November 7, 2014 3:12 pm
Updated: November 7, 2014 6:49 pm

Non-profit organization helps LGBTQ refugees settle in Halifax

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HALIFAX – A Halifax non-profit organization that offers support to LGBTQ refugees is raising money to support three more people who are coming to Canada.

The Rainbow Refugee Association of Nova Scotia was created in 2011 to help and advocate for LGBTQ people who face persecution, discrimination or threats of violence because of their sexual orientation.

Volunteer Kyle DeYoung said Nova Scotians can help by donating money and household items to help the refugees transition to life in a new country.

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“The organization has to…provide the living expenses for the first year that they’re here while they get on their feet and learn English and get jobs and stuff like that,” he said. “There’s all kinds of ways that people can help.”

Pedram Niakan, who moved to Halifax from Iran with help from the organization, said living in his home country was difficult.

When he was about 18 years old, he realized he was gay, which is punishable by death in Iran.

“I was afraid of the government. According to laws in Iran, if you are gay you [get] executed,” he said.

Niakan said over the years, his friends have been imprisoned or even killed because of their sexual orientation.

“You cannot see your future, your future is foggy, and so that’s why I made a decision to leave Iran,” said Niakan.

Niakan moved to Turkey to apply for refugee status, and lived there for two years until his claim was processed. He said members of the LGBTQ community there are also discriminated against.

“You cannot work in Turkey, it’s illegal, and you cannot live in the big city, you should live in small city,” he said.

DeYoung said for some refugees, persecution doesn’t necessarily end when they land in Canada.

“They may have a connection with their family who don’t know about their sexuality,” he said. “Their family may know about their sexuality, but they may fear that their family could face repercussions if it became known that they were LGBTQ, so they fear for their family’s safety on top of their own.”

Niakan, who’s been in Halifax for 10 months, said he no longer has to live in fear.

“You can be who you are here,” he said.

The Rainbow Refugee Association of Nova Scotia website has more information about the organization and how you can help.

© 2014 Shaw Media

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