I have always known that I wanted to positively contribute to the lives of refugees. This passion led me to apply to law school, with the intention to practice exclusively in the area of refugee law. The opportunity to intern at ORAM provided me with a fresh perspective in this area of law.
As a second-year law student, it is rare to be assigned a client. I had the opportunity to work with a refugee, which meant working on their file from start to finish. The opportunity to work with a client also meant that I was made aware of the circumstances of sexual and gender minorities. My client, like many other LGBTI refugees, have experienced rape, torture, and day-to-day harassment for simply being who they are. In a country like Syria, being LGBTI is criminalized. Social intolerance and the dominance of ISIS (who is known to kill LGBTI individuals by throwing them off rooftops and stoning them to death) further add to the lack of protection for LGBTI individuals. In my view, LGBTI individuals in Syria are considered to be sub-human. I say this because LGBTI individuals are often ostracized from their families (their only financial safety net), discriminated against by employers (which leaves them with no choice but to perform highly dangerous and precarious employment, such as sex-work), experience day-to-day harassment, and in some cases are tortured and raped by family members or by State authorities.
Before my internship with ORAM, I had never heard of, or was never taught about the specific circumstances, struggles, and barriers of sexual and gender minority refugees. In the Director Neil Grungras’s training, I began to understand, that many on the organizations on the ground do not consider or acknowledge LGBTI refugees. This is not to say that they do not perform an important role, but that they, at times, fail to acknowledge that the most vulnerable refugees, like LGBTI individuals, are often ignored. ORAM has provided me with the training and tools necessary to be a better advocate.
By Harpreet Ahuja, ORAM intern