Abideen: Full Interview

Duration 31:36


Interview by Robin Kiteley
12th September 2019

RK: It’s the 12th of September 2019. I’m Robin Kiteley and I’m a volunteer with West Yorkshire Queer Stories, and I’m undertaking an interview. Do you just want to say what your name is?

A: My name is Abideen.

RK: And where are you living at the moment?

A: Okay, I’m living at the moment in Bradford.

RK: Okay, and how do you identify?

A: I’m a gay man.

RK: Okay, so can you tell us a bit about how you came to be in the UK and where you’ve come from?

A: I come from Pakistan. I cam here as a student. So, I lived in Coventry for five, six months for studies. So, basically, I’m from Pakistan like, as I was in Pakistan, the laws do not accept like homosexuality as the majority’s live there are Muslims, Islam from Islamic background, right? So, they don’t accept the homosexuality. So, that while I was leaving there, I was really scared; I didn’t tell my sexuality to anyone. So I was thinking, how I spend my life here, without telling anyone sexuality, like over there, my parents even talking about my marriage, so when you get married you are scared but thinking about the future. So, when – my parents tell me, apply my visa for student in the UK, I thought like, if come here, like when I come here I just see that here life is really different than Pakistan. I can live here as a gay man and independent man. So, I – I just go to the university. So, after that I think to change, to tell my parents about my sexuality, how long I can hide it. So, at a few time, I tell my parents my sexuality, but they didn’t accept it, so… So, after that I have to move – I have to move from that place cos I scared, so I moved from there to here like straight away, so… after that.

RK: Okay, so you were talking about when you told your parents that you were gay and that you were scared, so you moved from Coventry to Bradford. What happened next?

A: I moved here, I find like – I find friends. I start living with friends, I just go out and like with fun and chill, like so, I didn’t know about asylum, so after few time I find a guy, he told me, ‘If you are gay, you can live here legally’. So, I asked from him, what, how can I do that? He told me like, ‘That’s asylum, that’s your right you can do here’. So, straight after that I go to apply for asylum.

RK: And the guy that spoke to you about the asylum process, was he just a friend or was he from a particular organisation?

A: No, he was just a friend.

RK: Okay. So, how old were you when you came over to the UK and how old are you now?

A: When I came here I was 21, so now I’m 23 year old – I’ll be 23 year old next year, 1st of January.

RK: So, what stage are you at in the asylum process?

A: I apply my application form five months ago, now I’m just looking for my interview with Home Office.

RK: Okay. And are you receiving any legal support from a solicitor or –?

A: No, I don’t have any legal support.

RK: And why is that?

A: Actually, I…

[Break in recording for siren]

RK: Okay, so you were saying you didn’t have any legal –

A: Actually, actually I had a solicitor before, he was from London. He was like, that’s so expensive to go there, so he like, he was asking for money, I don’t have money to pay for him. So, even with all my friends, like expensing me, he pay my all expenses, so after that I got a solicitor here in Leeds. So, she – I tried to make an appointment with her, I registered with her but when I try to make an appointment with her, she said like, ‘I’m busy’, and things like, ‘I got appointments’, so I haven’t got any appointments with her, I just had a first appointment with her when I got registered, that’s it. I’m looking for any solicitor, for solicitor who like work with my case.

RK: And do you have any connections with the African Rainbow Alliance?

A: Yeah, I’m connected with African Rainbow Family.

RK: And are they able to support you and provide –?

A: I’m really happy to go there, like. I can talk about my sexuality openly, so like we can – when I go there we have conversation openly and talk to each of the different peoples we can talk with.

RK: So, you’re able to get that support and you’re able to find a space in which you feel comfortable?

A: Yeah.

RK: That’s good. So, just tell me a bit more about what it was like growing up in Pakistan, and whether you were aware that you, erm, were gay and how that made you feel.

A: Like, ah, when I was studying in school like, there were different boys like, my friends, talking with each other about the girls. At that time I was, I was trying to ignore them, but like, I had an interest with boys. I didn’t tell them; I can’t even tell them, because like, they are my friends, but if I tell them, they’ll tell someone else and they’ll know my sexuality and they’ll kill me. They’re like, ‘Life of homosexual [inaudible] is nothing’. They’re like, like so homosexual – homosexual peoples can’t live there. So, I didn’t tell them – so just because of that I didn’t tell them I didn’t tell them my sexuality over there. So, I’m happy to be here. I can live openly, I be, when I go outside, I go for pride and things I can walk open in the streets – everyone know I’m gay. So, I don’t have any problem, I’m really happy over here.

