NJ Osakan Ibrahim Yener wins lawsuit against “Japanese only” car dealer

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Hi Blog.  Good news.  Another NJ wins in court against a “Japanese Only” establishment, this time a car dealer who wouldn’t send Osakan Plaintiff Ibrahim Yener information about their goods because he’s a foreigner.

Yener joins the ranks of Ana Bortz, the Otaru Onsen Plaintiffs, and Steve McGowan, all of whom won and/or lost in court in varying degrees.

The positive thing to note here is that Mr. Yener filed suit all by himself, without legal representation, and still won.  He no doubt had the company dead to rights because he had their refusal in writing.  That means that anyone else with a case as watertight as his can also take it to court and win, and I advise people to do so whenever possible.

The negative thing to note here is that once again the award amount has been reduced.  In the Bortz Case, the award was 2 million yen, in the Otaru Case it was 1 million yen per plaintiff, and in the McGowan Case, after a ludicrous defeat in lower court, it was eventually only 350,000 yen on appeal, which didn’t even come close to covering his legal fees.  In the Yener Case, it’s now been reduced to a paltry 200,000 yen, which means it’s a good thing he didn’t seek legal representation.

(And as the article notes, the discriminator is thinking of appealing, claiming this amount — essentially pocket change for a company — is too high.  The idiots also try to make the common excuse that “Japanese Only” alludes to a language barrier, not a racial one; nice try, but didn’t hold up in court.)

Anyway, glad that Mr. Yener won.  It’s just a pity that after all this time and effort, there isn’t any deterrent of punitive damages against racial discriminators.  That’s why we need a criminal law against racial discrimination in Japan — because the excuse the Japanese government officially keeps making (that laws are unnecessary because there is a court system for redress) becomes less compelling with every lawsuit filed.  Dr. Debito Arudou

UPDATE:  Ibrahim Yener writes to Debito.org directly to provide more details on his case.

//////////////////////////////////////

Turkish man wins solo battle in fight against discrimination
By SATOKO ONUKI/ Staff Writer
Asahi Shinbun, September 4, 2017, courtesy lots of people
http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709040042.html

PHOTO: Ibrahim Yener, a 40-year-old Turkish national, in Osaka’s Kita Ward on Aug. 29. He successfully fought a court battle against a car dealer that declined to offer information about a used car on grounds Yener does not have Japanese citizenship. (Satoko Onuki)

OSAKA–Incensed at a car dealer’s refusal to send him literature on its range because he is not Japanese, Ibrahim Yener, a Turkish national, decided to wage a legal battle against the company for discriminating against a foreigner.

And Yener, who is 40 and a resident of Osaka, did it all alone–without a lawyer to represent him.

He said he opted out of hiring legal representation because he was confident his claim “is 100 percent legitimate.”

Yener went online to learn how to write a complaint to the court in Japanese and got friends to help him.

His complaint seeking 1 million yen ($9,090) in damages, filed with the Osaka District Court in March, reads: “I was informed by a company official that they will not serve foreigners.”

On Aug. 25, his efforts paid off.

The court ordered the company to pay Yener 200,000 yen in damages for “discriminating against him merely on grounds that he is a foreign national.”

Yener’s quest for equal treatment began when he made an online request last October for information on a second-hand car he was thinking of buying from the Osaka-based dealer.

The company replied: “We serve only those with Japanese nationality, and we do not meet requests for information from foreigners.”

Yener, a big fan of Japan and its culture, arrived in 2003.

His fascination with Japan began after he watched “Seven Samurai” by internationally-renowned filmmaker Akira Kurosawa while he was still back in his home country.

After his arrival in Japan, he studied the language in earnest and has worked for an information technology company and other businesses.

On occasion Yener had been distressed to hear people ridicule foreign nationals who cannot read kanji. He said there are times when he feels he is not treated “as an equal.”

“Regrettably, many people in Japan, not just the car dealer, think that they can discriminate against foreigners,” he said. “Since I admire Japan, I am very saddened by that.”

Many of Yener’s work colleagues sympathized with his plight and extended their assistance when he took the case to court.

