“Why is Apsana facing this continuing persecution, harassment, bullying and most importantly where is her support from the leader who only just recently advocated support for domestic abuse victims?”
By Alveena Ali, Labour Party member, Poplar and Limehouse CLP
Having Apsana Begum as our MP inspires in me, a hijabi Bangladeshi woman, a sense of deep belonging and empowerment.
I remember when I first saw Apsana on a leaflet: I had this wonderful feeling of respect and the biggest grin on my face. She looked radiant, strong and everything I wanted to be.
In the 2019 General Election, I knew exactly who I wanted to vote to represent me – I have never felt so confident and sure. It was clear that Apsana wasn’t a career politician but that she was standing to build people up, make people think, and empower people.
I use the word empower quite a lot because this is something to seize upon in a time of great social disenchantment.
Her strong stance on Islamophobia, social injustice, inequality, and most importantly local issues affecting the everyday lives of the people of Tower Hamlets, is outstanding. Apsana represents the people’s strength.
But there are others – the establishment – who have always seen her as a threat. And so she has never had it easy.
When the case about the housing fraud came into the spotlight, I knew it was not true and that this was an attempt bring her down and break her. There are still questions to be answered about the court case itself – which has been described by Apsana as being “driven by malicious intent” and causing her “great distress and damage” to her reputation and which was not brought by the CPS but by Tower Hamlets Council, costing over £88,607.
Now her recent trigger ballot process has been riddled with complaints – including allegations of high levels of intimidation, misuse of data, membership irregularities, fraud and even alleged bribery. For example, a Mile End and Limehouse branch membertold me
“I know of women who were planning to speak in the meeting but within a few hours before the meeting, they told me that they had changed their mind and that they were scared because of the intimidation and calls they had before the meeting.”
Given what Apsana has been through and that her entire elected term has been overshadowed by a “campaign of misogynistic abuse,” it is no surprise really that Apsana is now signed off unwell by doctors.
On top of this, Apsana publicly identified herself as a survivor of domestic abuse in Jan 2020 and is the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic Abuse. Yet it is disturbing to witness the Labour Party’s inability or unwillingness to tackle domestic abuse and harassment in relation to Apsana.
What concerns me the most is how the leadership itself is completely quiet on this whole matter. Keir Starmer recently visited Liverpool on the 27th July 2022 to discuss with the police chief and domestic abuse organisations on how the Tory government have been letting down the victims of domestic abuse. How is the Labour Party supporting Apsana Begum from the continuing campaign by her ex – husband and his sympathisers?
According to Imran Hussein MP, “the inspirational work Apsana has undertaken since her election is all the more impressive when you consider the appalling abuse she faced” while Zarah Sultana MP has praised Apsana’s “strength in the face of nasty misogynistic abuse and racism” calling her “an inspiration.”
But why is Apsana facing this continuing persecution, harassment, bullying and most importantly where is her support from the leader who only just recently advocated support for domestic abuse victims?
Well – not only did the long-awaited Forde report make some damning observations about Labour failing to tackle Islamophobia and racism but it also highlighted how Black and Asian people, including MPs, have been treated with disrespect and a lack of proper concern for their well-being.
MPs, trade unions and Labour Party members continue to call for justice for Apsana Begum and reject the legitimacy of the result of the trigger ballot process.
Zara Mohammed, Secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) expressed solidarity with Apsana and called on Labour to investigate claims of impropriety fully.
Diane Abbott, the first female Black MP and who has faced racism and abuse from within the Labour Party catalogued in the recent Forde Report, said that “women of colour on the left are treated with exceptional brutality in UK politics” and that the “open harassment and intimidation of Apsana Begum is exceptional and rule-breaking in her trigger process is a scandal.“
All I know is Apsana Begum cannot be silenced, her supporters cannot be intimidated and domestic abuse and misogyny must stop. Women from all cultures and communities are being more and more vocal and we will not be silenced.
- Alveena Ali is a Labour Party member in Apsana Begum MP’s constituency of Poplar and Limehouse CLP.