The Chairman of the Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission has added his voice to the chorus of criticism of Jacqui Smith after she claimed that gay people are in no danger in Iran as long as they are “discreet.”
Stephen Crabb MP said that the Iranian regime’s record of brutality towards sexual minorities is “dreadful” and the Islamic nation regularly uses torture and the death penalty.
Ms Smith, the Home Secretary, said in a letter to Lib Dem peer Lord Roberts of Llandudno that in Iran “the evidence does not show a real risk of discovery of or adverse action against gay and lesbian people who are discreet about their sexual orientation.”
Mr Crabb said that most “fair-minded people” will be appalled by her comments.
“The Iranian regime has a dreadful track-record when it comes to the treatment of homosexuals and other minority groups and is more than willing to use torture and the death sentence to punish offenders.
“Asking minorities to live their lives discreetly is to give in to the tyrants and bullies who sustain their positions through fear and coerced conformity.
“It demonstrates both an unelevated view of the importance of human rights and cowardice in championing our own system of values.”
The Green party has also criticised her and attacked the “macho posturing” of the Home Office.
Phelim Mac Cafferty, media spokesperson for LGBT Greens said:
“Jacqui Smith is playing a dangerous game with the lives of Iranian LGBT refugees: effectively she’s trying to rubbish the argument that LGBT people are being persecuted for their sexuality in Iran.
“Her claim that as long as people are “discreet” a regime notorious for its treatment of LGBT people will somehow stop persecuting them is misled at best and homicidal at worst.
“Instead of this macho posturing from the Home Office on keeping asylum figures down, we desperately need a Home Secretary prepared to look the Iranian regime in the eyes and stand up for what’s right for LGBT people.”
Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill had praised the Home Secretary earlier this year when she reviewed the case of Mehdi Kazemi.
The 20-year-old was due to be returned to Iran, where he claimed his boyfriend had been executed and police had a warrant for his arrest on homosexuality charges. He was given leave to remain in the UK.
Today he told The Independent:
“You only have to listen to people who were terrorised by the Metropolitan Police in the 1950s and 1960s to know that telling gay people to live discreetly is quixotic.”
Respected human rights groups such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have documented scores of cases of Iranian gay men and lesbians being targeted, and sometimes executed, for homosexual behaviour.
Campaign group gayasylumuk called the Home Secretary’s comments outrageous, shameful, inhumane and anti-gay and called for protesters to target the Prime Minister and the Labour party.
“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,” said spokesperson Paul Canning.
“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.”
In 2005 Iran sparked international outrage when it publicly executed two teenage boys.
Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni were hanged because according to the regime they were rapists, however gay campaigners insist the boys were killed under Sharia law for the crime of homosexuality.
At first it was claimed by Iranian officials that they were aged 18 and 19.
The best evidence is that both youths were aged 17 when they were executed and therefore minors, aged 15 or 16, at the time of their alleged crimes.
In March Lib Dem peer Lord Avebury drew to the government’s attention the case of Makwan Mouloudzadeh, a 20-year-old who was executed in December 2007 for a homosexual offence allegedly committed when he was 13.
Last year information was released by the Foreign and Commonwealth office regarding the execution of gays in Iran.
The documentation took the form of correspondence sent between embassies throughout the EU and dates back as far as May 2005.
It refers specifically to the case of Mahmoud and Ayaz.
It also shows that although the two boys may not have been executed solely because of the homosexual aspect for the crime, the punishment was carried out “before all legal means to avoid the execution had been exhausted.”
A further conversation between a Parliamentary Union and the Iranian Majles (legislative body) in May 2007 showed that “according to Islam gays and lesbianism were not permitted. He [an Iranian representative] said that if homosexual activity is in private there is no problem, but those in overt activity should be executed.”
According to the transcript he initially said “torture” but changed the wording to “execution.”
He also argued that “homosexuality is against human nature” and that “humans are here to reproduce. Homosexuals do not reproduce.”
According to Iranian human rights campaigners, more than 4,000 lesbians and gay men have been executed since the Ayatollahs seized power in 1979.
To see the full transcripts of the FCO documents click here.