Archive for March, 2008
Conservative MEP John Bowis made the following powerful speech in the European Parliament in favour of the successful resolution supporting Mehdi and Pegah Emambakhsh.
Bruxelles: The European Parliament has approved with 60 votes (46 in favour, 2 against and 12 abstentions) an urgent resolution on the case of Seyed Mehdi Kazemi – the 19-year-old Iranian gay – member of EveryOne Group – who is about to be extradited from Holland to the United Kingdom. He risked immediate deportation from London to Teheran, where the death sentence awaits him because of his homosexuality.
Full text of the European Parliament’s Resolution on Mehdi Kazemi’s case:
The European Parliament,
– having regard to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and in particular to Article 3 thereof, which prohibits the removal, expulsion or extradition of persons to countries where there is a serious risk that they would be subjected to the death penalty, torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,
– having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and in particular to Articles 18 and 19 thereof on the right to asylum and on protection in the event of removal, expulsion or extradition respectively,
– having regard to the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 and the Protocol of 31 January 1967 relating to the Status of Refugees,
– having regard to Council Directive 2004/83/EC on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third country nationals or stateless persons as refugees or as persons who otherwise need international protection and the content of the protection granted (Qualifications Directive) and to Council Regulation (EC) No 343/2003 on the criteria and mechanisms to determine the Member State responsible for assessing asylum applications (Dublin Regulation), as well as to other EU asylum instruments,
– having regard to the letter of 10 September 2007 from its President to the UK Prime Minister on the case of Pegah Emambakhsh, an Iranian lesbian who risked being sent back to Iran after her request for asylum was turned down,
– having regard to Rule 115(5) of its Rules of Procedure,
A. whereas Mehdi Kazemi, a 19-year-old gay Iranian citizen, requested asylum in the United Kingdom and had his application turned down; whereas, fearing deportation, he fled to the Netherlands, where he applied for asylum; whereas Dutch authorities, after examining his request, have decided to send him back to the UK,
B. whereas UK authorities are now left with the final decision on his asylum application and possible deportation to Iran,
C. whereas Iranian authorities routinely detain, torture and execute persons, notably homosexuals; whereas Mehdi’s partner has already been executed, while his father has threatened him with death,
D. whereas in the similar case of Pegah Emambakhsh the UK authorities decided, after international pressure, not to deport her back to Iran, but whereas it is still not clear what her fate will be,
E. whereas the UK Prime Minister’s spokesperson, while not commenting on the case of Mehdi Kazemi, gave general assurances as to the conformity of UK asylum procedures with international commitments and to the possibility of appealing against asylum decisions to an independent judge, as well as to the fact that the authorities would not remove anyone who would be at risk on his or her return,
F. whereas more attention should be devoted to the proper application of EU asylum law in Member States as regards sexual orientation,
1. Expresses its serious concern regarding the fate of Mehdi Kazemi;
2. Asks for the proper and full application of the Qualifications Directive, which recognises persecution for sexual orientation as a ground for granting asylum and requires Member States to consider the individual case and the situation in the country of origin, including laws and regulations and the manner in which they are applied;
3. Believes that the EU and its Member States cannot apply European and national laws and procedures in a way which results in the expulsion of persons to a third country where they would risk persecution, torture and death, as this would amount to a violation of European and international human rights obligations;
4. Appeals to the Member states involved to find a common solution to ensure that Mehdi Kazemi is granted asylum or protection on EU soil and not sent back to Iran, where he would be executed, thus ensuring that Article 3 of the ECHR is fully respected by all European authorities and notably, in this case, by the UK; asks the Commission and the Council to fully cooperate with the Member States on this case;
5. Asks EU institutions and Member States to take action to prevent similar situations, in the future, through cooperation and EU guidelines to find solutions in similar cases; asks the Commission to monitor and evaluate the application of EU asylum law in Member States, and in particular as regards sexual orientation, and to report to the European Parliament; underlines the fact that the Commission has announced, for 2008, amendments to the Dublin Regulation and the Qualifications Directive which will address the issues raised in this resolution;
6. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, the Council, the Member States, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and Mehdi Kazemi.
