Gay San Franciscans are standing up for LGBTI Middle Eastern refugees by hosting individual-driven events.
Steve Keith wanted to do something to help LGBTI refugees. He was inspired by a recent lecture by the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration staff and Middle Eastern refugees Ali Khoie and Subhi Nahasat the University of San Francisco on November 9.
Hearing Ali and Subhi’s stories moved him to get involved by hosting ORAM’s first-ever volunteer initiated donor event December 16, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., at the California Pacific Medical Center.
“Just seeing news reports of people being thrown off of buildings, Jesus, I gotta do something,” says Steve.
He’s aware that people are saying that “it’s not really a great time to be advocating for refugees,” he says, in light of the recent terrorist attack on Paris.
“I think that it’s more important now,” says Steve, who believes that gay refugees are in even more dire circumstances and fearing for their lives than ever before.
Reflecting on the early days of the AIDS crisis when he was one of the original nurses working at San Francisco General Hospital, “I wanted to be there because members of my community were dying from a frightening new disease and I could do something to make it better,” says Steve. “I have a similar feeling when I watch the news from Syria.”
“Members of my community are being hurled from buildings, stoned to death, dying because of who they love. This time it’s not a virus, but a vile distortion of religious ideas that has infected the region,” he continues.
“People need help. If the U.S. isn’t going to let them in, ORAM can help them get into other countries that will let them in,” Steve adds. “If we could help them out, we should.”
Ali and Subhi are excited for the opportunity to share their stories with more people along with ORAM’s Executive Director Neil Grungras, who will be present as well. Neil will also address the Paris attacks and the political backlash by conservatives and Congress as well as provide an update of what is happening on the ground in Turkey.
Neil has feverishly been working with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to get Syrian and other Middle Eastern LGBTI refugees temporarily residing in Turkey to safety in the U.S., Canada, and some countries in the European Union.
“If the situation gets worse the LGBT people among the vulnerable refugees will be the first ones to suffer,” says Ali, pointing out that a longer waiting period of up to six months to a year for a normal family is difficult, but for an LGBTI refugee, “One more year it’s going to be really harsh.”
Subhi, who spoke before the United Nations Security Council at the first-ever LGBT Meetingin August, agrees adding.
“It’s important to speak about my own experience. I want to help other people who are still where I used to be not so long ago,” he says. “I want to help people understand what LGBT refugees go through in the transit countries and maybe they can understand how they can help.”
Ali and Subhi will talk about the current situation with LGBTI refugees in Turkey, where many are temporarily living and waiting to be placed in a host country by the UNHCR. They will also join Neil in talking about their perspectives on the political climate for Syrian and Middle Eastern refugees following the attack on Paris and the current situation in Turkey.
Individuals hosting events to raise awareness and funds to support LGBTI refugees “spread the awareness around the LGBT issue,” says Subhi.
“It shows the support and solidarity of the international LGBT community and how they are there to help,” he continues.
The event will be hosted December 16, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., at the California Pacific Medical Center Gazebo Meeting Room, Castro and Duboce Streets in San Francisco, CA 94114. The event is free to attend. Space is limited. To RSVP or for more information, visit www.facebook.com/events/125786731122568. Unable to attend this event? Please consider donating $15, $25, $50 or more to save LGBTI refugees lives or contact Peter Altman, the San Francisco director of ORAM, to host your own event at email@example.com.