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Gay asylum seeker rejected for being too ‘girlish’ fears for life after being ‘outed’ by immigration control

Ella Braidwood August 28, 2018
Austrian citizens and asylum seekers march during a pro-refugee protest called "Let them stay" in Vienna, Austria on November 26, 2016. Austria will hold the postponed second round of the presidential elections on December 4, 2016. / AFP / JOE KLAMAR (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Protesters march in a pro-refugee rally in Vienna (JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty)

An Iraqi man, who had an asylum claim rejected because he was too “girlish,” has said he fears returning to his home country after immigration officials told his family that he’s gay.

The 27-year-old, known only as Firas, was refused a home in Austria, despite telling immigration officials about his work with local LGBT+ group RosaLila PantherInnen since he fled his home country in 2015.

The latest case came after a gay Afghan teenager was reportedly rejected for asylum when Austrian officials said he did not “walk, act or dress” like a gay person.

Speaking to the Independent, Firas said that Austrian immigration control had informed his father and brother about his sexuality, even though he was told that information he gave to authorities would be confidential.

“I told the interviewer my family don’t know everything [about my sexuality] because of my culture and religion,” Firas told the Independent.

“The interviewer said it was private. But then my father was asked [by Austrian immigration officials] if he knew his son was gay, and my father said I wasn’t and that I had invited girlfriends round for lunch.

“After that, my application was rejected. They said I was acting and trying to look like a girl. I was told I could move back to Iraq and keep my sexuality a secret as I had already done that when I was growing up.”

Firas added that he believed it was now too dangerous for him to return to Iraq, which he left three years ago.

Austrian immigration officials, however, did not believe Firas’ testimony, writing in their ruling: “Particularly striking… was the fact that until the concrete questions about your homosexuality, you did not increase your stereotypical, at least exaggerated, girlish behaviour.”

They added: “You did not act authentically,” stating that it was “unbelievable” and “not credible that you are sexually different (gay) oriented.”

Firas was also accused of using facial expressions and gestures “of a differently sexually oriented person,” but officers said that this was him “acting and putting it on.”

Joe Niedermayer, a member of RosaLila PantherInnen, which is supporting Firas’ case, also told the national newspaper that it is a “death sentence” to send LGBT+ asylum seekers back to their home country.

Protesters gather to demonstrate against ill-treatment of migrants after the bodies of 71 refugees were found in an abandoned truck last week in Vienna on August 31, 2015. Around 20,000 people demonstrated police said. The banner reads 'Muslims and refugees welcome'. AFP PHOTO / PATRICK DOMINGO (Photo credit should read PATRICK DOMINGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters demonstrate against the ill-treatment of migrants (PATRICK DOMINGO/AFP/Getty)

Homosexuality is technically legal in Iraq, but openly queer people face attacks in public and executions in Sharia courts.

A report released in June found that 96 percent of LGBT+ Iraqis have faced physical or verbal violence because of their sexuality or gender identity.

Since arriving in the southern city of Graz, Firas reportedly said he has translated a booklet on coming out into Arabic and attended LGBT+ events in the capital of Vienna, such as the Tuntenball and Pride parade.

Austrian citizens and asylum seekers march during a pro-refugee protest called "Let them stay" in Vienna, Austria on November 26, 2016. Austria will hold the postponed second round of the presidential elections on December 4, 2016. / AFP / JOE KLAMAR (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Austria is now governed by a coalition of conservatives and far-right parties (JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty)

Firas reportedly explained to Austrian immigration control that he had accepted he was gay when he was 16, but had to hide his sexuality from his family and the public in general.

He allegedly told authorities: “The problem for homosexuals [in Iraq] is that they are killed, because this is against the religion and ideas of society,” according to Austrian news outlet kurier.at.

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - DECEMBER 03: Demonstrators participate in what organizers call the first "F*ck Hofer" protest march through the city center to voice their opposition to Austrian right-wing populist presidential candidate Norbert Hofer on December 3, 2016 in Vienna, Austria. Voters in Austria are scheduled to take to the polls tomorrow to choose between Hofer and independent, social-liberal candidate Alexander van der Bellen as Austria's next president. Hofer, the candidate of the right-wing Austria Freedom Party (FPOe), has run on a nationalist campaign that has included attacks against Islam, Muslim immigrants and refugees. At least two leading members of his party have had passed association with neo-Nazi groups. (Photo by Alex Domanski/Getty Images)
Anti-LGBT far-right candidate Norbert Hofer lost Austria’s presidential election in 2016, but only in the final round of voting (Alex Domanski/Getty)

The government department responsible for accepting or rejecting asylum seeker pushed back against criticism of the decision today (August 24), denying the “serious allegations” of “degrading behaviour” by the officials.

Earlier this month, Austrian lawmakers called for far-right politician Bruno Weber to resign after the Freedom Party councillor called a gay couple “faggots” and “a negro.”

More: asylum seekers, Austria, Austria, Europe, Europe, Gay, Government, Iraq, Politics, refugees

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