Leading activist and writer Nimco Ali has condemned “the silence” from international women’s rights organisations surrounding the sexual violence against women and girls perpetrated by Hamas on October 7.
A non-governmental commission set up in Israel shortly after October 7 found evidence of women and girls being raped, tortured and mutilated.
In a column in the Evening Standard this week, Ali, who is at the forefront of the campaign to end the practice of FGM, wrote: “I have been beyond distressed to see so many of my colleagues and counterparts ignore what happened on October 7.
“[The] silence from international women’s organisations in failing to condemn Hamas’s use of sexual violence against Israeli women is deafening as well as dangerous.
“There are no two sides to women being raped and murdered, and in not being clear, we are complicit in the legitimisation of terror groups using rape and kidnapping as a tool in their oppression of women and girls.”
Ali, who received an OBE in 2019 for her activism, wrote that when she posted a video on social media, saying that rape “should never be tolerated during any war”, the replies she received were “horrific. People have convinced themselves that the evidence put forward by Israeli witnesses of mass rape is all a lie.”
Ali wrote that the accusations were “because it’s actually normal for people to say they don’t believe Jewish women”.
Speaking to the JC, Ali said that in the 20 years she had been working in the field international development, she had witnessed “the continuous systematic othering of Jewish people. I find it both depressing and baffling.”
Ali, who is Muslim and spent some of her childhood in Manchester among the Jewish community, said: “October 7 amplified and showed that, in no uncertain terms, people in the sector [of international development] believe that Jewish lives don’t matter.
“[Jewish people] get condemnation, but there is a lack of acceptance that there can also be sympathy for Jewish people.”
After speaking out on social media in support of Israeli victims of October 7, Ali, who was born in Somaliland and now lives in London, told the JC that she became the target of death threats and “couldn’t get a taxi since, if the taxi driver was Somali, for example, he would just shout at me”.
She said that denying the reports of rape and sexual violence would not only lead to people thinking that Hamas’ actions “were legitimate and justified, but denying the truth ensures that women who are raped won’t be believed in the future”.
Ali’s comments were welcomed by Jewish women’s organisations. Jewish Women’s Aid, which supports women affected by domestic abuse and sexual violence, said: “At a time when the public silence of women’s rights groups has left Jewish women feeling vulnerable and abandoned, words from allies such as Nimco Ali give us validation and comfort.”
Ali will be speaking at a demonstration on Sunday at 11am on Richmond Terrace in Whitehall as part of a global campaign, Your Silence is Loud, aimed at women's rights organisations, including UN Women.
Rally-goers have been asked to wear black for the demonstration. One of the organisers, Jenny Kananov, said: “We are grateful for [Ali’s] article, for standing up for women's rights, giving voice to the victims of 7.10 and calling out the hypocrisy and gaslighting by UN Women.”
“We demand that [women’s rights organisations] meet their commitment to support all women and address the brutal attacks against women in Israel, including rape, mutilation, sexual assault, murder and kidnapping and condemn Hamas.”
On November 26, nearly 50 days after the terrorist attack, UN Women finally released a statement saying that, after hearing about the work of the civil commission in Israel, they “remain alarmed by reports of gender-based violence on 7 October and call for rigorous investigation, prioritising the rights, needs and safety of those affected”.
On Wednesday, the UN announced that it would be launching a commission of inquiry, which would focus on sexual violence committed by Hamas on October 7.