Why Bijan Ebrahimi’s murder should cause the British legal system to ask itself some hard, hard, questions

An innocent Iranian, Bijan Ebrahimi, is dead, another name to add to the grim list of disabled people falsely accused of sexual crimes they didn’t commit- and then cruelly murdered. I grieve for him and his family. I share an Iranian heritage too, on my birth father’s side. (If you want to read about my own story, and how I came to live in the UK,  you can do so here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Water-Anglo-Iranian-Kindle-ebook/dp/B00E00BEZQ/ref=la_B004GH8LS6_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1383565614&sr=1-4)

The Ebrahimi family, like so many others, have lived through the turbulent history of our country and Mr Ebrahimi is reported to have had refugee status in the UK. They – and Bijan, perhaps, in particular, as a disabled person, should have found solace and comfort in the UK, as I have done. Instead, their beloved Bijan is dead and he shouldn’t be. He needn’t have died. The British legal and social care system failed him, and I, as a campaigning journalist, will do my best over the next few months, to raise the profile of his case and try, as best I can, to bring some closure to the family who clearly loved him so much. At the Disability Hate Crime Network, on Facebook, co-ordinated by Stephen Brookes, Anne Novis, me and others, we will continue to follow the case and hold the criminal justice system to account. We will not forget Bijan Ebrahimi, and as a number of us hold advisory posts within the criminal justice system, we will do our best to make sure that what happened to him will be a wake-up call to our legal system.

I know, from my friend Anne Novis, whose seminal work in raising the false rape allegations against disabled murder victim, Albert Adams, kickstarted much of my research, that the Metropolitan Police Service is already looking at Bijan Ebrahimi’s case, and asking what lessons it should learn from it. Stephen Brookes and Ruth Bashall – both great disability rights campaigners –  are going to share their thoughts about the case at the College of Policing tomorrow. Let’s hope those lessons are spread far and wide – throughout the British legal system.

No Place to Call Home – book reviews

A round-up of reviews here. 

Ian Birrell, who also reviewed my last book, Scapegoat: why we are failing disabled people, posted a very thoughtful review in the Observer. He concluded that it was “An important book by an impressive journalist” although he did feel there was a bit too much reporting from Dale Farm which does form the spine of the narrative. But he did feel it painted a rightfully bleak picture of the bleak social exclusion in which so many Romanies and Travellers lives – although there’s lots of fun to be had as well in the communities! Read the full review here: 

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/aug/26/no-place-home-quarmby-review

In the Guardian, Rose George said that the book was “forcefully written” and concludes: “As an exposure of the modern troubles of these unique, tight-knit communities of Travellers, it sets you travelling on the right road.” Interestingly, she felt that I was sentimental at times about the communities. I disagree, of course; I feel that I let their feelings show, as fellow human beings. But it’s a fair review: 

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/aug/16/no-place-call-home-travellers?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487

The Times review, by Fay Schlesinger, can only be seen behind the paywall, but to sum up, the reporter concurs that it is difficult to report from both sides of the conflict as one side inevitably feels hard done by. She runs through the history in the book and does a fair summary of the book, concluding that while I attempt to write a dispassionate history of both sides of the conflict, I end up on the side of the Travellers (you must judge that for yourselves of course!). If you have a subscription you can read it here: 

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/arts/books/non-fiction/article3841137.ece

The review by the Herald, in Scotland, is a very thoughtful run-through of the main issues facing Gypsies, Roma and Travellers today and historically, concluding: “Even in households where anti-Semitism and Islamophobia would be unacceptable, slurs against Gypsies and Travellers are still allowed to propagate, which is why Quarmby’s book deserves to be given due prominence. Without greater under-standing there will be more, and bloodier, Dale Farms will follow.” It rightly, in my mind, states that racism against travelling people is the last accepted form of racism in this country. 

You can read the full review here: 

http://www.heraldscotland.com/books-poetry/reviews/katharine-quarmby-no-place-to-call-home-oneworld.21901309