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Iraqi Lesbian Couple Still not Safe -Sweden may Deport them to ‘Honor Killing’ Fate

By Melanie Nathan 01/01/11-  Since reporting the encouraging news that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR,)  in an expedited appeal, had told Sweden that they should not be removed to the Kurdish north of Iraq, we have been informed that only one of the couple has been formally informed by the Swedish Migration Board that following the European court ruling they will not be removed, and the other has not heard any news.

LezGetReal and LGBT Asylum News reported previously that Swedish authorities had refused asylum to an Iraqi Kurdish lesbian couple, Pari and Dilsa (pictured right from a Swedish TV News report).

Sweden has removed over 500 in 2010, as have other EU countries including the UK. This is in defiance of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and despite a refusal by Kurdish authorities to allow direct flights to Irbil or Kirkut as well as media reports of maltreatment on arrival of refugees at Baghdad airport,  says Paul Canning of LGBT Asylum News.

The ECHR ruled last month that removals to Iraq should be stopped because of decreasing security but legally (under ‘rule 39′)  individuals had to go to them to get individual removals suspended. It agreed to look quickly at over 400 petitions from Iraqis in Sweden, including the Kurdish lesbian couples.   Removals can be stopped through such rulings by the Court’s request, but that does not always translate into the European government actually observing the so called ‘ruling.’

This means that the couple are not safe until both hear that they are not going to be deported back to Iraq, where as we reported before, they face certain retribution, a  death sentence – through the culture of family shame.

Until positive swift action for both, acknowledgment of  their relationship by way of formal Swedish retraction of all deportation orders, we the International community must believe  that Sweden believes it is safe for the one to return to Iraq; and also we would be compelled to believe that Sweden devalues their same-sex relationship.  From a country like Sweden, often viewed for its liberal citizenry in the European Union and Globe,  this would suggest an outrageous circumstance.

For now the removal of one has only been stayed and the second woman’s situation is even more uncertain.  It remains unclear whether Sweden will defy the ECHR or the court’s ruling will expire.

Unfortunately UNHCR believes that new flights are being organized and that the women may be forced to leave, for lack of solicitude by Swedish authorities.

Their lawyer, Simon Andersson, told LGBT Asylum News that:

Neither the decision from Migraitonsverket nor the Migrations court is very well motivated. It was not questioned that they were in fact lesbian, but the migrations office (and the migrations court) considered the situation in [Northern Iraq] (the Kurdish areas) to be safe, as long as they lived ‘discrete’ there.

According to Paul Canning, a fellow activist at the forefront of such issues in the UK, it is common for countries to hold that LGBT asylum seekers can ‘tolerate‘ living repressed lives amidst fear of discovery and therefore it is safe to return them. It was this approach which the British Supreme Court overturned in July.

Furthermore, I would add, where is the certainty that their mere return back to the region will not spark retribution; and what guarantees do the Swedes have that their relationship or sexual orientation has not yet been discovered, albeit they are currently abroad.

Canning remarks, “However, despite denials, evidence from Iraq shows that honor killings in the Kurdish North are common, may be increasing, and the couple are under specific threat.

As previously reported, Pari’s family is powerful and connected to the government. When she refused to be married off to a relative and confessed that she loved a woman death sentences were issued by her clan. Dilsa says her brother has already been murdered for helping her to flee. No ‘discretion’ will save them.”

A 2009 Amnesty International report “Trapped by Violence: Women in Iraq” said there has been a marked increase in violence against women perceived to have shamed their families. (per Canning’s Blog at LGBT Asylum)

State protection is unlikely as those committing crimes with an “honorable motive” are treated more leniently in Iraqi law, according to an April report by Amnesty. Iraqi courts interpret provisions of Article 128 of the Penal Code as justification for giving “drastically reduced” sentences to defendants who have attacked or killed LGBT they are related to if they say that they acted to “wash off the shame”.

Amnesty in April said that LGBT people in Iraq – including Kurdistan – were living under a “constant threat” and that Muslim clerics were making frequent public statements condemning homosexuality. Human Rights Watch has said that Iraqi security forces have targeted gays and lesbians.

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    by Melanie Nathan

  • @oblogdeeoblogda
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    2 Responses to Iraqi Lesbian Couple Still not Safe -Sweden may Deport them to ‘Honor Killing’ Fate

    1. Reviva

      January 11, 2013 at 10:47 am

      Dear Mel,

      I have just stumbled upon your lovely article and wondered where one can find out how the two ladies are doing.
      We are trying to group Iraqi lesbian/bisexual and exchange experiences. Sadly, only a few dare to speak up.

    2. paul canning

      January 2, 2011 at 12:49 pm

      Thanks Mel for keeping this couple’s story alive.