Bahar Mustafa: Support for Goldsmiths Students' Union diversity officer grows online with hashtag #supportbaharmustafa

Bahar Mustafa faced a backlash after requesting white people did not attend an event for BME students

James Rush
Wednesday 20 May 2015 14:01 BST

A groundswell of support is emerging online for a student diversity officer who found herself at the centre of a racism row after asking white people not to attend an event for black and ethnic minority students.

Bahar Mustafa has faced a backlash in recent weeks after posting the message on Facebook, which requested white people not to attend the event in April.

Ms Mustafa, the diversity officer for Goldsmiths University, in London, has defended her position, but now faces losing her job after a petition was set up asking for her to be removed from her position.

Supporters however are now backing Ms Mustafa's actions, with the hashtag #supportbaharmustafa trending on Twitter.

Other users however have used the hashtag to criticise Ms Mustafa.

An open letter has also been posted to with the title "Open Letter in Solidarity with Bahar Mustafa, Welfare and Diversity Officer, Goldsmiths."

The letter describes how the event organised was "aimed at self-identifying BME women and non-binary people" and was not a "diversity event" as had been portrayed elsewhere.

The letter reads: "It is crucial that we make it clear, at Goldsmiths and beyond, that BME-led initiatives have the support and solidarity of many.

"We reject the attempt to tar these initiatives as 'divisive' and 'racist' and we extend our solidarity to everyone resisting marginalisation and isolation on a day by day basis."

In a video posted online by local news website, Ms Mustafa described the backlash she has received as "an outrageous distortion of fact".

She also explains how she cannot be racist or sexist to white men as she is an ethnic minority woman.

"There have been charges made against me that I am racist and sexist to white men…" she said in the video.

"I, an ethnic minority woman, cannot be racist or sexist towards white men because racism and sexism describe structures of privilege based on race and gender and therefore women of colour and minority genders cannot be racist or sexist, since we do not stand to benefit from such a system."

The petition calling for Ms Mustafa's removal from her post alleges she had “used hate speech based on race and gender”.

It reads: “For example, the consistent use of hashtags such as #killallwhitemen and #misandry, and publicly calling someone 'white trash' under the official GSU Welfare and Diversity Officer Twitter account.”

Ms Mustafa has said her use of the term “white trash” on an official account had been “not professional”.

But she also said the use on her personal account of hashtags such as #killallwhitemen were “in-jokes and ways that many people in the queer feminist community express ourselves”.

“It's a way of reclaiming the power from the trauma many of us experience as queers, women, people of colour, who are on the receiving end of racism, misogyny and homophobia daily,” she added.

Mustafa has reportedly received racist and sexist abuse and death threats after the controversy was reported by the media.

The student's union previously said it was reviewing how it communicates with people to "avoid any future misunderstandings" after the backlash over Ms Mustafa's comments ahead of the scheduled event in April.

It said: "Challenging societal inequality has been at the core of our campaigns and we try to do this pro-actively in our everyday work, so the accusation that we discriminate is one we refute wholeheartedly."

The Independent has approached Ms Mustafa for comment.

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