As Australia’s first female Muslim MP, Dr Anne Aly made political history when she entered politics in 2016.
Aly, a Labor MP from Western Australia, was an academic before moving into politics. Egyptian-born, she moved with her family to Australia when she was just two years old.
She has a PhD from Curtin University and went on to lecture on counter-terrorism and security at Edith Cowan University and Curtin University.
She is considered a leading expert in understanding how and why young people are drawn to violent extremism, founding People Against Violent Extremism to address the phenomenon in Australia.
All impressive achievements – but that hasn’t stopped her from being subjected to horrific racist and sexist abuse since becoming an MP.
Online, she’s been called an “ISIS whore”, told she’d be shot dead in a carpark, or gassed in “the ovens” like Holocaust victims.
Writing in Friday’s West Australian newspaper, Aly outlined some of the vile abuse she has received over the years, adding the current atmosphere for female politicians in Parliament was “bleak.”
She writes of “a cloak, heavy with the weight of the trauma many of us experience when we receive vile, hate-filled mail, social media comments, sexist remarks and outright death threats”.
“There are few issues that can rise above politics in this place. Marriage equality was one, but only after a long road littered with bitterness,” she wrote.
“Our greatest fear is that it will be just ‘a moment’- nothing more than a side note written into the margins of the history pages.
“But history isn’t written yet. We can take action now to ensure that this ‘moment’ is not squandered.”
In Parliament on Thursday, an emotional Aly read out some of the abuse and threats she has received over the years.
“One day soon we will be at your doorstep. We will take you and your family away to be loaded on a carriage,” one message read.
“I can’t wait for the final solution, train carriages packed full of Muslims heading to the ovens. It will truly be wonderful.”
Aly’s observations come a day after Queensland Labor MP Jonty Bush revealed that she had been sexually harrassed and assaulted on a number of occasions.
Bush followed parliamentary colleagues Yvette D’Ath, Di Farmer, Leanne Linard, Amanda Camm and Meaghan Scanlon in sharing her stories.
Bush echoed their comments in saying the “trauma” of such experiences has helped to create silence around the issue of sexual assault and harassment, which “protects” perpetrators and “imprisons” victims.
And on Tuesday night Federal Liberal MP Nicolle Flint broke down in tears as she recounted her experiences and called for change in politics, just a few weeks after announcing she would not recontest her South Australian seat.
Calling for the safety of women to be “above politics,” Flint said she had been targeted by a male stalker and had her campaign office scrawled with the words “prostitute” and “skank.”
The revelations about the treatment of women in the political arena have come in the wake of former Federal staffer Brittany Higgins’ allegations that she was raped inside Parliament House in 2019.
Allegations have also been made that when he was 17, Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter raped a 16-year-old in the late 1980s, a claim he has vigorously denied.
Last week, people around the country rallied under the banner of March 4 Justice, calling for an end to violence against women.
At the Canberra rally, Higgins made a powerful statement about her experience and calling for change within the corridors of power.
“We fundamentally recognise the system is broken, the glass ceiling is still in place and there are significant failings in the power structures within our institutions,” Higgins said.
“We are here because it is unfathomable that we are still having to fight this same stale, tired fight.”