Ibrahim (‘Memo’) is living on borrowed time. He’s on the run from his own father, who cannot accept a gay son. After his father detained and tortured him at home in Iraq, Ibrahim fled to Turkey as a refugee. And the danger continues. Read on to discover his story and what we can do to help.
Name: Ibrahim (‘Memo’)
Profile: Gay Iraqi refugee in Turkey
Advantages: Excellent English and people skills, educated
Risk: Death at the hands of his father or one of his proxies
Sponsors and Supporters: John Sakeris, Rufus Dickinson, Sven Dickinson , Joan Grusec, Robert Lockhart, Jack Brannigan, Linda Hutcheson, John Hutcheson
Born in Baghdad in the early ‘90s, Ibrahim had an ordinary family life. His father was a real estate agent, his mother was a housewife, and he had two younger brothers and one older sister, now a teacher. Memo always knew he was different.
“When I was 13 years, I was playing with my neighbour Adam, who was 14, in the garage. We were laughing and happy, and he picked me up from behind. My father started shouting at us. ‘Why did you let him hug you?’ He dropped a full mug of tea on my chest. I still have a scar from the burn.”
Memo graduated from high school and studied at university, but had to drop out due to financial constraints. He worked as a supermarket clerk, store supervisor, cashier and chef to help the family pay the bills.
By his early twenties, Memo fell in love with another young man his age, and often stayed with him at his apartment in Baghdad. They kept their relationship a secret. Being gay is a crime in Iraq, and many LGBTQ+ people are killed by militia, the government or their own families.
In 2017, his father discovered the truth.
“He started treating me badly. He didn’t let me go out or go to work, he didn’t let me talk with anyone. I couldn’t do anything that time because I was afraid.”
In June 2017, after harassing him for months, his father did the unthinkable.
“He locked me in a small room and tortured me several days without drink or food. I was almost dead so I decided to escape to survive.”
Memo went to a friend’s house and hid from his father for over a month, while making arrangements to cross the border into Turkey.
In August 2017, he arrived in Turkey and registered as an ‘asylum seeker’ with the UNHCR office in Ankara, and with Turkish authorities. They assigned him to live in a city about four hours from Ankara.
It was a smaller and conservative community, where Memo faced further discrimination as a gay man and as a refugee. To add to his difficulties, his father has made an effort to discover his address, and called the police on his son, telling them where he lives.
“He forced me to change my home many times. I’m afraid. He wants to kill me.”
LGBTQ refugees like Memo face “double jeopardy”: they suffer criminalization, violence and discrimination in their country of origin, and often also experience these same dangers in their asylum countries before they are resettled.
While he escaped violence in Iraq, his life is stil in danger in Turkey, both from his father and from the local citizens who hate those who are different.
“I was forced to leave Turkish language class due to bad treatment and hateful speech because I’m gay. We have no rights here. Even the Turkish LGBTQ+ don’t have rights, and I’m foreign.”
In February 2019, Memo was attacked by two Turkish men who were brandishing knives. He reported it to the police, who did nothing. They also failed to act when his father started making threats to find him.
“My life here is difficult and dangerous. I can’t work. I can’t move to another city. I can’t live as I am. Even renting apartments is difficult, as the owners don’t like gays or foreigners.”
We are looking for a group of five caring people in Toronto to sponsor Memo to Canada and help bring him to a better life. He is a hard-working, very sweet and resourceful young man, who would make a wonderful and talented addition to this country.
As a highly vulnerable gay refugee, Memo is eligible for private sponsorship to Canada through the Rainbow Refugee program.
“I just want to live in peace. I don’t want to be killed. I want to continue studying like other people, to have rights, respect and freedom.”
Thank you for your support. And help spread the word by sharing this post!