Diary of a not-so-baby BarriSTAR

An alternative perspective



Delighted to have been featured in the British Bangladeshi Power and Inspiration List 2017. The list is a celebration of 100 leading figured who are helping shape Britain for the better with their ideas, example, talent and success. 

“Zeenat is using her personal experiences to challenge hurdles facing women and minorities in the legal profession and continues to lead by example having recently been awarded a scholarship to fund a placement at the Centre for Constitutional Rights in New York.” 


Why I March

Today, I was honoured to be apart of an immensely powerful movement and one of the biggest mobilisations of people across the world in history. 

The Women’s March movement represents day one of the resistance against not just the Trump presidency, but what that represents across the whole world. 

Too often, I am asked “what difference will it make?” By family members, friends and even the stranger on the street today who was frustratingly trying to push through the throng of protestors. 

When he couldn’t get through to where he needed to go, I invited him to join the protest. He said “I don’t want to join the protest, what’s it about anyway?” I explained that it was a global response to the inauguration of Trump and the wider significance of that. He responded “this is the wrong country, he isn’t here, he’s already in now anyway.” He then pushed through to wherever it was he was trying to go.

I reflected on this exchange and this man’s attitude to people like me. People who cannot believe that we live in a world where Donald Trump has become president. People who are sick of oppressive systems of power and what they create. People who choose to take to the streets as part of their personal resistance against systemised inequality and injustice.

He was white. And male. With no insight into his privilege.

I was reminded that it is this attitude of indifference and apathy that is the problem.

And also the reason why people like me and so many others choose to march. For ourselves, for others, for our communities and for humanity. 

So many people have to fight for the right to exist and to be. It is for the rest of us to join that fight. 

To suggest that movements like these achieve nothing, is to delegitimise and fundamentally misunderstand the power of people. History has shown us what movements can achieve.

Yes, Trump is in. Yes, Brexit is looming. Yes, intolerance, racism, xenophobia, islamophobia are real and rife. 

But the question shouldn’t be “what will this achieve?” But rather, “how are we going to fight back?”

The answer is in unifying, organising communities and intersectional movement building. One people, shared struggles. 

For those people asking what’s the point- check your privilege.

The Silent Rohingya Genocide

I didn’t know who the Rohingya people were before I started working with international human rights organisation Restless Beings in 2010.

A stateless persecuted minority in Myanmar (Burma) who despite being able to trace their ancestry in Myanmar through generations as natives, are deemed as “illegal Bengali immigrants.”

Although many Rohingya refugees have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, there is an increasing “push back” policy including forcible returns and detention.

Despite being referred to as one of the most oppressed minorities in the world, the Rohingya plight has been widely underreported which perhaps explains why so many people still do not know who the Rohingya are.

In recent years, there has been some media coverage of particular ‘crack downs’ or ‘flare ups’ – as is happening at present.

However, it would be wrong to think that the persecution of the Rohingya  is a new issue. This has been going on for decades.

The international community is silent on the Rohingya. It is not ‘fashionable’ enough and clearly serves nobody’s political agenda.

The silence of Aung San Sui Kyi, so called nobel prize winner, and ‘human rights’ icon, is particularly damming.

Some of the horrifying atrocities that are currently being reported include:

  • Mass rape- women and girls
  • Indiscriminate shooting
  • Killing- adults and children
  • Torture
  • Kidnap
  • Burning down of villages

The Rohingya Muslim minority are being ethnically cleansed. 

It is the word that people are afraid to use. Genocide.

When looking at the ‘8 stages of genocide’ in the context of the Rohingya – the parallels are stark.

Classification. Symbolisation. Dehumanisation. Organisation. Polarisation. Preparation. Extermination. Denial.

In the face of such impotence from international players, it is us who must speak out.

What can we do?

  1. Educate yourself. Who are the Rohingya? What is happening?
  2. Share knowledge. Speak to people. Utilise social media. Fill the gap from mainstream media outlets.
  3. Lobby. Write to your MP.
  4. Engage with organisations working on this issue for example Restless Beings who have a three pronged ‘Rohingya Rights’ campaign: a petition, collecting donations and a protest in London on 2nd December 2016 from the FCO, marching to the Burmese embassy.
  5. Find events in your area such as ‘Silence Over the Rohingya Genocide’ at the London Muslim Centre on 30th November 2016.
  6. Better still, arrange an event/meeting yourself. Organise with other people in the community, pool resources, skills and ideas about what can be done.
  7. Don’t be silent. Don’t allow it to be legitimised through silence.

*Images from All Jazeera, East London Mosque & Restless Beings respectively.

“Silenced Voices: Stories from Srebrenica & Sarajevo” is a an event which has been organised by a group of delegates who travelled to Bosnia & Herzegovina in November through the charity ‘Remembering Srebrenica.’

The group took part in the flagship ‘Lessons from Srebrenica’ programme and hope to share their experiences and insight. The aim is that we can reflect on the past, and learn lessons from history to tackle ongoing challenges in the world today.

5th March, at BPP law school, Holborn


Exhibition | Film screenings | Presentations | Networking


Stories from survivors from the Bosnian conflict | Human rights theatre from Ice & Fire | Film screening of ‘Silenced Voices’ |
Music | Performance poetry

Please join us for as much or as little of the programme. This promises to be a fantastic event!

Further details and tickets:
#Bosnia #BiH #Srebrenica #Sarajevo #London #HumanRights #InternationalJustice #Genocide #RememberSrebrenica Photo credit: Eleanor Zafra Weber-Ballard

“You ain’t no Muslim Bruv”

Powerful representation of the frustrated, angry Muslim response to acts of terror being carried out in the name of Islam. A response I can fully identify with when such acts are committed.

But the tragic act of violence that happened in Leytonstone isn’t one of them.

When a Muslim man commits an act of violence shouting “this is for Syria,” it is considered a ‘terrorist’ incident. When a white man commits an act of violence shouting “white power,” it is considered a racially aggravated incident.

Why the differentiation? Because he is Muslim? Because of what he said? Or both?

Surely by this logic, any person who is Muslim, commits a crime and makes some reference to something political is a terrorist.

The question is, why do we need responses like “You ain’t no Muslim Bruv”? It represents a perpetual obligation that Muslims feel to justify their faith and distance themselves from such acts. But why should we need to do that?

The language of terrorism and specifically ‘Islamic fundamentalism/jihad/extremism’ whatever you want to call it, is chucked around so freely that it has become embedded in the mainstream narrative of what people understand of Muslims.

That narrative is not ok. And must be challenged and dismantled.

“You ain’t no Muslim Bruv” represents the pent up frustration of having to defend one’s faith from attack. It does so powerfully and ironically – eloquently.

But we shouldn’t need it. And the fact that we do, the fact that it is trending, the fact that the PM has hijacked the phrase – is a problem. Reclaim our defiance. Reclaim our faith.

Hundreds of stabbings in London, day in day out. But our ‘free press’ likes to be selective in what is reported and how it is reported. All designed to serve the narrative.

A man, with mental health difficulties, who committed a crime. Sounds like many of my clients that I represent on a daily basis.

Not a terrorist.

Solidarity March in London 12.09.15 #RefugeesWelcome #HumanityWithoutBorders #London

On the door 💛💙💜💚❤️ #tenant #barrister #25BR #london #defendtilltheend

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