Mehdi must stay demo
Iran’s homophobic persecution condemned
Call to reform the asylum system to protect LGBT refugees
London – 25 March 2008
Over 120 protesters braved hail and rain to demand that gay Iranian asylum seeker, Mehdi Kazemi, be granted refuge in the UK.
They also urged asylum for the Iranian lesbian refugee, Pegah Emambakhsh, and an estimated 12 other gay Iranians who are at risk of deportation back to Tehran.
There were calls for a “fundamental reform” of the way the Home Office treats LGBTI asylum applicants.
The demonstration took place opposite the Prime Minister’s residence, Downing Street, on Saturday 22 March.
See photos of the protest:
(credit: OutRage! – free use, no charge)
“The British government had ordered Mr Kazemi to be deported back to Iran,” said protest speaker Peter Tatchell, spokesperson for the LGBTI human rights group OutRage!.
“Following worldwide protests, the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith MP, has agreed to review Mehdi’s case. While there is no guarantee that this review will result in him being allowed to stay, we are hopeful that he will be permitted to lodge a fresh asylum claim and that this will result in Mehdi being given refugee status in the UK.”
Saturday’s protest was sponsored by Middle East Workers’ Solidarity and the National Union of Students LGBT campaign, with the support of OutRage!
The protest’s three main demands were:
– Don’t send Mehdi Kazemi back to Iran
– Iran’s homophobic laws violate human rights
– Give the victims of homophobic persecution the right to settle in the UK
Peter Tatchell told the rally:
“There needs to be a fundamental reform of the way the Home Office processes LGBTI asylum applications.
“The government is currently failing LGBTI refugees:
“Asylum staff and adjudicators receive race and gender awareness training but no training at all on sexual orientation issues. As a result, they often make stereotyped assumptions: that a feminine woman can’t be a lesbian or that a masculine man cannot be gay. They sometimes rule that someone who has been married must be faking their homosexuality.
“The government refuses to explicitly rule that homophobic and transphobic persecution are legitimate grounds for granting asylum. This signals to asylum staff and judges that claims by LGBTI people are not as worthy as those based on persecution because of a person’s ethnicity, gender, politics or faith.
“The Home Office country reports on homophobic and transphobic persecution are often partial, inaccurate and misleading. They consistently downplay the severity of victimisation suffered by LGBTI people in violently homophobic countries like Iran, Nigeria, Iraq, Uganda, Palestine, Algeria and Jamaica.
“Cuts in the funding of legal aid for asylum claims means that most asylum applicants – gay and straight – are unable to prepare an adequate submission at their asylum hearing. Most solicitors don’t get paid enough to procure the necessary witness statements, medical reports and other vital corroborative evidence.
“The Home Office has failed to take action to stamp out anti-gay abuse, threats and violence in UK asylum detention centres. Some LGBTI detainees report suffering homophobic or transphobic victimisation, and say they have failed to receive adequate protection or support from detention centre staff,” said Mr Tatchell.
Peter Tatchell, OutRage!
Photos of the protest can be viewed and used free of charge for publication from the OutRage! photo website:
Professional photos by photojournalist Marc Vallée can be viewed here:
U.S. invasion has made life worse for Iraqi LGBT community
BY MELISSA MEINZER
Iraq has never been a great place to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. But since the U.S. invasion began five years ago, it has become much worse, according a gay Iraqi who fled to London two years ago.
“Are gay people in the United States, Britain and Australia aware of what their governments have done to our country?” writes Ali Hili on his group’s blog, Iraqi LGBT (iraqilgbtuk.blogspot.com). “Their armies invaded and occupied our land, destroyed the infrastructure of government, and created the chaos and lawlessness that has allowed religious fundamentalism to flourish and to terrorize women and gay people.”
