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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Change.org launch petition for Iraqi LGBT

Iraqi LGBT

Press statement
For immediate use
31 March

Change.org launch petition for Iraqi LGBT

Green leader writes to Johnson

Gay Iraqis praise 'our hero'

The major American progressive organisation Change.org has launched a petition to British Home Secretary Alan Johnson to grant asylum to Iraqi LGBT leader Ali Hili.

The petition allows supporter to send a personalised message to Johnson, whose decision is effecting the work of the group in drawing attention to atrocities against gays in Iraq. It was created by the website's leading gay author Michael Jones.

A petition started by Iraqi LGBT has already drawn near 700 signatures in a few days, including many with moving comments from Iraqis who have been helped by Hili.

One was from Khaldoon Abdulrazaq who wrote:

"A message of support from inside iraq, ali you are our hero, our hope and the future you have in your vision for a better iraq will come one day, believe me. Please keep the faith, your fight is our fight, we all dream of a better world, a world with all people respect and love each other..."

Campaign organisers say that 60 letters have already been sent to Gordon Brown demanding he intervene.

On Monday the leader of the UK Green Party Caroline Lucas announced that she had written to Johnson.

Lucas wrote:

"I am writing with reference to the asylum application of Iraqi LGBT leader Ali Hili, currently living in exile in London. This application has been outstanding for nearly three years and while it is outstanding, Ali cannot travel. This impacts not only on Ali himself but also limits his ability to raise the profile of how LGBT rights are oppressed on a daily basis in Iraq."

"As I am sure you are aware, the group Iraqi LGBT estimates that over 700 LGBT people have been assassinated over the past few years. Human Rights Watch, working with the BBC for a report aired last year, confirmed that torture and persecution of the LGBT community is widespread and that many LGBT people claim life was safer during Saddam Hussein's regime. US 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 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton co-signed by 64 other Congress people."

"Ali Hili, as a prominent campaigner for LGBT equality, will not be safe if he is returned to Iraq. He has received a fatwa from inside Iraq, as well as numerous threats in London which have forced him to move. He is under the protection of the Metropolitan Police. Moreover, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has advised 'favourable consideration' for asylum claims because of the situation in Iraq. I would, therefore, urge you to ensure that Ali Hili's asylum claim is granted as a matter of urgency and his right to travel guaranteed."

Documentary film maker David Grey of Village Films has released an appeal for Ali and Iraqi LGBT on YouTube. The video is titled 'Please help save gay lives in Iraq'.

Campaigners for Hili said that they were awaiting confirmation of further invitations to travel - Hili was asked to do a speaking tour of the United States last year but had to decline.

Hili's solicitor, Barry O'Leary, wrote to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in August 2009 that: "he desperately wishes to do this [travel] in order to further the aims of his organisation, that is, supporting lesbians and gay men in Iraq and bringing the world's attention to their plight."

Six months after his review application, the UKBA told O'Leary that:

    * the assistance which Hili has given to the Foreign Office "does not count"
    * the fatwa against him does not mean that Hili "falls within the classification of clear and immediate vulnerability"
    * that the delay in deciding Hili's asylum case (since July 2007) "is not in itself an exceptional circumstance"
    * his case is not "compelling"

O'Leary said: "I have made UKBA aware of the detriment the nearly three year delay is having on the work of Iraqi LGBT. I have also stressed that this will be a straightforward matter given Mr Hili’s very high profile and the documented risks to his life. Nevertheless they decided to leave him in the queue for a decision. This can only harm LGBT individuals in Iraq."


For further information and requests for interviews and photographs contact:
gayasylumuk@gmail.com or call (UK) 07986 008420

For comment on the legal issues contact:

Barry O'Leary
Wesley Gryk Solicitors

Iraqi LGBT website