By Michael KaminerPublished December 02, 2009, issue of December 11, 2009.A former executive of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society is about to shake up the world of refugee aid. Longtime refugee advocate, Neil Grungras, founded the Organization for Refuge, Asylum, & Migration last January and it is on the verge of launching a historic global survey about prevailing attitudes toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender migrants.Starting in January 2010, ORAM will query more than 100 NGOs worldwide about their protocols for helping gay and transgender individuals — “the most persecuted group on the planet,” according to Grungras. The new agency bills itself as “the first international Non-Governmental Organization focusing on refugees fleeing sexual and gender-based violence.”The survey has roots in a June report by ORAM and the human rights group Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Turkey about mistreatment of gay refugees in that country. Singling out the United Nations Commission on Human Rights — as well as the Turkish government — for pervasive prejudice, the report concluded that the system was punishing people it was supposed to protect.“We’ve found that workers on the ground reflected the homophobia of the society they live in,” said Grungras, 50, who had most recently served as director for the Middle East and Europe for HIAS. “We want people to understand that even if you don’t approve of homosexuality, or believe transgendered people shouldn’t exist, you should not allow that belief system to result in someone else’s persecution.”Grungras’s zeal isn’t just academic. The son of a Polish-born mother who survived Auschwitz, and a German-born father who survived Polish work camps, he sees “striking parallels” between the persecution of Jews in the Holocaust and the persecution of gay and transgender people in many countries in the world today.According to the activist, 85 countries criminalize homosexual behavior, with seven applying the death penalty. Indeed, a New York magazine dispatch in early November compared Iraq’s reported purges of gay people to “pogroms”; Iraqi militias, the magazine reported, “appear to be repositioning themselves as agents of moral enforcement, exploiting anti-gay prejudice as a means of engendering public support.” In Iraq, media and clergy routinely demonize gay people, the publication wrote.“The animus toward [gay and transgender] people around the world is pretty shocking,” said Victoria Neilson, legal director of Immigration Equality, which helps obtain asylum for gay and HIV-positive refugees, and lobbies against discrimination in immigration laws. “I can see where Neil’s analogy is coming from.”Indeed, when Grungras told his mother that he was leaving HIAS to launch an advocacy organization for LGBT refugees, “her response was, ‘Oh my God, it’s just like the Jews.’”.....
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Posted by De Sube at 12/02/2009 06:54:00 PM