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INTERVIEW - 'All I want is justice': widow of Muslim man killed in racist attack in Spain speaks out

Younes Bilal, 37, was murdered in cold blood to cries of racist slurs in Murcia, says grieving widow

Alyssa McMurtry   | 23.06.2021
INTERVIEW - 'All I want is justice': widow of Muslim man killed in racist attack in Spain speaks out

OVIEDO, Spain 

Andrea Hidalgo del Valle, 33, lost her husband Younes Bilal just over a week ago at the hands of a retired member of the Spanish military, who dozens of witnesses allege opened fire on Bilal while he was sitting in a cafe with friends in the Murcian town of Puerto de Mazarron.

The suspect of the crime, identified as Carlos Patricio B.M., has been arrested.

Andrea spoke to the Anadolu Agency from Morocco, just two days after Bilal's body was buried in his hometown of Beni-Mellal, about racism, institutional silence and how this violent act has changed her family's life forever.

Can you start by telling me what happened on the night of June 13?

I was out buying dinner nearby, but the people who were there said it started when the waitress at the cafe sat down next to a group of people from Morocco during her coffee break. She sat with the guys, one of whom is my son's cousin. Then, this man gets up and starts yelling at her for 'sitting with f---ing Moors.' He grabbed her tray. Younes talked to the waitress and said she could sit with them and not to worry. Then the man left, he changed clothes, grabbed his gun and returned to the cafe. With the cry of 'f---ing Moors, f---ing Moors,' he shot Younes three times. They had never met before that day.

It's a nightmare, an absolute nightmare. It's like I'm living in a horror movie. I can hardly believe it's real. It's really difficult to assimilate.

Would you consider this a terrorist attack?

I keep thinking that if this was the other way around, what would have been the reaction? It would have been called terrorism for sure. If it was Younes, it would be terrorism. But Younes wasn't racist. The other man was. He killed Younes because he was a racist to the words of 'f---ing Moor.' If it was the other way around, you'd see it a lot more about it in the media. But now, they want to cover this up. I won't let them. I'm not going to stop.

Have you received any institutional support or help?

Right now, our support is our families, friends and the people who support us online. I don't care about politics. Everyone has their own way of thinking and I have mine. A lot of people are saying it wasn't a racist attack. But what other explanation is there? I can't imagine how people can say this wasn't racism. People say the man who killed Younes was crazy, but the police investigated and found no history of mental illness besides some anxiety. But I've had anxiety too. I don't decide to grab a gun and kill someone.

Only the local politicians from Puerto de Mazarron have said anything to me, consoled me or offered to help. Internationally, the Moroccan consulate has been there too. But from Spain -- zero. From the politicians, nothing at all.

I don't know why there hasn't been a political response. They should imagine what it's like to be in my shoes right now. I don't work. I relied on Younes. I have three children. I could get a job cleaning houses a couple days a week but finding a stable position isn't easy. So it's me and the kids, with a house to pay for. We have a rent-to-own contract but I can't pay for what's left on my own. Where can I go? What can I do?

Right now, I'm still in Morocco so we'll see what happens when I go back home. I'm not looking for a handout. I'm going to try to get a job with the city of Mazarron, anything I can do. Then I could pay bills, get a loan to pay for what's left of the house. My husband put a lot of work into fixing up our home. A lot. And I don't want to lose it. The sweet man was going to Madrid to work to earn a bit more to fix up the house for me and the kids. I owe it to him. I owe it to him not to lose our home.

Do you think Spain has a problem with racism?

Yes. I've seen it in society. People don't think everyone is equal. I think everyone is. What changes? A race, a country, hair, but everyone has blood inside. There are good and bad people. Good Spaniards and bad Spaniards. Good Moroccans and bad Moroccans. Good people from Colombia and bad ones. But in the end, we're all equal.

Had you noticed racism in the community before?

The truth is that I can't tell you for sure because everyone loved Younes. He was charming, I don't know where the man who killed him came from. In Mazarron, if you have 100 people, 70 are from Spain and 30 are from Morocco. But the 70 Spaniards loved Younes as much as the 30 people from Morocco. Of course, not everyone is racist and some people are. For example, there is one politician from a certain party in the local government who has been kind to me, consoled me and said they'll be there for me. But there's another politician who is saying that what we're doing is just giving a bad name to Mazarron and we shouldn't keep talking about racism because people won't want to come here on holidays this summer. I don't think that's fair. They need to put themselves in my shoes and the shoes of my children. A racist took the life of my husband and the life of the father of my child.

You've been on the streets demanding justice. What would justice look like for you?

Justice is the only thing I want. I want to see this man be imprisoned for life. Revisable permanent imprisonment. It wouldn't be enough to see him back out on the streets in eight or nine years. My husband is dead. It was an assassination. It wasn't a fight, where two people were hitting each other and it got out of hand and someone died. No. This man went for him in cold blood. When Younes was lying on the ground bleeding, he kept shooting him. He had no compassion or mercy. And his brother was in another cafe saying, 'great, one less f---ing Muslim.' No. People like those who killed Younes cannot be on the streets. They can't be excused as being 'crazy' when they're not.

How would you describe Younes?

Younes treated me like a queen. He was my friend, my brother, my husband and overall, the father of my children. All three of them. Even though the oldest two weren't his, he raised them and loved them as if they were. He didn't treat them differently at all, they were all equal to him. He was a good man.

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