Students; please learn.

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In March this year, I was approached as a prominent member of the University of Auckland’s Campus Feminist Collective. Some young girls had concerns about one Omar Hamed, a member of the (unaffiliated) Socialist Aotearoa university club. He had a pretty nasty reputation, having been run out of Wellington for very inappropriate behavior to young, drunk girls; in particular: ‘he has consistently behaved towards women in a misogynistic, disrespectful and sexually predatory way. Comrades from across the left have brought up problems with his behaviour and he has consistently failed to understand the importance of meaningful consent in sexual relationships.’

Now to me, this is a VERY serious issue that needs addressing immediately. I then found out that the girls who had come to me, had only done so because Joe Carolan of UNITE and the president of SA had both been told of these concerns, and not only dismissed them, but allowed Omar to dictate the meeting where they were to be addressed. They had no other options left. So I and several other members of the CFC decided to address the issue directly. On the 14th of April we as a collective, went to a SA forum on Bahrain, in the AUSA’s Clubspace. We walked in as a group, with myself at the head. I was holding a bunch of flyers on consent. Our intention was to talk to the SA as a group after the forum. This is not what happened.

Omar went off*. He stood over me, screamed and assaulted me. It was horrible, and not only did no one from SA do nothing, some members *** openly laughed. After this, when he calmed down enough to allow us to speak our concerns, we attempted to do so. I would say calm was not the right world. ** He claimed that it was conspiracy against him, amongst other things. After the meeting, Joe Carolan gave me his card, and told me to email him the next day, which I did. Still waiting for that reply, Joe.

This is a copy of the complaint I sent to AUSA, (the president and GM, Tom O’Connor.):I would like to make a complaint against Omar Hamed. On Thursday the 14th of April, a forum was held in Clubspace. I was invited by a female member of Socialist Aotearoa, along with a number of other women, to attend the forum and talk to Omar about his questionable behaviour with women after the speakers had finished. I walked in first, followed by the other women who all sat down silently. I walked to the front to put a stack of educational materials on consent on the table, also silently. Omar’s reaction was totally disproportionate to what anyone had done (I reiterate: walked in, sat down, put some paper on a table). He stood up as soon as he saw us, and began yelling that we needed to leave. He singled me out, stood very close and loomed over me, yelling in my face. He grabbed the paper I was holding and tried to yank it away from me violently, continuing to yell and yank even after I refused to let go. I felt incredibly intimidated at the time and have spent the days since then off-balance and upset.

After months of pestering Joe and Tom, getting the WRO to pester them, I finally got a email about a month ago, saying (essentially) they couldn’t do shit and to go to the police. To say I am unimpressed with AUSA is one of the big understatements of the year. But this post isn’t about them. This is about the recent protests at the Uni, and Omars prominent role in them. Admittedly the posters set the whole movement off to a bad start (putting males in dresses to belittle them is fucking stupid), but the real issue is the support Omar continues to get from the AUSA and university in general. People need to know what he is, how he behaves, and to understand that these current protests are just a giant ego fest for him. The ‘we are the University collective’ has alienated a huge number of supporters by letting Omar take such a huge role. Women are automatically threatened by this, and he diminishes support for the real issues.

I’m tired. I’m sick of this. I am sorry I had to write this, that it came to this point. But here we are. I welcome feedback, and am happy to post more if people request clarification on any points. For now, many kisses. I’m going to try and relax (HA!).

Another quick edit; The Hand Mirror have published the letter Here.

Edit: As someone who has mental health issues, I am aware of issues with the language I have used in this post. I also know I am very upset and so used emotive language. I use the terms ‘nuts’ and ‘insane’ to mean behavior I think is highly inappropriate and irrational. People who know me know how I speak, and I wrote as if I was speaking to friends. I am sorry for forgetting where I was. I have removed the language in question.

* originally said Omar went ‘nuts’. By which I meant that he acted disproportionately to the situation.

