Update: Denial of US Asylum to Gay Saudi Diplomat

Last week I reported on how a gay Saudi diplomat had been denied US asylum. It was claimed that this was for political reasons.

Jason Dzubow who writes for The Asylumist and is an immigration attorney who specializes in political asylum, immigration court and appeals points out that the initial decision of the case is correct in law.

The story, as reported first on Arab news website Rasheed’s World, quotes a Saudi dissident living in Washington DC, Ali al-Ahmed. He is is the founder and director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs (formerly the Saudi Institute), an independent think tank in Washington, DC. He has testified before Congress on several occasions on the issue of civil rights and religious freedom in the Middle East.

al-Ahmed said:

“This was a political decision by the Obama administration, who are afraid of upsetting the Saudis.”

He told the news website that the diplomat, Ali Ahmed Asseri:

“Had been an inspector to make sure that judicial punishments, such as lashings, were carried out within the law—not more, not less.”

And reported that the Asylum Office member who interviewed Asseri “then accused him of participating in a form of torture.”

Dzubow points out that people who persecute others are barred by statute from obtaining asylum.

“There is nothing political about this, and it has nothing to do with the Obama Administration somehow trying to appease the Saudis,” he writes.

Dzubow says that, despite this background, Asseri is possibly eligible for ‘Withholding of Removal‘. This is relief ‘to prevent removal to a country where the alien has a clear probability to suffer persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.’ Ironically, he is “certainly eligible for relief under the UN Convention Against Torture” because of  Saudi Arabia’s treatment of gay people, Dzubow says.

As al-Ahmed reports, Asseri has appealed the refusal of asylum and will thus get his day in court — where Dzubow says, as a high-profile gay man, he probably has a good chance of gaining US sanctuary.

Ali Ahmed Asseri was the first secretary of the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles. It was reported last year that he told US officials that his diplomatic passport was not renewed after Saudi officials discovered him going to gay bars and that he was close friends with a Jewish woman. He had also posted a critical note on a Saudi website, it was reported, and threatened to make public embarrassing information on members of the Saudi royal family living in the US.

Last year Ally Bolour, his lawyer, told NBC that other Saudis had been granted asylum by the US on grounds of sexual orientation, but Asseri’s case was unusual because of his diplomatic status. Another gay Saudi asylum case was approved quickly in Dallas in September this year.


Related Stories:

Political Reasons Block US Asylum for Gay Saudi Diplomat

More Complaints on Treatment of LGBT Refugee and Immigrant Detainees

Documenting the Lives of Iraq’s Gay Refugees


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Gayle R.
Gayle R6 years ago

It's definitely political. We can't upset the Saudi regime.

Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y6 years ago

Interesting case, thanks Paul.

John Doucette
John Doucette6 years ago

Can you say Saudi oil?

Paul canning
Paul canning6 years ago

Juliet D.

Just for the record, Dzubow is someone I've had contact with for some time and is an authority in asylum and immigration law. Numerous sites have called out the Obama administration and I'm reporting this important bit of information.

If you want to review my contact with activists around the world see some of my postings here or visit LGBT Asylum News.

Steve R.
I answered you before on why sexuality is grounds for asylum under the Refugee Convention. I'd assume you'd want that legacy of our experience on the Second World War junked would you?

Past Member
Past Member 6 years ago

for the record, being gay is on the list for asylum because he would probably be killed for it in his home country, and as such can apply for refugee status on that basis. And plenty of other Saudi's get in, so saying that he should be automatically denied on that basis doesn't hold up either.
As for the torture part, I'm conflicted. If we keep him, he won't be doing anything of that sort here. If we let him go, then either he's tortured/killed, or he keeps doing it to other people because it's his job, and going against the strict rules of that society isn't really an option. I get that we don't want to send the message of accepting torture (which is pretty hypocritical for the US), but how does the situation improve if he's refused? Refusing him, not because it helps anyone, but to make an intensely hypocritical point just seems like a bad idea.

Gloria D.
Gloria Diaz6 years ago

What I understand is that they deny him for his link with the saudi goverment not for being gay?
Please it looks like a title of a yellow cheap neswpaper!

John Duqesa
Past Member 6 years ago

Well, I hope he gets asylum. And I hope that other less high profile cases do too.

Juliet D.
judith sanders6 years ago

This is a poorly written and confusing article. Care2, give us just the facts in an organized fashion.
Paul Canning writes on human rights all over the world, but I don't see any evidence that he actually goes to any of these places or has been in contact with any of the key players in a story. This isn't journalism, it's regurgitation of stuff found on the internet.

Siusaidh C.
Susan C6 years ago

Saudi is a most valued ally of the US/Israel NATO. To accept such a refugee claim would be to say that Saudi is wrong; that cannot be permitted.

Steve R.
Steve R6 years ago

Listen to Paul Canning people! We should definitely let a representative of one of the most oppressive regimes on this planet in here because he's GAY!

That's a great reason, right?

Sorry - but sexual orientation is right at the bottom of the list of reasons for asylum in America! In fact, why is it on the list at all?