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IDAHO Press Release


the International Day Against HOmophobia

Wednesday 17th May 2006
7pm Town Hall foyer

Gay people met with senior police officers on Wednesday evening, May 17th, to mark the International Day Against Homophobia (‘IDAHO’). Mark Gore, the Borough Police Commander, attended the event in the Town Hall foyer, along with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, parents, couples and singles, black, white and Asian.

The annual IDAHO event was celebrated across London, the UK, and in 50 countries across the world.

Croydon’s IDAHO event was organised by Aurora, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) police focus group, in which police meet with the community to work on LGBT policing issues.

Four members of Aurora presented the ceremony, which was introduced by Tom Morrell, of the Croydon Police’s Community Safety Unit. The ceremony highlighted four international topics:

School Bullying of LGBT pupils

The first was school bullying and told of two school kids, who had been horrendously bullied, and one of whom had hanged himself. Both were afraid to tell parents and teachers they were being picked on because of their sexuality. Gareth Davies, of NRG, Croydon’s LGBT youth group, said “our members are all aware of the issue. It is one of the main issues for members of NRG and it has a dramatic effect on their health and well-being.”

Aurora pledged to promote two anti-bullying initiatives in local schools.

Gay hate crime in African and Caribbean countries

The presentation then described the rise of murders and mob violence against gay people in some Caribbean and African countries, and the depth of prejudice that black gay people sometimes receive from their own communities in this country.

Aurora undertook to work on the issues of black gay people in Croydon, and to welcome more of them in Aurora.

Gay asylum seekers

Then the ceremony listed some of the many murders and judicial killings of LGBT people in Iraq, and described the distrust of gay Muslim asylum seekers in the police and justice system.

Aurora undertook to communicate to LGBT asylum seekers the specialist services that are provided for them.

Ali Hili, a gay Iraqi asylum seeker and founder of the UK Iraqi LGBT asylum group, said “The UK government is denying any rights for Iraqi gay men to get Asylum within the U.K” and Yusef Godjikian, a gay Lebanese immigrant explained that gay asylum seekers are often distrustful of the authorities and terrified of the police. As such they easily become part of an exploited underclass, subject to blackmail, and unable to access services and the justice system. Finally the gay culture is often perceived as racist.

Violence against transgendered people

Finally the ceremony illustrated the recent rise in murders of transgendered people across the world and pledged to pursue two more transgender policing issues in the next few months.

“Transgender women already face problems of employment, health and discrimination”, said Ceri-Leigh Hawdon of the local transgender support group, Gemini, “but Aurora, Gemini and others are working together to reduce some of the problems of personal safety.”

Support for IDAHO

Many messages of support were received for IDAHO, from Andrew Pelling MP, and from local gay and trans venues and organisations.

Aurora, Croydon's LGBT-Police Focus Group

Immediately after the ceremony, Aurora’s bi-monthly meeting began, to which LGBT people are always warmly welcome. The meeting began on several projects to fulfil the pledges made earlier, as well a hearing of the progress of previous initiatives.

David Page, Chair of the Croydon Area Gay Society, which raises money for Aurora, said “Hopefully in the not too distant future, through efforts by groups like yours, being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered will cause as little comment as being left-handed does now.”

To find out more about what Aurora is doing and to read the full ceremony see www.aurora-croydon.org.uk

Further details of IDAHO in the UK: www.idaho-uk.org or internationally: www.idahomophobia.

<photographs were included>

Background information

Aurora’s IDAHO was supported by:

Andrew Pelling MP
Malcolm Wicks MP

Local support and social groups:

Croydon Area Gay Society
Croydon LGBT Forum
Friends of the Firebird (Transgender)
Gemini Group (Transgender)
NRG (Croydon LGBT Youth)
Scrap Heap (Gay men over 40 [and their carers])

Local venues:

Bar 68
Café Lava
the Sun (bar)

Other support groups:

Schools Out!
Gay Surrey
the UK Lesbian and Gay Asylum Group
the Surrey and London Association of Gay Organisations

Statements of support:

David Page, Chair of the Croydon Area Gay Society:

Good luck for the next twelve months in eliminating homophobia from Croydon. Hopefully in the not too distant future, through efforts by groups like yours, being lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgendered will cause as little comment as being left-handed does now.

Ali Hili founder of IRAQI LGBT - UK (extract)

Saddam Hussein was a tyrant. However, discreet homosexuality was usually tolerated. Since Saddam’s overthrow, fundamentalists are growing in strength and influence. They want to establish an Iranian-style religious dictatorship, where gay people and unchaste women are put to death.

In the chaos of the foreign occupation and insurgency, fundamentalist clerics and militias are targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people for execution.

Shia militias have told the father of 23-year-old Baghdad arts student, Karzan, that his son is sentenced to death for being gay. If the family refuses to hand him over for execution, the militia has threatened to kill them one by one. This has already happened to Bashar, 34, an actor. His parents refused to reveal his hiding place, so the fundamentalists have already murdered two family members in retribution.

Iraqi police executed a 14-year-old boy in the Al-Dura district of Baghdad in early April.

Ahmed Khalil is accused of corrupting the community and creating a scandal because he had sex with men.

Ahmed was, in fact, a victim of poverty. He sold his body to get money and food to help his impoverished family survive.

These are only three examples of more than 40 other killings by Iraqi new government’s police and militias. . . .

Mark Watson, Founder of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group:

“The UK has a vibrant and thriving lesbian and gay community, one of the best in the world, and many of us are enjoying freedoms that seemed impossible ten years ago. However the International Day Against Homophobia is an important reminder that people routinely face persecution and even death because of their sexuality in many parts of the world. Some of those are lucky enough to escape and find their way to this country, only to find a complicated asylum system and little support or understanding of their issues. There is now an underclass of LGBT asylum seekers in the UK, too afraid to ‘come out’, with no resources, little help and who are often forced to live in isolated and hostile communities. It is very appropriate that Aurora have highlighted the plight of these people, given that the Immigration department is based in Croydon. We all have a duty and responsibility to ensure that we stamp out homophobia wherever it exists and adequately protect those that seek our help”.

Andrew Pelling MP:

Upon the second IDAHO let us all strive for a society full of tolerance and free from homophobia.

Malcolm Wicks MP:

Two things are important: first, that our police service is sensitive to the needs of the whole community; second, that all of our citizens, regardless of their race, religion, gender and sexual orientation, are free to go about their lives in peace, from of harassment and free of abuse.

I therefore welcome the work of Aurora.

Gareth Davies of NRG, Croydon’s LGBT youth group:

NRG supports Aurora’s focus on bullying in schools. As a youth group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, our members are all aware of the issue even if they have not been victims themselves. It is one of the main issues for members of NRG and it has a dramatic effect on their health and well-being.

Wishing the Aurora event good luck from the members and staff of NRG Croydon.


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