Nikki Strong, the 19-year-old who defended Natalie Soto against racial slurs from a fellow passenger. Photo: Supplied
In April a Muslim couple from Brisbane were the targets of an anti-Islamic rant by a woman on a train on their way to Sydney airport with their four-month-old son. A female passenger filmed the exchange, and was praised for standing up for the couple.
Ms Soto said she initially paid no attention to the woman.
Natalie Soto said the incident on the train was by far the worst she had encountered. Photo: Facebook
“I didn’t really take any notice until she turned around and looked at me and said ‘get that dirty wog off the train, she’s giving me a headache’,” Ms Soto said.
“I thought ‘okay, this is about me’,” she said.
But Ms Soto’s fellow passengers soon came to her defence.
That’s when Ms Soto started recording the scene on her camera phone.
“It’s not English. Why should we have to listen to f—ing rambling,” the woman can be heard saying on the recording Ms Soto posted to Facebook.
“Because we are a multicultural country,” a young woman fires back as she swivels around in her seat in view of Ms Soto’s camera phone.
“Are we?” the blonde woman says.
“Unless you’re Aboriginal, you have come from another country to live here. We’re all from different cultures,” the young woman responds.
“Yes, just look at the carriage,” Ms Soto replies, referring to her fellow passengers.
“We speak English in this country. If you can’t speak it in public don’t speak it [sic] at all,” the blonde woman said.
The woman seemed to be taken aback that Ms Soto responded in English, the 20-year-old said.
“Lucky for you I can speak multiple languages and I can understand exactly what’s going on,” Ms Soto said.
“Speak it in your own home, don’t speak it in public,” the blonde woman responded.
“Does it make you uncomfortable?” Ms Soto asks.
“Yeah it does,” the woman responded.
“I think you really need to question yourself,” Ms Soto said.
“Do you want me to speak my f—ing language and see how you f—ing like it?” the blonde woman says.
“So her speaking another language is not okay but you saying the c-word in front of children is okay,” said the same young female passenger who spoke up earlier.
She was referring to a comment made by the blonde woman before the recording had started, according to Ms Soto.
The Australian born retail assistant, born to a Chilean mother and German father, said it was not the first time she had been called a “wog” or copped unpleasant comments from strangers who overheard her speaking Spanish.
But her encounter on the train was by far the most aggressive, she said.
“It has never been such a public outburst. There was so much anger there,” she said.
“It was definitely a slap in the face.”
Ms Soto said she didn’t film the woman to shame her, but to highlight the everyday racism she believed was an enduring problem that needed to be addressed.
“The point was to show people that this is a very real issue in Australia. It’s not just me. It’s more than that,” Ms Soto said.
“But I know people like her [the blonde woman on the train] are just a minority of really small minded, bigoted and [prejudiced] people. It’s really comforting to know that,” she said.
She was also heartened by the response from her fellow passengers’ response.
“I didn’t get to speak to or thank the beautiful girl who stood up for me. She was lovely.
“I’d really like to find her and say thanks,” she said.
The young man sitting next to her had also cheered her up, telling her he thought Spanish was a beautiful language, Ms Soto said.
“He said: ‘Don’t ever let someone tell you the way you are is a bad thing’,” she said.
A Sydney Trains staff member has been in contact with the 20-year-old regarding the incident.
Ms Soto is also planning to make a formal complaint to police.
Update: Natalie Soto finds her defender
The “lovely” girl who stuck up for Ms Soto during the tense confrontation is 19-year-old university study Nikki Strong.
Ms Strong reached out to Ms Soto after seeing news reports of the incident on Friday evening and the two women, both psychology undergraduates, have bonded over the experience.
“We definitely want to meet up. We’ve found we have a lot in common,” Ms Strong said.
The 19-year-old said she had on occasion heard offensive comments during train trips, but nothing as vehement as Thursday’s incident.
“When I started sticking up for Natalie she called me a c— and said she was going to spit on me and my boyfriend,” Ms Strong said.
“There were children … under five years old … sitting literally five metres from us,” she said.
Ms Strong said she was driven to defend Natalie because she couldn’t stand the idea of a carriage full of people sitting in silence as one of their number was the target of racial slurs.
“Someone had to say something,” she said.
