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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Iraqi LGBT welcome Human Rights Watch report on pogrom, urges practical aid


For immediate use

Iraqi LGBT welcome Human Rights Watch report on pogrom, urges practical aid

The Iraqi LGBT group today welcomed the release by Human Rights Watch of its report 'They want us exterminated' which documents the killing of LGBT people in Iraq, in particular the extensive media coverage it has generated. Much of the information in the report is sourced from Iraqi LGBT members.

"This report underlines what we have been saying since our group's formation in 2006," said Iraqi LGBT spokesperson, Ali Hili. "We have information on over 700 killings including honour killings."

However Hili says that the group, which has 100 members inside Iraq (as well as refugees in neighboring countries) and supports LGBT people through safe houses, offers practical support (food etc.), psychological and educational support, is chronically underfunded.

"We are the only people offering support to our fellow Iraqi LGBT inside Iraq but because we do not have the funds we have had to turn people away," he said.

The group recently published its annual report, available on its website, which showed how the money it receives is spent.

The report explains how it has developed methods of operating clandestinely which are essential for such an operation in the Middle East. Hili is the only visible member of the group and as a result has attracted death threats in his exile in London. He is under police protection.

Recently it received a second substantial donation from a Dutch group. However due to low funding it has had to close safe houses and slow its development plans.

At the same time it has seen very large amounts of money raised in the United States go to a Lebanese group which is supposed to be supporting Iraqi LGBT refugees. Ali says that the refugees, delivered to Lebanon by Human Rights Watch, have in fact been abandoned and some have returned to Iraq because they had no practical support.

"We have been trying to support one refugee who returned to Iraq from Lebanon because his medical needs were not being supported and who is now in danger. Through the United Nations, he has actually been accepted as a refugee by Sweden however it costs $2000 just for him to get back to Lebanon and then there are his travel costs to Sweden on top of that plus organising support in Sweden."

"This is an example of a case where we have great difficulty helping. It also shows something of the real costs involved in actually supporting people. Another example of that would be the bribes we have had to pay to save peoples lives."

"Our group represents Iraqi LGBT - they are our members - and, despite immense difficulties, our group has gained a lot of experience since we were established. Please support us if you want to help save LGBT people in Iraq."

Donations to Iraqi LGBT can be made to the PayPal Account iraqilgbt@yahoo.co.uk .

Or make cheques payable to (IRAQI LGBT) and send them to:

Iraqi LGBT
22 Notting Hill Gate
Unit 111London,
W11 3JE
United Kingdom

For further information please call ++44 (0) 79-819 59453 or email iraqilgbt@googlemail.com or see http://iraqilgbtuk.blogspot.com

Ali said that the group also welcomed those who could donate their skills.



The Safe Houses Project

IRAQ: Emergency Shelter, Human Services and Protection for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People:

IRAQI LGBT started to establish a network of safe houses inside Iraq in March 2006.

As of today, we have only two safe houses open and running funded by HIVOS a Dutch based human rights organization.

The members of our group inside Iraq urgently need funds to open at least four safe houses. These funds will allow us to keep the four safe houses open and running, and provide safety, shelter, food and many other needs for our LGBT friends inside Iraq. Any funds we receive that go beyond what we need for these four safe houses could be used to open more safe houses in the near future. We desperately need to add more because we have so many urgent cases in other cities. We receive requests for shelter every day, but we are not able to help yet.

Every safe house has around 200 square meters of living space, but harbors 10 to 12 people, so is very overcrowded. The residents are struggling badly because of the shortages of almost all the basic necessities in Iraq.

Rent: We have paid three months rent in advance. The most recent payments were in August. The average rent per safe house per month is $ 600 US Dollar.

Security: We paid the salaries of two guards per house, at $ 200 US Dollar per guard per month.

Other expenses of each house: We have paid $ 600 a month for each house approximately for natural gas and kerosene for cooking, and for food, fuel for generators which provide the electricity supply.

Urgent priority needs: Our priorities at this stage are: natural gas or kerosene for cooking and heating; fuel for generating electricity; food; mobile phones and calling cards; money for transportation to allow residents some freedom of movement; beds, mattresses, blankets, sheets and pillows; cameras; printers; two computers; house supplies, such as cooking pans, dishes, and flatware; some furniture; clean water for drinking and bathing; soap for washing and bathing, tooth paste, razors and of course housing, guards etc.