** Originally said ‘ I genuinely think Omar is insane.’. To be honest, I do think he shows signs of being a psychopath. But that is my own opinion, and I understand I am unqualified to say this.

*** Name removed at the request of someone who has better opinion of the person mentioned than I do. I am placing my trust in their belief in said person. I hope they don’t get let down.

36 responses »

  1. Once, a while back, someone told me something about someone they knew who knew someone too – it was called hearsay.
    When I was a young staunch feminist I told tales about at least a couple young men who were public identities and how they had come on to me. And they had. And I wasn’t interested. It wasn’t until I stepped into my adult woman power that I realised I was capable of admitting I didn’t dislike that attention, and I admitted I knew how to say fuck off, too.
    I didn’t ever suggest that those men didn’t deserve the admiration they got for the good work they did though. My main point is it would be utterly ridiculous for anyone who knows Omar to suggest that his strength of conviction and bravery in leading protests is “just a giant ego fest” because someone told you their side of a story that is just that.
    Where is she now, are you actually representing her?, or just telling everyone you can that you know something about someone who once knew someone young who was also intoxicated and behaved badly?
    Anyone for a game of throwing rocks in glasshouses anyone?

    • What is your point? That because she (they) didn’t feel able to tell him to fuck off, it didn’t happen? Because if that is the case, you clearly don’t understand power relationships at play here.

      I know that I was assaulted by Omar. I know there were many witnesses. I know I am not the only one who knows this. I am not naming any other names, the victims have requested privacy because they are scared of abuse and the negative attention they will get as a result of coming forward. I know that I will get this, but I also know I have lived through far worse. So I am writing this for those that can’t, who are scared. If you wish to clarify your comment, I may be able to answer better.

    • Ah, yes silly young feminists taking the accusations of rape seriously. Not realising that when someone is threatening towards them that they are really liking the attention.

      Guess I’ll never be embracing my ‘adult women power.’

    • I am outraged about what Omar did to Tove, and so should we all be. Every single one of us. What he did was inexcusable, full stop. There is absolutely no need to invoke the “big picture”. Are we to excuse all political or otherwise important figures if they commit a crime? Oh, Lisa, how dare you? Tove was incredibly brave to tell this story. So, oh, Lisa, why? Omar committed heinous crimes, and you want to excuse him? Because the victims “wanted it”? Because he is “important”?

      If you are a student in the University of Auckland, do not think for a moment that this does not concern you. You are already in danger, and AUSA has done almost nothing about it so far.

  2. Pingback: An Open Letter About Omar Hamed « Anarchia

  3. I don’t know him, and I don’t have anything to do with UoA politics, but if a number of women are reporting the same kind of behaviour, then too right he should be held accountable. Sure, a certain proportion of men and women cry wolf over these situations, blowing things out of proportion, or simply misunderstand the situation. But the likelihood of that being the case is definitely going to drop when more women make these complaints about him.

    I don’t think you needed to edit it, since really this is you expressing your frustration over how the situation is, so you should be able to use the language which you find appropriate.

    • I truly don’t wish to offend people with mental health issues, and my way of dealing with my own mental health issues can come across as abelist, which is something I need to think about sometimes. I have no problem with open editing, as long as the process is explained.

  4. I know that this is not going to help with the situations he causes or his behaviour, but someone should give him a good ding about the face

      • Okay thanks for that. Your second sentence doesn’t mean anything, right? If you are implying something, I don’t think now is the time to skirt around declaring what you think…

      • Can’t seem to reply to you, so I’ll reply to me. At the moment everything else I have heard I can only treat as hearsay and repeating it here wouldn’t do anyone any good.

  5. The other thing is what Lisa said: ‘My main point is it would be utterly ridiculous for anyone who knows Omar to suggest that his strength of conviction and bravery in leading protests is “just a giant ego fest”.’ I don’t think you addressed this? For me it is the most important part, since I am involved with this group, and I don’t think one person should be detracting from the cause (which it is currently on the fb page you are posting on).

