Muslim woman accuses employer of sacking her over Gaza genocide views

Afshan Abubakar with her Palestinian husband Hani Abualqaraya (Image: Afshan Abubakar)

A Muslim woman from Oldham is threatening to sue her former employer, Citizens Advice, after being sacked from her job after she made her feelings known about the Gaza genocide and the plight of her Palestinian husband who is trapped there.

The 42-year-old mum-of-three, Afshan Abubakar, had her contract as a trainee consultant for Citizens Advice terminated on November 17 following a welfare meeting.

In her termination of employment letter, it was cited that her employment had been ended for “inappropriate behaviour.” The letter also claims that her actions had been “offensive and wholly inappropriate,” among other reasons.

However, speaking to 5Pillars, Ms Abubakar said she did nothing to justify a dismissal.

“I completely reject their baseless suggestion that I did anything abusive. I was invited into a ‘welfare’ meeting, but instead of receiving any concern for my welfare, my employer started attacking and criticising me. This made me very distressed, and I tried to assert my rights to a proper process.

“They then fired me without any warning… I stand by what I said. Israel is committing genocide, and I did nothing wrong by mentioning this.”

The welfare meeting was conducted after Ms Abubakar had been off sick from work due to the “stress of the situation” after Israel’s attacks on Gaza began.

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She believes she was discriminated against over the sacking, claiming that one of the reasons for her dismissal was because she spoke about Palestine and referred to the events in Gaza as a “genocide.”

Her connection to Palestine is personal as well as religious. Her husband, Hani A A Abualqaraya, is a Gaza-born Palestinian whose home was destroyed during the recent escalation.

Mr Abualqaraya was forced to flee to south Gaza after Israel dropped leaflets from the sky demanding Palestinians flee south, where he remains trapped along with his family. 

Citizens Advice response 

A spokesperson for Citizens Advice Oldham was quoted in The Oldham Times, on November 23, responding to the accusations.

“The Citizens Advice service in Oldham prides itself on being impartial; this is especially important when people and communities are experiencing difficult times. We’ll continue to support our colleagues and those who need help in this way, always endeavouring to respect everyone’s views and put our colleagues and those who need us first.”

They added: “As a charity, we value diversity. We have clear employment policies and guidelines that all staff and volunteers are expected to adhere to at all times. We don’t tolerate abusive, aggressive, derogatory, or personal conduct that is considered offensive and inappropriate.

Editorial credit: chrisdorney /

“The policies are in line with employment law and ACAS (advisory, conciliation and arbitration service) good practice. Any staff member who feels they have been treated unfairly is able to challenge that through internal processes or an employment tribunal.”

Speaking to 5Pillars, Ms Abubakar’s barrister, Franck Magennis, explained how he believes Citizens Advice’s conduct has been “utterly heartless.”

“This is one of the most egregious cases of unfair dismissal I have ever encountered. Instead of receiving support and understanding, Afshan was shoved out of the organisation without even the slightest regard for proper procedure. To do this at a time when her husband is trapped in Gaza, while it endures what many experts believe amounts to genocide, is utterly heartless. Her former employer owes Afshan a deep and sincere apology.”

Magennis clarified that Ms Abubakar is in the process of commencing legal proceedings against her former employer. If the parties are not able to agree a settlement, she will “not hesitate to issue a claim against them in the Employment Tribunal.”

Husband trapped in Gaza 

Afshan Abubakar met her husband, Hani Abualqaraya, through volunteer work in 2022.

She helped to teach English to children at the Al Fakhoora school in Gaza City, over Telegram and Zoom.

While she has not visited Gaza herself, she finally managed to meet Abualqaraya in Egypt after performing an Islamic marriage online.

After Israel began its assault on Gaza, Abualqaraya and his reletaves were forced to flee his family home. Luckily they escaped before it was destroyed.

A photo of a destroyed Masjid taken by Hani in Gaza

“Leaflets fell from the sky asking them to move south and leave north Gaza,” Ms Abubakar  told 5Pillars.

“Prior to this, Hani’s brothers flat was bombed and my husband’s family home was also bombed and destroyed.

“Hani’s brother and wife were going south with their twins. They were shot at. His sister-in-law was shot in the leg. Her son, in the head! We don’t know if they are alive. They were at Al Shifa hospital before it was invaded. My husband doesn’t want to disclose their details if they’re still alive he’s worried for their safety.”

Ms Abubakar has launched a petition aiming to get Hani Abualqaraya, who has ended up stranded near the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, expedited to Britain.

“We urge the government not only fulfil their duty but also show compassion by doing everything within their power to expedite clearance for my husband so that he can escape this dangerous situation,” the petition reads.

Since October 7, the Gaza death toll has passed 22,000 with the number of injured exceeding 57,000 with Israel accused of conducting an indiscriminate bombing campaign.

The majority of the killed are considered civilian casualties, including 70% women and children according to statistics shared by the Gaza Health Ministry.

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