In August 2011 Britain was on television screens around the world when the country exploded into several days of rioting. Looting, fighting, arson, vandalism and even death occurred in a month of violence and disarray.
The timeline is as follows:
On Thursday 4th August 2011 29-year-old Mark Duggan from Tottenham was shot dead by police attempting to arrest him for allegedly planning an attack, they claim he possessed a handgun. Following the incident around 300 people gathered outside Tottenham police station demanding “justice” for Duggan and his family.
Eye witnesses state the protest began peacefully until altercations occurred between the police and public, soon violence broke out and two police cars were set alight. Over the coming days rioting and looting occurred across cities including Croydon, Hackney, Camden, Lewisham, Peckham, Nottingham, Bristol and Birmingham. All of which was condemned by the Duggan family.
On Wednesday 10th August 2011 when the chaos began to spread into Birmingham city, three men stepped outside to defend their community. 30-year-old Abdul Musavir, 31-year-old Shahzad Ali and 19-year-old Haroon Jahan were out guarding the local businesses of the area when they were hit and killed by a speeding car. Violence and anger was simmering after the deaths of the three men but one man in particular was cut deep. Haroon’s father Tariq Jahan witnessed the death of his son and endured the pain of trying the failing to resuscitate him. The father however carried out an action that any parent would struggle to do. Like his son, Tariq stepped outside to defend his community. In a statement to the press after the incident Tariq uttered the famous words,
“I lost my son, step forward if you want to lose your sons, otherwise calm down and go home.”
This declaration of peace was a rain storm over a blazing wildfire.
So far the eight men accused of the murders were acquitted whilst Tariq and his family requested a public enquiry into the handling of the investigation. As the riots died down the public and politicians tried to make sense of it all, for Tariq however this was the beginning of a personal journey to find peace and create a positive legacy for his son. This resulted in the Haroon Tariq Jahan Foundation. The foundation was conceived to bring justice for the deaths of Haroon, Shazad and Abdul, it was also a chance to create the legacy Tariq wanted for his son, a legacy of giving back.
The foundation is involved in numerous charitable activities such as feeding the homeless and helping refugees around the world, Tariq explained the creation of the charity,
“Having witnessed the death of your own son you can understand the suffering of people around the world, so every time I go out and see someone suffering I feel obliged to try and help them.
Having gone out to Syria and other countries, sometimes with other charities, I witnessed the devastation out there. I came back and realised that there is much more I can do than just talk about the issue, I can raise money for these countries and people were actually interested in helping and donating.”
Supporting the charity alongside Tariq are brother Tahir Nakash, sister and Chair of Board of Trustees Sophia Yasmin, businessman Habib Rehman and community leader Abdullah Rehman. So far 17,540 people have signed the petition to examine the police investigation of the murders of Haroon, Shazad and Abdul. The charity has delivered food, toiletries and clothing to refugees in Syria, Lesbos, Greece and Turkey. Despite the positive effect of Tariq’s tireless charity work and generous donations from the public, the father went through a personal transformation. We asked how he had changed since 2011, “I am a lot calmer. If I am honest the media made me out to be some good guy or angel and I was not really. I was a very strong person who though I could do what I wanted my way. Now I am more humbled, forgiving and trying to do the best I can to help others. If I want to leave that positive legacy for my son I have to change myself.”
To this day reasons behind the riots vary according to news sources and experts, examples include poverty, race relations, social class injustice, unemployment or consumerism to name a few. In the midst of scrambling for an answer we forget the human core of the story, the loss of a child. Was death really on the minds of the participators of that chaotic month? Probably not, perhaps in the heat of the moment surrounded by violence and anti-social behaviour, we lose our humanity for one second and act without thought. Before you know it, someone loses their life and an entire family is changed forever.
So what is Tariq’s final message for anyone suffering the grief of losing someone? “Grief is shared by everyone but try to channel that grief into something positive as it will be rewardable to the person you lost. If you remember that person and cry all day long, you won’t achieve anything or help yourself.
You have to get up, fight back and do everything possible to help others and you will feel like you have done something for that lost loved one.”
“I can never forget my son, no matter how much people say time heals, it never goes away. To witness your own child dying on the ground whilst trying to revive him, how can you forget something like that? Get involved with your local community, try to inspire others and encourage them, especially the young generation. We have to wake the younger generation up and let them know that they are so fortunate in this country and have so much potential that they should not let it go to waste. Make something of your life, do something, achieve something and be remembered for what you did.”
To sing the petition for a public enquiry or for more information on Tariq’s charity work visit haroontariqjahanfoundation.org