RK: And when you were growing up in Pakistan, did you know of any people who were gay or is – or people that are gay, is it just so secret that you’re not aware of –?

A: Like, I didn’t tell me sexuality to anyone. There might be other people be the gay people, so they’re also hiding their sexuality because everyone got, everyone like, every homosexual people got the life threat, so they just hide it like, like me. If I lived there, my life was nothing. I didn’t know how to do, what to do, so here – life really good.

RK: Yeah, yeah. So, when you moved to the UK and you began your studies at here, what was your first experience of connecting with the gay community or becoming part of the gay community in the UK?

A: I came here to the UK in 2017, the 1st April. I live here before I didn’t know the like clubs and communities. So, when I was studying and there I got start making some friends, I start going out with friends, so I find a gay friend, so I go over to him in a club, gay club over there in Coventry and so, slowly, slowly, I start making new friends, and it is – it helped me, I just start feeling really comfortable here, when I got like friends so, that was – that was okay.

RK: And, when you were coming out to people around you, what kind of response were you getting?

A: Response were really unbelievable, really like – really good. I was thinking like that I’d be really rude and things. But, that was really nice, instead of in Pakistan, if I’d tell them over there so, that was really good for me. Like, here, I’m really good, really glad to tell anyone, really happy that everyone know I’m gay man.

RK: You mentioned earlier when you told your parents they didn’t respond in a positive way. Are you happy to talk a bit more about that?

A: Er, like, when I tell my parents that I’m homosexual, they say, ‘You’re not, you can be a gay man or you can be a Muslim’. They, straight away they just took me off the religious; I feel really bad that time. So, my parents like, my family – I’m telling you my family now – my family’s really Islamic background. My dad is, erm, muezzin in mosque, right, so we are really strict, like when we are young, when we are small they, most – everyone in Pakistan start telling us that homosexuality is not allowed in this, Islam, and is not religious, so, yeah.

RK: And when you had the conversation with your parents, was that over the phone or –? How did the conversation –?

A: I did it on phone, yeah.

RK: Yeah. And what’s happened with your relationship with your parents since you told them and?

A: I just – my dad was really rude. He don’t – didn’t accept it. But, might be my mum was, as I’m her son so, she was, she didn’t have any much problem. But all they just, people still listen to the man, like there’s no like right to speak for the ladies, for the girls, y’know. So… let’s see, let’s see [inaudible].

RK: So, do you feel that your mum was a bit more accepting, in a way, but her view is not given as much importance?

A: Yeah. Her voice is not that important you know; in Pakistan y’know everyone just listens to a man, so. I’m really sad, not just because that – my mum accepting it, not my dad, not my brother, not my sisters.

RK: Your brothers and sisters know about your sexuality as well?

A: Yeah, everyone know in my home, everyone know my sexuality, so yeah.

RK: And do you have any contact with any of your family anymore?

A: No, no, I don’t have any contact with any of them, but I try to – I want to contact with my mum. I’m really depressed just because I want to talk with her, sometimes even though I cry for my mum, yeah.

RK: And how do you – are you still a practising Muslim?

A: Yeah, I say I’m Muslim, but like, they don’t accept it. What I can do like if my sexuality is like, is gay, is homosexual? Like, a man can’t, anyone can’t accept, can’t make their sexuality – that come with your birth innit, so... I was born as a gay, so how can I change my sexuality now? That’s the thing I’m saying.

RK: And so how do you feel about being gay but also being a Muslim? Does that – can you make both of those things… sit alongside each other?

A: Like, I can say like I’m saying that like I’m a Muslim, so I don’t have to accept I’m a Muslim. Whatever my sexuality is, everyone have to choose their sexuality when it’s on not to restrict anyone else, so – yeah I’m a Muslim gay man.

RK: And what are you hoping for in the future?

A: I’m living for good things, like, I’m waiting for my interview. I want to settle down here, I don’t want to go back to Pakistan – I just want to live here and spend my life here, because I’m independent self like, live easily here.

