Showing posts with label Gays Iraqi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gays Iraqi. Show all posts

October 9, 2017

2 Iraqi Gay Men In Military Found Love Amid War But Not Peace Nor Safety




In Seattle each night, when the guns fell silent in Iraq, Btoo Allami would invite his friend Nayyef Hrebid over for dinner.
The two first locked eyes on a dusty battlefield in Ramadi. After days of exchanging hasty glances amid gunfire, they snuck away one night to listen to Michael Jackson on shared earbuds.
The music stopped, but a love story was just beginning. 
A decade ago, Allami was a sergeant in the Iraqi military when he met Hrebid, then a translator for the US Marines. 
Militants had seized a hospital in Ramadi, and they were part of a mission to reclaim it.
When not defusing bombs, they'd talk late into the night at a pitch black lot surrounded by Humvees. Allami fell in love, unafraid of the war, yet terrified by what was happening with Hrebid. 
Nayyef Hrebid and Btoo Allami at their home in Seattle on August 13, 2017.
Their love story would take them through two continents as they joined the 22 million refugees in the world, all fleeing war, grinding poverty and in their case, persecution from militants and relatives. Last year, only 14,700 Iraqi refugees were resettled worldwide, says Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency. The UN does not have the number of applicants who claim asylum based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Few countries, if any, collect such statistics, he says. 

Taking Chances 

Neither Hrebid nor Allami knew the other was gay.  Iraq is not a country where the same-sex attraction is discussed in the open. 
LGBT people in Iraq risk harassment, beatings, and brutal killings -- sometimes by family members. ISIS, which held large swaths of Iraqi territory until recently, has also targeted gay men, tossing many to their deaths from tall buildings.
Despite the risks, Allami took a chance two weeks after they met. "I love you," he told Hrebid.
Hrebid did not say a word, but drew him close and kissed him.
Allami was so excited, he didn't eat for two days. At the time, he didn't know that Hrebid loved his calm demeanor and the way his dark hair shone in the sunlight. 
Their relationship grew but in secret. They knew loving each other openly could be deadly. Even during the days of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, when the US did not officially allow gay people to serve in the military, Hrebid says a base officer allowed them to spend time together at the American base. 
Their talks put them in a bubble. During those moments, war and bloodshed did not exist.

One last night

Hrebid loved his job as a translator. 
At the base, his American buddies called him David to protect his identity. But word got out that he was gay, and that he was a US translator. His name was added to a militant hit list posted on the streets of Ramadi.
When the two men were separated by continents,  Hrebid would draw sketches of  him and Allami.
People started talking. It was time to leave. 
In March 2009, Hrebid applied for asylum as part of a program that gives preference to Iraqis and Afghans who translated for the US government overseas. Hrebid's application was approved eight months later. 
The night he got his US visa, they sat up all night in a candlelit room, hugging each other and crying. 
As much as it crushed him, Hrebid flew to Seattle in December 2009, leaving Allami behind.
But they kept their promise to stay in touch. One night, as they chatted on Skype, Allami's relatives overheard them and realized he was gay. 
Some of his relatives accused him of bringing shame to the family, and wanted him killed, he says. Terrified, Allami deserted the military and stuffed a backpack with pants and a few T-shirts. Hrebid paid for his ticket to flee to Lebanon in November 2010.
Seven thousand miles away, Hrebid started his new life in Seattle, the only place he knew someone in the US. 
But while he was finally safe, he'd lie awake worrying. What if Allami was detained for overstaying his 30-day tourist visa and deported back to Iraq? A return home now included the risk of arrest by the military for desertion.  
One day, while at a party, Hrebid met activist Michael Failla and told him about his relationship with Allami. His new friend would become their lifeline. 

