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2019 RLLR 110

Citation: 2019 RLLR 110
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: June 20, 2019
Panel: R. Bafaro
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Micheal F. Loebach
Country: Iraq
RPD Number: TB8-32936
Associated RPD Number(s): TB8-33006, TB8-33007
ATIP Number: A-2020-01459
ATIP Pages: 000183-000192


DECISION

[1]       MEMBER: We are back on the record now, I’ve had an opportunity to carefully consider, examine, and weigh all the totality of the evidence which is before me.

[2]       I find that there is sufficient, credible, and trustworthy evidence before me to establish that the claimant has a well founded fear of persecution in Iraq. I am going to be delivering my oral reasons from the bench providing analysis of how I came to this decision.

[3]       I did ask madam interpreter to do simultaneous translation and she will do that to the best of her ability.

[4]       INTERPRETER: I just don’t want to interrupt.

[5]       MEMBER: Yeah, that’s fine. She will do that to the best of her ability, so she is going to go to the back of the hearing room and then what I am going to do is just, in the interim I am going to return all the original documents to counsel on the record so that she has all her documents.

[6]       Okay, the claimant, Ms. [XXX] and her two minor children [XXX] and [XXX] are claiming to be citizens of Iraq and are claiming refugee protection pursuant to Sections 96 and 97of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

[7]       I find that the claimants are Convention refugees for the following reason:

[8]       Firstly, with respect to my analysis, I am going to address the issue of the claimants’ identity.

[9]       I have before me true certified copies of all of claimants’ Iraqi passports are which are in Exhibit 1 which is in evidence before. I find based on those documents alone that there is sufficient, credible, and trustworthy evidence to establish on a balance of probabilities that they are who they claim to be and that they are citizens of Iraq and no other country.

[10]     So, I have assessed this claim only against the country of Iraq. In terms of the issues as I mentioned at the outset of the hearing, for me the determinative issue was the claimants’ credibility.

[11]     Of course the principal claimant was the one who testified here this afternoon and overall I found that her testimony was credible.

[12]     It was generally consistent with all the very detailed information that she provided in her Basis of Claim Form, the original narrative, the amended narrative along with the addendums that were also filed into evidence.

[13]     The claimant, in addition to her testimony, did provide supporting documents to corroborate key aspects of her refugee claim that really substantiate and go to the heart of this refugee claim.

[14]     Especially as it relates to the aspect of this claim regarding the domestic violence which the claimant was subjected to at the hands of her ex-husbands [XXX] and [XXX] (ph) who was her second husband.

[15]     In the claimants’ supporting documents, she provided some key pieces of evidence, these are witness statements. There is one in Exhibit C15 from counsel’s disclosure which again corroborates that she was married to [XXX] who was [XXX], her first husband and that he was abusing her and beating her, that he was also abusive towards her daughter [XXX] and it confirms that her second husband was [XXX] (ph) and that he is a Shia Muslim who is influential with the government of Iraq and that he too subjected her to violence and beatings and also was abusive towards her eldest daughter [XXX], this is Exhibit C15 and this is page 3.

[16]     Identification documentation has been attached to this witness statement to verify the person who has written this statement.

[17]     There was also another witness statement and it is at page 15 of Exhibit C14, again which corroborates central aspects of this refugee claim namely that she was in two marriages and they were abusive marriages, she suffered at the hands of her first husband and her second husband, that she also was threatened by both husbands and this is at page 15.

[18]     There is also a transcription of some recorded information messages that were received by the claimant and again it corroborates the fact that her ex-husband [XXX] (ph) as recent as May of 2018 made a very serious threat against her, also not only threatening her personally but also threatening her daughter [XXX] and in this message he is boasting saying how powerful and how influential he is and that he knows people all over the world and that nothing will stop him in terms of achieving his own aims and goals.

[19]     He is also threatening to, he alleges also that he has got connections with ISIS and that he will seek retribution against her daughters through ISIS and this is found in Exhibit again Cl4 and it’s page 8.