RK: So – obviously you’re applying for asylum, so you would hope to have refugee status and be able to stay in the UK? What do you think life would be like if you had to go back to Pakistan?

A: There’s no life for me, if I go back to Pakistan, because they know I’m homosexual. Straight up – straightaway they’ll kill me. I was, seriously, life-threatened even from my family, from my dad, from my brother, sisters. I, like – over there life is totally different. Here we live in a house and we don’t know who living next to our house; over there, like, everyone know each other so they don’t accept the like, they think like I disrespect them, I’m gay; my father think I disrespect them and they don’t, they don’t accept disrespect.

RK: So, just to check that I’m getting that right, so they think that because you are gay, that’s a form of disrespect?

A: Yeah.

RK: Are there things that you miss about Pakistan?

A: No. Oh, no.

RK: No?

A: Yeah.

RK: What do you think has been the best thing about going to the United Kingdom, in terms of –?

A: I didn’t know before I came here that I’ll apply for asylum, I will live here a long, this much, yeah. But, like, when I came here I just know that I’ll do study here, and after that I’ll go home, but the problem arise when I told my sexuality to my parents, to my family, so after that I really, I really like depressed, really worried about that. So, the United Kingdom, I really happy to know like that anyone can live, anyone can live open here so I feel really good when I go to pride and things, like we can work our – the streets openly, everyone know we are the gay, the lesbians – there are lesbians and gays and…

RK: And through getting involved with things like that have you been able to make contact with any other LGBTQ people who are also Muslim, have you…?

A: Yeah, there are like, I was just, I’m like dating on the apps and I find different guys that are Muslims and are homosexual. Some of them like from Africa, there are some guys like Muslim and homosexual as well.

RK: And does that help, to meet other men who’ve been –?

A: Yeah, when I start meeting, when I joined the community I start making some more friends. So, if I like, made some more friends that’ll be really good like and go to different places with my friends like, yeah.

RK: And, again sort of thinking about the future, if you were granted asylum and you get refugee status, what would you like to do with your life in the UK? Would you go back to studies, for instance, or –?

A: Yeah, I’m thinking if I’ll get like granted here, I’ll straightaway go to the studies and I’ll try to do work for the communities, for the volunteer work, cos I suffer, I know how hard is it, so yeah.

RK: So you’d like to do some work where you’re able to support people –?

A: Support peoples, yeah. I really feel happy if I can help volunteer you know. I was, I still am doing some work volunteer works, but with the, I can’t do anything with the money, right now. When I get granted visa here I’ll help them out, I don’t want to be suffer anyone.

RK: How are you managing with the money situation at the moment while you’re in this process of –?

A: At the moment I’m living with my friend, he’s really good. If I didn’t met him, believe me maybe I just decided – because he now, I’m living with him, he spend money on me for my basically, my basics needs, yeah.

RK: So, it’s been really important for you to have that supportive friend to get you – to help to get you through this time?

A: Yeah, yeah.

RK: Do you know of other people who are going through the process of applying for asylum?

A: Yeah, I know a few of them.

RK: Are they able to help in terms of telling you what to expect and what’s involved?

A: Yeah.

RK: That’s good. Just put this on pause [interview paused] … So, you’ve spoken about your mum, she was the first person that you told that you were gay. Why did you feel it was important to tell your mum?

A: Because, my father’s really – I got really pressure from my father, I know he’ll get angry straight away, because like y’know, and like muezzin in the mosque is a really big thing, every single person know him, so that’s why I tell this truth to my mum, so my mum tell to my father, so my father didn’t accept it at that moment, yeah.

RK: And, when you were here in the UK undertaking your studies you were able to experience being comfortable about being gay – if you’d have gone back to Pakistan after your studies, would there have been pressure for you to get married?

A: Yeah, actually my parents were saying, when you’re coming, come back after your studies we’ll get you married, for – that’s why I was thinking for the future, I was thinking when I’ll get married I can’t supposed to do anything so the girl, her life is spoiled – I don’t want to spoil anyone life. So, just because of that I say I’m not going to get married and not, like, I didn’t go back there. I’m really, really sad that I didn’t have like visa over here, I didn’t know about asylum before, so when I got, I know asylum I just applied it.

RK: So you were obviously worried about the pressures that would be on you from your family to go into a traditional arranged marriage if you didn’t speak to them about how you really felt?