“The lawsuit represents more than his personal battle as it raises an important question for everyone who lives in Japan,” said a colleague.

Preparing the documents was an enormous effort, and Yener was forced to take a day off from work so he could testify in court.

Nevertheless, Yener felt he was on a mission and prepared to fight to the end.

“Our world is certainly becoming a better place, compared with 100 years ago,” he said. “We can enjoy today’s world because people in the preceding era plucked up the courage and challenged (what was unreasonable). I, too, fought for people who will live in this society 100 years from now.”

The president of the car company said he is considering filing an appeal, adding that the sum ordered by the court is too high.

“Our original intention was to refuse to serve people who have difficulty understanding Japanese,” he said.
ENDS

UPDATE:  Ibrahim Yener writes to Debito.org directly to provide more details on his case.
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15 comments on “NJ Osakan Ibrahim Yener wins lawsuit against “Japanese only” car dealer

  • Similar reaction to yours. Impressed and glad he won, but with no criminal law I worry about how limited this may end up being. Is it being covered in the Japanese press at all? Even a slight mention? These cases always get ignored in Japanese news it seems.

    Reply
    • Ibrahim YENER says:

      Hi, My name is Ibrahim YENER (the guy in this story). This time, many newspaper had interview with me because i won the case without lawyer or any kind of legal support. I did all along by myself.

      Reply
  • blondeintokyo says:

    They shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate against people just because they can’t speak Japanese, either, so their reasoning is still very prejudicial. It’s not easy to communicate with people who don’t speak your language, but if they have an interpreter or can get through the conversation by relying on a dictionary, it shouldn’t be a problem. Unfirtunately, it often is, demonstrating that the problem isn’t actually language but a personal prejudice or a fear. There’s no excuse for that kind of attitude. It’s xenophobia at least, and racism at worst.

    Reply
    • Ibrahim YENER says:

      Dear blondeintokyo

      Unfortunately the problem is not language. I have been living in Japan for 14 years (soon will be 15). I can speak Japanese very well.

      Reply
  • Yener, a big fan of Japan and its culture, arrived in 2003.”Japan’s admirers become detractors, soon Japan will have precious few friends, and this bit is saddening

    “His fascination with Japan began after he watched “Seven Samurai” by internationally-renowned filmmaker Akira Kurosawa while he was still back in his home country.”

    Was peddled the cliche? Check.

    After his arrival in Japan, he studied the language in earnest and has worked for an information technology company and other businesses.

    Majime ni tried his best to work hard and fit in? Check

    “Regrettably, many people in Japan, not just the car dealer, think that they can discriminate against foreigners,” he said. “Since I admire Japan, I am very saddened by that.”

    Disappointed by the disdain the majority of Japanese have for that effort? Check.

    But at least his admiration is still holding. For now.

    Reply
  • Um, I can’t see the name of the other party anywhere in the article – the used car business. Is it illegal for a newspaper to write the name of the parties to civil litigation? Obviously not because they wrote the name of the Turkish guy. But they won’t write the name of the company? Is this a newspaper or just a giant pussy?

    And that damages award is a joke. Almost an insult. Certainly no deterrent.

    — This is normal behavior for the Japanese media. I’ve never seen the discriminatory Defendant mentioned by name in any article in English or Japanese, unless it’s a government organ being sued, unless the Plaintiffs are standing in front of the Defendant’s place of business for a media shot, or unless the plaintiff goes on record in the media in their own defense (as happened in the Otaru Case). The editorial attitude is that press outlets don’t want to be seen as having an impact on the business’s bottom line. Which is why naming and shaming in Japan is hard to do because the media rarely cooperates effectively.

    Reply
  • Loverilakkuma says:

    Great news. What gets my attention more is a declining value of compensation, which indicates an obvious devaluation of legal practice. I think Colin Jones wrote something about the plight of legal practice in JT articles sometime years back, but I don’t remember which one.

    Anyway, kudos to Ibrahim Yener for doing everything by himself. It’s not easy to stand trial without an attorney, needless to say communicating ideas in Japanese. I’m not sure if it would make me feel comfortable seeing a dumb, moronic dealer roasted and eaten alive at appealing court. Clueless courts, mercurial legal professionals, and justice ministry officials should be held accountable for rendering racial discrimination case a product of kitsch.

