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Naz Shah

Bradford – As the dust settles after one of the most fierce election battles witnessed in Bradford West, Bradford born Naz Shah is today the newly elected Member of Parliament for Bradford West.

IMG_0175Defeating maverick politician George Galloway of the Respect Party by a colossal majority of 11,000 votes, Naz Shah’s victory was celebrated by the masses who followed the election campaign intensely ever since she was selected by the Labour Party hierarchy to battle Galloway a few months ago.

Galloway’s dramatic downfall from winning only three years ago with a majority just as impressive as Shah’s, when he defeated Imran Hussain, is indeed a huge setback for his avid supporters who are still licking their wounds after the embarrassment of Friday morning. But where did it go so wrong for Galloway?

IMG_0194Many claim, who were once Galloway supporters, the personal attacks on Shah by Galloway and his activists worked against him. Creating countless fake Twitter profiles of Shah to discredit her and her family attracted criticism from national and international commentators who joined the social media campaign backing Shah. The campaign took a nastier turn when a website was set up by the Respect Party supporters dedicated to Naz Shah’s life targeting her mother and immediate family. If that wasn’t bad enough, a letter was posted through resident’s letter boxes a week before the elections, again discrediting Shah and her family.

Shah’s own chapter started when she penned the letter about her life in Urban Echo. Titled ‘Exclusive to Urban Echo: Naz Shah reveals all’, little did we know at Urban Echo that the article would go rival. The article was read over 70,000 times and shared via social media platforms over 15,000 times. Prior to the IMG_0219letter, Shah was a regular columnist for our paper and was Urban Echo’s ‘star columnist.’ Her own political journey started at the same time when Urban Echo was set up last year in September to promote positivity and integration within the region. Promoting positivity and integration was one of Shah’s many passions and she agreed to write her views and opinions via Urban Echo. Little did we know, including Shah, what the next few months would hold as allegations, libel threats, defamation allegations and police reports would become the ingredients of the ‘Battle for Bradford West’.

Now that Galloway is no longer in Bradford, it is more likely that the Respect Party and its last few councillors will gradually disintegrate. The people of Bradford have decisively and unanimously rejected Galloway and his party. In saying that, the people of Bradford West have also chosen Shah to represent them in Parliament as 19,000 residents came out to the polling stations to put an X next to her name. image1Shah’s victory is also a victory for women, especially Muslim women. Shah has proven that regardless of race, religion, gender and background, if you have a dream and you want to chase that dream, nothing can stop you. Shah’s victory is a victory for the voiceless, a victory for the abused and a victory for the oppressed.

Galloway’s speech at the count was carefully thought out. He indicated that he will be launching another campaign imminently [one can assume it may be for the London Mayor contest] and he referred to ‘lions’ and ‘hyenas’.

It has been an eventful three years in Bradford. The Galloway chapter is finished and the ‘lioness’ has roared her way into the history books and created her own political earthquake in Bradford West.

 

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Bradford – Bradford West Parliamentary candidate, Naz Shah has today welcomed the delivery of Labour’s BAME manifesto and its clear commitment to take more action to tackle islamophobia in our community.

The manifesto, launched today, commits a Labour government to take robust action against hate crime, developing a cross-government strategy to coordinate and drive forward the work of different departments.

Naz Shah
Naz Shah

It also pledges to make these crimes more visible, by ensuring hate crimes are clearly marked on the criminal records of perpetrators, and producing new guidance from the Sentencing Council to ensure the appropriate use of sentencing for aggravated hate crimes, particularly for repeat offenders. It also aims to ensure hate crime is properly recorded, including incidents of Islamophobia, as is currently the case with other types of crime.

Labour has also committed to reviewing police and CPS guidance to ensure Islamophobia and other hate crimes on social media are adequately covered. The Party will also challenge social media companies to take more responsibility to prevent harassment and hate crimes prosecuted through their sites.

Bradford West parliamentary candidate Naz Shah said:

“It is intolerable that people today in Bradford still face verbal and physical abuse because of the colour of their skin or expression of our religion. I’m really concerned by the worrying increase in extremism and hate crime, including a rise islamophobic attacks.

“We must stand together as a united Bradford community to eradicate hatred, prejudice and intolerance. As a Labour MP I would fight every day to ensure these issues are tackled.”

