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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 September, 2004, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
Murder puts city in race spotlight
The murder scene
The city centre spot where Mr Karim was attacked

Concerns have been expressed about an increase in racism in Swansea after the murder of an Iraqi Kurd.

But community leaders say they are keen to put the death of Kalan Kawa Karim in context.

Swansea Race Equality Council said it was worried by a rise in incidents as well as unreported cases, but said that the city was no different to anywhere else.

Mr Karim, 29, died after being punched in the city centre this week.

I think there is some good stuff going on in Swansea but it does not belie the fact that there is low-level racism
David Farnsworth

Mr Karim, who friends say fled Iraq after being tortured under Saddam Hussein's regime, died in hospital.

He had been out for a pizza with a friend when he was attacked shortly after 0130 BST on Monday in Kingsway.

His uncle, Tahseen Shaho, said he and his family have experienced other racist incidents since making their home in Swansea.

The dead man's best friend, Sarkat Junaid, said: "This not the first incident that's happened, it's been continually happening and no-one is taking care of this problem."

Swansea Race Equality Council said there had been an increase in reported racist incidents over the past few months, following a general trend which it said had seen incidents treble since 11 September, 2001.

Director Taha Idris said he had been worried by the last quarterly figures he had seen for incidents in the city.

"It's not just reported incidents, there are those that go unreported, I'm speaking to people all the time who have suffered some sort of abuse."

Taha Idris, Swansea Race
Mr Idris said the public should challenge and report racism

He said issues involving asylum seekers and refugees were used as "excuses for bigots to express their views and their actions".

"We've got to get to the stage where people must come forward to report it and if capable, challenge. I'm not expecting people when facing a couple of thugs to challenge them, but be prepared to report it."

But Mr Idris also said that the murder and the low-level racism had to be put in context.

"Swansea is not better or worse than anywhere else," he said. "I've lived in Swansea for 32 years, I like living here, it's a lovely city with friendly people - a lot of good work goes on."

That view is echoed by the Welsh Refugee Council, whose chief executive David Farnsworth said Mr Karim's death had to be put in context.

Positive experience

"I was speaking to two men last week from the Iraqi Kurdish Community in Swansea," he said.

"They liked the welcome in the city and the people in the city. That's not to say they have not experienced racism but they had a very positive experience in Swansea.

The Kingsway
Police seal off the scene on Monday after Mr Karim was attacked

"I have actually used Swansea as an example of best practice in the way that the host community and community arriving have actually joined together and worked together.

"I think there is some good stuff going on in Swansea but it does not belie the fact that there is low-level racism."

South Wales Police described Monday's attack as an isolated incident and say they had never had to deal with such a severe case in Swansea before.

'Unfair judgement'

Inspector Jane Mackay of the force's Minority Support Unit said there had been 128 racist incidents reported in Swansea in the four months since April this year, compared to 126 reported in the same period last year.

"These statistics are discussed widely with our partner agencies and the local community race relations group," said Ms Mackay.

"With the support of community leaders and community groups we are continually working to encourage people to report racist incidents."

Peter Black, a Swansea councillor and Liberal Democrat AM for South West Wales, said: "I don't think there is any doubt at all that there is racism in Swansea," he said.

"However, I think if you were to brand Swansea a racist city that would be an unfair judgement and one I would not go along with.

"Since Swansea has started receiving asylum seekers we have noticed there has been an increase in racial abuse and comments.

"I think that is because people do not understand the issue but also because they are being led to believe certain things about these communities that are simply not true.

"I think you do have to get this into perspective, as the police said this is the first incident of this severity that has happened in Swansea.

"We are generally a very welcoming city. We've accepted a lot of refugees into our city and we treat them with respect."


SEE ALSO:
Race murder victim is named
07 Sep 04  |  South West Wales
Witness appeal in Iraqi murder
07 Sep 04  |  Wales


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