Little children aren’t supposed to starve to death in England. But Khyra Ishaq did. The 7-year-old’s wasted body was found in her Birmingham home, along with her five siblings – all requiring hospitalisation for malnutrition.
The children had been taken out of the nearby primary school just over two months earlier and apparently hardly seen since. There are, as the broadsheets invariably put it “calls for a full inquiry.”
I suspect any inquiry’s findings will be profoundly beside the point, given the unintentionally facetious Guardian article headlined “Father of starved girl hits out at authorities” .
“Ishaq Abu Zaire, father of Khyra Ishaq, said yesterday he was ‘just as ignorant as everyone else as to what happened’, but pledged to find out the truth. ‘Once I know what happened, I promise there are going to be consequences and repercussions,’ he said,” it reports.
How noble. How heroic. How paternal of him. Somehow, though, I doubt he’s going to start his search for the truth where he should – by looking in a fucking mirror. Or am I the only one staggered by the audacity of a parent suggesting there is someone else who should be looking after their children? Apparently, if the media churn is any indicator, no one thinks it odd or unspeakable the parent of a child dead of neglect can unblushingly stand pointing the finger at “them”.
Being “just as ignorant as everyone else” isn’t an excuse, it’s an outrage. A symptom of the sloppy thinking that seems to have invested our culture from top (Tony Blair’s simpering equivocations about his “mistaken” war dossier) to bottom (every school kid who turns around and whines, “it wasn’t my fault”). People are sullenly unwilling to take any kind of responsibility for even the most unarguably personal things, like their children.
This is a wilful misunderstanding of the role of social services. They are meant to be a safety net, not substitute parents. What in hell possesses people to think, “I can’t be bothered checking up on my kids. But I’m sure someone else will”? As far as I’m aware there were nothing preventing Ishaq from contacting his daughter. If he was abroad, or incarcerated, or barred from access it hasn’t been mentioned in the news. Outside of those circumstances what responsible parent would abandon a child like that? It isn’t that she died a sudden, violent death. She starved. That takes time. Plenty of time for daddy to wonder what was going on, plenty of time for alarm bells to ring if anyone bothered to listen.
Grandmother Isolene Clark chips in to say her grandchildren were “let down by the ‘people who were supposed to protect them’” and she’s absolutely fucking correct. Khyra was let down by the people supposed to protect her… her family. Indignant father and gran included. If there were a jot of justice they would be standing in the dock next to the girl’s mother, having to answer to why an innocent child died.