the shock of it all. The children need to move on with this, and get on with their lives.’

The organiser of the page, Mohammed Tahir, posted an update which read: ‘Just a quick update. 

‘Go Fund Me has been in contact with me via email and she will help me to ensure that all the money gets to [the victim] and his family.

‘As this is my first time setting up a Go Fund Me page, I’m unaware of the full process but I have the right help from the right people to make sure this gets to the intended persons.

‘The support has been unreal, and I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who donated/shared the page, couldn’t have done it without you.’ 

In a heartbreaking interview with ITN, the boy told how he was so upset and ‘ashamed’ of the attack, which happened in October, he dreaded returning to school and cried himself to sleep.

He said: ‘I was feeling unsafe everywhere – even to go to the shop.’

‘I was feeling like I couldn’t study or do my homework.

‘I woke up at night and just started crying because of this problem.

‘When I saw everyone looking at this video I felt ashamed of myself and why it happened. I was really upset about that.’

The family fled from the Syrian city of Homs which was under siege from May 2011 to 2014 following protests against dictator Bashar al-Assad. 

The video shows the boy dragged to the floor by his neck and then pinned down by his throat, despite already having his broken arm in a cast.

The 16-year-old boy attacking him shouts: ‘I’ll drown you.’

He then tries to force water from a bottle into the boy’s mouth as his victim struggles underneath him.

After the attack, the victim frees himself and calmly walks away.

Despite a large crowd gathering, none of the other children follow him as he walks off, alone.

‘I don’t feel safe at school. Sometimes I say to my dad I don’t want to go to school anymore,’ he said to ITV.

‘I was disappointed when I came to the UK because I was thinking my life is going to be good, my future is going to be really good if I study at school. And I didn’t achieve any of that.’.

Police outside the Almondbury Community School in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire today, where the attack happened

The handwritten note released by the alleged attacker in which he claimed the incident ‘was not racial’ 

Within hours of outcry, police said a boy, 16, will be charged with assault.

Despite the video going viral and thousands of people being outraged, the other boy involved denied being a bully.

How did the youngster get to the UK?

The family of the bullied boy are understood to have come to Britain under a UN resettlement programme after fleeing war-torn Syria.

They are believed to have been living in the city of Homs, which has one of the highest death tolls of any city caught up in the conflict.

It is said the boy’s relatives were tortured and murdered by the Assad regime, causing them to escape the carnage of the country’s civil war.

They are understood to have got into neighbouring Lebanon – where there are a number of large refugee camps – from where they were given safe passage to Britain. 

In 2015, the Home Office announced plans to bring 20,000 displaced people from the region to the UK.

Around 550 of those were placed in West Yorkshire and the boy’s family are understood to have been among the 130 sent to the Kirklees area. 

At the time, a council spokesman said:  ‘The families who are escaping persecution in Syria were identified as being some of those most in need of support.

‘The families were relocated to the area as part of the vulnerable persons relocation (VPR) scheme.’

The boy claimed he had not been bullying his classmate before the incident and was previously on ‘good terms’ with him.

The teenager charged over the attack issued a handwritten statement.

It said: ‘I regret [the incident] but wish to make it clear I was not responsible for breaking his arm, nor had I been bullying him over a period of time as has been reported,’ he wrote.

He continued: ‘The incident was isolated and came about from an altercation between us earlier that day. The incident was not racial as up to that time we had been on good terms.

‘I have now been charged with common assault, not racially-aggravated as has been reported.’

However, thousands have flocked to support the teenager from Homs and bemoaned how he escaped war only to be abused by youngsters in the UK.

Yesterday it also emerged the victim’s sister was assaulted at school.

The girl, who has been subject to so much playground abuse she once tried to kill herself by cutting her wrists with a shard of glass, was attacked yesterday by her tormentors.

In the video the young sister can be seen in the playground, wearing a bright pink headscarf before the attack begins.

As she stands facing another – much larger girl – another child comes and pushes her from behind.

