Tackling Tower Hamlets gang violence in memory of murdered teen Ajmol Alom

By Rob Virtue on June 17, 2014 1:07 PM |

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Ajmol Alom was just 16 when he was killed by a single knife wound. The Langdon Park pupil, who had hopes of becoming a doctor, was trying to keep peace when he and a friend were attacked near Ajmol's home in Poplar.

The teenager knew all about the dangers of gangs and violence. Just months before the unprovoked killing, he had joined a group on a trip to Northern Ireland to discover the damage inflicted by sectarianism and division.

His death inspired many young people in Poplar, including some of Ajmol's friends, to follow in his footsteps.

Nadir Tarofdar, 17, was one of those who made the journey across the Irish Sea earlier this year.

"I remember the first time Ajmol told me he was going on the trip," he said.

"He was the only one in our group going and he wasn't sure if he wanted to. I said go. That's the only real time we spoke about it.

"He was quite shy and he didn't talk much about it when he came back, but the incident that night brought a lot of his friends closer together. At the time we were all going to different colleges, going in different ways but this kept us together."

St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation And Peace is behind the Gullion Link, which sees the exchange and following Ajmol's death decided to focus on six troubled estates near his east London home.

Organisers approached teenagers through youth centres to get them on board. And Nadir said it was an eye-opening experience speaking with those at the heart of the Troubles.

"You get to see how people live and what they have been through," he said. "You share stories and you see that some of our problems seem petty when compared to theirs.

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"You speak to people who had been given life sentences," he said.

"It was shocking. And then you find out how in some cases these people had become friends with their rivals."

The group came together at Poplar Town Hall last week for presentations about the trip. The event also offered an opportunity to remember Ajmol, whose murder saw three young men jailed for life.

Speaking at the event, Sister Christine Frost, who has run community groups in Poplar for more than 40 years and supports the initiative through her Splash project, said: "I remember last year's trip and the group with Ajmol and a fantastic session sticks in my mind with singing, dancing all sorts of talents on show.

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"I'm very happy I met Ajmol and that this year's project is carried out in memory of him."

She described the importance of the event as it broadens the minds of young east Londoners.

"We're across the road from Canary Wharf and we have lots of wealth around us," she said.

"And wealth brings you choices. It brings you health, homes, holidays.

"Our duty as residents of Tower Hamlets would be to offer young people the opportunities others take for granted because they have the money to procure them."