Gay rights activists in Greece are celebrating after their government has decided not to deport a 40-year-old man back to Iran.
Known as Alex, he was arrested, beaten and tortured in his home country because he is gay.
Two separate applications to remain in Greece had been rejected.
The Greek Homosexual Community (GHC-EOK), which led a campaign on his behalf, said today:
“We are happy to announce that the gay Iranian refugee, known as ‘Alex,’ was finally granted asylum following the reconsideration of his case.
“EOK wishes to express its gratitude to all within Greece and abroad involved with enthusiasm and who helped the positive outcome.
“Special acknowledgments go to the party of SYRIZA who, immediately after becoming aware of the case, helped to achieve the positive outcome and to the Deputy Minister Mr Chenofotis, who responded by acknowledging the just cause in Alex’s case.”
Gay and lesbian people in the Islamic Republic of Iran face the death penalty.
GHC-EOK say that Alex is a member of a rich Iranian family who was visited in 1999 at his workplace by an ex-schoolmate who knew Alex was gay and who was probably a member of the government party.
After that visit, Alex was arrested by the religious police and kept in the Jankal jail at the Iranian town of Rast for 45 days.
Alex was tortured at Jankal.
He was beaten systematically with lashing straps in his back and kidneys.
Beaten several times in the face, he lost three teeth as a result.
He had his testicles twisted, was submitted to bastinado (beating the soles of the feet) and had salt poured on his open wounds. He was put twice in mock execution.
After spending forty-five days in jail, his family paid to get him out so that he could attend the funeral of his mother.
The police took him to the funeral in women’s clothes. While out of jail, Alex managed to escape. A few days later, he arrived to Greece by way of Turkey in a terrible condition.
He went to the General Administration office of the police and applied for political asylum based on the torture he had been submitted to in Iran.
The application was rejected.
In 2003, Alex submitted a second application for political asylum stating that he was homosexual and had a relationship with a Greek man, Phoebos (not his real name), who also testified that he was Alex’s partner.
Alex and Phoebos are still together. However, this application was also rejected.
The status of Iranian people claiming asylum on the grounds of their sexuality has caused controversy in several European countries, including the UK.
Earlier this month the British government agreed to reconsider th case of gay Iranian Mehdi Kazemi.
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 was met with support, gay activists 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.
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“I am grateful that Mehdi can now make his case and establish the true dangers awaiting him in Iran.”
The Home Office said 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.”
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.