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.