An Interview With Bani Adam

Queer love exists everywhere across the globe. We see it on TV, read about in books, and seek it out on social media. While proper representation is far from being achieved, to ability to express love with a partner is something that is so liberating for so many members of the LGBTQAI2S+ community. We know that there is an element of risk associated with visibly expressing queer and trans love in public, but for some, the choice to do so is one that doesn’t even exist. 

Bani Adam is a volunteer-run group that is working closely with Rainbow Refugee to bring a queer refugee couple to Canada, and assist them in escaping the oppression and violence that they are experiencing in countries where homophobia and transphobia are rampant. Bani Adam relies on the generous donations of their supporters to help ensure that the queer refugee couple has the financial and emotional support they need when they arrive in Vancouver. Everyday-life can be expensive, difficult, and emotionally draining, but Bani Adam ensures that the couple has all the help they can get to make the transition of settling into their new home as joyful and stress-free as possible.

Read our interview below with Zhaleh, founder of Bani Adam, to learn more about the incredible work that they are doing! If you are able to make a donation, you can do so by visiting their website: https://www.baniadam.ca/. We want to thank Bani Adam and Rainbow Refugee for the incredible work that they are doing, fighting for safety and liberation for our queer and trans siblings worldwide. Check them out online, share their work with your friends and family, and consider donating if you are in a position where you are able to.  None of us are free until ALL of us are free!

 How and when did Bani Adam start? Was there one event or significant moment that led to the start of the organization?

It was by chance that a traveler friend of mine from Iran passing through Vancouver introduced me to her friends, a queer couple living in an oppressive and dangerous situation. This all happened in the fall of 2019. I got in touch with the couple, and when I heard their stories and the hardships and uncertainties they were going through, I started reflecting about ways to help them. I knew about Rainbow Refugee Society and the work they do to support LGBTQ refugees. So I got in touch with them and learnt that if I could gather a group of 8-10 people and form what is called a Circle of Hope, then Rainbow Refugee would support us to go through the 2-2.5 years journey to sponsor the couple to come to Canada. I started talking to my friends and within a month a group of us had vowed to form a Circle!

How many folks are involved with Bani Adam? Are you all volunteers? 

We are all volunteers! We are currently 13 people and also work closely with our mentor from Rainbow Refugee who supports us in this process. A mentor is a volunteer who has previously been involved in another Circle from the beginning to the end. 

What is often the draw for folks to get involved with Bani Adam? Do many of you relate personally to the cause, or are folks just eager to help?

Many of us relate personally to this cause because we have experienced the same oppression at different levels of intensity. But all of us share the belief that “human beings are members of one whole” and “if one member is afflicted with pain, other members uneasy will remain.” These lines are from Saadi Shirazi’s poem “Bani Adam,” which resonated for all of us, hence the name of our Circle. 

How many couples do you help annually? 

Well, Rainbow Refugee has already helped 198 people successfully relocate to Canada (and counting!). Each Circle usually sponsors one person or one couple through Rainbow Refugee. Once the Circle’s mission is completed, meaning the person/people have moved to Canada and the Circle has provided practical, emotional, and financial support through their first year, the Circle usually ends their work. Some Circles may take a break and start a new sponsorship later. We have not discussed whether we want to continue to work as a Circle once our mission is accomplished. We work extremely well together though!

Anything else you’d like to add!

I would like to talk about the steps involved in a sponsorship through Rainbow Refugee. The first step is to raise the minimum amount required by the Government of Canada to start a sponsorship application. That’s where we are right now. Once the minimum is raised, the sponsorship application can be submitted. Once the visas are issued and the person(s) arrives in Canada, the Circle is responsible for supporting them financially for one year with the funds they have raised, orienting them into this new society and assisting them with housing, doctors, banking, etc. It is a long and challenging journey, yet a fulfilling one. We are all learning a lot from each other and, as our work is aligned with our own values, there is a sense of purpose that keeps us going. We hope that you can also join the community effort to support the couple in their long and difficult journey!