The cause: what happened to Shukri Abdi?
The death of Shukri Abdi in 2019 has become a cause for campaigners who believe that something unlawful happened. But is that the truth?
Tuesday 4 May 2021
What happens to a death when it becomes a cause? After news broke in 2019 that a 12-year-old refugee had drowned in a river, in apparently suspicious circumstances, and that the police had refused to investigate, it was taken as another powerful example of the institutional racism that pervades our police and our schools; where racist bullies can get away with murder. As an editor, it was that narrative that drew me to this case. I wanted to investigate what had happened, and what it could tell us about the reality of Britain today.
But the more we discovered about the circumstances of Shukri Abdi’s death, the more fraught this story became. Our reporter was racially abused online for asking difficult questions. This tragic story became revealing in ways we had not expected, as our pursuit of the truth began to crash into the pursuit of a cause, revealing the lines between what is journalism – and what is activism. Basia Cummings, editor