Skip to main content

UK: Former NUS president sues student body for racial discrimination

Shaima Dallali launches employment tribunal proceedings against the National Union of Students over her dismissal
Shaima Dallali disputed claims of antisemitism and homophobia and said she found out about her dismissal via media reports and social media (Supplied)

The former president of the UK's National Union of Students, who was elected and later sacked following an investigation, will take the NUS to court for racial and religious discrimination. 

Shaima Dallali, a Black woman of Tunisian descent, confirmed on Friday that she would be taking the NUS, university and college students across the UK, to an employment tribunal for wrongful dismissal. 

Dallali's lawyers, Carter-Ruck, described her dismissal as "baseless and inherently discriminatory" and said she planned to sue the union for wrongful dismissal on the grounds of racial and religious discrimination after claiming to be "disadvantaged at every step" of her investigation.  

'Dallali considers her dismissal... to have been motivated by antipathy towards her anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian protected beliefs'

- Carter-Ruck, lawyers

"Ms Dallali has deeply held, publicly articulated beliefs on the right of Palestinians to live free of occupation [and] as the NUS has belatedly had to accept, Ms Dallali's pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist beliefs amount to protected beliefs for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010," Carter-Ruck said in a statement. 

"She has publicly articulated those beliefs throughout her adult life, just as she has consistently and repeatedly condemned antisemitism."

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


Dallali became the first elected president in the national student body's 100-year history to be fired after the NUS investigated her for claims of antisemitism and homophobia relating to several tweets dating back to 2012.

During the investigation, Dallali was suspended and not allowed to take up her post.

She also said the union did not permit her to bring legal representation during the investigation and refused to take her written submissions. The NUS later dismissed Dallali from her position.

Dallali disputed the claims and said she found out about her dismissal via media reports and social media. 

Carter-Ruck added that Dallali's tweets "did not amount to a dismissible offence and that there can be no rational explanation for dismissing her on this (or any other) basis.

"She considers her dismissal (and the unfair process preceding it) to have been motivated by antipathy towards her anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian protected beliefs, the fact that she supported the Palestinians and her religion as a Muslim."

'Deeply troubling'

Dallali previously served as president of the student union at City, University of London.

Dallali was elected to serve as NUS president in March 2022, at the body's last national conference, which saw hundreds of delegates from across the UK vote for her. 

She was due to start her new role in July that year and serve in that position for a two-year term. 

UK Muslim students launch campaign to disaffiliate from NUS after Shaima Dallali sacking
Read More »

Last May, following Dallali's election, the UK government's education minister said it would sever ties to the NUS over antisemitism claims and replace it with "alternative" student representation.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Muslim Council of Britain said Dallali's dismissal was "deeply troubling and raises questions on proper due process".

The umbrella body, which represents hundreds of Muslim organisations, said it had written to the NUS in July with concerns about Islamophobia but had not received a response.

It said Dallali had been subjected to a "deluge of Islamophobic abuse".

"Many Muslim students fear the Islamophobia they face on campus. This decision will only heighten those fears and raise questions about their place within NUS. They are owed an explanation," it said.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.