Archive for the ‘Jacqui Smith’ Category
Gayasylumuk condemns “inhumane, anti-gay” Labour government
23rd June, 2008
The campaigning group gayaylumuk today called the comments of British Labour Home Secretary Jacqui Smith about retuning gays and lesbians to Iran “outrageous, shameful, inhumane and anti-gay”.
In a letter to the LibDem MP Lord Roberts, Smith echoed government policy by claiming that it was safe to return people if they were “discreet”.
Spokesperson, Paul Canning, said “we are calling for protest to be directed at Gordon Brown over the issue. Sign the petition.”
“We hope that gay and lesbian Labour voters in particular will consider changing their vote if the policy isn’t changed before the next election. This is one way to get the message through on their hypocrisy regarding lesbian and gay rights issues — when embassies in other countries are flying the rainbow flag they aren’t doing this in Tehran, Kingston or Kampala.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW), the respected international authority often quoted by the government, has documented the persecution and torture of gays and lesbians in Iran, where sex can attract the death penalty.
In March they issued an alert over the raiding of a private party in Ishfahan. In May the Home Office was added to their ‘Hall of Shame’.
Scott Long of HRW said: “Torturing and killing gays is legal in Iran: you don’t need to view the bodies to prove it. International law bars Britain from returning people to the risk of torture. Britain must give gay Iranians asylum.”
“Human Rights Watch has shown how Britain tries to redefine its obligations on torture, so it can send people back to states where they face grave risk. Usually it happens in the context of counterterrorism. But with gay Iranians, too, the government aims to change the rules, denying that legal torture is “persecution”.”
Gayasylumuk believes that the number of such asylum seekers in the UK is small, maybe 30. Such small numbers is also the case in other countries.
“The Dutch experience shows that a proven, tested model exists of how to operate a humane asylum policy for gays and lesbians – and they haven’t had a ‘flood'”, said Canning.
“Similar policy and practice exists in the United States, Canada and Sweden – why is the UK alone in being inhumane and disregarding international law?”
Gayasylumuk countered the government’s position, as restated in the Medhi Kazemi case in the House of Lords by the Home Office Minister, Lord West.
“We are extremely cautious about the way in which we treat these cases”
They have shown no evidence of caution. For a number of years they have consistently refused asylum to gays and lesbians and transgender people who would suffer persecution if returned, because that is their policy. Some of these people have committed suicide rather than be returned. There is a mass of evidence that Iran and other countries like Jamaica and Uganda are a ‘deathzone’.
“We give detailed consideration to these cases”
This is not the experience of asylum seekers, and this is well documented. They do not consider the stated opinion of their own colleagues in the Foreign Office and never have. They misrepresent evidence of torture and systematic harassment by Human Rights Watch and other NGOs.
“They go through a rigorous appeals and court process”
As Smith has just reiterated, there is a Home Office policy that gays and lesbians can be returned if they are ‘discreet’. Further, there is a history of the Home Office accepting bland assurances from the Iranian and other governments. Further, there is a lot of evidence of homophobic attitudes within the Appeals Court process.
“Obviously we have to follow and respect the integrity of that process”
Not if it is biased. Not if the outcome is guaranteed because of their (unstated) policy. There is no integrity to this process for gays and lesbians.
The group is calling on all British people outraged by government policy to sign the petition, established by Durham Methodist minister Walter Attwood, which says: ‘we the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to stop deporting gays and lesbians to countries where they may be imprisoned, tortured or executed because of their sexuality’. to Gordon Brown (at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Stopdeportinggay/).
This petition says: ‘we the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to stop deporting gays and lesbians to countries where they may be imprisoned, tortured or executed because of their sexuality’.
The petition has almost 3000 signatures but needs many more to achieve significance in the Number Ten petitions system, established by Downing Street to affect and inform policy.
gayasylumuk is a campaign group established by Omar Kuddas. It has supporters in the UK, USA, Europe and around the world.
