Middle East / North Africa

Germany keeps blocking activist training — this time for a Mauritanian

Flyer for HAMIAM (Help a Minority in a Minority)

Flyer for HAMIAM (Help a Minority in a Minority)

German embassies have repeatedly stymied the LGBT support group Hamiam when it invites human rights activists for training in Cologne, Germany. One of the latest activists to be blocked is the founder of a Mauritanian human rights advocacy group.

Location of Mauritania in West Africa. (Map courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Location of Mauritania in West Africa. (Map courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Amidou (a pseudonym), the founder and leader of the group, was invited to Hamiam’s week-long January workshop on security for activists. But when he approached the German embassy for a visa, it was denied.

Embassy staff told him that, if he reached Germany, they feared that he would not return to Mauritania. He insists that he will.

If he is ever granted a visa, Amidou will pay the cost of medical insurance and round-trip air travel to Cologne  (a total of about US $950, or 300,000 Mauritanian ouguiya). Amidou will pay the expenses incurred in Cologne. Hamiam schedules its workshops in January and June of each year.

Amidou described himself as an attorney who founded the organization in February 2015 in Nouakchott, Mauritania’s capital and largest city, in order to work to end discrimination and violence by Mauritanians against Mauritanians.

“We are trying sensitize the population about tolerance,” he said.

Same-sex intimacy is against the law in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. On paper, the penalty for homosexual activity is death. But the U.S. Department of State says that Mauritania has never imposed the death penalty for that crime or any other.

Logo of HAMIAM, the German activist group that keeps inviting LGBTI activists to a security seminar, only to have the vast majority of its invitees blocked.

Logo of HAMIAM, the German LGBTI rights activist group that keeps inviting activists to a security seminar, only to have the vast majority of its invitees blocked.

The Mauritanian government has rejected a request to grant official recognition to the group, Amidou said.

Hamiam, which stands for Help a Minority in a Minority, invites a group of activists twice a year for training sessions that largely focus on security. In January, the invitations went to three activists in Uganda, Ghana and Mauritania, all of whom were denied visas.

The same denials have often occurred in the past, but a few activists eventually received visas after writing protest letters.

Flyer for a documentary film that Hamiam produced about the violence suffered by LGBTI Africans in Germany and in Ghana.

Flyer for “Am Rande der Gesellschaft,” a documentary film that Hamiam co-produced about the violence suffered by LGBTI Africans in Germany and in Ghana.

In 2015, Hamiam said, three activists received visas — two from Uganda and one from Burkina Faso. More than 30 LGBTI activists were invited to the June seminar, but 27 of them were unable to attend.  None of the invitees from Cameroon or Senegal could get visas.  Of four Ugandan activists interviewed at the German embassy in Kampala, only two received visas. In 2016, one Ugandan activist received a visa for the January seminar and a Kenyan activist received one for the June seminar.

Hamiam stated that it has sometimes fought the denials in court, but that process is too costly to continue.

Hamiam faced a similar problem after working on “Am Rande der Gesellschaft” (“At the Edge of Society”), a 2014 documentary about the violence suffered by LGBTI Africans in Germany and in Ghana. In December 2014, several Ghanaians, including the director of the Ghana portion, were denied visas to attend the premiere in Germany, Hamiam said.

This article was revised on March 11, 2017, to correct the date of the premiere of “Am Rande der Gesellschaft,” which was in 2014, not in 2016.

This article was revised on May 30, 2017, to remove the name of the Mauritanian organization and its founder, because he discovered that he had put himself in danger by having even his first name and the organization’s name published.

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One thought on “Germany keeps blocking activist training — this time for a Mauritanian

  1. They’re afraid he won’t go back? Risk it. Given who he is and what he does he would likely be an asset to any country he moved to.

    But chances are he would go back. Activists like him don’t up and move to other countries when there’s so much work to be done.

    The real reason is most likely that Germany doesn’t want to offend Mauritania or any of these other countries. It fits with a pattern of the West giving moral support to oppressed peoples abroad but not having the courage to stand up for it. We must realize that we live in an interconnected world and that it’s not enough to just stand up for justice at home or only when it’s convenient.

    Like

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