11/06/2014 - 14:19

Siddique makes a stand for justice

11/06/2014 - 14:19

Bookmark

Save articles for future reference.

Rabia Siddique has left a successful legal career to focus on a passionate pursuit of equality.

Siddique makes a stand for justice
DUTY: Rabia Siddique says Australia needs more female role models, and people should be encouraged to speak up against discrimination. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Rabia Siddique has left a successful legal career to focus on a passionate pursuit of equality.

Rabia Siddique is deeply moved by injustice – an admirable and, it could be argued, essential quality for one involved in the legal profession.

In fact so concerned is she with the need to eliminate discrimination from Australia’s social and political discourse that she has put her successful legal career on hold to fight for the cause.

And there’s no doubt Ms Siddique comes well prepared, with her back-story one that could be described in equal measure as emotional, groundbreaking and inspiring.

She’s widely known for winning an anti-discrimination case against the UK Ministry of Defence following her involvement in the rescue of two British Army officers from Iraqi terrorists.

She has stared down the barrel of a rifle, supported her husband through cancer treatment, and recovered from the trauma of being sexually abused as a child.

Her story is so compelling that it’s being made into a Hollywood film, with Angelina Jolie among those touted to be playing the Perth-educated lawyer.

In this context, Ms Siddique decided to leverage off her remarkable story in a bid to reduce discrimination, which she says remains a serious problem in Australia.

Danger

Ms Siddique told her story to a recent Committee for Economic Development of Australia event, detailing how she, as a lawyer from Perth working as a legal officer in the British Army, played a lead role in rescuing two army colleagues from Iraqi insurgents.

Ms Siddique had been deployed to Basra to advise on issues such as the rules of engagement and the law of armed conflict, as well as helping the Iraqi judiciary re-establish law following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Her subsequent involvement in negotiating the release of colleagues in a highly volatile situation – where she came face to face with a defiant Iraqi wielding a rifle – should have been celebrated by the British Army, she said.

Instead, a male comrade received the highest military honour while Ms Siddique was sanctioned from ever speaking about the part she played. 

“When we returned to the headquarters James was greeted with a hero’s welcome,” Ms Siddique said.

“I, on the other hand, was greeted with a hug, a kiss, a cup of tea and it was suggested to me that I must be ever so tired and I might like to run along to my tent and I might like to have a rest.

“[There was] no acknowledgement of the role that I played and no recognition of the fact that my presence undoubtedly played a part in saving all our lives that day.”

Ms Siddique wasn’t about to mutely accept such a dismissal of her contribution and service, and launched an anti-discrimination case against the UK Ministry of Defence on the grounds of sex, race and religious discrimination.

In 2008, she was successful in negotiating an out-of-court settlement.

“The win to me was more about the acknowledgement of the truth,” Ms Siddique said.

“I had made what I thought was a very personal decision to draw a line in the sand and to allow myself some justice after working for so many years getting justice for other people, but what (really struck me) was the ripple effect that my actions had.”

The wide level of support Ms Siddique received from the broader community in the form of phone calls, email and text messages was partly behind her decision to write the recently published autobiography Equal Justice.

“I had to be convinced to write this book … I was convinced that now, more than ever at this time in our country and society, we need people to speak up, we need strong female role models,” she said.

Fraught return

Ms Siddique returned to Perth just over three years ago and said she was disturbed by the continuing gender disparity and persistent discrimination.

“I came back confronted with racism, sexism and gross under-representation of women at senior levels across the board – that is what provided me with the impetus to speak up,” Ms Siddique said.

She soon realised publishing an autobiography wasn’t going to be enough.

“I realised that I had an important story to tell and messages that needed to be heard, so much so that I made, what was quite a scary decision, to put my legal career on hold – the career that defined me all my life,” Ms Siddique said.

Now working full time as a motivational speaker and coach on resilience and equality, Ms Siddique said every person could play a role in changing the current environment by speaking up on matters they think don’t quite gel.

“We’re the lucky ones; we have intellect and the ability to communicate. We are in privileged positions where we have influence and we can change and transform,” Ms Siddique told Business News.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do in this country.”

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

Subscription Options