A concerted campaign by gay rights activists on behalf of a gay teenager facing deportation to Iran and possible execution has pushed his plight into the national press.
The Independent newspaper devoted its front page a few days ago to 19-year-old Medhi Kazemi, who fled to the Netherlands last year after his appeal for asylum in the UK was refused.
He appeared in a Dutch court yesterday asking to be allowed to remain in Netherlands. However, under the terms of an EU treaty, asylum seekers must be returned to the first state where they claimed asylum. Holland offers special protection for gay Iranians, which is why Medhi went there.
He fled England last spring after his visa ran out and a Home Office tribunal dismissed his appeal against deportation. A Dutch court will now decide if he can remain there. At the end of last year a court in the Netherlands ruled Medhi must be returned back to the UK.
It is feared that if Medhi is ordered to be deported back to Iran he may face execution for being gay. Since Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979, human rights groups estimate that between 3,000 and 4,000 people have been executed under Sharia law for the crime of homosexuality.However, it is impossible to ascertain with any certainty how many.
He left Iran in 2004 to travel to England on a student visa and continue his education. Two years later while still in the UK he learned that Iranian authorities had arrested his boyfriend Parham back in Iran, and that his boyfriend had been forced to name Medhi as someone with whom he had had a relationship. Medhi's father then received a visit from the Tehran police, with an arrest warrant for his son. In late April 2006, Medhi's uncle told him Parham had been put to death.Campaigner Peter Tatchell attacked the Home Office's stance. "If Mehdi is sent back to Iran he will be at risk of execution because of his homosexuality," he said "This is a flagrant violation of Britain's obligations under the refugee convention. "The whole world knows that Iran hangs young, gay men and uses a particularly barbaric method of slow strangulation. "In a bid to fulfil its target to cut asylum numbers the Government is prepared to send this young man to his possible death. "It is a heartless, cruel mercenary anti-refugee policy."
On January 31st the European Commission said:"Member states cannot expel or refuse refugee status to homosexual persons without taking into account their sexual preferences, the information relevant to the situation in their country of origin, including the laws and ways in which they are applied." A Home Office spokesperson told The Independent: "The UK Government is committed to providing protection for those individuals found to be genuinely in need, in accordance with our commitments under international law. "If an application is refused, there is a right of appeal to an independent judge, and we only return those who have been found by the asylum decision-making process and the independent courts not to need international protection. "We examine with great care each individual case before removal and we will not remove anyone who we believe is at risk on their return. "However, in order to maintain the integrity of our asylum system and prevent unfounded applications it is important that we are able to enforce returns of those who do not need protection."
In an article published on Friday March 7th 2008, in the The Independent, Simon Hughes, leader of the Liberal Democrats and the party’s Shadow Leader in the House of Commons, stated: “The Home Office claims that a gay person can return to Iran and avoid persecution by being “discreet”.
All advice suggests that in Iran, to be discreet means that you would have to deny your identity. The punishment for giving in to personal feelings might well be nothing less than torture or death”. The same theory had was pointed out by the members of the NNRF (Nottingham and Notts Refugee Forum) years ago: “The Home Office claims that if a gay person is less obvious about being gay or lesbian they won’t attract the attention of their persecutors,” writes Richard McCance on the refugees’ association’s website.
The EveryOne Group, that, since its launch, has promoted, along with the Non-Violent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty, and the Nessuno Tocchi Caino and Certi Diritti associations, a campaign in support of its member Seyed Mehdi Kazemi, is going to present a written deposition to the European Union objecting to the UK Home Office’s behaviour towards refugees claiming asylum. “Mehdi absolutely has to stay in the Netherlands. It has been shown that the United Kingdom operates an out-and-out persecutory policy towards refugees, especially homosexuals” affirm the EveryOne Group’s leaders Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro and Dario Picciau.
“The Home Office’s statements are serious, and contrary to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is to be hoped that European Authorities urgently intervene in this situation”.“In 2004, a 29-year-old Zimbabwean, Thando Dube, was at death’s door, following a 33-day hunger strike in a UK detention camp. Her crime? Thando was a lesbian who fled to Britain to escape the well-known persecution of LGBT people in Zimbabwe. “Her asylum claim was refused,” it’s written in the EveryOne Group’s report.
“In September 2003, Israfil Shiri, a gay Iranian asylum seeker, died after pouring petrol over himself and setting himself on fire in the offices of Refugee Action in Manchester, after his asylum claim was refused (in the lower and appeal court) and his deportation to Iran, where he would-have-been hanged, had been arranged. In April 2005, 26-year-old Hussein Nasseri shot himself two weeks after his asylum claim was turned down by the Home Office, refusing in this way to let himself be killed by Iranian executioners”.