Social Justice

Why We Can't Let Shukri Abdi's Story Go Quiet

Bustle Creative Team

Shukri Yayhe-Abdi, a 12-year-old Somali refugee living in Manchester, was found dead on June 28, 2019, after drowning in the River Irwell. The subsequent investigations into the handling of her case by police, and the circumstances surrounding her death, have raised more questions than answers, and these remain unresolved. The case has been in and out of the news, and Shukri's name has become a hashtag (#Justice4Shukri), with many calling for a conclusive inquest. The case has recently been given new attention thanks to Black Lives Matter campaigners, and at the time of writing, the Justice for Shukri petition has received more than 1 million signatures.

Shukri’s death is not an isolated tragedy, but yet another example of how ill-equipped the UK remains in dealing with hate crimes, failing to support Black, minority ethnic, and refugee communities. To cut through the misinformation, here's a timeline of her case, plus what you can do to to help in the fight for justice for Shukri.

What happened to Shukri Yayhe-Abdi?

Shukri Yayhe-Abdi was a daughter, a sister, a niece. The eldest of five children, she came to the UK with her family in 2017 from a refugee camp in Kenya – where they were fleeing conflict in Somalia. Under the vulnerable person's resettlement scheme, they were housed in Bury, a small town in Greater Manchester. “She came here for a better life," her aunt, Anab Ture, told The Guardian. Shukri’s teachers at school and mosque described her as a lively, friendly, happy child.

Two-and-a-half years after arriving in the UK, on June 28, 2019, Shukri drowned in the River Irwell. Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said it believed Shukri “had been playing with two other children” when she drowned. Initially, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) treated her death as a "tragic incident" and said they did not believe there were any suspicious circumstances.

However, her family claim that she was badly bullied at school for more than a year leading up to her death, and that the school had failed to take their concerns seriously. In July 2019, a peaceful protest outside the school saw hundreds calling for a thorough investigation into her death. Later that month, the school said it would be “reviewing all anti-bullying policies and procedures".

Her family also insisted that Shukri couldn’t swim and wouldn’t have been playing near the river.

After just two weeks of investigations, police ruled that Shukri's death was an accident and closed the case. Complaints alleged that officers ended investigations prematurely and treated relatives differently because of their ethnic background.

How has the handling of Shukri's case been investigated?

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) opened their investigation into the handling of the case in August 2019.

The BBC reported that IOPC regional director Amanda Rowe said: "I am aware that the circumstances of Shukri's death are a concern to many, not least because there are many unanswered questions about how she came to be in the River Irwell that day.

"That is a matter for Greater Manchester Police and the coroner."

The IOPC’s investigation was completed in January 2020, and has, according to BBC News, already been shared with GMP and Shukri's family. Rowe said that all complaints "were treated with the upmost seriousness and very carefully assessed", and confirmed that the IOPC's report will be published following this ongoing inquest.

What's the status of the ongoing inquest into Shukri's death?

Meanwhile, an independent inquest was opened in February and is still ongoing.

So far during the inquest, Shukri's mother, Zam Zam Ture, and the other children connected with the case have given evidence. The children cannot be named for legal reasons, so are referred to only as Child One, Child Two, Child Three, Child Four and Child Five.

At the hearing, Child Two said that Shukri and Child One were at first holding hands when they got into the river. Child One was reported to have told Shukri earlier in the day: “If you don’t get into the water, I’m going to kill you.” Although Child Two suggested this had been said in a “joking” way.

The evidence of Child One has not yet been heard, as per The Guardian, along with evidence from police officers involved in the case.

However, the inquiry has now been adjourned due to COVID-19, with no date confirmed for when it will be reopened.

Gal-dem spoke to Steven Duckworth, a witness that jumped into the water to try and save Shukri’s life, in March 2020, about the impact that these delays have already had. “It was a long time ago, I wish they’d have [done the inquiry then]," he said. Gal-dem notes that it's these endless delays that are still preventing Shukri's family from knowing the truth about the circumstances surrounding her death.

What can I do to help?

Prominent supporters calling for justice for Shukri include Star Wars actor John Boyega, Malcolm X’s daughter Ilyasah Shabazz, and American rapper Ice Cube. To show your support you can:

You may also want to take steps to educate yourself on the Somalia Refugee Crisis in order to start to understand the experiences of Somalian refugees.

Contributions from Rebecca Fearn, and Farah Shafiq.