In September 2013, Guinea finally held a long-awaited competitive election — the first one in its history. In anticipation, the years 2012 and 2013 saw many violent street protests, which triggered abuses by security forces. Protesters were arrested, detained, and killed. Some activists sought asylum in the United States.
Another major source of asylum applications from Guinea is that country’s traditional practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). The percentage of females in Guinea who have undergone FGM is extremely high; estimated at over 96%. In 2013, 1,570 women or girls applied for asylum in various countries on account of having been victims of FGM. Like most African victims of FGM, Guinean asylum applicants most often seek asylum in Europe, especially France. (See “Too Much Pain: Female Genital Mutilation & Asylum in the European Union-A Statistical Update”, March 2014, refworld.)
As an African country with one of the highest percentages of FGM being performed, despite laws within that country forbidding the practice, many female asylum applicants from Guinea are granted asylum.
Guinean applicants who are claiming to have suffered or fear persecution on account of their political opinion have a more difficult time. As with any asylum applicant, it is often difficult for Guineans to convince an immigration judge or asylum officer that a protester who was arrested or detained was persecuted and not prosecuted.
The most common type of claim currently heard from nationals of Guinea is based on harm or fear of harm on account of having undergone FGM.
Judges and officers may deny a claim based on FGM because the practice is technically illegal in Guinea.
Some judge or officers also still argue that FGM is a one-time occurrence, so that its victims can safely return to Guinea without fear of future persecution.
However, this conclusion has been rejected in certain areas of the U.S., specifically the Western States of the Ninth Circuit. There, the Court determined that FGM is an ongoing form of persecution. (See Mohamed v. Gonzales, 400 F.3d 785 (9th Cir 2005).) The Second Circuit, which includes Connecticut, New York, and Vermont, also advises judges and officers that FGM is not a one-time act. (See Bah v. Mukasey, 529 F.3d 99 (2nd Cir 2008).)
If you are a victim of FGM, you should consider seeing a doctor for an examination and a report verifying what happened to you. The doctor should also explain any and all ongoing medical issues you experience on account of the FGM. Also consider hiring an expert on FGM in your country who can either submit an affidavit in support of your application or testify at your hearing or interview. The expert can explain that the laws against FGM in Guinea are routinely not enforced. (See the State Department Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013; Guinea stated that there was only one prosecution for an FGM case that year despite that fact that, in 2011, 100% of women between 45 and 49 had been cut.)
It will also be important to explain to the judge or officer how any FGM continues to affect you, particularly if you live in the one of the states covered by the Second Circuit.
Asylum applicants claiming to have been arrested or detained during a protest must first convince the judge or officer that they were actually at the protest. The applicant must then prove that the claimed persecution was on account of political opinion. To accomplish this, it will be important to detail your political activity and views. Submit any news coverage that mentions you by name. Also submit any media coverage of the protest you attended.
If you can convince the officer or judge that the persecution you experienced was extremely severe, you may be granted asylum even if the judge or officer is not convinced that you have a well-founded fear of persecution in the future.