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Ali must travel!

Iraqi LGBT is being blocked from advocating for the group by the UK government — find out how you can help.

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."

ENDS


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

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Video: Please help save lives in Iraq



Many thanks to David Grey.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Caroline Lucas MEP says Ali Must Travel!

The leader of the UK Green Party Caroline Lucas MEP has written to Home Secretary Alan Johnson to support the asylum claim of Iraqi LGBT leader Ali Hili.

Caroline Lucas

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ali must travel! What people are saying

Comments on the interwebs ...

From pinknews:

Well, lets put the matter to the test, shall we? I have contacted my MP (Ben Bradshaw) and we will see what his response is, and what YOUR MP's response is!
Matt B

From the petition:

It is very hard and dangerous for LGBT people in Iraq to speak out about the exceptional violence and discrimination being meted out to them. Ali Hili is a clear and articulate spokesperson for their plight and being outside the country (and able to travel) is the most likely to be effective in bringing about change and justice. Please, Mr Johnson, reconsider this decision.
Vanessa Baird

I work for a charity, Slough Refugee Support, and daily see the misery caused by the delays in settling outstanding asylum claims. In the case of Ali Hili the delay is not just affecting him, but his cause of human rights for LGBT people in Iraq, so I would ask you to see this as a compelling case for action by the Home Office.
Rosemary Watson

To think that Mr. Hill is not under threat if returned to Iraq is absolutely wrong.  I serve in the United States Military and currently in the Middle East. I see, know and understand exactly the threat to Mr. Hill. It is real.  If you don't believe then come and see for yourself or better yet be known yourself in the community as being same-gengered oriented and see what threats on your life will transpire.  Then you will think twice and defend. Horror exist and to deny this is evil and sinful.
Christopher Myers

The UK government should be ashamed of itself. The UK parliament has many gay and lesbian members and they should be supporting this Iraqi gay rights activist with all the power they can muster. Gordon Brown must remember that human rights are indivisible!!
Mannie DeSaxe

Ali Hili is the most credible international spokesperson about the desperate situation facing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people in Iraq. A year ago our organization attempted to bring Mr. Hili to the United States -- birthplace of the illegal occupation that has caused Iraqi LGBTs so much pain.  That his voice is not able to be heard in the U.S. is an afront to the values that both Britain and U.S. claim to uphold.
Andy Thayer

This clearly needs attention; if you can travel you can be the international voice of Iraqi LGBT.
Robin Pitts

Because of this man, i was able to accept myself as an Iraqi lesbian woman, i contacted ali in 2007 and he convince me to live and not to commit suicide, he gave me hope and life and now i'm proud to be a soldier in ali's army to bring respect and understanding to our society...ali my heart and thought with you, please stay in uk we need you there it is more much importnat than you be here.
Rana

Hili's work in informing the global community of what is happening in Iraq, and the life threatening situation for Iraqi LGBTs, has been invaluable. Hili must be allowed to continue this work and to do so, his asylum claim should be expedited with immediacy. To disregard this as a non-urgent matter fundamentally misunderstands the pressing danger that all LGBT Iraqis face. Please, take action now. Thank you.
Stephen Busfield

This brave and courages man is a real hero, not politicians who destroyed Iraq. Ali gave hopes to millions inside Iraq of a better future , of new future where many lgbt people lives in hiding for thousands of years, without Ali's work we could never get the courage to come out and be proud
Hasan

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...
Khaldoon


GoPetition

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Outrage as UK government refuses to take action on asylum application by Iraqi gay leader

Press statement
24 March 2010
 
For immediate use

Outrage as UK government refuses to take action on asylum application by Iraqi gay leader

Action demanded of Gordon Brown and Alan Johnson


Foreign Office opposition to persecution undermined by Home Office actions

The UK government through its Border Agency has refused to give priority to an application for asylum by the leader of Iraqi LGBT, Ali Hili, in exile in London. The application has been outstanding for nearly three years and while it is outstanding, he cannot travel.

This decision directly impacts on harshly persecuted Iraqi lesbians and gays through the reduced ability of their sole visible leader to raise their profile internationally.

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 Congresspeople.

Numerous human rights organisations and journalists have documented the pogrom against lesbians and gays in Iraq. Human Rights Watch has described a "campaign of torture and murder". Iraqi LGBT estimates that over 700 LGBT have been assassinated over the past few years. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has advised 'favourable consideration' for asylum claims because of the situation.

Hili has received many requests to speak about the situation in Iraq internationally, including from US-based groups such as the Gay Liberation Network and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Campaign, which he has been unable to pursue.
 
His 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."

As the public leader of the only group representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people both in Iraq as well as the diaspora, Hili 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.

Hili said: "It is extremely distressing that the British government is refusing to allow me to take up the many offers to speak on behalf of the lesbians and gays in our organisation. I have been the only person who has willingly identified themselves as a gay Iraqi and this has made me a target. But the British government doesn't take this seriously."

"Why are they undermining the work of our group? Why does the Foreign Office say it supports lesbians and gays around the world yet the Home Office does this to me,” he asks?

Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant wrote in his blog on Feb. 24: "I know some people dismiss LGBT rights as something of a sideshow in international relations, but I am proud to say that the FCO has argued for a decade that human rights are a seamless garment."

The Foreign Office Human Rights Report for 2009 specifically names Iraqi LGBT over other NGOs as a key source of information. Hili has met with them numerous times. The report quotes Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell condemming persecution of LGBT in Iraq.

Yet the same government through the Home Office effectively aids that persecution through the failure of recognition to Iraqi LGBT's leader.

Hili's supporters said that they would be taking the campaign to get his case decided - so Iraqi lesbians and gays can have a voice in the world - to the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary Alan Johnson.

The internationally renowned human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has said of Hili:

"It was Ali Hili of Iraqi LGBT who first alerted the world to the organised killing of LGBT people in Iraq - way back in 2005. For a long time, he was a lone voice."

"Soon afterwards, he exposed the death fatwa against LGBT people issued by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

"Mr Hili was also the person who set up the 'underground railroad' and safe houses inside Iraq, to give refuge to LGBT people on the run from Islamist death squads and to provide escape routes to neighbouring countries - which saved the lives of many Iraqi LGBTs.

"While I would not wish to detract one iota from the contributions of others, it is important to show due generosity and humility by acknowledging that it was Ali Hili and Iraqi LGBT who first bought this issue to public consciousness. They deserve our gratitude."

Paul Canning, Editor of LGBT Asylum News and a Hili supporter, said: "If Ali is not deserving of expediency in decision making I don't know who is."

"The government should be 100% behind the work of Iraqi LGBT, indeed they are quite willing to accept their help and advice at the Foreign Office. But they treat Ali and, through him Iraqi lesbians and gays, like dirt who don't deserve our protection and support. It is completely outrageous."
 
Iraqi LGBT have set up a campaign web page on their website, see http://bit.ly/alihili

ENDS


For further information and requests for interviews and photographs contact:
gayasylumuk@gmail.com

For comment on the legal issues contact:

Barry O'Leary
Wesley Gryk Solicitors

Notes:

Iraqi LGBT is a representative organisation for over 100 people both inside Iraq and in the diaspora. It runs safe houses in Iraq and assists people to flee as well as supporting them in neighboring countries.
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