10 Aug 2011

Online campaign for riot victim Ashraf Haziq

The nation watched, horrified, as Ashraf Haziq had his backpack picked during Monday’s Hackney riots. But an internet campaign aims to compensate the Malaysian student for what he went through.

Ashraf Haziq in hospital. He was hurt during the Hackney riots in London on Monday.

One of the abiding images of the rioting in London this week has been that of Ashraf Haziq, the Malaysian student who was injured during disturbances in Hackney on Monday.

A video posted on YouTube (see below) depicts an episode of almost biblical resonance. As Ashraf lies on the ground, stunned and bleeding from the impact of a missile to his head, several young men gather round him. One of them helps him to his feet.

Ashraf staggers slowly away, clearly still dazed, supported by an apparent “good Samaritan”. He then stops, and as he does, another of the young men unzips the Malaysian’s backpack and begins to rummage inside. His intention appears to be to remove anything of value.

This is a chance for Britain to demonstrate they didn’t want to see these images flash around the world. Jamie Cowen, internet campaigner

The “good Samaritan” who has helped Ashraf to his feet then also decides to help himself to the contents of the backpack.

At this point a third youth arrives on a bike and lunges towards the backpack, followed by a fourth. The image is one of swarming, feral animals surrounding an injured victim.

The young man who first put his hand into Ashraf’s backpack then strides away, discarding most of the contents. The footage ends with the Malaysian student, clearly still stunned, staring across the road, alone.

Ashraf is now recovering in hospital. Another YouTube video (see bottom) shows him describing his experiences Hackney.

“They threatened to stab me,” he explains in Malaysian. “They told me they had knives. Some of them were quite young and may still be in primary school.”

Internet campaign

Since the YouTube video went viral, an internet campaign has quickly grown up to allow people to express their revulsion at what happened.

Jamie Cowen, a former Save the Children worker, has set up a website where people can donate money, via PayPal, and vote on what should be done to assist Ashraf.

Options include “Pay for his student fees” and “Pay for his dental costs” (he sustained tooth damage in the original incident).

The website is complemented by a Twitter campaign in which people have pledged a variety of donations to the Malaysian. Among gifts promised so far are a bicycle from Bigfish bikes, and a PlayStation plus PSP games from Sony.

Read more from Channel 4 News's coverage of the UK riots

‘We’re a good bunch of people’

“I was very lucky in that I had an idea that I could do something about relatively easily,” Jamie Cowen told Channel 4 News.

“Apparently Ashraf lost his PlayStation and his bike when he was mugged. I also believe he lost his mobile phone. I think another network have managed to get him a phone.

“The whole of Britain has just come out and said they really feel for this lad. This is a chance for Britain to demonstrate they didn’t want to see these images flash around the world in their name. We’re a good bunch of people, by and large.”

Mr Cowen was also keen to stress that any money donated will go to Ashraf Haziq. “I can’t say exactly how much is in the PayPal account at the moment.

“There are a couple of charities who’ve come forward and said they’ll act as guarantors to ensure the money donated online is transferred in the direction it was intended.

“I give my word that the money that’s in there will be treated properly and it will go where it’s intended.”