KEEP BABI SAFE IN CARDIFF
Rt Hon Jacqui Smith MP
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Babakhan Badalov (Babi) is an openly gay, internationally renowned radical artist and poet from Azerbaijan. His art and poetry have been explicitly critical of the government and present/past presidents. These factors have led Babi to become a target of repression and persecution over many years. He has recently been described by the government and prominent public figures as being a traitor to Azerbaijan.
Because of his sexuality and the radical nature of his creative activities, he has endured government-led suppression from the Ministry of National Security (MNS Azerbaijans modern-day version of the KGB), together with physical and mental abuse from other sectors of society. All this has taken place in a Muslim country, where homosexuality remains an extremely taboo subject. This led one of Babis brothers to threaten to kill him because of the shame which he has brought on the family.
As a result of beatings and bullying over the years Babi has only eight teeth remaining and suffers from a number of mental health problems such as anxiety and panic-attacks, suicidal tendencies, together with insomnia and a general feeling of depression.
Upon arriving in the UK, Babi had no knowledge of the asylum process and found this extremely difficult to deal with. He was detained in four different detention centers for thirty-two days, a period which was illegally extended for three days purely due to mismanagement of transport.
Since arriving in Cardiff in December 2006, Babi has engaged fully with various parts of the local community. He is a valued member of a number of local groups and still remains actively creative, in spite of the continuous heavy pressure of living a precarious life, enduring and fully complying with the needs of the asylum system. Because of both the socially engaged nature of his art, as well as his international reputation as one of Azerbaijans leading contemporary artists, Babi brings with him a wealth of cultural capital that is of immense value to South Wales and the UK. Babis current art practice involves making dolls from discarded items (mainly clothes and plastic bags) which he collects from the streets of Cardiff. In so doing he provides both a public service and makes us think about our relationship with our environment and how we look after it. These dolls have been exhibited internationally, most recently in Thessaloniki Museum of Contemporary Art in 2007, one of four exhibitions of his own work which he could not attend due to the restrictions placed upon him by the asylum process.
Despite the many difficulties with which he is faced, Babi remains active in other areas of the arts. He is still producing poetry, is writing a book about his art/gay life experiences and is also working on a film addressing the rise of Muslim fundamentalism. This latter work, as well as many other aspects of his art, would of course be impossible in his country of origin.
For the first time in his life, Babi felt happy and safe in Cardiff. He felt able to openly express himself artistically, politically and with regard to his sexuality, without associated feelings of fear, shame and imminent repression. However, since hearing that his claim for asylum was rejected Babis mental health has severely deteriorated. He feels depressed, his insomnia has returned and he once again expresses suicidal thoughts.
If Babi is forced to return to Azerbaijan he faces an uncertain and unhappy future. He will undoubtedly face severe persecution, from the state, community and family.
We, the undersigned, urge you to reconsider your decision dismissing Babis claim for asylum. Allow him to live in Cardiff with his friends and new community where he would be free to express himself creatively and live a life without constant fear of persecution because of his sexuality and art.