    • The problem is that Omar can’t help but take over events. And many people know that the CFC will NOT have anything to do with any events he is involved in. People have issues with his behavior, and many women don’t feel safe around him. I think you will find that many, if not most, of the CFC support the original cause, but unlike UNITE and SA, we don’t feel that equality will wait till ‘after the revolution’. We will not ignore this issue like many others seem to be willing to.

      • This is a different issue though – shouldn’t these allegations be dealt with in a forum that doesn’t detract from other (not more important, but separate) issues? I know the difficulties in going to the police, and that AUSA didn’t respond is shocking – if you are able to write this post, maybe that is enough to be sending to the police or at least a moderator that can facilitate discussion? I really see this as not something that is to do with that protest group though – and we should be uniting, not separating students and workers! This should be discussed by all means, but not as a condition of support of the ‘we are the university’ causes!

      • I have tried to address these issues in many many different forums. I didn’t want it to come to this, it’s not exactly fun or healthy for me. But this is a last resort. And I’m sorry, but it is a condition of support for WATU causes.

      • I’m sorry to hear that – I hope Omar is able to resolve things at some point with you and others. Also that you will be able to support these causes, if not in attending protests/occupations then in discussion with people. Luck Tove x

    • I would like to add that even though I wanted to go to some of the events mentioned above, I did not because of Omar. Because he was there, or because I thought he might be. He makes me feel unsafe on campus, and so do his minions. I do not think less of the causes that he is fighting for because of it, but I do think less of the groups that he is involved with. How can they condone his behaviour? And furthermore, how can they use him as a spokesperson?

      • I am really sad to hear you felt like that – I don’t think any one in the watu group knows about these allegations – it does not reflect on the group since no one knows anything about them.

        Perhaps if you knew people were aware of them and were looking out for any inappropriate behaviour at these events, you would feel safer? Since it is a very large group now, it seems the protests over separate issues are not the place to be discussing a single protester’s actions, though certainly addressing those concerns to the people he sees a lot is useful and a pragmatic way of dealing with the concerns.

        Also, please note, Omar is definitely definitely not a spokesperson. He led a lot of chants on the megaphone, but that will likely diversify in the future. It is damaging to these causes that people keep saying he is the leader etc. especially since the issues WAtU are bringing up have nothing to do with issues his behaviour has brought up.

      • There have been a lot of people doing interviews – he certainly is not doing the most.

        Do you have anything to comment on the other things I wrote?

        Being part of a group does not mean you agree with everything everybody else says/does. In fact, even being friends with someone, you will not agree with everything your friend says/does. It is impossible, and it is foolish to think you can isolate individuals who you don’t agree with. I’m not condoning what Omar is alleged to have done, and the WAtU protesters certainly are not either (esp since most of the hundreds that came on Monday don’t even know his name).

      • Thanks Maria! I would genuinely feel better if people were looking out for me and other people. More aroha the better! It would be lovely, and I think you are lovely too. I think everyone commenting here has more in common than not. We all care deeply, and that is kind of wonderful.

        I am surprised to hear that Omar is not a leader or spokesperson though! I apologise in advance if I am wrong, but he was quoted in the NZ Herald (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10754503) and I also heard that he was interviewed on Radio NZ (does anyone know this for certain?).

      • Definitely, and looking out for each other will be talked about at the next meetings we have for sure! Also, the Solidarity March on Saturday is for many many different groups. We are going collectively from the Quad, but everyone else is gathering at the bottom of Queen St.

        There are tens of these articles, and I think they quote about five or six people. The Radio NZ interview that I heard had Joe and Jai interviewed.

