The Asian community in Rotherham, South Yorkshire were aware that young white girls were being sexually exploited by gangs of Asian men in the city, a community worker claims.
There has been widespread shock across the UK to news that nearly 1400 young girls, some as young as 11, were groomed and abused over a 16-year-period beginning 1997 but local authorities failed to take action over fears that they would be seen as ‘racists’ by the local Pakistani communities.
Leading members of the local Asian community too had expressed their outrage at the abuse.
However, in an explosive interview with BBC Sheffield, the head of Rotherham’s United Multi-cultural Centre claimed that the abuse was common knowledge within the South Asian community in the city.
Parveen Qureshi said: “The Asian community leaders, they knew about it, it was discussed at the mosque and other places.
“The leaders who agencies had contacted to discuss issues, they knew about this. Community leaders were aware of what was happening and they were trying to solve that problem for forever – not just on this occasion but on many occasions people were talking to the community’s leaders.
“It was always discussed in the community what was happening.”
She added: ‘It was not started over night, it was going on for a long time’.
Ms Qureshi’s claim came as politicians called for the resignation of senior council workers who were in charge at the time of the abuse to resign from their current posts in both Rotherham and elsewhere.
Many however have refused to do so.
Revelations about the abuse were made in a report commissioned last year by the council following the imprisonment of a gang of Pakistani and Afghan sex abusers.
The report said that gangs of Asian men groomed, abused and trafficked vulnerable children while police and social services ignored warnings from parents and activists.
The report detailed cases where children as young as 11 had been raped by a number of different men, abducted, beaten and trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England to continue the abuse.
Professor Alexis Jay, who conducted an inquiry and wrote the report, said she found “children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone”.
One young girl told the inquiry that “gang rape” was a usual part of growing up in the area of Rotherham where she lived.
The report also found that police treated victims with contempt while the council simply ignored the findings of several internal inquiries.
In a vast majority of the cases that Professor Jay examined, the victims were white children under the age of 16 and the perpetrators named in the files as “Asian males”.
Most damningly of all, the report said that council staff were scared of being labelled “racists” by the influential local South Asian community.