23Feb2024

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LGBTQNewsRefugees

SCM Board Member to be Honored at Benaroya Hall for LGBTQ Refugee Rescue Work

SCM Medical Missions is proud to announce that board member Michael Failla will be honored at the Seattle Men’s Chorus production of Love Beyond Borders on February 18, 2024 at Benaroya Hall. Failla is being recognized for the work he has been doing, and continues to do, to rescue LGBTQ+ refugees in countries that put them at risk for their lives for being gay. He has been the driving force behind SCM’s efforts, including fundraising and identifying aid recipients, and he helps to relocate them to countries that will accept them for who they are. He is literally saving lives with his work. You can read more about his work, which has continued in earnest since the date of this article, at the following link:

https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/28/us/michael-failla-lgbqt-refugees-middle-east-cec/index.html

LGBTQ+ people are among the most vulnerable of all refugee groups. In the original oratorio, Love Beyond Borders, Seattle Men’s Chorus celebrates the power of love. Compelling video interviews are woven throughout this extraordinary, one-of-a-kind concert. Hear the inspirational songs and stories of refugees escaping persecution in this must-see performance, February 18, 2024.

More information on the performance and tickets is available here: https://www.seattlechoruses.org/2023/09/09/love-beyond-borders/

Promotional video of the concert: https://youtu.be/RKDm4cOWXsU

More about the concert and Michael Failla’s work

by Michael Failla

“Love Beyond Borders” Concert: February 18, 2024

Please stream or join us live at the “Love Beyond Borders Concert” that is debuting in Benaroya Hall in Seattle on February 18, 2024.

This is the first concert of its kind, written about LGBTQI refugees.

Paul Caldwell, the director of the Seattle Men’s and Women’s Chorus’ was inspired after seeing “Out of Iraq” to write a concert about LGBTQI refugees. He asked me to introduce his chorus members and songwriters to some of the refugees I was helping. Soon, some of the refugees, who were in hiding and in active migration and struggling to stay alive were communicating from their hiding places on What’s App or attending zoom meetings to talk with and inspire the songwriters and chorus members.
Out of Iraq” is the dramatic love story of Nayyef; an Iraqi translator for the US Marines and Btoo; an Iraqi soldier. They met and fell in love in Ramadi, during the most dangerous time and place of the Iraq war.

The movie illustrates the dangers and hardships LGBTQI people go through to become safe, free and resettled. It will keep you on the edge of your seat and have you both laughing and crying. It won two Emmy’s in 2016. Nayyef and Btoo are a very happy and successful couple in the Seattle area. They continue to help and inspire LGBTQI refugees world-wide.

“Thank-you SMC!” from Nayyef and Btoo

World of Wonder Video app for “Out of Iraq”

United Nations /Samantha Powers / UNHCR panel discussion

Many of the chorus members became very involved in supporting the refugees during their darkest days.
Their love and support were lifesaving and amazing! Thank you Seattle Chorus’!.

“Love Beyond Borders” concert article

One of the songs; “Love you in the Light” was inspired by Ibrahim and Mahmoud, a young, loving Syrian couple who were “outted” in the Syrian military. After being imprisoned and tortured for several months they escaped with bullets flying over their heads. They escaped over border after border through the forests of the Balkan trail at night hoping to cross the Hungarian border and reach freedom in Holland.

Videos of Ibrahim and Mahmoud crossing borders and thanking Chorus

The border was impenetrable. There were roving bands of criminals preying on refugees. It was time to give up. We found a place for them to hide in a country where they were illegal. Gary and I called them on video chat. They were sad. We were sad. I played them the song written by Bonnie McKee and inspired by their love story. We watched them start to smile and hug each other. Gary and I hugged each other. We all had a good cry and found the strength to move forward.

“Love you in the Light”: Trailer

Ibrahim and Mahmoud were resettled to Canada in May 2022. They are happy and building new lives.
Jasem and Mahmoud were attacked and beaten several times as they fled and hid in several countries in the middle east. Gary and I applied to sponsor their resettlement to Seattle. Their application was approved. They arrived on November 11, 2019. We welcomed them at Seattle Airport with a large group of chorus members. Two days later we took them to the Chorus’ yearly retreat. They were welcomed by 300 LGBTIQQ chorus members onto the stage. I watched in tears. It was hard for me to imagine what it must have been like for these 2 young people who hid their identities their entire lives to be welcomed by so many so openly.