    Reply
  • again goes the ‘no Japanese’ meaning the language, not the nationality.. yeah RIGHT lol

    oh boy… why am I still here… where you can’t even buy a car without getting discriminated against..

    it’s gotta be the anime (c/o Baud)… or the money

    last one to leave, turn off the lights, please

    Reply
  • This article is really misleading. The impression one gets after reading it is that all Ibrahim really needed to do was naturalize and he would have been fine, and certainly the statement by the dealership explaining that it “serves only those with Japanese nationality” supports that interpretation (the Japanese version is pasted in below), but the reality is that the dealership was not discriminating based on legal status but rather based on Ibrahim’s name, which must have seemed “foreign” to the dealership when Ibrahim made his online request for materials. It is unclear how the request was made (e.g., by email or internet form), but unless Ibrahim was required to confirm his nationality somewhere (seems very unlikely to me), I am not sure how they could have really known his legal status. I suppose that if he used English in his request, they may have assumed (based on that fact taken together with his name) that he did not have Japanese citizenship, but even that would have been an assumption.

    Anyway, the president of the dealership admits that the policy really had nothing to do with nationality in the last sentence of the article, where he explains that the original intention of the policy was to refuse to serve people “who have difficulty understanding Japanese.” In other words, “as ware ware Nihonjin all know, foreigners can’t really ever speak or understand Japanese, so our intent was to avoid doing business with them altogether.” Nationality was used as a crude but flawed and discriminatory proxy to codify this stereotype as dealership policy.

    I didn’t do a careful line by line comparison, but just eyeballing the Japanese and English versions, I felt like the tone of the English version (provided by Debito above) was much more sympathetic to Ibrahim’s cause and critical of discrimination than the Japanese version. I also noticed that sections of the English version were completely left out of the Japanese version. For example, the sentence reading “Yener’s quest for equal treatment began when he made an online request last October for information on a second-hand car he was thinking of buying from the Osaka-based dealer.” was no where to be found in the Japanese version. The sentence reading “Many of Yener’s work colleagues sympathized with his plight and extended their assistance when he took the case to court.” was also conspicuously missing. Some might see this as nit picking, but I take deletions like this seriously because they speak to the state of mind of the editors, who in this case intentionally watered down the piece to make it more neutral and therefore more palatable to a Japanese audience that, in many cases, probably does not view this as discrimination or emblematic of a wider social problem. I know the editors are running a business and have to remember their audience, but I think we have to hold them accountable when they willfully massage the message in Japanese to avoid ruffling feathers that really need to be ruffled.

    I also noticed, and this will be my last point, that the Japanese version sort of made fun of Ibrahim’s Japanese as well. The sentence reading “一念発起してネットで訴状のひな型を探し、友人にも相談しながら、「担当者に外国人に対してサービスしないと言われた。100万円を請求します」とする1枚の訴状を書き上げた。” The implication from this sentence, particularly given the use of the phrase 友人にも相談しながら, is that this was really the best Japanese that Ibrahim could muster, even with the help of his friends. I may be overreacting, but I thought the English was able to convey this same fact without the dig re his language skills. Just my two cents.

    中古車の資料請求で差別、トルコ人が本人訴訟で勝訴
    大貫聡子2017年9月2日13時06分 朝日新聞
    http://www.asahi.com/articles/ASK914GXSK91PTIL00X.html

    写真:イエネル・イブラヒムさん。勝訴を聞いた日はうれしくて眠れなかったと話す=大阪市北区、大貫聡子撮影

    中古車を買おうと資料請求したが、日本国籍がないことを理由に拒否されたとして、大阪市在住のトルコ人男性が、自動車販売会社に100万円の損害賠償を求める訴訟を起こした。8月、大阪地裁は「不合理な差別」と認め、会社に20万円の支払いを命じた。ネットで訴状の書き方を検索し、弁護士を立てず、自ら立証しての勝訴だった。

