“Novaya-Europe”. ADC “Memorial” commentary on the article about the murder of a Gabonese student

A "kind man" with a knife. The murder of a graduate student from Gabon is being investigated in Yekaterinburg

… “Novaya-Europe” discussed versions of what happened with human rights activist Stefania Kulaeva, a member of the Anti-Discrimination Center “Memorial”.

– The murder story is clear,” says Kulaeva. – The defense side has the right to say whatever it wants, but there are two signs that the murder was racially motivated: one serious sign that this particular guy evokes solidarity and support of neo-Nazis. And two, there are witnesses who give interviews about hearing racist remarks from the attackers. Among other things, if a black man of African descent is attacked suddenly and killed, there is little to no chance that it is not a racially motivated murder. I’ve been dealing with this topic for 20 years, there used to be all sorts of racist comments on such news. But now the comments on the news in the Urals media are very decent, there are hundreds of them. I have a good impression of how the public reacts, 90% of commentators doubt the version of the defense and ironize that such an innocent young man was somehow walking around with a knife.

User comments on the murder of Francois Njelassili. Screenshot
User comments on the murder of Francois Njelassili. Screenshot

According to Kulaeva, racial motive is evidenced not only by nationality, but also by the social characteristics of the deceased.

“Smart students who’ve come here to study aren’t the type to get involved in knife fights regularly. There’s absolutely no reason to think that the man who was killed was some criminal genius who got deliberately stabbed to death,” she explained.

“Similarly, Samba Lampasar passed away in the neighborhood where I used to live, just around the corner from my house back in 2006. He was a young and good-looking African man who had just left a club when he was suddenly shot at by some people who had been tailing him from an alleyway. I still vividly recall the scene, with some girls attaching his picture to a drainpipe, tears streaming down their faces. Weapons were left behind at the crime scene, including a shotgun with a swastika crudely etched onto it.”

The human rights activist also remembers that during the trial of that old case, many participants faced a genuine threat of being attacked by neo-fascists. In fact, the judge was provided with state protection due to these concerns. However, today, Stefania has her doubts about the Njelassili case being thoroughly investigated as a racially motivated murder, especially given that Ekaterinburg is currently hosting the international Universiade.

– During the first trial, the individual was arrested, but it seems that the hate motive didn’t surface in court. This hints at a possible intention by the investigators to downplay the situation, especially since racism reflects very negatively, particularly during an international event. There were reports in the Urals media suggesting that Danil wasn’t acting alone. The charge ideally should be “murder as part of a group of individuals motivated by racial hatred,” but the investigation might opt for a less severe charge, one without mention of a group or motive,” she explains.

Stephania is also firmly convinced that racism in contemporary Russia is deeply ingrained in the system. She recommends examining this phenomenon through research conducted by the Levada Center and the Sova Center, despite the latter being dissolved by the authorities.

Here are the striking findings: year after year, decade after decade, the Levada Center consistently reports roughly the same statistics. These questions aren’t about straightforward self-identification as racist; instead, they delve into attitudes such as, “How do you feel about working alongside Roma colleagues? How do you feel about having Roma neighbors? Would you approve of your child marrying a Roma?” And consistently, an alarmingly high number of negative responses emerge. People may not believe they are racist, but the idea of having a Romani or African family member is met with strong resistance. This is discrimination; this is what racism truly looks like.

Stephania elaborates further, saying, “When we mention ‘Roma’ and associate it with ‘criminals,’ that’s racism. When we mention ‘Africans’ and think ‘savages,’ that’s racism. When we mention ‘indigenous peoples of Chukotka’ and remember jokes ‘about Chukcha,’ that’s racism,” Stephania explains. “Some people allow themselves only statements, and others – some actions, for example, not to take to work or to school, and others start to behave aggressively. Recently actress Valentina Talyzina scolded Akhedzhakova. It is unlikely that she became anti-Semitic yesterday, but she kept silent on the subject. And now people have the feeling that they can finally afford to say it and even do something about it. Some kind of indulgence has appeared, because if you can constantly talk about other nations on TV, that let’s cover them all with a nuclear mushroom, then the audience, I think, reads it as a signal: old people start talking nonsense against old people like them, and the young one takes a knife and cuts the young one. People think that they will be deceived by the Roma, but they are deceived by the authorities, and these people go and give their sons to death for the sake of these authorities. And for some reason they hate Roma or Jews, and for some reason they love the authorities. The difference is that Roma don’t actually kill anyone. That’s why racism is irrational, and all kinds of arguments are used to justify it. Racism leads to the deaths of such fine, educated, sweet, beautiful people as this African student”.

Read the full story at novayagazeta.eu

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