Ghanaian postgraduate student Ebenezer Azamati, 25, who is blind, was forcibly removed from the Oxford Union debating chamber last month.
The incident has come to light after a video tape was released, with The Oxford University Africa Society (OUAS) narrating it as “violent, unjust, inhumane and shameful”. Azamati has been left feeling “unwelcome in the union, Oxford and even the country”.
Students and other institutions are calling for the union president to resign.
It’s reported that Azamati, who is studying international relations, arrived early to the debate in order to reserve an accessible seat. At that time, he was also worried about the fact that there were no special arrangements for disabled people.
He then left the chamber for dinner, but after finishing he returned and was refused entry by the authority. When one of his friends arrived to accompany him, he went inside and sat down.
A few minutes later, security officials entered and appeared to manhandle him out of the building. His union card was confiscated and he was expelled from the union.
The victim, Azamati, said: “I felt that I was treated as not being human enough to deserve justice and fair treatment.”
According to the Sunday Times, the union’s president, Brendan McGrath, called a disciplinary committee meeting, alleging that Azamati had behaved violently by thrusting an arm out and using aggressive hand gestures as he was being removed from his seat.
On Saturday, an appeal hearing heard evidence from fellow student Henry Hatwell, 21, who said: “Thirty seconds after he [Azamati] sat down, the security guard came in. Five seconds afterwards, he started touching Azamati, who was holding on to the bench. Thirty seconds later, they were dragging him by his ankles.”
On the same day, the union and McGrath formally withdrew the charge of violent misconduct against Azamati and apologised “unreservedly” for the distress and damage caused.
The OUAS has filed an application calling for the resignation of McGrath which has already gathered more than 1,000 signatures.
The application also calls for:
- An “unreserved” apology to Azamati from both the union and the president
- The cancellation of Azamati’s ban and a reinstatement of his union membership
- “Adequate” punishment of “the security personnel who assaulted” Azamati
- Compensation for Azamati.
Nwamaka Ogbonna, OUAS president, said: “We have yet to see a public apology from the union or from Brendan McGrath. There have been no details of how the union will be held to account, no details on compensation, and he [McGrath] is yet to resign.”
The incident has also caught the attention of several high-profile figures, including Labour politician David Lammy, who said that the situation Azamati suffered is beyond comprehension and he deserves far more than an apology.
> Dipto Paul