Artillery Row

A plagiarism success story?

Whatever happened to due diligence

Shabnam Nasimi is an immigrant success story: a former Special Advisor to the Conservative party who has enjoyed a successful side-gig as a comment writer, with by-lines in The Times, The Telegraph, and The Guardian. She’s also an unabashed plagiarist who has been passing off the work of other journalists as her own for years, despite multiple warnings from editors privately requesting she stop stealing.

I first became aware of Shabnam after a fellow journalist mentioned that she had been published again, with said journalist expressing their frustration that she had seemingly been getting away with ripping-off other writers. Sure enough, a cursory glance at Miss Nasimi’s latest piece revealed some strange language: “The government’s determination to tackle illegal immigration across the Channel is creditable. I have abhorrence and disgust for the people smugglers’ deathly business model that risks the lives of too many.”

If you think the above few sentences seem out of place, it’s because they are. Indeed, Shabnam seems to have stolen the lines from Andrew Mitchell, who wrote this — in more agreeable prose — in Conservative Home a few months prior: “The Government’s determination to tackle cross channel illegal immigration is creditable. No one can have anything but abhorrence and disgust for the people smugglers’ deathly business model.”

Shabnam first began to appear in the newspapers in 2019. Here she is in The Times: “We already have the advantage of being home to four of the top 10 universities in the world, the largest financial centre and most active concentration of technology start-up business in Europe.” This quote is entirely lifted from a piece written two months previously in The Telegraph, by William Hague — she didn’t even bother to change the phrasing around. 

The most egregious case of plagiarism comes from one of Shabnam’s live interviews for LBC, where she was asked to speak about the Scottish independence movement — despite having no expertise in the subject. This lack of knowledge might explain why Shabnam apparently decided to read Nigel Biggar’s Telegraph article, entitled “My plan for defeating Sturgeon’s devious SNP”, word for word on air. Eagle-eyed viewers might spot what appears to be Shabnam reading from her screen.

These examples are just the tip of a very big, embarrassing iceberg.

Launching a social media dogpile always feels slightly unpleasant, particularly against a victimised individual. Luckily for us, Nasimi is no such thing. She’s a 31-year old woman lucky enough to have the ear of the government, who has successfully positioned herself as the foremost expert on Anglo-Afghan relationships in the country. Skimming her blog reveals a woman who has lurched from success to success in her professional life, from grabbing a job as a senior caseworker for the Labour MP Vicky Foxcroft, to working as a senior researcher at Policy Exchange, (the same job the current Prime Minister once held) to founding the much-lauded “Conservative Friends of Afghanistan” group.

She also describes herself as having worked “Policy Special Advisor” – however, my own investigation revealed that she was not a SpAd, but rather as a regular civil servant Policy Advisor. This is an easy mistake to make for someone unfamiliar with the inner workings of Whitehall, but much more difficult for someone as deeply embedded within British politics as Shabnam.

I’m not the first person to have caught out Shabnam’s dubious reporting. The Spectator appears to have removed articles by Nasimi from their website without any public reason being given. The Afghan diaspora community have also raised concerns about the legitimacy of some of Shabnam’s reporting. There seems to be some pretty damning evidence to support these concerns: a few weeks ago Shabnam shared a video purporting to show a Taliban member lashing a woman “for going to a shop without a male guardian”. The video in question appears to be from 2018.

While Shabnam promotes herself as an expert in Afghan affairs, her knowledge about the region appears patchy at best. Just last week the NHS was slammed for attempting to hire a “Director of Lived Experience”. Shabnam seems to be filling a similar role — relaying what she portrays as her personal story about being a refugee in Britain, lacking in the specialist knowledge required to comment meaningfully on the domestic and foreign affairs of Afghanistan. (While I have attempted to make contact with Shabnam to get a comment regarding to these allegations, she has yet to respond.)

According to her LinkedIn, Shabnam is currently working as Head of Parliamentary relations for The Centre for Information Resilience. The group describes itself as being an “independent, non-profit social enterprise dedicated to countering disinformation”. While I’m sure the Blob-speak is already sending you to sleep, it’s worth noting the farcical nature of such an organisation if it has failed to spot repeated and blatant breaches of journalistic code over the years. As the Centre for Information Resilience puts it, their mission is to “work with journalists around the world to expose disinformation”. Charity, it seems, starts at home.

Shabnam’s family have close ties to the Conservative government. Her father, Nooralhaq Nasimi, runs the charitable organisation “Afghanistan & Central Asian Association”, which has received a significant jump in funding over the past few years: in 2017, A&CAA reported £84.69k annual net income, versus £963.28k in 2021. The rise in donations is understandable, given the geopolitical context of the Taliban’s retaking of Kabul: indeed, the British embassy in Kabul praised the group for their advocacy work in 2021. Shabnam’s younger brother Darius stood as a Conservative candidate for Hounslow Council, and recently appeared on the reality TV show “Make Me Prime Minister”. Her sister Rabia is a Civil Servant working for the Afghan Resettlement Scheme. They appear to be extremely interested in media promotion, with at least two members of the family being represented by a PR agency.

Why is Shabnam’s family’s close relationship with the Conservative government relevant? While I’ve found the repeated failure of media organisations to properly vet Shabnam’s copy before publishing shocking, the most shocking failure of all comes from the CCHQ. Keeping in with the Conservative party’s dismal track record in selecting future MPs, Shabnam has declared on her LinkedIn that she is an approved Conservative Party Parliamentary Candidate for the 2024 election. 

Miss Nasimi, who started her career as a caseworker for a Labour Party MP, and who has demonstrated no original interest in politics beyond promoting greater representation for women and refugees (like herself) in politics, has somehow been considered a sensible choice to represent the Conservative party in their toughest election in living memory. In addition to this, she has somehow managed to evade the suspicion of editors at some of the top newspapers in the country. I invite you to look closer into Shabnam’s successes, and ask yourself: when did the British establishment become so gullible? 

Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print

Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10

Critic magazine cover