IraqiLGBT is an organization that operates as a modern-day Underground Railroad to provide safe houses for LGBT Iraqis who would otherwise face certain death in the country. So why do the United States, the United Kingdom, and France continue to ignore its pleas for help?
More than 700 gay Iraqi men have been brutally murdered by roaming death squads since the U.S.-lead occupation of the country began in 2003. The violence has escalated in recent years, and there have been reports from inside Iraq that American soldiers are turning a blind eye towards the situation, and have even been involved in some of the killings. Some Iraqi gays have said they enjoyed more freedom under Saddam Hussein’s rule.
The latest crisis facing Iraqi LGBT is securing asylum in France for 21-year-old Anwar Saleh, who was arrested by Iraqi police in 2009 for coordinating a safe house in Baghdad. He was badly beaten up, tortured and suffered post-traumatic stress after his detention and the abuse he was subjected to. He was put under investigation and interrogated about his role as an LGBT activist and his involvement in the running of the safe house.
Iraqi LGBT has issued an urgent appeal for support or housing in France (particularly Paris) for Saleh. After Iraqi LGBT paid authorities $5000 for Saleh’s release in Iraq, he fled to Paris and lived on the streets, eventually making his way to the Netherlands, where he applied for asylum, but was told it was up to French authorities whether or not to grant him refugee status. As a result, Saleh must return to France.
Iraqi LGBT has also been attempting for three years to secure asylum in the UK for it’s founder, Ali Hili, who has been been living in exile in London since receiving a fatwa from inside Iraq as well as numerous threats in London which have forced him to move. He is currently under police protection at an undisclosed location.
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has consistently decided not to give priority to Ali’s application, which is a direct violation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Hili has received many requests to speak internationally, but he has been unable to pursue them because he cannot travel outside the UK until he is granted asylum. His solicitor wrote to the UK Border Agency in August 2009 that: “he desperately wishes to do this [travel] in order to further the aims of Iraqi LGBT - that is, supporting lesbians and gay men in Iraq and bringing the world’s attention to their plight.”
As for the United States, who started this whole mess in Iraq, there has been nothing but all talk and no action to help LGBT Iraqis. U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin spoke last month of their concerns for LGBT both in Iraq and as refugees, in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,which was co-signed by 64 other Congresspeople. Hooray.
Please visit IraqiLGBT and do what you can to help these brave souls.
Filed under: Europe