Bedfordshire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Tafheen Sharif is spreading the message from survivors of atrocities in Bosnia that hate crimes must not be tolerated and that justice must prevail.
The message comes as the county prepares for for Hate Crime Awareness Week which begins on Monday, June 9.
Part of a recent UK police delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ms Sharif met with many courageous ‘Mothers of Srebrenica’ who lost their fathers, sons, brothers, husbands and loved ones less than two decades ago.
She said: “The mothers spoke of their work to seek justice for having their world torn apart just because they are Muslims.
“Their powerful message is that hatred must not be tolerated in any shape or form in any country. Yet racism, discrimination and the promotion of hatred continues to persist, even in the UK.
“As individuals we must each feel empowered to stand up and speak out against intolerance and racial abuse, wherever and whenever it occurs. This is why it is important that here in Bedfordshire hate crime of all kinds is reported to the police or agencies.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins is fully supportive of the county’s unified Hate Crime Strategy that involves the three community safety partnerships, Bedfordshire Police, victim support groups, councils and many other organisations. Ms Sharif, who leads on Hate Crime on the Commissioner’s behalf, is a member of the county-wide Hate Crime Task Group.
Mr Martins shares Ms Sharif’s belief that much can be learned from how people have overcome the terrible hatred and religious intolerance that was seen in the Balkans conflict.
He said: “Some people go to Auschwitz or The Anne Frank House to try to understand man’s capacity for inhumanity to man, but the tragic and powerful difference with Srebrenica is that it happened within our living memory and we can still hear the first hand testimony of the grieving witnesses.”
Ms Sharif added: “As seen in Bosnia, tolerating hatred can lead to destroyed lives. The genocide killed over 8000 in Srebrenica alone, and destroyed what was once their civil society.”
She now aims to use what has been learned from those terrible events to create a cohesive society for all by raising awareness and tackling hate crime. “I want to see our differences become our strengths, with injustice the only intolerable thing that’s left,” she said. “We must never be complacent. The international community must strive constantly for peace and the defence of human rights.”
Among recent moves to raise awareness of different types of hate crime and how best to tackle them was Bedfordshire Police’s recent decision to start recording Islamaphobia separately. The change – welcomed by the Commissioner and his Deputy – is aimed at recording incidents in a way that accords with the victim’s perspective and provides data that can be put to best use.