The chaos and resulting power grabs have made Iraq an extremely dangerous place to be queer or gender variant. “Violence against gays has intensified sharply since late 2005,” he writes.
So Hili formed Iraqi LGBT, a group dedicated to providing safe houses for LGBT people living in the war-torn nation. And the University of Pittsburgh’s LGBT group, the Rainbow Alliance, is hoping to help.
The group, which recently had to close three of its five houses because of financial constraints, provides safe group housing, food and medical care for LGBT people living in Iraq. Many of the residents it serves need medical treatment for HIV or gender transitioning.
“With strong social and political oppression against homosexuals and specific targeting by Islamic militia groups, LGBT Iraqis face abduction and death in the streets,” says Sean Casey, director of the Global Equality Network for Heartland Alliance. A Chicago-based nonprofit human-rights organization, Heartland Alliance handles U.S. fund-raising for the group.
Aaron Arnold, the president of Pitt’s Rainbow Alliance, interned with Casey last summer and learned about Iraqi LGBT through him.
“We’d done some international issues before; we figured our membership would be pretty interested,” says Arnold, a junior majoring in sociology with certificates in African studies and women, gender and sexuality studies. The student group is collecting funds and plans to match students’ donations with money from its own coffers. Next week is Pride Week at the university, so Rainbow will be staffing a fund-raising table on campus and hopes to collect money then. (To donate without visiting campus, click the donation button on iraqilglbtuk.blogspot.com.)
Some students, says Arnold, have objected to their fund-raising efforts, but he thinks it’s because they’re misinformed about what the group seeks to do.
“I think a lot of people on the surface hear that we’re trying to support LGBT people in Iraq and [think] that it’s antiwar or not patriotic,” he says. “We’re just trying to emphasize that these are human beings that were leading relatively normal lives until the infrastructure of their country collapsed. It’s not a statement about war; it’s a statement about humanity.”
Galloway’s Iranian propaganda?
The Respect MP has turned on supporters of gay rights in Iran and falsely accused us of war-mongering
By Peter Tatchell
The Guardian – Comment Is Free – 26 March 2008
Left-wing Respect MP George Galloway has been accused of making allegations that border on paedophile smears and play to homophobic prejudice. He claims that the boyfriend of gay Iranian asylum seeker Mehdi Kazemi was executed for “committing sex crimes against young men.”
At the anti-war protest in London on 15 March, which I supported and attended, Mr Galloway repeated these claims in his keynote speech. He said the “khaki war machine now has its pink contingent.” He went on to imply that people who support gay rights in Iran are “useful idiots” and said their aim is to “bamboozle the public to go along with mass murder in Iran.”
It is untrue and deeply offensive to suggest that those of us who oppose homophobic persecution in Iran are backing the bombing and invasion of Iran. We are not. I am on record in my writings and speeches as opposing an attack on Iran. When, for example, I exposed Tehran’s racist and neo-colonial persecution of its Ahwazi Arab ethnic minority, I stated categorically: “I am part of a new campaign group, Hands Off the People of Iran (HOPI).
“HOPI opposes both a US war on Iran and the tyranny of the Iranian regime. My motto is: Neither Washington nor Tehran! “A war against Iran would be another disastrous neo-imperial adventure, which would strengthen the Tehran dictatorship. President Ahmadinejad would play the patriot and manipulate nationalism to rally the population behind him. He would use a US military attack as an excuse to further crack down on dissent in the name of safeguarding national security. “The overthrow of the theocratic police state by the Iranian people – not by US military intervention – is the best way to resolve the nuclear crisis and prevent a needless, unjustified war. With no dictatorship in Tehran, President Bush and the neo cons would lose the rationale for a military strike against Iran.”
Representatives of LGBT organizations “TEMA information center” and “Volunteers Without Borders” took part in number of events dedicated to 90th anniversary of the Belarusian National Republic (BNR) in Gomel and Minsk.