“I honestly just felt really bad that it happened to Natalie, and I hope people can learn from this and acknowledge that we live in a multicultural nation and have to respect people’s languages,” she said.
Video shows racist rant on Sydney train (ABC News)
A video that captures the moments a Muslim woman was the subject of a racist verbal attack on a Sydney train has been viewed nearly 80,000 times.
The video was recorded on a phone by Stacey Eden, 23, who can be heard telling the older woman to stop disrespecting the Muslim woman who was with her husband and wearing a headscarf at the time.
Ms Eden, a pathology worker, told the ABC she was catching a train home to Mascot on the Airport Line at around 1:40pm on Wednesday afternoon.
She said she noticed a group of people enter the train, particularly a man and woman wearing a scarf with a baby.
At that point she said an old lady walked over and started speaking to them.
“I was just listening to my music,” Ms Eden said.
“The old lady actually bent over and touched the lady’s scarf while she was talking.
“I didn’t think anything of it.”
Verbal abuse made reference to Islamic State
Ms Eden said she noticed the old woman was verbally abusing the couple, who said nothing.
“The lady next to me was saying things like ‘all the people that were dying were because of the Muslims in the world and look what’s happening overseas’,” she said.
Photo: Stacey Eden intervened on a Sydney train when a Muslim woman was verbally abused. (Supplied: Facebook)
Ms Eden said the woman continued by saying: “Read the newspapers, why are you following this religion for, why do you wear things like that so you can marry a man who’s going to go marry a 6-year-old?”
“I was like ‘this isn’t right, why are you saying these kinds of things?'”
In the video, Ms Eden can be heard telling the old woman to leave the other woman’s dress alone.
“She wears it for herself, OK,” she said in the video.
“She wears it because she wants to be modest with her body, not because of people like you who are going to sit there and disrespect her.”
The older woman can be heard mentioning beheadings, the Sydney siege and suggesting the woman was an “ISIS supporter”.
Ms Eden said she got angry and started recording the incident.
“She was picking on her for the way she was dressed and that’s what really got to me,” she said.
“This lady that was sitting across from me wearing a scarf, she was minding her own business, she never said anything out of line, she never even spoke.
“That’s why I decided to say something because it just made me really angry and upset.”
Police encourage victims of racial abuse to come forward
Ms Eden said she missed her Mascot stop to make sure the couple felt safe and once she saw them get off at the International Airport stop, she got off at Wolli Creek.
“I was actually worried about what was going to happen,” she said.
“I stayed on the train for a few more stops just to make sure everything was going to be OK.
“As they got off they thanked me.”
The victim’s husband, Hafeez Ahmed Bhatti, posted a thank you message on Facebook which said: “This video was not made by me. That is what happened to us on a Sydney train, God bless Stacey Eden she supported us”.
Facebook screenshot of racist rant victim Photo: The husband of the woman who was verbally abused posted a thank you message on Facebook. (Supplied: Facebook)
Ms Eden said she felt compelled to stand up because no one else was doing anything.
“I just felt like if no one said anything, it was just going to keep going, so I had to say it,” she said.
“People like that are just very ignorant. They’re never going to listen to what you say.
“I didn’t want to cause an argument or have a confrontation, I just wanted her to stop talking just so she wouldn’t keep making them feel bad about themselves.”
A New South Wales police spokesman told the ABC they would review the video footage.
“NSW Police is aware of an incident which occurred on at train travelling on the Airport, Inner West and South line involving alleged racial vilification yesterday,” a spokesman said.
“The Police Transport Command is reviewing a video posted online in an effort to identify the alleged offender.”
Police said they had not received a report of the alleged assault and were encouraging the victims to come forward.
“We encourage anyone who is the victim of a biased motivated crime to report the matter to local police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000,” they said.
Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane from the Australian Human Rights Commission said the video was “inexcusable”.
“It’s always disappointing to see people being subjected to harassment or abuse in public places,” he said.
“There’s simply no excuse to be abusing people or to be harassing people because of their religious beliefs or their racial background.”
Dr Soutphommasane said it was encouraging to see Ms Eden stand up to the discrimination.
“It’s always encouraging to see people respond to racism or bigotry,” he said.
“If it’s safe to do so, people should feel free to speak out against abuse or harassment.
“By speaking up, we send a powerful message that we don’t accept or condone bigotry and racism Source