This is an extract from an excellent article in Disability Now (DN) about disabled asylum seekers using art to express themselves through a painted mural in Bristol.
In the DN article, Disabled Iraqi Ahmed tells us a disturbing account about their lives and their treatment in Britain.
"People in Britain don’t seem to like the disabled. I see lots of disabled people. They drink in the park, they have nowhere to live. They try to kill themselves ...
"Britain says Iraq is rubbish but even in Iraq and Kurdistan people are treated better than this. My family send me money every month ...
"Who made me disabled? The government. Britain, America, Iraq. The governments fought. They made me disabled. They injured my leg in an explosion. I lost my mind. I lost my brother. My mother can’t talk properly now: she lost an eye and an arm in the explosion.
"The Government should be helping these people. They put me into a hostel with people who abuse drugs and drink. I’ve never drunk alcohol in my life. Why house me with drug users?
"Does this country respect disabled people? They make them sleep on the street.
"In my country, when someone dies, people come and check on you. My brother died last year. Only one person came to see me when I heard that he’d been killed. I was bleeding inside. I couldn’t talk. My family say “Are there any people around you?” I say “No.” My mother says “Be strong.”
"I’ve never seen such bad people as here. No one came to help me. I needed people to listen. I felt my insides going into a small hole. I needed a place to forget my pain. When I hear news about Iraq I just cry.
"I’m not here to slag off the Iraqi government or British government. I can’t talk properly. I don’t remember how long it’s been since I talked to my mum ... lots of people sleep on the street. My inside is always crying.
"Britain came to my country. They smashed everything, they killed people. When I came here I asked for help, but they wouldn’t help me. England has lost its mind ...
"People call me names. They say I come from the jungle. They don’t believe the things I say. They say I’m lying. I’m not lying ... it’s because I’m brown and disabled.
"They’re racist and the Government doesn’t do anything to help. They should be shouting, “Look after disabled people!”"
Has anyone else noticed that we’re in danger of slipping back to where we all started from?!
I’ve always seen the Disability Arts Movement as being in the vanguard of the Disabled People’s Movement. As Disabled artists we’ve focused upon our oppression and expressed this through our art. Together we’ve used the Social Model to identify and then confront the many barriers within society that conspire to disable us; the key word being ‘together’.
However, of late I’ve seen a slide back to the early days when we were all split up into impairment groups. You know the sort of thing; mobility impaired to the left, visually impaired to the right, learning disabled over there, Deaf people … well, you get the idea. And along with each impairment group came its organisation ‘for’ and its own route for funding etc.
Disability Arts focus seems to have got a bit wooly over recent years and it seems more about blending in with the mainstream and not making our unique stand as Disabled artists any more.
Or is it me? … I’m sure you’ll let me know!
Initially clad in a cream coloured blanket that covered her from head to foot, Liz sat quietly in her wheelchair for the first 10 minutes before pulling it away to reveal herself wearing the uniform of the war time Nazi party.
Again she sat quietly as the voice of DAN activist Clair Lewis could be heard singing at the base of the column. Then pulling a collapsable pole from beneath her chair Liz unfurled a red flag which read 'Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me - Resistence'
A further 10 minutes elapsed and Liz began to shed the uniform, throwing it down in disgust at her feet. All of the time she kept the flag flying high above her head ...
At one stage a message was shouted up to Liz from her supporters on the ground: "It's alright Liz, they all get it!" Meaning that the general public, who had been watching understood what her protest had been about.
The general public in the area joined in the cheers and applause as Liz was eventually lifted from the plinth after her hour was up and she was able to join the other Danners, friends and supporters at the base.
A powerful performance by a strong and courageous woman.