Iraq/UK: Failure of UK government recognition of threat to Iraqi LGBT leader
The UK government through its Border Agency has decided not to give priority to the asylum application of Iraqi LGBT leader Ali Hili, in exile in London. The application has been outstanding for nearly three years and while it is outstanding, Ali cannot travel. This decision directly impacts not just on Ali but on harshly persecuted Iraqi lesbians and gays through the reduced ability of their sole visible leader to raise their profile internationally.
Can you help?
As you may be aware, numerous human rights organisations and journalists have documented the pogrom against lesbians and gays in Iraq. 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.
As the public leader of the only group representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people both inside Iraq and in 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.
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.
Hili has received many requests to speak internationally and spread the word 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 later, the UKBA told O'Leary that:
- the assistance given by Hilli to the Foreign Office "does not count"
- the fatwa does not mean that Hilli "falls within the classification of clear and immediate vulnerability"
- that the delay in deciding Hilli's asylum case (since July 2007) "is not in itself an exceptional circumstance"
- his case is not "compelling"
Peter Tatchell says of Ali:
"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."
"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.
Ali must travel!
The UK 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 condemning persecution of LGBT in Iraq.
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."
Yet the same government through the Home Office is effectively aiding that persecution
through the failure of government recognition to Iraqi LGBT's leader.
We want the UK government to expedite Ali Hili's asylum claim so he is properly able to tell the world about what is happening to LGBT in Iraq.
How you can help
Write to the UK Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, to ask that he intervene in Ali's case that his asylum application be prioritised (you can use the standard letter but it is better if you personalise it). Please mention Ali's Home Office reference which is S1180507/7.
Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP, Home Secretary, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF
Telephone: 020 7035 4848
Write to UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to ask that they ask Johnson to intervene in Ali's case (you can use the standard letter but it is better if you personalise it). Please mention Ali's Home Office reference which is S1180507/7.
The Prime Minister, 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA
Email the Prime Minister’s Office
to ask that they ask Johnson to intervene in Ali's case.
If you are outside the UK, ask politicians, prominent persons and organisations to invite Ali to your country and make Brown and Johnson aware of this request.
Ask those politicians, prominent persons and organisations to issue their own public statement in support of Hili's asylum prioritisation from the UK government.
Write to newspapers, write blog posts in support of Ali, tell people about Ali and Iraqi LGBT.
Join the Facebook page
- Dossier 32-33: Sexualities, Culture and Society in Muslim Contexts
- No One is Safe: Abuses of Women in Iraq's Criminal Justice System
- "Maybe we are hated": The experience and impact of Anti-Muslim hate on British Muslim Women
- Mapping Stoning in Muslim Contexts
- Walking a Tightrope: Women and Veiling in the United Kingdom