Socialist Worker

Zahid Mubarek’s murder highlights a racist system

The inquiry into the murder of Zahid Mubarek by his racist cellmate at Feltham young offender institute heard allegations last week — denied by prison officers — that Zahid was killed after staff set up "gladiator" fights. Janet Alder, whos

Issue No. 1942

Once again an innocent victim has lost his life purely because of the colour of his skin.

Zahid Mubarek has been let down by the system that is meant to protect the vulnerable. Stephen Lawrence tragically lost his life to a racist mob. Through Stephen’s death we hoped lessons had been learned.

But time and time again we see how when issues of racism connected to deaths are raised, we hit a wall of silence backed up by the home office.

Zahid was beaten to death. The inquiry heard allegations last week that this was part of a bloodsport known as “Colisseum”, put in place by people who were there to teach young offenders right from wrong.

The answer to the problem of racism in these institutions was meant to be to speak out—something we heard happened at Feltham, but to no avail.

Former director general of the Prison Service Martin Narey told the inquiry that Feltham had a history of failings, poor design and not enough staff.

I have full respect for Duncan Keys, the Prison Officers Association official, who had tried to alert the Commission for Racial Equality in May 2004 to what had happened to Zahid. He told the inquiry he had effectively been told to “shut up” by other union officials.

This rings bells in my ears, nearly seven years after my brother Christopher Alder died on the custody suite floor of a Hull police station.

There is a system that protects those in authority. Many ordinary people have died in prisons, police custody and psychiatric hospitals without any accountability. We must fight for change and force the government to bring to justice those responsible for outrages such as Zahid’s murder.

Janet Alder is Respect’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Tottenham. The inquiry into Zahid Mubarek’s death is continuing.

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Sat 12 Mar 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1942
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