By Natasha Livingstone
A Durham University student from Palestine was the victim of an apparently racially-motivated assault on Christmas Eve, after three men kicked him in the face and body outside a pub in Durham.
Ihsan Abualrob, a 27-year-old Muslim, was repeatedly attacked outside the Happy Wanderer pub at 8:40pm after wishing the men “merry Christmas”. He was later treated in hospital, telling the Northern Echo he was beaten so hard he thought he was going to die.
Two men, aged 49 and 23, have been arrested on suspicion of racially or religiously aggravated assault with injury, Durham Constabulary have confirmed.
Mr Abualrob began studying in Durham in September to study politics as part of a government scheme to develop global leaders. He claims the attack has left him too scared to leave his accommodation.
The incident began as Mr Abualrob went to the Happy Wanderer pub to celebrate his first Christmas Eve in England. A man came up to him and his friends asking where they were from.
“My friends said they were from Egypt, and myself from Palestine,” he recounted. “He said, ‘Egypt, Palestine. You Muslims. Are you suicide bombers?’”
Mr Abualrob ignored the comments, but after leaving the pub three men approached him and began insulting Islam. Mr Abualrob claims he responded by saying “merry Christmas, enjoy your holiday”. The three men then began the attack, leaving Mr Abualrob with concussion and bruising on his face and knee.
Mr Abualrob said: “It’s my first Christmas ever outside of my country and that is my Christmas treat? They did this for nothing, but for me being a Muslim in this country. Christmas should be a time of love and hope, not violence.”
News of this assault comes nine months after revelations of a significant increase in hate crimes in County Durham, with 66 such crimes reported in the year to March 2017, a 16% rise on the figures predating June 2016.
Photograph: Durham Constabulary