23 March, Gomel. LGBT activists, with rainbow flags, joined to representatives of the United Opposition for Freedom Day anniversary celebration events. United Opposition organizes an excursion by historical places of Belarusian democracy.
1.00p.m. Around 30 people took part in this excursion. Faces of all people were recorded by KGB cameraman. This excursion of 30 people was controlled and followed by 10 KGB officers in plain clothes.
During the excursion, activists attracted the attention of passers-by and present balloons to children. “Officers in plain clothes” follow us, not forgetting to record participants from all sides.
1.40p.m. Participants of festive excursion not yielded for numerous of provocations by the KGB officers in plain clothes and left the park by Proletarskaya Street for Novobelitsa. There we visit house of first female minister of Belarusian National Republic (BNR) Paluta Bodunova subsequently killed by KGB in 1938.
25 March, Minsk. LGBT activists of “TEMA information center” and “Volunteers Without Borders” with flowers and flags took part in peaceful demonstration in honor of Freedom Day in Minsk.
5.35p.m. Metro trains don’t stop at Yakub Kolas station, where a protest action is to begin at 18.00. city buses don’t stop on Yakub Kolas Square, too. The public transport goes to Victory Square or Academy of Sciences, and drivers announce: “the bus won’t stop at the square due to the demonstration.” We go out on Victory Square and go by foot to Yakub Kolas Square.
5.50p.m. Participants of the action on Freedom Day are gathering on Independence Avenue opposite the Minsk Gymnasium No23. About 1000 people, shouting “Long live Belarus!”, have already gathered. We join to them with our flags.
6.05p.m. The number of action participants is growing. About 2-3 thousands of people are on Independence Avenue now, white-red-white and EU flags are waving. Demonstrants are carrying a big banner “European Belarus”, shouting “Long Live Belarus,” and moving to Victory Square. Militia and riot militiamen are following us.
6.15p.m. Militia and riot militiamen began to beat people. They caught even journalists, broke their equipment. They snatched away flags and broke flagpoles. But the protestors managed to defend the people, militia was trying to detain, and the column under whit-red-white and European flags is moving along the avenue.
6.30p.m. People are beaten brutally in the backyards near Independence Avenue, and taken away in unknown direction. We are in the center of mass of people, so we are in safe now.
6.35p.m. At the moment about 3,000 people have gathered near the Academy of Science. They are people who hadn’t managed to Yakub Kolas Square. On Victory Square the confrontation of demonstrators with riot policemen continues. Riot policemen went onto the offensive. Clasping hands, they moved as one chain, pushing protesters off the avenue. But participants of the rally nevertheless are trying to break through riot policemen’s cordons. Militia began to detain people near Victory Square. Ten and probably hundreds of people are arrested. People are beaten brutally. Militia detain even journalists.
7.00p.m. Demonstration near the Academy of Sciences goes on. About four thousands of people stay here. A large amount of European and national white-red-white flags are waving. People carry a huge banner “Freedom for Kazulin!” Opposition leaders are holding a meeting there. The authorities permitted the demonstrants to meet near the Academy of Sciences. Demonstrants had to go there after cordons of militia and riot militia didn’t allow them to meet on Yakub Kolas Square. People, who managed to avoid arrest near Victory Square, came here, too.
7.15p.m. About 300 people moved from Victory Square to October Square and were detained on the bridge above the Svislach. Tens of people were packed into buses and taken away. Most of the detained are members of the United Civil Party.
7.45p.m. A column of demonstrators is trying to march from the Academy of Science along Independence Avenue towards Yakub Kolas Square. The road was cordoned off by riot policemen in helmets, two armoured MAZ trucks and a bus. We are really effraid to be arrested or detained, so we try leave this demonstration to safe our health. One of our activist got some beats by policemen.
