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Research scientist claimed asylum to protect his own safety

30 June 2021

Dr Numair Masud
Dr Numair Masud

Dr Numair Masud has forged a new life in Wales, where he is able to live and work without fear of imprisonment because of his sexuality

When Numair Masud fell in love with another man while studying for his PhD in Biosciences at Cardiff University, he knew he faced an impossible situation.

Growing up in Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, Dr Masud was raised in a society where same-sex relationships carry severe criminal penalties and LGBTQ+ people are forced to live discreetly for fear of widespread discrimination and violence.

Dr Masud explained: "The only way we could pursue a relationship, unfortunately, was if I had the right to stay in a country that accepted it. He came from Nigeria, I came from Pakistan, and both countries are very much anti-LGBTQ+.”

Dr Masud gained a student visa to study zoology at Bristol University in 2010 before moving to Wales.

As an openly gay man, Dr Masud said he feared he could face imprisonment or be killed if he returned to Pakistan. At the age of 26, he claimed asylum in the UK after realising that the only way he could be his authentic self was to be in a country that accepted him.

"According to the Pakistani penal code, you can be sent to jail. And if you succumb to mob mentality it would be far worse; I'd much rather spend my life in jail with the opportunity of escape than be beaten to death by a mob."

After completing his PhD, Dr Masud became a Research Associate in Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences. He is still in touch with his family in Pakistan and says his parents' views are difficult to change due to their age and beliefs.

"I always remind them that they may be older than me and have more experience, but there's no one more experienced than me in being me.”

Dr Masud’s work is about infectious diseases in animals, “specifically, how anthropogenic change like pollution, for example, impacts host pathogen interactions. That's less scary than it sounds.”

“I'm a scientist at heart. I'm also an LGBTQ+ activist. I'm very much a full-time scientist, but a part-time activist."

Spearheaded by his friend, Vishal Gaikwad, Dr Masud helped create the activist group Glitter Cymru in 2016 after noticing a lack of spaces for LGBTQ+ ethnic minorities. The group currently holds weekly digital events and helps fund costs for essential equipment such as mobile phone contracts.

Dr Masud’s story shares many parallels with those of other refugees and asylum seekers who have made the UK their home and he feels it is important to deconstruct the term that may hold a stereotypical image in people's minds.

"An immigrant is really someone who just moves from one country to another," he said. "And then of course, the next logical question is, why does someone move? And really, it could be for a number of reasons.”

"The first ingress into the UK for me was as an educational immigrant, but I was also a cultural immigrant, because I had travelled to the UK before as a child to see family here in the UK and therefore experienced a great deal of UK culture.”

"If we want to live in a free world, which I'd like to believe most caring human beings would want to live in, that means we must defend the right of immigrants to move freely.”

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