Gay person just wants to live

Some of the asylum seekers belong to sexual- and gender minorities. They have escaped their home countries bad atmosphere.

Ramy (name changed) is a 22 years old homosexual man from Iraq. He escaped from his home country two years ago, as he was haunted there because of his sexual orientation. He now lives in the reception centre in Helsinki region and waits for a positive asylum decision.

– I left because the situation for sexual- and gender minorities (LGBT) people in Iraq is so bad. One has to live in constant fear in there. Isis- and shiamilitia target violence on LGBT people and some of us have been killed. I have been raped twice and the other of these instances was done by shiamilitia forces, tells Ramy.

In Iraq LGBT people can be in danger also because of their families, -relatives or -neighbours.

– My family, my father, mother and two brothers live now in Sweden, but I want to keep distance to them and live in Finland. I want to live in freedom. They do not know about my homosexuality and I believe that if they found out it would be a big problem for them.

For a year now Ramy has been taking part on HeSeta’s (organisation for LGBT people in Helsinki) community art project, which is directed to LGBT asylum seekers and LGBT people with refugee background. Over 40 people have taken part on the project during a year. Participants to the group have been able to have a chat there and make art few times a week.

– We are talking about a minority in minority, that is mostly invisible. There are very little activities that are focused to this group specifically. So therefore this is important, tells community artist, the projects leader Mimosa Puumalainen.

– Most people involved in this project have been forced to leave their home countries because of discrimination and real threat to their wellbeing. Their experiences are very dire. I have noticed that making art is a good way to process some of these experiences. Most participants in the project are from Middle East and North Africa.

The community art project is part of HeSeta’s Together -activity, which is directed to the same group of people.

At this moment Ramy’s thoughts are mainly focused on the asylum decision.

– It is difficult to plan things and the future, because I am in such an uncertain situation, says Ramy.

Tha art project has made him leave the reception centre on a regular basis, which has lessened the amount of stress he has been feeling. In the reception centre and among other asylum seekers he has kept his sexual identity secret.

– I know that LGBT people are accepted in Finland and it is a normal thing here. I am waiting that I can start to live in freedom. The people in the art project have been like a family to me.

Ramy is a car painter by profession and has applied for this kind of job in Finland without success. If he gets the asylum he though would rather like to start studying for a different kind of profession.

Ramy has not experienced racism in Finland, but he is not too worried about that anyway.

– That is not so important.

Mimosa Puumalainen says that Finland has come a long way in LGBT rights, but thinks there is still work to be done.

– Laws concerning transgender people need reviewing. But lets now welcome to our society these minority newcomers(referring to LGBT asylum seekers).

Senior research fellow in the Finnish Institute of International Affairs Wolfgang Mühlberger confirms that sexual- and gender minorities are in a difficult situation in Middle East and parts of North Africa.

– The situation for LGBT people is very bad in Iran, in some parts of Iraq and in Egypt, but for example in Tunisia they are not in a dire situation.

– In general one cannot publicly show to belong to this minority group out there, says Mühlberger

HeSeta organised an art exhibition for the community arts project on Helsinki Night of the Arts 2017. The mask Ramy made was also on display. It tells of sadness.

Antti Jumppainen