Amount needed and how it would be spent (per month):
  • Natural gas or kerosene for cooking and heating - 50 GBP
  • Fuel for generating electricity – $ 300
  • Food - $ 600
  • Mobile phones, calling cards, and internet café charges - $ 450 etc.
  • Transportation – $ 250
  • Beds, mattresses, blankets, sheets and pillows – $ 1,300 – onetime payment
  • Cameras – $ 100 – onetime payment
  • Printers – $ 100 - onetime payment
  • Two computers – $ 1,200 - onetime payment
  • Kitchen supplies, such as cooking pans, dishes, and flatware – $ 400 – onetime payment
  • Some furniture – $ 500– onetime payment
  • Clean water for drinking and bathing; $ 250
  • Toiletries (soap for washing and bathing, tooth paste, razors etc.) – $ 150
We also need to pay for medicines for the members of our group, doctors will come and have a home visit monthly for all members their cost is $ 400 US Dollar each month.

Ali Hili - Iraqi Lgbt - Chair
22 Notting Hill Gate
Unit # 111
London , W11 3JE
United Kingdom
Mob: ++44 798 1959 453
Website : http://iraqilgbtuk.blogspot.com/

Iraqi LGBT Annual Report and Accounts

Iraqi LGBT Annual Accounts

Iraqi LGBT Annual Report

Coverage of HRW report


Democracy Now!


Unsafe Haven Final

Sunday, August 16, 2009

London Group Spent £60,000 Last Year to Aid Gay and Transgender Iraqis

£24,000 donated by public, Iraqi LGBT accounts to 31 May shows

Iraqi LGBT, the London-based group that support gay, lesbian and transgender Iraqis, received just over £60,000 in donations in the year to May 2009, the accounts published this morning show.

And in the same period, all but £15 was sent to the Middle East to provide ‘safe houses’ in Iraq and Syria. Currently, the group runs two ‘safe houses’ in Syria and one in Iraq.

Of the donations received, £35,550 came a grants from two organisations, the Heartland Alliance (HA) in Chicago (£11,236) and Hivos (£24,313), a human rights group in the Netherlands that is mainly financed by the Dutch government.

The remaining £24,773 in donations came from individuals.

The costs incurred in the UK of running group was 9 per cent of the total expenditure (almost £5,450, which included £1,340 for special accounting for Hivos).

Largest expenditure was almost £1,400 which was spent on costs of the group’s weekly meetings during the financial year. In a bid to save cash, this has now been reduced to a meeting every two weeks, with a current proposal for the 19-strong group to meet monthly, the report says.

The report highlights the considerable difficulties in transferring cash to Iraq and Syria from the Iraqi LGBT bank account in London.

“We have realised that we sometimes need to trust our local people at face value and when we transfer funds to them, we have to believe that they will distribute these funds to the refugees who rely on this,” the report says.

“We have subsequently found out through making certain checks that our local administrator in Syria has not always passed on the funds. This is the same person who has been deported back to Iraq and for whom we put in a significant effort to keep him out the hands of the Iraqi Interior Ministry. As a result of this episode we have decided to pay each refugee in Syria individually to circumvent this problem. We have had no other problems, neither in Iraq , nor Turkey nor Jordan .”

While there was just £15 surplus at the end of the financial year, Iraqi LGBT is to get an increased contribution from Hivos – this year the Dutch organisation has allocated 50,000 Euros, the report says.

During the last financial year, the group realised that in order for their activities to survive, the organisational part has to remain secretive.

“Given the risks and dangers to which our local members are exposed, we must inform them on a need to know basis,” the report says . “We are aware that this has caused confusion but if these local activists know how our whole operation works then they could disclose this to the Iraqi authorities under interrogation.

“We have learned that there is a lot more to just providing shelter for refugees. There is not just the physical but also the psychological aspects which impact the refugees. It has been just as much a learning curve for us as it is for them.”

Iraqi LGBT is currently in the process of registering as a charity. A previous attempt to get charitable status failed, the report reveals.“When we have previously applied, we were told that our current constitution does not allow us to be registered as a charity as it contained clauses which have a political motive,” the report says.

The report also points out that they are working to register gay Iraqi refugees with The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).