[20]     There is a further documentation page 3, it’s a receipt and what this document is that it’s a receipt of monies that she had to repay her ex-husband [XXX] (ph) in order to get a divorce from him and this is also outlined in her narrative and this document corroborates that.

[21]     She had to pay a very large sum of money in order to facilitate getting a divorce from him.

[22]     The claimant also provided a lot of documentation that confirms and corroborates the fact that she was in a relationship, she was married to two different men, there are marriage certificate for her first husband, marriage certificate for her second husband along with the divorce certificates for both ex¬≠ husbands and those are at Exhibit CS of counsel’s materials and that information is consistent with the information we have in the claimants Basis of Claim Form, the addendums, the amendments that were made, that information is consistent.

[23]     The claimant also corroborated another element of her refugee claim that is central. She has indicated, has been very specific about her profile.

[24]     She said that she is a [XXX], trained as a [XXX]. She upgraded her skills and underwent further training and schooling and is now [XXX], a [XXX], she was practicing in Iraq.

[25]     There is a lot of supporting documentation that establishes that in fact she was a [XXX], a [XXX], a [XXX], an [XXX] and this is at Exhibit C7 of counsel’s materials.

[26]     There are numerous school documents, school transcripts from various schools, from various medical associations, from various professional boards that again corroborate her background as [XXX].

[27]     There was one other document, I wanted to mention which is again part of C14, this is a very detailed letter from her brother-in-law [XXX] (ph) where again he corroborates the fact that she has been married twice, had been abused twice by her ex-husbands.

[28]     She has been threatened by them, beaten up by them, they have been abusive to her children as well in particular, [XXX], and that the claimant has received threats and that’s page 11 of Exhibit C14 and there was a correction made and we have an affidavit of correction that was provided this afternoon and that is before me as well and there was a change in the date.

[29]     I also find that there were no major contradictions or inconsistencies or discrepancies internal to her testimony or between her testimony and all other evidence which is before me.

[30]     I find that her testimony is also credible in the context of the objective country information on Iraq. Domestic violence is very prevalent, it is widespread. The authorities don’t provide adequate or effective State protection to victims of domestic violence.

[31]     The women who are medical practitioners in the public domain are also targets and they receive threats from militants from extremists be they Shia, Sunni extremists because of the fact that they are women and they are professionals, they are doctors.

[32]     So, the fact that she was threatened by extremists is not surprising in light of the objective country information is entirely plausible.

[33]     I also find that the claimant has established on balance of probabilities a nexus, actually to several grounds in the Convention refugee definition under Section 96. There is a nexus to her gender and I have taken into consideration the Chairperson’s guidelines on gender based persecution.

[34]     There is another aspect, another nexus she has established. She is a [XXX], that is another ground, I find that this claim is also based on that ground, which is membership in a particular social group.

[35]     And then I also find there is a further nexus which is victim of domestic violence which again is a particular social group.

[36]     So, really there are three different grounds upon which I find the claimant has established a nexus under Section 96 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

[37]     Now, I find that taking into consideration all those evidence that clearly the claimant has been able to establish that she has subjective fear of extremists, terrorists, be they Sunni, Shia, and also fear of her ex-husbands at whose hands she was subjected to horrendous and appalling physical, emotional and psychological violence.

[38]     Turning to the objective basis, I find that there is also sufficient objective evidence to demonstrate that her subjective fear as a woman, as a [XXX], and as a victim of domestic violence, is well founded and I am going to refer to some of the documentation found in the National Documentation Package which I find demonstrates that the claimant’s fear of persecution is based on good grounds and that it is objectively well-founded.

[39]     There is a UNHCR Report in the National Documentation Package Item 1.7 which makes it very clear that doctors and medical professionals are one of the groups who are at risk in Iraq.