As she turns on her heel the larger girl shoves her using both hands and she tumbles down a hill.

More than 100 Syrian refugees were brought to Huddersfield under a programme from 2015

The larger girl runs after her and also tumbles as she grabs at the smaller girl’s headscarf.

The footage ends there but it is claimed the girl had her headscarf completely torn off. 

Teenager accused of ‘water-board’ attack on 15-year-old Syrian refugee is ‘a Britain First supporter’ who has shared posts from Tommy Robinson on Facebook

The schoolboy who allegedly ‘waterboarded’ a Syrian refugee on a school field shared posts from the Facebook page of EDL founder Tommy Robinson.

The 16-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, also uploaded links to right wing organisation Britain First, it emerged today.

In one he said the organisation ‘do right’ and re-posted links to Robinson mocking burkas.

In another post he shared a link to an extremist blog that threatened to ‘expose Islam’ and alleged that Muslims claimed raping white British children was ‘part of their culture’.

He also shared a parody video with an actor dressed up as Adolf Hitler, titled ‘Are you fed up with being labelled ‘FAR-RIGHT’?’

Another of the posts, shared from the page of English Defence League founder Robinson, apparently referenced comments by Boris Johnson about Muslim women wearing veils, read: ‘Should Britain ban letterboxes because of all the trouble they’re causing?’

Robinson was jailed for contempt of court earlier this year after posting videos about a child grooming trial involving a group of Asian men from Huddersfield. He was later freed on appeal.

West Yorkshire Police today said the teenager has been interviewed and reported for summons over the incident at Almondbury Community School in Huddersfield, and will appear before a youth court ‘in due course.’

The boy was quizzed over the footage in which the 15-year-old victim, whose arm is in a sling, is headbutted, then pinned down and squirted in the face with water.

West Yorkshire Police said the teenager featuring in the initial video has been interviewed and reported for summons over the incident on a school field and will appear before a youth court ‘in due course.’

The boy was quizzed over the footage in which the 15-year-old victim, whose arm is in a cast, is headbutted, then pinned down and squirted in the face with water. 

Mohammed Tahir, who set up the crowdfunding page for the bullying victim, said he had been overwhelmed by the support it had received.

He said: ‘I can’t thank everyone enough for the generous donations they have made.’

Mr Akunjee said they have contacted the school and the local authority, but have not been given any information on what action was being taken. 

Locals named who they claimed was responsible for the attack online, and witnesses said police were at the teen’s house. Family members of the supposed attacker were also named and received death threats online.

A police presence still remains outside the semi-detached home of the alleged bully this morning.

One van is stationed outside the home while Police Community Support officers are patrolling the street.

A Facebook account believed to belong to the boy features numerous posts shared from the page of English Defence League founder Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.

One of those posts, apparently referencing comments by Boris Johnson about Muslim women wearing veils, read: ‘Should Britain ban letterboxes because of all the trouble they’re causing?’ 

Tobias Ellwood, Conservative MP for Bournemouth East, received criticism for retweeting the video of the attack on Twitter.

But last night Mr Ellwood defended himself and said he fears Britain is ‘becoming a walk on by society where we’re allowing space for these things to happen’.

He told BBC Newsnight: ‘I worry that we are becoming a ‘walk on by’ society where we’re allowing space for these things to happen.

‘We saw another event on the 17th of September where a female police officer was dragged across the ground.

‘What did people do there? They laughed as they recorded it on social media. Cars drove by without stopping. That is absolutely wrong. It’s that, that I want to challenge. It’s that, that I want to change.’

The victim’s family fled the Syrian of Homs which was under siege from May 2011 to 2014 following protest against dictator Bashar al-Assad

When challenged on retweeting the video, he replied: ‘You seem to be condoning this behaviour. This is absolutely wrong. Somebody head-butting another child. Where does this bully get these ideas from? That is the question that we all need to pose ourselves. Let me explain.

‘My little boy went to pre-school. Day one and he came back with a black eye. When I asked how he got this, he said he stepped in for his friend who was being beaten up by somebody else. Now I can’t tell any parent what they should do with their children.

