United States: A former Saudi diplomat who is gay and seeking political asylum in the United States is hoping that President Barack Obama will ask his hosts to rescind their extradition request when visiting Saudi Arabia.
Obama visits Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah March 28 for an overnight stay and where he will spend the evening at the king’s palace.
While Obama has made promoting rights for gays and lesbians worldwide a key foreign policy goal, that is little comfort to Ali Asseri, the former Saudi diplomat who is fighting a years-long battle for asylum in the United States, convinced his life will be in danger if he is forced to return home, reports
“When President Obama ran in 2008 I supported him. I cried for him, I encouraged my American friends to vote for him. He said he supports the rights of gay people, so why is this happening to me?” Asseri asks.
Unfortunately, the case presents a dilemma for the Obama administration as the President travels to Saudi Arabia amid a time of strained relations between the close allies. Moreover, oil-rich Saudi Arabia is among America’s staunchest allies in West Asia and the kingdom’s largest alms supplier.
Saudi Arabia’s radical form of Islam mandates the death penalty for same-sex relations.
“I come from the darkest place on earth,” Asseri said in a phone interview from his home in West Hollywood. “We are brainwashed that we have the best system and sharia law comes from god. But they teach us to hate others. I came to America to clear my mind.”
He joined the Foreign Ministry as a diplomat and was transferred to the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles.
Here, he writes in his asylum petition, “I discovered the gay community, the gay culture and that I was in fact gay.”
Soon his colleagues began to ask him about his life outside of work and started following him. When his passport expired and he submitted it for renewal, he received no reply. After several months, his office told him his time in the United States was up and have since demanded he return to Saudi Arabia.
A friend in the foreign ministry in Riyadh told him the Consul General sent a letter to the ministry stating he was gay and had information about his lifestyle.
He applied for asylum as a gay person who would face persecution if sent home.
Fourteen months later in October 2011, the Department of Homeland Security denied Asseri’s application.
Two months later, Obama signed a Memorandum on International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of LGBT Persons. It included a program to protect gay refugees and asylum seekers, including “ensuring the federal government has the ability to identify and expedite resettlement of highly vulnerable persons with urgent protection needs.
In its most recent human rights report, the State Department said under sharia law in the Saudi Arabia, “consensual same-sex conduct is punishable by death or flogging.”
It wasn’t until February that Asseri was granted a hearing date for his appeal. At the court, the immigration officer offered him a deal to remain in the country permanently without possibility of asylum or a green card. Additionally, he could never leave the country. He rejected the offer.
Today, Asseri barely makes ends meet as a part-time security guard.
You can watch here a news clip of Asseri pinning his hopes on the US giving him shelter: