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A Goldberg Kohn team led by Litigation Principal Fred Klein has secured asylum for a lesbian couple from Turkmenistan who feared persecution, including imprisonment and torture, because of their sexual orientation. The National Immigrant Justice Center referred the pro bono clients to Goldberg Kohn.

Turkmenistan, which borders Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Iran, is a former Soviet Socialist Republic with one of the worst human rights records in the world, ranking even worse than North Korea, according to the United States Department of State, the United Nations, and NGOs Human Rights Watch and Freedom House. Homosexuality is illegal in this police state and punishable by up to two years in prison. Individuals suspected of being gay are subject to interrogation and harassment by police officers, in addition to arrest, torture and confinement to mental hospitals. Women in particular are vulnerable to sexual violence and domestic violence both from the State and within families due to "honor killings."

The Goldberg Kohn team conducted extensive research on Turkmenistan, a closed country with no press freedom and few detailed reports of the conditions for lesbian women and gay men. We also compiled a detailed analysis of the country conditions to present our clients' case to the U.S. asylum officer.

Both asylum seekers were born and raised in Turkmenistan and came to the United States on student visas. They met in the United States, fell in love and married in the summer of 2018. The grant of asylum means that they can now make plans for their future together, without fearing that they will be forced to return to Turkmenistan where their lives would be in danger. The couple prefers to remain anonymous as they continue to fear the persecution of their family members in Turkmenistan if their identification as lesbians, and their status as U.S. asylees, becomes known.

Goldberg Kohn is extremely pleased with the outcome and honored to have had an impact on the lives of these clients. The Goldberg Kohn team hopes that the materials we prepared will be useful to future asylum seekers from Turkmenistan.