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Ex-presidents accuse Oxford Union of ‘targeting diverse representatives’ following Ebrahim Osman-Mowafy’s disqualification from presidency

Ebrahim Osman-Mowafy and three Oxford Union ex-presidents of colour – Michael Akolade-Ayodeji, Ahmad Nawaz, and Adam Roble – signed a letter to the Union’s Senior Officers and Trustees alleging that recent Union procedures to remove candidates from their elected positions have been “disproportionately targeting individuals from non-traditional backgrounds.” The letter comes after Osman-Mowafy was disqualified from the role of President-elect in proceedings he alleges were “steeped in nothing but racism, islamophobia and persistent bias.”

The letter cites findings in the Azamati Governance Report, which follows the manhandling of a blind Black student in 2019. It states: “The Union’s disciplinary procedures remain opaque and archaic, filled with latent and actual bias, and remain unaddressed problems… The members keep electing diverse representatives and the institution keeps marginalising them.”

It follows two tribunals, including the convening of a second election tribunal chaired by the wife of a prominent conservative member whom Osman-Mowafy alleges has “frequently made Islamophobic and ethno-nationalist comments.”

In an email to the Senior Officers and Trustees, Osman-Mowafy alleged that the Clerk to the panel, had made “racist and Islamophobic remarks.” The email states: “[the Clerk] had said on Wednesday evening, in the presence of multiple members including an ex-RO: ‘we’re going remove Ebrahim…. he’s not gonna appoint a hijabi girl as his Chief of Staff,’ seemingly referring to the two hijabi girls who ran with me in the last election.”

Osman-Mowafy also alleged that the panel “ridiculed, insulted, and continuously interrupted” him and his representatives as the judges were “handpicked” by the Returning Officer who is “seeking [Osman-Mowafy’s] removal openly.” 

In another letter signed by the aforementioned officers, ex-President Disha Hegde, and eleven other members of the Standing Committee, the officers “express [their] concern about the state of the Union’s disciplinary procedures.”

The letter said that “in recent terms, the Oxford Union has been more litigious than at any other point in its history,” alleging that “the disciplinary procedures and processes have become opaque and compromised.”

The tribunal found Osman-Mowafy not guilty on five of the six charges but ultimately ruled that he had brought an allegation of electoral malpractice against another member that was “manifestly unreasonable” and suspended him from the Union until the end of Michaelmas Term 2024. As a result, Christopher Collins has been elected with a majority of first-preference votes following a recount of the remaining votes, ordered by the tribunal. 

The winner of the previous Union election was also disqualified by a tribunal following the election results. In each of the last three Union elections, winning candidates have either been disqualified by election tribunals or have run unopposed. 

Oxford Union have been contacted for comment.

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