Naz has also pledged she will work tirelessly to stamp out inequalities in Bradford, where too many people still face discrimination and prejudice.

As a country we have made huge strides. Over the last 15 years, we have seen the first ethnic minority CEO of a FTSE 100 company, the first BAME High Court Judge, and the numbers of BAME students attending university has more than doubled.

But across the country, long-term unemployment for young people from an ethnic minority has increased by almost 50 per cent in the last five years and just four per cent of MPs in the last Parliament were from an ethnic minority.

Naz Shah added:

“Someone from an ethnic minority today remains twice as likely to be unemployed, with a 50% increase in long-term unemployment for young people from ethnic minorities.

“Too many people in Bradford west continue to find themselves held back by discrimination and disadvantage.

“Labour is the party of equality, with a proud record of fighting racial prejudice and helping people from all backgrounds make the most of their talents and abilities.

Whilst there has been historical progress in these areas, there is still so much more to do in order to break down the barriers which still face people from ethnic backgrounds in Bradford and across our Country.”

A Labour Government would:

  • introduce a cross-government race equality strategy to drive progress across government.
  • build an economy that works for working people, extending opportunity and tackling the discrimination that holds people back.
  • raise the National Minimum Wage to more than £8 an hour by October 2019.
  • ensure better and more inclusive public services, with our Parliament, police and judiciary representative of the communities they serve.
  • build stronger and more cohesive communities, with tougher action against hate crime, including rising anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
  • improve the representation of ethnic minorities in public life.
  • We will re-engage with the world to promote human rights, justice and religious tolerance.

Bradford – George Galloway, the Respect candidate in Bradford West, has called on the Director of Public Prosecutions to charge his Labour opponent Naz Shah with perjury over evidence she gave in the trial of her mother for murder and the subsequent appeal.
George Galloway
George Galloway

He has also referred her to the DPP over claims she made under Section 106 of the Representation of the People Act which concerns false representation.

“A jury in the original trial where her mother was convicted on four counts – fraud, soliciting murder, attempted murder and murder – not only unanimously decided her mother was guilty but concluded Naz Shah’s evidence was a tissue of lies, as did the appeal court,” Galloway said. “In particular she lied by claiming that she had bought samosas, which her mother had poisoned, in a shop. In fact her mother, as she subsequently agreed, made them and included a dose of arsenic she had brought back from Pakistan. Shah’s mother even stood by and watched her eat one before making her sick afterwards,’ he continued.

Naz Shah
Naz Shah

“The Court of Appeal, in peremptorily dismissing her mother’s appeal, concurred. I am demanding that she is now prosecuted for perjury. Her testimony, and everything she has said since about the case, is a travesty of the truth. You can either believe the judgments or the fairy tale Ms Shah has since presented.”

Galloway continued: “I deeply regret that Labour has continued to drag this sordid tale and this disreputable candidate and her story across Bradford West voters. There is much more but I have no wish to delve further into the sewer.”

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Bradford – As the election fever gathers momentum at a time when prospective candidates aspire to dethrone their sitting parliamentary opponents, the Bradford West constituency is slowly simmering to boiling point as a toe to toe confrontation between maverick MP George Galloway and his [new] Labour opponent Naz Shah gathers pace.

Naz (also known as Naseem) Shah’s selection was met with raised eyebrows by the Bradford public as well as the Labour Party controlling the city as many whispered of foul play after the suspicious and sudden withdrawal of the selected candidate Amina Ali. Unconvinced by her reasons for the resignation, as many indicated that political pressure from the hierarchy influenced Ali’s decision, the Labour party had no choice but to conduct a second round of interviews. Naz Shah who only managed to receive 13 votes in the first round of the selection process, compared to Naveeda Ikram’s 78, was surprisingly given the nod by the selectors in London ahead of former Lord Mayor and seasoned politician, Ikram.

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Naz Shah’s marriage certificate in Urdu dated 1990

Urban Echo broke the story ‘Exclusive to Urban Echo: Naz Shah reveals all’ last month and in the process propelled Naz Shah onto the national platform as media heavyweights in the way of BBC, Ch4, Guardian, Times, Independent and online influencers Buzzfeed featured the story resulting in an on line viral reaction. The article was read over 50,000 times within 24 hours and shared via Facebook and Twitter 15,000 times. Naz Shah was suddenly trending across the country. But why such a dramatic reaction?