     14年前に来日した会社員イエネル・イブラヒムさん(40)は昨年10月、同市の自動車販売会社のホームページで中古車の資料送付を申し込んだ。「当社は日本国籍をお持ちの方を対象としており、外国人の方には資料の送信を見合わせております」と返信があった。

     一念発起してネットで訴状のひな型を探し、友人にも相談しながら、「担当者に外国人に対してサービスしないと言われた。100万円を請求します」とする1枚の訴状を書き上げた。今年3月、大阪地裁に提訴。「100%自分は間違っていない自信があった」から、代理人を立てない本人訴訟に踏み切った。

     会社は「差別はしていない」と主張したが、大阪地裁の長谷部幸弥(さちや)裁判長は8月25日、「外国人であることのみを理由とした不合理な差別」と会社に慰謝料20万円の支払いを命じた。

     イエネルさんは黒沢明監督の映画「七人の侍」を見て、日本好きに。2003年に来日して日本語を学び、IT企業などで働いてきた。時には、周囲から「ガイジンは漢字も読めない」と非難されたり、対等に扱われなかったりする経験もしたという。「自動車販売会社だけでなく、残念なことに日本には外国人差別をしてもいいと思っている人が多い。日本が好きだけど、悲しい」

     職場の同僚も「これはイエネルさんだけの闘いじゃない。日本で暮らす人全員にとって大切な問題だ」と応援してくれた。

     準備書面を用意し、仕事を休んで出廷するのは大きな負担だったが、自分のミッションだと感じてきた。

     「100年前より世界は良くなっているでしょ。今があるのは前の時代を生きた誰かが勇気を出して闘ってくれたから。私も100年後の社会を良くするために闘いました」

     自動車販売会社の男性社長は取材に「日本語が不自由な人の利用は断る、という趣旨だった。賠償金額は高すぎる。控訴も検討している」と話した。(大貫聡子)

    Reply
    • “It is unclear how the request was made (e.g., by email or internet form), but unless Ibrahim was required to confirm his nationality somewhere (seems very unlikely to me), I am not sure how they could have really known his legal status.”

      I’m really glad you’ve pointed this out, because it’s a very important point. Non-Yamato name≠foreign citizenship, but Wajin do not want to accept this reality. I made the exact same point when I reported refusal by an apartment landlord to the Bureau of Human Rights, and they did not want to hear it. I inquired about the apartment via e-mail in Japanese, even with my name in kanji, and was denied on the grounds of “no foreigners,” even though no one at any point had asked my citizenship or even met me. That is all the more reason why I keep trying to remind people not to play along with the racist doublespeak: it is not racism against foreigners, it is racism against minorities, you know, the same kind of racism you see everywhere else.

      Dr. Arudō’s research also confirms this, reporting many occasions where he tried to enter a “Japanese only” establishment, and even after proving that he is Japanese, was still denied entry based on his race.

      This battle we are fighting will be very largely fought with words. Therefore, it is critical that we make sure misleading words and statements are not being wantonly thrown around. As time progresses, more and more minority Japanese will appear, and I do not wish to see them endlessly labeled as “foreigners” as an a priori assumption, because they are experiencing (racial) discrimination.

      I hope it goes without saying, but many of us are involved in education, and especially those of us who teach children have a compelling duty to teach children about the reality of what minorities here are experiencing, and correct children when they use mistaken language (like using “gaikokujin” to mean “English speaker” or such). We have a huge opportunity to make a positive impact, and consequently a huge duty to instill positive values and knowledge in the children we connect with everyday. I trust those of you who are working with children are not taking that reality lightly.

      Reply
      • Interesting comment, but what makes you think that you can get away with any of that? You’ll get fired.
        In fact, what makes anyone think that they can effect any change?
        I’ll refer you back to the Colin Jones article; they can illegally pick you up off the street, murder you, cover the whole thing up, and nobody cares.
        Our birth-country governments aren’t interested in the plight of a handful of whiney citizens in Japan getting in the way of their gravy-train.
        There are bigger realities are work here, that frankly make us and our troubles irrelevant to those with power.
        Show me one real victory.

        Reply
        • “Interesting comment, but what makes you think that you can get away with any of that? You’ll get fired.”