8.15p.m. Peaceful and legal demonstration was broken up by police. Near Yakub Kolas Square and Victory Square riot policemen divided people into small groups, and brutally beating up, packed them into buses. Near the place where buses were standing, jackets, scarves, gloves and broken flag poles were left. When people were shoved into paddy wagons, they were beaten up, no matter what their gender or age was. Elderly women and girls were beaten up as well. They were crying for help and weeping. Young people were those who had been battered most, especially those who had white-red-white flags and flags of the European Union. Riot policemen with extraordinary fury were breaking flags poles and trampling national and European flags. We went to railroad station and now waiting for train to go home to Gomel.
As we know, no one LGBT activist (of our members) was arrested or detained, some were beaten. But ofcourse, some of hundreds arrested people are homosexuals.
TEMA – information center
Incident in Ljubljana:
In the early morning of Saturday, 15 March 2008, two gay men – asylum seekers from Kosovo – were victims of violent treatment of the police and the security staff in the Asylum Center in Ljubljana, Slovenia. They were harassed and bitten, repeatedly insulted as “fucking Albanians” and “fucking faggots”. The incident started in the Asylum Center where they were first molested by the police in their room, put in handcuffs and taken to the police station. They were transported to the police station Ljubljana-Vic in their underwear, in separate police vans. At the police station they were held in separate cells for around 12 hours without medical care and without food. They also didn’t get access to their lawyer. Around 6 p.m. in the evening they were released. On Monday morning they sought help at SKUC-LL, and were directed to medical examination and to the Ombudsman’s Office. Other human rights NGOs and the media were informed and the complaints were submitted to the police and to the Ministry of Interior Affairs.
Lesbian Section SKUC-LL
Metelkova 6, Ljubljana 1000, Slovenia
T +386 1 / 4327 306 & 4327 368
M +386 40 950 973
Kathmandu: Sexual minorities of an eastern Nepal town, Itahari kicked off their first election rally wearing colourful dresses and playing music bands to canvass for three gay candidates.
Dipak Rai and Shrawan Chaudhari, both gay, are contesting the election under the banner of Nepal Communist Party (United) and while the third, Suryanarayan Chaudhari is contesting as an independent candidate.
The campaign jointly organized by Blue Diamond Society and Human Welfare Society with a dancing group has helped in warming up election climate in the district, a participant said.
Hundreds of demonstrators participated in the rally carrying placard with the slogan “rights to sexual minorities,” “gay freedom” and “equal status to third sex in the constitution.”
The three candidates are representing some 4,000 lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans-sexual communities residing in the district.
A landmark ruling of Nepal Supreme Court in favour of third sex, which includes lesbians, gays, bisexuals and intersexuals, in December last year granted them recognition and directed the government to promulgate a new act or amend the existing ones to ensure rights of the third sex.
Defend Mehdi Kazemi
Oppose Iran’s homophobic persecution
Reform the asylum system to protect LGBT refugees
Join the protest
This Saturday, 22 March
2pm to 3pm
Opposite Downing Street, Whitehall, SW1
Friends and supporters of gay Iranian asylum seeker, Mehdi Kazemi, are asking you to join our protest opposite Downing Street this Saturday, March 22nd:
Our demands are:
– Don’t send Mehdi Kazemi back to his death in Iran
– Down with Iran’s homophobic laws
– For the right to settle in the UK.
The event is sponsored by Middle East Workers’ Solidarity and the National Union of Students LGBT campaign, and is supported by the LGBT human rights group, OutRage!
www.union-solidarity.org has more details.
OutRage! is highlighting the five failings of the Home Office with regard to LGBT refugees:
– No training on sexual orientation issues for asylum staff and adjudicators
– No explicit official policy supporting the right of refugees to claim asylum on the grounds of sexual orientation
– No action to stamp out the abuse of LGBT refugees in UK asylum detention camps
– No accurate, up-to-date information on the victimisation of LGBT people in violently homophobic countries
– No access to adequate legal representation for LGBT asylum applicants
We hope to see you on Saturday at 2pm.