[40]     It is individuals that have this particular profile that are subjected to targeted attacks and Item 1.7 has a section that outlines these different risk profiles, one of them is doctors and medical professionals and the report goes on and states that health professionals have been killed, maimed, and kidnapped and thousands of armed Sunni and Shia groups and criminal gangs since the fall of the former regime of Saddam Hussain.

[41]     According to the Iraqi Ministry of Health, more than 600 medical personnel were killed between 2003 and 2008 and 8000 of Iraq’s 15,500 doctors resigned in the same period with many having left Iraq subsequently.

[42]     The Iraqi Medical Association has estimated the number of doctors killed since 2003 are closer to 2000.

[43]     The reports goes on and talks about the motivation behind some of these targeted attacks and it goes on and states the exact motives for attacks on medical professionals are difficult to establish and is rare for identified perpetrators to be charged or convicted.

[44]     There is speculation that victims are targeted on the basis of their ethnic, religious background, their social status or perceived political opinion, criminal motivations, or personal, or tribal acts of revenge may be relevant factors.

[45]     However, even in such cases, elements such as a victim’s religion or ethnic identity may also be relevant. And as the claimant testified this afternoon, she was [XXX], [XXX] at a hospital and then she received a letter that was threatening her personally and she said that her understanding of why this happened and what the motive was is that she is Sunni practicing in an area which is predominantly Shia, so it was her belief that’s what really motivated the attack by way of this threat, that was received in written form when she was [XXX].

[46]     And this is supported as I just referred to. the documents support what is saying that’s probably more likely than not the motivation behind that targeted attack on her and that’s the reason why they issued this threat against her because she is a member of a minority religion, the Sunni religion practicing in an area in Baghdad which is predominantly Shia and we know from the documents also there has been a lot of Sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni Muslims and the government that’s in place in Baghdad is a Shia Government and through these various Shia militias the government has essentially carried out a campaign of ethnic cleansing wanting to push out any Sunnis.

[47]     There is also problem become the authorities perceive Sunnis to be terrorists, supporters of ISIS, the Islamic State, so clearly I find that in this case which is supported by the objective documents, this attack on the claimant when she received this threat is clearly motivated in part by her religion, the fact that she is a Sunni practicing medicine in an area that is predominantly Shia.

[48]     This very same report talks about and it confirms what I just, as it talks about Sunni Arabs who are living in essentially a majority Shia area and it says that even the demographics of Baghdad have changed over time.

[49]     Initially Shias lived peacefully next to Sunnis and there was harmony and there was tranquillity and people got along with one another with one another and after the fall of the Iraqi regime under Saddam Hussain everything changed and violence flared up between Sunni groups and Shia groups and there have been many attacks by Shia extremists including militias on members of the Sunni religion and this is supported again by the objective documents that I was just referring to in the UNHCR Report.

[50]     There is another section in this report that says that not only are doctors and professionals at risk in Iraq but women also that have specific profiles or that face particular circumstances are also at risk and it goes onto state that while those killed and maimed in violence since 2003 have mostly been men, women are also caught up in indiscriminate attacks including in attacks aimed at their husbands or other male family members for example work as policemen, politicians, or government officials.

[51]     Women have also been singled out for attacks in particular, if they have assumed a public role as politicians, government officials, rights activists, or professionals such as the claimant others including women of religious minority groups which is also the claimant, she is Sunni, have been targeted for not conforming to conservative Islamic or traditional norms, for example concerning their dress or because they have considered to have brought shame to their family’s honour.

[52]     And if we think back to the claimant’s testimony in evidence about her second husband [XXX] (ph), he was a Shia, and he didn’t like the fact that his wife was Sunni and he tried to force her to convert from the Sunni religion to the Shia religion.

[53]     He also many times tried to force her to wear the hijab even though she didn’t want to. The report goes on and says that violence against women, this is another profile, people who are at risk in Iraq, violence against women and girls have reportedly increased since 2003 and according to most observers continued unabated.

