My friend Abdullah likes to laugh. He laughs about mid-term exams that go horribly wrong, weekend parties at his house where way too many things get broken and he laughs when he shouldn’t; when his life, personal freedom and the sanctity of his person are being threatened.
Abdullah is gay. While he remains a student in Canada, this is a statement still to be celebrated.
Abdullah lives with his long-term boyfriend; complete with all the normal trials and tribulations of any ordinary relationship. They love each other and all the wonderful friends that come in and out of their lives. Abdullah works hard to get good grades at the community college he attends in Victoria, B.C., Canada, and brightens the day of all he meets on the campus.
Abdullah came to Canada from Dubai to go to school 4 years ago. After coming out as a gay man and revealing his sexual orientation to his parents, Abdullah realised the full extent of what it means to expose yourself as a homosexual to a country that lives under Muslim Law. Upon hearing the news, Abdullah’s mother flew to Canada to try and convince her son that his homosexual tendencies were nothing more than a disease that needed to be treated. She explained that, rather than become estranged and reviled by family and community, Abdullah should fly back to Dubai and voluntarily get arrested for being a homosexual so he could receive the medical treatment he needed: testosterone injections.
In Dubai, those caught being gay are sentenced to government-ordered hormone treatments, five years in jail and a lashing. While foreigners may be allowed to slip under the radar for being gay in this country, the Muslim citizens are not.
Following this harrowing interaction with his mother, Abdullah applied for political refugee status based on the danger of his sexual orientation. A hearing was set for Nov. 7th, 2008. This hearing had no procedure for appeal; it was a one-shot deal. Either he was accepted as a political refugee, where he could resume his student life and continue on with his goal of completing a post-secondary degree, or Abdullah would be sent to Dubai where he would be imprisoned, lashed and given forced hormone injections.
Abdullah arrived at his hearing without a lawyer. Legal aid had rejected his application. Scared and alone, he thought he could plead to have his case postponed until legal assistance could be secured. His plan was to scrounge money through part-time, under-the-table jobs and beg a lawyer to take his case with minimal funding. As it turned out, none of this was necessary. The hearing didn't need to be moved forward. He was told his case was decided and his political refugee status had been accepted based on the dangers he faced back home. Abdullah could stay. In tears, Abdullah then received a hug from the chairman of the hearing before leaving to return home to his schooling, his friends and his life in Victoria.
Abdullah’s story has reminded me of just how proud and lucky I am to be Canadian.