More than 120 people took to the streets of London last Saturday to highlight the plight of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people who seek asylum in the UK.
OutRage!, the National Union of Students and the Middle East Workers’ Solidarity took part in the protest opposite Downing St.
They demanded that Mehdi Kazemi, a gay Iranian teenager who faces deportation to his homeland and possible execution because of his sexuality, be allowed to stay in the UK.
The protesters also urged asylum for 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 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.”
The Home Secretary’s decision followed a vigorous campaign to save Mr Kazemi from deportation, with members of the House of Lords, MEPs and human rights campaigners across Europe calling on the UK to grant him asylum.
Mr Kazemi, 19, 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.
Although the decision to review his case 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.