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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 March 2007, 19:25 GMT
Maimed by teenage 'racist' gang
Stephen Stewart
BBC Scotland news website

The crumbling red sandstone tenements and former shipyards seemed a world away from the massacres and political bloodshed which ravaged the villages of Algeria.

Abdul - not his real name - and his family arrived in Glasgow six years ago full of expectations. They hoped to find peace, forge a new life and escape decades of violence in their homeland.

Knives

But last year in an ironic twist of fate, the 17-year-old ended up seriously injured after an unprovoked and apparently racist attack.

Abdul was set upon by a gang of up to 15 hooded white youths and suffered a punctured lung after being stabbed.

While most teenagers his age are more interested in football and music, Abdul now worries about the political and social climate which fosters such outbreaks of apparently organised racist gang violence.

He said: "When we came here, there were some problems at first but things seemed to get a lot better.

Punctured lung

"Now I definitely think it has got worse. There seems to be more attacks and a greater amount of general abuse.

"I was attacked in November last year by a gang of about 10 to 15 young people. I definitely think it was an organised attack.

"The gang knew exactly where and when the bus for the asylum seeker and refugee kids would be. I think they had planned it in advance.

"There was no reason for it at all. I was just looking to get my bus when it all started."

Abdul and his family settled in the city's Scotstoun area, a densely populated area dominated by red sandstone 19th and early 20th century tenements.

A bridge over the River Clyde in Glasgow
Abdul's family hoped to make a new life in Glasgow

He was left hospitalised with a punctured lung after being stabbed in his back. The family of the second boy, who was understood to be Somali, have asked for him not to be identified for fear of reprisals.

Their attack took place at Drumchapel High School, which ironically, has an admirable record for welcoming refugees and asylum seekers.

Indeed, he and his friend were members of a "buddy" scheme designed to bring together asylum seekers and Scottish pupils.

The school is at the centre of a massive housing estate which is the focus of a determined regeneration effort in an area traditionally bedevilled with poorly constructed post-war housing and anti-social behaviour.

Bulldozers and construction workers are now a common site on the area's streets with a substantial influx of public and private investment.

Young boys

Some commentators at the time of the attack expressed surprise that it happened in a place which appeared to be on the rise.

Robina Qureshi, director of Positive Action in Housing, an asylum seeker support group, said: "The families feel the whole incident was racially motivated, as do the two young boys."

Ms Qureshi was surprised that the incident had occurred at the school. She added: "Drumchapel High School has had a good record of trying to bring pupils together from whichever background they are from."

It makes me pretty sad to think that I have been picked on for no real reason
Abdul

Racism may not be a new phenomenon in Scotland but in recent times, fears have deepened of a more sinister wave of attacks.

Abdul was concerned that violence was becoming less random and more co-ordinated. He said: "They were wearing scarves and things over their face to stop them being identified.

"It happened so quick that I can't remember if they were being abusive but I definitely think it was because I was a refugee.

"It makes me pretty sad to think that I have been picked on for no real reason. I have been here for almost six years and this was just totally unfair.

Racist murder

"It is very worrying that people think they can attack refugee and asylum seekers just because of who they are and where they are from."

The attack on Abdul was just one in a long line of suspected racially-motivated incidents.

In one of the biggest racist murder trials Scotland has witnessed, three Asian men were jailed for life for the race-hate murder of a schoolboy Kriss Donald.

Algiers street, 1962 civil war
Algeria was devastated by a surge in political violence

Imran Shahid, 29, was ordered to spend at least 25 years in jail. His brother Zeeshan Shahid, 28, must serve 23 years, while Mohammed Faisal Mushtaq, 27, will spend 22 years behind bars for the abduction, assault and killing in 2004.

In August, three men were jailed for 13 years for a racist attack on an Asian man in Edinburgh that left him permanently disfigured.

One of the most notorious cases involving asylum seekers and refugees occurred in 2001 when Firsat Dag, 22, a Kurdish asylum seeker, was murdered in Glasgow.

A Scottish Executive survey also recently revealed that 42% of Scots claim to have been "exposed" to racism, either as victim, witness or perpetrator - 7% higher than in 2001.

Indiscriminate massacres

Abdul said that he had never experienced blatant racism - until the attack. His family, including his parents, three brothers and two sisters, had originally fled Algeria, a nation battered by violence over the past half-century, in 2001.

More than a million Algerians were killed in the fight for independence from France in 1962. The country has only recently emerged from a brutal internal conflict which erupted after the elections in 1992.

The fighting escalated into a full scale insurgency, which saw intense fighting between 1992 and 1998 and which reportedly resulted in more than 100,000 deaths, many attributed to indiscriminate massacres of villagers by extremists.

He said: "We were so glad to make a new life here. I just hope we can be allowed to live in peace."




SEE ALSO
Asylum seekers targeted by gangs
04 Mar 07 |  Scotland
Hardly an asylum seeker haven?
04 Mar 07 |  Scotland
City area 'reclaimed' from gangs
24 Apr 06 |  Glasgow and West
Detectives condemn 'racist thugs'
27 Aug 05 |  Scotland

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