On 13 February hundreds of campaigners gathered outside the Home Office in London to protest against the detention of women who seek asylum in the UK. Women for Refugee Women had called this gathering to ‘Shine a Light’ on the detention of refugee women, and protesters brought torches, sparklers and glowsticks to light up the evening.
Among the inspiring speakers were Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty; Caroline Criado-Perez, feminist campaigner; Kate Smurthwaite, comedian and activist, and Meltem Avcil, whose petition against the detention of refugee women now has over 25,000 signatures.
One of the most moving moments of the evening was when Ghada Shakir Humood (pictured right), a member of the London Refugee Women’s Forum, telephoned a friend of hers in Yarl’s Wood and everyone in the crowd could hear the voice of a woman currently detained in Yarl’s Wood detention centre:
‘I am an internationally recognised human rights activist. But the Home Office has treated me like a criminal. I went on hunger strike when they brought me into Yarls Wood Detention Centre, I lost my ability to move and speak and even the will to live.
‘I have claimed asylum under article 14 of the international declaration of human rights, which states that everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution. I fear for my life in my country. I left everything behind, my career and my family, to save my life and live in peace.
‘I requested protection from this country but they put me in detention and they wanted to send me back to my country by force. This is injustice. They did not respect that I am a woman and I have depression and come from a severe war zone. This is inhumane.
‘This experience shocked me and made me lose hope. Now I don’t have any desire to live and I am dying slowly from inside. They have broken everything inside me.
‘I am not a criminal, why have they locked me up for two months? Many organizations have sent them many support letters to explain my case but they have ignored them all. They ignore my previous humanitarian work, they ignore my academic background, they ignore all my evidence.
‘I can’t say anything more. I only can say that I am completely destroyed in the UK.’