Living in the shadows

Allami's new life in Beirut did not involve parties and new friendships. He lived in the shadows and worked illegally as a shoe salesman for $250 a month. Hrebid sent him money to help with upkeep as he desperately sought a way to get him to Seattle. 
With every day spent away from Hrebid, Allami sank further into depression. He'd sit in bed at night and guzzle bottles of beer.
Hrebid blamed himself as Allami languished in a new country. Despite the time difference, they did their best to maintain a "normal" relationship. They would Skype and virtually eat together -- breakfast for one and dinner for the other.
"We would cook together, and discuss things almost like we lived together," Hrebid recalls. 
They also showered each other with sentimental gifts, including locks of each other's hair.
Hrebid would sit in bed, smell Allami's hair and cry. Other days, he'd send Allami long letters describing his undying love. 
"My heart melts at the sound of your voice," one letter says. "When I look at you, I see clear skies." 
In December 2010, desperate to join Hrebid, Allami filed for asylum from the United Nations refugee agency, not knowing it would take years. 
The United Nations refugee agency interviewed Allami eight times, but his application was bogged down by translation errors, according to Failla, who attended several interviews with him. 
One error in particular complicated his case. During one asylum interview, he was asked whether as a soldier, he was familiar with the Abu Ghraib prison torture. He said he watched it on TV -- but it was translated that he witnessed it first-hand, implying he was complicit, Failla says. 
In the process of seeking asylum, applicants can have a preference for country of resettlement, but countries decide whether to accept an applicant.
Allami's preference was the US. But the agonizing wait for a decision was so long, he applied for a separate visa to Canada at its embassy in Beirut. 
In March 2013, nearly three years after he escaped from Iraq, Canada said yes. 
Allami arrived in Vancouver in May of the same year. He was now 150 miles away from Hrebid, and their dream of living together suddenly seemed within reach.
Hrebid would drive to Vancouver every weekend to see him. On Valentine's Day 2014, they got married at a courthouse in Vancouver, with Failla as a witness. 
"We always say Michael was our angel -- the world needs more angels like Michael," Hrebid says. 

Washington state recognized same-sex marriages at the time, and Hrebid quickly applied for a visa for his new husband at the US Consulate in Montreal.
When the consular official approved it, Allami sat down on the embassy floor and wept. Hrebid covered his mouth and screamed.
"I was shaking so hard," Allami says. "I asked the embassy person to repeat again just to be sure."

A new chapter

The date March 6, 2015, will forever be etched in Allami's mind. He finally moved to Seattle to be with Hrebid.
A few months later, on August 8 of the same year, they had their dream wedding at Failla's house, surrounded by friends. 
Allami (left) and Hrebid  on their wedding day in Seattle.
Allami then applied for permanent residency -- known as a green card -- as Hrebid's husband. The couple relishes their life in Seattle, where they live with their Siberian Husky, Cesar, and cat, Lodus. A rainbow flag draped over the balcony of their new townhome flutters in the wind. 
Inside their home, black and white photos of their wedding day line the walls. In other photos, they are hiking through the mountains or simply gazing into each other's eyes. 
After six years of living on different continents, their new life is idyllic. Hrebid is a kitchen specialist at a home improvement store while Allami is a maintenance worker for a residential building.
Failla describes the couple as "major influencers" in the gay community in Seattle. They open their home to LGBT people who've fled the Middle East, help them get jobs and into schools, and teach them about their new culture in the US. They've helped 21 people find jobs and places to stay, and are working with several rights groups such as Canada's Rainbow Refugee to assist more.
Hrebid and Allami play with their dog, Cesar, outside their home.
"First we were the ones who needed help now it's our turn to help," Hrebid says. "Anything we can do, even if it's changing people's minds just by sharing our story."
Their story is already bringing about change.
Christine Matthews, a deputy director for the UN refugee agency, said last year they used the gaps in Allami's case as a learning experience. They have since launched an effort to sensitize staff on the best ways to process such claims. 
"We need to do better for refugees, all refugees including LGBT refugees," she said.
And after years of separation, Hrebid still wakes up at night and asks: Am I dreaming or is this real? Are we really married? Will I wake up one day and find you gone?
"It's almost like that fear never leaves you," he says. 
In Iraq, the two say they are considered an embarrassment to their communities, and family members don't utter their names. 
"Out of Iraq," a documentary on their romance and fight for asylum, recently won an Emmy, but its two stars say they are hardly feted back home. 
Even though they can't go back to Iraq for fear of being killed, they've learned to define "home" in their own way.
"He's my family, he's my safe place, my love," Allami says as Hrebid gently strokes his face. 
"I may not have my country anymore, but he's my country now."