‘I can’t ask anybody what conversations should be had. What I’m saying is we should all ask ourselves: ‘how is it that it’s becoming the norm, with social media, to record these things, find them funny and amusing, and walk on by?’ That is the piece that I want to challenge. And that’s what I was seeking to do by actually putting it out on social media myself.

‘Let’s get back and understand what our values are and defend them. Let’s get back to being strong about what Britain should be. Let’s get back to making sure that when kids grow up they know the difference between good and bad so this sort of thing doesn’t happen.’

Why have refugees fled Homs for the West? 

Rebels and civilians withdrew from strongholds in Homs in May 2014, surrendering to President Bashar Assad.

The city was once dubbed the ‘capital of the revolution’. 

Few people have returned, and large parts of the once vibrant old city were  abandoned and destroyed.

Trouble in the western Syrian city began to face trouble in April 2011 when a huge ‘sit-in’ protest in the city’s mains square against Bashar al-Assad’s regime was disrupted by government security forces with 62 people killed.

In December 2011 the city became a a major base for the Free Syrian Army and it came under siege by the Syrian Army and Hezbollah for three years, with frequent bombing and shelling attacks against the militants. 

In December 2016 than 2,000 rebels and their families began leaving the last insurgent-held area in the city following several years of combat after reaching a ceasefire with the government.

Despite this, at least 32 people were killed and 90 injured in two bomb explosions in the Zahra district in the middle of the city days later, with ISIS claiming responsibility for the attacks.

Homs has one of the highest death tolls in the conflict, with the Syrian Martyrs group predicting more than 17,000 deaths in the city, not including government forces. 

‘You’re right to mention the vigilantes. They’re arguably as bad as the bullies themselves, and have taken these matters into their own hands. And you’re also right to say I hope the majority of us do not participate in this behaviour. The point though is, if the majority of us walk on by, we’re ignoring the problem. We need to own the problem and solve this. We can only do that if we move on from this walk on by society.’

The footage was called ‘heartbreaking’ by presenter Jeremy Vine.

He said on Twitter: ‘I’m trying to resist naming the bully in this film. More important, is it possible to do anything for the victim?

‘A Syrian refugee who already had a broken wrist, apparently from a similar attack. Heartbreaking.’

Barry Sheerman, the Labour MP for Huddersfield, said he has been supporting the teenager’s family.

‏He said: ‘Video of assault against one of my constituents absolutely shocking.

‘Have been supporting the family since it was first brought to my attention.

‘Understand from council that the school have taken strong action.

‘Will be following up to ensure all available support is being given!’ 

Head teacher of Almondbury Community School Trevor Bowen said: ‘The safety and welfare of students is of paramount importance to us and this was a very serious incident.

‘We are not able to comment further as we are supporting the police with their investigation but I want to be clear that we do not tolerate unacceptable behaviour of any sort in our school.’

In a letter to parents, Mr Bowen said: ‘You will be aware of widespread media reports about an incident which took place in school.

‘The incident happened on our Fernside site a number of weeks ago.

‘The safety and welfare of students is our number one priority and I can assure you that this situation is being taken extremely seriously.

‘The matter is subject to an ongoing police investigation and, as I am sure you understand, we must be guided by the authorities in the amount of detail we are able to provide.

‘However, I can confirm we are working with the police to support their enquiries.

‘Since the incident occurred in October, the school, the local authority and the police have all taken action.

‘We must allow the legal process to take its course, but I want to be absolutely clear that we do not tolerate unacceptable behaviour of any sort in our school.

‘I can also assure you that we are working very hard to ensure it is ‘business as usual’ across the school and that there is no disruption to the children’s education.

‘The wellbeing of students is of paramount importance to us and a high level of support is available to anyone who may need it.’

A spokesman for Kirklees Council said on Twitter: ‘A police investigation is underway into the video from a local school.

‘Neither us nor the school condone violence in any form and behaviour like this will not be tolerated.’   

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