Estonia lacks a black community. Yes, there are black people living in Estonia, but they are not Estonians, British journalist and politician Abdul Turay (53) who has lived in Estonia says.
What is your opinion of protests all over the Western world under the “Black Lives Matter” aegis?
That depends on where they take place. For example, it is appropriate in the United Kingdom.
What about Estonia?
It depends on who is behind the movement and whether they realize what they are doing. Holding such protests is appropriate in countries that have considerable black communities and where such a movement would have black leaders.
It is impossible in Estonia because there are very few black people living there and the movement would likely be led by angry white people who do not really like blacks. It would be like having a gay parade without gay people. It’s ridiculous!
It is appropriate in the U.K. because I believe people there understand its meaning. I simply cannot see it as a possibility in Estonia.
What were the reactions of the Estonian black community to your social media statement against holding a “Black Lives Matter” protest in Tallinn?
I received a lot of feedback from a lot of people, black and white. In the past, even people who do not agree with me have remained respectful and polite. Now, my post has drawn angry racist remarks. They do not really want a black person to have an opinion. A lot of back people agreed with me, while many didn’t, but they were all polite. While I might not agree, you are entitled to your opinion, I was told. People who started shouting and railing against me were white left-liberals. They do not respect my right to have an opinion. I condemn such attitudes. Mostly, they were angry white people from the West. They are not okay with plurality of opinion, they really want control. The aim of the BLM movement is to control black people and I am against that.
Do you stay in touch with the Estonian black community?
Yes, I still have acquaintances, mainly from the African community. They invited me to their events when I was still living in Estonia. In truth, Estonia does not have a black community as such. There are black people living in Estonia, but they are not Estonians. To talk about an Estonian black community is nonsense when compared, for example, to the situation in the U.K. where black people have lived for generations. What we can say is that Estonia has an active community of black students with whom I keep in touch.
How sensitive are they when it comes to racism and xenophobia?
It needs to be understood that a lot of black people really like Estonia. That is why they live there. They have had both positive and negative experiences. That’s life. I also had both good and bad experiences in Estonia.
What about the situation in the U.K.?
First of all, the “Black Lives Matter” movement is led by black people. Secondly, a lot of people realize the movement is dubious. That is why many do not want to get involved with them. People still feel they need to join the protests, but they are not quick to get involved with BLM.
Please elaborate on your view of the movement.
It should be called “Black Lives Matter Too.” It is clear to me that people do not realize what the movement stands for. It promotes a noble message – that black lives matter – while its content has changed over time. Suddenly, people are talking about things that have nothing to do with the original message of the movement! The initial message and goal were very different. The aim of the organization is to manipulate people. Many realize this, at least in the U.K. People still protest, but not under the BLM aegis. I’m pretty sure Estonians do not understand that.
Is police brutality as much of a problem in the U.K. as it is in the United States?
The short answer is no, while there are isolated incidents. But most black people in the U.K. know people in America. Almost all of them have family in the States, which is why we understand what is happening there.
You wrote in your post that the Estonian police have harassed you. You wrote that you were told to strip and thrown into a windowless room. Please elaborate. When and under what circumstances did this happen?
It is no secret. It happened to me upon entry into Estonia and years before I moved there. It happened quite often. The police have also stopped me in the street, but it was nothing serious. I was not persecuted, they simply asked for identification and what I was doing. Then, I started learning Estonian and could say a few sentences in my defense. It was not pleasant back then, but it all happened so long ago that I no longer really think about it.
When was that?
It was in 2003 or 2004? I was stopped by the police quite often back then.
How did you react? Did you turn to the authorities?
Yes, I wrote a complaint to the Estonian Embassy in London and received an apology. I started carrying that apology with me and showed it to the police (the next time Turay was stopped – ed.) as an example of how not to act.
You are back in the U.K. today and have joined the Brexit Party. While when before you left, you wrote an angry letter to PM Jüri Ratas to protest Center’s coalition with the Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) that you referred to as fascist. Is xenophobia still a problem in Estonia?
Yes, obviously. Jüri Ratas did not form this coalition because he likes EKRE or because he’s a fascist himself. He did I to stay in power. That step was not in Estonia’s interests but rather his own. I will never forgive him for that.
You remain a member of the Center Party?
No, I’m no longer an active member. (The business register suggests Turay is still a member of the Center Party – ed.)
You are now active in British politics, the Brexit Party?
Yes, I’m aware of the irony. I’ve read that Martin Helme believes he is similar to Nigel Farage and that their parties are two peas of the same pod. In truth, they are very different, night and day. It is not as clear to everyone, however. People do not understand that the Brexit Party and EKRE are very different indeed.
Are you considering returning to Estonia?
I cannot for as long as EKRE remains in power. There is no place for me as a black politician for as long as EKRE remains in office. The party is a disaster for black people in Estonia because Martin Helme hates Africans. How do I know that? My acquaintances who know first-hand have told me.
Are you happy with your decision to leave Estonia?
I miss Estonia a great deal. I miss my friends and family. I would like to return, but I cannot for as long as the political situation holds. I was fired and basically banished from the country. But I also like living in the U.K. and my job. I’m, a care worker, I help people.