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Life As A Refugee
The murder of a Kurdish refugee in an alleged racist attack in Swansea several weeks ago sent shock waves throughout Swansea and across Wales.
A vigil of hundreds took place at the spot where he was murdered and around a thousand marched through Swansea recently to demonstrate against racism and uniting the local Kurdish community with other ethnic minorities, trade unionists, students, socialists, community organisations, political parties and many other groups.
Alec Thraves spoke to Burhan Mahmoud (Bora), a Kurdish refugee and socialist about life as a refugee in Britain.
AT: How have you found life here?
BM: Every migrant may have different expectations. I have seen my life in Britain change because I came from the closed community of Iraq to a country with democratic rights. It is difficult trying to adapt to a new way of life. I think it is easier for me because of my secular beliefs - I like the way people can express themselves here.
Before the Home Office transferred us to Wales we had a very closed life and most things were out of our hands. I can say that my life really started in Swansea, despite having problems with the language. I am working and trying to learn the language at the same time.
I have been able to contact my friends and meet a group of people like yourselves who have the same socialist ideology as me. What comforts me is that I have known people like Alec from the Socialist Party and Tracey Sherlock, a community development worker, who are very helpful to refugee people and we really appreciate that.
AT: Do you think that refugees are acknowledged to be making a positive contribution to society in the UK?
BM: Refugees, better to call them exiled people, can and do play a positive role in British society. I mean that with different political, economic and cultural experiences they can help build relationships with others based on mutual understanding.
There are people in the heart of the poor societies of the third world working hard to bring about freedom, equality and justice but racism is a major obstacle in developing an understanding between different cultures. This is a problem that has to be addressed by the left parties of Europe, but it shouldn't be at the expense of conceding political principles to religious groups.
Judging all Muslims from the experience of fundamentalist minority Islamic groups is dangerous. After all, the Islamic extremists are a product of those dictatorial governments who are the allies of the west!
AT: What do you think of the government's attitude towards refugees and asylum seekers?
BM: Britain signed the 1951 convention on human rights and the 1967 protocol so it should have a responsibility towards refugees. But the reality is far removed from that convention. The Home Office now deprives asylum seekers who were once supported by NASS from every service they need and evicts them from their homes. They are not concerned where these people end up.
A few months ago in Manchester some Kurdish refugees were arrested for "being involved with Islamic extremists". The BBC broadcast this news for one week continuously and it reinforced this idea amongst the public about refugees. After a few days the police released them and apologised! The BBC, like the rest of the capitalist media, plays a very negative role by distorting the image of refugees.
AT: What do you think of the present situation in Iraq?
BM: We all hear and see from satellite channels that in post-Saddam Iraq there is no hope of a democratic country that protects civilian rights. What I see is that post-Saddam Iraq is under a great threat. This is in contrast to those who argue that a democratic and secular Iraq is being built.
Political Islam, whether Shiite or Sunni, and all other religious parties are thriving and making it more difficult to have an open, secular society. I hope that the Iraqi people and Kurdish people will become more aware of the obstacles and threats that are stopping them having a better life, after having their dreams destroyed for more than 30 years by the regime of Saddam.
Finally, I would like to thank you all and wish you success in all aspects of life and in achieving your socialist goals.
In The Socialist 30 October 2004:
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