July 6, 2017

Iraqui Actor, Believed Gay, Was Tortured and Stabbed to Death in Baghdad



Male model tortured and stabbed to death 'over his appearance' in Iraq
Karar Nushi, an actor and student in Baghdad, was found dead north of the capital

A male model was tortured and stabbed to death in Iraq, reportedly over his appearance.
Karar Nushi, an actor and student at the Institute Of Fine Arts in Baghdad, was found dead in Palestine Street, north of the capital.
His body was covered in stab wounds and bore signs of torture, Iraqi News report.
Social media followers say he received death threats from anonymous people online, who criticized his tight outfits and long hair.
Karar was understood to have been preparing for a male beauty pageant.


Male model tortured and stabbed to death 'over his appearance' in Iraq
Karar is thought to have been preparing for a male beauty pageant and had reportedly received death threats online 

Mourners on social media paid tribute to Karar, with some blaming Isis for spreading their hateful ideology throughout the country.

Isis militants have executed or punished civilians for breaking their strict version of sharia law, and have reportedly executed some on suspicion of homosexuality.
Last year, a man was thrown to his death from the top of a high building in Kirkuk, Iraq, and his corpse was then stoned by Daesh supporters on the ground.
Earlier in 2016, a blindfolded man said to be accused of homosexuality was thrown from a 10-storey building in Aleppo, Syria.


Metro UK


This death did not occurred in a vacuum. Here is a gay man that cannot play the part of straight. He is not allowed to come to the US because Donald Trump is forbidden this. People from the country we invaded and tried to change through 10 years are not allowed here.
Why is a gay man in danger in Baghdad, not allowed to leave? No one will argue he was no thread to anyone. What if he wanted to stay and work with other gays as he was probably doing, what about help from the American Embassy. Yes the American Embassy was helping until Trump stopped it and even cut their budget.
The cowards that knifed him to death than beat up his corpse, as cowards they were not going to take a chance he will break one of their nails or give one a black eye in a struggle.
Iraqqueer.org:
The active presence of the US embassy in Baghdad has played an important role in providing resources, funding, and protection to some activists and LGBT+ individuals, and with these new orders which are influencing the relationship between the two countries, it's unclear what role the embassies in Iraq will play.

Among his other decisions, Trump also made it clear that he is going to reduce the US's contribution and role in the United Nations which represents a major setback for the Iraqi/Kurdish and also global LGBT+ movements as this means that one of the most influential states in the world that has been actively advocating for LGBT+ rights with different governments in the past 8 years will suddenly disappear, and might even play an opposite role to the one the US played under Obama's leadership. 

July 3, 2017

For Any Abused Gay Iraqi in Turkey, U.S. Refugee Freeze Is the Cruelest



 Istanbul Police attack Gays at Pride March 6 days ago




In Istanbul — For Mohammed, an Iraqi civil engineer, the cruelest experience of his life was not when his father tortured him for being gay.

It was not when Islamic State extremists took over the 26-year-old’s hometown in northern Iraq, forcing him to flee to Turkey. Or when he says he was almost raped at knife point and later laughed out of a Turkish police station when he tried to report the crime. Nor was it in January, when President Trump first tried — unsuccessfully — to bar refugees from entering America.

As Mohammed tells it, the cruelest blow instead came this past week, when the United States Supreme Court agreed to reinstate Mr. Trump’s 120-day freeze on refugee resettlement.

