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Friday, 10 July 2009

Iraqi LGBT to apply for charitable status, provides interim accounts

Media release

The Iraqi LGBT organisation has today provided interim accounts for its Syria operations (see below) and announced that it will resubmit an application for charitable status.

Based in the UK, the group works to aid lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people within Iraq as well as many who have fled for exile in nearby countries. It runs a 'safe house' in Baghdad, Iraq, where 20 LGBT people are currently housed and where previously 70 people have stayed for various periods.

The safe house will be featured in a documentary on BBC Radio this Sunday. It includes interviews with the person who runs it as well as some of those who live there.

Since it was founded Iraqi LGBT has provided safety for over 100 people, including supporting 70 people financially. It has provided support for 23 people outside Iraq including shelter, medication and food.

The reapplication for charitable status follows a change in the group's aims which removed working the requirement to work for change in Iraqi law, which resulted in a previous rejection by the UK's Charity Commission as this was regarded as 'political'. It also follows the work of the group's volunteer accountant on preparing accounts to meet charity commissioners’ standards. In addition the group has become a Company limited by guarantee (No. 06954355).

Iraqi LGBT’s accountant Josh Botham ATT ACPA ACCA IIT[dip] explained that - like others such as Amnesty International - the group has had to use circuitous routes in order to get funds to exiles, as well as pay bribes in order to secure release of people under real threat of death.

Botham said that as part of the application the group would publish full accounts on its website shortly.

Funding for the group in the past has come from the group's own members and donations including one in 2008 from the US Representative Jared Polis. He donated $10,000 (£6,853) via the Heartland Alliance to aid the project in Syria.

Polis' funding went to the Chicago based LGBT group Heartland Alliance to provide for five people to be moved from Iraq to Syria and to provide housing rent, food and other basic needs in Syria. This project ran between 1 June and 31 December 2008. Included in the cost was the living accommodation for the local administrator of the group.

Botham said that: "Providing the financial support involved a difficult money transfer process in order to avoid coming to the attention of Syrian authorities. Such an operation also meant that in order to safeguard the lives of these refugees, people were only informed on a need to know basis."

"Heartland Alliance [as grant provider] however insisted that our group should meet up with the Lebanese LGBT group, Helem, in November 2008, at that same time that some prominent members of Heartland Alliance visited Syria."

"The result was disastrous for our group, Iraqi LGBT. Some of our members were arrested by Syrian police in Damascas in (which city). With the help of a local lawyer, Iraqi LGBT managed to get these people released. However one of them was later to be deported back to Iraq."

Iraqi LGBT has experienced other difficulties in coordinating activities with Heartland Alliance. Another grant of $10,000 meant for Iraqi LGBT came to the group from the Elisabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust, based in Chicago. Botham gave them a budget of how to allocate this money.

However communications broke down with the Heartland Alliance's representative when it was claimed that the last transfer of $4,000 had never been received by our sources in Iraq. Says Botham: “This underlines the perils of where we are working and who we are working with."

"Iraqi LGBT has supported another nine Iraqi refugees in Syria, as well as a safe house in Iraq and has had to spend money on freeing people from custody. Obviously in such situations one doesn't get a receipt."

"Between 1 June 2008 to 31 May 2009, the Polis supported project represented one sixth of the group's expenditure. Just under a quarter of the group's funding actually came from the group's founder, Ali Hili, his family and his partner."

Iraqi LGBT Chair Ali Hilli added: "We are confident that the charitable status will be accepted and will be a great help for the group. As we have been reporting for several years now, our people in Iraq are being killed and we desperately need more financial support to save them and where necessary move them out of Iraq."

"This work is dangerous and threatening. Even in London I am under real threat and have been forced to move as a result."

Donations for Iraqi LGBT can be made via PayPal. See the group's website at for details.


Syria underground Railroad Project

Covering the period from 1 June 2008 to 31 May 2009

Figures in US dollars

Total funding received from Heartland Alliance $15,520

Telephone cards and other means of communication $413
Basic food and supplies $486
Travel costs including passports and visa’s(for 5 people, from Bagdad to Damascus by road) $3,000
Legal fees(to prevent an individual from being imprisoned in Iraq) $4,000
Rent (Damascus) $7,000
Transportation costs (inside Syria to move nine Iraqi LGBT refugees when necessary
to another safe house) $413
Other costs $208
Total $15,218
Balance left $2

Iraqi LGBT expenditure in Syria

In addition to the funding received from Heartland Alliance, Iraqi LGBT from its own resources has supported another nine Iraqi LGBT refugees who had already made there own way to Syria.

The Heartland Alliance would not allow us to include the cost of transferring the money as part of their donation. We paid for it ourselves and we have therefore listed this bank fee under our own expenditure

Figures in pounds sterling

Covering the period from 1 June 2008 – 31 May 2009
Rent, food and other amenities like electricity (For two safe houses including any bribes paid.) £8,731
Communication (mobile phones, phone cards, internet etc) £95
Bank charges £415
Total £9,241


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