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Azeem Rafiq calls for witness anonymity in Yorkshire racism investigation

Azeem Rafiq says that anonymity needs to be granted to witnesses in the investigation into allegations of racism within Yorkshire cricket.

Rafiq, who triggered the review after claiming that “institutional racism” at the club had left him on the brink of suicide, believes potential witnesses may be prevented from sharing their experiences by a fear of damaging their on-going hopes for inclusion within the game.

He has received numerous responses to his allegations. While some former team-mates have phoned to apologise for their behaviour, others have phoned to apologise for not doing more to stop inappropriate behaviour when they witnessed it. In all cases, Rafiq has requested they share their comments with the investigation panel. But it seems not all are prepared to do so.

“There’s been an interesting response,” Azeem told ESPNcricinfo. “Some people have been in touch to apologise and others to offer their support. A few have said ‘I’ve experienced the same things, but I don’t want to complain as it will jeopardise my future with the club’.

“One guy – the one who said ‘there’s too many of you lot’ when I was in the team with Adil Rashid, Ajmal Shahzad and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan – unfollowed me on Twitter. Another, who was outright racist, called the morning after that piece was published and apologised. He said he had no filter.

“I respect that. Obviously it shouldn’t have happened, but I can respect the fact he had the humility and bravery to pick up the phone and acknowledge his faults.

“A current player was similar. He was in tears. He hadn’t done anything himself, but he’d seen things go on and had done nothing to stop them. I said ‘That’s fine, mate, but if you really want to make it better, you’ve got to tell the investigation team’. I don’t know if he will or not.

ALSO READ: Gillespie condemns Yorkshire league chairman for Rafiq comments

“Several people have been in touch and said ‘we’ve experienced the same things’,” he said. “But when I’ve asked if they will come forward, they’ve said ‘I can’t. My shop will suffer; my son will never be picked again for the youth team’ or something like that.

“So I hope people who give evidence to the investigation team can do so in secret so there are no repercussions for them. That’s the only way we’ll get to the bottom of these things.”

Hanif Malik will no longer appear as part of that panel.

Malik, an independent director at Yorkshire and former non-executive director at Sport England, had been the subject of complaints from Rafiq, who claimed he had previously outlined his concerns to him but that no action had been taken.

It’s understood that Malik has also suffered a family bereavement. It is not clear which of these factors, or both, contributed to him no longer appearing on the sub-committee. The precise terms of reference of the investigation are yet to be published.

“I’d actually reported my concerns to quite a few people,” Azeem says. “The PCA have been great, but I reported these things to Matthew Wood [the PCA rep], the chief executive [Mark Arthur] and director of cricket [Martyn Moxon] at Yorkshire a couple of years ago. I reported it to Hanif Malik and the National Asian Cricket Council. I reported these things through every channel that was available to me. Not much progress was made until I spoke to the media.”

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