First of all I would like to give information about myself. I’m Javid Nabiyev from Azerbaijan. In Azerbaijan I was working as a LGBTI Human Rights defender and I became as first openly gay politician. In Azerbaijan unfortunately we have a dictatorship government. Under these circumstances, there are no basic human rights, freedom of expression / speech / media, we experience fake elections and etc. Among the 49 member states of the Council of Europe we are in the last place regarding LGBTI Human Rights, even Russia ranks before us at #48 ( ILGA Europe Report 2016). Because of persecution and risk of being arrested I came to Germany in January of 2015. In my homeland I was accused of like sabotaging the government and being a spy of west.
I came to Germany with a hope to continue my work / fight for LGBTI Human Rights in Azerbaijan. I thought here would be better conditions, freedom, and safety. Unfortunately the life in refugee camps, in refugee dormitory didn’t pay for my expectations which I had before coming to Germany. I was insulted in camps by other refugees because of the way I look. I didn’t have another option than pretending to be a straight person. Several time had conflict with refugees (don’t want to tell where they were from because heterosexism doesn‘t have a nationality) because of unhuman jokes about my behavior. I was helpless, explained everything to my social workers, wrote to several organizations that are working with LGBTTI refugees, but no results. Time came and I gave up, attempted to commit suicide, do bring the end all of these problems. Fortunately, police found me and I had to stay 3 weeks in Hospital. During that time I thought a lot, knowing that I’m not the only one facing all of this discrimination, abuses, violence and hopelessness. I decided to “wake up” and found the campaign “Queer Refugees for Pride”. For now the campaign has 3 speakers.
Here is what I saw in the past: There are a lot of organizations with perfectly managed web pages, that are organizing events about our situation, making claims regarding our needs and etc. Cool, no problem, it’s good to have allies and support of people who want to take care of us. But the question is, are we involved in these decision making processes? The answer is NO. With my colleagues we started to build up the political concept of this campaign. Our slogans are “Nothing about us, without us! We have a voice, we will use it!”. It was difficult, now also difficult to reach some places to raise our voice. The media, politicians are talking about us when they need us as a topic. We thought about the strategy how we can raise our political statements. We decided to go to the CSDs. The CSD Pride Parades are the largest LGBTTI* demonstrations in Germany to get more attention. So we focused on that, to participate in CSD all over the Germany with our slogans and we did it. During CSD season in 2016 we participated in CSDs in Cologne, Düsseldorf, Hannover, Brandenburg, Kiel, Aurich, Münster, Saabrücken, Hamburg. We could mobilize more than 50 LGBTTI* asylum seekers to join us to these CSDs all over Germany. Interested people can reach the gallery from our 2016 CSDs season via our webpage. The campaign gave them chance to show their messages, their demands, to show their situation in Germany and in their homeland. The majority of the German population is not aware of the situation in our countries. It was great opportunity to show slogans like “LGBT Rights are in Prison in Azerbaijan”, “I’m not safe in Mauritius”, “Iraq, why do you want to kill me?”, “Kazakhstan is danger for me” and etc. The idea wasn’t to just participate in CSDs as campaign team, as physically we cannot reach all over the Germany. So, we want to share the idea: No matter where you are, in which part of Germany you are – If there is any CSD nearby you, don’t be afraid and go there, be visible, shake your hands and be proud of yourself! So for 2016 our main aim as campaign was to motivate LGBTTI* refugees to be visible, self-organize, unite and stand for our rights.
Beside going to CSDs, speakers of our campaign were invited to several event across the Germany to give workshops about self-organizing, self-empowerment, importance of political engagement / lobbying and how to solve the problems of the LGBTTI* refugees.
Now with my colleagues we are working on the campaign policy for 2017. In 2017 we want to be more political and be on stage with clear suggestions regarding the solving of problems. Mostly people are talking about the importance and urgency of creating specific shelters for LGBTTI* refugees. Sure, this can be helpful for urgent situations. But I think it shouldn’t be priority. This way we cannot save all of LGBTTI* refugees, who are becoming victims of discrimination and violence. For example, one of the main problems, which are common for all of us, is heterosexist accidents with translators chosen by BAMF during asylum procedure. How so? When you apply for asylum, in the application form you have just two options to choose – male and female. Our suggestion is that, on this application form it should be possible to describe your sexual orientation. Why it’s necessary? When the person responsible for the procedure of the applicant’s case knows the applicant belongs to the LGBTTI* community they can be careful in choosing an aware translator that won‘t cause any more trouble during the process.
The next issue which I think is really important, is awareness of social workers in refugee camps or in in general all workers who are connected with refugees. There are should be governmental policy aiming to increase awareness of social workers regarding questions like “How to create safe space for LGBTTI* refugees”, “Respect to privacy”, “How to build up trust between LGBTTI* refugees”, “How to react in cases of discrimination and hateful violence in their working area” and etc. We are now making a survey regarding the situation of LGBTTI* refugees in Germany. We have unbelievable stories from people. Instead of solving the problem, social worker blame the victim and claim they might have irritated other people or suggest we should keep our orientation a secret and etc. This is unacceptable!
On the other hand it‘s also very important to not forget non-LGBTTI* refugees. We have to increase their awareness about LGBTTI*, diversity, women rights, human rights and etc. Authorities, LGBT organizations should understand that heterosexism in camps are effecting “for now” just us, but in the future when all of refugees will become part of the German society, this heterosexism will have an effect on all of us. That’s why there is no way we can forget about their education on that topic. How to do this? The best option, I think, is to start work on integrational materials. All of us (refugees) are – or at least should be able to – visiting the integration courses to learn German. But, all of these integration books based on heteronormativity. I want to give a short example: Instead of just writing Max falls in love with Mariam, it would be perfect to add Sascha and Muhammed having a romantic dinner. This way everybody will see that in this society diversity is exciting and it’s acceptable. Because of this as an initiative we have also started a campaign under name “Stop Heteronormativity in Integrational Materials”.
We have a lot of ideas and plans. But to make our voice hearable we need to be visible and engage with political spectrum of Germany. For example I’m a member of the Green Party, want to be more political regarding our situation. But it’s really difficult, without support / allies I cannot reach our common destination. But we will continue our initiative to be voice of LGBTTI* refugees situation in Germany!