Agency No. A070-149-536 On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Opinion by Judge Thomas
Argued and Submitted February 17, 2011-San Francisco, California
Before: Mary M. Schroeder and Sidney R. Thomas, Circuit Judges, and Lynn S. Adelman, District Judge.*fn1
Fijian Jannif Ali, a Muslim and ethnic Indian, petitions for review of agency decisions denying his application for asylum, withholding of removal, relief under the Convention Against Torture, and his motion to reopen. We grant the petitions for review.
In this case, we revisit the "severe mistreatment that [Indo-Fijians] have suffered in their adopted country." Gafoor v. INS, 231 F.3d 645, 647 (9th Cir. 2000), superseded by statute, Real ID Act of 2005, Pub. L. No. 109-13, as recognized in Parussimova v. Mukasey, 533 F.3d 1128, 1133 (9th Cir. 2008).*fn2
In 1987, the Fijian Alliance Party, which had governed Fiji since independence, lost the general election to the National Federation Party-Labour Coalition. The new government had strong support from the Indo-Fijian community. Later that year, the Royal Fiji Military Forces staged a military coup with the purpose of "restor[ing] the political dominance of ethnic Fijians in their home islands." After the new government assumed control, the military staged a second coup in 1987 because it had been excluded from governmental negotiations. Power was then once again handed over from the military to civilians in December 1987.
There were reportedly no deaths associated with either coup, but the police and military dealt harshly with Indo-Fijians during the coups and their aftermath. Many were arrested and abused while in custody. Military and police aside, Indo-Fijians also suffered widespread discrimination, abuse, and harassment at the hands of ethnic Fijians:
The Department of State received numerous reports of physical abuse of detainees by the military, some of whom were forced to run barefoot on blacktop roads in the hot sun for several kilometers or were dumped in pit latrines or in the sewage treatment holding plants. The most horrible reported attacks on Indo-Fijians include women raped in front of their children, political opponents brutally beaten, detain-ees forced to walk naked in the streets while holding human excrement, people forced to swim in sewage ponds, and children stripped and beaten for Sunday curfew violations and forced to rub their noses against a concrete floor until their noses bled. Ethnic Fijian youth gangs raided, stoned, and fire bombed Indo-Fijian homes. In 1989, five Hindu temples were burned. In October 1990, an Indian school was burned. Freedom of speech was severely constrained, and political meetings and demonstrations banned. Fearing for their safety, roughly 35,000 Indo-Fijians fled the country.
Gafoor, 231 F.3d at 648-49 (citations, alterations, brackets, and internal quotation marks omitted).
Ali was one of those Indo-Fijians who suffered persecution in the aftermath of the 1987 coups. He was harassed by Fijian soldiers while he and other Muslims were at a prayer meeting in a mosque. He was beaten with the butt of a gun by a Fijian soldier. His house was vandalized and dynamited by military forces. Ethnic Fijians routinely threw rocks at his family, car, and house. His wife was threatened with rape. Ethnic Fijians threatened to burn his house if he did not move. Ethnic Fijians stole from his family.
Ali and his family entered the United States on March 4, 1989, on a visitor visa. Two more coups took place after Ali left-one in 2000 and one in 2006. The 2000 coup was "remarkably similar to the 1987 coups," resulting in further abuse of Indo-Fijians and effectively destroying any improvements that had been made since 1987. Id. at 655. After the 2000 coup, though, Fijians began to enjoy free and fair elections. However, in December 2006, the military once again overthrew the government, accusing it of unfairly favoring ethnic Fijian interests. ...