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Refugee: ‘They make me feel I am less than human’

Kurdish journalist Ako Khalil Zada fled Iraq after colleagues were killed—but the British government is trying to send him back and he is under threat of eviction from his Glasgow home

Issue No. 2301

Investigative journalist Ako Zada was forced to flee from Iraq to Glasgow (Pic: Duncan Brown)

Investigative journalist Ako Zada was forced to flee from Iraq to Glasgow (Pic: Duncan Brown)

You were a journalist in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Why did you leave?

I wrote about corruption in the government—especially the stealing of oil.

A number of other journalists were killed or disappeared because they were writing about corruption and lack of freedom of expression. A close colleague was murdered in Baghdad.

I also campaigned over the treatment of women and honour killings and against the deportation of refugees who had fled Iran, Syria and Turkey.

In March 2011 they tried to send 40 refugees back to Iran, where they were in danger of being killed.

I had done this for 12 years and was one of the leaders. But during our last campaign ten people were killed and 500 injured so I had to flee.

How has life been since you arrived in Scotland?

My life is in two parts. One is about seeking asylum and dealing with the Home Office. It makes me very depressed.

But I also do voluntary jobs where I have made friends and continue my human rights work—using my experience to help others. This makes me happy.

How does it make you feel to be destitute and face homelessness?

I had thought that Europe and Britain were the heart of respect for human rights. But they do not treat people with dignity. They make me feel as though I am less than human.

It is true in my country I did not have much freedom, but I was in the front line, fighting for freedom. I was a dignified person.

Here I have to ask for food to survive. It is very different from the position I had. But I still want to battle for this life and to survive.

How useful has all the campaigning been here for you and other refugees?

I am very happy to see organisations fighting for human rights and to protect refugees who are seeking asylum. Still, I am disappointed that there are not more organisations and more action.

I feel the government has a lot of control and this makes society smaller. Still, I expected more activism about petrol prices and the cost of living. I expected more strikes to bring alive these issues.

The power of the government in the country seems to be frightening the trade unions too much.

Do you think trade unions are important?

Without unions conditions would be like the 19th century, not just here but around the world.

But unions have to be more active in coming together. They need to bring more people around them to make the changes which are necessary for society.

Back story

  • Ako is among dozens of refugees campaigning against eviction from their homes in Glasgow

  • They are destitute, denied benefits and the right to work.

  • International security firm Serco threatens to make all “failed” asylum seekers homeless from flats it is taking over.

  • The Scottish TUC backs a national demo against the evictions on 9 June.

Support the campaign against making refugees homeless. Contact Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees. Email [email protected] or phone 07870 286 632

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Article information

Tue 1 May 2012, 16:40 BST
Issue No. 2301
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