From Baghdad to Britain

They come to Britain fearing for their lives back home, hoping for a new beginning. But for thousands of Iraqi asylum seekers there is no welcome and instead they face misery and destitution before they are deported. Hannah Godfrey hears their stories Hraz is 22, but looks much older. He worked for the Americans in Kirkuk guarding a petrol station, and has a bullet wound in his bottom from where he was shot by Ba’ath party supporters because of his involvement with the occupying army. But that was only the beginning of his troubles. His father joined the militant Kurdish Sunni group Ansar al-Islam and wanted Hraz to fight with him. He refused, because, he says, “I like life, I don’t want to kill people.” His father now wants to kill him, in punishment. His mother told him he had to leave the country to protect himself. The percentage of Iraqis who have had their asylum claims accepted by the British government has plummeted since the fall of Saddam Hussein five years ago. Before the 2003 invasion, almost half of Iraqi asylum claims were successful. Since then, the recognition rate has fallen to an average of less than 3%. This is despite the fact that, throughout the war, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has advised that Iraqi asylum seekers – particularly those from the central and southern areas – should be either recognised as refugees or provided with another form of protection. In the period preceding the invasion an average of 800 Iraqis were granted asylum each year in this country; since 2003 numbers have fallen to between five and 150, while applications have averaged about 1,500 per year during this period.

Sharing his story: Muslim cleric writes a book about Islam and his family’s suffering in Iraq

By Niraj Warikoo Born into a prestigious Iraqi family descended from Islam’s prophet, Imam Hassan Qazwini started life anew when he moved to the United States in 1992. He knew little English, was unfamiliar with American culture and uncertain about his future. But now, Qazwini of Dearborn heads one the largest U.S. mosques — the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn — and has become a nationally known figure who has advised President George W. Bush, Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Muslims from metro Detroit to Baghdad.

Music of Arab composers goes to Europe concert halls

The works of 25 modern Arab composers are to be performed in major European concert halls for the first time, with London hosting a preview in June, organizers said on Wednesday. After London, the programme will go to festivals in European capitals, including Paris, Berlin, Copenhagen and Amsterdam, and then, from 2009, to the respective native countries of the composers. “All of these musicians deserve international exposure and recognition, and most are underappreciated in their own communities,” said the statement. The concert series has been named after Islamic philosopher and scholar Abu Nasr al-Farabi (870-950), who wrote a major treatise on music and taught in Baghdad, Cairo and Damascus.