A: Yeah, if I didn’t tell them before the like, if I go back to Pakistan, they get me married, but like traditional marriage like too many relatives over there, too many peoples over there, right, so they get me married and too much this expense, too much one me, like, after few weeks when they know I’m sexuality, I’m a homosexual, my sexuality right, so they can like disappointed, they like really angry at me, might be their reaction be really bad at that time. So, that’s why I choose to tell them before all that situation about my sexuality, yeah.

RK: Do you think there are a lot of men in Pakistan who perhaps have feelings similar to yours but end up getting married even when they don’t want to?

A: Yeah, might be, I’m thinking – that’s my thinking, like, might be over there, too many peoples are homosexual, might be, but – they can’t tell, tell it to anyone. I got opportunity so I can tell it everyone now. There I really feel bad for them, they like, spend their lives without telling their sexuality to anyone. Their life is nothing, like, when people like get the married – when their parents get them married over there after a few time, when they see there’s nothing happen, then divorce happen, divorce happen and even the – I’ve seen the people, even though I’ve seen parents kill a guy, killed his son –

RK: Kill them?

A: Yeah, just because he disrespect them.

RK: That’s awful. Do you think there’s any signs that things are beginning to get any better in Pakistan, are you aware of anything getting, y’know changing or do you think it’s –?

A: I – if it’s on me, I’d change a lot straightaway, but it’s out of my hands right. So, like, other like, things can’t be changed, that’s Islamic country, especially like in Islamic countries until – the majorities are Islam over there, the majority’s Islam, so they can’t accept the like this law, they can’t accept these things so I hope, I can just hoping it might be in the future they can accept it, and we can pray.

RK: And obviously we were talking about marriage and I wonder what you think about the fact that y’know in the UK people are able to have same sex marriages?

A: Yeah, that’s I feel, I see the pictures sometimes; that’s really good, like, whoever live however he wants, like I’ve seen picture with before a few times, there’s a like a guy marries a guy, that’s the only wish that I do too, they have the right to their own life, y’know what I’m saying? They have the right to get married. In Pakistan as well, for, I don’t know for over there…

RK: So, I’m just thinking about in terms of your religion – are you, do you go to a mosque, are you able to be part of the Muslim community where you’re living?

A: Of course, of course, yeah, I say myself, I’m a Muslim. That’s the other point, like I’m a gay man. First I’m Muslim, I’m a gay man – that’s not like, that’s not my choice that I’m a gay man – I was born as a gay. So, I’m a Muslim, I go to mosque sometime. I’m not a regular like, I don’t go regular for prayers, but I go sometime yeah.

RK: And you feel able to do that, you feel comfortable to do that?

A: Yeah.

RK: Okay, so you talked about finding out about the possibility of applying for asylum earlier in the interview, and I’m just wondering what that process was like; what did you have to do to make that application for asylum?

A: Actually, there was a solicitor of my friend, an old guy, right, he told him that my friend want to apply for asylum. That solicitor called Home Office, booked my appointment. After a few days I got, I receive a call from Home Office, they just asking me a few things like, your, my name and my date of birth, so they was asking like, ‘Are you sure you’re applying for asylum?’ I say yeah. So, they give me date of a, they give me appointment for screening interview for, for applying. I got the date and after I been to the – I travel to London, West Croydon – so over there I apply for my asylum case and they just asked me a few questions in the screening interview and I’m fingerprinted there. So, after a few times they send me ARC card so I can now I can live here, but I can’t work, but yeah.

RK: And as part of that screening interview, did they ask you questions about your sexual orientation or was that, was that part of the process or?

A: They asked me like basic questions, my name, where you from, have you got a passport and like, what are you afeared of, so why you applying asylum. Just basic questions.

RK: Okay, yeah. So, at the moment, in the process you’re just waiting for the next stage of the process, the Home Office interview, is that –?

A: Now I’m just waiting for the like, my interview, main interview – in that interview they’ll decide me that I’m living, that I can live here alone.

RK: And do you know what they’re likely to ask you about in that interview? Have you had any advice as to what you might need to talk about?

A: I think so; they’ll just ask me about my life. I don’t have problem, I tell them about all that.

RK: So, we’re sort of coming to the end of the interview – is there anything else you’d like to add or anything else you want to talk about?

A: No, I don’t have, sorry.


Part of: Starting afresh in West Yorkshire