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Turku attack hero: "We will never walk in darkness"

Joining anti-Nazi marchers in Turku on Saturday, decorated knife attack survivor Hassan Zubier said it is important to stand up and fight for democracy.

Hassan Zubier.
"I can lay down and die or I can stand up and fight," says Turku attack survivor Hassan Zubier. Image: Lydia Taylerson / Yle News

The events of 18 August 2017 would change the trajectory of Hassan Zubier's life forever. The British national resident of Sweden was visiting Turku with his family when he intervened to assist a woman who had been attacked by a man rampaging with a knife. In the mélée, he was also stabbed.

He later received an award for life-saving heroism from Finland and was also recognised by Britain's Queen Elizabeth.

Zubier is now confined to a wheelchair, having lost the ability to walk independently when the knife wounds severed his spinal cord and caused severe nerve damage. One year later, that didn't stop him from travelling back to Turku to the scene of the brutal attack that changed his life for good.

Zubier was clearly the star attraction at the event, as dozens of people posed with him for photos and stopped for a chat. He told Yle News that he was inspired to attend a march put on by the group "Turku without Nazis" when he learned that the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement had planned a procession to mark the occasion.

"They are trying kidnap this day for their own fake news, their own agenda. It's like they are dancing on the graves of the two people who lost their lives for democracy," he said.

"It was important for me to come here today to show we will never walk into darkness. We will never bow to Nazis or their beliefs. All who believe in democracy must stand up and fight the darkness and fight those who believe that democracy is a joke," he added.

"Justice will never be served"

Commenting on the life sentence handed down to the attacker who robbed him of the ability to walk, Zubier said that while he was glad to hear of the conviction, he did not believe that justice would ever be served.

"Justice will never be served," he declared. "Even if he were sentenced to 100 years it would never take away the pain of parents who lost their children and the other victims who are scarred for life. It will never take that away."

The Turku survivor said that it is likely that terrorist acts will continue in spite of surveillance cameras and the actions of police and the military. He stressed that it is important to defy those who would kill others for their beliefs by going about our daily lives.

"We all need to show that we are not afraid to be on the streets, sit in cafes, go to cinemas, go about our everyday life," he said.

Zubier, who was a trained paramedic before he was injured, said that he now takes life one day at a time. "I don't plan ahead because I don't know if I'll be able to get out of bed. That's the way it's going be for the rest of my life. And it's hard, it's hard to be reminded when you see everyone walking, or dads playing with their children, kicking a football."

The father of one told Yle News that since he can no longer practice his profession, he is hoping to land speaking engagements that will allow him to share his experiences and discuss ideas for combatting terrorism.

"Hopefully someone's listening now, and invites me to have a speech," Zubier quipped.

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