Shah’s penned story of a victim, an abused childhood and of her mother Zoora Shah, who was convicted for murder, struck a chord with its readers as she re-lived her harrowing story. But this was Naz Shah’s version of the story. She made reference to her abused mother who ultimately murdered the man that had been abusing her for so many years. She also made reference to her forced marriage in Pakistan at the age of fifteen.

Many observers are now questioning whether her story gives her the right credentials to stand for Parliament. Social media posts are predominantly for Shah but she also has her critics questioning the accuracy of her version of events in the story.

Translated version of marriage certificate
Translated version of marriage certificate

As it appears, Urban Echo has come into the possession of Shah’s ‘Nikkah’ (marriage) certificate dated May 31, 1990. The ceremony took place in Mirpur, Azad Kashmir when she married Syed Mazhar Shah. As Naz Shah was born on November 13, 1973, her marriage took place when she was sixteen and half years old – not fifteen years old as she claimed in the article.

Ron McKay, the Respect Party spokesperson told Urban Echo, “Naz Shah has claimed in all the media she has trailed her story across – Times, Telegraph, Mirror, Mail and Guardian, and of course Urban Echo – that she was fifteen when she married. This narrative plays into the racist line of Pakistani men grooming/sexually abusing under-age girls.

“Recently when I pointed out to a Guardian reporter the true date of the marriage, based on Supreme Court evidence that her mother had gone to Pakistan in May 1990 for the wedding, Naz Shah’s response was to add a further lie, that her mother’s visit was for the wedding celebration – some 18 months at least after the alleged wedding! Naseem Shah has deliberately and cynically bent the truth in order to manipulate people’s emotions in an attempt to win personal support for her candidature. She is unfit to represent Labour or, heaven forfend, the people of Bradford West,” he concludes.

The Labour party were unavailable for comment.

 

Dreams of my mother & dreams for my daughter.

Last week I was selected to stand as the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Bradford West, where I was born and raised, and where I live and am raising my own family.

In my first press interview, the reporter asked me what brought me into politics and referred to my own life story. Later on that evening on the journey back from London, my friend asked me how I felt. I responded I would know once I was in my mother’s arms. I also explained that I had many years ago read Barak Obama’s ‘Dreams of my father’ and for me to be where I am today were the dreams of my mother.

I was only 6 when my father abandoned my mother with two young children and pregnant with a third when he eloped with the neighbour’s 16-year-old daughter. I remember being thrown into the back of a taxi with black bin liners full of our belongings and packed off from the family home on Hartman Place to my granddads home in Kirkham Road. We never really saw the end of black bin liners over the next few years as we moved from squalor to squalor, 14 times in less than 2 years, from back-to-back houses where the toilet was outside to rat infested damp houses where we lived and slept in just one room.

We finally had a home, 251 Legrams Lane, purchased with the sale of my mother’s wedding jewellery but in someone else’s name, Azam’s name. My mother’s attempt to provide her children with the security of a home came at the expense of being abused by Azam over years. A man that she thought would save her children from an uncertain and insecure future, little did she know he would be the exact opposite. My mother had sent me to Pakistan at the age of 12 when she felt I was at risk of his abuse. When my younger sister was growing up and my mother felt she was now at risk, and following years of anti-depressants, failed suicide attempts and feeling desperate and destitute… she snapped.

She killed the man who abused her.

I remember how my days and nights became one, how my world was turned upside down, how I became a mother to my two siblings who were 11 and 13 at the time. Up until then, the worst I had known personally was my own forced marriage through emotional blackmail when I was just 15 years old whilst in Pakistan. I never went back to schooling and my first job was at Society Linen hire on Usher St, the laundry service for the local hospitals. I moved on to packing crisps at Seabrook’s which was a huge improvement in job and wages. By January 1992 I wanted to go back to college after leaving my own husband who used his fists to communicate and now this.

My life now revolved around solicitor and prison visits. I didn’t know how to run a house and I used to smoke ten Benson’s and read the Sun for crying out loud. I remember the first day I visited my mother at Newhall Prison, when I left it was like leaving a crying child at nursery for the first time, I now became a mother to my mother. We lost the house, we lost everything and the moving around started all over again.

