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Monday, October 6, 2008

Fleeing Persecution at Home, Tibetan Finds Refuge in US

In Tibet, Dawa* was a farmer, husband, and proud father of two girls and two boys.  Dawa is a practicing Buddhist, and believes deeply in the right of Tibet to be free from Chinese influence.  One day, a Buddhist monk gave Dawa some pictures of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, which Dawa hung at a trade fair promoting the right of a free Tibet.  That same night, Chinese police arrived and knocked on his door.  Upon opening the door, he was struck in the head with a large, heavy object, after which he lost consciousness.

Dawa spent the next two days in a dimly lit cell without food or water.  Eventually, five officers came to interrogate him in connection with the pictures.  When he denied involvement, he was beaten by the five men. They hit him, kicked him, and beat him with a broom and wooden stick.  They hit him randomly, all over his body.  As a result of this beating his body became swollen and tender.  Over the course of the next several weeks, he was interrogated another four times and beaten.  Each time he was questioned less and beaten more, though he continued to deny his involvement.
 
Over the next fourteen months, these beatings were to be the only time Dawa was allowed to leave the small, dark, and dirty cell.  There were no windows, which prevented him from knowing whether it was night or day, and he had nothing more than a thin mat and a blanket to keep warm.  During his stay, his fear intensified.  His uncle had been executed for his political beliefs and his father died in prison, so Dawa had reason to believe the same fate awaited him.  During this time, he tried to pray, closed his eyes, and waited.  He became hopeless and felt like he was waiting for death.
  
Eventually, Dawa was released from prison and told that if he returned to his political activities, he would face death.  Upon release, Dawa felt that he may have lost his mind.  His eyes now blinked and he could not see properly.  It took him months to regain his strength. Though his outlook on life was completely changed as a result of his imprisonment and torture, he returned to his normal activities as a farmer, and continued to maintain his belief in a free Tibet.  
 
Several years later, while Dawa was away from his home, police ransacked his house and found evidence of continued political activity.  Dawa was alerted by neighbors, and fled to the mountains.  He would never see his wife and four children again.  He hid with his uncle for two months and was able to escape, eventually finding safe passage to New York City in 2006, where he applied for asylum, fearful that if he were returned to Tibet, he would face further persecution and even death.
 
In 2007, during his asylum proceeding, Dawa’s lawyer recommended that he meet with a volunteer social worker from the Human Rights Clinic.  The HRC volunteer diagnosed Dawa with Chronic Posttraumatic Stress Disorder as a result of his years of torture, imprisonment, and persecution, and provided an affidavit testifying to Dawa’s state.  With the help of the affidavit, Dawa was able to provide credible evidence in his case, and was eventually granted asylum in the United States.  

*Names have been changed to protect the client’s anonymity