Friday, 23 January 2009

Making migrants visible (or not)

Two days ago, read on the Mail Online how a "Romanian immigrant raped an English woman so he can get lessons in the same prison as his brother" (21/01/2009). From Sky News to the Yorkshire Post, the story made a splash. Readers even had the opportunity to see the face of the rapist, Ali Majlat. This probably did not add anything to the news itself, apart from increasing mistrust towards those looking like migrants who would rape us to get free lessons.

Yet according to the American association RAINN (Rape, Incest and Abuse National Network): "Approximately 73% of rape victims know their assailants." Focusing on the remaining 21% is obviously an editorial and political choice working against the interests of most of the rape victims. Moreover, "While about 80% of all victims are white, minorities are somewhat more likely to be attacked."
Thus this tragic news - presented with a sensationalist headline to promote voyeurism instead of intelligence and real empathy - is at the end reinforcing old myths about rape (and race). It might be useful at some point to get back to the chapter 11 of Angela Davis' Woman, Race and Class. In this section, entitled "Rape, Racism and the Myth of the Black Rapist", Angela Davis writes:

"In the United States and other capitalist countries, rape laws as a rule were framed originally for the protection of men of the upper classes, whose daughters and wives might be assaulted. What happens to working-class women has usually been of little concern to the courts; as a result, remarkably few white men have been prosecuted for the sexual violence they have inflicted on these women. While the rapists have seldom been brought to justice, the rape charge has been indiscriminately aimed at Black men, the guilty and innocent alike. Thus, of the 455 men executed between 1930 and 1967 on the basis of rape convictions, 405 of them were

As a consequence, it feels like the migrant rapist is visible in the media not for being a rapist but for being a migrant.

On the same month, another migrant, from Bengladesh, had been killed in Greece, trying to avoid an assault of the Asylum police. His name (Hussein Zahidul), his age (24), his face did not appear in any of the publication where the rapist was mentioned.

Athens Indymedia reported the event first in an article (8/01/2009) then translated into English by the Clandestinenglish blog:

"24 year old Bangladeshi Hussein Zahidul was found dead on Saturday, January 3, 2009. He is the second refugee to die since October near the Asylum Police Department in Athens. He was found dead in exactly the same ditch where Muhammad Asraf also lost his life on October 27, 2008, while trying to avoid an assault by the police, which frequently attacks the masses of migrants queuing to hand their asylum applications. Between the two killings two very serious incidents of harassment took place: on 28 November, 2008 the cops beat up Ahmed Azaz and broke his hand, while he was queuing at the same department. On the same day, the Pakistani Mazehar Iqbal fell in the same ditch; he is still in a comatose condition and hospitalized.This is one more death inflicted by the ways police treat people in Greece, and one more act of violence against immigrants after the assault on Konstantina Kuneva."

How many people in our newspapers - like Hussein Zahidul, Muhammad Asraf, Ahmed Azaz, Mazehar Iqbal - are hidden behind one Ali Majlat?