Harassed female councillor told she 'slept her way' to position

Friday, January 10th, 2020 8:53am

By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter @CharGreenLDR

Oldham's first female Asian deputy council leader has revealed that online abusers claimed she 'slept her way' to the top and is 'likely to have STDs' as she condemned harassment and attacks on politicians.

In an emotional speech at Wednesday night’s full council meeting, Councillor Arooj Shah (pictured) slammed a series of personal attacks on her as ‘textbook misogyny’.

Coun Shah also addressed long standing rumours about her interactions with Mohammed Imran Ali, or ‘Irish Immy’, Dale Creegan’s getaway driver.

He was convicted in 2013 for assisting the killer by driving him to Leeds after his murder of gangland rival David Short in 2012.

The town hall meeting on January 8 was told that Coun Shah and Irish Immy had been childhood friends since the age of 11, and she also referenced her brother, who has also served time in prison.

Coun Shah said she knew her friendships and relationships would be ‘difficult for some people to accept’, but added she ‘can’t pretend they don’t exist, and certainly I can’t turn my back on people I’ve known since childhood’.

“I would never condone any acts, not that my brother did and not that friend did,” Coun Shah, who is also the cabinet member for social justice and communities, said.

“I do not disown people for political convenience or to advance my political career.”

But in her speech Coun Shah said that she had been personally targeted by an individual online after challenging their behaviour, which led to a campaign of abuse.

Fighting back tears, she said: “The individual deliberately sought out to bring shame to me in my community and impact my family.

“He inferred that women in my profession must have sexually transmitted diseases, and the only reason I hold the position I hold is because I slept my way to this position.

“We are too aware that if you were to even counter every single accusation, you know that something more ridiculous and outrageous will follow – they are not about truth but intimidation.”

She told members she had always acted appropriately in her political and professional life, and had never abused her position.

“I have worked fifty times harder than my peers to hold this position. I don’t pretend to be somebody I’m not,” Coun Shah added.

She was moving a council motion on harassment and abuse in public life, which called for a letter to be written to the Minister for the Cabinet Office to seek a cross-government response in tackling the issue.

It was backed by Liberal Democrat Coun Louie Hamblett, who said the aim of the motion was not about preventing scrutiny of elected officials. 

“Each individual human being should be able to go about their daily lives in peace, without having malicious intent towards each other,” he said.

“Only in the last few days I’ve been tagged in posts with generic threats and warnings about silencing free speech, including accusations of covering up misconduct simply by being a seconder to this very motion.”

Fellow Liberal Democrat Coun Sam Al-Hamdani also revealed he could no longer publish his personal address when he stood for election after receiving ‘death threats’ for being part of a mixed-race family.

“In the 2017 general election I had rape threats online,” he said.

“That’s not avoiding just talking to somebody who disagrees with you, it’s unfair threats which attack people who are just trying to benefit people in their borough or their country and it makes it difficult to stand up and stand for office.”

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