[54]     Women and girls in Iraq are victims of societal, legal, and economic discriminations, abductions, and killings for political, sectarian or criminal reasons, sexual violence, forced displacement, domestic violence, honour killings, and other harmful traditional practices as well as sex trafficking and forced prostitution.

[55]     Iraqi women and girls are reported to face violence at the hands of range of actors including armed groups, members of law enforcement agencies, and their extended families and community and most violence against women and girls notably appears to be perpetrated with impunity.

[56]     According to the reports, the main reasons why victims of gender based violence refrain from reporting sexual abuse and rape, forced marriage, and domestic violence, as well as FGM, is their fear of retaliation by the perpetrator or the family community for tainting their honour.

[57]     Reports further indicate that women often fear that would not receive protection from law enforcement agencies and courts given that gender based violence often treated leniently while certain forms of violence including domestic violence, trafficking and FGM are not criminalized by Iraqi law.

[58]     The reports goes onto state that generally speaking the authorities have only very limited capacity to prevent, protect, and prosecute in cases of violence against women.

[59]     So, clearly the documents speak volumes when it comes to victims of domestic violence, not only that they are their targets but that the response from the State is largely inadequate and ineffective.

[60]     The report goes on and states that law enforcement and judicial personnel often disregard domestic violence cases and merely focus on criminal charges brought against women.

[61]     What also I find makes the claimant’s situation even more vulnerable and puts her at even greater risk as a woman facing gender based persecution is the fact that she was married twice, she is divorced twice, she has two young children and essentially she is on her own, she is a single parent with two young kids.

[62]     The report speaks to that as well and it goes onto say that women without male support including widows, women whose husbands are missing or detained and divorcees are most affected.

[63]     Traditionally they would move in with their families or their in-laws after the loss of their husbands; however, these relatives are often unable to provide substantial support given their own economic destitution.

[64]     In addition many female headed households have been displaced and as a result have been separated from their extended families and traditional support networks, most women headed households in central and southern Iraq do not receive government welfare.

[65]     It goes on to say that overall many females headed households are lacking the means to provide for themselves and their children and remain among the most vulnerable in the country.

[66]     Women without support and protection provided by their family or travel network are particularly vulnerable to being harassed, kidnapped, or sexually assaulted.

[67]     There is another report that talks about the situation facing Sunni Arab Muslims in Iraq and that’s at Item 1.20 of the National Documentation Package which is a British Home Office Report and it gives numerous examples of were Sunnis have been arbitrarily detained, tortured, and even killed at the hands of Shia extremists, at the hands of the Iraqi security forces and the report goes onto say that essentially the authorities are in no position to be able to protect Sunnis from this type of violence that they are either unwilling, some of the documents suggest they are either unwilling or they are simply unable to provide adequate protection.

[68]     This is not surprising when you consider that in many cases the perpetrators are these Shia militias which seem to have free reign in the country and seem to be able to operate independently of the Iraqi Forces.

[69]     The documents to a great extent indicate that not only do they support the central government in Baghdad, but that the central government supports them and supports what they are doing which is to a large extent ethnic cleansing, trying to eliminating, get rid of Sunnis from the area of Baghdad, so that it becomes predominantly a Shia area.

[70]     So, there are many references in this report to attacks on Sunnis by Shia militias and Shia extremists in the central Baghdad, because they are members of minority religion and that this continues to happen in the country and in this report there is reference to a passage were it states within majority Shia community, Abadi continues to struggle politically against the growing influence of Shia militia commanders who operate independently of the official military chain of command, have close ties to Iranian leaders and question the Abadi Government’s alliance with the United States.

[71]     The government has needed to rely on militias in some battles against the Islamic State.

[72]     Some of the Shia militia leaders seem to combat the Islamic State without the participation of Sunni fighters who many experts assert are key to completely defeating Islamic State Forces and in Section 7 of this report, there is a heading, Shia militia abuses which give many examples of targeted attacks against members of the Sunni community which includes forced displacement, kidnappings, abductions, and killings.

