Fleeing Iraq to marry Danish citizen case

Concerning N.A.S vs Denmark for violation of articles 2, 12 and 16 of CEDAW.

The author was born and raised in Iraq. Her father decided who she will have to marry and she was not told about this. The author met a young man Mr.A (citizen of Denmark) and they fell in love and decided to get married. Mr. A thus asked her father for her hand, but the father refused. Mr. A visited the house a second time and this time the father told him that Mr.A can not marry the author because she was already going to marry another person decided by the father. Mr. A tried again a third time and was rejected again. The couple married in secret before Mr. A had to go back to Denmark. They were married by the Imam, and the applicant was able to undergo the actual wedding ceremony in the school and then return to class.

Since Mr. A is living in Denmark, the young couple decided that she was to flee from Iraq. With the assistance of a lawyer, she was issued a passport and she then left Iraq in 2014. The author travelled to Iran where Mr. A´s family was settled. The couple contacted the Danish embassy and got an appointment.

They showed up for their appointment at the embassy, ​​where they were told that they should wait for a message. The author’s family had no idea about the author’s escape, so the author remained in Iran until the embassy would give them the message, because the author was no longer able to return. After three months time the embassy called Mr.A and said that the answer to the visa had been reached and that the applicant could go to the embassy. This was almost at the end of the tenth month, and Mr.A’s mother went together with the author to Denmark. After the author arrived in Denmark, Mr.A and she sought for family reunification. They waited for an answer for six months, after which they were told that they had been denied family reunification. The author is now four months pregnant. The Danish authorities told the author that she had to return to her homeland. However it is impossible for her to go back to her country because they will kill both her and her child because she betrayed her family. The Iraqi authorities will not be able to protect her as it is a family matter. Thus a complaint was filed in Denmark.

The Immigration Service questioned the author’s credibility and expressed the view that the author was changing her statement from one interview to another. Counsel thus asked the Board to stay the proceedings and call Mr.A as a witness in order to confirm the author’s statements. This was however denied by the Board. Very often asylum seekers are not able to bring a witness in support of their claim, since those witnesses are still in the country of origin and not in Denmark. In the present case however we have a person, who was indeed at the scene when all of this happened. Consequently, the author should have the right to bring the witness in support of her case, since her words were being questioned. By not hearing the person who could support her, her right to a fair trial was violated.

The Refugee Board upheld the Immigration Service’s decision. One of their reasons was that the author first sought asylum only after she had been in Denmark for almost 10 months and had been denied family reunification. But as a woman that was able to get protection by applying for a residence permit under the rules of family reunification, there was initially no need for the author to apply for asylum. That she waited for 10 months after her entry into Denmark to apply for asylum, is no proof that she was and is not in need of international protection. When her application for family reunification was thus denied, she then applied for asylum since it was still dangerous for her to return.

In the minds of the Immigration Service and the Refugee Board members it seems that such women, who are in need of protection due to risk of gender violence, are never considered to be refugees, because they did not apply for asylum the very first day they arrived in Denmark. Consequently these women are discriminated and “punished” when they enter the asylum process. In the worst case scenario they end up being deported like “A” in the Torched woman persecution case (53/2013).
In the present case the author fears, that she will not only be subjected gender specific violence, but also subjected to a so-called honour killing. Especially, now that she fled to Iraq and also had a child in Denmark together with her spouse. Thus a complaint was sent to CEDAW.

The Committee has decided to discontinue the case, because the author has been issued a residence permit.

2. July 2023

CEDAW 109/2016
  • Decision: 27 February 2020
  • Comm: Gender