By Charlie Smith
Two gay Pakistani men who are trying to immigrate to Canada have managed to obtain refugee status from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Tehseen Ahmad and Zain Ahmad Khan fled from their homes in Karachi after they were outed in a BBC interview following their participation in a pride parade in the southern Pakistan city.
Earlier this month, Ahmad told the Straight by phone that the two were living in squalid conditions in Kabul, Afghanistan, while they awaited the outcome of their application for refugee status from the UN.
“We are just wasting our time here,” Ahmad said. “We do not have any beds. We sleep on the floor. The roof is made of bedsheets. We cannot close the door, nor can we close the window. We are very much in the hands of anyone who can get in and rob us. We are very vulnerable here.”
Their Vancouver pro bono lawyer, Rob Hughes, told the Straight by phone that the UNHCR’s recent decision to grant refugee status to the two men means they could wind up in Canada. “It’s a possibility, but it’s not a certainty,” Hughes said, noting that the UN agency could place them in another country.
Hughes added that the UNHCR designation has resulted in the two men receiving further financial assistance, but he said they are still not living in very desirable conditions in Kabul.
Ahmad said that he and Khan organized a pride parade earlier this year in Karachi, which attracted 30 to 40 people. He said that the marchers wore rainbow-coloured T-shirts. “It was just a peace walk,” he said. “I don’t know how the BBC got the info that this parade happened because the message was only sent to the gay community.”
He claimed that when he, Khan, and a then-16-year-old were interviewed by the BBC, they were promised that their voices would be altered and their faces would be covered. However, he alleged that this didn’t occur, which resulted in them being threatened.
“We had to abandon our home,” Ahmad said. “After that, people went to our home asking about our whereabouts.”