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The National Executive Committee of the National Union of Students has voted not to back a motion endorsing solidarity with the Kurds against Islamic State.
The motion, entitled “Iraqi Solidarity”, was backed among others by the NUS’s International Students Officer Shreya Paudel and had been co-written by Roza Salih, a recent graduate of Kurdish descent who is the Vice President Diversity & Advocacy at Strathclyde Students’ Union at Strathclyde University.
The motion had already been passed at Scotland-wide level, and it was noted that some of those who voted for the motion in Scotland failed to do so at a UK level.
At UK level, the motion was opposed by the NUS’s Black Students’ Officer Malia Bouattia, who argued that the motion was “Islamophobic” and “pro-USA intervention”.
The motion’s resolutions included commitments to “work with the International Students’ Campaign to support Iraqi, Syrian and other international students in the UK affected by this situation” and to “make contact with Iraqi and Kurdish organisations, in Iraq and in the UK, in order to build solidarity and to support refugees”.
The fourth resolution of the motion was “[this union resolves] to condemn the IS and support the Kurdish forces fighting against it, while expressing no confidence or trust in the US military intervention”, bringing into question Ms. Bouattia’s claim that the motion was “pro-USA intervention”.
One of the proposers, Daniel Cooper, complained online after the result that the NUS President had failed to properly facilitate the debate, claiming “after only a single round of speeches, Toni Pearce moved the debate on. This was wrong: there was no opportunity to respond to Bouattia’s allegations.”
Cooper, who made headlines in 2012 for declining to lay a wreath at a Remembrance Day service, criticised “the stranglehold of “identity politics” on the student movement” and the notion that “if a Liberation Officer opposes something, it must be bad,” pointing out that the NUS leadership had previously passed motions relating to Julian Assange and the Socialist Workers’ Party despite the opposition of Liberation Officers.
Much of the coverage around the decision so far has included reference to a tweet by Aaron Kiely, a member of the NUS Executive, in which he praised Malia Bouattia’s speech against the motion for challenging the “Western, racist narrative around ‘ISIS’!”
Tom Maksymiw, LSE Students’ Union Education Officer, condemned the NUS leadership’s decision not to support the motion on Twitter, calling it “disgraceful, beyond self-parody”.