UK activist: ‘Enough is enough’
A British community activist would like communities in Bermuda and Bath, England to brainstorm together to come up with ways to curb community violence.
Mandana Sharifi, a resident of Bath and organiser of an anti-violence group called Stop the Violence (STV), was in Bermuda this month to organise a community anti-violence rally held at the Ruth Seaton James Centre for the Performing Arts.
The rally included performances by local artists such as Zenji San Ingham and Shine Hayward.
Ms Sharifi lived and worked in Bermuda 15 years ago, and her sister, DeMitra Johnston, still works here and runs an auction firm.
“Compared to the Bermuda of 15 years ago, Bermuda has changed a lot,” said Ms Sharifi. “I am quite disheartened by it. In Bath, I am chair for the Partnership and Community Coming Together (PACT) group.
“It is a forum set up by the police, counsel and residents. Our top priority is preventing and reducing antisocial behaviour.”
She said that violence was a problem in certain parts of Bath as it is in Bermuda, although offenders tended to use knives rather than the guns often used here.
“The violence is not in the city centre,” said Ms Sharifi. “It is beautiful there because we have CCTV cameras. That is what prevents a lot of crime. Criminals get caught immediately.
“We have the most cameras in the city compared to any other city in England. They are all turned on and monitored. It absolutely helps.”
Ms Sharifi is currently campaigning for UK's Conservative party to be counsellor of Walcot Ward, one of the most deprived areas in the city.
She thought the answer for Bermuda's problems was to install more CCTV cameras, and also for the police to be more vigilant.
“The police, I believe, if they are not already vigilant, they need to be a bit more strong armed with the criminals,” said Ms Sharifi. “It is kind of a vicious cycle from what we have experienced in England.
“People experience violence on the street then they go home and put domestic violence on their spouses. Then the spouses become stressed and maybe lay a hand on their kids.”
She said increasing poverty, and also violence in the media was partly to blame for rising levels of violence in Bath and Bermuda.
“Families don't eat together anymore,” she said. “There is poverty and people have to go out and work several jobs. Meanwhile their kids are home by themselves.
“They maybe get attracted by the Big Brother which is not good for them. The kids are lured into a life which is very quick, fast and very short. Economy definitely plays into that and lack of social assistance.
“I think the media need to be more vigilant about what they put on the television. Maybe put things with violence on later in the evening.
“Even some of the cartoons are very violent. They highlight being bad and naughty. Adult programming should be put on after 10pm. The music companies also need to be more vigilant.”
She said one of her group's aims is to set up a trust for victims of violence in Bermuda whether it be domestic or in the community.
“Some people may not qualify for financial reimbursement through the normal procedure,” she said. “In this case, as long as you have a court, doctors, police or hospital report there is no way they shouldn't qualify. Exempt companies are assisting.
“From a lovely small island we are going to see some positive things coming out.
“We are hoping to twin with Bath, England to possibly set up the PACT meetings here, so we can help each other's communities come up with solutions.”
Ms Sharifi's sister said she was very concerned about the increase of violence in the Bermuda community.
“It is the holidays and we don't want to see any more killing and violence,” Ms Johnson said. “Enough is enough. Enough families have suffered. Enough children are without parents.
“A small Island like this we used to have so many tourists here to enjoy the friendliness and relaxed living style. In the past, the tourists were coming here to run away from all the big city wildness.
“Now they are scared to come here. Everyday in the news there is someone gunned down. It is ridiculous.”
For more information go to the website www.stvtrust.org or cityofbath.blogspot.com.