We are the only agency in the UK making grants specifically to individual prisoners of conscience both in exile in the UK and overseas.
We co-operate with over 50 different referral agencies such as human rights organisations, refugee groups, community organisations, colleges or solicitors to distribute relief funds to beneficiaries.
Our grants are modest – up to £350 per person – and cover life-sustaining items such as food, clothing, furniture, non-prescription drugs etc. Other grants cover medical treatment, travel costs, family reunion costs, education, counselling and rehabilitation for torture survivors, requalification costs and resettlement costs.
Farhad is from the Azeri community in Iran. This is a persecuted minority ethnic group, and Farhad has suffered discrimination because of his ethnicity since his childhood. Azeri people were not allowed to use their own language or give their children Azeri names, and there were no publications in the language. Farhad attended a protest march over these injustices which was followed by a number of government-incited disturbances, giving the police reason to arrest Farhad and many others.
He was arrested, taken to a detention centre and put into a very small room, measuring four meters by three meters, with 18 other men. There was no furniture and a bare cement floor on which they were all forced to sleep. The cell had no window, and an electric light was left on permanently. They were given food and water twice a day allowed to the toilet once a day, rarely twice.
After two weeks Farhad was taken for an interview, blindfolded and handcuffed, and left to hear the cries of other detainees being tortured. He was verbally insulted, hit on the head and face and when he fell to the ground he was kicked. He was bleeding from blows to the head and his nose was broken. He was also beaten on the soles of his feet and was questioned daily, verbally abused and beaten for one week. As a result of this treatment he suffered a broken nose, broken ribs and broken teeth. The interrogations and beatings lasted for about two hours each time and he was continually asked for the names of the people with whom he was associating. He was threatened with death if he did not reveal this information.
Three or four days later he was again questioned, slapped and kicked and hit on the head so that he was dazed, but not unconscious, and he was threatened with sexual violence. In total he was detained for 72 days and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and 74 lashes for activity against the regime. He was also dismissed from his job and barred from government employment.
Since his ordeal Farhad feels that his spirit has been broken, and he has nightmares of being arrested and tortured. He finds himself crying helplessly and has lost all self-confidence so that he fears even leaving his room. He has withdrawn from friends and lost motivation. Now living in the UK Farhad has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and suffers a severe lack of confidence due to his broken nose, broken teeth and scars on his face. PoC made a contribution of £350 towards the costs of private dentistry to restore his front teeth, as the NHS is unable to help him. This will hopefully go some way to helping Farhad regain some of his confidence and self esteem.
Marianne is a university graduate and was a women’s rights activist in Uganda. She was arrested along with her husband, as they were both activists in the Forum for Democratic Change, and detained at an army barracks for three and a half months. During this time she was beaten and stripped naked in front of her cell mates and raped in front of her husband. She escaped and went into hiding but was arrested again and taken to a so-called safe house, in fact a place of torture where she remained for almost a year. At this house she was kept in a dark, crowded underground cell and regularly interrogated and tortured. She was beaten with batons, cut with razor blades, given electric shocks and burned with cigarettes. She was also raped many times. She became pregnant following the first rapes at the army barracks and was heavily pregnant at the time of her second arrest. Due to the terrible treatment she received she gave birth to a stillborn boy, then she became pregnant again before her husband succeeded in arranging her escape.
She eventually fled the country and made her way to the UK where she gave birth to a baby girl. She is undergoing treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the psychological effects of the sexual violence.
She now wishes to bring her older daughter who was born in Uganda to the UK so PoC gave her a grant of £395 to cover the costs of DNA testing of herself, and of her daughter, to prove that she is the mother of the child and can apply for her visa to the UK.
Lhamo is a 38 year old mother of four from Tibet who was forced to live in exile in India after she feared reprisals by the Chinese government for her work supporting the Tibetan cause and for distributing books and CDs by the Dalai Lama. Her husband, a documentary film maker, was imprisoned by the Chinese authorities for providing information to people outside of the country. Lhamo tries her best to provide for her children but it is extremely difficult with her husband in prison in China. She sells bread by the side of the road but it is barely enough to sustain them. PoC granted Lhamo £250 to help support her family and her husband who is in poor health in prison.
Fitsum was the editor of an independent newspaper which was banned by the Ethiopian government. He was arrested during a massive government crackdown and spent a year and a half in prison in squalid conditions. After his release he was again threatened with arrest and imprisonment so had to flee to Kenya and seek asylum. After gaining refugee status he was approved for re-settlement in the US but at the last minute was unable to fly due to contracting tuberculosis. He now has to travel 20km each day for treatment and cannot miss a single appointment or it will jeopardise his chance of going to the US. He often has to make the journey on foot as he has no income but the physical exertion is not helping his recovery. Then his house was burgled and all of his possessions stolen. He then became temporarily homeless and had to sleep outside in the UNHCR compound as he feared being arrested by the Kenyan police and sent back to Ethiopia. Through one of our partner organizations Fitsum applied for help and PoC were able to provide funds to allow him to continue his medical treatment and meet his daily living costs while he recuperates.
*Names have been changed for confidentiality reasons