SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The 9th Circuit granted asylum review to an Iraqi woman who claimed she was raped while imprisoned in a Ba’ath party compound. The judges disagreed with the immigration judge’s finding that Maha George Mousa had no legitimate fear of future persecution in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.
Mousa, a Chaldean Christian who fled to the United States in 2001, said she was raped while imprisoned for 47 days at an Iraq compound for refusing to join the Ba’ath party. The immigration judge insisted that the Ba’ath party was too ruthless to be resisted and proclaimed her story incredible, but the appellate court rejected the use of the Ba’ath party’s reputation of brutal recruitment tactics as evidence that Mousa was not persecuted.
The immigration judge said that even if Mousa’s story were credible, the fall of Saddam Hussein made future persecution unlikely. But the government’s only evidence was a Washington Times article about coalition attacks on Iraqi intelligence headquarters, the appellate court ruled, and contained nothing about the impossibility of religious persecution of Chaldean Christians in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.
Mousa’s failure to mention her rape in earlier proceedings reflected a cultural reluctance to report sexual abuse, Judge Harry Pregerson ruled. Mousa had stated, “I didn’t want the attorney, I didn’t want the translator, I didn’t want anybody to know anything like this about me.” She said she was especially concerned about her reputation within the Chaldean community.
The Board of Immigrations Appeals found Mousa’s story to contradict her brother’s testimony because he told the attorney about the rape. The circuit court found no contradiction, however, as there was no evidence that Mousa encouraged her brother to tell their attorney about the rape.
In her asylum application, Mousa wrote that she feared being raped if returned to Iraq. The immigration judge claimed that this general mention did not “fit” with her reluctance to discuss her own rape, but Pregerson found this fear consistent with her sexual abuse.
The three-judge panel remanded Mousa’s petition for review and remanded her asylum case.