          Get away with what, teaching my students? I do it all the time, and I have no intention of stopping. The other day I caught a co-worker talking about Japanese colonialism during WW2, trying to paint up Japan in a positive light, and questioned him over it in front of a student, too.

          I’ve seen statements from some people on here that they were fired for trivial mistakes in the workplace, so I suppose it is possible that someone somewhere could get fired for stepping on the wrong toes, but I am seishain and can’t be fired that easily; it would be a violation of my contract.

          “I’ll refer you back to the Colin Jones article; they can illegally pick you up off the street, murder you, cover the whole thing up, and nobody cares.”

          Yes, and by the same logic, the same thing could happen in the U.S., and probably the U.K. or any other “civilized” country. It’s not so much that I have any particularly strong degree of faith in the Japanese institutions. On the contrary, you seem very convinced of true freedom from government persecution elsewhere, which a quick Google search will disprove. I happen to be white, but being a person of color in the wrong place at the wrong time, even in the U.S., is more than sufficient to wind up dead, and nobody is held accountable for it. On the contrary, the usual routine is for the murderer to get a taxpayer-funded paid vacation during the “investigation,” then return to “duty” to perhaps murder again.

          “In fact, what makes anyone think that they can effect any change?…Show me one real victory.”

          -> The hate speech law (not a total victory, but a first step)
          -> Dr. Arudō got an article published in the paper a while back about NJ residents not getting jūminhyō, and voila! A few years later we get our jūminhyō.
          -> This article itself is a victory for NJ.
          -> Dr. Arudō’s successful lawsuit. (Remember, even by your own logic, both could have been thrown out of court for no reason at all, with no recompense for Dr. Arudō or Mr. Yener.)
          -> My own personal experiences here and here and here and here. As for the last one, just like with the jūminhyō issue, I cannot prove that activism caused the change, but the call to speak English at minorities disappeared from the offending posters a few months after I sent my e-mail to the government. Make of it what you will.

          I’m actually glad you challenged me on that, as it’s nice to look back and see what small things we’ve accomplished bit by bit over time. I don’t know what you’re looking for when you say “one real victory,” but I ain’t holding out for Abe to come out on the evening news and make an announcement condemning Wajin racism or anything. This battle will be won through the accumulation of small victories, working with both private businesses and governments. And of course, by teaching children to be better than their predecessors. I hope you will continue to help us in whatever way you can.

          Reply
          • If that’s all we’ve got to show for decades of activism, against 4 years in which Abe has rolled back everyone’s human rights without protest, then it’s not much of a scorecard to be proud of, is it?

            You presume to tell me what my opinions are of other countries. That smacks of deflection, apologism and rationalization of Japanese institutional racism.

            Good luck to you if you want to dedicate your time and energy to pin-prick attacks on Japanese society’s discriminatory juggernaut, help yourself. The Japanese don’t know, and don’t care about what we’ve been trying to do here, and they won’t reward you for your efforts. Decades down the line, you can tell yourself you didn’t waste your life, and that you had the ‘moral high ground’ if you like. I don’t know if that will make up for a life not lived.

            I decided it wouldn’t.
            I decided that even if I wasn’t wasting my time, and could effect change, that the Japanese frankly don’t deserve the benefit of that.
            Why should I ‘save’ them? They don’t want to be ‘saved’.
            Much better by far to leave them to it, and let them spiral down into economic, demographic and quality of life misery of their own conscious volition. They want and deserve it; why should I fight it?
            Why would you?
            Anyone who can leave should.
            Japan pass.

    • Gratitude for such helpful analysis (especially utilizing strong bilingual ability gained from long-time studying and living in Japan) in the above post, previous posts, and hopefully many future posts as well, from you and many other such honest, intelligent, altruistic, helpful commenters here at Debito.org.

      http://www.debito.org/?p=14096#comment-1438524
      http://www.debito.org/?p=14228#comment-1424706
      http://www.debito.org/?p=14225#comment-1424614
      http://www.debito.org/?p=14212#comment-1405821
      http://www.debito.org/?p=14096#comment-1355428
      http://www.debito.org/?p=14160#comment-1344485
      http://www.debito.org/?p=14160#comment-1347300

      Reply

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