The Safe Houses Project

Iraqi LGBT currently runs two safe houses inside Iraq sponsored by HIVOS a Dutch based organisation for the last two years.

Our organisation is running and managing two safe houses inside Iraq at the meantime funded by HIVOS programme and a third is additional standby safe house for emergencies.

We had in the past six months four safe houses at a time, but the lack of extra funds to open more new safe houses to support them and keep it running and open was a major obstacle.

Also the shortage of members involved in the group administration in the United Kingdom was the biggest problem here for us, all our members are unpaid volunteers dedicating part of their time to help and run the group from a mobile location in London – United Kingdom.

We still have no office to run the project, we meet often in cafe in central London or in the houses of members of our groups, we luckily managed to get four new members to be involved in our group to volunteer their times to help rung the group’s work.

The quality of life inside the safe houses has improved and we were able to provide so much better quality of healthy diet food and clean water and much better life condition constantly for these two safe houses.

Hot and cold water, gas for coking, electricity, fuel for generators supplied to each house weekly.

Vegetables, rice, meat, with very healthy diet meals includes fish, chicken and red meat is part of the daily nutrition supplied meals.

Courses for improving communication skills for all house members is provided by some house residence who agreed to help voluntarily to give reading and writing lessons for all illiterate members.

The location of the houses has been changed three times on the past four months for security reasons.

The two houses reside 12 and 16 people which makes the total of 28 members in total on the 1st of May 2010.

Numbers of people living in the houses changed depending of the capacity limits and the willing of members living there and wishing to leave or stay.

Some members especially the female group prefer to live together in a small group away from the gay, Trans and the Bisexual men, the cultural effect and background of these members and their wishes to be separated and kept their identity unknown is highly respected by all our members.

The safe house project is succeeding as planned.  The members in Iraq have started to feel the impact of the safety and stability that we have provided.  They have begun to develop a sense of community and have are working well as a small group.

There is still progress to be made in order to help these individuals, the need to improve communications is crucial.   Our hopes are to help them to learn to speak, read, and write Arabic.  We believe it would be helpful to teach them computers skills, so they can learn to send emails as well.

We are still facing few problems with communication.  We are unable to use the internet, due to security and the lack of setting up a stable internet connection in Iraq as we have been moving out and changing locations frequently , most of our communication is by phone, which is easier and difficult to track down by the Iraqi authority , we have been using mobile phone calling cards.

The progress seems to us more than just improving the life condition and the situation to a group of people, it was a helping experience for all members of the group involved on this project to learn how to deal with individuals and group of people running from violence, escaping a death threats, family revenge or honor killing and assist to save their lives.

We have run more safe houses but due to the killings of members, invasions and disclosure by militias as well as lack of funds we are only able to run two at present.

Iraqi LGBT leader Ali Hili said the following in 2007:

“Iraqi lgbt has made a huge effort to keep all of its five safe houses running, to provide refuge for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Iraqis who have fled homophobic violence and threats to kill them,” said Ali Hili, founder and coordinator of the human rights group, Iraqi lgbt.

“Many of the people we helped have been targeted by the Iraqi police and by Shia militia and other fundamentalist factions.

“Because of a lack of funds, three safe houses have had to close their doors. This decision will break a lot of hearts, but we have no other choice. We don’t have the financial support to sustain these refuges.

“Over 30 gay residents who we cared for in these three safe houses now have to take their chances in a country where religious militia regularly seek out gays and execute them.

“Several months ago, two lesbians working with Iraqi lgbt were assassinated in the safe house they were running in Najaf, along with a young boy the women had rescued from the sex industry.

“We feel deserted by the international gay community. Few people seem to care about our fate.

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