SOAS Students’ Union Statement of Solidarity with Bahar Mustafa
In the last week Goldsmiths Students’ Union Welfare and Diversity Officer Bahar Mustafa has come under intense and personal attacks in the national press for her role in organising a meeting aimed at self-identifying BME women and Non-binary people.
These attacks are based on a number of falsehoods and distortions. The event was an organising meeting, which was one event as part of a wider project involving hundreds of students who are fighting for a more democratic and inclusive university. This particular meeting was an opportunity for BME women and Non-binary people, who despite their involvement in student and staff campaigns at Goldsmiths are often overlooked and marginalised within these spaces, to discuss their experiences and organise together in order to engage more effectively with the wider student movement. Portrayals of this as a "diversity event", an "anti-racism rally" or "a gathering to celebrate racial unity" in The Daily Mail and The Evening Standard, among other newspapers, is a complete misrepresentation of the meeting and an insult to the students involved, who have political desires and abilities beyond celebrating "diversity".
People who face particular oppressions and difficulties meeting as a group to discuss how best to support one another and how to organise is not new or unusual. It is an important part of any political process, and is incorporated into the internal structures of many political and social organisations, including SOAS Students’ Union. Liberation campaigns concentrate on the rights of people who face oppression and discrimination and are often underrepresented and disadvantaged within education and the wider society. Liberation groups comprise of: Black Minority Ethnic (BME), Women, Disabled Students, Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans*, Queer, Intersex, Asexual + (LGBTQIA+), and Class. We believe it is imperative that liberation campaigns are led by people who identify into those liberation groups, with those who do not self-identify showing solidarity with these campaigns as allies, with members of liberation groups having spaces to meet to discuss and plan politically. Such spaces were fought for by oppressed groups to allow them to organise on their own terms. This right to self-organise should not be something these groups need to ask for or need to justify to anyone else.
This is not, as has been suggested in the press, anti-white bigotry. Nor is it discrimination, in any sense of the word. This sensationalist response from the media is part of wider misreporting on student politics, which portrays liberation politics as a totalitarian project which seeks to silence its opponents, and white men in particular. Liberation groups have every right to organise independently for any situation, not only for prescribed issues deemed ‘acceptable’ for them to address, and allies of liberation groups should support and defend the existence of these autonomous spaces. This entitled backlash from the privileged few further highlights the continued need for such spaces.
We condemn the personal attacks that have been launched against Bahar and the invasion of her privacy by press who have reported on her home and family. We also condemn the consistent and targeted attacks on women, particularly BME women, students and student officers, in the press.
Those of us from SOAS Students’ Union who have had the pleasure of working with Bahar this year, know what a kind, committed and inspiring person she is. We send all our support to Bahar and to other students in Goldsmiths who have come under attack. Please show your support by signing this petition.
With love and solidarity,
SOAS Students’ Union Executive