Friday
June 29, 07
V 35 Issue 26

 
 
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Congresswoman Baldwin notes plight of LGBT Iraqi refugees
Congresswoman Baldwin notes plight of LGBT Iraqi refugees
Secretary of State asked to investigate

In a second letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in five days regarding the plight of LGBT Iraqis, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) today called attention to LGBT Iraqi refugees whose lives are in danger should they return home.

Following up a letter to Rice of June 13, sent by Baldwin and Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) expressing strong concerns regarding reports that Iraqi homosexuals have been systematically persecuted in their country by Islamic groups and militias, Baldwin today noted additional accounts of Gay Iraqi refugees who have fled the country due to widespread threats and attacks as further evidence that the lives of homosexuals in Iraq are in grave jeopardy. "I urge you to investigate the treatment of Gay Iraqi refugees and ask you to bring the issue to the attention of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)," Baldwin wrote.

Baldwin specifically sited the case of Mohammed Ameen al-Rawi, a 23-year-old Gay Iraqi refugee currently living in Damascus, Syria as representative of the fear, isolation, and threats experienced by Gay Iraqis who have fled the country because of their sexual orientation.

Baldwin explained, "Mohammed is a Gay man who grew up in the Harthea neighborhood of Baghdad. Because he is effeminate and known to be Gay, Mohammed's family kept him in their home for close to two years after the Iraq war began in order to keep him safe. His family sent him to Jordan after a note arrived at their home that read, 'We know your son is hiding inside. If he doesn't leave the country, we will kill him and your family.' While in Jordan, Mohammed was briefly enrolled in the master's program at the Arab Academy for Banking and Financial Sciences, but two months after his visa ran out, Mohammed was arrested, jailed, interrogated, deported, and sent to the Iraqi border. A sympathetic border agent sent him to Syria.

Although he may stay in Syria if his visa is renewed, according to Syrian law, Mohammed has to leave that country every three months to renew it. He must travel to Lebanon or Iraq to apply for renewal and Mohammed's re-entry into Syria is up to a border agent's discretion. An antagonistic or homophobic agent could send him back to Iraq. If Mohammed does not renew his visa and is caught by the Syrian authorities, he will be deported to Iraq."

Baldwin also made one clarification to her letter of June 13, 2007 in which she stated, erroneously, that the State Department's 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices "made no reference to any human rights violations in Iraq based on sexual orientation."

"Indeed, the report does describe, in two short paragraphs, a few instances in which violence against homosexual Iraqis is documented," Baldwin explained, adding, "I hope the Department will conduct its own detailed investigation and document the plight faced by Gay Iraqis, including those who have fled the country."

Baldwin also asked Secretary Rice to raise this issue with High Commissioner Antonio Guterres as part of any broader discussion on the status of Iraqi refugees. She asked Rice to urge UNHCR to open a case file on Mohammed Ameen al-Rawi and other similarly situated Gay Iraqi refugees, issue Temporary Protection Letters (TPR) to prevent their repatriation, and expedite the processing of such cases.

"The situation for Gay Iraqis is grave, and I hope Secretary Rice will carefully review the requests raised by my two letters and respond expeditiously," Baldwin said.

A Office of Tammy Baldwin press release

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