Shahmir Sunni was a volunteer for Be Leave, an unofficial pro-Brexit campaign group | Photo: Instagram
The Brexit whistleblower, Shahmir Sanni, is planning to sue the UK government for outing him.
Speaking to GSN about the gravity of being outed today; he’s taking this action to make it clear the UK government has no right to out anyone.
His outing started a series of events putting his family in danger, his health at risk and leading him to lose his job.
Sanni says his outing, was a ‘form of abuse’ led by his ex-boyfriend Stephen Parkinson – currently the UK Prime minister Theresa May’s Political Secretary.
An official statement from No 10 Downing Street Parkinson revealed that he dated Sanni for 18 months, which was not public knowledge.
The statement came after Sanni blew the whistle on how Vote Leave may have manipulated spending rules during the EU referendum.
The evidence shows Vote Leave allegedly coordinated with another pro-Brexit group, Be Leave, to dodge campaign spending limits.
‘My outing was a violent attack on my mental health, my physical well being and on my family. It was done with the full understanding of the repercussions that it could have on someone of Muslim, Pakistani origin.’
Shahmir says he had conversations with his ex Stephen Parkinson that explained all of this, and therefore the PM’s special advisor willingly put his family in danger:
‘We should be very clear about this – outing your ex is a form of abuse. Any gay man will tell you this. Coming out should be liberating. It should not be a tool to abuse, hurt and vilify you. But, that’s exactly what Number 10 did.
‘There is no difference between a government that criminalizes homosexuality, and one that uses someone’s homosexuality as a weapon against them.’
A current investigation by the Electoral Commision is exploring whether a £625,000 ($827,400 / €705,000) by Be Leave was actually made with direct instruction from the official Vote Leave campaign. This would break election rules.
Suing the government to set a precedent
Last week the 24-year-old former Be Leave volunteer, spoke to GSN about the pain this caused.
He says it stripped him of the ‘most important’ conversation any son can have with their mom. But it also put his Muslim family in danger, some who live in Pakistan where it is illegal to be gay. In some areas of Pakistan, being gay is punishable by death.
‘My family has been supportive, fortunately. But the bigger problem is publicly outing me which allows people in Pakistan, where I visit often and have family, who may not be as liberal-minded – are now able to access this private information with just a quick Google search.’
Sanni’s lawyers say this is the first time an official UK Government statement has outed someone.
Over the weekend, Sanni has now lost his job at the right-wing think tank the TaxPayers’ Alliance. It was an organization founded by the CEO of Vote Leave, Matthew Elliott.
With this latest blow, he has set up a crowdfunding campaign to take a stand back against his employer, and to prime minister’s office to account. In its first 24 hours, it has already gathered just shy of £15,000.
No 10 Downing Street has so far declined to respond to questions about outing Sanni.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, told the Guardian: ‘We don’t discuss internal staffing matters in public. They are between employer and employees.’
Living in fear, that weight has ‘now lifted’
Last week Sanni told GSN the actions of Parkinson left him living under a weight of fear. He says this has at least ‘now lifted.’
‘In my desperation for the truth, the opportunity to say the most important words of my life to my mother, my brothers, and my sisters was stripped from me.’
It’s been a tumultuous fortnight for Shahmir. He broke down in tears during a press conference in the days after the outing. Last time we spoke, he was defiant – standing firm by his decision.
At least now he was out ‘they have nothing they can use against me.’
But it’s clear the activist is feeling worn down by the experience.
Over the weekend he told the Independent, he would have never blown the whistle if he knew the ‘abuse, the vitriol, and the outing’ would happen.
Calls for a Brexit second referendum
Sanni is campaigning for Fair Vote with his friend and fellow whistleblower Chris Wylie, who is also gay.
Wylie blew the whistle on the firm Cambridge Analytica, now accused of harvesting over 80 million Facebook profiles without permission.
The firm worked on both President Donald Trump’s election campaign and for Vote Leave.
In the Brexit scandal, the firm AIQ who Be Leave spent their campaigning money with – have also been linked to Cambridge Analytica.
Speaking together at a Fair Vote rally on the day the UK was one year away from leaving the European Union, they called for a new referendum despite both being eurosceptics.
Kyle Taylor from Fair Vote, who has since published much of Sanni’s data, tells GSN:
‘From day one Fair Vote has been guided by the whistleblower evidence. The evidence brought forward by Shahmir Sanni and others suggests cheating by Vote Leave in the referendum.
‘It is quite simple for us: if there was cheating in the 2016 referendum the result is null and void.
‘Therefore, the original question needs to be asked again, before Brexit can be followed through with.’
Read more about the gay men at the center of a global whistleblowing scandal:
Trump and Brexit gay whistleblowers call for second Brexit referendum