Soon they were invited to spend holidays and dinners with the chorus members who also helped them find jobs and housing. Thank you, Seattle, Chorus”

Jassem and Mahmoud and the chorus video

Here are some additional links you might find interesting:

Digital Underground:

Zona PVR Magazine article, 2023

LIFELINE

In October 2021, after the allies had left Afghanistan, one of my friends put me in touch with people who were getting evac flights out of Afghanistan. They gave me nineteen seats.

It was hard to pick who would get the seats. We prioritized kids who were so effeminate; they couldn’t hide. Some traveled for 10 hours through multiple Taliban check points disguised in traditional clothing. It was scary! We had them wipe their phones clean. They had codes to remember my phone number. When they got to the airport, they reinstalled What’s App and called me. When the final 2 arrived and called they all started to cheer. I had to get on the phone and tell them.

“Boys Behave! You are not safe! This is a Taliban run Airport!”

They arrived at a large refugee facility in Abu Dhabi for 9+ months. They were not allowed outside. Many fellow Afghan refugee inmates were continually harassing them. They called them “sissy boys” and other derogatory names. Some were physically attacked. Their depression and suicidal ideation were huge. All I could do was to encourage them toward the future – to count their blessings that they were alive, and someday would be free. That “someday” has finally happened. They are now “free” and beginning new lives in Canada.

In October 2021 CNN interviewed me about LGBTQI refugees. It was shortly after coalition forces had withdrawn from Afghanistan. For several years I had been helping 8 to 12 refugees at a time. That number has since grown to over 200 at a time.
Here is the Interview:

CNN article about Michael Failla

Hiding:
In August 2021, I received a desperate call from two young men who I was helping to hide from the Taliban. They were targets because they are LGBTQ, Hazara, and were Christian converts. They were sobbing. Taliban fighters were searching for them door to door. Soon they would be at their door. They were afraid of being burned alive or beheaded. They decided to go to the roof to do a suicide jump. Both boys had seen their father savagely murdered by the Taliban. I encouraged them to sob and let it out. After a while I said “Boys! It’s not over yet. I have been here before.” We discussed other places they could hide. We identified a hiding place in the basement of the building next door. They hid. They survived! We got them survival money. Not an easy feat. We tried many ways to get them to safety. We are forever grateful to Rainbow Railroad for rescuing them out of Afghanistan to Pakistan and then finally resettling them to the UK.

Hazara LGBTQ Boys in Danger CNN article

WE PRIORITIZE LGBTQI, FEMALE GENDER EQUALITY ACTIVISTS and HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS!
The blossoming of Afghan Women’s Rights came to an abrupt halt when the Taliban marched into Kabul. We are helping many of the leading female gender equality activists of Afghanistan. Because of their previous activism they and their families are targets of the Taliban. Please help us get them to safety so they can continue their human rights work and educate and inspire the generation left behind. Help us keep the flame alive!

The Taliban discovered the hiding place of one our activists and came to her house. Thankfully she wasn’t there. They shot and killed her sister.

The 71-year-old matriarch of one of our families of 10 who previously ran schools for girls in Afghanistan had her husband, 2 sons, 1 daughter, 3 daughter in laws, one son in law and 2 nephews. They were either outright killed or arrested by the Taliban and never heard from again. They were anti-Taliban proponents of education for girls. We have them in hiding as we are working on getting them resettled to Germany. This past week her son and 2 grandsons were arrested and taken by the Taliban. We are trying to locate them now.

Three of the activists and their families we are helping are hunted for their anti-Taliban, female gender equality and LGBTQI activism. They previously were leaders on the Human Rights Commission and were 3 of the very brave women who staged this well documented protest of the Taliban when they marched into Kabul:

Afgan female gender activist protesting Taliban

Special Thanks to Rita Zawaideh and SCM Medical Missions of Seattle for her amazing work in both rescue and resettlement of so many!

New Life Fund

“Yes I AM” is a movie about the life of my dear friend Ric Weiland who was one of the pioneers of both the information age and the LGBTQI movement. It also is a good historical synopsis of what our generation of LGBTQI faced and accomplished. I tell my refugees: “It hasn’t always been like this. We had to fight hard!”

You can rent “Yes I Am – The Ric Weiland Story” on Amazon, Apple TV, Vimeo, Google Play and Vidu

YouTube trailer, “Yes I Am – The Ric Weiland Story”

GENOCIDE
The definition contained in Article II of the Convention describes genocide as a crime committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, in whole or in part. It does not include political groups or so called “cultural genocide”.

If sexual minorities were included in the UN Definition of Genocide….. The systematic murders of LGBTQI people currently happening in places like Afghanistan and Uganda would be getting more attention. Unfortunately, it is not part of the definition. Most people are unaware.
Please educate yourself and others. Let us stand together against the rise of hate crimes, religious extremism and superiority, autocracy, fascism and the LGBTQI genocide.

