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Category: News

LGBTQI cover

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:


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


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

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

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”

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


In Memory of Jere Bacharach

Earlier this week SCM received the news that SCM board member Jere Bacharach had passed away. He was a long time supporter of SCM and we will miss his guidance on the board as well as his friendship and expertise. Below is a memoriam from Felicia Hecker at the University of Washington where Jere had worked as a professor and administrator.


Felicia J. Hecker

Retired, Associate Director, Middle East Center

University of Washington

April 12, 2023


Jere L. Bacharach, Professor Emeritus, Department of History and Stanley D. Golub Professor Emeritus of International Studies, scholar of the medieval Middle East, inspiring teacher, colleague, friend, and mentor to many, died April 9, 2023 at the age of 85.

Jere Bacharach received his B.A. from Trinity College (CT), his M.A. from Harvard University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. His lifelong dedication to Middle East and Islamic history began in the fall of 1958 when he did his junior year abroad at Edinburgh University. There he took his first course on Islamic history, which proved to be a pivotal moment in his life and one that he later reflected on saying, “I became so turned on by the subject that I decided to make Islamic history a life’s pursuit and I am pleased I did.”


Jere’s passion for the field would carry through a remarkably productive fifty-five-year career of scholarly work and administrative leadership at the University of Washington. Jere was hired in 1968 by then Chair of the Department of History, the eminent scholar of Southeast European history, Peter Sugar. From the beginning of his career, Jere was filled with enthusiasm for the field, his research, his colleagues and his students. The incandescent enthusiasm and warm encouragement he offered so generously to all was a unique quality that propelled both his own success as a scholar and administrator and the success of many others as well.

Although Jere’s interest and expertise in the Middle East spanned a wide range from Islamic art and architecture to medieval archaeology of Cairo, he was probably best known for his research on numismatics of the Arab world—a subject he was writing about and publishing on well into his retirement. From 1966 to 2007 Jere published almost forty books, articles, and catalogues on the subject of coinage and numismatics in the Islamic world. His work in numismatics opened new avenues for understanding the politics and society of medieval Egypt and beyond. Recognizing his contributions, Oxford University named Jere the Samir Shama Fellow in Islamic Numismatics and Epigraphy in 2004.

Jere’s commitment to the field of Middle East studies and to strengthening the professional organizations that underpinned research and scholarship he cared about was unequaled. From 1978 to 1992 he served as the Editor of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Bulletin, and was elected President of MESA serving from 1999-2000. He also was elected president of the Middle East Medievalist (1997-2000, and 2003-6), and served on the Board of Directors of American Research Center in Egypt and American Numismatics Society to name just a few. The remarkable extent of Jere’s service to so many organizations was recognized by MESA in 2004 when the organization renamed its service award in honor commending “his extraordinary service to MESA, many of her sister societies, and the field overall.”

Of all his talents, Jere perhaps most enjoyed his role as a teacher and mentor. A consummate speaker, Jere could easily hold the attention of undergraduates in large survey classes, advanced graduate students in small seminars, or even local business people at downtown lunches. He relished teaching and mentoring, which came naturally to him though he always credited his thesis advisor at Trinity College, Philip Kittler, whom he said was, “exceptional in demonstrating how to work with students as individuals.” Jere’s own engaging style as a teacher was fortified by the very solid academic training he received from his own mentors: W. Montgomery Watt, author of numerous books on the Prophet Muhammad and early Islam and his Ph.D. supervisor, Middle East historian, and lifelong friend Andrew S. Ehrenkreutz.

Beyond research and teaching, Jere excelled as an administrator in higher education. His generous personality and invariably positive outlook always brought people together, even when that seemed impossible. During his years at the University of Washington, he served in many leadership roles including: the Director of the Jackson School’s Middle East Center, 1982-1995; Chair of the Department of History, 1987-92; Founder and Chair of the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in Near and Middle Eastern Studies, 1992-2000; and Director of the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, 1995-2001. He established the Jere L. Bacharach Endowed Chair in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Jere L. Bacharach Fund in the Middle East Center.

Jere retired from the University of Washington in 2004 as the Stanley D. Golub Professor Emeritus of International Studies and Professor Emeritus, Department of History. Jere’s legacy continues through his scholarship and through the many students, staff, faculty and colleagues whom he so generously encouraged, guided, and promoted over his long career at the University of Washington.

Screenshot 2023-02-16 143934
Humanitarian AidNewsSyria

Aid to Syria

Rita Zawaideh on KING5 News discussing the earthquake relief efforts in Seattle.


KNKX Public Radio 2-15-2023

Washington volunteers deliver aid to earthquake victims in Syria

KNKX Public Radio | By Lilly Ana Fowler

Published February 15, 2023 at 5:00 AM PST

Read or listen to the article here: https://www.knkx.org/social-justice/2023-02-15/washington-volunteers-deliver-aid-to-earthquake-victims-in-syria

AfghanistanHumanitarian AidNewsRefugees

Afghanistan, Ukraine refugees get bikes, bus passes and rides

One nonprofit needs volunteers to repair 40 kids bikes for refugees. Another agency could use cash gift cards.

By Ben Watanabe
Monday, May 16, 2022 1:30am

Refugees fleeing violence in Afghanistan and Ukraine arrive in Snohomish County with what they can carry.

That means they don’t have a set of wheels, or a driver’s license.

But they have to get around like everyone else.

“When they left the country, they brought whatever they could carry on their back. That’s what they have,” Refugee and Immigrant Services Northwest executive director Van Dinh-Kuno said. “When they arrive to our county, they all need transportation.”

It can take two to three months for a newly arrived refugee proficient in English to get a driver’s license, Dinh-Kuno said. For those who don’t speak English well, it can take a year.

Plus they need time to get a job and save money to buy a vehicle.

Continue to full article.

Juan Luna (left) and Jeff Austin tune up bicycles Tuesday at Sharing Wheels Community Bike Shop to be donated to child refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Volunteers treat Jordan’s Syrian refugees

A medical-humanitarian team struggles to provide care to Jordan’s widespread Syrian refugee communities.