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OUSU Women’s campaign stands up for safe spaces

Oxford University Women’s Campaign has expressed its solidarity with a Goldsmiths student who was recently criticised by certain sections of the press for creating a safe space for BME women at her university.

Bahar Mustafa, the Welfare and Diversity Officer at Goldsmiths’ student union, organised a discussion on Wednesday 22nd April focusing on a range of topics, including ‘diversifying the curriculum’ and ‘challenging the white-centric culture of occupations’.

Mustafa posted on the Facebook event on 15th April requesting that white people and/or men not attend. The event description was later amended to read, “ALLIES NOW WELCOME !!!”

Mustafa’s posting was picked up by a number of media outlets. Lara Prendergast, Online Editor for The Spectator, described the event as “essentially the proposition of racial segregation in a British university.”

Oxford’s WomCam issued a statement that read, “We the Oxford Women’s Campaign Committee stand in solidarity with Bahar Mustafa… recently lambasted in the right-wing press for carving out a small safe space in her university for BME women. Too often is the rhetoric of the ‘oppressed white man’ used to silence people fighting for a world free from oppression.

“This needs to stop – there cannot be reverse racism, or reverse sexism, or any other reverse ‘discrimination’ when the structures of society under British Late Capitalism are geared towards oppression… We should be proud of our safest spaces and not be expected to mould our movement just so that it fits the most privileged in society.”

They also urged readers to sign a change.org petition in solidarity.

Speaking to Cherwell, Mustafa commented, “The amount of racist and sexist abuse I’ve received illustrates the need for more resources to be put into the promotion of liberation struggles both on and off campus.

“However, despite the negative press from questionable ‘news’ sources, a positive thing has emerged from these attacks, which is the realisation that when we stand together we are strong enough to overcome the challenges we face in organising politically.

“I am overwhelmed and grateful for all the solidarity I have received and cannot wait to turn that momentum back against the racists and sexists that would see us silenced.”

Aliya Yule, OUSU’s Women’s Campaign officer, told Cherwell, “WomCam often has closed franchise meetings. Through our working groups, we have spaces where we ask that only queer women attend, and spaces which are solely for women of colour, alongside others.

“These spaces ensure that we give liberation groups the ability to carve out a liberation movement which is our own, and ensure that the work we do to fight against oppression is led by those oppressed groups.

“I stand firmly in solidarity with Bahar Mustafa, and we must ask why it is that she has been attacked by national media on this occasion, why this organising meeting was wilfully misrepresented, and why she has been targeted with harassment and abuse for standing up for closed franchise spaces, and in particular for women of colour, who so often are marginalised even within activist circles.”

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