* Further information on asylum seekers the Iranian lesbian threatened with deportation to torture and possible death by stoning, Pegah Emambakhsh, can be found on ‘LGBT asylum news (formally Save Mehdi Kazemi)’, the campaign’s website
* Human Rights Watch: Iran: Private Homes Raided for ‘Immorality’
Authorities Escalate Arbitrary Arrests, Harassment
* Human Rights Watch adds Home Office to ‘Hall of Shame’
* Further information on Rev. Walter Attwood
A button promoting the petition to Gordon Brown, for use on websites and blogs, can also be found on our website.
Gay refugees face prejudice across the world
15th April 2008 18:20
Biplob Hossain, a gay refugee from Bangladesh who is seeking asylum in Australia, and Joaquin Ramirez, facing deportation to El Salvador, have highlighted the plight of gay men who flee their countries to escape persecution.
Mr Hossain, 25, moved to Australia on a student visa when he was 19.
He applied for asylum on the basis that he would suffer persecution in Bangladesh. He was placed in a detention centre for 29 months.
After three rejections by the Refugee Review Tribunal and a failed High Court bid, Mr Hossain is hoping for a personal intervention from the Minister for Immigration, Senator Chris Evans.
He was released from Villawood Detention Centre in October 2006, but is not allowed to work or collect social security benefits.
Sandi Logan, a spokesperson for the Immigration Department, told Australian SX News:
“A person’s sexual orientation does not of itself enable that person to be granted asylum.”
“We provide protection for asylum seekers under the UN definition of a refugee, under the Convention 67 protocol, which doesn’t include their sexual orientation or their fears of persecution associated with that orientation.”
Bangladeshi law states that gay sex acts are illegal and will be punished with deportation, fines and life imprisonment.
The national law itself is rarely directly enforced however there have been numerous reports of incidents of vigilantism.
People suspected of homosexuality have also been sentenced to death by a fatwa.
Meanwhile, in Canada, a gay man is facing deportation to his native El Salvador where he claims that three police officers who raped him are now out to kill him.
Joaquin Ramirez, a 39-year-old HIV-positive man said the accused perpetrators have visited his family and threatened to kill him because he infected them with the HIV virus.
Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board doubted Mr Ramirez’s claims, asking why he did not seek legal support in his own country when the incident occurred.
Mr Ramirez told Canadian newspaper The Star:
“How could I go to the same people and ask them to protect me when it’s those people who did this to me?”
Mr Ramirez worked as a volunteer outreach worker with the Young Men’s Christian Association and the Salvadoran Network of People Living with HIV.
He said he was picked on by three drunken officers at a restaurant in 2006 and driven to a plantation field where he was allegedly beaten and raped.
Five months later he claims a stranger called his sister and threatened to kill him for infecting them with the virus.
The refugee didn’t believe Ramirez left El Salvador because of the alleged assault as he had already planned to leave in November 2005.
The two stories come just weeks after the much published case of Iranian asylum seeker Mehdi Kazemi.
Mr Kazemi came to London in 2005 to study English but later discovered that his boyfriend had been arrested by the Iranian police, charged with sodomy and hanged.
The UK rejected his first asylum plea, but Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has now granted him a temporary reprieve from deportation while she reconsiders his case.
In 76 countries people face jail for having gay sex.
Homosexual acts officially carry the death penalty in several nations including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mauritania, northern Nigeria, Sudan, and Yemen.
In many Muslim countries, such as Bahrain, Qatar, Algeria and the Maldives, homosexuality is punished with jail time, fines, or corporal punishment.
In Egypt, openly gay men have been prosecuted under general public morality laws.
Some liberal Muslims, such as the members of the Al-Fatiha Foundation, accept and consider homosexuality as natural pointing out that the Qu’ran speaks out against homosexual lust, and is silent on homosexual love.
