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First published at eurOut.

Last week Gwen already wrote about the difficulties that arise for gays and lesbians, who seek asylum in the UK because of their sexual orientation. But the UK isn't the only European country guilty of forcing people to return to places where they aren't safe at all.

According to Amnesty International's recent report Iraq: Civilians Under Fire Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden also breached UNHCR guidelines and forcibly returned many Iraqis to unsafe parts of the country.

This report also talks specifically about attacks on gay men and violence against women and girls, which further underlines the importance of protecting lgbt asylum seekers.

Iraq: Civilians Under Fire

Often women suffer violence at the hands of their male relatives as a punishment for going against the family's wishes or if they are perceived to infringe traditional codes.

In addition to harmful traditional practices like forced marriages, often at a very young age, Amnesty International also speaks of a rise in gender discrimination and violence during periods of armed conflict.
In 2008 the Iraqi authorities recorded 56 so-called honour killings of women in the nine southern governorates.
Iraq: Civilians Under Fire
Especially sexual violence against women is grossly underreported. The main reason for that being the victims' fear of further violence. One woman is quoted to say that she had to swear that she hadn't been raped, even though she had been, because otherwise her brother-in-law might have killed her.

from Iraq: Civilians Under Fire

The attacks against gay men range from death threats to actual killings. Gay men are abducted, raped and even killed by the Mahdi Army. Amnesty International quote a UN report, which states that at least 12 people were killed because of their sexual orientation between October 2005 and May 2006.
"I was at a gym with my boyfriend. When he returned to my car to get me a bottle of water he was shot dead outside the gym. I was terrified and went into hiding."
Quassim (40), quoted in Amnesty International report.
In the cases of killings of women as well as gay men the Iraqi Penal Code provides that a convicted murderer can plead that he had killed with "honourable motives" (Article 128). This often results in the offender only having to face six months in prison. The same code allows the "disciplining" of a wife by her husband and of children by their teachers and parents (Article 41).

The conditions as reported by Amnesty International should be enough reason to give Iraqi asylum seekers refuge in Europe. What is added to that is that Iraqis who are sent back to their home country might not even be allowed back in.
For example, on 15 October 2009 UK authorities forcibly deported 44 rejected Iraqi asylum-seekers to Baghdad; the Iraqi authorities allowed only 10 of them to enter.
from Iraq: Civilians Under Fire
Amnesty International conclude their report with recommendations directed at armed groups, militias, Iraqi authorities, Iraq's religious community and political leaders as well as the US forces in Iraq and the international community. Most important in a European context and in light of Gwen's article last week are the following:

  • End all forcible returns to any part of Iraq; any return of rejected asylum-seekers should only take place when the security situation in the whole country has stabilized.
  • Provide financial, technical and in-kind assistance to refugee-hosting states in the region, UNHCR and other organizations providing assistance to refugees from Iraq.

Let's hope that politicians will take this recommendations to heart!

The Report is available for download in English, Arabic and Spanish: Iraq: Civilians Under Fire.

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joan_psmith: name icon (Default)
Joan Y. Psmith
"Because we're grown-ups now, and it's our turn to decide what that means."
~ xkcd

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