How can you stand & watch hooligans kill a person?

2015-04-19 18:16

Tugce Albayrak

A few months ago, I read a story of a German young woman of Turkish descent named Tugce Albayrak. Tugce intervened after hearing two young girls scream for help from the toilets of a fast-food restaurant. Men were harassing the two young girls; one of them punched Tugce in the head. She was in a coma for two weeks and medical professionals advised her parents that, considering the extent of the damage to her brain, she would never regain consciousness and so they switched off the machines that kept her heart beating.

Many around the world praise Tugce for her civil courage, and taking action when observing undesirable social conduct. Others have asked the question of whether it was wise of her to get involved, risking her life like that. Should she have called for help instead?

This reminded me of a man who was stabbed to death while sleeping in his shack in Khayelitsha. We heard noise, it was the murderer trying to break in, he couldn’t so he cut the door open.

Where were we? In our own shacks peeking through curtains. No one would dare interrupt a murderer. Then we heard women screaming for help. The two women had caught the killer with his bloodied knife still in his hands.

We went outside to see what was happening. Note: to see what was happening, not to help. The two women asked us to call for help. No one did anything; we just stood there and watched them as they struggled with the man who had just murdered someone. The murderer eventually got away, and only then did we shout ‘catch him, catch him’. Again note: we were not chasing him but shouting ‘catch him catch him’ as we stood no more than two meters from our doorsteps.

Tugce, a young woman, intervened on her own, against men. We, both grown men and women, did nothing as a man was being killed, and watched the murderer run away. We could have stopped him when he was cutting the door open, and the man would be alive today.

Why did we not do anything? There seems to be an attitude of ‘it’s okay as long as it is not me’. All my life I have observed this from the days the village watched as my uncle hit us, he moved on to his girlfriend, then his mother. Interesting that when he hit Gogo, she went straight to the police and pressed charges against him. He was convicted and died in prison. Gogo watched and did nothing when he was abusing everyone else until he hit her.

Today I saw the pictures of Mozambican Emmanuel Sithole being stabbed to death, after the killers stalked him like animals stalking their prey.On the picture, you see a group of people watching as the murderous scums kill an innocent man. They did nothing but watch because ‘it’s okay as long as it is not me’.

Emmanuel Sithole being stabbed to death

Many have asked what has happened to our values of Ubuntu? How can you stand there and not feel compelled to act when a person is being killed? Perhaps because we observe violence almost on a daily basis that we have forgotten the values that define us. It is very difficult to understand how no one would get the bigger group watching a man being killed to actually do something. This approval of the crime against humanity is deeply disturbing.

We sit in the comfort of our homes, and write comments online about how we are against this wave of violence on black foreign nationals. But if someone attacked a foreign national, or anyone before you, what would you do? Would you put your life on the line?

It is different when you are alone, but surely, a group of people cannot be that powerless? It appears that the groups that act are committing the crimes, and the biggest group, which claims to be against the crime, does nothing when presented with an opportunity to act.

Experience shows that very few of us would actually act when we encounter such situations in our communities; hence, we praise the likes of Tugce who choose to act when faced with such an injustice. And of course, we would all want to live in a world where no person has to make such choices, or is subjected to such violence. If we will not take action to create that world, who will?

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