However, this position remains highly controversial even amongst liberal movements within Islam, and is considered beyond the pale by mainstream Islam.
The UK is a signatory to the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which means that it has a responsibility under international law not to return refugees to a place where they would face persecution.
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:
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.”
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!
Activist Peter Tatchell explains the life-threatening situation for lesbian and gay people in Iran, during the BBC News – 12 March 2008 – item on gay asylum seeker, Mehdi Kazemi.
Gay activists have told PinkNews.co.uk that the government need to reconsider the cases of other gay asylum seekers following the reprieve of Iranian teenager Mehdi Kazemi’s.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced yesterday that in the light of “new circumstances” gay Iranian Mehdi Kazemi should have his case reconsidered upon his return from the Netherlands, where he fled when his first application was denied.
The 19-year old, who has lived in Britain since 2005, was facing deportation and possible execution in Iran, where homosexuality is illegal.
Although the decision has been met with support, gay activists have warned that there are many similar cases which are being overlooked by the government.
Omar Kuddus, a gay rights activist who campaigned for Kazemi’s case, told PinkNews.co.uk:
“The British government has for once done the right thing and given this young man a chance and hope for his future.
“There is no question of the fate awaiting Madhi if he is deported back to Iran – execution, just for being gay.
“Homosexuality is not accepted and the state kills and punishes those guilty of being gay.
“To say that homosexuals are safe as long as they are discreet and live their lives in private, is to say that Anne Frank was safe from the Nazis in World War Two as long as she hid in her attic, there is no difference.
“Homosexuality shall never be acceptable in Iran as long as the Ayatollahs and Sharia law is in place.
“I am grateful that Mehdi can now make his case and establish the true dangers awaiting him in Iran.”
The Home Office said last week that even though homosexuality is illegal in Iran and homosexuals do experience discrimination, it does not believe that homosexuals are routinely persecuted purely on the basis of their sexuality.
Peter Tatchell, a human rights campaigner and member of gay rights group OutRage! believes that there are dozens of other gay asylum seekers whose cases the government are refusing to review.
Mr Tatchell said:
“The review of this case is welcome, but there are still many more which need to be reconsidered, including Pegah Emambakhsh and many other individuals who are fleeing violently homophobic countries such as Uganda, Nigeria, Iraq, Zimbabwe and Palestine.
“The underlying problem is the government’s whole asylum system and the way it is rigged to fail as many applicants as possible, combined with the homophobic biases of the asylum process.
“Asylum staff and adjudicators are given no training on sexual orientation and there is no explicit official policy supporting the right of refugees to claim asylum on the grounds of sexual orientation.”
The growing public outcry over the issue prompted a response from the European Parliament and 60 MEPs signed a petition asking Gordon Brown to reverse the decision on Kazemi.
Liberal Democrat European justice spokeswoman Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP welcomed the change of heart by Jacqui Smith, but believes the decision should have been made sooner.
Baroness Ludford said: “This is a welcome move, even if it should have come voluntarily and without the need for so much pressure.
“We must not forget other gay Iranians fearing not only their liberty but their lives, such as Pegah Emambakhsh. They deserve justice too.”
Ms Ludford has written to the Home Secretary requesting a review of Pegah Emambakhsh, an Iranian lesbian who faces deportation after losing the latest round in her battle to be granted asylum.
Ms Emambakhsh, 40, who fled to Britain in 2005 after her girlfriend was sentenced to the death penalty, narrowly avoided deportation in August last year when her local MP Richard Caborn persuaded the government to allow her to stay while further avenues of appeal were explored.
Last month, however, the Court of Appeal turned down her application for permission for a full hearing and she now plans to apply for a judicial review at the High Court.
After the historical approval of the European Resolution on the case of Seyed Mehdi Kazemi (see below) the British Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, decided a few hours ago to suspend the procedure that would entail deportation to Iran for Mehdi Kazemi, the young Iranian gay, member of EveryOne Group (www.everyonegroup.com).