Tens of thousands of applicants for resettlement in the United States are affected by the freeze, and Mohammed is among the unluckiest: His application has been accepted for months, and he was simply waiting for the American government to give him an arrival date. 

“That is the one that destroyed me the most,” he said on Saturday, as he compared the many challenges he has faced in Iraq and Turkey. “I still had some hope before. Now I have none at all.”

Mohammed’s full name and current location are being withheld because of the dangers he faces in Turkey.

He is, ironically, fleeing much of the very extremism that Mr. Trump says he wants to wipe out. Mohammed left Mosul soon after Islamic State militants seized control of the city, when his sister warned him that their father had told the extremist group that he had a gay son.

But Mohammed’s persecution had started much earlier. In 2009, when he was 18, his father, a former officer in the army of Saddam Hussein, caught him during a sexual encounter with male friends. So began half a decade of torture and abuse. As punishment for his sexuality, Mohammed’s father beat him with metal, and sometimes burned him with a hot skewer. His legs and feet still bear the scars.

He was effectively kept under house arrest, allowed out only to complete his engineering degree, and later to work at a local engineering firm. If he was late arriving home, his father would increase the intensity of the beatings. Once, he says, his father punched his head so hard that Mohammed was hospitalized for two days with internal bleeding.

“Torture,” Mohamed said, “was a constant thing.”

With the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, closing in, Mohammed finally decided to escape, taking a bus to Turkey, Iraq’s northern neighbor.

Here, he applied for asylum, beginning a long and often byzantine process during which he was screened by the United Nations refugee agency; the International Catholic Migration Commission, a nongovernmental group that has for decades been involved in the resettlement and vetting of refugees to the United States; and at least three American government agencies, in what United Nations officials have described as the world’s most rigorous refugee-screening system. In the meantime, Mohammed’s life has been neither safe nor stable.

Turkey currently has more non-Palestinian refugees than any other country in the world. But unlike in Western nations, refugees in Turkey are not given the same rights as the indigenous population. The vast majority do not have the right to work, and many resort to exploitative conditions on the black market. 

Mohammed found odd factory jobs, but was always paid around half the legal minimum wage and never received the social security payments that Turkish workers get.

His employment was also easily terminated, as he found out late last year, when a factory manager fired him for developing a friendship with a gay colleague, Mohammed said.

That left him almost destitute, with no income to pay for the tiny room he shares with four strangers whom he does not trust. To keep afloat, Mohammed began to sell his clothes, then his camera, then his watch.

In January, after he was finally approved for resettlement in the United States, Mohammed hoped the windfall from hawking his possessions might tide him over until his departure was confirmed. But then Mr. Trump was inaugurated, and confirmation never came. Instead, the president suspended refugee resettlement, a move that was upheld by the Supreme Court decision this past week.

Now Mohammed is thinking of selling his last remaining valuable, his cellphone. He said he was down to his last 20 Turkish lira, less than $6.

With no family to call on for help, he feels afraid and abandoned, and ostracized because of his sexuality. While homosexuality is legal in Turkey, gay people face frequent abuse and discrimination. Istanbul’s pride events have been banned for the past three years, and people trying to march have been tear-gassed and arrested.

One gay Syrian refugee was murdered in a particularly brutal fashion last summer, and Mohammed himself has been subject to abuse. He recalls being spat on for being gay, and was nearly raped at knife point last year before managing to call for help.

When he reported the episode to the police the next morning, “they started laughing at me,” Mohammed recalled. “They said: ‘You’re not a girl so you can’t be raped.’”

Jobless and friendless, Mohammed, who is represented by the International Refugee Assistance Project, a New York-based refugee rights group providing him with pro bono legal assistance, now feels “on the edge between life and death.”

“I’ve been wronged all my life — by my father, by my family, by Iraqi society, by Turkish society,” he said in an interview.

“And now,” Mohammed added, “by the U.S. resettlement system.”


Follow Patrick Kingsley on Twitter @PatrickKingsley.
A version of this article appears in print on July 2, 2017, on Page A13 of the New York edition 

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