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Syrian refugee boy fears Huddersfield school after 'shocking' attack

'I woke up at night and just started crying about this problem. They think I'm different - different from them'

Sam Blewett
Thursday 29 November 2018 00:35 GMT
Almondbury Community School as 16-year-old boy charged with assault over attack on 15-year-old Syrian refugee at school

A 15-year-old Syrian refugee attacked at school and threatened with drowning in a video shared on social media has said he no longer feels safe studying there.

His comments came as fresh footage emerged of what was said to be the boy's sister being physically abused, also at Almondbury Community School, in Huddersfield.

West Yorkshire Police said a 16-year-old boy has been interviewed over the attack on the boy, and reported for summons for an offence of assault ahead of a youth court appearance.

The boy was questioned by police over the footage in which the 15-year-old victim, with his arm is in a cast, is thrown to the ground.

He is dragged to the floor by his neck before his attacker says, "I'll drown you", while forcing water from a bottle into his mouth.

The victim reportedly fled war-torn Homs with his family and now feels unsafe going to the school following the incident last month.

"I woke up at night and just started crying about this problem. They think I'm different - different from them," he told ITV News. "I don't feel safe at school. Sometimes I say to my dad, 'I don't want to go to school anymore'. I was just crying and I didn't do nothing because I respect the school rules."

Supporters say they are organising a protest outside the school, stressing that it will be peaceful.

He appears not to have been the only victim, with a fresh video emerging.

It shows a hijab-wearing girl, said by the family's lawyer to be the boy's sister, pushed down a grass verge and shoved by a group.

The first incident's alleged perpetrator has been the subject of hundreds of violent threats online.

A Facebook account believed to belong to him features numerous posts shared from the page of English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson, a convicted fraudster whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.

One of those posts, apparently referencing comments by Boris Johnson about Muslim women wearing veils, read: "Should Britain ban letterboxes because of all the trouble they're causing?"

Robinson was jailed for contempt of court earlier this year after posting videos about a child grooming trial involving a group of Asian men from Huddersfield. He was later freed on appeal.

The 16-year-old gave The Sun Online a handwritten statement in which he accepted responsibility for his actions, but denied bullying the younger boy.

"The incident was isolated and came about from an altercation between us earlier that day," he said. "The incident was not racial as up to that time we had been on good terms."

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The widely-shared video of the first attack prompted wellwishers to set up an online crowdfunding page for the victim which received more than £105,000 in donations over a day.

In a statement, West Yorkshire Police said: "The incident occurred on October 25 this year and has been subject to thorough investigation since it was reported to us the day after. The victim and his family are receiving ongoing support from police and other agencies."

The force said another "unconnected" incident occurred on 7 October and left the boy with a wrist injury.

Three children were interviewed but officers left the matter to be dealt with by the school.

Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman said the video of the assault against one of his constituents was "absolutely shocking".

"Understand from council that the school have taken strong action. Will be following up to ensure all available support is being given," he tweeted.

In a letter to parents, Almondbury Community School headteacher Trevor Bowen said: "Since the incident occurred in October, the school, the local authority and the police have all taken action. We must allow the legal process to take its course, but I want to be absolutely clear that we do not tolerate unacceptable behaviour of any sort in our school.

"I can also assure you that we are working very hard to ensure it is 'business as usual' across the school and that there is no disruption to the children's education."

Dr Lisa Doyle, director of Advocacy at the Refugee Council, added: "We are utterly shocked and appalled by the attack on a 15-year-old boy who came to the UK in search of safety. The idea that someone escapes war and brutality, only to be met with violence here, is truly awful. We have been heartened by the fantastic outpouring of support from many members of the British public who are sending a clear message that nobody in our community should be treated in this way."

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