We campaigned with the Southall Black Sisters and were supported by other women’s group across the country like Justice for Women. Together we managed to get my mother’s tariff reduced from 20 to 12 years but my mum still served 14 years before being released on parole as we had to work with the Parole board to satisfy them as she was no longer a risk. The 14 years is a story in itself, as is that of my own and my sibling’s survival, being homeless, desperate and alone with just each other and some friends who we made along the way. But that story is for another day.

I became a carer for children with disabilities as my mother had also been a carer. I then went on to become an advocate for women with disabilities and their carers. I felt my calling was to help people and I then joined the Samaritans. I didn’t realise how much anger I carried inside me towards the ‘systems’ that failed me and my family because I had turned it into this force to change people’s lives. I would get emotional about the families I was helping and angry if they weren’t getting the right services, until one day my mentor pulled me to one side and asked me why was I so upset when families didn’t get the services they needed, how much of this is really about the failure you experienced? That conversation was a game changer for me.

I quickly realised to effect change I must be able to influence decision making and that’s when I joined the NHS. To begin with, I managed giving out grants and ‘Patient and Public Involvement’ and we then started ‘commissioning services’. I found my niche when my manager recognised my talent and invested heavily in my leadership development. I fell in love with the idea of ‘Leadership’ and am still in love with the notion of it being the key to change society for the betterment of humanity.

Beyond my own career, I continued to fly the flag around violence against women through speaking at conferences and contributing to discussions. I didn’t really appreciate exactly how much I was using my own natural leadership and passion to influence policy and change.

Now where does this fit in with the dreams of my mother?

When my father left my mother it was my mother that was ostracized and persecuted. It was my mother who became the ‘fallen one’. When my mother didn’t tell her story of abuse at her trail due to the fear of ‘izzat (honour/shame) it was my mother who was not believed. Every chapter of her life following her marriage is a book in itself, how her husband refused to pick up her first child because she was a girl, how she was battered by her husband and how she lost children due to beatings.

How she lost all her ‘izzat’ when she was on the front page of the local rag as a murderer and sentenced to 20 years. She laid bare for the whole world to see her wounds of sexual exploitation at an appeal only to be dismissed as incapable of belief and then once again before the Lord Chief Justice who finally accepted she was driven to kill and he reduced her tariff.

So you see for me, to be selected as a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate is not really about me, it’s the dream of my mother. I remember my mum saying, “Naseem I would be so happy if you became a prison governor as you could help women like me.” When I expressed my interest last year for politics as it’s where I can influence change, my mother understood that her story from 22 years ago would resurface. It would open up wounds but she blessed me as she knew it’s what made me this way. My siblings struggled but they knew it is who I am.

My selection isn’t about me, it’s about the recognition of inequality in society. It’s an understanding that we still have many changes to make. It’s my way of making things right because if I’ve learnt anything, I have learnt that through compassion we can change the world. We cannot change things through just complaining. We must be part of the solutions and we must have conversations, real meaningful and honest conversations, not only with ourselves but with our families, our communities and beyond.

It’s been 6 days since I was selected and an amazing 6 days by anybody’s standards. I have been on a learning curve second to none. I’ve always campaigned against violence against women and I have a deep understanding of the role of ‘power and control’, but even I have been taken aback by the ‘power dynamics’ of politics. I had not reached home following my selection and I had at least two new fake twitter accounts set up in my name. Already my ‘character’ has been attacked and desecrated through social media and trolling. The smear campaign that has started has been some of the most vicious and disgusting I have seen. But it does not scare me and it will not change me. In fact, it fuels my passion for change even more.

In a short space of just 6 days, this tells me clearly that unfortunately 22 years later it is still a woman’s character that is attacked. Why is it that men’s characters are not questioned in this city when they stand for elections? For me personally, every attack is a further indictment of why I must stand and challenge the status quo. It gives me more strength and resilience to ensure I win the trust and belief of the people in Bradford West and then this election to bring change in my community.

Today is also International Women’s Day and I will be speaking at a conference as well as my first hustings. Each bit of my story and the celebration of women across the world, overwhelms me that little bit more today.

My mother is 63 now. She is my rock, as are my siblings, but the future isn’t about her anymore. My drivers are now different as I have children of my own. My daughter Leyana is ten years old. Last year Leyana learnt of her ‘nanis’ (grandmother) life experience. Leyana said now she understood what I meant when I say ‘I work so hard so you don’t have to.’ My daughter had £34 pounds in her savings box which she gave to her nani as she had been poor. How beautiful is the innocence of our children, our future. How can this not feed my passion to achieve equality in society?