Solidarity and appreciation, Peter Tatchell, OutRage!
A teenager from Syria who tried to claim asylum in the UK on the grounds of his sexual orientation has pleaded with the Home Office to reverse a deportation order.
Jojo Jako Yakob claims he faces certain death if he is returned to his homeland.
A deportation order was enacted against him after he was arrested for possession of a fake Belgian passport and placed in Polmont Young Offenders Institution in Scotland.
Yakob fled Syria when he was faced with persecution and arrest because of his sexual orientation.
The 19-year-old is to launch a legal challenge in order to reverse the deportation order so he can spend the rest of his life in Scotland.
He escaped Syria two years ago after surviving severe abuse at the hands of the Syrian police and prison guards, when he was arrested for distributing anti-government leaflets.
Following his transfer from police interrogation, prison guards soon discovered that Yakob was homosexual.
He then suffered horrific beatings and was assaulted so badly that he fell into a coma.
After being transferred to hospital, he managed to flee to Lebanon making for London hidden in a lorry.
He applied for asylum and was granted extended leave by the Home Office, but was then arrested in Aberdeen last April after being found in possession of a fake Belgian passport.
He was handed a 12-month sentence and sent to Polmont Young
Offenders Unit in Falkirk.
His lawyers say his asylum application was then mistakenly withdrawn and, as a result, he has been served with a deportation order, pending a final hearing this May.
If Yakob is deported to Syria, it is likely that he will be rearrested and could potentially face the same kind of abuse that caused him to flee to the UK.
Talking about the ordeal that he faced, Yakob told the Scotland on Sunday:
“I was tortured. I was beaten. At one point I was put up against a wall and a handgun pointed at me.
“I was told that if I did not tell the authorities what they wanted to know they would shoot me dead.
“I did not tell them anything, I did not think they would shoot me.
“The police officer then shot me in my upper left arm. At that point, I told them what they wanted to know as I believed that they would shoot me dead.”
Yakob says he was held in police cells for 20 days without charge and subjected to daily electric shock torture and beatings before being transferred to Ahdas Prison, near the Turkish border.
In prison, he formed a relationship with a gay prisoner named Hassain.
Yakob explained: “Hassain was serving a sentence, he told me, for 25 years.
“He told me that the sentence was only because he was gay.”
After the pair were seen sleeping together in jail, Yakob said he was subjected to systematic beatings, which “went on for days into weeks.”
“I was also subjected to cold-water torture, where I was put in a room and buckets of cold water were constantly thrown over me,” he told Scotland on Sunday.
“I could not remember what day it was or how long I had been in prison.
“One day I woke up in hospital in a nearby town of Kamishli. The doctor who was treating me told me that I had been in a coma for 20 days.
“He said to the authorities that I could not return to prison as I was not fit and I could not stand trial until I had had a rest. He suggested that I be sent home for recuperation.”
A spokesman for the Syrian Embassy in London denied that torture of gay people took place.
“Homosexuality is illegal in Syria, but there are no special units to deal with this problem,” he told Scotland on Sunday.
“People are not prosecuted – society looks at this as a disease for which they can be treated – it is a similar position to that taken by the Vatican.
“I cannot give a clearer answer.”
Yakob will appear before a full immigration hearing in Glasgow on May 7th to determine his fate.
His case is similar to that of Mehdi Kazemi, 19, who was studying in the UK and applied for asylum after his boyfriend was arrested and reportedly executed in Tehran.
The boyfriend named Mehdi as a homosexual, and police turned up at his father’s house with a warrant to arrest him.
His asylum application was unsuccessful in the UK, so Mehdi fled to Holland.
The Dutch authorities ruled he should be returned to the UK but after a campaign led by members of the House of Lords and MEPs the Home Office has decided to review his case.