Don Kilhefner Articles: Feb 23, 2023 LA Progressive article

Los Angeles Blade article

A very special THANK YOU to the people of Canada and Germany for recognizing this genocide and human rights catastrophe and welcoming so many! Your diversity is beautiful. Your countries are much stronger as a result. Germany has agreed to accept 100 LGBTQI Refugees per month. We are working hard to fill their spaces.

Thank you!

Michael Failla

Firewood4
Humanitarian AidSyria

Firewood for Syrians

The first shipment of firewood has been delivered to a camp of earthquake survivors in northern Syria. This will help so many families stay warm, but there are many more that need your help to stay warm for the next couple months as spring approches and tempuratures begin to warm. But until then, we need to get more firewood to other camps in need.

Thank you for your support! 

olive branches for firewood
Humanitarian AidSyria

Firewood Needed for Winter Warmth

Many Syrian earthquqake survivors are still living in tents and having to burn wood to stay warm. The challenge is to find dry wood. Our volunteers have been in northern Syria and have been in contact with a village that is in desparate need of firewood. Right now they are burning green olive tree branches which are very smokey. This is a very unhealthy situation with all the smoke, in addition to the cold. And by stripping the nearby olive trees, they are reducing future olive harvests. This is a no-win situation.

Please donate to this campaign so we can send money to our volunteers in Turkey who will buy the dry firewood and transport it to the villages that need it most. Our goal is $10,000 to get enough wood to last to spring and keep the families warm.

In this video you can see the miserable conditions the earthquake survivors are living in. This is an emergency situation so please donate today at https://www.scmmedicalmissions.org/donations/provide-a-heat-source/. Thank you!

IMG-20231015-WA0006
Humanitarian AidMorocco

Solar Lanterns for Morocco

The people hardest hit by the earthquake in Morocco last September are still living in tents and rebuilding will take up to 2-3 years. SCM has sent funds to a partner organization in Morocco in October, and they were able to puchase and distribute warm clothing and food to numerous villages hit by the earthquake.

We have been looking for more ways to help and will be sending solar lanterns with a group going to Morocco in April. The group is organized by our sister travel company, Caravan-Serai Tours. We will take as many lanterns as we can get and distribute them to the villages still in need. You can donate to this campaign by clicking this link. Our goal is to get at least 200 lanterns that not only provide light but are also phone chargers. For many people, their cell phone is their only means of connecting to the outside world.

If you want to join this tour, experience Morocco, and do a bit of volunteer work along the way, here is the link: https://www.caravan-serai.com/tours/enchanting-morocco/.

IMG-20231017-WA0184
Humanitarian AidMorocco

Distributions in Morocco

 Morocco Aid Distribution

SCM’s volunteers have completed their distribution of humanitarian aid in Morocco to the survivors of the massive earthquake in that country. The team traveled south and east of Marrakesh to provide food, clothing inlcuding warm coats, socks and scarves for the coming winter, and other supplies to three villages hard hit by the earthquake. Thank you to all who donated!

APTOPIX_Libya_Flooding_41423-1
Humanitarian Aid

Aid for Libya Flood Victims

SCM is organizing a large purchase of generators for the flood victims in Libya. The generators will be purchased in Egypt and trucked across the border into Libya. Our regional director, Basel Sawalha is overseeing this effort. He will travel from Jordan to Egypt to buy the generators, hire the truck, make sure it gets loaded up and will work with the recipient organization on the other end for delivery and distribution.

Your donation will help us get these generators and pay the costs to get them to the people who need them to power lights, refridgerators, fans, pumps, etc.

Read more about the tragic flooding in the article below. The photo used in this post was taken by Yousef Murad.

Whole families drowned in Libya’s flood. Many didn’t realize the danger until they heard dams burst

BY YOUSEF MURAD AND JACK JEFFERY
Updated 7:54 AM PDT, September 14, 2023

DERNA, Libya (AP) — The wall of water several stories high smashed into apartment buildings, drowning entire families in minutes.

One man lost at least 13 members of his extended family. Fadellalah has yet to hear about the fate of another 20, several days after two dams burst above the Libyan coastal city of Derna, unleashing epic floods that killed thousands, wiped out neighborhoods and washed some of the dead into the sea.

Thousands of others like Fadellalah are frantically trying to find out who survived the rain-swollen rampage.

As a powerful storm bore down on his hometown, the information technology worker in Libya’s capital of Tripoli called his family Sunday to urge them to move to higher ground.

MORE ON THE LIBYA FLOODS