I have also been blessed with two sons, Aydan and Raese, seven and three years old as well as a niece and a nephew. I don’t want for them what I went through. I don’t want for any child to miss out on a good education. Having experienced poverty first hand, I understand how it impacts. I was the first ‘compulsory redundancy’ in NHS Bradford & Airedale in 2009 following the cuts/austerity measures. The fact that I am where I am illustrates how even against the odds we can create a better future for the next generation.

When I did finally get home that night I was selected, my mother sat up in her bed and held me close whilst I cried. We cried together knowing that whilst my past and my present are the dreams of my mother and her inspiration for me, my future is about the dreams I have for my own daughter. She is my inspiration to bring change and equality for the world in which she is growing up in, the community we live in and the wider society.

Happy International Womens Day.

Naz Shah

Prospective Parliamentary Candidate

A daughter, a sister and a mother.

On 21st of February 2015, just 75 days before the general elections, the Labour Party eventually managed to select the candidate for the Bradford West constituency to enter the contest.

Ms Amina Ali, a councillor from Tower Hamlets, London has won the toss for this seat beating two local aspirants with a huge majority. Cllr Naveeda Ikram, the first female Muslim Lord Mayor of the city was tipped to secure the nomination followed by a rather newcomer to politics, Ms Naseem Shah. But surprisingly, both were unanimously rejected by the 237 members present at the selection meeting by a big margin.

Amina Ali
Amina Ali

It is reported that after the result was announced, there were skirmishes between Naveeda Ikram’s supporters and those who were alleged to have supported Amina Ali by using the block vote in order to exclude the other two candidates from victory. Also insiders have revealed to Urban Echo that lobbying for Ali continued during the three hour meeting by way of whispers and deterring eye contacts. During the two weeks preceding the selection meeting, reliable sources have informed Urban Echo that several private meetings were held by a particular faction of the Labour Party in which the use of block vote in favour of Ali was decided. In addition, a Member of Parliament made a special journey from the Midlands to vouch support for another candidate. These disclosures can only be indicative of undue and unfair interventions and irregularities of the whole process of selection.

Naveeda Ikram
Naveeda Ikram

Once again these extraneous influences have occurred in the selection process which the party wanted to avoid at any cost. The Labour Party, as a result of their nearly three year investigation of factors which led to their defeat in 2012, took the decision to declare Bradford West as a woman only constituency with the hope of achieving some unity within the party and the community. It is manifest now, however, that they have dismally failed. The party is still divided into factions and last month they tried and succeeded to demonstrate their influence and power.

As we know, the seat in Bradford West became vacant after the demise of Marsh Singh. Subsequently, Mr Imran Hussain was chosen to contest it and lost to the Respect Party by a mammoth ten thousand majority. It was a humiliating defeat for Labour and the man responsible for this defeat was none other than George Galloway – the most tumultuous politician and a bogeyman of the media. Galloway within a few weeks of his presence in the city mesmerised the electorate by his unmatchable power of oratory and his unequivocal support for Palestine. This stupendous victory of Galloway was described as the GG phenomenon. Although, the support for the Respect Party after the resignations of its five councillors in 2013 has eroded, the party is

still breathing and alive and it would be suicidal for Labour to underestimate or ignore Galloway as a political entity in in the forthcoming contest. For the Labour candidate, the time for campaigning is too short as being an outsider and reliance on loyalty and sincerity of some Labour members is dubious. Rumours are already rife within the community that the rift in the local labour party and the ulterior motive of a faction is to ensure that Labour does not win because of the” shoddy” treatment meted out to them. And, of course, if Ms Ali wins, they believe their chances will be limited.

In these circumstances the Labour Party has no room to harbour any illusion or complacency and sit on their laurels, as usual, hoping everything will be all right. They should not simply depend on honeyed words of dubious sincerity and loyalty but scrutinise these claims and ensure by the evidence of hard work and visible actions. Ms Amina Ali and her party are undoubtedly faced with many minefields; hence they have to navigate with utmost caution and prudence to win back Bradford West.

Editor, Urban Echo

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