PROMISING Blackburn Councillor Saima Afzal was bullied and deselected for being outspoken in challenging views held by some of the Muslim males sitting on the council.
Ms Afzal was elected as one of the first Muslim female councillors on Blackburn with Darwen Council in 2018.
But just two years later, seemingly feeling threatened by an attractive, successful and outspoken female challenging their views, she was deselected by the local Labour party following an extensive campaign of bullying and harassment by sexist male counterparts seeking to silence her.
Making an official complaint to the Labour party in February 2020, she alleged bullying and intimidation, yet her pleas for help and justice fell on death ears, leading to her resubmitting the complaint two months later.
She has still not received any response, and Labour have refused to comment.
Speaking at her final council meeting, Afzal said she would “speak out against homophobia, racism, sexism wherever I see it and whoever I see it within”.
“That [stance] was my crime,” she added.
“The men I speak of used their version of ‘religion/cultural’ interpretations to impose upon me” she recently said on Twitter.
“…us Muslim women still seem to be treated like secondary citizens when it relates to local politics, unless of course you comply and agree with the ‘select elect elite’.”
“What I’m asking is what was so wrong about me? What was so unacceptable to voters about a woman who is professional, who has experience, who has a career.
“What exactly is it that is so unacceptable? Could it be that I am not a compliant woman and that I’ve asked questions about sexism, misogyny and racism.”
She added: “If you’ve got people in positions of influence who do not challenge, or who are perpetuating that behaviour then they have got to be questioned.
“If those are the reasons that I have not been accepted then some in the party have lost their way.”
Meanwhile Blackburn and District Trades Union Council have said that they are also disappointed that despite having contacted Blackburn Labour in mid-April requesting an investigation into Ms Afzal’s treatment, they have sill not received a response.
President Vikki Dugdale said: “A greater worry is the suggestion that Councillor Afzal’s withdrawal from the Labour Councillor selection process was a consequence of her facing intimidation and hostility on misogynistic and sexist grounds.”
She added: “On the presumption that the Party wants its body of councillors to reflect the make-up of the local community, it also seems strange to, essentially, replace one BAME woman with another, when that would appear to be an area of particular under-representation.”