Refugee Voices – Souleymane From Togo
Protecting the persecuted is a core American ideal. At Human Rights First, we help asylum seekers who fled persecution and violence navigate the complex U.S. legal system by matching them with high-quality pro bono attorneys. Explore Souleymane's inspiring journey from persecution to freedom.
Sidley Austin LLP
Mr. Teouri owned and operated his own travel agency in Togo, which organized Hajj pilgrimage trips to Mecca. The business was extremely successful and Mr. Teouri was forced to give part of his company’s revenue to a Muslim union that was closely affiliated with the government. Those proceeds were in turn used to support the party in power, which Mr. Teouri did not support. He tried to stand up to this powerful group, and spoke publicly about what the union was doing, in demanding money under threat, and providing financial contributions to the government. Mr. Teouri’s attempts to speak truth to power led to him being pulled from his home, detained more than once, and severely beaten. He fled to the United States in search of safety.
“I KNEW THAT IN THE UNITED STATES, THEY HAVE FREEDOM, FREE COUNTRY AND I READ THE BOOKS AND I KNOW THE UNITED STATES IS A FREE COUNTRY IN POLITICS AND IN THE RIGHTS, YOU CAN FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS. . . . THAT’S THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE WHEN I HEARD THAT THE HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST WANTED TO HELP ME BECAUSE I BELIEVED AND ALL MY FAMILY BELIEVED THAT IT’S OKAY. IT’S GOOD NEWS FOR ME. GOD BLESS HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST.”
Togo is a republic with a long history of human rights violations, where corruption and barriers to freedom still exist, despite some recent improvements in these areas. Torture and other harms have been used by Togo’s law enforcement and other members of the government to curtail free expression and restrict access to justice. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has urged Togo to adopt legislation that complies with international human rights standards, especially in the field of women’s rights, gender-based violence, and prevention against torture.
LAWYERS MAKING A DIFFERENCE
“The lawyers of Sidley, . . . they just asked me to come to the office, they treat me like a president and anytime I need to come there, I’m very happy . . . Sidley helped me to make all the documents to bring all my family in the United States. My family’s in the United States and I’m very grateful. . . . Stephen [gave] me the phone to call my family and let them know. And I’m very, very glad for that.”
Sidley Austin LLP has been partnering with Human Rights First in the representation of asylum-seekers for over 20 years. The firm’s commitment to pro bono, and particularly to refugees, shows in its dedication to immigrants from a wide variety of countries, including Afghanistan, Albania, Congo, Eritrea, Gambia, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Kenya, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, and Togo. Sidley attorneys understand that these cases provide access to justice for refugees in need while also greatly improving their lawyering skills.