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Anniversary of Shukri Abdi’s death marked with global protests

24th Jul 2020
Anniversary of Shukri Abdi’s death marked with global protests

Protesters demanding justice for death of Shukri Abdi, march through central London, on June 27. (Credit: Isabel Infantes/Anadolu Agency)

Nadine Osman

Protests took place across 10 cities in the UK, US and Canada on June 27 to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of Shukri Abdi, a Somali refugee schoolgirl who drowned in the River Irwell, and whose case has been reignited globally by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Campaigners led by her mother Zamzam Ture insist the 12-year-old was a victim of bullying at school. A group of children had been with Shukri at the river in the period before she died.

Abdi’s mother expressed initial confusion over how Abdi had ended up in the river. Her uncle reported that as she couldn’t swim, she “wouldn’t even go near the edge” of bodies of water, calling the incident “out of character.”

An inquest that opened in February, but which was adjourned with no confirmed resumption date, largely focuses on events on the day of Shukri’s death. It is not examining allegations of bullying at school.

Following Shukri’s death, Greater Manchester police initially said they were treating the incident as a “tragic incident” and did not believe there were any suspicious circumstances.

Abdi was found last year in River Irwell, where she had been with a group of other children shortly before she died. A child who allegedly tried to save her life told an inquest that another child forced her to get into the water and later “laughed for two minutes while she died.”

Her body was also said to have had a bite and scratch marks when she was recovered.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct has investigated the police’s actions in the case and will publish a report after the inquest.

Prominent supporters calling for justice for Shukr include the Star Wars actor John Boyega, Malcolm X’s daughter Ilyasah Shabazz, and the US rapper and actor Ice Cube [O’Shea Jackson].

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, has called for “the widest possible investigation” into the circumstances of her death.

Four out of the five children who were with Shukri at various times on the day she died have given evidence by video link at the inquest.

Shukri’s mother told the inquest her daughter could not swim. One of the children told the inquest another child laughed when Shukri got into difficulty in the water.

Joanne Kearsley, a senior coroner for Manchester North, who is presiding over the inquest, has commended two of the children for their attempts to save Shukri’s life when she was drowning.Shukri came to the UK with her family after they had fled conflict in Somalia. Shukri was born and raised in a refugee camp in Kenya.

A petition aimed at Manchester Police last year has garnered renewed interest since being endorsed by Black Lives Matter activists and celebrities. The Justice for Shukri Abdi petition has over a million signatures.

A second petition, titled Investigate Broadoaksports College (Hazel Wood High School) & GMP Criminal Investigation now has over 370,000 signatures and it too demands that authorities ‘independently investigate both the Local Education Authority of Bury, and Lancashire and Broad Oak Sports College for potential negligence and a potential breach of duty of care towards pupils in light of accusations of failure to address incidents of bullying.’ Her family said she was bullied at school for more than a year, accusing authorities of failing to respond to their concerns.

Maz Saleem of the Justice4Shukri campaign said, “We must hold all those institutions to account that failed to protect her when she was alive and until this very day. We will continue to fight for justice for Shukri and eagerly await the final inquest dates.”


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