Disclaimer: Whilst some of the content in this passage is based on real events, the names included are not real. This extract aims to look into the lives of the two counterparts; the refugee and the bully.
After viewing a video of a schoolboy experiencing abuse from his peers, it triggered a feeling of hate in my mind whilst my heart shattered into pieces. A Syrian refugee suffers discriminatory harm on a daily basis from young teens whilst I complain about my lack of caffeine intake in the mornings. I’m ashamed. I feel guilty that not only I but, others around me are oblivious to the harsh realities refugees face. I sit here wondering whether it is right for me to hate these bullies who torture innocent youngsters into believing that their existence in the country is “wrong.” Admittedly, after viewing those thirty seconds of pure cowardice, I exclaimed “f*cking b*stards” because, anything that puts minors in a difficult situation infuriates me. But, these perpetrators are his peers. They are educated under one roof. They are inhabitants of the same town. They are children of the same generation. How can it be that children who can barely string a sentence together, can be brave enough to carry out unthinkable, unforgettable and unforgivable acts?
Let me put things into perspective and let me put myself into both pairs of shoes; the bullies and the refugees.
Adnan is my name but, some days I’m called a foreigner and some days I’m called an illegal immigrant. I’ll be walking home from school and some even shout “paki,” which is wrong because I am Syrian. I moved to the UK approximately two years ago with my mother and my little sister. She is now four years old. She was very small when we first arrived here and I was 14. My mother still weeps every night, she misses Syria but, for what is used to be. It used to be a safe place, where we lived anyway. Mother will often say that it was inevitable. The war I mean. But, we never expected for it to spiral out of control to the point where we would be fleeing the country. The country where I grew up. The country where my family are situated.
It was hard moving to the UK. I didn’t know much English, I did study the basics at my school in Syria but, nothing too complex. My father used to tell me that the English language was almost a superpower because, with the English language in your bank, comes opportunities and a job that many would dream of having. Despite knowing very little English, I still felt uncomfortable coming to the UK. It’s not my home. I don’t belong here. People look at me and my family like we are animals. We don’t wear the best of clothes, we can’t afford to. My mother is very thankful that the local community centre provided her with a job, not many hours but, it’s something. The community centre also has a playgroup, which is ideal for my little sister. Whilst she plays with her friends, mother works. She has to do everything by herself now. Father used to be the worker. He would have dreams of building his own business once the war ended. He always told us about his dreams. He used to tell us stories about the “man who made something out of nothing” and as the years passed, I clocked on that he was talking about himself in third person.
I was very excited to start school after Christmas. A new year means new beginnings. I had a mentor called Ben who is now one of my best friends. He introduced me to all of his friends and suddenly I had a handful of friends who were keen to help me progress my English language skills. Some of them even invited me into their homes to meet their families and to eat dinner with them. Unfortunately, there never goes a day where someone doesn’t target me. It is often racially motivated. It is often the same group of people too. I don’t tell the teachers you see because if I do, it will only get worse. Sometimes I think, maybe I should go back to Syria. But, I hear my father’s voice in my head telling me to be the better person followed by telling me to walk away. Sometimes I do fight back, how am I not supposed to when I am tackled to the ground with people punching and kicking me?
I don’t feel sorry for myself, I feel sorry for the bullies. They mustn’t have much else to do.
One day, I’ll eat my dinner in peace with Ben and the boys however, not today.
And one day, I’ll fulfill my Dad’s dreams and be the person who made something out of nothing.
My friends call me Toby, my parents call me Tobias when I’ve irritated them, which is often because I tend to get maybe two detentions a week. My detentions are mainly from swearing in class or not doing my homework. I like most of my teachers but, some of them are boring and to be honest, who needs to learn English anyways. I can speak it can’t I?
I spend most of my days at school and after school, I get to see my friends again. We all live in the same area and because mum and dad are often at work, they don’t really know that I am out until late in the evenings. I’m 16 anyways, practically an adult. I can make my own decisions and quite frankly, I can do whatever I want. Mum works at the hospital, she is a nurse. Dad is a policeman, I think that’s why he gets frustrated with me when I get told off at school. Mum and dad always have friends around the house, they have a few foreign friends too which I don’t mind but, I do find it strange because I once read on Facebook that foreigners are taking all of our jobs. So, I do wonder why my parents aren’t scared of losing their jobs to their friends. Dad came home last week after a late night shift and I overheard him say to mum that there’s been some bother with the refugees. That apparently some of them have been lingering around the streets, homeless. There’s a few refugees at my school, does that mean they’re homeless too? That’s probably why they smell.
I go to the shop every morning before going to school, I get around £10-15 pocket money a week, spend most of it on sweets. Tariq who owns the shop has been there for years apparently, mum and dad know him from when they used to stop by before their times at school. He’s a nice guy, he always says hello and asks how my parents are doing. In his shop he has a stack of newspapers, I don’t tend to read the news, only if it ever comes up on Facebook or whenever i get tagged in something. Only recently I have noticed a lot of stories around immigrants. I think it was the Daily Express who’s front page headline was “Illegal Immigrants Pour Into Britain.” Which is bad because, if they are illegal then they shouldn’t be here right? The Sun also published something along the lines of “Illegals Have Landed.” I never know what to think of these stories, there’s a lot of fake news going around – our teachers have touched on this, kind of.
Steven tells me that anything that is printed is true and anything that is online could possibly be fake. I don’t know though. Steven also tells me that his mum and step-dad are struggling to find a job because all of the immigrants have taken them. Apparently we have let too many in, we as in the government. Steven will often shout things at the foreigners at school, he doesn’t really care. Steven is Steven. He lives with his mum and step-dad, his parents separated when he was at primary school. I couldn’t imagine life without my real dad. Today, Steven dared me to push Adnan over during dinner time because Adnan doesn’t belong here. I questioned it because, does he? I don’t know but, I did it anyway.
Steven recorded me pushing Jamaal over and now it’s all over social media.
I don’t know what to do.