Syrian man and Iraqi friend injured in Dublin street attack

Gardaí investigate incident on Pearse Street which saw pair confronted as they spoke in Arabic

Gardaí are investigatnig the incident which occurred   at around 11.15pm on Sunday when the two men  stopped on their bikes at a red traffic light on Pearse Street, Dublin. File image: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

Gardaí are investigatnig the incident which occurred at around 11.15pm on Sunday when the two men stopped on their bikes at a red traffic light on Pearse Street, Dublin. File image: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

 

Gardaí are investigating an attack on two men - one Syrian and the other Iraqi - on Pearse Street in Dublin’s city centre on Sunday night.

The Irish Times spoke to Jamal (28) and Mohammed (30), who preferred not to give their surnames, about how they were set upon by a group of men believed to be in their 20s and 30s.

The pair were cycling home from work at around 11.15pm on Sunday when they stopped at a red traffic light on Pearse Street. They were chatting in Arabic when a man standing nearby started shouting. The man then ran forward and pushed Jamal off his bike, they say.

“I fell on my feet and pushed him back asking ‘what’s wrong with you’,” recalled Jamal who is from Syria.

“His friend came over and said he’s just messing and then a third guy showed up. One of them pretended to steal my bike and again said he was just messing. I was like ‘okay, just leave us alone’.”

The pair said the men gestured that they should shake hands when suddenly one of the group punched Mohammed in the jaw.

“I jumped forward and punched the guy back and then a fight broke out,” said Jamal. “I fell to the ground and two of the guys started kicking me in the head. I ended up unconscious for a few seconds.”

The men eventually ran off, laughing about Mohammed’s long hair and shouting “we beat up Jesus”. A passing car stopped to call an ambulance and a few minutes later gardaí came by the scene.

The two men were brought to St James’s Hospital where Jamal was treated for a fractured nose and a cut over his left eyebrow which required stitches. He also suffered two black eyes, a shoulder injury and has teeth mark on his chest where one of the men bit him during the struggle.

Mohammed, who was less seriously injured, suffered bruises to his body and a muscle injury in his shoulder.

Video footage

The men have filed a report with gardaí and plan to press charges. A resident on Pearse Street filmed the incident from his apartment and has shared the footage with gardaí, they say.

This is the first time both men, who have lived in Ireland for five years, have been attacked in this country. They said the men did not shout racial slurs but believe the group approached them because they were speaking Arabic.

“I was once verbally abused on the Dart and called a terrorist but the people on the train defended me,” said Mohammed.

“It all feels very tough after that physical attack. It makes me feel like I don’t belong here and I’m not completely safe.

“I never felt safe back in my home but that’s a country at war. Now I have the same feeling here. I’m always looking over my shoulder and have trimmed my beard to look less threatening to people.

“Everyone talks about the Irish being welcoming and friendly and it is one of the best places to live but there is another side to the story, what we’ve gone through, and someone needs to stop it.”

Jamal, who has an Irish girlfriend and plenty of Irish friends, said he had heard “multiple stories” from colleagues at the company where he worked who had suffered racial abuse in this country. One colleague, who is from an African country, had milk thrown in her face as she left Spar recently while another from Algeria was beaten up in the street after being called a “terrorist”, he said.

“I know the general Irish population doesn’t act like this and I’m angry because I know this is not what Irish values are about,” said Jamal.

“It frustrates me that there are no repercussions for this type of behaviour. There’s no clear definition in Irish law for hate crime and that’s the real problem.”

Jamal also admitted to feeling unsafe on the streets following Sunday’s attack. “I’m a physically fit person and I thought I could defend myself but in this situation I got the s**t kicked out of me. Now I’m thinking: What can I do to be more prepared? What can I do to make sure me and my girlfriend are safe?”

A spokesman for the Garda confirmed it was investigating an “assault incident” that occurred on Pearse Street on August 16th but no arrests had been made.

“Initial enquiries do not indicate that this incident was racially motivated, however Gardaí continue to investigate all the circumstances of the incident,” he said.

“An Garda Síochána takes hate crime seriously, and each and every hate crime reported to us is professionally investigated and victims supported during the criminal justice process.”

A number of cases of racially motivated attacks have emerged publicly in recent days including the case of Xuedan (Shelly) Xiong who was pushed into Dublin’s Royal Canal by a group of teenage boys last week and that of Martin Hong and Arthur Ma who were attached in Cork earlier this month.

* An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated one of those attacked was Libyan when he was in fact from Iraqi.