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Sunday, 7 September 2008

Babi Badalov campaign update

Guest post by Hywel Bishop

As a recent post indicated, Babi Badalov has recently heard that his asylum application appeal has been rejected. Feeling that his case had not been adequately dealt with by his solicitor Babi's campaign support group managed to find him a new solicitor who is now in the process of making an application for a fresh claim.

When Babi first changed solicitor, his previous one was extremely disruptive. Initially refusing to send over his case notes, it took over two weeks for them to be sent to his new solicitor. This is despite the fact that it was of the utmost importance that his new solicitor could examine his case in order that a fresh claim be lodged as quickly as possible.

News of Babi's campaign and his claim for asylum has reached Azerbaijan on a number of occasions. These have included pictures of Babi and details about his sexuality, making it even more dangerous for him to be deported.

Previously, one of Babi's brothers had threatened to kill him if he found out that Babi was gay after a friend told him that he had seen Babi wearing an earring in public. Following the publication of these newspaper articles Babi has received phone calls and text messages from various family members expressing their disgust. His sister called crying and screaming on the phone asking if what she had read was true. When Babi said that it was she told him that he had brought shame on this family and their region and that she never wanted to see him again. If Babi is forcibly deported back to Azerbaijan Babi would therefore have no family to return to and he fears that his brothers will try and kill him in order to restore some honour to the family name.

Despite the 'decriminalisation' of 'consensual same-sex male acts in Azerbaijan in 2000 (largely enacted in order to remove any obstacles to Azerbaijan's accession to the Council of Europe) homosexuality still remains an extremely taboo subject. A report by the International Lesbian and Gay Association of Europe in 2007 highlighted how decriminalisation has not led to 'sexual orientation' becoming protected in anti-discrimination legislation.

The report also indicated that gay people and the wider LGBT population were subjected to human rights abuses, discrimination, and social exclusion. The report characterized the community as "vulnerable and exposed to extortion by law enforcement officials," facing problems such as ridicule, forced bribes, abuse, and in some cases rape by law enforcement officials. The report noted that the community lived under a constant fear of being "outed" to family, friends, and colleagues.

Like most gay people who have claimed asylum because the persecution they have experienced because of their sexuality Babi faces an uphill struggle.

Sexuality, for the Home Office, is for the most part dismissed as adequate grounds for being granted asylum. The Home Office 'policy' line with respect to gay asylum applicants is that because gay people are not necessarily visibly they can therefore live 'normal' lives by being 'discreet' about their sexualities. Even those that it believes have suffered appalling persecution because of their sexuality are regularly forcibly deported back to the countries they have fled.

They are told that they should go and live in another part of the country and to be 'discreet' about their sexual practices. This translates into nothing more than telling people to go and live a life in the shadows, hiding their sexuality and preying that no one finds them out.

While this twisted logic should not be applied to anyone it is impossible for Babi to live such a life. Even before the reports about Babi hit the headlines in Azerbaijan his status as a well known artist made him a visible figure and has been a major cause of the physical and mental attacks and persecution he has had to suffer for many years. But now following all the media attention it would be completely impossible for him to go and try and endure such living conditions.

For the past few months Babi like the vast majority of other asylum applicants has been required to report to the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) building in Cardiff. Every time that he goes there he fears that he will be detained. None of this is doing much for Babi's metal and physical health. He is becoming increasingly depressed and his supporters are extremely worried about him.

Babi now has to wait to hear whether the courts will grant his 'fresh claim'. He will then, more than likely, have to jump through many other hoops before his asylum application is finally granted.

Overall, the Home Office is geared to making it as difficult as possible for those fleeing persecution to have their asylum applications granted. However, Babi's supporters all remain positive despite the Home Office's best efforts to make life as difficult as possible for him.

But Babi is not alone in having to endure this. This is what awaits all those who come here in search of a better life free from persecution and instead get a regime that forces them to live a life where they are not allowed to work to support themselves, have to live on benefits at 70% of those of UK citizens and are imprisoned in one of the UK's 10 privately run detention centres.

There are a number of ways in which you can help Babi. Please sign his on line petition and forward the details to as many of your friends as possible. You can find out about other ways in which you can actively support Babi by visiting No borders Wales who are supporting Babi with his campaign to stay in Cardiff where he feels safe.

Paul Canning
So-called 'honour' killings are a deadly serious issue in numerous countries for lesbians and gays, in particular Iraq but also Turkey, Palestine, Pakistan, Gambia, Brazil, Mexico and others. There have been cases in the UK of gay asylum seekers also been attacked for similar reasons.


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