What happened today is the result of the international intervention which saw EveryOne Group with the Nonviolent Radical Party and the associations Nessuno Tocchi Caino and Certi Diritti on the front line.
“When we took on the task of trying to save Mehdi”, say the leaders of EveryOne Group, Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro and Dario Picciau, enthusiastically, “the young Iranian boy faced deportation and death on the scaffold in Iran. Then we and our allies found ourselves flanked by a network of solidarity which prevented yet another crime against human rights. It is the first step towards a society that is no longer indifferent, a society that is capable of respecting the rights of refugees who are the weakest link in humanity.
We have to express our deepest satisfaction at this important victory on the field of human rights, which has resulted in the saving of a human life and written an important page in European history: from now on the highest authorities will guarantee that in all the Member States Directive 2004/83/CE is applied, which calls for the recognition of refugee status also for people persecuted in their country of origin because of their sexual orientation.
“It is a triumph for human civilization”, conclude the leaders of EveryOne, “a prelude for our next campaigns, the aims of which are to safeguard refugees and other persecuted minorities.
While we celebrate the saving of a life, however, we must continue to fight so that nations travel along the road of human rights and abandon persecutions and injustices which are the legacy of ages we have to leave behind us.”
Activists Peter Tatchell and Arsham Parsi explain the life-threatening situation for lesbian and gay people in Iran, during the BBC News (12 March 2008) item on gay asylum seeker, Mehdi Kazemi.
Galloway’s Iranian Propaganda? Anti-gay?
Sex abuse allegations – where’s the evidence?
Mehdi Kazemi’s boyfriend defamed.
LONDON, 13 March 2008
George Galloway MP is accused of mouthing “the propaganda of the Iranian dictatorship” after he claimed on the Channel 5 TV talk show The Wright Stuff this morning that the boyfriend of gay asylum seeker Mehdi Kazemi was executed for sex crimes (see full transcript below). The criticism comes from the gay human rights group, OutRage!. “We are calling on George Galloway to explain the source of his claim that Mehdi Kazemi’s boyfriend had committed sex crimes and this was the reason he was executed,” said OutRage! spokesperson, Brett Lock. Mr Galloway also denied that Iran executes homosexuals.
“Neither OutRage! nor any other human rights group has seen any evidence to suggest that Mr Kazemi’s partner was a rapist or sex-abuser.”
“George Galloway has made this claim. He should now produce the evidence.”
“This looks like the Iranian propaganda. The homophobic tyrants in Tehran frequently defame political, religious, and sexual dissidents with false claims of rape, alcoholism, drug-taking and hooliganism. But in this case, not even the Iranian authorities have made these allegations against Mehdi Kazemi’s boyfriend,” noted Mr Lock. “Furthermore, Mr Galloway’s claim that gay people are not executed in Iran is refuted by every reputable human rights body, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Iran has the death penalty for homosexuality and gay people are often tortured to make confessions. They are hanged in public by the barbaric slow strangulation method which is deliberately designed to maximise and prolong the suffering of the victim,” said Mr Lock.
GG: The Independent has a story about Peers calling upon the Home Secretary to halt the deportation of a gay Iranian. In part this is being used as part of the on-going propaganda against Iran. All the papers seem to imply that you get executed in Iran for being gay. That’s not true.
MW: His boyfriend was hung though, wasn’t he?
GG: Yes, but nor being gay. For uh, committing sex crimes, uh, against young men.
GG: I mean, I’m against execution for any reason in any place, but it is important to avoid that propaganda.
MW: So you’re saying that his guy they want to deport should be deported because there is no risk of his sexuality.. or he shouldn’t be deported because there is at risk?
GG: He should not be deported not least because after all this Iranian propaganda he will be accused of being the source, or one of the sources. It would be ridiculous to deport him, and I don’t think he will be deported now.
For further information: Brett Lock – Peter Tatchell