[73]     Now, so I find that given that these Shia militias are in fact connected to central government of Iraq and the central government of Iraq acquiesces and lets them do pretty much whatever they want to do, I find that it would be objectively unreasonable in the particular circumstances of the claimant to expect her to go to the Iraqi central authorities to ask for protection.

[74]     This is a government that does not support Sunnis. This is a government that allows Shia militia’s which are essentially extremist groups to carry out their own agendas and to target, detain, torture, and kill members of a minority religious groups which are the Sunnis.

[75]     I find that even if the claimant could approach the authority’s protection, I find objectively speaking that it would not reasonably be forthcoming given the fact that there is a strong alliance between the central authorities in Baghdad and these Shia militias.

[76]     The other issue that I turn my mind to is the issue of internal flight alternative, I find that in the particular circumstances of these claimants that there is no realistic or viable or attainable internal flight alternative in any other part of the country outside of Baghdad and this is for several reasons.

[77]     We are talking about a woman who is essentially for all intents and purposes a single mother, two young children, she has been divorced.

[78]     The documents say that women divorcees are highly stigmatized. It also mentions there are significant legal restrictions that prevent freedom of movement for women, especially when they are own their own, they are single, they don’t have a male guardian, so that also would make an internal flight alternative not feasible given that the claimant’s particular circumstances.

[79]     Also important to note that throughout the country outside of Baghdad, there are checkpoints everywhere, there is Islamic State and ISIS, there is Shia militias that are operating at their own checkpoints.

[80]     The claimant finds herself in a very precarious and very dangerous situation, because even if she try to go to any of these areas, she could very well encounter these checkpoints which are manned by ISIS.

[81]     ISIS is an extremists group, they are terrorists, they target professionals, they target women who are in the public domain working as medical practitioners, the same applies to Shia militias.

[82]     The claimant is working and is a woman and in an area that used to be male dominated profession and in the sense in that respect is transgressing Islamic norms and values and Sharia law and that also puts her in as situation were she could face serious peril if she tried to move around the country to try to find a safe place.

[83]     I find that it wouldn’t reasonable to expect that she could go to some of these other locations without any obstacles or any obstructions, I find that on a contrary I think it would be unduly harsh to expect her to be able to move around as a single woman who is highly stigmatized, who has been divorced, who doesn’t have a male guardian or support figure and who has been targeted by way of domestic violence, has been threatened by extremist groups because she was working as a [XXX], as a [XXX].

[84]     So, I find that given these particular circumstances that the claimants do not have a viable internal flight alternative anywhere else in the country outside of Baghdad.

[85]     It is also important to know with respect to my analysis of the internal flight alternative that we also have evidence that her ex-husband [XXX] (ph) is influential.  He is connected to the government. He is and even based on some of the threats he has made, he seems to suggest that he has the ability to track the principal claimant’s movements, her family’s movements and he seems to be strongly motivated to do so because even though they were divorced in 2012, he hasn’t stopped threatening her and we have that evidence before me.

[86]     So, for that reason also it makes no sense for her to try to relocate to some other part of the country when you are dealing with an individual who is a Shia who seems to have connections with the government but also with fundamentalist extremists groups.

[87]     So, for that reason also I find that the claimant doesn’t have a viable internal flight alternative.

[88]     So, for all those reasons, I find that claimant faces more than a mere possibility, a reasonable chance, a serous possibility that she would be persecuted if she were to return to Iraq today.

[89]     The same applies to her young minor children who are also members of particular social group, namely the family. They too are victims of domestic violence and they too are being targeted and threats have been made against them, in particular the eldest daughter [XXX].

[90]     So, that brings us to the end of the hearing, this hearing is now concluded. I want to thank everybody for their participation, thank you Madam Interpreter for your assistance. This matter is now concluded.

[91]     INTERPRETER: Thank you Mr. Bafaro.

[92]     MEMBER: Thank you

———- REASONS CONCLUDED ———-