  6. GRRRRRRR, having someone come onto you and having a sexual predator target you are not the same thing! As the victim of the OUSA Exec member recently embroiled in a very similar scandal, and as the target of unwanted sexual attention for much of my adult life – from managers, partners, workmates, friends, strangers and sadly a lecturer – I can wholeheartedly say that I did not enjoy the attention. However, if I or any other woman did ever ‘enjoy’ the attention of sexual assault then I would say that is only because they have lost their empowerment and self worth.

    My self worth was taken from me early by a psychologically abusive partner – it is only in recent years that I have realised that he was also sexually abusive towards me – it is a fairly foreign concept to most people that one’s partner could be sexually abusive, as many still view the women’s role in a sexual relationship as an obliging one. I see clearly now that we were not equals in our sexual life, and this has harmed me deeply.

    Many women aren’t vocal, brave or self aware enough to simply tell some to “fuck off”.

    I however actually WAS brave enough to stand up for myself. The result? The person in question was charged with indecent assault covering three incidents which occurred three weeks after I told him his behaviour wasn’t ok.

    Pressing charges resulted in the perpetrator being allowed to spread mistruths about what happened while I was allowed to say nothing. I was subjected to widespread abuse, from men and women alike, who thought I was some desperate singleton who kicked up a fuss because I couldn’t get a man (I can, I have one and he’s fab)
    Frankly though, if getting a man entailed me having to put up with indecent assault and negative sexual attention, I would rather be a spinster.

    My assaulter named me online as his victim and admitted the offence, whilst still minimising it and blaming alcohol. Due to a series of unfortunate events, the story was picked up by KiwiBlog which linked to a another blog where my name was still visible.

    It was a shit experience. You need to be one tough cookie. But worth it, and so to the female victims referred to in this blog, please please please go to the police. There is no statute of limitations on sexual crimes. Indecent assault is a three strikes offence. It stays on your record for life. By creating a formal record of someone’s behaviour, it means that subsequent charges are dealt with more seriously. By standing up for your self worth, you will not only take the power back for yourself, but you could save other women from experiencing what you have. I know it’s not your job to protect future victims, but you have the power here to do so. You obviously have widespread support, including from the author willing to put herself on the line in this blog.

    In my situation, I thought carefully for a couple of weeks before going to the police, because the person was an old friend and I thought it would be viewed as minor. It’s not minor. It is the beginning of a lifetime pattern of escalating behaviours. The police took me very seriously, and luckily our campus cop is passionate about protecting victims and holding people accountable. When I went to the right people, I had unconditional support. When I made the tough decision to press charges, I was surprised that everyone we know said I did the right thing.

    To the victims’ friends and families – they need your support and loads of it, I know I did. Thank you to the people who supported me, it was invaluable – especially that super tough chicky who is always my inspiration.

    Kia kaha ladies.

  7. Hey Tove good on you for putting this up, I know you are sure to get a heap of shit from people for saying this stuff publicly and I think it’s brave that you put it up knowing that.

    Sadly nothing I have heard about Omar surprises me in the least, I really hope he doesn’t abuse/assault anyone else but to be honest that would surprise me. I’m also saddened to hear that Joe and others have refused to be any help with this issue. I can well imagine not going to something because Omar makes you/others feel uncomfortable/unsafe and that really makes me angry.

  8. Pingback: Some further thoughts on Omar Hamed, abuse and the response to it « Anarchia

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  12. Is he still involved in WATU? Now that activities have started up again. Is there any process for ousting someone who is threatening from a non-hierarchical group such as WATU?

    • I wish there was, but WATU seem happy to just ignore him, and are in fact rallying in support of SA, after Omar forced his way into a AUSA executive meeting and threatened the exc. :/

  13. I can’t believe that he can get away with this sort of behaviour, with several women saying the horrible things he has tried and done, then on top of that groups of people have confronted him about his behaviour and still nothing can be done. God I feel so frustrated (as an older woman) for these young women and the shit they are going through. But it is good to see men and women speaking out about Omar’s behaviour, keep going, someone will actually listen and not try and make excuses or cover up, this guy needs help.

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