Syrian family in Greenock facing racist abuse and threats of violence

candles dark sombre

Media manager Pauline Diamond Salim reflects on the consequences of media coverage around Parsons Green attack.

A Greenock-based Syrian family has been targeted with racist abuse and threats of violence  after their cousin was arrested and released without charge in connection with the Parsons Green attack in London last month.

The family links between Yahyah Farroukh, a young man who is no longer under suspicion of involvement in the Parsons Green incident, and his cousins in Greenock, were exploited in press coverage which trawled personal social media accounts for images related to Yahyah’s Scottish based family.

We hoped we wouldn’t be here commenting on this story. When we saw the misappropriated  Facebook photos of the family in the press we feared this would put the family and the Syrian community in Scotland at risk, that this would lead to a backlash.

The Daily Record and others’  headlines cast a shadow of suspicion over not just Yahyah and his family but, by association, the Syrian and wider refugee community here.

We know people have anxieties about people coming to Scotland from parts of the world that are mired in conflict and terrorist violence. When we see that violence on the news we all fear it. When we see terrorist attacks around Europe we fear it will be our city next. These attacks have us all on edge but it’s deeply unfair to exploit these fears and give fuel to those among us who are just waiting for a stick to beat refugees with.

This rush to judgement unleashes the worst in some people, as we've seen in the abuse directed at Yahyah's family. It's been reported that his mum had a heart attack when she heard her son was reported as implicated in the Parsons Green attack. His relatives in Greenock have a seven year old son who is now terrified to answer the door. 

All of this could have been avoided.

The support we witness for refugees from ordinary people in Scotland, the UK and around the world makes us proud and sustains us. Among the coverage of Yahyah’s trip to Scotland was a comment from his neighbour in Surrey who said the family were  “really lovely to talk to”. It’s not a big headline grabbing statement, it’s not newsworthy in the way these things are usually calculated. It’s just a quiet rational voice of someone who is now frightened that his neighbour is a terrorist - regardless of the fact that he was never charged with the crime in the first place.  

Really lovely to talk to. And now terrified to answer the door. 

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